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Title: Galusha the Magnificent
Author: Lincoln, Joseph Crosby
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Galusha the Magnificent" ***

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GALUSHA THE MAGNIFICENT


By Joseph C. Lincoln



GALUSHA THE MAGNIFICENT



CHAPTER I


Mr. Horatio Pulcifer was on his way home. It was half-past five of a
foggy, gray afternoon in early October; it had rained the previous day
and a part of the day before that and it looked extremely likely to rain
again at any moment. The road between Wellmouth Centre, the village in
which Mr. Pulcifer had been spending the afternoon, and East Wellmouth,
the community which he honored with his residence, was wet and sloppy;
there were little puddles in the hollows of the macadam and the ruts and
depressions in the sand on either side were miniature lakes. The groves
of pitch pines and the bare, brown fields and knolls dimly seen through
the fog looked moist and forsaken and dismal. There were no houses in
sight; along the East Wellmouth road there are few dwellings, for no one
but a misanthrope or a hermit would select that particular section as
a place in which to live. Night was coming on and, to accent the
loneliness, from somewhere in the dusky dimness a great foghorn groaned
at intervals.

It was a sad and deserted outlook, that from the seat of Mr. Pulcifer’s
“flivver” as it bounced and squeaked and rattled and splashed its way
along. But Mr. Pulcifer himself was not sad, at least his appearance
certainly was not. Swinging jauntily, if a trifle ponderously, with the
roll of the little car, his clutch upon the steering wheel expressed
serene confidence and his manner self-satisfaction quite as serene.
His plaid cap was tilted carelessly down toward his right ear, the tilt
being balanced by the upward cock of his cigar toward his left ear. The
light-colored topcoat with the soiled collar was open sufficiently at
the throat to show its wearer’s chins and a tasty section of tie and
cameo scarf-pin below them. And from the corner of Mr. Pulcifer’s mouth
opposite that occupied by the cigar came the words and some of the tune
of a song which had been the hit of a “Follies” show two seasons
before. No, there was nothing dismal or gloomy in Mr. Horatio Pulcifer’s
appearance as he piloted his automobile toward home at the close of that
October afternoon.

And his outward seeming did not belie his feelings. He had spent
a pleasant day. At South Wellmouth, his first port of call, he had
strengthened his political fences by dropping in upon and chatting with
several acquaintances who prided themselves upon being “in the know”
 concerning local political opinion and drift. Mr. “Raish” Pulcifer--no
one in Ostable county ever referred to him as Horatio--had already held
the positions of town clerk, selectman, constable and postmaster.
Now, owing to an unfortunate shift in the party vote, the public was,
temporarily, deprived of his services. However, it was rumored that he
might be persuaded to accept the nomination for state representative if
it were offered to him. His acquaintances at South Wellmouth had that
day assured him there was “a good, fair fightin’ chance” that it might
be.

Then, after leaving South Wellmouth, he had dined at the Rogers’ House
in Wellmouth Centre, “matching” a friend for the dinners and “sticking”
 the said friend for them and for the cigars afterward. Following this he
had joined other friends in a little game in Elmer Rogers’ back room and
had emerged from that room three dollars and seventy-two cents ahead.
No wonder he sang as he drove homeward. No wonder he looked quite care
free. And, as a matter of fact, care free he was, that is, as care free
as one is permitted to be in this care-ridden world. Down underneath his
bright exterior there were a few cankers which might have gnawed had
he permitted himself to think of them, but he did not so permit.
Mr. Pulcifer’s motto had always been: “Let the other feller do the
worryin’.” And, generally speaking, in a deal with Raish that, sooner or
later, was what the other fellow did.

The fog and dusk thickened, Mr. Pulcifer sang, and the flivver wheezed
and rattled and splashed onward. At a particularly dark spot, where the
main road joined a cross country byroad, Raish drew up and climbed out
to light the car lamps, which were of the old-fashioned type requiring
a gas tank and matches. He had lighted one and was bending forward with
the match ready to light the other when a voice at his elbow said:

“I beg your pardon, but--but will you kindly tell me where I am?”

It was not a loud, aggressive voice; on the contrary, it was hesitating
and almost timid, but when one is supposedly alone at twilight on the
East Wellmouth road any sort of voice sounding unexpectedly just above
one’s head is startling. Mr. Pulcifer’s match went out, he started
violently erect, bumping his head against the open door of the lamp
compartment, and swung a red and agitated face toward his shoulder.

“I--beg your pardon,” said the voice. “I’m afraid I startled you. I’m
extremely sorry. Really I am.”

“What the h-ll?” observed Raish, enthusiastically.

“I’m very sorry, very--yes, indeed,” said the voice once more. Mr.
Pulcifer, rubbing his bumped head and puffing from surprise and the
exertion of stooping, stared wide-eyed at the speaker.

The latter was no one he knew, so much was sure, to begin with. The
first impression Raish gained was of an overcoat and a derby hat. Then
he caught the glitter of spectacles beneath the hat brim. Next his
attention centered upon a large and bright yellow suitcase which the
stranger was carrying. That suitcase settled it. Mr. Pulcifer’s keen
mind had diagnosed the situation.

“No,” he said, quickly, “I don’t want nothin’--nothin’; d’you get me?”

“But--but--pardon me, I--”

“Nothin’. Nothin’ at all. I’ve got all I want.”

The stranger seemed to find this statement puzzling.

“Excuse me,” he faltered, after a moment’s hesitation, during which
Raish scratched another match. “I--You see--I fear--I’m sure you don’t
understand.”

Mr. Pulcifer bent and lighted the second lamp. Then he straightened once
more and turned toward his questioner.

“_I_ understand, young feller,” he said, “but you don’t seem to. I don’t
want to buy nothin’. I’ve got all I want. That’s plain enough, ain’t
it?”

“But--but--All you want? Really, I--”

“All I want of whatever ‘tis you’ve got in that bag. I never buy nothin’
of peddlers. So you’re just wastin’ your time hangin’ around. Trot along
now, I’m on my way.”

He stepped to the side of the car, preparatory to climbing to the
driver’s seat, but the person with the suitcase followed him.

“Pardon me,” faltered that person, “but I’m not--ah--a peddler. I’m
afraid I--that is, I appear to be lost. I merely wish to ask the way
to--ah--to Mr. Hall’s residence--Mr. Hall of Wellmouth.”

Raish turned and looked, not at the suitcase this time, but at the
face under the hat brim. It was a mild, distinctly inoffensive face--an
intellectual face, although that is not the term Mr. Pulcifer would have
used in describing it. It was not the face of a peddler, the ordinary
kind of peddler, certainly--and the mild brown eyes, eyes a trifle
nearsighted, behind the round, gold-rimmed spectacles, were not those
of a sharp trader seeking a victim. Also Raish saw that he had made
a mistake in addressing this individual as “young feller.” He was of
middle age, and the hair, worn a little longer than usual, above his
ears was sprinkled with gray.

“Mr. Hall, of--ah--of Wellmouth,” repeated the stranger, seemingly
embarrassed by the Pulcifer stare. “I--I wish to find his house. Can you
tell me how to find it?”

Raish took the cigar, which even the bump against the lamp door had
failed to dislodge, from the corner of his mouth, snapped the ash from
its end, and then asked a question of his own.

“Hall?” he repeated. “Hall? Why, he don’t live in Wellmouth. East
Wellmouth’s where he lives.”

“Dear me! Are you sure?”

“Sure? Course I’m sure. Know him well.”

“Oh, dear me! Why, the man at the station told me--”

“What station? The Wellmouth depot, do you mean?”

“No, the--ah--the South Wellmouth station. You see, I got off the train
at South Wellmouth by mistake. It was the first Wellmouth called, you
know, and I--I suppose I caught the name and--ah--rushed out of the car.
I thought--it seemed to be a--a sort of lonely spot, you know--”

“Haw, haw! South Wellmouth depot? It’s worse’n lonesome, it’s
God-forsaken.”

“Yes--yes, it looked so. I should scarcely conceive of the Almighty’s
wishing to remain there long.”

“Eh?”

“Oh, it’s not material. Pardon me. I inquired of the young man in charge
of the--ah--station.”

“Nelse Howard? Yes, sure.”

“You know him, then?”

Mr. Pulcifer laughed. “Say,” he observed, patronizingly, “there’s mighty
few folks in this neighborhood I don’t know. You bet that’s right!”

“The young man--the station man--was very kind and obliging, very kind
indeed. He informed me that there was no direct conveyance from the
South Wellmouth station to Wellmouth--ah--Centre, but he prevailed upon
the driver of the station--ah--vehicle--”

“Eh? You mean Lem Lovett’s express team?”

“I believe the driver’s name was Lovett--yes. He prevailed upon him to
take me in his wagon as far as a crossroads where I was to be left.
From there I was to follow another road--ah--on foot, you know--until I
reached a second crossroad which would, he said, bring me directly into
Wellmouth Middle--ah--Centre, I should say. He told me that Mr. Hall
lived there.”

“Well, he told you wrong. Hall lives up to East Wellmouth. But what
I can’t get a-hold of is how you come to fetch up way off here. The
Centre’s three mile or more astern of us; I’ve just come from there.”

“Oh, dear me! I must have lost my way. I was quite sure of it. It seemed
to me I had been walking a very long time.”

Mr. Pulcifer laughed. “Haw, haw!” he guffawed, “I should say you had!
I tell you what you done, Mister; you walked right past that crossroad
Nelse told you to turn in at. THAT would have fetched you to the Centre.
Instead of doin’ it you kept on as you was goin’ and here you be ‘way
out in the fag-end of nothin’. The Centre’s three mile astern and East
Wellmouth’s about two and a ha’f ahead. Haw, haw! that’s a good one,
ain’t it!”

His companion’s laugh was not enthusiastic. It was as near a groan as
a laugh could well be. He put the yellow suitcase down in the mud and
looked wearily up and down the fog-draped road. There was little of it
to be seen, but that little was not promising.

“Dear me!” he exclaimed. “Dear me!” And then added, under his breath:
“Oh, dear!”

Mr. Pulcifer regarded him intently. A new idea was beginning to dawn
beneath the plaid cap.

“Say, Mister,” he said, suddenly, “you’re in a bad scrape, ain’t you?”

“I beg your pardon? What? Yes, I am--I fear I am. Is it--is it a VERY
long walk back to Wellmouth?”

“To the Centre? Three good long Cape Cod miles.”

“And is the-ah--the road good?”

“‘Bout as you see it most of the way. Macadam ain’t so bad, but if you
step off it you’re liable to go under for the third time.”

“Dear me! Dear me!”

“Dear me’s right, I cal’late. But what do you want to go to the Centre
for? Hall don’t live there. He lives on ahead here--at East Wellmouth.”

“Yes--that’s true, that’s true. So you said. But the South Wellmouth
station man--”

“Oh, never mind Nelse Howard. He’s a smart Aleck and talks too much,
anyhow. He made a mistake, that’s all. Now I tell you, Mister, I’m goin’
to East Wellmouth myself. Course I don’t make a business of carryin’
passengers and this trip is goin’ to be some out of my way. Gasoline and
ile are pretty expensive these days, too, but--Eh? What say?”

The pale face beneath the derby hat for the first time showed a ray of
hope. The eyes behind the spectacles were eager.

“I--I didn’t say anything, I believe,” was the hurried answer, “but I
should like to say that--that if you COULD find it possible to take me
with you in your car--if you COULD do me so great a favor, I should be
only too happy to pay for the privilege. Pay--ah--almost anything. I
am--I have not been well and I fatigue easily. If you could--”

Mr. Pulcifer’s hand descended squarely upon the shoulder of the dark
overcoat.

“Don’t say nothin’ more,” he ordered, heartily. “I’m only too glad to do
a feller a favor any time, if it’s a possible thing. That’s me, that is.
I shouldn’t think of chargin’ you a cent, but of course this cruise is a
little mite off my track and it’s late and--er--well, suppose we call it
three dollars? That’s fair, ain’t it?”

“Oh, yes, quite, quite. It’s very reasonable. Very generous of you. I’m
extremely grateful, really.”

This prompt and enthusiastic acceptance of his offer was a bit
disconcerting. Raish was rather sorry that he had not said five.
However, to do him justice, the transaction was more or less what
he would have called “chicken-feed stuff.” Mr. Pulcifer was East
Wellmouth’s leading broker in real estate, in cranberry bog property,
its leading promoter of deals of all kinds, its smartest trader.
Ordinarily he did not stoop to the carrying of passengers for profit.
But this particular passenger had been delivered into his hand and
gasoline WAS expensive.

“Jump right in, Mister,” he said, blithely. “All aboard! Jump right in.”

His fare did not jump in, exactly. He climbed in rather slowly and
painfully. Raish, stowing the suitcase between his feet, noticed that
his shoes and trouser legs above them were spattered and daubed with
yellow mud.

“You HAVE had some rough travelin’, ain’t you, Mister?” he observed.
“Oh--er--what did you say your name was? Mine’s Pulcifer.”

“Oh, yes--yes. Ah--how do you do, Mr. Pulcifer? My name is Bangs.”

“Bangs, eh? That’s a good Cape name, or used to be. You any relation to
Sylvanus Bangs, over to Harniss?”

“No--no, not that I am aware. Ours is a Boston branch of the family.”

“Boston, eh? Um-hm. I see. Yes, yes. What’s your first name?”

“Mine? Oh, my name is Galusha.”

“Eh? Ga--WHAT did you say ‘twas?”

“Galusha. It IS an odd name.”

“Yes, I’d say ‘twas. Don’t cal’late as I ever heard tell of it afore.
Ga--Ga--”

“Galusha.”

“Galushy, eh? I see. Strange what names folks ‘ll christen onto
children, ain’t it? There’s lots of queer things in the world; did you
ever stop to think about that, Mister--Mister Bangs?”

Mr. Bangs, who was leaning back against the upholstered seat as if he
found the position decidedly comforting, smiled faintly.

“We have all thought that, I’m sure,” he said. “‘There are more things
in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’”

Mr. Pulcifer was not easily startled, but his jerk of surprise sent the
car perilously near the side of the road.

“How in the devil did you know my name?” he demanded.

“Your name? Why, you told me. It is Pulcifer, isn’t it?”

“No, no. My first name--Horatio. I never told you that, I’ll swear.”

Mr. Bangs smiled and the smile made his face look younger.

“Now that’s rather odd, isn’t it?” he observed. “Quite a coincidence.”

“A what?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing. I didn’t know your name, Mr.--ah--Pulcifer. My
using it was an accident. I was quoting--ah--from Hamlet, you know.”

Mr. Pulcifer did not know, but he thought it not worth while advertising
the fact. Plainly this passenger of his was a queer bird, as queer
within as in dress and appearance. He turned his head slightly and
looked him over. It was growing too dark to see plainly, but one or two
points were obvious. For instance, the yellow leather suitcase was brand
new and the overcoat was old. It was shiny about the cuffs. The derby
hat--and in October, in Wellmouth, derby hats are seldom worn--the derby
hat was new and of a peculiar shade of brown; it was a little too small
for its wearer’s head and, even as Raish looked, a gust of wind lifted
it and would have sent it whirling from the car had not Mr. Bangs saved
it by a sudden grab. Raish chuckled.

“Come pretty nigh losin’ somethin’ overboard that time, didn’t you?” he
observed.

Mr. Bangs pulled the brown derby as far down upon his head as it would
go.

“I--I’m afraid I made a mistake in buying this hat,” he confided. “I
told the man I didn’t think it fitted me as it should, but he said that
was because I wasn’t used to it. I doubt if I ever become used to it.
And it really doesn’t fit any better to-day than it did yesterday.”

“New one, ain’t it?” inquired Raish.

“Yes, quite new. My other blew out of the car window. I bought this one
at a small shop near the station in Boston. I’m afraid it wasn’t a very
good shop, but I was in a great hurry.”

“Where was you comin’ from when your other one blew away?”

“From the mountains.”

“White Mountains?”

“Yes.”

Raish said that he wanted to know and waited for his passenger to say
something more. This the passenger did not do. Mr. Pulcifer whistled a
bar or two of his “Follies” song and then asked another question.

“You any relation to Josh?” he asked.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Eh? Oh, that’s all right. I just asked you if you was a relation of
Josh’s--of Hall’s, I mean, the folks you’re goin’ to see.”

“Oh, no, no. We are not related. Merely friends.”

“I see. I thought there wan’t any Bangses in that family. His wife was a
Cahoon, wan’t she?”

“I--I BEG your pardon?”

“I asked you if she wan’t a Cahoon; Cahoon was her name afore she
married Hall, wan’t it?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I’m sure.... Now, really, that’s very funny, very.”

“What’s funny?”

“Why, you see, I--” Mr. Bangs had an odd little way of pausing in the
middle of a sentence and then, so to speak, catching the train of his
thought with a jerk and hurrying on again. “I understood you to ask if
she was a--a cocoon. I could scarcely believe my ears. It WAS funny,
wasn’t it?”

Raish Pulcifer thought it was and said so between roars. His conviction
that his passenger was a queer bird was strengthening every minute.

“What’s your line of business, Mr. Bangs?” was his next question.

“I am not a business man. I am connected with the Archaeological
Department of the National Institute at Washington.”

If he had said he was connected with the interior department of a
Brontosaurus the statements would have conveyed an equal amount of
understanding to the Pulcifer mind. However, it was a fixed principle
with Raish never to admit a lack of knowledge of any subject whatsoever.
So he said:

“From Washin’ton, eh? I see. Yes, yes. Cal’latin’ to stay here on the
Cape long, Mr. Bangs?”

“Why, I don’t know, I’m sure. I have not been--ah--well of late. The
doctors advise rest and--ah--outdoor air and all that. I tried several
places, but I didn’t care for them. The Halls invited me to visit them
and so I--well, I came.”

“Never been here to the Cape afore, then?”

“No.”

“Well, sir, you’ve come to the right place when you came to Wellmouth. I
was born right here in East Wellmouth and I’ve lived here for fifty-two
year and if anybody should ask me what I thought of the place I’d tell
‘em--”

He proceeded to tell what he would tell ‘em. It was a favorite topic
with him, especially in the summer and with visitors from the city.
Usually the discourse ended with a suggestion that if the listener
should ever think of investing a little money in real estate “that’ll
be wuth gold dollars to you--yes, sir, gold dollars--” he, Horatio G.
Pulcifer, would be willing to point out and exhibit just the particular
bit of real estate to invest in. He did not reach the climax this time,
however. A gentle nasal sound at his shoulder caused Raish to turn his
head. Mr. Bangs had fallen asleep. Awakened by a vigorous nudge, he
apologized profusely.

“Really,” he declared, with much embarrassment, “I--I am quite ashamed
of myself. I--you see--I have, as I say, been somewhat unwell of late,
and the fatigue of walking--I DO hope you will excuse me. I was very
much interested in what you were saying. What--ah--what was it?”

Before Raish could have repeated his real estate sermon, even had he so
desired, the car came to the top of a hill, emerged from the clumps of
pines shutting in the road on both sides, and began to descend a long
slope. And through the fog and blackness at the foot of the slope there
shone dimly first one and then several lights. Mr. Bangs leaned forward
and peered around the edge of the wet windshield.

“Is that it?” he asked, in much the same tone that Mrs. Noah may have
used when her husband announced that the lookout had sighted Ararat.

Raish Pulcifer nodded. “Yes, sir,” he declared, proudly. “Yes, sir,
that’s East Wellmouth.”

The fog in the valley was thicker even than that upon the hill and
East Wellmouth was almost invisible. Mr. Bangs made out a few houses, a
crossroads, a small store, and that was about all. From off to the right
a tremendous bellow sounded. The fog seemed to quiver with it.

“WHAT is that?” asked Mr. Bangs, nervously. “I’ve heard it ever since I
left the train, I believe. Some sort of a--ah--steam whistle, isn’t it?”

“Foghorn over to the light,” replied Raish, briskly. “Well, sir, here
you be.”

The car rolled up to the side of the road and stopped.

“Here you be, Mr. Bangs,” repeated Mr. Pulcifer. “Here’s where Hall
lives, right here.”

Mr. Bangs seemed somewhat astonished. “Right here?” he asked. “Dear me,
is it possible!”

“Possible as anything ever you knew in your life. Why not? Ain’t sorry,
are you?”

“Oh, no--no, indeed, I’m very glad. I was--ah--a trifle surprised,
that is all. You said--I think you spoke of Mr. Hall’s cottage as
being--ah--off the track and so I--well I scarcely expected to reach his
house so easily.”

Raish had forgotten his “off the track” statement, which was purely a
commercial fiction invented on the spur of the moment to justify the
high price he was charging for transportation. He was somewhat taken
aback, but before he could think of a good excuse his companion spoke
again. He was leaning forward, peering out at the house before which the
car had stopped. It was a small, gray-shingled dwelling, sitting back
from the road in the shadow of two ancient “silver-leafs,” and Mr. Bangs
seemed to find its appearance surprising.

“Are you--are you SURE this is the Hall cottage?” he stammered.

“Am I sure? Me? Well, I ought to be. I’ve lived in East Wellmouth all my
life and Josh Hall’s lived in this house ever since I can remember.”

This should have been reassuring, but it did not appear to be. Mr.
Pulcifer’s passenger drew a startled breath.

“What--WHAT is his Christian name?” he asked. “The--the Mr. Hall who
lives here?”

“His name is--Why? What’s the matter?”

“I’m afraid there has been a mistake. Is this Mr. Hall an entomologist?”

“Eh? He ain’t nothin’ in particular. Don’t go to meetin’ much, Josh
don’t. His wife’s a Spiritu’list.”

“But--but, I mean--Dear me, dear me!” Mr. Bangs was fumbling in the
inside pocket of his coat. “If I--Would you mind holding this for me?”
 he begged. “I have a photograph here and--Oh, thank you very much.”

He handed Pulcifer a small pocket electric lamp. Raish held it and into
its inch of light Mr. Bangs thrust a handful of cards and papers taken
from a big and worn pocketbook. One of the handful was a postcard with a
photograph upon its back. It was a photograph of a pretty, old-fashioned
colonial house with a wide porch covered with climbing roses. Beneath
was written: “This is our cottage. Don’t you think it attractive?”

“Mrs. Hall sent me that--ah--last June--I think it was in June,”
 explained Mr. Bangs, hurriedly. “But you SEE,” he added, waving
an agitated hand toward the gray-shingled dwelling beneath the
silver-leafs, “that CAN’T be the house, not if”--with a wave of the
photograph in the other hand--“if THIS is.”

Mr. Pulcifer took the postcard and stared at it. His brows drew together
in a frown.

“Say,” he said, turning toward his passenger, “is this the house you’ve
been tryin’ to find? This is a picture of the old Parker place over to
Wellmouth Centre. I thought you told me you wanted to be took to Joshua
Hall’s house in East Wellmouth.”

“Joshua? Oh, no, I’m sure I never could have said Joshua. That isn’t his
name.”

“Then when I said ‘Josh Hall’ why didn’t you say so?”

“Oh, good gracious! Did you say ‘Josh?’ Oh, dear, that explains it; I
thought you said ‘George.’ My friend’s name is George Hall. He is an
entomologist at the New York Museum of Natural History. I--”

“Say,” broke in Raish, again, “is he a tall, bald-headed man with
whiskers; red whiskers?”

“Yes--yes, he is.”

“Humph! Goes gallopin’ round the fields chasin’ bugs and grasshoppers
like a young one?”

“Why--why, entomology is his profession, so naturally he--”

“Humph! So THAT’S the feller! Tut, tut, tut! Well, if you’d only said
you meant him ‘twould have been all right. I forgot there was a Hall
livin’ in the Parker place. If you’d said you meant ‘Old Bughouse’ I’d
have understood.”

“Bughouse?”

“Oh, that’s what the Wellmouth post-office gang call him. Kind of a joke
‘tis. And say, this is kind of a joke, too, my luggin’ you ‘way over
here, ain’t it, eh? Haw, haw!”

Mr. Bangs’ attempt at a laugh was feeble.

“But what shall I do now?” he asked, anxiously.

“Well, that’s the question, ain’t it? Hum... hum... let’s see. Sorry I
can’t take you back to the Centre myself. Any other night I’d be glad
to, but there’s a beans and brown-bread supper and sociable up to the
meetin’ house this evenin’ and I promised the old woman--Mrs. Pulcifer,
I mean--that I’d be on hand. I’m a little late as ‘tis. Hum... let’s
see... Why, I tell you. See that store over on the corner there? That’s
Erastus Beebe’s store and Ras is a good friend of mine. He’s got an
extry horse and team and he lets ‘em out sometimes. You step into the
store and ask Ras to hitch up and drive you back to the Centre. Tell
him I sent you. Say you’re a friend of Raish Pulcifer’s and that I said
treat you right. Don’t forget: ‘Raish says treat me right.’ You say that
to Ras and you’ll be TREATED right. Yes, SIR! If Ras ain’t in the store
he’ll be in his house right back of it. Might as well get out here, Mr.
Bangs, because there’s a hill just ahead and I kind of like to get a
runnin’ start for it. Shall I help you with the suitcase? No, well, all
right... Sorry you made the mistake, but we’re all liable to make ‘em
some time or another. Eh? haw, haw!”

Poor Mr. Bangs clambered from the automobile almost as wearily and
stiffly as he had climbed into it. The engine of the Pulcifer car had
not stopped running so Raish was not obliged to get out and crank. He
took a fresh grip on the steering wheel and looked down upon his late
passenger.

“Well, good-night, Mr. Bangs,” he said.

“Good-night--ah--good-night, Mr. Pulcifer. I’m very much obliged to you,
I am indeed. I’m sorry my mistake made you so much trouble.”

“Oh, that’s all right, that’s all right. Don’t say a word...
Well--er--good-night.”

“Good-night, sir... good-night.”

But still the little car did not start. It’s owner’s next remark was
explanatory of the delay.

“Course I HOPE you and I’ll meet again, Mr. Bangs,” said Raish. “May
see you in Wellmouth, you know. Still, such things are--er--kind of
uncertain and--er--sendin’ bills is a nuisance, so perhaps ‘twould be
better--er--easier for both of us--if we settled that little matter of
ours right now. Eh?”

“I beg your pardon. Little matter? I’m afraid I don’t quite--”

“Oh, that little matter of the three dollars for fetchin’ you over.
Course it don’t amount to nothin’, but I kind of like to get them little
things off my mind, don’t you? Eh?”

Mr. Bangs was very much “fussed.” He hurriedly dragged forth the big
pocketbook.

“I beg your pardon--really I BEG your pardon,” he stammered over and
over again. “I quite forgot. It was inexcusable of me. I’m SO sorry.”

Evidently he felt that he had committed a crime. Mr. Pulcifer took the
three one dollar bills and waved the apologies aside with them.

“Don’t say a word, Mr. Bangs,” he called, cheerily, as the car began
to move. “Anybody’s liable to forget. Do it myself sometimes. Well, so
long. Hope to see you again one of these days. Good-night.”

The flivver moved rapidly away, gaining speed as it rushed for the
hill. Galusha Bangs watched its tail-light soar and dwindle until it
disappeared over the crest. Then, with a weary sigh, he picked up the
heavy suitcase, plodded across the road and on until he reached the step
and platform of Erastus Beebe’s “General and Variety Store.” There was
a kerosene lamp burning dimly upon the counter within, but the door was
locked. He pounded on the door and shook it, but no one answered. Then,
remembering Mr. Pulcifer’s instructions, he entered the yard behind the
store, found the door of Mr. Beebe’s house and knocked upon that. There
was not even a light in the house. The Beebes had gone--as most of
East Wellmouth had gone--to the baked beans and brown-bread supper and
sociable at the church. Galusha Bangs was not aware of this, of course.
What he was aware of--painfully, distressingly aware--was the fact
that he was alone and supperless, very, very weak and tired, and almost
discouraged.

