“He wasn’t? Well, it seems to me he gave up everything he wanted to do—it was fool stuff, but he certainly wanted it mighty bad—he just threw it away and walked right up and took the job he swore he never would—just for you. And it looks to me as if a man that’d do that must think quite a heap o’ the girl he does it for! You say it was only because he was sorry, but let me tell you there’s only one girl he could feel that sorry for! Yes, sir!”
“No, no,” she said. “Bibbs isn’t like other men—he would do anything for anybody.”
Sheridan grinned. “Perhaps not so much as you think, nowadays,” he said. “For instance, I got kind of a suspicion he doesn’t believe in ‘sentiment in business.’ But that’s neither here nor there. What he wanted was, just plain and simple, for you to marry him. Well, I was afraid his thinkin’ so much of you had kind o’ sickened you of him— the way it does sometimes. But from the way you talk, I understand that ain’t the trouble.” He coughed, and his voice trembled a little. “Now here, Miss Vertrees, I don’t have to tell you—because you see things easy—I know I got no business comin’ to you like this, but I had to make Bibbs go my way instead of his own—I had to do it for the sake o’ my business and on his own account, too—and I expect you got some idea how it hurt him to give up. Well, he’s made good. He didn’t come in half-hearted or mean; he came in—all the way! But there isn’t anything in it to him; you can see he’s just shut his teeth on it and goin’ ahead with dust in his mouth. You see, one way of lookin’ at it, he’s got nothin’ to work for. And it seems to me like it cost him your friendship, and I believe—honest—that’s what hurt him the worst. Now you said we’d talk plain. Why can’t you let him come back?”
She covered her face desperately with her hands. “I can’t!”
He rose, defeated, and looking it.
“Well, I mustn’t press you,” he said, gently.
At that she cried out, and dropped her hands and let him see her face. “Ah! He was only sorry for me!”
He gazed at her intently. Mary was proud, but she had a fatal honesty, and it confessed the truth of her now; she was helpless. It was so clear that even Sheridan, marveling and amazed, was able to see it. Then a change came over him; gloom fell from him, and he grew radiant.
“Don’t! Don’t” she cried. “You mustn’t—”
“I won’t tell him,” said Sheridan, from the doorway. “I won’t tell anybody anything!”