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The Turmoil - Web page 40 Post by :marketing Category :Long Stories Author :Booth Tarkington Date :March 2011 Read :1394

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The Turmoil - Web page 40

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.

"Don't be surprised," he said. "Truth is, in a way it's sort of on
business I looked in here. It'll only take a minute, I expect."

"I'm sorry," said Mary. "I hoped you'd come because we're neighbors."

He chuckled. "Neighbors! Sometimes people don't see so much o' their
neighbors as they used to. That is, I hear so--lately."

"You'll stay long enough to sit down, won't you?"

"I guess I could manage that much." And they sat down, facing each
other and not far apart.

"Of course, it couldn't be called business, exactly," he said, more
gravely. "Not at all, I expect. But there's something o' yours it
seemed to me I ought to give you, and I just thought it was better
to bring it myself and explain how I happened to have it. It's
this--this letter you wrote my boy." He extended the letter to her
solemnly, in his left hand, and she took it gently from him. "It was
in his mail, after he was hurt. You knew he never got it, I expect."

"Yes," she said, in a low voice.

He sighed. "I'm glad he didn't. Not," he added, quickly--"not but
what you did just right to send it. You did. You couldn't acted any
other way when it came right down TO it. There ain't any blame comin'
to you--you were above-board all through."

Mary said, "Thank you," almost in a whisper, and with her head bowed
low.

"You'll have to excuse me for readin' it. I had to take charge of all
his mail and everything; I didn't know the handwritin', and I read it
all--once I got started."

"I'm glad you did."

"Well"--he leaned forward as if to rise--"I guess that's about all.
I just thought you ought to have it."

"Thank you for bringing it."

He looked at her hopefully, as if he thought and wished that she
might have something more to say. But she seemed not to be aware
of this glance, and sat with her eyes fixed sorrowfully upon the
floor.

"Well, I expect I better be gettin' back to the office," he said,
rising desperately. "I told--I told my partner I'd be back at two
o'clock, and I guess he'll think I'm a poor business man if he
catches me behind time. I got to walk the chalk a mighty straight
line these days--with THAT fellow keepin' tabs on me!"

Mary rose with him. "I've always heard YOU were the hard driver."

He guffawed derisively. "Me? I'm nothin' to that partner o' mine.
You couldn't guess to save your life how he keeps after me to hold up
my end o' the job. I shouldn't be surprised he'd give me the grand
bounce some day, and run the whole circus by himself. You know how
he is--once he goes AT a thing!"

"No," she smiled. "I didn't know you had a partner. I'd always
heard--"

He laughed, looking away from her. "It's just my way o' speakin'
o' that boy o' mine, Bibbs."

He stood then, expectant, staring out into the hall with an air of
careless geniality. He felt that she certainly must at least say,
"How IS Bibbs?" but she said nothing at all, though he waited until
the silence became embarrassing.

"Well, I guess I better be gettin' down there," he said, at last.
"He might worry."

"Good-by--and thank you," said Mary.

"For what?"

"For the letter."

"Oh," he said, blankly. "You're welcome. Good-by."

Mary put out her hand. "Good-by."

"You'll have to excuse my left hand," he said. "I had a little
accident to the other one."

She gave a pitying cry as she saw. "Oh, poor Mr. Sheridan!"

"Nothin' at all! Dictate everything nowadays, anyhow." He laughed
jovially. "Did anybody tell you how it happened?"

"I heard you hurt your hand, but no--not just how."

"It was this way," he began, and both, as if unconsciously, sat
down again. "You may not know it, but I used to worry a good deal
about the youngest o' my boys--the one that used to come to see you
sometimes, after Jim--that is, I mean Bibbs. He's the one I spoke
of as my partner; and the truth is that's what it's just about goin'
to amount to, one o' these days--if his health holds out. Well, you
remember, I expect, I had him on a machine over at a plant o' mine;
and sometimes I'd kind o' sneak in there and see how he was gettin'
along. Take a doctor with me sometimes, because Bibbs never WAS so
robust, you might say. Ole Doc Gurney--I guess maybe you know him?
Tall, thin man; acts sleepy--"

"Yes."

"Well, one day I an' ole Doc Gurney, we were in there, and I undertook
to show Bibbs how to run his machine. He told me to look out, but I
wouldn't listen, and I didn't look out--and that's how I got my hand
hurt, tryin' to show Bibbs how to do something he knew how to do and
I didn't. Made me so mad I just wouldn't even admit to myself it WAS
hurt--and so, by and by, ole Doc Gurney had to take kind o' radical
measures with me. He's a right good doctor, too. Don't you think so,
Miss Vertrees?"