However, there was no use in standing in the wet grass of the Beebe yard
and giving way to his discouragement. Galusha Bangs was a plucky little
soul, although just now a weak and long-suffering one. He waded and
slopped back to the store platform, where he put down his suitcase and
started on a short tour of exploration. Through the fog and darkness he
could dimly perceive a signpost standing at the corner of the crossroad
where the store was located. He tramped over to look at it.

There were two signs affixed to the post. By the aid of the
pocket flashlight he read them. That at the top read thus: “TO THE
LIGHTHOUSE--1 1/2 MILES.” There was an arrow pointing along the
crossroad and off to the right. Galusha paid little attention to this
sign; it was the other nailed beneath it which caught and held his
attention. It was a rather gaudy sign of red, white, and blue, and it
read thus: “THE RESTABIT INN AT GOULD’S BLUFFS--1 MILE.” And the arrow
pointed in the same direction as the other.

Mr. Bangs uttered his favorite exclamation.

“Dear me! Why, dear me!”

He read the sign again. There was no mistake, his first reading had been
correct.

He trotted back to the platform of Mr. Beebe’s store. Then, once
more dragging forth the big pocketbook, he fumbled in its various
compartments. After spilling a good many scraps of paper upon the
platform and stopping to pick them up again, he at length found what
he was looking for. It was an advertisement torn from the Summer Resort
advertising pages of a magazine. Holding it so that the feeble light
from Mr. Beebe’s lamp fell upon it, Galusha read, as follows:


THE RESTABIT INN at Beautiful Gould’s Bluffs, East Wellmouth, Mass.
Rest, sea air, and pleasant people: Good food and plenty of it.
Reasonable prices. NO FRILLS.


He had chanced upon the advertisement in a tattered, back number
magazine which a fellow passenger had left beside him in a car seat
a month before. He had not quite understood the “NO FRILLS” portion.
Apparently it must be important because the advertiser had put it in
capital letters, but Mr. Bangs was uncertain as to just what it meant.
But there was no uncertainty about the remainder of the “ad.”

Rest! His weary muscles and aching joints seemed to relax at the very
whisper of the word. Food! Well, he needed food, it would be welcome, of
course--but rest! Oh, rest!!

And food and rest, not to mention reasonable prices and pleasant people
and no frills, were all but a mile away at the Restabit Inn at Gould’s
Bluffs--beautiful Gould’s Bluffs. No wonder they called them beautiful.

He returned the pocketbook to his inside pocket and the flashlight to an
outside one, turned up his coat collar, pulled the brown derby down
as tightly upon his brow as he could, picked up the heavy suitcase and
started forth to tramp the mile which separated his tired self from food
and rest--especially rest.

The first hundred yards of that mile cut him off entirely from the
world. It was dark now, pitch dark, and the fog was so thick as to be
almost a rain. His coat and hat and suitcase dripped with it. The drops
ran down his nose. He felt as if there were almost as much water in the
air as there was beneath him on the ground--not quite as much, for his
feet were wetter than his body, but enough.

And it was so still. No sound of voices, no dogs barking, no murmur of
the wind in trees. There did not seem to be any trees. Occasionally he
swept a circle of his immediate surroundings with the little flashlight,
but all its feeble radiance showed was fog and puddles and wet weeds and
ruts and grass--and more fog.

Still! Oh, yes, deadly still for a long minute’s interval, and then
out of the nowhere ahead, with a suddenness which each time caused his
weakened nerves to vibrate like fiddle strings, would burst the bellow
of the great foghorn.

Silence, the splash and “sugg” of Galusha’s sodden shoes moving up and
down, up and down--and then:

“OW--ooo--ooo---ooo--OOO!!”

Once a minute the foghorn blew and once a minute Galusha Bangs jumped as
if he were hearing it for the first time.

The signboard had said “1 MILE.” One hundred miles, one thousand miles;
that was what it should have said to be truthful. Galusha plodded on and
on, stopping to put down the suitcase, then lifting it and pounding on
again. He had had no luncheon; he had had no dinner. He was weak from
illness. He was wet and chilled. And--yes, it was beginning to rain.

He put down the suitcase once more.

“Oh, my soul!” he exclaimed, and not far away, close at hand, the word
“soul” was repeated.

“Oh, dear!” cried Galusha, startled.

“Dear!” repeated the echo, for it was an echo.

Galusha, brandishing the tiny flashlight, moved toward the sound.
Something bulky, huge, loomed in the blackness, a building. The
flashlight’s circle, growing dimmer now for the battery was almost
exhausted, disclosed steps and a broad piazza. Mr. Bangs climbed the
steps, crossed the piazza, the boards of which creaked beneath him.
There were doors, but they were shut tight; there were windows, but they
were shuttered. Down the length of the long piazza tramped Galusha, his
heart sinking. Every window was shuttered, every door was boarded up.
Evidently this place, whatever it was, was closed. It was uninhabited.

He came back to the front door again. Over it was a sign, he had not
looked as high before. Now he raised the dimming flashlight and read:

“THE RESTABIT INN. Open June 15 to September 15.”

September 15!!! Why, September was past and gone. This was the 3rd of
October. The Restabit Inn was closed for the season.

Slowly, Galusha, tugging the suitcase, stumbled to the edge of the
piazza. There he collapsed, rather than sat down, upon the upper
step. Above him, upon the piazza roof, the rain descended heavily. The
flashlight dimmed and went out altogether.

“OW--ooo---ooo--ooo--OOO!!” whooped the foghorn.

Later, just how much later he never knew exactly, Mr. Bangs awoke from
his faint or collapse or doze, whichever it may have been, to hear some
one calling his name.

“Loosh! Loosh! Loosh!”

This was odd, very odd. “Loosh” was what he had been called at college.
That is, some of the fellows had called him that, those he liked best.
The others had even more offensive nicknames. He disliked “Loosh” very
much, but he answered to it--then.

“Loosh! Loosh! Loosh, where are you?”

Queer that any one should be calling him “Loosh”--any one down here
in... Eh? Where was he? He couldn’t remember much except that he was
very tired--except--

“Loosh! Looshy! Come Looshy!”

He staggered to his feet and, leaving the suitcase where it was,
stumbled away in the direction of the voice. The rain, pouring down upon
him, served to bring him back a little nearer to reality. Wasn’t that a
light over there, that bright yellow spot in the fog?

It was a light, a lighted doorway, with a human figure standing in it.
The figure of a woman, a woman in a dark dress and a white apron. It
must be she who was calling him. Yes, she was calling him again.

“Loosh! Loosh! Looshy! Oh, my sakes alive! Why don’t you come?”

Mr. Bangs bumped into something. It was a gate in a picket fence and
the gate swung open. He staggered up the path on the other side of that
gate, the path which led to the doorway where the woman was standing.

“Yes, madam,” said Galusha, politely but shakily lifting the brown
derby, “here I am.”

The woman started violently, but she did not run nor scream.

“My heavens and earth!” she exclaimed. Then, peering forward, she stared
at the dripping apparition which had appeared to her from the fog and
rain.

“Here I am, madam,” repeated Mr. Bangs.

The woman nodded. She was middle-aged, with a pleasant face and a figure
of the sort which used to be called “comfortable.” Her manner of looking
and speaking were quick and businesslike.

“Yes,” she said, promptly, “I can see you are there, so you needn’t tell
me again. WHY are you there and who are you?”

Galusha’s head was spinning dizzily, but he tried to make matters clear.

“My name is--is--Dear me, how extraordinary! I seem to have forgotten
it. Oh, yes, it is Bangs--that is it, Bangs. I heard you calling me,
so--”

“Heard ME calling YOU?”

“Yes. I--I came down to the hotel--the rest--Rest--that hotel over
there. It was closed. I sat down upon the porch, for I have been ill
recently and I--ah--tire easily. So, as I say--”

The woman interrupted him. She had been looking keenly at his face as he
spoke.

“Come in. Come into the house,” she commanded, briskly.

Mr. Bangs took a step toward her. Then he hesitated.

“I--I am very wet, I’m afraid,” he said. “Really, I am not sure that--”

“Rubbish! It’s because you are wet--wet as a drowned rat--that I’m
askin’ you to come in. Come now--quick.”

Her tone was not unkind, but it was arbitrary.

Galusha made no further protest. She held the door open and he preceded
her into a room, then into another, this last evidently a sitting room.
He was to know it well later; just now he was conscious of little except
that it was a room--and light--and warm--and dry.

“Sit down!” ordered his hostess.

Galusha found himself standing beside a couch, an old-fashioned sofa. It
tempted him--oh, how it tempted him!--but he remembered the condition of
his garments.

“I am very wet indeed,” he faltered. “I’m afraid I may spoil your--your
couch.”

“Sit DOWN!”

Galusha sat. The room was doing a whirling dervish dance about him, but
he still felt it his duty to explain.

“I fear you must think this--ah--very queer,” he stammered. “I realize
that I must seem--ah--perhaps insane, to you. But I have, as I say, been
ill and I have walked several miles, owing to--ah--mistakes in locality,
and not having eaten for some time, since breakfast, in fact, I--”

“Not since BREAKFAST? Didn’t you have any dinner, for mercy sakes?”

“No, madam. Nor luncheon. Oh, it is quite all right, no one’s fault but
my own. Then, when I found the--the hotel closed, I--I sat down to rest
and--and when I heard you call my name--”

“Wait a minute. What IS your name?”

“My name is Bangs, Galusha Bangs. It seems ridiculous now, as I tell it,
but I certainly thought I heard you or some one call me by the name my
relatives and friends used to use. Of course--”

“Wait. What was that name?”

Even now, dizzy and faint as he was, Mr. Bangs squirmed upon the sofa.

“It was--well, it was Loosh--or--ah--Looshy” he admitted, guiltily.

His hostess’ face broke into smiles. Her “comfortable” shoulders shook.

“Well, if that doesn’t beat everything!” she exclaimed. “I was callin’
my cat; his name is Lucy--Lucy Larcom; sometimes we call him ‘Luce’ for
short.... Eh? Heavens and earth! Don’t do THAT!”

But Galusha had already done it. The dervish dance in his head had
culminated in one grand merry-go-round blotting out consciousness
altogether, and he had sunk down upon the sofa.

The woman sprang from her chair, bent over him, felt his pulse, and
loosened his collar.

“Primmie,” she called. “Primmie, come here this minute, I want you!”

There was the sound of scurrying feet, heavy feet, from the adjoining
room, the door opened and a large, raw-boned female, of an age which
might have been almost anything within the range of the late teens or
early twenties, clumped in. She had a saucer in one hand and a dishcloth
in the other.

“Yes’m,” she said, “here I be.” Then, seeing the prone figure upon the
sofa, she exclaimed fervently, “Oh, my Lord of Isrul! Who’s that?”

“Now don’t stand there swearin’ and askin’ questions, but do as I tell
you. You go to the--”

“But--but what AILS him? Is he drunk?”

“Drunk? What put such a notion as that in your head? Of course he isn’t
drunk.”

“He ain’t--he ain’t dead?”

“Don’t be so silly. He’s fainted away, that’s all. He’s tired out and
half sick and half starved, I guess. Here, where are you goin’?”

“I’m a-goin’ to fetch some water. They always heave water on fainted
folks.”

“Well, this one’s had all the water he needs already. The poor thing is
soaked through. You go to the pantry and in the blue soup tureen, the
one we don’t use, you’ll find a bottle of that cherry rum Cap’n Hallet
gave me three years ago. Bring it right here and bring a tumbler and
spoon with it. After that you see if you can get Doctor Powers on the
telephone and ask him to come right down here as quick as he can. HURRY!
Primmie Cash, if you stop to ask one more question I--I don’t know what
I’ll do to you. Go ALONG!”

Miss Cash went along, noisily along. Her mistress bent over the wet,
pitiful little figure upon the sofa.

And thus, working by devious ways, did Fate bring about the meeting of
Galusha Cabot Bangs, of the National Institute, Washington, D. C., and
Miss Martha Phipps, of East Wellmouth, which, it may be said in passing,
was something of an achievement, even for Fate.



CHAPTER II


And in order to make clear the truth of the statement just made, namely,
that Fate had achieved something when it brought Galusha Bangs to the
door of Martha Phipps’ home that rainy night in October--in order to
emphasize the truth of that statement it may be well, without waiting
further, to explain just who Galusha Cabot Bangs was, and who and what
his family was, and how, although the Bangses were all very well in
their way, the Cabots--his mother’s family--were “the banking Cabots of
Boston,” and were, therefore, very great people indeed.

“The banking Cabots” must not be confused with any other branch of the
Cabots, of which there are many in Boston. All Boston Cabots are “nice
people,” many are distinguished in some way or other, and all are
distinctly worth while. But “the banking Cabots” have been deep in
finance from the very beginning, from the earliest of colonial times.
The salary of the Reverend Cotton Mather was paid to him by a Cabot, and
another Cabot banked whatever portion of it he saved for a rainy day.
In the Revolution a certain Galusha Cabot, progenitor of the line of
Galusha Cabots, assisted the struggling patriots of Beacon Hill to pay
their troops in the Continental army. During the Civil War his grandson,
the Honorable Galusha Hancock Cabot, one of Boston’s most famous bankers
and financiers, was of great assistance to his state and nation in the
sale of bonds and the floating of loans. His youngest daughter, Dorothy
Hancock Cabot, married--well, she should, of course, have married a
financier or a banker or, at the very least, a millionaire stockbroker.
But she did not, she married John Capen Bangs, a thoroughly estimable
man, a scholar, author of two or three scholarly books which few read
and almost nobody bought, and librarian of the Acropolis, a library that
Bostonians and the book world know and revere.

The engagement came as a shock to the majority of “banking Cabots.” John
Bangs was all right, but he was not in the least “financial.” He was
respected and admired, but he was not the husband for Galusha Hancock
Cabot’s daughter. She should have married a Kidder or a Higginson or
some one high in the world of gold and securities. But she did not, she
fell in love with John Bangs and she married him, and they were happy
together for a time--a time all too brief.

In the second year of their marriage a baby boy was born. His mother
named him, her admiring husband being quite convinced that whatever she
did was sure to be exactly the right thing. So, in order to keep up the
family tradition and honors--“He has a perfect Cabot head. You see it,
don’t you, John dear”--she named him Galusha Cabot Bangs. And then, but
three years afterward, she died.

John Capen Bangs remained in Boston until his son was nine. Then his
health began to fail. Years of pawing and paring over old volumes amid
the dust and close air of book-lined rooms brought on a cough, a cough
which made physicians who heard it look grave. It was before the days
of Adirondack Mountain sanitariums. They told John Bangs to go South,
to Florida. He went there, leaving his son at school in Boston, but
the warm air and sunshine did not help the cough. Then they sent him to
Colorado, where the boy Galusha joined him. For five years he and the
boy lived in Colorado. Then John Capen Bangs died.

Dorothy Hancock Cabot had a sister, an older sister, Clarissa Peabody
Cabot. Clarissa did not marry a librarian as her sister did, nor did
she marry a financier, as was expected of her. This was not her fault
exactly; if the right financier had happened along and asked, it is
quite probable that he would have been accepted. He did not happen
along; in fact, no one happened along until Clarissa was in her thirties
and somewhat anxious. Then came Joshua Bute of Chicago, and when wooed
she accepted and married him. More than that, she went with him to
Chicago, where stood the great establishment which turned out “Bute’s
Banner Brand Butterine” and “Bute’s Banner Brand Leaf Lard” and “Bute’s
Banner Brand Back-Home Sausage” and “Bute’s Banner Brand Better Baked
Beans.” Also there was a magnificent mansion on the Avenue.

Aunt Clarissa had family and culture and a Boston manner. Uncle Joshua
had a kind heart, a hemispherical waistcoat and a tremendous deal of
money. Later on the kind heart stopped beating and Aunt Clarissa was
left with the money, the mansion and--but of course the “manner” had
been all her own all the time.

So when John Bangs died, Aunt Clarissa Bute sent for the son, talked
with the latter, and liked him. She wrote to her relative, Augustus
Adams Cabot, of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot, in Boston, who, although
still a young man, was already known as a financier, and looked out for
her various investments, saying that she found young Galusha “a nice
boy, though rather odd, like his father,” and that she thought of taking
his rearing and education into her own hands. “I have no children of
my own, Augustus. What do you think of the idea?” Augustus thought it a
good one; at least he wrote that he did. So Aunt Clarissa took charge of
Galusha Bangs.

The boy was fourteen then, a dreamy, shy youngster, who wore spectacles
and preferred curling up in a corner with a book to playing baseball. It
was early spring when he came to live with Aunt Clarissa and before the
summer began he had already astonished his relative more than once.
On one occasion a visitor, admiring the Bute library, asked how many
volumes it contained. Aunt Clarissa replied that she did not know. “I
have added from time to time such books as I desired and have discarded
others. I really have no idea how many there are.” Then Galusha, from
the recess by the window, looked up over the top of the huge first
volume of Ancient Nineveh and Its Remains which he was reading and
observed: “There were five thousand six hundred and seventeen yesterday,
Auntie.”

Aunt Clarissa started so violently that her eyeglasses fell from her
aquiline nose to the end of their chain.

“Good heavens, child! I didn’t know you were there. What did you say?”

“I said there were five thousand six hundred and seventeen books on the
shelves here yesterday.”

“How do you know?”

“I counted them.”

“COUNTED them? Mercy! What for?”

Galusha’s spectacles gleamed. “For fun,” he said.

On another occasion his aunt found him still poring over Ancient Nineveh
and Its Remains; it was the fifth volume now, however.

“Do you LIKE to read that?” she asked.

“Yes, Auntie. I’ve read four already and, counting this one, there are
five more to read.”

Now Aunt Clarissa had never read Ancient Nineveh herself. Her bookseller
had assured her that it was a very remarkable set, quite rare and
complete. “We seldom pick one up nowadays, Mrs. Bute. You should buy
it.” So Aunt Clarissa bought it, but she had never thought of reading
it.

She looked down over her nephew’s shoulder at the broad page with its
diagram of an ancient temple and its drawings of human-headed bulls in
bas-relief.

“Why do you find it so interesting?” she asked.

Galusha looked up at her. His eyes were alight with excitement.

“They dig those things up over there,” he said, pointing to one of
the bulls. “It’s all sand and rocks--and everything, but they send an
expedition and the people in it figure out where the city or the temple
or whatever it is ought to be, and then they dig and--and find it. And
you can’t tell WHAT you’ll find, exactly. And sometimes you don’t find
much of anything.”

“After all the digging and work?”

“Yes, but that’s where the fun comes in. Then you figure all over
again and keep on trying and trying. And when you DO find ‘em there are
sculptures like this--oh, yards and yards of ‘em--and all sort of queer,
funny old inscriptions to be studied out. Gee, it must be great! Don’t
you think so, Auntie?”

Aunt Clarissa’s reply was noncommittal. That evening she wrote a letter
to Augustus Cabot in Boston. “He is a good boy,” she wrote, referring to
Galusha, “but queer--oh, dreadfully queer. It’s his father’s queerness
cropping out, of course, but it shouldn’t be permitted to develop. I
have set my heart on his becoming a financier like the other Galushas in
our line. Of course he will always be a Bangs--more’s the pity--but
his middle name is Cabot and his first IS Galusha. I think he had best
continue his schooling in or near Boston where you can influence
him, Augustus. I wish him well grounded in mathematics and--oh, you
understand, the financial branches. Select a school, the right sort of
school, for him, to oblige me, will you, Gus?”

Augustus Cabot chose a school, a select, aristocratic and expensive
school near the “Hub of the Universe.” Thither, in the fall, went
Galusha and there he remained until he was eighteen, when he entered
Harvard. At college, as at school, he plugged away at his studies,
and he managed to win sufficiently high marks in mathematics. But his
mathematical genius was of a queer twist. In the practical dollars and
cents sort of figuring he was almost worthless. Money did not interest
him at all. What interested him was to estimate how many bricks there
were in “Mem” and how many more there might have been if it had been
built a story higher.

“This room,” he said to a classmate, referring to his study in old
Thayer, “was built in ----” naming the year. “Now allowing that a
different fellow lived in it each year, which is fair enough because
they almost always change, that means that at least so many fellows,”
 giving the number, “have occupied this room since the beginning. That
is, provided there was but one fellow living in the room at a time. Now
we know that, for part of the time, this was a double room, so--”

“Oh, for the love of Mike, Loosh!” exclaimed the classmate, “cut it out.
What do you waste your time doing crazy stunts like that for?”

“But it’s fun. Say, if they had all cut their initials around on the
door frames and the--ah--mop boards it would be great stuff to puzzle
‘em out and make a list of ‘em, wouldn’t it? I wish they had.”

“Well, I don’t. It would make the old rat hole look like blazes and it
is bad enough as it is. Come on down and watch the practice.”

One of young Bangs’ peculiar enjoyments, developed during his senior
year, was to visit every old cemetery in or about the city and examine
and copy the ancient epitaphs and inscriptions. Pleasant spring
afternoons, when normal-minded Harvard men were busy with baseball or
track or tennis, or the hundred and one activities which help to keep
young America employed in a great university, Galusha might have
been, and was, seen hopping about some grass-grown graveyard, like
a bespectacled ghoul, making tracings of winged death’s-heads or
lugubrious tombstone poetry. When they guyed him he merely grinned,
blushed, and was silent. To the few--the very few--in whom he confided
he made explanations which were as curious as their cause.

“It’s great fun,” he declared. “It keeps you guessing, that’s it. Now,
for instance, here’s one of those skull jiggers with wings on it. See?
I traced this over at Copp’s Hill last spring, a year ago. But there are
dozens of ‘em all about, in all the old graveyards. Nobody ever saw a
skull with wings; it’s a--a--ah--convention, of course. But who made the
first one? And why did it become a convention? And--and--why do some
of ‘em have wings like this, and some of ‘em crossbones like a pirate’s
flag, and some of ‘em no wings or bones, and why--”

“Oh, good Lord! I don’t know. Forget it. You make a noise like a hearse,
Loosh.”

“Of course you don’t know. _I_ don’t know. I don’t suppose anybody
knows, exactly. But isn’t it great fun to study ‘em up, and see the
different kinds, and think about the old chaps who carved ‘em, and
wonder about ‘em and--”

“No, I’ll be banged if it is! It’s crazy nonsense. You’ve got pigeons in
your loft, Loosh. Come on out and give the birds an airing.”

This was the general opinion of the class of 19--, that old “Loosh had
pigeons in his loft.” However, it was agreed that they were harmless
fowl and that Galusha himself was a good old scout, in spite of his
aviary.

He graduated with high honors in the mathematical branches and in
languages. Then the no less firm because feminine hand of Aunt Clarissa
grasped him, so to speak, by the collar and guided him to the portals
of the banking house of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot, where “Cousin Gussie”
 took him in charge with the instructions to make a financier of him.

“Cousin Gussie,” junior member of the firm, then in his early thirties,
thrust his hands into the pockets of his smart tweed trousers, tilted
from heels to toes of his stylish and very shiny shoes and whistled
beneath his trim mustache. He had met Galusha often before, but that
fact did not make him more optimistic, rather the contrary.

“So you want to be a banker, do you, Loosh?” he asked.

Galusha regarded him sadly through the spectacles.

“Auntie wants me to be one,” he said.

The experiment lasted a trifle over six months. At the end of that time
the junior partner of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot had another interview
with his firm’s most recent addition to its list of employees.

“You’re simply no good at the job, that’s the plain truth,” said the
banker, with the candor of exasperation. “You’ve cost us a thousand
dollars more than your salary already by mistakes and forgetfulness
and all the rest of it. You’ll never make your salt at this game in a
million years. Don’t you know it, yourself?”

Galusha nodded.

“Yes,” he said, simply.

“Eh? Oh, you do! Well, that’s something.”

“I knew it when I came here.”

“Knew you would be no good at the job?”

“At this job, yes.”

“Then for heaven’s sake why did you take it?”

“I told you. Aunt Clarissa wanted me to.”

“Well, you can’t stay here, that’s all. I’m sorry.”

“So am I, for Auntie’s sake and yours. I realize I have made you a lot
of--ah--trouble.”

“Oh, that’s all right, that’s all right. Hang it all, I feel like a
beast to chuck you out this way, but I have partners, you know. What
will you do now?”

“I don’t know.”

Cousin Gussie reflected. “I think perhaps you’d better go back to Aunt
Clarissa,” he said. “Possibly she will tell you what to do. Don’t you
think she will?”

“Yes.”

“Humph! You seem to be mighty sure of it. How do you know she will?”

For the first time a gleam, a very slight and almost pathetic gleam, of
humor shone behind Galusha’s spectacles.

“Because she always does,” he said. And thus ended his connection with
the banking profession.

Aunt Clarissa was disgusted and disappointed, of course. She expressed
her feelings without reservation. However, she laid most of the blame
upon heredity.

“You got it from that impractical librarian,” she declared. “Why did
Dorothy marry him? She might have known what the result would be.”

Galusha was more downcast even than his relative.

“I’m awfully sorry, Aunt Clarissa,” he said. “I realize I am a dreadful
disappointment to you. I tried, I honestly did, but--”

And here he coughed, coughed lengthily and in a manner which caused his
aunt to look alarmed and anxious. She had heard John Capen Bangs cough
like that. That very afternoon the Bute family physician saw, questioned
and examined Galusha. The following day an eminent specialist did the
same things. And both doctors looked gravely at each other and at their
patient.

Within a week Galusha was on his way to an Arizona ranch, a place where
he was to find sunshine and dry climate. He was to be out of doors as
much as possible, he was to ride and walk much, he was to do all sorts
of distasteful things, but he promised faithfully to do them, for his
aunt’s sake. As a matter of fact, he took little interest in the matter
for his own. His was a sensitive spirit, although a quiet, shy and
“queer” one, and to find that he was “no good” at any particular
employment, even though he had felt fairly certain of that fact
beforehand, hurt more than he acknowledged to others. Galusha went to
Arizona because his aunt, to whose kindness and generosity he owed so
much, wished him to do so. For himself he did not care where he went or
what became of him.

But his feelings changed a few months later, when health began to return
and the cough to diminish in frequency and violence. And then came to
the ranch where he lodged and boarded an expedition from an eastern
museum. It was an expedition sent to explore the near-by canyon for
trace of the ancient “cliff dwellers,” to find and, if need be, excavate
the villages of this strange people and to do research work among them.
The expedition was in charge of an eminent scientist. Galusha met and
talked with the scientist and liked him at once, a liking which was to
grow into adoration as the acquaintanceship between the two warmed into
friendship. The young man was invited to accompany the expedition upon
one of its exploring trips. He accepted and, although he did not then
realize it, upon that trip he discovered, not only an ancient cliff
village, but the life work of Galusha Cabot Bangs.

For Galusha was wild with enthusiasm. Scrambling amid the rocks,
wading or tumbling into the frigid waters of mountain streams, sleeping
anywhere or not sleeping, all these hardships were of no consequence
whatever compared with the thrill which came with the first glimpse of,
high up under the bulging brow of an overhanging cliff, a rude wall and
a cluster of half ruined dwellings sticking to the side of the precipice
as barn swallows’ nests are plastered beneath eaves. Then the climb
and the glorious burrowing into the homes of these long dead folk, the
hallelujahs when a bit of broken pottery was found, and the delightfully
arduous labor of painstakingly uncovering and cleaning a bit of rude
carving. The average man would have tired of it in two days, a week of
it would have bored him to distraction. But the longer it lasted and
the harder the labor, the brighter Galusha’s eyes sparkled behind his
spectacles. Years before, when his aunt had asked him concerning his
interest in the books about ancient Nineveh, he had described to her the
work of the explorers and had cried: “Gee, it must be great!” Well,
now he was, in a very humble way, helping to do something of the sort
himself, and--gee, it WAS great!

