“Why didn’t you tell us, my son?” In her voice was in truth reproach; yet mingled with that was another note, which I think was pride.
“What has father said?” I asked.
“Oh, my dear, he will tell you himself. I—I don’t know—he will talk to you.”
Suddenly she seized my hands and drew me down to her, and then held me away, gazing into my face with a passionate questioning, her lips smiling, her eyes wet. What did she see? Was there a subtler relationship between our natures than I guessed? Did she understand by some instinctive power the riddle within me? divine through love the force that was driving me on she knew not whither, nor I? At the sound of my father’s step in the hall she released me. He came in as though nothing had happened.
“Well, Hugh, are you home?” he said....
Never had I been more impressed, more bewildered by his self-command than at that time. Save for the fact that my mother talked less than usual, supper passed as though nothing had happened. Whether I had shaken him, disappointed him, or gained his reluctant approval I could not tell. Gradually his outward calmness turned my suspense to irritation....
But when at length we were alone together, I gained a certain reassurance. His manner was not severe. He hesitated a little before beginning.
“I must confess, Hugh; that I scarcely know what to say about this proceeding of yours. The thing that strikes me most forcibly is that you might have confided in your mother and myself.”
Hope flashed up within me, like an explosion.
“I—I wanted to surprise you, father. And then, you see, I thought it would be wiser to find out first how well I was likely to do at the examinations.”
My father looked at me. Unfortunately he possessed neither a sense of humour nor a sense of tragedy sufficient to meet such a situation. For the first time in my life I beheld him at a disadvantage; for I had, somehow, managed at length to force him out of position, and he was puzzled. I was quick to play my trump card.
“I have been thinking it over carefully,” I told him, “and I have made up my mind that I want to go into the law.”
“The law!” he exclaimed sharply.
“Why, yes, sir. I know that you were disappointed because I did not do sufficiently well at school to go to college and study for the bar.”
I felt indeed a momentary pang, but I remembered that I was fighting for my freedom.
“You seemed satisfied where you were,” he said in a puzzled voice, “and your Cousin Robert gives a good account of you.”
“I’ve tried to do the work as well as I could, sir,” I replied. “But I don’t like the grocery business, or any other business. I have a feeling that I’m not made for it.”
“And you think, now, that you are made for the law?” he asked, with the faint hint of a smile.
“Yes, sir, I believe I could succeed at it. I’d like to try,” I replied modestly.