“What—what—” His mouth could not do him the service he asked of it, he was so frightened.
“Extry!” screamed a newsboy straight in his face. “Young North Side millionaire insuntly killed! Extry!”
“Not—Jim!” said Sheridan.
Bibbs caught his father’s hand in his own.
“And you come to tell me that?”
Sheridan did not know what he said. But in those first words and in the first anguish of the big, stricken face Bibbs understood the unuttered cry of accusation:
“Why wasn’t it you?”
Standing in the black group under gaunt trees at the cemetery, three days later, Bibbs unwillingly let an old, old thought become definite in his mind: the sickly brother had buried the strong brother, and Bibbs wondered how many million times that had happened since men first made a word to name the sons of one mother. Almost literally he had buried his strong brother, for Sheridan had gone to pieces when he saw his dead son. He had nothing to help him meet the shock, neither definite religion nor “philosophy” definite or indefinite. He could only beat his forehead and beg, over and over, to be killed with an ax, while his wife was helpless except to entreat him not to “take on,” herself adding a continuous lamentation. Edith, weeping, made truce with Sibyl and saw to it that the mourning garments were beyond criticism. Roscoe was dazed, and he shirked, justifying himself curiously by saying he “never had any experience in such matters.” So it was Bibbs, the shy outsider, who became, during this dreadful little time, the master of the house; for as strange a thing as that, sometimes, may be the result of a death. He met the relatives from out of town at the station; he set the time for the funeral and the time for meals; he selected the flowers and he selected Jim’s coffin; he did all the grim things and all the other things. Jim had belonged to an order of Knights, who lengthened the rites with a picturesque ceremony of their own, and at first Bibbs wished to avoid this, but upon reflection he offered no objection— he divined that the Knights and their service would be not precisely a consolation, but a satisfaction to his father. So the Knights led the procession, with their band playing a dirge part of the long way to the cemetery; and then turned back, after forming in two lines, plumed hats sympathetically in hand, to let the hearse and the carriages pass between.
“Mighty fine-lookin’ men,” said Sheridan, brokenly. “They all—all liked him. He was—” His breath caught in a sob and choked him. “He was—a Grand Supreme Herald.”
Bibbs had divined aright.