Such enthusiasm as his and such marked aptitude, amounting almost to
genius, could not help but make an impression. The distinguished savant
at the head of the expedition returned the young man’s liking. Before
returning East, he said:

“Bangs, next fall I am planning an expedition to Ecuador. I’d like to
have you go with me. Oh, this isn’t offered merely for your sake, it is
quite as much for mine. You’re worth at least three of the average young
fellows who have trained for this sort of thing. There will be a salary
for you, of course, but it won’t be large. On the other hand, there will
be no personal expense and some experience. Will you go?”

Would he GO? Why--

“Yes, I know. But there is your health to be considered. I can’t afford
to have a sick man along. You stay here for the present and put in your
time getting absolutely fit.”

“But--but I AM fit.”

“Um--yes; well, then, get fitter.”

Galusha went to Ecuador. Aunt Clarissa protested, scolded, declared him
insane--and capitulated only when she found that he was going anyhow. He
returned from the expedition higher than ever in favor with his chief.
He was offered a position in the archeological department of the museum.
He accepted first and then told Aunt Clarissa.

That was the real beginning. After that the years rolled placidly along.
He went to Egypt, under his beloved chief, and there found exactly what
he had dreamed. The desert, the pyramids, the sculptures, the ancient
writings, the buried tombs and temples--all those Galusha saw and took,
figuratively speaking, for his own. On his return he settled down to
the study of Egyptology, its writings, its history, its every detail. He
made another trip to the beloved land and distinguished himself and his
museum by his discoveries. His chief died and Galusha was offered the
post left vacant. He accepted. Later--some years later--he was called to
the National Institute at Washington.

When he was thirty-seven his Aunt Clarissa died. She left all her
property to her nephew. But she left it in trust, in trust with Cousin
Gussie. There was a letter to the latter in the envelope with the will.
“He is to have only the income, the income, understand--until he is
forty-five,” Aunt Clarissa had written. “Heaven knows, I am afraid
even THAT is too young for a child such as he is in everything except
pyramids.”

Cousin Gussie, now the dignified and highly respected senior partner
of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot, took charge of the Bute--now the
Bangs--property. There was not as much of it as most people had
supposed; since Uncle Joshua passed on certain investments had gone
wrong, but there was income enough to furnish any mortal of ordinary
tastes with the means of gratifying them and still have a substantial
residue left. Galusha understood this, in a vague sort of way, but he
did not care. Outside of his beloved profession he had no tastes and
no desires. Life for him was, as Cousin Gussie unfeelingly put it, “one
damned mummy after the other.” In fact, after the arrival of the first
installment of income, he traveled posthaste to the office of his Boston
relative and entered a protest.

“You--you mustn’t send any more, really you mustn’t,” he declared,
anxiously. “I don’t know what to do with it.”

“DO with it? Do with the money, you mean?”

“Yes--yes, that’s it.”

“But don’t you need it to live on?”

“Oh, dear me, no!”

“What DO you live on?”

“Why, my salary.”

“How much is your salary, if you don’t mind telling us?”

Galusha did not in the least mind. The figure he named seemed a small
one to his banking relative, used to big sums.

“Humph!” grunted the latter; “well, that isn’t so tremendous. They don’t
overpay you mummy-dusters, do they? And you really don’t want me to send
you any more?”

“No, not if you’re sure you don’t mind.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. Then you want me to keep it and reinvest it for you;
is that it?”

“I--I think so. Yes, reinvest it or--ah--something.”

“But you may need some of it occasionally. If you do you will notify me,
of course.”

“Oh, yes; yes, indeed. Thank you very much. It’s quite a weight off my
mind, really it is.”

Cabot could not help laughing. Then a thought struck him.

“Did you bring back the check I sent you?” he asked. Galusha looked
somewhat confused.

“Why, why, no, I didn’t,” he admitted. “I had intended to, but you
see--Dear me, dear me, I hope you will feel that I did right. You see,
our paleontological department had been hoping to fit out an expedition
to the Wyoming fossil fields, but it was lamentably short of funds,
appropriations--ah--and so on. Hambridge and I were talking of the
matter. A very adequate man indeed, Hambridge. Possibly you’ve read some
of his writings. He wrote Lesser Reptilian Life in the Jurassio. Are you
acquainted with that?”

Cousin Gussie shook his head. “Never have been introduced,” he observed,
with a chuckle. Galusha noted the chuckle and smiled.

“I imagine not,” he observed. “I fear it isn’t what is called
a--ah--best seller. Well--ah--Dear me, where was I? Oh, yes! Hambridge,
poor fellow, was very much upset at the prospect of abandoning his
expedition and I, knowing from experience what such a disappointment
means, sympathized with him. Your check was at that moment lying on my
desk. So--so--It was rather on the spur of the moment, I confess--I--”

The banker interrupted.

“Are you trying to tell me,” he demanded, “that you handed that check
over to that other--that other--”

He seemed rather at a loss for the word.

Galusha nodded.

“To finance Hambridge’s expedition? Yes,” he said.

“ALL of it?”

“Yes--ah--yes.”

“Well, by George!”

“Perhaps it was impulsive on my part. But, you see, Hambridge DID need
the money. And of course I didn’t. The only thing that troubles me is
the fact that, after all, it was money Aunt Clarissa left to me and I
should prefer to do what she would have liked with it. I fear she might
not have liked this.”

Cabot nodded, grimly. He had known Aunt Clarissa very, very well.

“You bet she wouldn’t,” he declared.

“Yes. So don’t send me any more, will you? Ah--not unless I ask for it.”

“No, I won’t.” Then he added, “And not then unless I know WHY you ask
for it, you can bet on that.”

Galusha was as grateful as if he had been granted a great favor. As they
walked through the outer office together he endeavored to express his
feelings.

“Thank you, thank you very much, Cousin Gussie,” he said, earnestly. His
relative glanced about at the desks where rows of overjoyed clerks were
trying to suppress delighted grins and pretend not to have heard.

“You’re welcome, Loosh,” he said, as they parted at the door, “but don’t
you ever dare call me ‘Cousin Gussie’ again in public as long as you
live.”

Galusha Bangs returned to his beloved work at the National Institute
and his income was reinvested for him by the senior partner of Cabot,
Bancroft and Cabot. Occasionally Galusha requested that a portion of
it be sent him, usually for donation to this department or that or to
assist in fitting out an expedition of his own, but, generally speaking,
he was quite content with his modest salary. He unwrapped his mummies
and deciphered his moldering papyri, living far more in ancient Egypt
than in modern Washington. The Great War and its demands upon the youth
of the world left the Institute short-handed and he labored harder than
ever, doing the work of two assistants as well as his own. It was the
only thing he could do for his country, the only thing that country
would permit him to do, but he tried to do that well. Then the
Hindenburg line was broken, the armistice was signed and the civilized
world rejoiced.

But Galusha Bangs did not rejoice, for his health had broken, like the
enemy’s resistance, and the doctors told him that he was to go away at
once.

“You must leave all this,” commanded the doctor; “forget it. You must
get away, get out of doors and stay out.”

For a moment Galusha was downcast. Then he brightened.

“There is an expedition from the New York museum about to start for
Syria,” he said. “I am quite sure I would be permitted to accompany it.
I’ll write at once and--”

“Here, here! Wait! You’ll do nothing of the sort. I said forget that
sort of thing. You can’t go wandering off to dig in the desert; you
might as well stay in this place and dig here. Get away from it all. Go
where there are people.”

“But, Doctor Raymond, there are people in Syria, a great many of them,
and most interesting people. I have--”

“No. You are to forget Syria and Egypt and your work altogether. Keep
out of doors, meet people, exercise--play golf, perhaps. The main
trouble with you just now is nerve weariness and lack of strength. Eat,
sleep, rest, build up. Eat regular meals at regular times. Go to bed at
a regular hour. I would suggest your going to some resort, either in the
mountains or at the seashore. Enjoy yourself.”

“But, doctor, I DON’T enjoy myself at such places. I am quite wretched.
Really I am.”

“Look here, you must do precisely as I tell you. Your lungs are quite
all right at present, but, as you know, they have a tendency to become
all wrong with very little provocation. I tell you to go away at once,
at once. And STAY away, for a year at least. If you don’t, my friend,
you are going to die. Is that plain?”

It was plain, certainly. Galusha took off his spectacles and rubbed
them, absently.

“Dear me!... Dear me!--ah--Oh, dear!” he observed.

A resort? Galusha knew precious little about resorts; they were places
he had hitherto tried to avoid. He asked his stenographer to name a
resort where one would be likely to meet--ah--a good many people and
find--ah--air and--ah--that sort of thing. The stenographer suggested
Atlantic City. She had no idea why he asked the question.

Galusha went to Atlantic City. Atlantic City in August! Two days of
crowds and noise were sufficient. A crumpled, perspiring wreck, he
boarded the train bound for the mountains. The White Mountains were his
destination. He had never visited them, but he knew them by reputation.

The White Mountains were not so bad. The crowds at the hotels were not
pleasant, but one could get away into the woods and walk, and there was
an occasional old cemetery to be visited. But as the fall season drew on
the crowds grew greater. People persisted in talking to Galusha when
he did not care to be talked to. They asked questions. And one had to
dress--or most DID dress--for dinner. He tired of the mountains; there
were too many people there, they made him feel “queerer” than ever.

On his way from Atlantic City to the mountains he happened upon the
discarded magazine with the advertisement of the Restabit Inn in it.
Just why he had torn out that “ad” and kept it he was himself, perhaps,
not quite sure. The “rest” and “sea air” and “pleasant people” were
exactly what the doctor had prescribed for him, but that was not the
whole reason for the advertisement’s retention. An association of ideas
was the real reason. Just before he found the magazine he had received
Mrs. Hall’s postcard with its renewal of the invitation to visit the
Hall cottage at Wellmouth. And the Restabit Inn was at East Wellmouth.

His determination to accept the Hall invitation and make the visit was
as sudden as it was belated. The postcard came in August, but it was not
until October that Galusha made up his mind. His decision was brought to
a focus by the help of Mrs. Worth Buckley. Mrs. Buckley’s help had
not been solicited, but was volunteered, and, as a matter of fact, its
effect was the reverse of that which the lady intended. Nevertheless,
had it not been for Mrs. Buckley it is doubtful if Galusha would have
started for Wellmouth.

She came upon him first one brilliant afternoon when he was sitting upon
a rock, resting his weary legs--they wearied so easily nowadays--and
looking off at the mountain-side ablaze with autumn coloring. She
was large and commanding, and she spoke with a manner, a very decided
manner. She asked him if--he would pardon her for asking, wouldn’t
he?--but had she, by any chance, the honor of addressing Doctor Bangs,
the Egyptologist. Oh, really? How very wonderful! She was quite certain
that it was he. She had heard him deliver a series of lectures--oh,
the most WONDERFUL things, they were, really--at the museum some
years before. She had been introduced to him at that time, but he had
forgotten her, of course. Quite natural that he should. “You meet so
many people, Doctor Bangs--or should I say ‘Professor’?”

He hoped she would say neither. He had an odd prejudice of his own
against titles, and to be called “Mister” Bangs was the short road to
his favor. He tried to tell this woman so, but it was of no use. In
a little while he found it quite as useless to attempt telling her
anything. The simplest way, apparently, was silently and patiently to
endure while she talked--and talked--and talked.

Memories of her monologues, if they could have been taken in shorthand
from Galusha’s mind, would have been merely a succession of “I” and
“I” and “I” and “Oh, do you really think so, Doctor Bangs?” and “Oh,
Professor!” and “wonderful” and “amazing” and “quite thrilling” and much
more of the same.

She followed him when he went to walk; that is, apparently she did, for
he was continually encountering her. She came and sat next him on the
hotel veranda. She bowed and smiled to him when she swept into the
dining room at meal times. Worst of all, she told others, many others,
who he was, and he was aware of being stared at, a knowledge which made
him acutely self-conscious and correspondingly miserable. There was a
Mr. Worth Buckley trotting in her wake, but he was mild and inoffensive.
His wife, however--Galusha exclaimed, “Oh, dear me!” inwardly or aloud
whenever he thought of her.

And she WOULD talk of Egypt. She and her husband had visited Cairo once
upon a time, so she felt herself as familiar with the whole Nile basin
as with the goldfish tank in the hotel lounge. To Galusha Egypt was an
enchanted land, a sort of paradise to which fortunate explorers might
eventually be permitted to go if they were very, very good. To have
this sacrilegious female patting the Sphinx on the head was more than he
could stand.

So he determined to stand it no longer; he ran away. One evening Mrs.
Buckley informed him that she and a little group--“a really select
group, Professor Bangs”--of the hotel inmates were to picnic somewhere
or other the following day. “And you are to come with us, Doctor,
and tell us about those wonderful temples you and I were discussing
yesterday. I have told the others something of what you told me and they
are quite WILD to hear you.”

Galusha was quite wild also. He went to his room and, pawing amid the
chaos of his bureau drawer for a clean collar, chanced upon the postcard
from Mrs. Hall. The postcard reminded him of the advertisement of the
Restabit Inn, which was in his pocketbook. Then the idea came to him.
He would go to the Hall cottage and make a visit of a day or two. If he
liked the Cape and Wellmouth he would take lodgings at the Restabit
Inn and stay as long as he wished. The suspicion that the inn might
be closed did not occur to him. The season was at its height in the
mountains, and Atlantic City, so they had told him there, ran at full
blast all the year. So much he knew, and the rest he did not think
about.

He spent most of that night packing his trunk and his suitcase. He left
word for the former to be sent to him by express and the latter he took
with him. He tiptoed downstairs, ate a hasty breakfast, and took the
earliest train for Boston, The following afternoon he started upon his
Cape Cod pilgrimage, a pilgrimage which was to end in a fainting fit
upon the sofa in Miss Martha Phipps’ sitting room.



CHAPTER III


The fainting fit did not last long. When Galusha again became interested
in the affairs of this world it was to become aware that a glass
containing something not unpleasantly fragrant was held directly beneath
his nose and that some one was commanding him to drink.

So he drank, and the fragrant liquid in the tumbler descended to his
stomach and thence, apparently, to his fingers and toes; at all events
those chilled members began to tingle agreeably. Mr. Bangs attempted to
sit up.

“No, no, you stay right where you are,” said the voice, the same voice
which had urged him to drink.

“But really I--I am quite well now. And your sofa--”

“Never mind the sofa. You aren’t the first soakin’ wet mortal that has
been on it. No, you mind me and stay still.... Primmie!”

“Yes’m. Here I be.”

“Did you get the doctor on the ‘phone?”

“Yes’m. He said he’d be right down soon’s ever he could. He was kind of
fussy ‘long at fust; said he hadn’t had no supper and was wet through,
and all such talk’s that. But I headed HIM off, my savin’ soul, yes!
Says I, ‘There’s a man here that’s more’n wet through; he ain’t had a
thing but rum since I don’t know when.’”

“Heavens and earth! WHAT did you tell him that for?”

“Why, it’s so, ain’t it, Miss Marthy? You said yourself he was starved.”

“But what did you tell him about the rum for? Never mind, never mind.
Don’t stop to argue about it. You go out and make some tea, hot tea, and
toast some bread. And hurry, Primmie--HURRY!”

“Yes’m, but--”

“HURRY!... And Primmie Cash, if you scorch that toast-bread I’ll scrape
off the burned part and make you eat it, I declare I will. Now you lie
right still, Mr.--er--Bangs, did you say your name was?”

“Yes, but really, madam--”

“My name is Phipps, Martha Phipps.”

“Really. Mrs. Phipps--”

“Miss, not Mrs.”

“I beg your pardon. Really, Miss Phipps, I cannot permit you to take
so much trouble. I must go on, back to the village--or--or somewhere.
I--Dear me?”

“What is it?”

“Nothing, nothing, my head is rather confused--dizzy. I shall be all
right again, shortly. I am ashamed of myself.”

“You needn’t be. Anybody that has walked ‘way down here, a night like
this, on an empty stomach--” She paused, laughed, and exclaimed, “Of
course, I don’t mean you walked on your stomach, exactly, Mr. Bangs.”

Galusha smiled, feebly. “There were times when I began to think I should
be forced to,” he said.

“I don’t doubt it. There, there! now don’t try to talk any more till
you’ve had something to eat. Doctor Powers will be here pretty soon; it
isn’t very far--in an automobile. I’m afraid he’s liable to have a queer
notion of what’s the matter with you. The idea of that Primmie tellin’
him you hadn’t had anything but rum for she didn’t know how long! My,
my! Well, ‘twas the truth, but it bears out what my father used to say,
that a little truth was like a little learnin’, an awfully dangerous
thing.... There, there! don’t talk. I’ll talk for both of us. I have a
faculty that way--father used to say THAT, too,” she added, with a broad
smile.

When Doctor Powers did arrive, which was about fifteen minutes later,
he found the patient he had come to see drinking hot tea and eating
buttered toast. He was sitting in a big rocker with his steaming shoes
propped against the stove. Miss Phipps introduced the pair and explained
matters to the extent of her knowledge. Galusha added the lacking
details.

The doctor felt the Bangs’ pulse and took the Bangs temperature. The
owner of the pulse and temperature made feeble protests, declaring
himself to be “perfectly all right, really” and that he must be going
back to the village. He couldn’t think of putting every one to so much
trouble.

“And where will you go when you get back to the village?” asked Doctor
Powers.

“Why, to the--ah--hotel. I presume there is a hotel.”

“No, there isn’t. The Inn across the road here is the only hotel in East
Wellmouth, and that is closed for the season.”

“Dear me, doctor! Dear me! Well, perhaps I may be able to hire
a--ah--car or wagon or something to take me to Wellmouth. I have
friends in Wellmouth; I intended visiting them. Do you know Professor
Hall--ah--George Hall, of New York?”

“Yes, I know him well. He and his family are patients of mine. But the
Halls are not in Wellmouth now.”

“They are not?”

“No, they went back to New York two weeks or more ago. Their cottage is
closed.”

“Dear me!... Oh, dear!... Why, but--but there IS a hotel at Wellmouth?”

“Yes, a kind of hotel, but you mustn’t think of going there to-night.”
 Then, with a motion of his hand, he indicated to Miss Phipps that he
wished to speak with her alone. She led the way to the kitchen and he
followed.

“Martha,” he said, when the door closed, “to be absolutely honest with
you, that man in there shouldn’t go out again to-night. He has been half
sick for some time, I judge from what he has told me, and he is weak and
worn out from his tramp and wetting.”

Miss Phipps shook her head impatiently.

“The idea of Raish Pulcifer’s cartin’ him ‘way over here and then
leavin’ him in the middle of the road,” she said. “It’s just like
Raish, but that doesn’t help it any; nothin’ that’s like Raish helps
anything--much,” she added.

The doctor laughed.

“I’m beginning to believe you’re right, Martha,” he agreed.

“I’m pretty sure I am. I think I know Raish Pulcifer by this time; I
almost wish I didn’t. Father used to say that if ignorance was bliss the
home for feeble-minded folks ought to be a paradise. But I don’t
know; sometimes I wish I wasn’t so wise about some things; I might be
happier.”

Her pleasant, comely face had clouded over. Doctor Powers thought he
understood why.

“Haven’t heard anything hopeful about the Wellmouth Development Company,
have you?” he asked.

“Not a word. I’ve almost given up expectin’ to. How about you?”

“Oh, I’ve heard nothing new. Well, I’ve got only ten shares, so the
loss, if it is a loss, won’t break me. But Cap’n Jethro went in rather
heavily, so they say.”

“I believe he did.”

“Yes. Well, it may be all right, after all. Raish says all we need is
time.”

“Um-hm. And that’s all the Lord needed when He made the world. He made
it in six days. Sometimes when I’m out of sorts I wonder if one
more week wouldn’t have given us a better job.... But there, that’s
irreverent, isn’t it, and off the track besides? Now about this little
Bangs man. What ought to be done with him?”

“Well, as I say, he shouldn’t go out to-night. Of course he’ll have to.”

“Why will he have to?”

“Because he needs to go to bed and sleep. I thought perhaps I could get
him down to the light and Cap’n Jethro and Lulie could give him a room.”

“There’s a room here. Two or three of ‘em, as far as that goes. He isn’t
very big; he won’t need more than one.”

“But, Martha, I didn’t know how you would feel about taking a strange
man into your house, at night, and--”

Miss Phipps interrupted him.

“Heavens and earth, doctor!” she exclaimed, “what DO you think I am? I’m
forty-one years old next August and I weigh--Well, I won’t tell you
what I weigh, but I blush every time I see the scales. If you think I’m
afraid of a little, meek creature like the one in the sittin’ room you
never made a bigger mistake. And there’s Primmie to help me, in case I
need help, which I shan’t. Besides he doesn’t look as if he would run
off with the spoons, now does he?”

Doctor Powers laughed heartily. “Why, no, he doesn’t,” he admitted. “I
think you’ll find him a quiet little chap.”

“Yes. And he isn’t able to half look after himself when he’s well, to
say nothin’ of when he’s sick. Anybody--any woman, anyhow--could tell
that just by lookin’ at him. And I’ve brought up a father, so I’ve had
experience. He’ll stay right here in the spare bedroom to-night--yes,
and to-morrow night, too, if you think he’d better. Now don’t talk any
more rubbish, but go in and tell him so.”

Her hand was on the latch of the sitting room door when the doctor asked
one more question.

“Say, Martha,” he asked, “this is not my business, but as a friend of
yours I--Tell me: Cap’n Jim--your father, I mean--didn’t put more money
than he could spare in that Development scheme, did he? I mean you,
yourself, aren’t--er--likely to be embarrassed in case--in case--”

Miss Phipps interrupted hastily, almost too hastily, so Doctor Powers
thought.

“No, no, of course not,” she said.

“Truly, Martha? I’m only asking as a friend, you know.”

“Why, of course. There now, doctor, don’t you worry about me. You know
what father and I were to each other; is it likely he would leave me
in trouble of any kind? Now come in and see if Primmie has talked this
little sick man of ours into another faintin’ fit.”

Primmie had not, but the “little sick man” came, apparently, very near
to fainting when told that he was to occupy the Phipps’ spare bedroom
overnight. Oh, he could not possibly do such a thing, really he couldn’t
think of it! “Dear me, Miss Phipps, I--”

Miss Phipps paid absolutely no heed to his protests. Neither did the
doctor, who was giving her directions concerning some tablets. “One to
be taken now and another in the morning. Perhaps he had better stay in
bed until I come, Martha. I’ll be down after breakfast.”

“All right, doctor. Do you think he’s had enough to eat?”

“Enough for to-night, yes. Now, Mr. Bangs,” turning to the still
protesting Galusha, “you and I will go upstairs and see that you get to
bed.”

“But, really, doctor, I--”

“What’s troublin’ me, doctor,” broke in Miss Phipps, “is what on earth
to give him to sleep in. There may be a nightshirt of father’s around
in one of the trunks somewhere, but I doubt it, for I gave away almost
everything of that kind when he died. I suppose he might use one of
Primmie’s nightgowns, or mine, but either one would swallow him whole,
I’m afraid.”

Doctor Powers, catching a glimpse of the expression on his patient’s
face, was obliged to wait an instant before venturing to reply. Galusha
himself took advantage of the interval.

“Why--why--” he cried, “I--Dear me, dear me, I must have forgotten it
entirely. My suitcase! I--ah--it must be on the veranda of that hotel. I
left it there.”

“What hotel? The Restabit Inn?”

“Yes. I--”

He got no further. His hostess began issuing orders. A few minutes
later, Primmie, adequately if not beautifully attired in a man’s oilskin
“slicker,” sou’wester, and rubber boots, clumped forth in search of the
suitcase. She returned dripping but grinning with the missing property.
Its owner regarded it with profound thankfulness. He could at least
retire for the night robed as a man and a brother.

“Everything in there you need, Mr. Bangs?” asked Doctor Powers, briskly.

“Oh, yes, quite, quite--ah--thank you. But really--”

“Then you and I will go aloft, as old Cap’n Jim would have said. Cap’n
Jim Phipps was Miss Martha’s father, Mr. Bangs, and there may have been
finer men, but I never met any of ‘em. All ready? Good! Here, here,
don’t hurry! Take it easy. Those stairs are steep.”

They were steep, and narrow as well. Galusha went first but before he
reached the top he was extremely thankful that the sturdy physician
was behind to steady him. Miss Martha called to say that she had left a
lighted lamp in the bedroom. Beyond the fact that the room itself was of
good size Galusha noticed little concerning it, little except the bed,
which was large and patchwork-quilted and tremendously inviting.

Doctor Powers briskly helped him to undress. The soaked shoes and
stockings made the physician shake his head.

“Your feet are as cold as ice, I suppose, eh?” he inquired.

“Why, a trifle chilled, but nothing--really nothing.”

Miss Martha called up the stairs.

“Doctor,” she called, “here’s a hot-water bag. I thought probably
‘twould feel comfortable.”

Doctor Powers accepted the bag and returned to the room, shaking his
head.

“That woman’s got more sense than a--than a barn full of owls,”
 he declared, solemnly. “There, Mr. Bangs, that’ll warm up your
underpinning. Anything more you want? All right, are you?”

“Oh, yes, quite, quite. But really, doctor, I shouldn’t permit this. I
feel like a trespasser, like--a--a--”

“You feel like going to sleep, that’s what I want you to feel like.
Lucky the rain has driven off the fog or the foghorn would keep you
awake. It sounds like the crack of doom down here. Perhaps you noticed
it?”

“Yes, I did--ah--at least that.”

“I shouldn’t wonder. Anybody but a graven image would notice the Gould’s
Bluffs foghorn. Matches right there by the lamp, in case you want ‘em.
If you feel mean in the night sing out; Martha’ll hear you and come in.
I’ll be on hand in the morning. Good-night, Mr. Bangs.”

He blew out the lamp and departed, closing the door behind him. The rain
poured upon the roof overhead and splashed against the panes of the two
little windows beneath the eaves. Galusha Bangs, warm and dry for the
first time in hours, sank comfortably to sleep.

He woke early, at least he felt sure it was early until he looked at
his watch. Then he discovered it was almost nine o’clock. He had had a
wonderful night’s rest and he felt quite himself, quite well again, he--

Whew! That shoulder WAS a trifle stiff. Yes, and there was a little more
lameness in his ankles and knees than he could have wished. Perhaps,
after all, he would not get up immediately. He would lie there a
little longer and perhaps have the hotel people send up his breakfast,
and--Then he remembered that he was not at the hotel; he was occupying
a room in the house of a total stranger. No doubt they were waiting
breakfast for him. Dear me, dear me!

He climbed stiffly out of bed and began to dress. This statement is not
quite correct; he prepared to begin to dress. Just as he reached
the important point where it was time to put something on he made a
startling discovery: His clothes were gone!

It was true, they were gone, every last item of them with the
unimportant exceptions of crumpled collar and tie. Galusha looked
helplessly about the room and shivered.

“Oh, dear me!” he cried, aloud. “Oh, dear!”

A voice outside his chamber door made answer.

“Be you awake, Mr. Bangs?” asked Primmie. “Here’s your things. Doctor
Powers he come up and got ‘em last night after you’d fell asleep and me
and Miss Martha we hung ‘em alongside the kitchen stove. They’re dried
out fine. Miss Martha says you ain’t to get up, though, till the doctor
comes. I’ll leave your things right here on the floor.... Or shall I put
‘em inside?”

“Oh, no, no! Don’t, don’t! I mean put them on the floor--ah--outside.
Thank you, thank you.”

“Miss Martha said if you was awake to ask you if you felt better.”

“Oh, yes--yes, much better, thank you. Thank you--yes.”

He waited in some trepidation, until he heard Primmie clump downstairs.
Then he opened the door a crack and retrieved his “things.” They were
not only dry, but clean, and the majority of the wrinkles had been
pressed from his trousers and coat. The mud had even been brushed from
his shoes. Not that Galusha noticed all this just then. He was busy
dressing, having a nervous dread that the unconventional Primmie might
find she had forgotten something and come back to bring it.