"Yes."

"Yes, he is so!" Sheridan now had the air of a rambling talker and
gossip with all day on his hands. "Take him on Bibbs's case. I was
talkin' about Bibbs's case with him this morning. Well, you'd laugh
to hear the way ole Gurney talks about THAT! 'Course he IS just as
much a friend as he is doctor--and he takes as much interest in Bibbs
as if he was in the family. He says Bibbs isn't anyways bad off YET;
and he thinks he could stand the pace and get fat on it if--well, this
is what'd made YOU laugh if you'd been there, Miss Vertrees--honest
it would!" He paused to chuckle, and stole a glance at her. She was
gazing straight before her at the wall; her lips were parted, and--
visibly--she was breathing heavily and quickly. He feared that she
was growing furiously angry; but he had led to what he wanted to say,
and he went on, determined now to say it all. He leaned forward and
altered his voice to one of confidential friendliness, though in it he
still maintained a tone which indicated that ole Doc Gurney's opinion
was only a joke he shared with her. "Yes, sir, you certainly would
'a' laughed! Why, that ole man thinks YOU got something to do with
it. You'll have to blame it on him, young lady, if it makes you feel
like startin' out to whip somebody! He's actually got THIS theory:
he says Bibbs got to gettin' better while he worked over there at the
shop because you kept him cheered up and feelin' good. And he says if
you could manage to just stand him hangin' around a little-- maybe not
much, but just SOMEtimes--again, he believed it'd do Bibbs a mighty
lot o' good. 'Course, that's only what the doctor said. Me, I don't
know anything about that; but I can say this much--I never saw any
such a MENTAL improvement in anybody in my life as I have lately in
Bibbs. I expect you'd find him a good deal more entertaining than
what he used to be--and I know it's a kind of embarrassing thing to
suggest after the way he piled in over here that day to ask you to
stand up before the preacher with him, but accordin' to ole Doc
GURNEY, he's got you on his brain so bad--"

Mary jumped. "Mr. Sheridan!" she exclaimed.

He sighed profoundly. "There! I noticed you were gettin' mad.
I didn't --"

"No, no, no!" she cried. "But I don't understand--and I think you
don't. What is it you want me to do?"

He sighed again, but this time with relief. "Well, well!" he said.
"You're right. It'll be easier to talk plain. I ought to known I
could with you, all the time. I just hoped you'd let that boy come
and see you sometimes, once more. Could you?"

"You don't understand." She clasped her hands together in a sorrowful
gesture. "Yes, we must talk plain. Bibbs heard that I'd tried to
make your oldest son care for me because I was poor, and so Bibbs came
and asked me to marry him--because he was sorry for me. And I CAN'T
see him any more," she cried in distress. "I CAN'T!"

Sheridan cleared his throat uncomfortably. "You mean because he
thought that about you?"

"No, no! What he thought was TRUE!"

"Well--you mean he was so much in--you mean he thought so much of
you--" The words were inconceivably awkward upon Sheridan's tongue;
he seemed to be in doubt even about pronouncing them, but after a
ghastly pause he bravely repeated them. "You mean he thought so much
of you that you just couldn't stand him around?"

"NO! He was sorry for me. He cared for me; he was fond of me; and
he'd respected me--too much! In the finest way he loved me, if you
like, and he'd have done anything on earth for me, as I would for him,
and as he knew I would. It was beautiful, Mr. Sheridan," she said.
"But the cheap, bad things one has done seem always to come back--they
wait, and pull you down when you're happiest. Bibbs found me out, you
see; and he wasn't 'in love' with me at all."

"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."

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Sheridan grinned. "Perhaps not so much as you think, nowadays," hesaid. "For instance, I got kind of a suspicion he doesn't believe in'sentiment in business.' But that's neither here nor there. What hewanted was, just plain and simple, for you to marry him. Well, I wasafraid 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 understandthat 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 seethings easy--I
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Sheridan gave forth another dry chuckle, and, going round the tableto her, patted her upon the shoulder with his left hand, his rightbeing still heavily bandaged, though he no longer wore a sling."That's the way it is with you, mamma--got to take your frettin'out one way if you don't another!""No. He don't look well. It ain't exactly the way he looked whenhe begun to get sick that time, but he kind o' seems to be losin',some way.""Yes, he may 'a' lost something," said Sheridan. "I expect he'slost a whole lot o' foolishness besides his God-forsaken notionsabout writin' poetry
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