“Papa, you’ll catch cold in your bare feet,” she murmured. “You better come to bed.”
“And I’m just as proud of Edie, for a girl,” he continued, emphatically, “as I am of Jim and Roscoe for boys. She’ll make some man a mighty good wife when the time comes. She’s the prettiest and talentedest girl in the United States! Look at that poem she wrote when she was in school and took the prize with; it’s the best poem I ever read in my life, and she’d never even tried to write one before. It’s the finest thing I ever read, and R. T. Bloss said so, too; and I guess he’s a good enough literary judge for me—turns out more advertisin’ liter’cher than any man in the city. I tell you she’s smart! Look at the way she worked me to get me to promise the New House—and I guess you had your finger in that, too, mamma! This old shack’s good enough for me, but you and little Edie ’ll have to have your way. I’ll get behind her and push her the same as I will Jim and Roscoe. I tell you I’m mighty proud o’ them three chuldern! But Bibbs—” He paused, shaking his head. “Honest, mamma, when I talk to men that got all their boys doin’ well and worth their salt, why, I have to keep my mind on Jim and Roscoe and forget about Bibbs.”
Mrs. Sheridan tossed her head fretfully upon the pillow. “You did the best you could, papa,” she said, impatiently, “so come to bed and quit reproachin’ yourself for it.”
He glared at her indignantly. “Reproachin’ myself!” he snorted. “I ain’t doin’ anything of the kind! What in the name o’ goodness would I want to reproach myself for? And it wasn’t the ’best I could,’ either. It was the best anybody could! I was givin’ him a chance to show what was in him and make a man of himself—and here he goes and gets ‘nervous dyspepsia’ on me!”
He went to the old-fashioned gas-fixture, turned out the light, and muttered his way morosely into bed.
“What?” said his wife, crossly, bothered by a subsequent mumbling.
“More like hook-worm, I said,” he explained, speaking louder. “I don’t know what to do with him!”
Beginning at the beginning and learning from the ground up was a long course for Bibbs at the sanitarium, with milk and “zwieback” as the basis of instruction; and the months were many and tiresome before he was considered near enough graduation to go for a walk leaning on a nurse and a cane. These and subsequent months saw the planning, the building, and the completion of the New House; and it was to that abode of Bigness that Bibbs was brought when the cane, without the nurse, was found sufficient to his support.
Edith met him at the station. “Well, well, Bibbs!” she said, as he came slowly through the gates, the last of all the travelers from that train. She gave his hand a brisk little shake, averting her eyes after a quick glance at him, and turning at once toward the passage to the street. “Do you think they ought to’ve let you come? You certainly don’t look well!”