When he came downstairs there was no one in the sitting room and he had
an opportunity to look about. It was a pleasant apartment, that sitting
room, especially on a morning like this, with the sunshine streaming in
through the eastern windows, windows full of potted plants set upon wire
frames, with hanging baskets of trailing vines and a canary in a cage
about them. There were more plants in the western windows also, for the
sitting room occupied the whole width of the house at that point.
The pictures upon the wall were almost all of the sea, paintings of
schooners, and one of the “Barkentine Hawkeye, of Boston. Captain James
Phipps, leaving Surinam, August 12, 1872.” The only variations from the
sea pictures were a “crayon-enlarged” portrait of a sturdy man with an
abundance of unruly gray hair and a chin beard, and a chromo labeled
“Sunset at Niagara Falls.” The portrait bore sufficient resemblance to
Miss Martha Phipps to warrant Galusha’s guess that it was intended to
portray her father, the “Cap’n Jim” of whom the doctor had spoken. The
chromo of “Sunset at Niagara Falls” was remarkable chiefly for its lack
of resemblance either to Niagara or a sunset.

He was inspecting this work of art when Miss Phipps entered the room.
She was surprised to see him.

“Mercy on us!” she exclaimed. “WHAT in the world are you doin’
downstairs here?”

Galusha blushed guiltily and hastened to explain that he was feeling
quite himself, really, and so had, of course, risen and--ah--dressed.

“But I do hope, Miss Phipps,” he added, “that I haven’t kept you waiting
breakfast. I’m afraid I have.”

She laughed at the idea. “Indeed you haven’t,” she declared. “If you
don’t mind my sayin’ so, Mr. Bangs, the angel Gabriel couldn’t keep me
waitin’ breakfast till half past nine on a Saturday mornin’. Primmie and
I were up at half-past six sharp. That is, I got up then and Primmie was
helped up about five minutes afterward. But what I want to know,” she
went on, “is why you got up at all. Didn’t the doctor say you were to
stay abed until he came?”

“Why--why, yes, I believe he did, but you see--you see--”

“Never mind. The main thing is that you ARE up and must be pretty nearly
starved. Sit right down, Mr. Bangs. Your breakfast will be ready in two
shakes.”

“But Miss Phipps, I wish you wouldn’t trouble about my breakfast. I
feel--”

“I know how you feel; that is, I know how _I_ should feel if I hadn’t
eaten a thing but toast-bread since yesterday mornin’. Sit down, Mr.
Bangs.”

She hastened from the room. Galusha, the guilty feeling even more
pronounced, sat down as requested. Five minutes afterward she returned
to tell him that breakfast was ready. He followed her to the dining
room, another comfortable, sunshiny apartment, where Primmie, grinning
broadly, served him with oatmeal and boiled eggs and hot biscuits and
coffee. He was eating when Doctor Powers’ runabout drove up.

The doctor, after scolding his patient for disobeying orders, gave the
said patient a pretty thorough examination.

“You are in better shape than you deserve to be,” he said, “but you are
not out of the woods yet. What you need is to gain strength, and that
means a few days’ rest and quiet and good food. If your friends, the
Halls, were at their cottage at the Centre I’d take you there, Mr.
Bangs, but they’re not. I would take you over to my house, but my wife’s
sister and her children are with us and I haven’t any place to put you.”

Galusha, who had been fidgeting in his chair, interrupted. “Now, Doctor
Powers,” he begged, “please don’t think of such a thing. I am quite well
enough to travel.”

“Excuse me, but you are not.”

“But you said yourself you would take me to Wellmouth if the Halls were
there.”

“I did, but they’re not there.”

“I know, but there is a hotel there, Mr.--ah--Pulcifer said so.”

The doctor and Miss Phipps looked at each other.

“He said there was a hotel there,” went on Galusha. “Now if you would be
so kind as to--ah--take me to that hotel--”

Dr. Powers rubbed his chin.

“I should like to have you under my eye for a day or two,” he said.

“Yes--yes, of course. Well, couldn’t you motor over and see me
occasionally? It is not so very far, is it?... As to the additional
expense, of course I should expect to reimburse you for that.”

Still the physician looked doubtful.

“It isn’t the expense, exactly, Mr. Bangs,” he said.

“I promise you I will not attempt to travel until you give your
permission. I realize that I am still--ah--a trifle weak--weak in the
knees,” he added, with his slight smile. “I know you must consider me
to have been weak in the head to begin with, otherwise I shouldn’t have
gotten into this scrape.”

The doctor laughed, but he still looked doubtful.

“The fact is, Mr. Bangs,” he began--and stopped. “The fact is--the
fact--”

Martha Phipps finished the sentence for him.

“The fact is,” she said, briskly, “that Doctor Powers knows, just as
I or any other sane person in Ostable County knows, that Elmer Rogers’
hotel at the Centre isn’t fit to furnish board and lodgin’ for a healthy
pig, to say nothin’ of a half sick man. You think he hadn’t ought to go
there, don’t you, doctor?”

“Well, Martha, to be honest with you--yes. Although I shouldn’t want
Elmer to know I said it.”

“Well, you needn’t worry; he shan’t know as far as I am concerned. Now
of course there’s just one sensible thing for Mr. Bangs here to do, and
you know what that is, doctor, as well as I do. Now don’t you?”

Powers smiled. “Perhaps,” he admitted, “but I’d rather you said it,
Martha.”

“All right, I’m goin’ to say it. Mr. Bangs,” turning to the nervous
Galusha, “the thing for you to do is to stay right here in this house,
stay right here till you’re well enough to go somewhere else.”

Galusha rose from his chair. “Oh, really,” he cried, in great agitation,
“I can’t do that. I can’t, really, Miss Phipps.”

“Of course I realize you won’t be as comfortable here as you would be in
a hotel, in a GOOD hotel--you’d be more comfortable in a pigsty than you
would at Elmer’s. But--”

“Miss Phipps--Miss Phipps, please! I AM comfortable. You have made me
very comfortable. I think I never slept better in my life than I did
last night. Or ate a better breakfast than this one. But I cannot permit
you to go to this trouble.”

“It isn’t any trouble.”

“Excuse me, I feel that it is. No, doctor, I must go--if not to the
Wellmouth hotel, then somewhere else.”

Doctor Powers whistled. Miss Martha looked at Galusha. Galusha, whose
knees were trembling, sat down in the chair again. Suddenly the lady
spoke.

“If this was a hotel you would be willin’ to stay here, wouldn’t you,
Mr. Bangs?” she asked.

“Why, yes, certainly. But, you see, it--ah--isn’t one.”

“No, but we might make it one for three or four days. Doctor, what does
Elmer Rogers charge his inmates--his boarders, I mean--a day?”

“Why, from three to five dollars, I believe.”

“Tut, tut, tut! The robber! Well, I presume likely he’d rob Mr. Bangs
here as hard as he’d rob anybody. Mr. Bangs, I take it that what
troubles you mostly is that you don’t want to visit a person you’ve
never met until last night. You’ve never met Elmer Rogers at all, but
you would be perfectly willin’ to visit him if you could pay for the
privilege.”

“Why--why, yes, of course, Miss Phipps. You have been very kind, so kind
that I don’t know how to express my gratitude, but I can’t accept any
more of your hospitality. To board at a hotel is quite a different
thing.”

“Certainly it is. I appreciate how you feel. I should probably feel just
the same way. This house of mine isn’t a hotel and doesn’t pretend to
be, but if you think you can be comfortable here for the next few days
and it will make you feel happier to pay--say, three dollars a day for
the privilege, why--well, I’m satisfied if you are.”

Galusha gazed at her in amazement. The doctor slapped his knee.

“Splendid!” he exclaimed. “Martha, as usual you’ve said and done just
the right thing. Now, Mr. Bangs, I’ll see you again to-morrow morning.
Take the tablets as directed. You may go out for an hour or so by and by
if the weather is good, but DON’T walk much or get in the least tired.
Good-morning.”

He was at the door before his patient realized what he was about.

“But, doctor,” cried Galusha, “I--I--really I--Oh, dear!”

The door closed. He turned to Miss Phipps in bewildered consternation.
She smiled at him reassuringly.

“So THAT’S all settled,” she said. “Now sit right down again, Mr. Bangs,
and finish your breakfast.... Primmie, bring Mr. Bangs some hot coffee.
HOT coffee I said, remember.”

Later, perhaps ten minutes later, Galusha ventured another statement.

“Miss Phipps,” he said, “I--I--Well, since you insist upon doing this
for me, for a person whom you never met until yesterday, I think the
very least I can do is to tell you who--or--ah--what I am. Of course
if the Halls were here they would vouch for me, but as they are not,
I--Well, in a case of this kind it is--ah--customary, isn’t it, to give
references?”

“References? As to your bein’ able to pay the three dollars a day, do
you mean?”

“Why, no, perhaps that sort of reference may not be necessary. I shall
be glad to pay each day’s board in advance.”

“Then what sort of references did you mean, references about your
character?”

“Why--why, yes, something of the sort.”

Her eyes twinkled.

“Mr. Bangs,” she asked, “do you really think I ought to have ‘em?”

Galusha smiled. “For all you know to the contrary,” he said, “I may be a
desperate ruffian.”

“You don’t look desperate. Do you feel that way?”

“Not now, but I did last--ah--evening.”

“When you were camped out on that Inn piazza in a pourin’ rain, you
mean? I don’t blame you for feelin’ desperate then.... Well, Mr. Bangs,
suppose we don’t worry about the references on either side of this
bargain of ours. I’ll take you on trust for the next two or three
days, if you’ll take me. And no questions asked, as they say in the
advertisements for stolen property. Will that suit you?”

“Perfectly, except that I think you are taking all the risk. I,
certainly, am not taking any.”

“Hum, don’t be too sure. You haven’t tried much of Primmie’s cookin’
yet.... Oh, by the way, what IS your business, Mr. Bangs?”

“I am an archaeologist.”

“Yes--oh--yes.... A--a what, did you say?”

“An archaeologist. I specialize principally in Egyptology.”

“Oh.... Oh, yes.”

“Yes.”

“Yes.... Well, I must run out to the kitchen now. Make yourself right at
home, Mr. Bangs.”



CHAPTER IV


Galusha Cabot Bangs’ first day in East Wellmouth was spent for the
most part indoors. He was willing that it should he; the stiffness and
lameness in various parts of his body, together with the shakiness at
the knees which he experienced when he tried to walk, warned him that
a trip abroad would not be a judicious undertaking. The doctor having
granted him permission, however, he did go out into the yard for a brief
period.

Gould’s Bluffs and their surroundings were more attractive on this
pleasant October afternoon than on the previous evening. The Phipps
house was a story and a half cottage, of the regulation Cape Cod type,
with a long “L” and sheds connecting it with a barn and chicken yards.
The house was spotlessly white, with blinds conventionally green, as
most New England houses are. There was a white fence shutting it off
from the road, the winding, narrow road which even yet held puddles
and pools of mud in its hollows, souvenirs of the downpour of the night
before. Across the road, perhaps a hundred yards away, was the long,
brown--and now of course bleak--broadside of the Restabit Inn, its
veranda looking lonesome and forsaken even in the brilliant light of
day. Behind it and beyond it were rolling hills, brown and bare, except
for the scattered clumps of beach-plum and bayberry bushes. There were
no trees, except a grove of scrub pine perhaps a mile away. Between the
higher hills and over the tops of the lower ones Galusha caught glimpses
of the sea. In the opposite direction lay a little cluster of roofs,
with a church spire rising above them. He judged this to be East
Wellmouth village.

The road, leading from the village, wound in and out between the hills,
past the Restabit Inn and the Phipps homestead until it ended at another
clump of buildings; a house, with ells and extensions, several other
buildings and sheds, and a sturdy white and black lighthouse. He was
leaning upon the fence rail peering through his spectacles when Primmie
came up behind him.

“That’s a lighthouse you’re lookin’ at, Mr. Bangs,” she observed, with
the air of one imparting valuable information.

Galusha started; he had not heard her coming.

“Eh? Oh! Yes, so I--ah--surmised,” he said.

“Hey? What did you do?”

“I say I thought it was a lighthouse.”

“‘Tis. Ever see one afore, have you?”

Galusha admitted that he had seen a lighthouse before. “Kind of
interestin’ things, ain’t they? You know I never realized till I come
down here to live what interestin’ things lighthouses was. There’s so
much TO ‘em, you know, ain’t there?”

“Why--ah--is there?”

“I should say there was. I don’t mean the tower part, though that’s
interestin’ of itself, with them round and round steps--What is it Miss
Martha said folks called ‘em? Oh, yes, spinal stairs, that’s it. I never
see any spinal stairs till I come here. They don’t have ‘em up to North
Mashpaug. That’s where I used to live, up to North Mashpaug. Ever been
to North Mashpaug, Mr. Bangs?”

“No.”

“Well, a good many folks ain’t, far’s that goes. Where _I_ lived was
way off in the woods, anyhow. My family was Indian, way back. Not all
Indian, but some, you know; the rest was white, though Pa he used to
cal’late there might be a little Portygee strung along in somewhere.
It’s kind of funny to be all mixed up that way, ain’t it? Hello, there’s
Cap’n Jethro! See him? See him?”

Bangs saw the figure of a man emerge from the door of the white house
by the light and stand upon the platform. There was nothing particularly
exciting about the man’s appearance, but Primmie seemed to be excited.

“See him, Mr. Bangs?” she repeated.

“Yes, I see him. Who is he?”

“Don’t you know? No, course you don’t; why should you? He’s Cap’n Jethro
Hallett, keeps the lighthouse, he does--him and Lulie and Zach.”

“Oh, he is the light keeper, is he? What has he got his head tied up
for?”

“Hey? HEAD tied up?”

“Why, yes. Isn’t there something gray--a--ah--scarf or something tied
about his head? I think I see it flutter in the wind.”

“That? That ain’t no scarf, them’s his whiskers. He wears ‘em long and
they blow consider’ble. Say, what do you think?” Primmie leaned forward
and whispered mysteriously. “He sees his wife.”

Galusha turned to look at her. Her expression was a combination of awe
and excitement.

“I--I beg your pardon,” he stammered, “but really I--What did you say he
did?”

“I said he sees his wife. Anyhow, he thinks he does. She comes to him
nights and stands alongside of his bed and they talk. Ain’t that awful?”

Galusha took off his spectacles and rubbed them.

“Ain’t it awful, Mr. Bangs?” repeated Primmie.

Galusha’s faint smile twitched the corners of his lips. “We-ll,” he
observed, “I--really I can’t say. I never met the lady.”

“What difference does that make? If a dead woman come and stood
alongside of MY bed ‘twouldn’t make no difference to me whether I’d MET
her or not. Meetin’ of her then would be enough. My Lord of Isrul!”

“Oh--oh, I beg your pardon. Do I understand you to say that
this--ah--gentleman’s wife is dead?”

“Um-hm. Been dead seven year, so Miss Martha says. That’s what I mean
when I say it’s awful. Wouldn’t you think ‘twas awful if a woman that
had been dead seven year come and stood alongside of you?”

Galusha smiled again. “Yes,” he admitted, “I am inclined to think
I--ah--should.”

“You bet you would! So’d anybody but Jethro Hallet. He likes it. Yes,
sir! And he goes to every medium place from here to Boston, seems so,
so’s to have more talks with them that’s over the river.”

“Eh? Over the--Oh, yes, I comprehend. Dead, you mean. Then this Mr.
Hallet is a Spiritualist, I take it.”

“Um-hm. Rankest kind of a one. Course everybody believes in Spiritulism
SOME, can’t help it. Miss Martha says she don’t much and Zach Bloomer
he says he cal’lates his doubts keep so close astern of his beliefs that
it’s hard to tell which’ll round the stake boat first. But there ain’t
no doubt about Cap’n Jethro’s believin’, he’s rank.”

“I see. Well, is he--is he rational in other ways? It seems odd to have
a--ah--an insane man in charge of--”

“Insane? My savin’ soul, what put that idea in your head? He ain’t
crazy, Jethro Hallet ain’t. He’s smart. Wuth consider’ble money, so
they say, and hangs on to it, too. Used to be cap’n of a four-masted
schooner, till he hurt his back and had to stay ashore. His back’s
got to hurtin’ him worse lately and Zach and Miss Martha they cal’late
that’s why Lulie give up her teachin’ school up to Ostable and come down
here to live along with him. I heard ‘em talkin’ about it t’other day
and that’s what they cal’late. Miss Martha she thinks a sight of Lulie.”

“And--ah--this Miss Lulie is the light keeper’s daughter?” Bangs was
not especially interested in the Hallett family, but he found Primmie
amusing.

“Uh-hm. All the child he’s got. Some diff’rent from our tribe; there was
thirteen young ones in our family. Pa used to say he didn’t care long’s
we didn’t get so thick he’d step on ary one of us. He didn’t care about
a good many things, Pa didn’t. Ma had to do the carin’ and most of the
work, too. Yes, Lulie’s Jethro’s daughter and he just bows down and
worships her.”

“I see. I see. And is--ah--Miss Hallett as spookily inclined as her
parent?”

“Hey?”

“Is she a Spiritualist, too?”

“No, no. Course she don’t say much on her pa’s account, but Zach says
she don’t take no stock in it. Lulie has to be pretty careful, ‘cause
ever since Cap’n Jethro found out about Nelse he--Hey? Yes’m, I’m
a-comin’.”

Miss Phipps had called to her from the kitchen door. Galusha stood by
the fence a while longer. Then he went in to supper. Before he went to
his room that night he asked his landlady a question.

“That--ah--maid of yours has a peculiar name, hasn’t she?” he observed.
“Primmie. I think I never heard it before.”

Miss Martha laughed.

“I should say it was peculiar!” she exclaimed. “Her Christian name is
Primrose, if you can call such a name Christian. I almost died when I
heard it first. She’s a queer blossom, Primmie is, a little too much tar
in her upper riggin’, as father used to say, but faithful and willin’ as
a person could be. I put up with her tongue and her--queerness on that
account. Some friends of mine over at Falmouth sent her to me; they knew
I needed somebody in the house after father died. Her name is Primrose
Annabel Cash and she comes from a nest of such sort of folks in the
Mashpaug woods. She provokes me sometimes, but I have a good deal of fun
with her on the whole. You ought to see her and Zacheus Bloomer together
and hear ‘em talk; THEN you would think it was funny.”

“Is this Mr.--ah--Bloomer queer also?”

“Why, yes, I presume likely he is. Not foolish, you understand, or even
a little bit soft like Primmie. He’s shrewd enough, Zach is, but he’s
peculiar, that’s about it. Has a queer way of talkin’ and walkin’--yes,
and thinkin’. He’s put in the most of his life in out-of-the-way places,
boat-fishin’ all alone off on the cod banks, or attendin’ to lobster
pots way down in the South Channel, or aboard lightships two miles from
nowhere. That’s enough to make any man queer, bein’ off by himself so.
Why, this place of assistant light keeper here at Gould’s Bluffs is
the most sociable job Zach Bloomer has had for ten years, I shouldn’t
wonder. And Gould’s Bluffs isn’t Washington Street, exactly,” she added,
with a smile.

“Have you lived here long, Miss Phipps?” inquired Galusha.

“Pretty nearly all my life, and that’s long enough, goodness knows.
Father bought this place in 1893, I think it was. He was goin’ coastin’
voyages then. Mother died in 1900 and he gave up goin’ to sea that year.
He and I lived here together until two years ago next August; then he
died. I have been here since, with Primmie to help. I suppose likely I
shall stay here now until I die--or dry up with old age and blow away,
or somethin’. That is, I shall stay provided I--I can.”

There was a change in her tone as she spoke the last words. Galusha,
glancing up, saw that she was gazing out of the window. He waited for
her to go on, but she did not. He looked out of the window also, but
there was nothing to be seen, nothing except the fields and hills, cold
and bleak in the gathering dusk. After an interval she stirred and rose
from her chair.

“Ah, well,” she said, with a shrug, and a return to her usual brisk
manner, “there isn’t a bit of use in makin’ today to-morrow, is there,
Mr. Bangs? And today’s been nice and pleasant, and they can’t take it
from us.”

Galusha looked very much surprised. “Why, dear me, dear me!” he
exclaimed. “That’s extremely odd, now really.”

“What?”

“Why, your--ah--remark about making to-day to-morrow. Almost precisely
the same thing was said to me at one time by another person. It is quite
extraordinary.”

“Oh, not so very, I guess. A million folks must have thought it and said
it since Adam. Who said it to you, Mr. Bangs?”

“A--ah--person in Abyssinia. He had stolen my--ah--shirt and I warned
him that he should be punished on the following day. He laughed and
I asked him what there was to laugh at. Then he made the remark about
to-morrow’s being afar off and that today the sun shone, or words
to that effect. It seems strange that you should say it. Quite a
coincidence, Miss Phipps, don’t you think so?”

“Why--why, I suppose you might call it that. But WHAT did you say this
man had stolen?”

“My--ah--shirt. I had another, of course; in fact I was wearing it, but
the one he took was the only whole one remaining in my kit. I was quite
provoked.”

“I should think you might have been. What sort of creature was he, for
goodness sakes?”

“Oh, he was an Arab camel driver. A very good man, too.”

“Yes, he must have been. Did you get your shirt back?”

“No--ah--no. The fact is, he had put it on and--as he was rather--well,
soiled, so to speak, I let him keep it. And he really was a very good
man, I mean a good camel driver.”

Miss Martha regarded her guest thoughtfully.

“Where did you say this was, Mr. Bangs?”

“In the Abyssinian desert. We were there at the time.”

“Abyssinia? Abyssinia? That’s in Africa, isn’t it?”

“Yes, northern Africa.”

“Mercy me, that’s a long way off.”

“Oh, not so very, when one becomes accustomed to the journey. The first
time I found it rather tiring, but not afterward.”

“Not afterward. You mean you’ve been there more than once?”

“Yes--ah--yes. Three times.”

“But why in the world do you go to such an outlandish place as that
three times?”

“Oh, on research work, connected with my--ah--profession. There are some
very interesting remains in that section.”

“What did you say your business--your profession was, Mr. Bangs?”

“I am an archaeologist, Miss Phipps.”

“Oh!”

He went to his room soon afterwards. Martha went into the dining room.
A suspicious rustle as she turned the door knob caused her to frown.
Primmie was seated close to the wall on the opposite side of the room
industriously peeling apples. Her mistress regarded her intently, a
regard which caused its object to squirm in her chair.

“It’s--it’s a kind of nice night, ain’t it, Miss Martha?” she observed.

Miss Martha did not answer. “Primmie Cash,” she said, severely, “you’ve
been listen in’ again. Don’t deny it.”

“Now--now Miss Martha, I didn’t mean to, really, but--”

“Do you want to go back to the Mashpaug poorhouse again?”

“No’m. You know I don’t, Miss Martha. I didn’t mean to do it, but
I heard him talkin’ and it was SO interestin’. That about the camel
stealin’ his shirt--my soul! And--”

“If you listen again I WILL send you back; I mean it.”

“I won’t, ma’am. I won’t. Now--”

“Be still. Where is our dictionary? It isn’t in the closet with the
other books where it ought to be. Do you know where it is?”

“No’m.... Yes’m, come to think of it, I do. Lulie Hallet borrowed it the
other day. Her and Zach Bloomer was havin’ a lot of talk about how to
spell somethin’ and Lulie she got our dictionary so’s to settle it--and
Zach. I’ll fetch it back to-morrow mornin’.... But what do you want the
dictionary for, Miss Martha?”

Martha shook her head, with the air of one annoyed by a puzzle the
answer to which should be familiar.

“I’m goin’ to find out what an archaeologist is,” she declared. “I ought
to know, but I declare I don’t.”

“An arky-what? Oh, that’s what that little Mr. Bangs said he was, didn’t
he? You know what _I_ think he is, Miss Martha?”

“No, I don’t. You go to bed, Primmie.”

“_I_ think he’s an undertaker.”

“Undertaker! Good heavens and earth, what put that in your head?”

“Everything. Look at them clothes he wears, black tail-coat and white
shirt and stand-up collar and all. Just exactly same as Emulous Dodd
wears when he’s runnin’ a funeral. Yes, and more’n that--more’n that,
Miss Martha. Didn’t you hear what he said just now about ‘remains’?”

“WHAT?”

“Didn’t you ask him what he went traipsin’ off to that--that camel place
for? And didn’t he say there was some interestin’ remains there. Uh-hm!
that’s what he said--‘remains.’ If he ain’t an undertaker what--”

Martha burst out laughing. “Primmie,” she said, “go to bed. And don’t
forget to get that dictionary to-morrow mornin’.”

The next day was Sunday and the weather still fine. Galusha Bangs was
by this time feeling very much stronger. Miss Phipps commented upon his
appearance at breakfast time.

“I declare,” she exclaimed, “you look as if you’d really had a good
night’s rest, Mr. Bangs. Now you’ll have another biscuit and another
egg, won’t you?”

Galusha, who had already eaten one egg and two biscuits, was obliged to
decline. His hostess seemed to think his appetite still asleep.

After breakfast he went out for a walk. There was a brisk, cool wind
blowing and Miss Martha cautioned him against catching cold. She
insisted upon his wrapping a scarf of her own, muffler fashion, about
his neck beneath his coat collar and lent him a pair of mittens--they
were Primmie’s property--to put on in case his hands were cold. He had
one kid glove in his pocket, but only one.

“Dear me!” he said. “I can’t think what became of the other. I’m quite
certain I had two to begin with.”

Martha laughed. “I’m certain of that myself,” she said. “I never heard
of anybody’s buying gloves one at a time.”

Her guest smiled. “It might be well for me to buy them that way,” he
observed. “My brain doesn’t seem equal to the strain of taking care of
more than one.”

Primmie and her mistress watched him from the window as he meandered out
of the yard. Primmie made the first remark.

“There now, Miss Martha,” she said, “DON’T he look like an undertaker?
Them black clothes and that standin’ collar and--and--the kind of still
way he walks--and talks. Wouldn’t you expect him to be sayin’: ‘The
friends of the diseased will now have a chanct to--’”

“Oh, be still, Primmie, for mercy sakes!”

“Yes’m. What thin little legs he’s got, ain’t he?” Miss Phipps did not
reply to her housemaid’s criticism of the Bangs limbs. Instead, she made
an observation of her own.

“Where in the world did he get that ugly, brown, stiff hat?” she
demanded. “It doesn’t look like anything that ever grew on land or sea.”

Primmie hitched up her apron strings, a habit she had.

“‘Twould have been a better job,” she observed, “if that camel thing
he was tellin’ you about had stole that hat instead of his other shirt.
Don’t you think so, Miss Martha?”

Meanwhile Galusha, ignorant of the comments concerning his appearance,
was strolling blithely along the road. His first idea had been to visit
the lighthouse, his next to walk to the village. He had gone but a
short distance, however, when another road branching off to the right
suggested itself as a compromise. He took the branch road.

It wound in and out among the little hills which he had noticed from
the windows and from the yard of the Phipps’ house. It led past a little
pond, hidden between two of those hills. Then it led to the top of
another hill, the highest so far, and from that point Galusha paused to
look about him.

From the hilltop the view was much the same, but more extensive. The
ocean filled the whole eastern horizon, a shimmering, moving expanse of
blue and white, with lateral stretches of light and dark green. To the
south were higher hills, thickly wooded. Between his own hill and
those others was a small grove of pines and, partially hidden by it, a
weather-beaten building with a steeple, its upper half broken off. The
building, Galusha guessed, was an abandoned church. Now an old church in
the country suggested, naturally, an old churchyard. Toward the building
with half a steeple Mr. Bangs started forthwith.

There WAS a churchyard, an ancient, grass-grown burying ground, with
slate gravestones and weather-worn tombs. There were a few new stones,
gleaming white and conspicuous, but only a few. Galusha’s trained eye,
trained by his unusual pastime of college days, saw at once that the
oldest stones must date from early colonial times. Very likely there
might be some odd variations of the conventional carvings, almost
certainly some quaint and interesting inscriptions. It would, of course,
be but tame sport for one of the world’s leading Egyptologists, but to
Galusha Cabot Bangs research was research, and while some varieties were
better than others, none was bad. A moment later he was on his knees
before the nearest gravestone. It was an old stone and the inscription
and carving were interesting. Time paused there and then for Galusha.

What brought him from the dead past to the living present was the fact
that his hat blew off. The particular stone which he was examining at
the moment was on the top of a little knoll and, as Galusha clambered
up and stooped, the breeze, which had increased in force until it was a
young gale, caught the brown derby beneath its brim and sent it flying.
He scrambled after it, but it dodged his clutch and rolled and bounded
on. He bounded also, but the hat gained. It caught for an instant on the
weather side of a tombstone, but just as he was about to pick it up, a
fresh gust sent it sailing over the obstacle. It was dashed against the
side of the old church and then carried around the end of the building
and out of sight. Its owner plunged after it and, a moment later, found
himself at the foot of a grass-covered bank, a good deal disheveled
and very much surprised. Also, close at hand some one screamed, in
a feminine voice, and another voice, this one masculine, uttered an
emphatically masculine exclamation.

Galusha sat up. The old church was placed upon a side-hill, its rear
toward the cemetery which he had just been exploring, and its front door
on a level at least six feet lower. He, in his wild dash after the brown
derby, had not noticed this and, rushing around the corner, had been
precipitated down the bank. He was not hurt, but he was rumpled and
astonished. No more astonished, however, than were the young couple who
had been sitting upon the church steps and were now standing, staring
down at him.

Galusha spoke first.

“Oh, dear!” he observed. “Dear me!” Then he added, by way of making the
situation quite clear, “I must have fallen, I think.”

Neither of the pair upon the church steps seemed to have recovered
sufficiently to speak, so Mr. Bangs went on.

“I--I came after my hat,” he explained. “You see--Oh, there it is!”

The brown derby was stuck fast in the bare branches of an ancient lilac
bush which some worshiper of former time had planted by the church door.
Galusha rose and limped over to rescue his truant property.

“It blew off,” he began, but the masculine half of the pair who had
witnessed his flight from the top to the bottom of the bank, came
forward. He was a dark-haired young man, with a sunburned, pleasant
face.

“Say, that was a tumble!” he declared. “I hope you didn’t hurt yourself.
No bones broken, or anything like that?”

Galusha shook his head. “No-o,” he replied, somewhat doubtfully. “No, I
think not. But, dear me, what a foolish thing for me to do!”

The young man spoke again.

“Sure you’re not hurt?” he asked. “Let me brush you off; you picked up a
little mud on the way down.”

Galusha looked at the knees of his trousers.

“So I did, so I did,” he said. “I don’t remember striking at all on the
way, but I could scarcely have accumulated all that at the bottom. Thank
you, thank you!... Why, dear me, your face is quite familiar! Haven’t we
met before?”

The young fellow smiled. “I guess we have,” he said. “I put you aboard
Lovetts’ express wagon Friday afternoon and started you for Wellmouth
Centre. I didn’t expect to see you over here in East Wellmouth.”

Galusha adjusted his spectacles--fortunately they were not broken--and
looked at the speaker.

“Why, of course!” he cried. “You are the young man who was so kind to me
when I got off at the wrong station. You are the station man at--ah--at
South Wellmouth, isn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

“Dear me! Dear me! Well, I don’t wonder you were surprised to have
me--ah--alight at your feet just now. We-ll,” with his quiet smile, “I
seem to have a habit of making unexpected appearances. I surprised Miss
Phipps on Friday evening almost as greatly.”

“Miss Phipps? Martha Phipps, Cap’n Jim’s daughter; lives over here by
the light, do you mean?”

“Why--why, yes her name is Martha, I believe.”

“But how in the world did you get--”

His companion interrupted him. “Why, Nelson,” she cried, “he must be
the one--the man who is staying at Martha’s. Don’t you know I told you
Primmie said there was some one there who was sick?”

Galusha looked at her. She was young, not more than nineteen or twenty,
slender, brown-haired and pretty. The young man spoke again.

“But Lulie,” he said, “he isn’t sick. You aren’t sick, are you?”
 addressing Galusha.

“My health has not been good of late,” replied the latter, “and after
my long walk on Friday evening I was rather done up. But I’m not ill at
present, although,” with a return of his faint smile, “I probably shall
be if I continue to--ah--fly, as I did just now.”

The young woman broke into an irresistible trill of laughter. The South
Wellmouth station agent joined her. Galusha smiled in a fatherly fashion
upon them both.

“I had quite a series of adventures after leaving you,” he went on.
“Quite a series--yes.”

He told briefly of his losing his way, of his meeting with Raish
Pulcifer, of his tramp in the rain, and of his collapse in the Phipps’
sitting room.

“So that is--ah--my Odyssey,” he concluded. “You see, we--ah--I beg your
pardon, but I don’t know that I learned your name when we met the other
day. Mine is Bangs.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Bangs. My name is Howard--Nelson Howard. And
this is--”

He paused. The young woman was regarding him in a troubled way.

“Nelson,” she said, “don’t you think, perhaps, we had better not--”

They were both embarrassed. Galusha noticed the embarrassment.

“Dear me! Dear me!” he said, hastily. “Please don’t trouble.
Ah--good-morning. I must go--really--yes.”

He was on his way toward the bank, but the young woman called his name.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said.

He turned. “Did you--did you wish to speak to me?” he asked.

“Why--why, yes, I--Mr. Bangs, I--I want to ask a favor of you. I know,
Nelson, but what is the use, after all? We’ve done nothing to be ashamed
of. Mr. Bangs, my name is Hallett. My father is the keeper of the
lighthouse.”

Galusha bowed. He had guessed her identity. Primmie had spoken of Lulie
Hallett in their conversation by the fence the day before.

“I am Lulie Hallett,” she went on, “and--and Mr. Howard and I
are--are--”

“We’re engaged to be married,” broke in Howard. “The fact is, Mr. Bangs,
I came over on my bicycle this morning to meet Lulie here where--where
no one would see us. You see--well, Cap’n Jethro--her father, you
know--is prejudiced against me and--and so to save her trouble and--and
unpleasantness we--well, we--”

He was red and confused and stammering. Galusha was almost as much
embarrassed.

“Oh--oh, all right--ah--dear me, yes, of course,” he said, hastily. “I
am very sorry I--I interrupted. I beg your pardon. Ah--good-morning.”

“But, Mr. Bangs,” Lulie pleaded, earnestly, “you won’t misunderstand
this, will you? We meet in this way on my father’s account. He is--you
see, he is not very well, and rather prejudiced and--and stubborn, I’m
afraid. Please don’t think that--that--”

“Of course he won’t,” declared Howard. “Mr. Bangs won’t think anything
that he shouldn’t.”

“Oh, no--no,” stammered Galusha, nervously. “I am--I am SO sorry I
interrupted. I BEG your pardon.”

“And Mr. Bangs,” said Lulie, again, “I wonder if you will be kind enough
not to tell any one you saw us? This is a small place, East Wellmouth,
and people do talk--oh, dreadfully. If it got to father’s ears
he--PLEASE don’t speak of it, will you, Mr. Bangs?”

“Oh, no; no, indeed, Miss Hallett. You may depend upon me.”

“I shall tell Martha Phipps myself the next time I see her. She is my
best friend, except--” with a becoming blush--“Nelson, and father, of
course--and she understands. I never have any secrets from her.”

Galusha began to climb the bank. As his head rose above its upper edge
he stopped.

“Ah--dear me, there’s some one coming in this direction,” he said.

Howard started forward. “Coming? Coming here?” he cried. He sprang up
the bank beside Mr. Bangs and peered over its top.

“Oh, confound it!” he exclaimed. “Lulie, it’s your father.”

“Father? Coming here? Why, he started for church. He never comes to the
cemetery on Sunday MORNING.”

“I can’t help it, he’s coming now. And there’s some one with him, or
coming after him. It looks like--Yes, it’s Raish Pulcifer.”

Miss Hallett was very much distressed. “Oh, dear, dear, dear!” she
cried. “If father finds us there will be another dreadful time. And
I wouldn’t have Raish Pulcifer see and hear it, of all people in the
world. Oh, WHAT made father come? Nelson, can’t we run away before he
gets here? Into the pines, or somewhere?”

“No chance, Lulie. He would see us sure. If he should stop at the other
end of the cemetery it might give us a chance, but he probably won’t.
He’ll come to your mother’s grave and that is close by here. Oh, hang
the luck!”

Galusha looked at the young people; he was almost as distressed as they
were. He liked young Howard; the latter had been very kind to him on
the fateful Friday afternoon when he had alighted at South Wellmouth.
He liked Lulie, also--had fancied her at first sight. He wished he might
help them. And then he had an idea.

“I wouldn’t--ah--interfere in your affairs for the world, Miss
Hallett,” he faltered, “but if I might--ah--offer a suggestion, suppose
I--ah--meet your father and talk with him for a few moments. Then you
might--so to speak--ah--go, you know.”

“Yes, of course, of course. Oh, WILL you, Mr. Bangs? Thank you so much.”

Galusha climbed the bank. There was no one in sight, but he heard
masculine voices from the hollow beyond the farther end of the cemetery.
He hastened to that end and, stooping, began to examine the inscription
upon a tomb.

The voices drew nearer as the men climbed the hill. The breeze now was
stronger than ever and was blowing more from the west. The conversation,
borne by the gusts, came to Galusha’s ears clearly and distinctly. One
of the speakers seemed to be explaining, urging, the other peremptorily
refusing to listen.

“But, Cap’n Jeth,” urged the first voice, and Mr. Bangs recognized it as
belonging to his obliging guide and pilot of the fateful Friday evening,
Mr. Horatio Pulcifer. “But, Cap’n Jeth,” said Mr. Pulcifer, “don’t fly
off the handle for nothin’. I ain’t tryin’ to put nothin’ over on you.
I’m just--”

“I don’t want to hear you,” broke in the second voice, gruffly. “This
is the Lord’s Day and I don’t want to talk business with you or nobody
else--especially with you.”

For some reason this seemed to irritate Mr. Pulcifer. His tone had lost
a little of its urbanity when he answered.

“Oh, especially with me, eh?” he repeated. “Well, what’s the ‘especially
with me’ for? If you think I’m any more to blame than the rest, you’re
mistaken. I tell you when you and me and Cap’n Jim and all hands of us
got the Wellmouth Development Company goin’ it looked like a cinch. How
was I to know?”

“I tell you, Raish, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“And I tell you, Jeth Hallett, I DO want to. You’ve hove in that
‘especially with me’ and I don’t like it. Look here, what are you
pickin’ on me for? How was I to--No, now you wait a minute, Cap’n Jeth,
and answer me. I’ve chased you ‘way over here and you can give me five
minutes even if ‘tis Sunday. Come, Cap’n, come, just answer me and then
I won’t bother you any more.”

There was silence for a brief interval. Galusha, crouching behind the
tomb and wondering if the time had come for him to show himself, waited
anxiously. But Captain Hallett’s answer, when at last he did reply,
sounded no nearer. Apparently the men were now standing still.

“Well,” grunted the light keeper, “I’ll listen to you for the five
minutes, Raish, but no more. I hadn’t ought to do that. This is Sabbath
day and I make it a p’int never--”

“I know,” hastily, “I know. Well, I tell you, Cap’n Jeth, all’s I wanted
to say was this: What are we goin’ to do with this Development stock of
ours?”

“Do with it? Why, nothin’ at present. CAN’T do anything with it, can
we? All we can do is wait. It may be one year or three, but some day
somebody will have to come to us. There ain’t a better place for a cold
storage fish house on this coast and the Wellmouth Development Company
owns that place.”

“Yes, that’s so, that’s so. But some of us can afford to wait and some
can’t. Now I’ve got more of the Development Company stock than anybody
else. I’ve got five hundred shares, Cap’n Jeth; five hundred shares
at twenty dollars a share. A poor man like me can’t afford to have ten
thousand dollars tied up as long’s this is liable to be. Can he now? Eh?
Can he, Cap’n?”

“Humph! Well, I’ve got eight thousand tied up there myself.”

“Ye-es, but it don’t make so much difference to you. You can afford to
wait. You’ve got a gov’ment job.”

“Ye-es, and from what I hear you may be havin’ a state job pretty soon
yourself, Raish. Well, never mind that. What is it you’re drivin’ at,
anyhow?”

“Why, I tell you, Jeth. Course you know and I know that this is a
perfectly sure investment to anybody that’ll wait. I can’t afford to
wait, that’s what’s the matter. It kind of run acrost my mind that maybe
you’d like to have my holdin’s, my five hundred shares. I’ll sell ‘em to
you reasonable.”

“Humph! I want to know! What do you call reasonable?”

“I’ll sell ‘em to you for--for--well, say nineteen dollars a share.”

“Humph! Don’t bother me any more, Raish.”

“Well, say eighteen dollars a share. Lord sakes, that’s reasonable
enough, ain’t it?”

“Cruise along towards home, Raish. I’ve talked all the business I want
to on Sunday. Good-by.”

“Look here, Jethro, I--I’m hard up, I’m desp’rate, pretty nigh. I’ll
let you have my five hundred shares of Wellmouth Development Company
for just half what I paid for it--ten dollars a share. If you wasn’t my
friend, I wouldn’t--What are you laughin’ at?”

Galusha Bangs, hiding behind the tomb, understanding nothing of this
conversation, yet feeling like an eavesdropper, wished this provoking
pair would stop talking and go away. He heard the light keeper laugh
sardonically.

“Ho, ho, ho,” chuckled Hallett. “You’re a slick article, ain’t you,
Raish? Why, you wooden-headed swab, did you cal’late you was the only
one that had heard about the directors’ meetin’ over to the Denboro
Trust Company yesterday? _I_ knew the Trust Company folks had decided
not to go ahead with the fish storage business just as well as you did,
and I heard it just as soon, too. _I_ know they’ve decided to put the
twelve hundred shares of Wellmouth Development stock into profit and
loss, or to just hang on and see if it ever does come to anything. But
you cal’lated I didn’t know it and that maybe you could unload your five
hundred shares on to me at cut rates, eh? Raish, you’re slick--but you
ain’t bright, not very.”

He chuckled again. Mr. Pulcifer whistled, apparently expressing
resignation.

“ALL right, Cap’n,” he observed, cheerfully, “just as you say. No harm
in tryin’, was there? Never catch a fish without heavin’ over a hook,
as the feller said. Maybe somebody else that ain’t heard will buy that
stock, you can’t tell.”

“Maybe so, but--See here, Raish, don’t you go tryin’ anything like this
on--on--”

“I know who you mean. No danger. There ain’t money enough there to buy
anything, if what I hear’s true.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh, nothin’, nothin’. Just talk, I guess. Well, Jeth, I won’t keep you
any longer. Goin’ to hang on to YOUR four hundred Development stock, I
presume likely?”

“Yes. I shall sell that at a profit. Not a big profit, but a profit.”

“Sho! Is that so? Who told you?”

“It was,” the gruff voice became solemn, “it was revealed to me.”

“Revealed to you? Oh, from up yonder, up aloft, eh?”

“Raish,” sharply, “don’t you dare be sacrilegious in my presence.”

“No, no, not for nothin’, Cap’n. So you had a message from the sperit
world about that stock, eh?”

“Yes. It bade me be of good cheer and hold for a small profit. When that
profit comes, no matter how small it may be, I’ll sell and sell quick,
but not sooner.... But there, I’ve profaned the Lord’s day long enough.
I came over here this mornin’ to visit Julia’s grave. There was a
scoffer in our pulpit, that young whippersnapper from Wapatomac had
exchanged with our minister and I didn’t care to hear him.”

“Oh, I see. So you come over to your wife’s grave, eh?”

“Yes. What are you lookin’ like that for?”

“Oh, nothin’. I thought maybe you was chasin’ after Lulie. I see her
meanderin’ over this way a little while ago.”

“LULIE?”

“Um-hm. Looked like her.”

“Was there--was there anybody else?”

“We-ll, I wouldn’t swear to that, Cap’n Jeth. I didn’t SEE nobody,
but--Godfreys mighty! What’s that thing?”

The thing was the brown derby. Galusha, crouching behind the tomb,
had been holding it fast to his head with one hand. Now, startled by
Pulcifer’s statement that he had seen Miss Hallett, he let go his hold.
And a playful gust lifted the hat from his head, whirled it like an
aerial teetotum and sent it rolling and tumbling to the feet of the pair
by the cemetery gate.

Jethro Hallett jumped aside.

“Good Lord! What is it?” he shouted.

“It’s a--a hat, ain’t it?” cried Raish.

From around the tomb hastened Mr. Bangs.

“Will you gentlemen be good enough to--to stop that hat for me?” he
asked, anxiously.

The light keeper and his companion started at the apparition in
speechless astonishment.

“It’s--it’s my hat,” explained Galusha. “If you will be kind enough to
pick it up before--Oh, DEAR me! There it GOES! Stop it, stop it!”

Another gust had set the hat rolling again. Captain Jethro made a grab
at it but his attempt only lifted it higher into the air, where the wind
caught it underneath and sent it soaring.

“Oh, dear!” piped the exasperated Galusha, and ran after it.

“Who in tunket IS he?” demanded Jethro.

Mr. Pulcifer gazed at the thin little figure hopping after the hat. The
light of recognition dawned in his face.

“_I_ know who he is!” he exclaimed. “I fetched him over t’other night
in my car. But what in blazes is he doin’ here NOW?... Hi, look out,
Mister! Don’t let it blow that way. If you do you’ll--Head it OFF!”

The hat was following an air line due east. Galusha was following a
terrestrial route in the same direction. Now Raish followed Galusha and
after him rolled Captain Jethro Hallett. As they say in hunting stories,
the chase was on.

It was not a long chase, of course. It ended unexpectedly--unexpectedly
for Galusha, that is--at a point where a spur of the pine grove jutted
out upon the crest of a little hill beyond the eastern border of the
cemetery. The hat rolled, bounced, dipped and soared up the hill and
just clear of the branches of the endmost pine. Then it disappeared from
sight. Its owner breathlessly panted after it. He reached the crest of
the little hill and stopped short--stopped for the very good reason that
he could go no further.

The hill was but half a hill. Its other half, the half invisible from
the churchyard, was a sheer sand and clay bluff dropping at a dizzy
angle down to the beach a hundred and thirty feet below. This beach was
the shore of a pretty little harbor, fed by a stream which flowed into
it from the southwest. On the opposite side of the stream was another
stretch of beach, more sand bluffs, pines and scrub oaks. To the east
the little harbor opened a clear channel between lines of creaming
breakers to the deep blue and green of the ocean.

Galusha Bangs saw most of this in detail upon subsequent visits. Just
now he looked first for his hat. He saw it. Below, upon the sand of the
beach, a round object bounced and rolled. As he gazed a gust whirled
along the shore and pitched the brown object into the sparkling waters
of the little harbor. It splashed, floated and then sailed jauntily out
upon the tide. The brown derby had started on its last voyage.

Galusha gazed down at his lost headgear. He rubbed his chin
thoughtfully. Then he turned and looked back toward the hollow by the
front door of the old church. From the knoll where he stood he could see
every inch of that hollow and it was untenanted. There was no sign of
either human being or of a bicycle belonging to a human being.

Mr. Bangs sighed thankfully. The sacrifice of the brown derby had not
been in vain.



CHAPTER V


An hour or so later when Martha Phipps, looking out of her dining room
window, saw her boarder enter the front gate, his personal appearance
caused her to utter a startled exclamation. Primmie came running from
the kitchen.

“What’s the matter, Miss Martha?” she demanded. “Eh! My savin’ soul!”

Mr. Bangs’ head was enveloped in the scarf which his hostess had lent
him when he set forth upon his walk. It--the scarf--was tied under
his chin and the fringed ends flapped in the wind. His round face,
surrounded by the yarn folds, looked like that of the small boy in the
pictures advertising somebody-or-other’s toothache cure.

“My savin’ soul!” cried Primmie, again. She was rushing to the door, but
her mistress intervened.

“Primmie,” she ordered, briskly, “stay where you are!”

She opened the door herself.

“Come right in, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “No, don’t stop to tell me about
it, but come right in and sit down.”

Galusha looked up at her. His face was speckled with greenish brown
spots, giving it the appearance of a mammoth bird’s egg. Primmie saw the
spots and squealed.

“Lord of Isrul!” she cried, “he’s all broke out with it, whatever ‘tis!
Shall I--shall I ‘phone for the doctor, Miss Martha?”

“Be still, Primmie. Come in, Mr. Bangs.”

“Why, yes, thank you. I--ah--WAS coming in,” began Galusha, mildly.
“I--”

“You mustn’t talk. Sit right down here on the lounge. Primmie, get that
rum bottle. Don’t talk, Mr. Bangs.”

“But, really, Miss Phipps, I--”

“Don’t TALK.... There, drink that.”

Galusha obediently drank the rum. Martha tenderly untied the scarf.

“Tell me if it hurts,” she said. Her patient looked at her in surprise.

“Why, no, it--ah--it is very nice,” he said. “I--ah--quite like the
taste, really.”

“Heavens and earth, I don’t mean the rum. I hope that won’t HURT
anybody, to say the least. I mean--Why, there isn’t anything the matter
with it!”

“Matter with it? I don’t quite--”

“Matter with your head.”

Galusha raised a hand in bewildered fashion and felt of his cranium.

“Why--ah--no, there is nothing the matter with my head, so far as I
am aware,” he replied. “Does it look as if it were--ah--softening or
something?”

Miss Martha ignored the pleasantry. “What have you got it tied up for?”
 she demanded.

“Tied up?” Galusha’s smile broadened. “Oh, I see,” he observed. “Well, I
lost my hat. It blew off into the--ah--sea. It was rather too cold to be
about bareheaded, so I used the scarf you so kindly lent me.”

Martha gazed at him for an instant and then burst into a hearty laugh.

“Mercy on me!” she cried. “WHAT an idiot I am! When I saw you come
into the yard with your head bandaged--at least I thought it was
bandaged--and your face--But what IS the matter with your face?”

“My face? Why, nothing.”

“Nonsense! It’s a sight to see. You look the way Erastus Beebe’s boy did
when the cannon-cracker went off too soon. Primmie, hand me that little
lookin’-glass.”

Primmie snatched the small mirror from the wall.

“See, Mr. Bangs,” she cried, holding the mirror an inch from his nose.
“Look at yourself. You’re all broke out with a crash--rash, I mean.
Ain’t he, Miss Martha?”

Galusha regarded his reflection in the mirror with astonishment.

“Why, I--I seem to be--ah--polka-dotted,” he said. “I never saw anything
so--Dear me, dear me!”

He drew his fingers down his cheek. The speckles promptly became
streaks. He smiled in relief.

“I see, I see,” he said. “It is the lichen.”

This explanation was not as satisfying as he evidently meant it to be.
Martha looked more puzzled than ever. Primmie looked frightened.

“WHAT did he say ‘twas?” she whispered. “‘Tain’t catchin’, is it, Miss
Martha?”

“It is the lichen from the tombstones,” went on Galusha. “Most of them
were covered with it. In order to read the inscriptions I was obliged to
scrape it off with my pocketknife, and the particles must have blown in
my face and--ah--adhered. Perhaps--ah--some soap and water might improve
my personal appearance, Miss Phipps. If you will excuse me I think I
will try the experiment.”

He rose briskly from the sofa. Primmie stared at him open-mouthed.

“Ain’t there NOTHIN’ the matter with you, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. “Is the
way your face is tittered up just dirt?”

“Just dirt, that’s all. It came from the old tombstones in the
cemetery.”

Primmie’s mouth was open to ask another question, but Miss Phipps closed
it.

“Stop, Primmie,” she said. Then, turning to Galusha who was on his way
to the stairs, she asked:

“Excuse me, Mr. Bangs, but have you been spendin’ this lovely forenoon
in the graveyard?”

“Eh? Oh, yes, yes. In the old cemetery over--ah--yonder.”

“Humph!... Well, I hope you had a nice time.”

“Oh, I did, I did, thank you. I enjoyed myself very much indeed.”

“Yes, I should think you must have.... Well, come down right away
because dinner’s ready when you are.”

Galusha hastened up the stairs. His hostess gazed after him and slowly
shook her head.

“Miss Martha, Miss Martha.”

Martha turned, to find Primmie excitedly gesticulating. “Didn’t I tell
you? Didn’t I tell you?” whispered Primmie.

“Didn’t you tell me what? Stop wigglin’.”

“Yes’m. Didn’t I tell you ‘undertaker’?”

“WHAT?”

“Undertaker. Him, the Bangs one. Yesterday ‘twas remains, to-day it’s
graveyards. My savin’ soul, I--”

“Hush, hush! Have you thought to get that dictionary from Lulie yet?”

“Oh, now, ma’am, I snum if I didn’t forget it. I’ll go right over this
minute.”

“No, you won’t. I’ll go myself after dinner.”

That Sunday dinner was a bountiful repast and Galusha ate more than he
had eaten in three meals at his mountain hotel. He was a trifle tired
from his morning’s stroll and so decided to remain indoors until the
following day. After the table was cleared Miss Phipps, leaving Primmie
to wash the dishes, went over to the light keeper’s house.

“I’ll be back soon, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “If you get lonesome go out
into the kitchen and Primmie’ll talk to you. Goodness gracious!” she
added, laughing, “that’s a dreadful choice I’m leavin’ you--lonesomeness
or Primmie. Well, I won’t leave you to either long.”

During the meal he had told them of his chance discovery of the old
church and graveyard and of the loss of the brown derby. Primmie plainly
regarded the catastrophe to the hat as a serious matter.

“Well, now, if that ain’t too bad!” she exclaimed. “Blowed right out to
sea, and ‘most brand-new, too. My savin’ soul, Miss Martha, folks ought
to be careful what they say, hadn’t they?... Eh, hadn’t they?”

“Oh, I guess so, Primmie. I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. Can’t
I help you to a little more of the chicken pie, Mr. Bangs? Just a little
BIT more?”

Galusha had scarcely time to decline the third helping of chicken pie
when Primmie plunged again into the conversation.

“Why, I mean folks ought to be careful what they say about--about
things. Now you and me hadn’t no notion Mr. Bangs was goin’ to lose his
hat when we was talkin’ about it this mornin’, had we?”

Miss Phipps was much embarrassed.

“Have a--a--Oh, do have a little potato or cranberry sauce or somethin’,
Mr. Bangs,” she stammered. “A--a spoonful, that’s all. Primmie, be
STILL.”

“Yes’m. But you know you and me WAS talkin’ about that hat when Mr.
Bangs started out walkin’. Don’t you know we was, Miss Martha?”

This was the final straw. Martha, looking about in desperation, trying
to look anywhere but into her guest’s face, caught one transitory
glimpse of that face. There was a twinkle in Galusha’s eye.

“I never liked that hat myself,” he observed, dryly.

Again their glances met and this time he smiled. Martha gave it up.

“Oh, dear!” she exclaimed, with a laugh. “You know what they say about
children and--other folks, Mr. Bangs. Primmie, if you say another word
while we’re at this table I’ll--I don’t know what I’ll do to you. STOP!
You’ve said plenty and plenty more, as father used to say. Truly, Mr.
Bangs, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I honestly DIDN’T think the hat
was becomin’, that’s all.”

“Neither did I, Miss Phipps. I didn’t think so when I bought it.”

“You didn’t? Then for mercy sakes why did you buy it?”

“Well, the man said it was just the hat for me and--ah--I didn’t wish to
argue, that’s all. Besides, I thought perhaps he knew best; selling hats
was his--ah--profession, you see.”

“Yes, SELLIN’ ‘em was. Do you always let folks like that pick out what
they want to sell you?”

“No-o, not always. Often I do. It saves--ah--conversation, don’t you
think?”

He said nothing concerning his meeting with Miss Hallett and the South
Wellmouth station agent, but he did mention encountering Captain Jethro
and Mr. Pulcifer. Martha seemed much interested.

“Humph!” she exclaimed. “I wonder what possessed Cap’n Jeth to go over
to the cemetery in the mornin’. He almost always goes there Sunday
afternoons--his wife’s buried there--but he generally goes to church in
the mornin’.”

Galusha remembered having heard the light keeper refer to the exchange
of preachers. Miss Phipps nodded.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “that explains it, of course. He’s down on the
Wapatomac minister because he preaches against spiritualism. But what
was Raish Pulcifer doin’ in that cemetery? He didn’t have anybody’s
grave to go to, and he wouldn’t go to it if he had. There’s precious
little chance of doin’ business with a person after he’s buried.”

“But I think it was business which brought Mr. Pulcifer there,” said
Galusha. “He and--ah--Captain Hallett, is it? Yes--ah--thank you. He and
the captain seemed to be having a lengthy argument about--about--well,
I’m not exactly certain what it was about. You see, I was examining
a--ah--tomb”--here Primmie shivered--“and paid little attention. It
seemed to be something about some--ah--stock they both owned. Mr.
Pulcifer wished to sell and Captain Hallett did not care to buy.”

Martha’s interest increased. “Stock?” she repeated. “What sort of stock
was it, Mr. Bangs?”

“I didn’t catch the name. And yet, as I remember, I did catch
some portion of it. Ah--let me see--Could there be such a thing as
a--ah--‘ornamenting’ stock? A Wellmouth ornamenting or decorating stock,
you know?”

Miss Phipps leaned forward. “Was it Wellmouth Development Company
stock?” she asked.

“Eh? Oh, yes--yes, I’m quite certain that was it. Yes, I think it was,
really.”

“And Raish wanted Cap’n Jeth to buy some of it?”

“That was what I gathered, Miss Phipps. As I say, I was more interested
at the time in my--ah--pet tomb.”

Primmie shivered again. Miss Martha looked very serious. She was
preoccupied during the rest of the dinner and, immediately afterward,
went, as has been told, over to the Hallett house, leaving her guest the
alternative of loneliness or Primmie.

At first he chose the loneliness. As a matter of fact, his morning’s
exercise had fatigued him somewhat and he went up to his room with the
intention of taking a nap. But, before lying down, he seated himself in
the rocker by the window and looked out over the prospect of hills and
hollows, the little village, the pine groves, the shimmering, tumbling
sea, and the blue sky with its swiftly moving white clouds, the latter
like bunches of cotton fluff. The landscape was bare enough, perhaps,
but somehow it appealed to him. It seemed characteristically plain and
substantial and essential, like--well, like the old Cape Cod captains of
bygone days who had spent the dry land portion of their lives there and
had loved to call it home. It was American, as they were, American in
the old-fashioned meaning of the word, bluff, honest, rugged, real.
Galusha Bangs had traveled much, he loved the out of the way,
the unusual. It surprised him therefore to find how strongly this
commonplace, ‘longshore spot appealed to his imagination. He liked it
and wondered why.

Of course the liking might come from the contrast between the rest and
freedom he was now experiencing and the fevered chase led him at the
mountain hotel where Mrs. Worth Buckley and her lion-hunting sisters
had their habitat. Thought of the pestilential Buckley female set him
to contrasting her affectations with the kind-hearted and wholehearted
simplicity of his present hostess, Miss Martha Phipps. It was something
of a contrast. Mrs. Buckley was rich and sophisticated and--in her own
opinion--cultured to the highest degree. Now Miss Phipps was, in all
probability, not rich and she would not claim wide culture. As to her
sophistication--well, Galusha gave little thought to that, in most
worldly matters he himself was unsophisticated. However, he was sure
that he liked Miss Phipps and that he loathed Mrs. Buckley. And he liked
East Wellmouth, bareness and bleakness and lonesomeness and all.
He rather wished he were going to stay there for a long time--weeks
perhaps, months it might be; that is, of course, provided he could
occupy his present quarters and eat at the Phipps’ table. If he could do
that why--why... humph!

Instead of lying down he sat by that window for more than half an
hour thinking. He came out of his reverie slowly, gradually becoming
conscious of a high-pitched conversation carried on downstairs. He had
left his chamber door open and fragments of this conversation came up
the staircase. It was Primmie’s voice which he heard most frequently
and whatever words he caught were hers. There was a masculine grumble at
intervals but this was not understandable on the second floor.

“Now I know better.... My savin’ soul, how you do talk, Zach Bloomer!...
And I says to her, says I, ‘Miss Martha,’ I says.... My Lord of
Isrul!...”

These were some of the “Primmieisms” which came up the staircase.
Galusha rose to close his door but before he could accomplish this feat
his own name was called.

“Mr. Bangs!” screamed Primmie. “Mr. Bangs, be you layin’ down? You ain’t
asleep, be you, Mr. Bangs?”

If he had been as sound asleep as Rip Van Winkle that whoop would have
aroused him. He hastened to assure the whooper that he was awake and
afoot.

“Um-hm,” said Primmie, “I’m glad of that. If you’d been layin’ down I
wouldn’t have woke you up for nothin’. But I want to ask you somethin’,
Mr. Bangs. Had you just as soon answer me somethin’ if I ask it of you,
had you, Mr. Bangs?”

“Yes, Primmie.”

“Just as soon’s not, had you?”

“Yes, quite as soon.”

“All right. Then I--I... Let me see now, what was it I was goin’ to ask?
Zach Bloomer, stop your makin’ faces, you put it all out of my head.
It’s all right, Mr. Bangs, I’ll think of it in a minute. Oh, you’re
comin’ down, be you?”

Galusha was coming down. It seemed to be the advisable thing to do. Miss
Cash was doing her “thinking” at the top of her lungs and the process
was trying to one with uneasy nerves. He entered the sitting room.
Primmie was there, of course, and with her was a little, thin man, with
a face sunburned to a bright, “boiled-lobster” red, and a bald head
which looked amazingly white by contrast, a yellowish wisp of mustache,
and an expression of intense solemnity, amounting almost to gloom. He
was dressed in the blue uniform of the lighthouse service and a blue cap
lay on the table beside him.

“Mr. Bangs,” announced Primmie, “this is Mr. Zach Bloomer. Zach,
make you acquainted with Mr. Bangs, the one I was tellin’ you about.
Mr.--Mr.--Oh, my savin’ soul, what IS your first name, Mr. Bangs?”

“Galusha, Primmie. How do you do, Mr. Bloomer?”

The little man rose upon a pair of emphatically bowed legs and shook
hands. “I’m pretty smart,” he observed, in a husky voice. Then he sat
down again. Galusha, after waiting a moment, sat down also. Primmie
seemed to be wrestling with a mental problem, but characteristically she
could not wrestle in silence.

“What was it I wanted to ask you, Mr. Bangs?” she said. “I snum I can’t
think! Zach, what was it I wanted to ask Mr. Bangs?”

Mr. Bloomer paid not the slightest attention to the question. His sad
blue eye was fixed upon vacancy.

“Galushy--Galushy,” he said, huskily. “Huh!”

Galusha was, naturally, rather startled.

“Eh? I--ah--beg your pardon,” he observed.

“I was thinkin’ about names,” explained Mr. Bloomer. “Queer things,
names are, ain’t they? Zacheus and Galushy.... Godfreys!”

He paused a moment and then added:


     “‘Zacheus he
       Did climb a tree
       His Lord to see.’


Well, if he wan’t any taller’n I be he showed good jedgment.... Zacheus
and Galushy and Primrose!... Godfreys!”

Primmie was shocked. “Why, Zach Bloomer!” she exclaimed. “The idea of
your talkin’ so about a person’s name you never met but just now in your
lifetime.”

Zacheus regarded the owner of the name.

“No offense meant and none given, Mr. Bangs,” he observed. “Eh? That’s
right, ain’t it?”

“Certainly, certainly, Mr. Bloomer. I’m not in the least offended.”

“Um-hm. Didn’t cal’late you would be. Can’t help our names, can we? If
my folks had asked me aforehand I’d a-been named plain John. As ‘tis, my
name’s like my legs, growed that way and it’s too late to change.”

Galusha smiled.

“You’re a philosopher, I see, Mr. Bloomer,” he said.

“He’s assistant keeper over to the lighthouse,” explained Primmie. As
before, Zach paid no heed.

“I don’t know as I’d go so far as to call myself that,” he said. “When
I went to school the teacher told us one time about an old critter who
lived in a--in a tub, seem’s if ‘twas. HE was one of them philosophers,
wan’t he?”

“Yes. Diogenes.”

“That’s the cuss. Well, I ain’t never lived in a tub, but I’ve spent
consider’ble time ON one; I was aboard a lightship for five or six year.
Ever lived aboard a lightship, Mr. Bangs?”

“No.”

“Humph!... Don’t feel disapp’inted on that account, do you?”

“Why--ah--no, I don’t know that I do.”

“Ain’t no occasion. ‘Bout the same as bein’ in jail, ‘tis--only a jail
don’t keep heavin’ up and down. First week or so you talk. By the second
week the talk’s all run out of you, like molasses out of a hogshead.
Then you set and think.”

“I see. And so much thinking tends to bring out--ah--philosophy, I
suppose.”

“Huh! Maybe so. So much settin’ wears out overalls, I know that.”

Primmie interrupted.

“I’ve got it!” she cried, enthusiastically. “_I_ know now!”

Galusha started nervously. Primmie’s explosiveness was disturbing. It
did not disturb Mr. Bloomer, however.

“Posy here’d be a good hand aboard a lightship,” he observed. “Her
talk’d NEVER run out.”

Primmie sniffed disgust. “I wish you wouldn’t keep callin’ me ‘Posy’
and such names, Zach Bloomer,” she snapped. “Yesterday he called me ‘Old
Bouquet,’ Mr. Bangs. My name’s Primrose and he knows it.”

The phlegmatic Zacheus, whose left leg had been crossed above his right,
now reversed the crossing.

“A-ll right--er Pansy Blossom,” he drawled. “What is it you’re trying to
tell us you know? Heave it overboard.”

“Hey?... Oh, I mean I’ve remembered what ‘twas I wanted to ask you, Mr.
Bangs. Me and Zach was talkin’ about Miss Martha. I said it seemed to
me she had somethin’ on her mind, was sort of worried and troubled about
somethin’, and Zach--”

For the first time the assistant light keeper seemed a trifle less
composed.

“There, there, Primmie,” he began. “I wouldn’t--”

“Be still, Zach Bloomer. You know you want to find out just as much as I
do. Well, Zach, he cal’lated maybe ‘twas money matters, cal’lated maybe
she was in debt or somethin’.”

Mr. Bloomer’s discomfiture was so intense as to cause him actually to
uncross his legs.

“Godfreys, Prim!” he exclaimed. “Give you a shingle and a
pocket-handkercher and you’ll brag to all hands you’ve got a full-rigged
ship. I never said Martha was in debt. I did say she acted worried to
me and I was afraid it might be account of some money business. She was
over to the light just now askin’ for Cap’n Jeth, and he’s the one her
dad, Cap’n Jim Phipps, used to talk such things with. They went into a
good many trades together, them too.... But there, ‘tain’t any of your
affairs, is it, Mr. Bangs--and ‘tain’t any of Primmie’s and my business,
so we’d better shut up. Don’t say nothin’ to Martha about it, Mr. Bangs,
if you’d just as soon. But course you wouldn’t anyhow.”

This was a tremendously long speech for Mr. Bloomer. He sighed at its
end, as if from exhaustion; then he crossed his legs again. Galusha
hastened to assure him that he would keep silent. Primmie, however, had
more to say.

“Why, Zach Bloomer,” she declared, “you know that wan’t only part of
what you and me was sayin’. That wan’t what I wanted to ask Mr. Bangs.
YOU said if ‘twas money matters or business Miss Martha went to see
Cap’n Jeth about you cal’lated the cap’n would be cruisin’ up to Boston
to see a medium pretty soon.”

“The old man’s Speritu’list,” exclaimed Zach. “Always goes to one of
them Speritu’list mediums for sailin’ orders.”

“Now you let me tell it, Zach. Well, then _I_ said I wondered if you
wan’t a kind of medium, Mr. Bangs. And Zach, he--”

Galusha interrupted this time.

“_I_--a medium!” he gasped. “Well, really, I--ah--oh, dear! Dear me!”

“AIN’T you a kind of medium, Mr. Bangs?”

“Certainly not.”

“Well, I thought undertakin’ was your trade till Miss Martha put her
foot down on the notion and shut me right up. You AIN’T an undertaker,
be you?”

“An undertaker?... Dear me, Primmie, you--ah--well, you surprise me.
Just why did you think me an undertaker, may I ask?”

“Why, you see, ‘cause--‘cause--well, you was talkin’ yesterday about
interestin’ remains and--and all this forenoon you was over in the
cemetery and said you had such a good time there and... and I couldn’t
see why anybody, unless he was an undertaker, or--or a medium maybe,
would call bein’ around with dead folks havin’ a good time... Quit your
laughin’, Zach Bloomer; you didn’t know what Mr. Bangs’ trade was any
more’n I did.”

Mr. Bloomer cleared his throat. “Mr. Bangs,” he observed sadly, “didn’t
I tell you she’d make a ship out of a shingle? If you’d puffed smoke,
and whistled once in a while, she’d have cal’lated you must be a
tugboat.”

Galusha smiled.

“I am an archaeologist,” he said. “I think I told you that, Primmie.”

Primmie looked blank. “Yes,” she admitted, “you did, but--”

Zacheus finished the sentence.

“But you didn’t tell TOO much when you told it,” he said. “What kind of
an ark did you say?”

And then Galusha explained. The fact that any one in creation should
not know what an archaeologist was seemed unbelievable, but a fact it
evidently was. So he explained and the explanation, under questioning,
became lengthy. Primmie’s exclamations, “My savin’ soul” and “My Lord of
Isrul” became more and more frequent. Mr. Bloomer interjected a remark
here and there. At length a sound outside caused him to look out of the
window.

“Here comes the old man and Martha,” he said. “Cal’late I’d better be
gettin’ back aboard. Can’t leave Lulie to tend light all the time.
Much obliged to you, Mr. Bangs. You’ve cruised around more’n I give you
credit for. Um-hm. Any time you want to know about a lightship or--or
lobsterin’ or anything, I’d be pleased to tell you. Good-day, sir. So
long--er--Sweet William. See you later.”

The “Sweet William” was addressed to Primmie, of course. The bow-legged
little man, rolling from side to side like the lightship of which he
talked so much, walked out of the room. A moment later Martha Phipps and
Captain Jethro Hallett entered it.

Both Miss Phipps and the light keeper seemed preoccupied. The former’s
round, wholesome face was clouded over and the captain was tugging at
his thick beard and drawing his bushy eyebrows together in a frown. He
was a burly, broad-shouldered man, with a thin-lipped mouth, and a sharp
gray eye. He looked like one hard to drive and equally hard to turn, the
sort from which fanatics are made.

Primmie scuttled away to the dining room. Galusha rose.

“Good-afternoon, Captain Hallett,” he said.

Jethro regarded him from beneath the heavy brows.

“You know Mr. Bangs, Cap’n Jeth,” said Martha. “You met this mornin’,
didn’t you?”

The light keeper nodded.

“We run afoul of each other over to the graveyard,” he grunted. “Well,
Martha, I don’t know what more there is to say about--about that thing.
I’ve told you all I know, I cal’late.”

“But I want to talk a little more about it, Cap’n Jeth. If Mr. Bangs
will excuse us we’ll go out into the dinin’ room. Primmie’s up in her
room by this time. You will excuse us, won’t you, Mr. Bangs? There was a
little business matter the cap’n and I were talkin’ about.”

Galusha hastened to say that he himself had been on the point of going
to his own room--really he was.

Miss Martha asked if he was sure.

“You needn’t go on our account,” she protested. “We can talk in the
dinin’ room just as well as not, can’t we Cap’n Jeth?”

The captain bowed his head. “We ain’t cal’latin’ to talk very long
anyhow,” he said, solemnly. “This is the Lord’s day, Mr. Bangs.”

Galusha hastily admitted that he was aware of the fact. He hurried into
the hall and up the stairs. As he reached the upper landing he heard the
ponderous boom of the light keeper’s voice saying, “Martha, I tell you
again there’s no use frettin’ yourself. We’ve to wait on the Lord. Then
that wait will be provided for; it’s been so revealed to me.”

Miss Phipps sighed heavily. “Maybe so, Jethro,” she said, “but what will
some of us live on while we’re waitin’? THAT hasn’t been revealed to
you, has it?”

For the rest of that afternoon Galusha sat by his bedroom window,
thinking. His thoughts were along the line of those interrupted by
Primmie’s summons. When, at supper time, he again descended the stairs,
his mind was made up. He was going to make a suggestion, a suggestion
which seemed to him somewhat delicate. In one sense of the term it was
a business proposition, in another--well, he was not precisely certain
that it might not be considered presuming and perhaps intrusive. Galusha
Cabot Bangs was not a presuming person and he was troubled.

After the supper dishes were washed and Primmie sent to bed--“sent”
 is the exact word, for Miss Cash, having had a taste of Egypt and
the Orient, was eagerly hoping for more--Miss Phipps and Galusha were
together in the sitting room. Doctor Powers had paid a brief visit. He
found his patient so much improved that he announced him well enough to
travel if he wished.

“If it is really necessary for you to go to-morrow, Mr. Bangs,” he said,
“I think you’re strong enough to risk it.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” said Galusha. Then he added, with his little smile,
“I couldn’t go before to-morrow. You see, I--ah--haven’t any hat.”

In the sitting room, after supper, Galusha was idly turning the pages
of Camp, Battlefield and Hospital, a worn book of Civil War sketches,
printed immediately after that war, which he had found upon the shelf of
the closet in his room, along with another volume labeled Friendship’s
Garland, a Nosegay of Verse. Of the two, although a peace-loving
individual, he preferred the camp and battlefield to the Nosegay; the
latter’s fragrance was a trifle too sweet.

Suddenly Martha, who had been sitting quiet in the rocker, spoke.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said, “I saw Lulie Hallett when I was over at the light
this afternoon. We had a good talk together before Cap’n Jethro came
back. She told me about your bein’ so kind to her and Nelson over by the
old church this mornin’. She was real grateful to you and she says she
shall thank you herself when she sees you. She asked me to do it for her
now.”

Galusha was confused. “Oh, it was nothing, really,” he hastened to
explain. “I--ah--Well, I intruded upon them somewhat suddenly. I see she
told you of that.”

Miss Phipps was smiling to herself. She looked a little guilty.

“Well,” she admitted, “Lulie did say that you kind of--er--flew over
the bank. She said no one was ever quite so surprised as she was at that
minute.”

Mr. Bangs thoughtfully shook his head.

“Except myself, perhaps,” he observed.

Martha’s smile became a laugh. “Probably that’s so,” she admitted. “But,
Mr. Bangs, Lulie is awfully anxious that you shouldn’t think there was
anything wrong about her meetin’ Nelson Howard in that way. There isn’t.
She’s a splendid girl and he’s a fine young man. I think the world of
Lulie and I like Nelson, too.”

She paused a moment and then went on.

“It’s Cap’n Jethro that makes all the trouble,” she said. “There’s no
reason in the world--that is, no sensible reason--why Lulie and Nelson
shouldn’t be engaged to be married. Of course he isn’t doin’ very well
in a business way just now, but that’s partly from choice on Lulie’s
account. Nelse was a telegraph operator up in Brockton before the war.
When the war came he went right into the Navy and started in at the
Radio School studyin’ to be a wireless operator. Then he was taken down
with the ‘flu’ and had to give up study. Soon as he got well he went
into the transport service. Lulie, you see, was teachin’ school at
Ostable, but her father’s health isn’t what it used to be and then,
besides, I think she was a little worried about his spiritualism. Jethro
isn’t crazy about it, exactly, but he isn’t on an even keel on that
subject, there’s no doubt about that. So Lulie gave up teachin’ and came
here to live with him. When Nelson was mustered out he took the station
agent’s job at South Wellmouth so as to be near her. I think he doesn’t
feel right to have her here alone with her father.”

“But--ah--she isn’t alone, is she? I gathered that Mr.--ah--Bloomer--”

“Zach Bloomer? Yes, he’s there, but Zach isn’t lively company,
especially for a girl like Lulie. If Jethro was taken--well, with a fit
or somethin’, Zach would probably sit down and cross those bow legs of
his and moralize for an hour or so before he got ready to help pick the
old man up. Nelson knows that and so he refused two real good offers
he had and took the position at the South Wellmouth depot. But he’s
studyin’ at his wireless all the time and some day--but I’m afraid that
day will be a long way off. Cap’n Jeth is as set as the side of a stone
wharf and you’d have to take him to pieces to move him. That was another
of father’s sayin’s,” she added, “that about the stone wharf.”

“Why, why is the--ah--why is Captain Hallet so opposed to young Howard?”
 asked Galusha.

“Spiritualism. Foolishness, that’s all. Before his wife died he was as
sensible and shrewd a man as you’d care to see. He and father were old
chums and father used to ask his advice about investments and all such
things. They went into lots of deals together and generally made ‘em
pay, though Jethro usually made the most because he took more chances.
He must be worth twenty or thirty thousand dollars, Cap’n Jeth Hallett
is.”

She spoke as if these were enormous sums. Galusha, to whom all
sums--sums of money, that is--were more or less alike, nodded gravely.

“His wife’s death broke Jethro dreadfully,” continued Martha. “For
six months or so he hardly spoke to anybody except Lulie. Then some
Spiritualist or other--I think it was Ophelia Beebe or some rattlehead
like her--got him to go to see a medium who was boardin’ here at the
Restabit Inn. He got--or thinks he got--a communication direct from
Julia--his wife. After that he kept goin’ to the Spiritualist camp
meetin’s and to Boston and to mediums from Dan to Beersheba, so to
speak. A while ago one medium creature--and I wish she had been struck
dumb before she could say it--told him that he must beware of a dark man
who was tryin’ to work evil upon his daughter. As luck would have it,
Nelson Howard was home on leave and callin’ on Lulie when her father got
back from seein’ that very medium. You can imagine what happened. And
Jethro has been growin’ more rabid on the subject ever since.”

She stopped. Her guest said nothing. He was thinking that if he were to
make the suggestion--the proposition which he had determined upon before
he came down to supper, he must make it soon. And he did not know how to
begin.

Martha went on talking. She apparently did not notice his silence. It
was more as if she were thinking aloud.

“If it wasn’t for Lulie’s bein’ here,” she said, slowly, “I don’t know
what I should do sometimes, I get so lonesome. When father lived it was
all so different. He was bright and cheerful and he and I were just as
if we were the same age, as you might say. He never was cross and he
didn’t fret and if he worried he didn’t let me know it. He just loved
this place. It was near the salt water, and he loved that, and he had
his garden and his hens and he was interested in town affairs and all.
We didn’t have much money, but we had enough, seemed so. Before he died
he told me he hoped he’d left me well enough off to get along. ‘The only
thing that troubles me, Martha,’ he said, ‘is that some of the things
I’ve put money into shouldn’t turn out as I hoped. I’ve tried to be
careful, but you can’t always tell. If you want advice,’ he said, ‘go to
Jethro Hallett. Jeth’s a shrewd business man.’ Ah, well, he didn’t know
that the spirits were goin’ to run Cap’n Jeth. About the last words he
said to me, father, I mean, was, ‘Martha, hang on to the old place if
you can. I hate to think of your sellin’ it.’ Of course I told him I
never should sell it.”

“Well--ah--well--” Galusha felt that he ought to say something, “you
don’t intend selling it, do you, Miss Phipps?”

Martha did not answer immediately. And when she did speak it was not a
reply.

“You must think we’re a queer lot down here by the Bluffs, Mr. Bangs,”
 she said. “Primmie--you’ve seen what she is--and Zach Bloomer and Cap’n
Jethro with his ‘spirit revelations.’ As I say, if it wasn’t for Lulie
I don’t know what I should do. Get to be cracked myself, I presume
likely.... But there,” she added, brightening, “do let’s change the
subject, for mercy sakes! Mr. Bangs, what do you suppose I did when
I was over at the light this afternoon? Besides talkin’ with Lulie, I
mean.”

“Why--why, I don’t know, I’m sure.”

“I don’t believe you could guess, either. I looked up ‘archaeologist’ in
the dictionary.”

Mr. Bangs blinked surprise behind the spectacles.

“In the--in the dictionary?” he repeated. “Oh--ah--dear me! Really!”

“Yes. I’m afraid you’ll think I am awfully ignorant, but to save my soul
I couldn’t think what an archaeologist did, what sort of a business
it was, I mean. Of course, I knew I OUGHT to know, and that I did know
once, but it seemed to be perfectly certain that I didn’t know THEN.
So I looked it up. It fits in with what you told Primmie and me about
travelin’--that camel driver creature and all--and yet--and yet, you
know, I was surprised.”

“Surprised? Really? Yes, of course, but--but why?”

“Well, because somehow you don’t look like that kind of man. I mean the
kind of man who travels in all sorts of wild places and does dangerous
things, you know, and--”

Galusha’s desire to protest overcame his politeness. He broke in
hurriedly.

“Oh, but I’m not, you know,” he cried. “I’m not really. Dear me, no!”

“But you said you had been to--to Africa, was it?--three or four times.”

“Oh, but those were my Abyssinian trips. Abyssinia isn’t wild, or
dangerous, any more than Egypt.”

“Oh, isn’t it?”

“No, not in the least, really. Oh, dear me, no!”

“Not with darky camel drivers stealin’ your--er--underclothes and
goodness knows what? It sounds a little wild to ME.”

“Oh, but it isn’t, I assure you. And Egypt--ah--Egypt is a wonderful
country. On my most recent trip I.... May I tell you?”

He began to tell her without waiting for permission. For the next hour
Martha Phipps journeyed afar, under an African sun, over desert sands,
beside a river she had read of in her geography when a girl, under
palm trees, amid pyramids and temples and the buried cities of a buried
people. And before her skipped, figuratively speaking, the diminutive
figure of Galusha Bangs, guiding, pointing, declaiming, describing, the
incarnation of enthusiastic energy, as different as anything could be
from the mild, dreamy little person who had sat opposite her at the
supper table so short a time before.

The wooden clock on the mantel--it had wooden works and Martha wound it
each night before she went to bed--banged its gong ten times. Mr. Bangs
descended from Egypt as if he had fallen from a palm tree, alighting
upon reality and Cape Cod with startled suddenness.

“Oh, dear me!” he cried. “What was that? Goodness me, it CAN’T be
ten o’clock, can it? Oh, I must have talked you almost to death, Miss
Phipps. I must have bored you to distraction, I must really. Oh, I’m SO
sorry!”

Miss Martha also seemed to be coming out of a dream, or trance. She
stirred in her chair.

“You haven’t bored me, Mr. Bangs,” she said,

“Oh, but I must have, really. I should know better. You see.... Well,
it’s quite extraordinary my talking to you in this way, isn’t it? I
don’t do it often--ah--except to other members of my profession. Why,
up there in the mountains--at the place where I spent the past month
or two, I scarcely talked of--ah--my work at all. And I was constantly
being asked to do so. There was a dreadful--ah--that is, there was a
woman who.... But I promise you I won’t go on in this way again, Miss
Phipps, really I won’t.”

Martha drew a long breath and shook her head.

“I hope you won’t promise any such thing,” she declared. “I feel as if
I had been readin’ the most interestin’ storybook that ever was.... My,
my!” she added, with a sigh. “What a curious thing life is, isn’t it?
There’s nothin’ new in that thought, of course, but it comes to us all
every little while, I suppose. Just think of the difference there has
been in our two lives, for instance. Here are you, Mr. Bangs, you’ve
been everywhere, pretty nearly, and yet you’re--well, you’re not so very
big or strong-lookin’. The average person would say I was the one best
fitted to trot around the world, and all my life--or nearly all--I’ve
been keepin’ house in this little corner of East Wellmouth. That’s
curious, isn’t it? Of course I can’t see myself doin’ the things you
do--ridin’ a camel, for instance.”

“Oh, but it is quite easy, quite,” Galusha hastened to assure her. “You
could do it very well, I’m sure, Miss Phipps.”

“Maybe so, but I’m afraid I’m a little bit doubtful. I should want my
camel on wheels, with a railin’ around his hump. But YOU must feel lost
enough down in this tame place, Mr. Bangs. The wildest thing around here
is a woodchuck.”

She laughed. Galusha smiled, but he answered promptly.

“I like it here, Miss Phipps,” he said, earnestly. “I do, really. I
like it very much indeed. In fact--in fact--Miss Phipps, would you mind
answering a question or two?... Oh, they’re not personal questions,
personal to you, I mean. Really they are not. May I ask them?”

She was puzzled and looked so.

“Why, of course,” she said.

“Well... well, they’re foolish questions, I suppose, for I think I know
the answers already. But, you see, I want my conscience to be quite
clear before making a decision.... That is, the decision is already
made, but you see... oh, no, you don’t see, of course, do you?”

“Why not ask your questions, Mr. Bangs?” she suggested.

“Yes--ah--thank you; yes, I will. The first one is about--ah--rest. This
is a good spot for one to--ah--rest in, isn’t it?”

She laughed. “Are you jokin’, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. “Rest! I should say
the average person would find it easier to rest here than to do anything
else. But you are jokin’, of course?”

“No; no, indeed, I am quite serious. Second, the air about here
is--ah--good and--and fresh?”

“GOOD! Well, considerin’ that most of it is blown over three or four
thousand miles of salt water before it gets here it ought to be fairly
good, I should say. As to its bein’ fresh--well, if you were here when
a February no’theaster was blowin’ I’m afraid you might find it a little
TOO fresh.”

“That is satisfactory, that is very satisfactory indeed. Now what was
the third thing the doctor said I must have? Oh, yes, people. And I know
there are people here because I have met them. And very nice people,
indeed.... Oh, this is VERY satisfactory, Miss Phipps. Now my conscience
is quite clear concerning my promise to the doctor and I can go on to my
proposal to you.”

“Your--your WHAT?”

“My proposal--the--ah--proposition I want to make you, Miss Phipps. And
I DO hope you will consider it favorably. You see, I like East Wellmouth
VERY much. My doctor told me I must go where I could find fresh air,
rest, and people. They are all here in East Wellmouth. And he said I
must have exercise, and behold my daily walks to that most interesting
old cemetery of yours. Now, you have been VERY kind to me already, Miss
Phipps; could you be still more kind? Would you--ah--could you let me
continue our present arrangement indefinitely--for a few months, let
us say? Might I be permitted to board here with you until--well, until
spring, perhaps?”

Martha Phipps leaned back in her chair. She regarded him keenly.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said, slowly, “has some one been tellin’ you that
I needed money and are you makin’ me this offer out of--well, out of
charity?”

Galusha jumped violently. He turned quite pale.

“Oh, dear, dear, dear!” he cried, in a great agitation. “Oh, dear
me, dear me! No, INDEED, Miss Phipps! I am VERY sorry you should so
misunderstand me. I--I--Of course I know nothing of your money affairs,
nor should I presume to--to--Oh, I--I--Oh, dear!”

His distress was so keen that she was obliged to recognize it.

“All right, all right, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “It wasn’t charity, I
can see that. But what was it? Do I understand you to say that you
like--actually like this lonesome place well enough to want to stay here
all WINTER?”

“Yes--ah--yes. And it doesn’t seem lonesome to me.”

“Doesn’t it? Well, wait a little while.... And you really mean you want
to keep on boardin’ here--with me, with us?”

“Yes, if--if you will be so very kind as to permit me to do so. If you
will be so good.”

“Good! To what? My soul and body!”

“No--ah--good to mine,” said Galusha.



CHAPTER VI


It was not settled that evening. Martha declared she must have at least
a few hours in which to think it over and Galusha, of course, agreed.

“It won’t take too long,” she said. “Naturally, you want to know so that
you can make your plans.”

Galusha smiled. “Please take as much time as you need, Miss Phipps,” he
urged. “If you permit me to remain here while you are--ah--endeavoring
to reach a decision I shall be quite satisfied, really. In that case,
you know, I should be willing to wait for the decision until spring.
Dear me, yes--even until summer.”

Martha laughed and declared she should decide long before that. “I think
breakfast time to-morrow will settle it,” she added.

It did. After breakfast she informed him that he might stay if he
wished.

“Though WHY you want to I can’t understand,” she said. “And of course it
is part of the agreement that you’ll feel free to give it up and go any
time you wish; as soon as you begin to get tired of the place and us, I
mean.”

He beamed satisfaction. “I shall not be the one to tire first,” he
declared. Then he added, earnestly, “Of course, Miss Phipps, you will
be perfectly frank and tell me at once if you change YOUR mind. And if I
should become a--ah--well, a sort of nuisance, be irregular at meals, or
noisy or--What is it? I beg your pardon?”

She had laughed outright. She was still smiling when she apologized.

“Please excuse me for laughin’, Mr. Bangs,” she said, “but don’t you
think yourself that that is funny? The idea of your bein’ noisy, I
mean.”

He stroked his chin.

“We-ll,” he admitted, “perhaps it is. But sometimes I am quite
boisterous, really I am. I remember once, years ago, I was in an old
cemetery in New Hampshire and I suddenly discovered an inscription which
pleased me VERY much. MOST quaint and unusual it was--dear me, yes. And
quite unconsciously I burst into a shout--a cheer, as one may say. The
old sexton was quite scandalized and warned me not to do it again. He
said it would disturb people. I don’t know whom he meant, there were no
living people to be disturbed.”

The question of terms was the cause of a supplementary discussion. Mr.
Bangs insisted upon continuing the three dollars a day rate and Miss
Martha declared he should do nothing of the kind.

“That three dollars a day was just a temporary thing,” she said. “I
said it just because I was sure you would go over to Elmer Rogers’ if I
didn’t. Elmer Rogers is a robber and always was. Father used to say he
was the forty-first member of the Forty Thieves and that they didn’t
boil him because he wasn’t enough account to waste hot oil on.”

“But--ah--it seems to me that if the Rogers’ House board is worth three
dollars a day yours should be worth five at least.”

“Maybe so, but I never heard anybody but Elmer say his board was worth
one dollar, let alone three.”

They compromised on a daily rate of two and a half per day, which each
declared to be ridiculous.

Thus Galusha Cabot Bangs became no longer a transitory but a regular
boarder and lodger at the Phipps’ place. The fact became known to Miss
Primrose Cash that forenoon, to the driver of the grocer’s cart one hour
later, and to all of East Wellmouth before bedtime. It was news and, in
October in East Wellmouth, one item of local news is a rare and blessed
dispensation.

Before another day had passed the news item had been embellished. Mr.
Bangs visited the general store of Erastus Beebe to purchase headgear
to replace the brown derby. Erastus happened to be busy at the
moment--there were two customers in his store at the same time, an event
most unusual--so Galusha’s wants were supplied by no less a person than
Mr. Horatio Pulcifer.

Raish’s greeting was condescendingly genial.

“Well, well!” he exclaimed, pumping the little man’s arm up and down
with one hand and thumping his shrinking shoulder blades with the other.
“If it ain’t the perfessor himself! How are you this mornin’, Mr. Bangs?
Right up and comin, eh?”

Galusha would have withdrawn his hand from the Pulcifer clutch if
withdrawal had been possible. It being quite impossible, he murmured
that he was--“ah--quite well” and, conscious that the eyes of Mr. Beebe
and his two customers were fixed upon him, fixed his own gaze upon Mr.
Pulcifer’s assortment of watch charms and shivered with embarrassment.

“Ain’t it funny, now?” queried Raish, addressing the world in general.
“Ain’t it funny how things happen? When I fetched you over in my car
t’other night didn’t I say I hoped you and me’d meet again? That’s what
I said. And now we’ve met twice since. Once in the old boneyard and now
here, eh? And they tell me you like East Wellmouth so much you’re goin’
to stick around for a spell. Good business! Say, I’ll be sellin’ you a
piece of Wellmouth property one of these days to settle down on. That’s
the kind of talk, eh, Perfessor? Haw, haw, haw!”

He pounded the Bangs’ shoulder blades once more. Mr. Beebe and his two
customers echoed the Pulcifer laugh. Galusha smiled painfully--as the
man in the operating chair smiles at the dentist’s jokes.

“I--I--excuse me,” he faltered, turning to the grinning Erastus, “can
I--That is, have you a--ah--hat or--or cap or something I might buy?”

Before the proprietor of the general store could answer, Mr. Pulcifer
answered for him. Again the hand descended upon the Bangs’ shoulder.

“Haw, haw!” roared Raish, joyfully. “I get you, Mr. Bangs. The old lid
blew out to sea and we’ve got to get a new one. Say, that was funny,
wasn’t it; that hat goin’ that way? I don’t know’s I ever laughed more
in my life. One minute she was jumpin’ along amongst them gravestones
like a hoptoad with wings, and then--Zing! Fsst! away she went a half
mile or so down into the breakers. Haw, haw, haw! And to see your face!
Why--”

Galusha interrupted.

“PLEASE don’t do that,” he said, nervously.

“Hey? Do what?”

“Ah--slap my back. I’d rather you wouldn’t, if you don’t mind.
And--oh--I should like to see a--a cap or something.”

The last sentence was addressed to Mr. Beebe, who cleared his throat
importantly.

“Jest a minute, jest a minute,” said Erastus. “Soon’s I get through
waitin’ on these customers I’ll ‘tend to you. Jest a minute. Yeast cake,
did you say, Mrs. Blount?”

“Ohh, pardon me,” faltered Galusha. “I’ll wait, of course.”

“Wait?” It was Mr. Pulcifer who spoke. “You don’t have to wait. I know
Ras’s stock as well as he does, pretty nigh. I’LL show you a cap, Mr.
Bangs.”

“Oh--oh, I couldn’t think of troubling you, really I couldn’t.”

“No trouble at all. What’s a little trouble amongst neighbors, eh? And
that’s what we are now--neighbors, eh? Sure, Mike! You and me are goin’
to see a lot of each other from now on. There! There’s a good, stylish
cap, if I do say it. Try it on? What’s your size, Perfessor?”

Five minutes later Galusha descended the steps of the Beebe store,
wearing a cloth cap which was, to say the very least, out of the
ordinary. Its material was a fuzzy frieze of nondescript colors, a shade
of dingy yellow predominating, and its shape was weird and umbrellalike.
With it upon his head little Galusha resembled a walking toadstool--an
unhealthy, late-in-the-season toadstool.

The quartet in the Beebe store watched his departure from the windows.
All were hugely amused, but one, Mr. Pulcifer, was hilarious.

“Haw, haw, haw!” roared Raish. “Look at him! Don’t he look like a
bullfrog under a lily pad? Eh? Don’t he now? Haw, haw, haw!”

Erastus Beebe joined in the laugh, but he shook his head.

“I’ve had that cap in stock,” he said, “since--well, since George
Cahoon’s son used to come down drummin’ for that Boston hat store, and
he quit much as eight year ago, anyhow. How did he ever come to pick
THAT cap out, Raish?”

Mr. Pulcifer regarded the questioner with scornful superiority.

“Pick it out!” he repeated. “He never picked it out, I picked it out for
him. You don’t know the first principles of sellin’, Ras. If you had me
to help around here you wouldn’t have so many stickers in your stock.”

Beebe, gazing after the retreating figure of Mr. Bangs, sniffed.

“If I had your brass, Raish,” he observed, calmly, “I’d sell it to the
junk man and get rich. Well, maybe I won’t have so many stickers, as
you call ‘em, if that little critter comes here often. What’s the matter
with him; soft in the head?”

“Isn’t this his hat--the one he wore when he came in here?” queried Mrs.
Jubal Doane, one of the two customers.

Mr. Beebe picked it up. “Guess so,” he replied. “Humph! I’ve seen that
hat often enough, too. Used to belong to Cap’n Jim Phipps, that hat did.
Seen him wear it a hundred times.”

Mrs. Becky Blount, the other customer, elevated the tip of a long nose.
“Well,” she observed, “if Martha Phipps is lendin’ him her pa’s hats SO
early, I must say--”

She did not say what it was she must say, but she had said quite enough.

Martha herself said something when her boarder appeared beneath his new
headgear. When he removed it, upon entering the dining room, she took it
from his hand.

“Is THIS the cap you just bought, Mr. Bangs?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Galusha, meekly. “Do you like it?”

She regarded the fuzzy yellow thing with a curious expression.

“Do you?” she asked.

The reply was astonishingly prompt and emphatic.

“I loathe it,” said Galusha.

She transferred the stare from the cap to its owner’s face.

“You do!” she cried. “Then why in the world did you buy it?”

Mr. Bangs squirmed slightly. “He said I ought to,” he answered.

“Who said so?”

“That man--that Mr. Pulcifer. Mr.--ah--Deedee--Beebe, I mean--was busy,
and Mr. Pulcifer insisted on showing me the caps. I didn’t like this one
at all, but he talked so much that--that I couldn’t stay and hear him
any longer. He makes me very nervous,” he added, apologetically. “I
suppose it is my fault, but--ah--he does, you know.”

“And do you mean to say that you took this--this outrage because Raish
Pulcifer talked you into it?”

Galusha smiled sadly. “Well, he--he talked me into it--yes,” he
admitted. “Into the--ah--cap and out of the store. Dear me, yes.”

Miss Martha drew a long breath.

“My heavens and earth!” she exclaimed. “And what did you do with
father’s hat, the one you wore down there?”

Her lodger gasped. “Oh, dear, dear!” he exclaimed. “Oh, dear me! I must
have left it in the shop. I’m SO sorry. How could I do such a careless
thing? I’ll go for it at once, Miss Phipps.”

He would have gone forthwith, but she stopped him.

“I’m goin’ there myself in a little while,” she said. “I’ve got some
other errands there. And, if you don’t mind,” she added, “I’d like to
take this new cap of yours with me. That is, if you can bear to part
with it.”

She went soon afterward and when she returned she had another cap, a
sane, respectable cap, one which was not a “sticker.”

“I took it on myself to change the other one for this, Mr. Bangs,” she
said. “I like it lots better myself. Of course it wasn’t my affair at
all and I suppose I ought to beg your pardon.”

He hastened to reassure her.

“Please don’t speak so, Miss Phipps,” he begged. “It was very, very kind
of you. And I like this cap VERY much. I do, really.... I ought to have
a guardian, hadn’t I?” he added.

It was precisely what she was thinking at the moment and she blushed
guiltily.

“Why, what makes you say that?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m not saying it, not as an original thought, you know; I’m merely
repeating it. Other people always say it, they’ve said it ever since I
can remember. Thank you very much for the cap, Miss Phipps.”

He was sunnily cheerful and very grateful. There was not the slightest
resentment because of her interference. And yet if she had not
interfered he would have worn the hideous yellow cap and been as
cheerful under that. Pulcifer had imposed upon him and he realized it,
but he deliberately chose being imposed upon rather than listening to
the Pulcifer conversation. He was certainly a queer individual, this
lodger of hers. A learned man evidently, a man apparently at home and
sure of himself in a world long dead, but as helpless as a child in the
practical world of to-day. She liked him, she could not help liking him,
and it irritated her exceedingly to think that men like Raish Pulcifer
and Erastus Beebe should take advantage of his childlike qualities to
swindle him, even if the swindles were but petty.

“They shan’t do it,” she told Lulie Hallett, the next morning. “Not if I
can help it, they shan’t. Somebody ought to look out for the poor thing,
half sick and with nobody of his own within goodness knows how many
miles. I’ll look out for him as well as I can while he’s here. My
conscience wouldn’t let me do anything else. I suppose if I pick out his
other things the way I picked out that cap the whole of East Wellmouth
will be talkin’; but I can’t help it, let ‘em.”

For the matter of that, the Beebes and the Blounts and Doanes were
talking already. And within a fortnight Miss Phipps’ prophecy was
fulfilled, the whole of East Wellmouth WAS talking of Galusha Bangs.
Some of the talk was malicious and scandalous gossip, of course, but
most of it was fathered by an intense and growing curiosity concerning
the little man. Who was he? What was his real reason for coming to East
Wellmouth to live--in the WINTER time? What made him spend so many hours
in the old cemetery? Was he crazy, as some people declared, or merely
“kind of simple,” which was the opinion of others? Mr. Pulcifer’s
humorous summing-up was freely quoted.

“He may not be foolish now,” observed Raish, “but he will be if he lives
very long with that bunch down to the lighthouse. Old Cap’n Jeth
and Zach and Primmie Cash are enough to start anybody countin’ their
fingers. My opinion is, if you want to know, that this Bangs feller is
just a little mite cracked on the subject of Egyptians and Indians and
gravestones--probably he’s read a lot about ‘em and it’s sprained his
mind, as you might say. That would account for the big yarns he tells
Prim about Africa and such. As to why he’s come here to live, I cal’late
I’ve got the answer to that. He’s poorer’n poverty and it’s cheap livin’
down at Martha Phipps’s. How do I know he’s poor? Cripes t’mighty, look
at his clothes! Don’t look much like yours or mine, do they?”

They certainly did not look much like Mr. Pulcifer’s. Galusha’s
trunk had arrived at last, but the garments in it were as drab and
old-fashioned and “floppy” as those he wore on his arrival. Horatio was
invariably arrayed like a lily of the field--if by that term is meant
a tiger lily. Raish generally finished his appraisal by adding,
patronizingly:

“He’s all right, though, old Galushy is. Nothin’ harmful about him. See
how easy I get along with him. I shake hands with him and hit him a clip
on the back, and, gosh t’mighty, he thinks I’m his best friend on earth.
He’d do anything for me, that old owl would.”

And, perhaps, because it was given forth with such authority from the
Pulcifer Mount Sinai, the fact that Bangs was very poor and was living
at Gould’s Bluffs because of that poverty came to be accepted in East
Wellmouth as a settled fact. So quickly and firmly was it settled that,
a month later, Erastus Beebe, leaning over his counter in conversation
with a Boston traveling salesman, said, as Galusha passed the store:

“Queer-lookin’ customer, ain’t he? One of our town characters, as you
might say. Pretends he’s been all over creation, but the truth is he
lives down here by the lighthouse and is poorer than the last pullet
in Job’s coop. Kind of an inventor, or book writer, or some such crazy
thing. Queer how that kind get that way, ain’t it?”

“Is that all he does for a living?” asked the salesman.

“Don’t do much of that, seems so, nowadays. Spends most of his time
copyin’ off tombstone-writin’ over in the old Baptist graveyard. Seems
to LIKE to be there, he does. Thunder sakes! a graveyard is the last
place I’d spend MY time in.”

The Bostonian made the obvious retort that it was probably the last
place Mr. Beebe WOULD spend his time in.

Galusha, of course, was not in the least aware of the East Wellmouth
estimate of himself, his fortune and his activities. He would not
have been interested had he known. He was enjoying himself hugely,
was gaining daily in health, strength, and appetite, and was becoming
thoroughly acquainted with Gould’s Bluffs, its surroundings, and its
people.

He made many calls at the lighthouse nowadays. These calls were not
especially for the purpose of cultivating Captain Jethro’s acquaintance,
although the rugged, bigoted old light keeper afforded an interesting
study in character. The captain’s moods varied. Sometimes he talked
freely and interestingly of his experiences at sea and as keeper of the
light. His stories of wrecks and life-saving were well told and Galusha
enjoyed them. He cared less for Jethro’s dissertations on investments
and deals and shrewd trades. It was plain that the old man prided
himself upon them, however. On one occasion Mr. Bangs happened to
mention Martha Phipps and hinted at his own fear that his lodging at
the Phipps’ home was in the nature of an imposition upon the lady’s good
nature. The light keeper shook his shaggy head impatiently.

“No, no, no,” he growled, “‘tain’t any such thing. Your boardin’ there’s
a good thing for Martha. She needs the money.”

Galusha was troubled.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “She is not--ah--not pinched for
means, I hope. Not that that is my business, of course,” he added,
hastily.

Captain Jeth’s reply was gruff and rather testy.

“She’ll come out all right,” he said, “if she’s willin’ to do as I do
and wait. I know I’ll come out right. Julia told me so, herself.”

Galusha had forgotten, momentarily.

“Julia?” he repeated.

“My WIFE.”

“Oh--oh, yes, yes, of course.”

In these conversations Bangs learned to steer the talk as far as
possible from the subjects of life beyond the grave or of spirit
communications. The slightest touch here and the captain was off,
his eyes shining beneath his heavy brows, and his face working with
belligerent emotion. A hint of doubt or contradiction and trouble
followed immediately.

“Don’t argue with me,” roared Cap’n Jethro. “I KNOW.”

Lulie and Galusha had many chats together. He had liked her at first
sight and soon she came to like him.

“He’s as funny and odd as can he,” she told Martha, “and you never can
tell what he may say or do next. But he’s awfully nice, just the same.”

Little by little she confided to him her hopes and doubts and fears,
the hopes of her own love story and the doubts and fears concerning her
father.

“He isn’t well,” she said, referring to the latter. “He pretends he is,
but he isn’t. And all this consulting with mediums and getting messages
and so on is very bad for him, I know it is. Do you believe in it at
all, Mr. Bangs?”

Galusha looked doubtful.

“Well,” he replied, “it would be presumptuous for one like me to say it
is all nonsense. Men like Conan Doyle and Lodge and Doctor Hyslop are
not easy dupes and their opinions are entitled to great respect. But it
seems--ah--well, I am afraid that a majority of the so-called mediums
are frauds.”

“ALL of father’s mediums are that kind,” declared Lulie, emphatically.
“I know it. Most of them are frauds for money, but there are some, like
that ridiculous Marietta Hoag, who pretend to go into trances and get
messages just because they like to be the center of a sensation. They
like to have silly people say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful!’ Marietta Hoag’s
‘control,’ as she calls it, is a Chinese girl. She must speak spirit
Chinese, because no Chinese person on earth ever talked such gibberish.
Control! SHE ought to be controlled--by the keeper of an asylum.”

The indignation expressed upon Lulie’s pretty face was so intense that
Galusha suspected an especial reason.

“Is--ah--is this Marietta person the medium who--who--” he began.

“Who set father against Nelson? Yes, she is. I’d like to shake her,
mischief-making thing. Father liked Nelson well enough before that, but
he came home from that seance as bitter against him as if the poor boy
had committed murder. Marietta told him that a small dark man was trying
to take away his daughter, or some such silliness. Nelson isn’t very
small nor VERY dark, but he was the only male in sight that came near
answering the description. As a matter of fact--”

She hesitated, colored, and looked as if she had said more than she
intended. Galusha, who had not noticed her embarrassment, asked her to
go on.

“Well,” she said, in some confusion, “I was going to say that if it
hadn’t been Nelson it would probably have been some one else. You see, I
am father’s only child and so--and so--”

“And so he doesn’t like the idea of giving you up to some one else.”

“Yes, that’s it. But it wouldn’t be giving me up. It would be merely
sharing me, that’s all. I never shall leave father and I’ve told him so
ever so many times.... Oh, dear! If you could have known him in the old
days, Mr. Bangs, before he--well, when he was himself, big and strong
and hearty. He used to laugh then; he hardly ever laughs now. He and
Cap’n Jim Phipps--Martha’s father--were great friends. You would have
liked Cap’n Jim, Mr. Bangs.”

“Yes, I am sure I should.”

“So am I. Martha is very much like him. She’s a dear, isn’t she?”

Galusha nodded. “She has been very kind to me,” he said. “Indeed, yes.”

“Oh, she is to every one. She is always just like that. I am very glad
you have decided to board with her this winter, Mr. Bangs. I have an
idea that she has been--well, troubled about something; just what,
of course, I don’t know, although I think--but there, I mustn’t guess
because it is not my business.”

Galusha expressed a wish that he might become better acquainted with
Nelson Howard.

“I am sure I should like him,” he said. “He seems like a very nice young
man.”

Lulie nodded radiantly.

“Oh, he is,” she cried. “Truly he is, Mr. Bangs. Why, every one says--”
 Then, becoming aware of her enthusiasm, she blushed and begged pardon.
“You see, I hear so much against him--from father, I mean--that I
couldn’t help acting silly when you praised him. Do forgive me, won’t
you, Mr. Bangs?”

He would have forgiven her much more than that.

“I shall make it a point to go over to the South Wellmouth station and
call upon him,” he told her. She thanked him.

“I am hoping that you and Martha and Nelson and I may spend an evening
together pretty soon,” she said. “You see, father--but there, that’s
another secret. I’ll tell you in a little while, next week, I hope.”

He learned the secret from Martha. On a day in the following week Miss
Phipps informed her lodger that he and she were to have supper at the
light keeper’s that evening.

“It’s a real sort of party,” declared Martha. “Small but select, as they
used to say in books when I was a girl. There will be four of us, you
and I and Nelson Howard and Lulie.”

Galusha was surprised.

“Nelson Howard!” he repeated. “Why, dear me, I thought--I understood
that Mr. Howard was persona non grata to Captain Hallett.”

Martha nodded. “Well, if that means what I suppose it does, he is,” she
replied. “If Cap’n Jeth knew Nelson was goin’ to eat supper in his house
he’d go without eatin’ himself to stop it. But, you see, he doesn’t
know. Jethro is goin’ spiritualizin’ to-night. Marietta Hoag and Ophelia
Beebe and their crowd of rattleheads have dug up a brand new medium who
is visitin’ over in Trumet and they’ve made up a party to go there and
hold a seance. When they told Cap’n Jeth, of course nothin’ would do but
he must go, too. So, WHILE he is gone Nelson is comin’ over to supper.
It’s deceivin’ the old man, in one way, of course, but it isn’t doin’
him a bit of harm. And it does give the young folks a pleasant time, and
I think they deserve it. Lulie has been as kind and forbearin’ with her
father as a daughter could be, and Nelson has been more patient than the
average young fellow, by a good deal.”

Late that afternoon two automobiles laden with humanity, male and
female, drove past the Phipps’ gate, and Primmie, from the window,
announced that it was “Marietta and ‘Phelia and the rest of ‘em. My
savin’ soul, ain’t they talkin’ though! Cal’late the sperits ‘ll have
busy times this evenin’, don’t you, Miss Martha?” A few minutes later
she proclaimed that Cap’n Jeth had just climbed aboard and that the
autos were coming back.

“See! See, Mr. Bangs!” she cried, pointing. “There’s Cap’n Jeth, settin’
between Marietta and ‘Phelia Beebe. There’s the three of ‘em on the back
seat. Cap’n Jeth’s the one with the whiskers.”

At six o’clock Martha and her lodger walked over to the Hallett house.
Miss Phipps was dressed in her best gown and looked the personification
of trim, comfortable New England femininity. Galusha was garbed in the
suit he wore the evening of his arrival, but it had been newly sponged
and pressed.

“It looks lots better,” observed Martha, inspecting him as they walked
along. “It wouldn’t have, though, if Primmie had finished the job. I was
so busy that I let her start on it, but when I saw what a mess she was
makin’ I had to drop everything else and do it myself.”

Galusha looked puzzled.

“Yes?” he said, politely. “Oh, yes, yes. Yes, indeed.”

She shook her head.

“I do believe you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about,” she said. “Now, do
you?”

“Why--ah--why, Miss Phipps, I confess I--I--”

“Well, I declare! I never saw a person like you in my life. Didn’t you
notice ANY difference in that suit of clothes?”

Mr. Bangs, looking downward, suddenly became aware of his immaculate
appearance. He was very much upset.

“I--I don’t know what you must think of me,” he stammered. “I have
been--that is, I was thinking of other things and I--Dear me! Oh, dear!
I am VERY grateful to you. But you shouldn’t take so much trouble.”

“It wasn’t any trouble. The suit was hangin’ in your closet and I
noticed how wrinkled and out of shape it was. And the stains on the
trousers--my!”

“Yes--ah--yes. I wore it over at the cemetery the other day and
I--ah--imagine I must have gotten down on my knees to examine the
tombstones.”

“I guess likely. It looked as if you might have crawled from here to the
cemetery and back. Now don’t say any more, Mr. Bangs. It was no trouble
at all. I always used to take care of father’s clothes. He used to say I
kept him all taut and shipshape.”

Lulie met them at the door.

“Where is Primmie?” she asked.

“She’ll be over pretty soon,” replied Martha. “I knew you wouldn’t need
her yet to help with the supper and the longer she stays away the more
talk there will be for the rest of us. She is to eat in the kitchen,
Lulie, remember that. I WON’T have her chatterin’ all through our meal.”

“She and Zacheus are to eat together,” replied Lulie. “It is all
settled. Now if Nelson will only come. He is going to get away just as
soon as the down train leaves.”

He arrived soon afterward, having bicycled over from South Wellmouth.
Primmie arrived also and bursts of her energetic conversation,
punctuated by grumblings in Mr. Bloomer’s bass, drifted in from the
kitchen. Supper was a happy meal. Young Howard, questioned by Martha and
Lulie--the latter evidently anxious to “show off” her lover--told of his
experiences aboard one of Uncle Sam’s transports and the narrow escape
from a German submarine. Galusha, decoyed by Miss Phipps, was led into
Egypt and discoursed concerning that marvelous country. Lulie laughed
and chatted and was engagingly charming and vivacious. Martha was her
own cheerful self and the worried look disappeared, for the time, from
her face.

After supper was over, the ladies helped Primmie clear the table while
the men sat in the sitting room and smoked. The sitting room of the
light keeper’s home was even more nautical than that at the Phipps’
place. There was no less than six framed paintings of ships and
schooners on the walls, and mantel and what-not bore salt-water curios
of many kinds handed down by generations of seafaring Halletts--whales’
teeth, little ships in bottles, idols from the South Sea islands, bead
and bone necklaces, Eskimo lance-heads and goodness knows what. And
below the windows, at the foot of the bluff on the ocean side, the great
waves pounded and muttered and growled, while high above the chimneys of
the little house Gould’s Bluffs light thrust its flashing spear of flame
deep into the breast of the black night.

It was almost half past eight when Martha Phipps, whose seat was near
the front window of the sitting room, held up a warning hand.

“Listen!” she cried. “Isn’t that an automobile comin’?”

It undoubtedly was. Apparently more than one motor car was approaching
along the sandy road leading from the village to the lighthouse.

“Who in the world is it?” asked Martha, drawing aside the window shade
and trying to peer out. “Lulie, you don’t think it can be--”

Lulie looked troubled, but she shook her head.

“No, it can’t be,” she declared. “The seance was to be away over in
Trumet and it is sure to last hours. They couldn’t have gone as far as
that and--”

She was interrupted. From the dining room came the sound of rushing
feet. Primmie burst into the room. She was wildly excited.

“My Lord of Isrul, Miss Martha!” she cried. “It’s them come back. It is,
it is, it is!”

“Who? Who, Primmie?” demanded Miss Phipps. “Stop flappin’ your
wings--arms, I mean. Who’s come back?”

“The sperit folks. All hands of ‘em, Marietta and ‘Phelia Beebe and Abe
Hardin’ and Cap’n Jeth and all. And--and they’re comin’ in here--and
here’s Nelson right where Cap’n Jeth can catch him. Oh, my savin’ soul!”

From behind her agitated shoulder peered the countenance of Mr. Bloomer.

“She’s right, Lulie,” observed Zach, with calm emphasis. “The whole crew
of ghost seiners is back here in port again, Cap’n Jeth and all. Better
beat for open water, hadn’t you, Nelse, eh? Be the divil to pay if you
don’t.... Godfreys, yes!”



CHAPTER VII


The announcement exploded like a bomb in the midst of the little group
in the light keeper’s sitting room. Lulie turned a trifle pale and
looked worried and alarmed. Martha uttered an exclamation, dropped the
window shade and turned toward her young friend. Mr. Bangs looked from
one to the other and was plainly very anxious to help in some way
but not certain how to begin. Of the four Nelson Howard, the one most
concerned, appeared least disturbed. It was he who spoke first and his
tone was brisk and businesslike.

“Well, Lulie,” he said, “what do you want me to do? Shall I stay and
face it out? I don’t mind. There’s nothing for us to be ashamed of, you
know.”

But Lulie shook her head. “Oh, no, no, Nelson,” she cried, “you mustn’t.
You had better go, right away. There will be a scene, and with all those
people here--”

Miss Phipps put in a word. “But perhaps Nelson’s right, after all,
Lulie,” she said. “There is no reason in the world why he shouldn’t
come to see you, and maybe he and Cap’n Jeth might as well have a plain
understandin’ now as any time.”

Miss Hallett’s agitation increased. “Oh, no,” she cried, again. “Don’t
you see it mustn’t happen, on father’s account? You know how he--you
know how excited and--and almost violent he gets when any one crosses
him nowadays. I’m afraid something might happen to him. I’m afraid.
Please go, Nelson, for my sake.”

The young man nodded. “Of course, Lulie,” he declared. “You’re perfectly
right. I’m off. Good-night.”

He was hastening toward the dining room door, but Primmie, dancing up
and down like a jumping jack, barred his way.

“No, no, no,” she squealed, “you can’t--you can’t. They’re almost to the
door now. He’ll catch you sure. He WILL. Oh, my Lord of Isrul!”

Sure enough, the latch of the door leading from the side porch to the
dining room was rattling at that moment. Fortunately the door itself was
hooked on the inside. Nelson hesitated.

“Humph!” he grunted. “Could I get through to the kitchen and out that
way, do you think, Zach?”

“Godfreys, no! Not with them winder curtains strung up higher’n Haman
the way they be. No, no! Godfreys!”

Martha stepped across the sitting room and flung open another door on
the opposite side. As she did so there sounded a prodigious thumping
from the side porch and the bull-like voice of Captain Hallett bellowed
his daughter’s name.

“Go let ‘em in, Lulie,” whispered Martha. “I’ll look out for things
here. Quick, Nelson, out this way, through the front hall and out the
front door. QUICK!”

Captain Jeth was accompanying his shouts by thumping upon the side of
the house. Lulie, after one desperate glance at her lover, hurried to
the dining room. Young Howard hesitated a moment.

“My hat and coat?” he whispered. “Where are they?”

They were hanging in the entry upon the door of which the captain was
thumping. Zach hastened to get them, but before he reached the dining
room they heard the outer door open and Jeth’s voice demanding to know
why Lulie had kept him waiting so long. Nelson, with a somewhat rueful
smile and a wave of the hand to Martha and Galusha, dodged into the
blackness of the front hall. Miss Phipps closed the door after him.
The conspirators looked at each other. Primmie’s mouth opened but the
expansive hand of Mr. Bloomer promptly covered it and the larger part of
her face as well.

“This ain’t no time to holler about your savin’ soul,” whispered
Zacheus, hoarsely. “This is the time to shut up. And KEEP shut up. You
be still, Dandelion!”

Primmie obeyed orders and was still. But even if she had shrieked it is
doubtful if any one in the dining room could have heard her. The “ghost
seiners,” quoting from Mr. Bloomer, were pouring through the entry and,
as all were talking at once, the clatter of tongues would have drowned
out any shriek of ordinary volume. A moment later the Halletts, father
and daughter, led the way into the sitting room. Lulie’s first procedure
was to glance quickly about the apartment. A look of relief crossed her
face and she and Martha Phipps exchanged glances.

“Father has--he has come back,” was her somewhat superfluous
explanation. Captain Jethro noted the superfluity.

“Cal’late they can see that for themselves, Lulie,” he observed. “How
are you, Martha? Evenin’, Mr. Bangs. Everything all right about the
light, Zach?”

“Ay, ay, sir,” was Mr. Bloomer’s nautical reply. The captain grunted.

“Better go look at it,” he said. Turning, he called over his shoulder,
“Come in, all hands.”

“All hands,” that is, the company in the dining room--came in. There
were fourteen of them, all told, and, as Martha Phipps told Galusha
Bangs afterward, “If you had run a net from one end of Ostable County to
the other you wouldn’t have landed more freaks than there were in that
house at that minute.” The majority were women and the few men in the
party looked as if each realized himself a minority at home and abroad.

“Set down, everybody,” commanded Captain Jethro. “Lulie, you better help
me fetch in them dining-room chairs. We’ll need ‘em.”

“But, father,” begged Lulie, “what are you going to do?”

“Do? We’re goin’ to have a meetin’, that’s what we’re goin’ to do. Set
down, all of you that can. We’ll have chairs for the rest in a minute.”

“But, father--” began Lulie, again. The captain interrupted her. “Be
still,” he ordered, irritably. “Marietta, you set over here by the
melodeon. That’ll be about right for you, will it?”

Miss Marietta Hoag was a short, dumpy female with a face which had been
described by Zach Bloomer as resembling a “pan of dough with a couple of
cranberries dropped into it.” She wore a blue hat with a red bow and a
profusion of small objects--red cherries and purple grapes--bobbing on
wires above it. The general effect, quoting Mr. Bloomer again, was “as
if somebody had set off a firecracker in a fruit-peddler’s cart.” The
remainder of her apparel was more subdued.

She removed the explosive headgear and came forward in response to the
light keeper’s command. She looked at the chair by the ancient parlor
organ and announced: “Yes, indeed, it’ll do real well, thank you, Cap’n
Jethro.” Her voice was a sharp soprano with liquid gurgles in it--“like
pourin’ pain-killer out of a bottle,” this last still another quotation
from the book of Zacheus.

“All right,” said Captain Jeth, “then we’ll begin. We’ve wasted enough
time cruisin’ way over to Trumet and back for nothin’. No need to waste
any more. Set down, all hands, and come to order. Lulie, you and Martha
and the rest of you set down, too.”

“But, father,” urged his daughter again, “I don’t understand. What are
you going to do?”

“Goin’ to have a meetin’, I tell you.”

“But what sort of a meeting?”

“A seance. We cruised clear over to Trumet to hear that Brockton medium
that was stayin’ at Obed Taylor’s there and when we got to Obed’s
we found she’d been called back home unexpected and had left on this
afternoon’s train. So we came back here and Marietta’s goin’ to try to
get in communication herself. That’s all there is to it.... Now don’t
waste any more time askin’ fool questions. Set down. Martha Phipps, what
are you and Mr. Bangs standin’ up for?”

Martha’s answer was quietly given.

“Why, good gracious, Jethro!” she observed, “why shouldn’t we stand up?
Mr. Bangs and I came over to spend the evenin’ with Lulie. We didn’t
know you and Marietta and Ophelia and the rest were goin’ to hold
any--er--what do you call ‘em?--seances. We’ll run right along and leave
you to enjoy yourselves. Come, Mr. Bangs.”

For some reason or other this reply appeared to irritate the light
keeper exceedingly. He glared at her.

“Set down, both of you,” he ordered. “I want you to. ‘Twill do you good.
No, you ain’t goin’, neither. Lulie, you tell ‘em to stay here.”

His manner was so determined and the light in his eye so ominous that
his daughter was alarmed.

“Oh, do stay, Martha,” she pleaded. “Won’t you please stay, you and Mr.
Bangs? I think it will be for the best, truly I do. Please stay.”

Martha looked at her lodger. Galusha smiled.

“I shall be very glad to remain,” he observed. “Indeed yes, really.”

Miss Phipps nodded. “All right, Lulie,” she said, quietly. “We’ll stay.”

They took chairs in the back row of the double circle. Primmie, eyes and
mouth open and agog with excitement, had already seated herself. Captain
Jethro looked about the room.

“Are we all ready,” he growled. “Eh? Who’s that comin’? Oh, it’s you.
Well, set down and keep quiet.”

It was Mr. Bloomer who had re-entered the room and was received so
unceremoniously. He glanced at Galusha Bangs, winked the eye which the
captain could not see, and sat down next to Primmie.

“Now then,” said Captain Jeth, who was evidently master of ceremonies,
“if you’re all ready, Marietta, I cal’late we are. Cast off! Heave
ahead!”

But Miss Hoag seemed troubled; evidently she was not ready to cast off
and heave ahead.

“Why--why, Cap’n Jeth,” she faltered, “I CAN’T. Don’t you KNOW I
can’t? Everybody’s got to take hands--and the lights must be turned way
down--and--and we’ve GOT to have some music.”

The captain pulled his beard. “Humph!” he grunted. “That’s so, I forgot.
Don’t know what’s the matter with me to-night, seem to be kind of--of
upset or somethin’. Zach, turn them lamps down; more’n that, way down
low.... That’ll do. Now all hands hold hands. Make a--a kind of ring out
of yourselves. That’s it. Now what else was it, Marietta?”

“Music,” faltered Miss Hoag, who seemed rather overawed by the captain’s
intensity and savage earnestness. “We always have music, you know, to
establish the--the contact. Have somebody play the organ. ‘Phelia, you
play it; you know how.”

Miss Ophelia Beebe, sister of the village storekeeper, was a tall,
angular woman garbed in black. Her facial expression was as mournful
as her raiment. She rose with a rustle and moved toward the ancient
melodeon. Lulie spoke hurriedly.

“No, no, Ophelia,” she protested, “it isn’t any use. That old thing has
been out of order for--why, for years. No one could possibly play on it.
No one has for ever and ever so long. Father knows it perfectly well.”

Again Captain Jethro tugged at his beard.

“Humph!” he grunted. “‘Tis out of order; I remember now.... Humph! I--I
forgot that. Well, we’ll have to have some sort of music. Can anybody
that’s here play on anything?”

There was silence for a moment. Then a thin masculine voice from the
dimness made proclamation.

“I can play on the fiddle,” it said; and then added, as if in
afterthought, “some.”

There was a rustle in the corner from which the voice had come.
Mutterings and whisperings arose. “Don’t talk so foolish!” “Well, Sary,
he asked if anybody could play on anything and I--” “Be still, I tell
you! I declare if there’s any chance for a person to make a jumpin’
numbskull out of himself in front of folks I’ll trust you to be right on
deck.” “Now, Sary, what are you goin’ on like this for? I only just--”

The dispute was growing louder and more violent. Captain Jethro roared a
command for silence.

“What’s all this?” he demanded. “Silence there for’ard!” He waited an
instant and then asked, “Who was it said they could play the fiddle? Was
it you, Abel Hardin’?”

Mr. Abel Harding, clam digger and fish purveyor, resident in South
Wellmouth, acknowledged his identity.

“Yus, Cap’n Jeth,” he declared. “I said I could play the fiddle, and I
can, too. Sary B., she says--”

“Sarah B.”--otherwise Mrs. Abel Harding--interrupted. “He can’t play
nothin’ but two jig tunes and he plays them like the very Old Scratch,”
 she snapped, with emphasis.

“Well, I never said I was anything great at it, did I? I said I can play
some, and I can. If you’d just keep your tongue to home and leave me be
I--”

“SILENCE!” shouted the light keeper again. The domestic squabble broke
off in the middle and some irreverent giggles from other sections of
the circle subsided. Captain Jethro’s indignant gaze swept the group.
Primmie said afterward, “You couldn’t see him glare at you, but you
could FEEL him doin’ it.” When the stillness was absolute the captain
asked, “Where is your fiddle, Abel?”

“Eh?” Mr. Harding paused and cleared his throat. “Why,” he stammered,
“it’s--it’s to home. Er--er--that’s where I keep it, you know.”

“Humph!” Captain Jethro’s scorn was withering. “And home is eleven mile
away or such matter. How much good is your bein’ able to play on it
goin’ to do us when ‘tain’t here for you to play on?”

There were discreet snickers from the dimness. Mrs. Hardin’s voice was
audible, saying, “There, I told you so, foolhead.” The captain once more
ordered and obtained silence.

“We’ve had enough of this,” he growled. “This ain’t a play-actin’ show
to laugh at. If we can’t behave accordin’ as we should we’ll give it up.
Marietta says she can’t get into contact with the sperit world without
music. Would it do if we was to sing somethin’, Marietta?”

Miss Hoag faltered that she didn’t know’s she hardly believed ‘twould.
“I always HAVE had some sort of instrumental music, Cap’n Jethro. Don’t
seem to me’s if I could hardly get along without it.”

The captain grunted again. “Can’t anybody play ANYTHING?” he demanded.
“Anything that’s within hailin’ distance, I mean.”

Another silent interval. And then a voice said, timidly, “I can play the
mouth organ.”

It was Primmie’s voice and as she was sitting next Zach Bloomer, who was
next Galusha Bangs, the unexpectedness of it made the latter jump. Miss
Phipps, next in line on Galusha’s left, jumped likewise.

“Primmie,” she said, sharply, “don’t be silly.”

“But I CAN, Miss Martha. You know I can. Zach knows it, too. You’ve
heard me, ain’t you, Zach? Ain’t you? Ain’t you?”

Thus urged, Mr. Bloomer answered, “I’ve heard you,” he said. And added,
fervently and under his breath, “Godfreys!”

“Primmie,” began Martha, again, but Captain Jethro broke in.

“Quiet, Martha Phipps,” he ordered. “Stop your talkin’, all hands.
Marietta, do you cal’late you could get under way with mouth organ
music?”

“Why--why, I don’t know. Maybe I could if--if it played church tunes.”

“Can you play hymn tunes, Primmie?”

“Yes, sir. I can play ‘Sweet By and By’ and ‘Brighten the Corner Where
You Be’ and ‘Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.’ No, that ain’t
one, is it? But I can play--”

“Where’s your mouth organ now?”

“It’s in my jacket pocket out yonder in the kitchen.”

“Go fetch it.”

Sounds as of one individual falling over others, accompanied by
exclamations and confusion, indicated that Miss Cash was going in search
of the instrument. Lulie made one more attempt at persuasion.

“Father,” she pleaded, “what makes you try to hold a seance to-night?
You’ve been ‘way over to Trumet and back and you must be tired. You
aren’t very well, you know, and all this excitement isn’t good for you.
Won’t you please--”

Her father stamped his foot. “Set down,” he shouted. “I know what I’m
doin’. This is my house and I’ll do as I please in it. Stop! I don’t
want to hear any more. Where’s that Cash girl?”

Primmie was returning bearing the mouth organ. She plowed through the
circle like an armored tank through a wire entanglement and reached the
light keeper’s side.

“Here I be,” she announced, “and here ‘tis. Shall I commence to begin
now? Where do you want me to set?”

She was given a seat in the front row, facing the medium. Captain
Hallett, after some final instructions to Zacheus concerning the turning
lower of one of the lamps and a last order for stillness, gave the
command.

“All ready! Heave ahead!”

Miss Hoag leaned back in her rocking-chair and closed her eyes. Primmie
drew a long breath and the first bars of the “Sweet By and By” were
forcibly evicted from the harmonica. Zach Bloomer, the irrepressible,
leaned over and breathed into his neighbor’s ear.

“Say, Mr. Bangs,” he whispered, “if you was a sperit would you leave a
comf’table berth up aloft to come and anchor alongside THAT noise?”

The “noise” became more enthusiastic as the musician warmed to her work.
Miss Hoag stirred uneasily in her chair. Captain Jethro bent toward her.

“Tell her not to play so LOUD,” whispered Marietta. The captain obeyed.

“Come, come, Primmie,” he said, irritably. “Go easy on it, soften her
down. Play low. And stop stompin’ out the time with your foot.”

Thus cautioned Miss Cash played low, very low, and also very slowly.
“The Sweet By and By” droned on, over and over, in the dark stuffiness
of the crowded room. Galusha Bangs, who had been at first much amused,
began to be bored. Incidentally he was extremely sorry for Lulie, poor
girl, who was compelled to be present at this ridiculous exhibition of
her father’s obsession. Heavy breathing sounded near at hand, growing
steadily heavier until it became a snore. The snore broke off in the
middle and with a sharp and most unchurchly ejaculation, as if the
snorer had been awakened suddenly and painfully. Galusha fancied
he recognized Mr. Harding’s voice. Primmie ended her thirty-second
rendition of the “Sweet By and By” chorus and began the thirty-third.

Then Miss Hoag began to groan. The first groan was so loud and
unexpected that Miss Cash gasped “My savin’ soul!” into the mouth organ.
Marietta continued to groan, also to pound the floor with her heels. In
her capacity as “medium” she, like other mediums--mediums of her stripe,
that is--was “getting under control.”

Then followed the usual sort of thing which follows at this sort of
seance. Miss Hoag, through her “control,” began to receive and transmit
“messages.” The control spoke in a kind of husky howl, so to speak,
and used a lingo most unusual on this plane, however common it may be
elsewhere.

Mr. Bangs was startled when first favored with a sample of
this--literally--unearthly elocution.

“Oh, dear me!” he exclaimed. “Oh, dear! WHY does she do that? Is--is she
ill?”

Miss Beebe answered, from her place in the circle. “It’s her sperit
control talkin’ now,” she whispered. “She’s controlled by a China
woman.”

“Name of Little Cherry Blossom,” whispered Mr. Harding.

“Sshh!” said several voices, indignantly.

“Allee samee comee manee namee Johnee,” announced Little Cherry Blossom.
“Anybody heree knowee manee Johnee?”

Several did, of course, and John was soon undergoing cross-examination.
He proved to be the cousin of Mrs. Hannah Peters’ first husband who was
drowned on the Grand Banks fifteen or sixteen years before. “John-ee”
 was, like so many of his kind, a bit shaky on names and dates but strong
on generalities. However, everybody except the few skeptics from the
Phipps’ place seemed satisfied and made no embarrassing comments.

Everybody but Mr. Bloomer, that is; Zacheus, the philosopher who had
studied his profession aboard a lightship, commented on everything.
Sitting next Mr. Bangs, he put his lips close to the ear of the
last-named gentleman and breathed caustic sarcasm into it. Galusha found
it distracting and, at times, annoying, for Mr. Bloomer’s mustache was
bristly.

“Little Cherry Blossom talks’s if she had a cold,” whispered Zach.
“Better take a little cherry rum, hadn’t she, eh?”

The control was loudly paging a person named Noah.

“Sperit heree wantee talkee with Noah,” she cried. “Wheree isee Noah?”

“‘Board the Ark, most likely,” whispered Mr. Bloomer. “Be hollerin’ for
Jonah next, won’t she? Cal’late so. Yus, yus.”

Message after message came and was recognized and acknowledged by the
devout. The group from the Phipps’ house had so far been slighted,
so, too, had Captain Jethro Hallett. There was a slight hubbub in
the circle, owing to the fact that two of its members simultaneously
recognized and laid claim to the same spirit, each declaring him to
be or have been an entirely different person when living. During this
little controversy Zacheus whispered in his neighbor’s ear.

“Say, Mr. Bangs,” he whispered, “this is gettin’ kind of tiresome, ain’t
it? Must be worse for Nelse, though, eh?”

Galusha did not catch his meaning. “For--for whom?” he asked. “I beg
your pardon.”

“Oh, you’re welcome. Why, I mean Nelse Howard must be gettin’ more tired
than we be, shut up in that front hall the way he is.”

“Shut up--Why, really, I--Mr. Howard left the house long ago, didn’t he?
By the front door, you know.”

Zach chuckled. “That front door is locked and the key’s been lost for
more’n a fortn’t. Cal’late Lulie forgot that when she told him to skip
out that way. He can’t GET out. He’s in that front entry now and he’ll
have to stay there till all hands have gone and the cap’n gone to bed.
That’s a note, ain’t it!... Sshh! They’re goin’ to begin again.”

The identity of the spiritual visitor having been tentatively
established, the “communications” continued. Galusha paid little heed
to them. The thought of young Howard a prisoner in the front hall was
uncomfortable of itself, but still more uncomfortable was the mental
picture of what might happen should his presence there be discovered
by Captain Hallett. The old light keeper was bigoted and absurdly
prejudiced against his daughter’s lover at all times. An encounter
between them would always be most unpleasant. But this evening, when the
captain was in his most fanatical mood, for him to find Nelson Howard
hiding in his own house--well, the prospect was almost alarming.

Galusha, much troubled in mind, wondered if Lulie had remembered the
locked door and the lost key. Did she realize her fiance’s plight? If
so, she must be undergoing tortures at that moment. Nelson, of course,
could take care of himself and was in no danger of physical injury; the
danger was in the effect of the discovery upon Captain Jethro. He was
not well, he was in a highly nervous and excited state. Galusha began to
fidget in his chair. More than ever he wished the seance would end.

However, it did not end. The messages continued to come. Apparently the
line of spirits waiting to communicate was as long as that at the ticket
office of a ball park on a pleasant Saturday. And suddenly Mr. Bangs was
startled out of his fidgets by the husky voice of Little Cherry Blossom
calling the name which was in his mind at the moment.

“Jethro,” wheezed Little Cherry Blossom. “Jethro. Some one heree wantee
talkee Jethro.”

Martha Phipps, sitting next to Galusha, stirred and uttered an impatient
exclamation under her breath. From beyond, where Lulie sat, Galusha
caught a quick gasp and a frightened “Oh, dear!” Zacheus whispered,
“Godfreys!” Primmie bounced up and down with excitement. The circle
rustled and then grew very still.

“Well,” growled Captain Jethro, a quaver in his deep voice, “I’m here.
It is--is it you, Julia?”

Little Cherry Blossom said that it was. Mr. Bangs heard another sniff of
disgust from Miss Phipps. He was himself thoroughly disgusted and angry.
This mockery of a great sorrow and a great love seemed so wicked and
cruel. Marietta Hoag and her ridiculous control ceased to be ridiculous
and funny. He longed to shake the fat little creature, shake her until
her silly craze for the limelight and desire to be the center of a
sensation were thoroughly shaken out of her. Marietta was not wicked,
she was just silly and vain and foolish, that was all; but at least half
of humanity’s troubles are caused by the fools.

“Julia,” said Captain Jethro, his big voice trembling as he said it,
“I--I’m here, Julia. What is it?”

“Julia she say she gladee you heree,” gurgled Little Cherry Blossom.
Martha Phipps drew a breath between her teeth as if in pain. Her hand
squeezed Lulie’s tight. She was suffering with the girl. As for
Galusha, sensitive soul that he was, he blushed all over in sympathetic
embarrassment.

“I’m glad to be here, Julia,” said the captain. “You know it, too, I
guess likely. Is all well with you, Julia?”

Cherry Blossom in horrible pidgin English affirmed that all was well,
all was happiness and delight and bliss in the realm beyond. Galusha did
not hear much of this, he was suffering too acutely to listen. Then he
heard Captain Jethro ask another question.

“Is there any special message you’ve got for me, Julia?”

Yes, there was. “Daughter, daughter.” There was some message about a
daughter.

“Lulie? Is there somethin’ you want to tell me about Lulie, Julia?”

“Father!” It was Lulie herself who uttered the exclamation. “Father,”
 she cried. “Don’t! Oh, don’t! Please don’t!”

Her father’s reply was a furious roar.

“Stop!” he thundered. “Be still! Don’t you say another word!”

“But, father, PLEASE--”

“Stop!... Julia, Julia... are you there? What is it about Lulie? Tell
me.”

Little Cherry Blossom herself seemed a bit nervous, for her next message
was given with a trifle less assurance. It was an incoherent repetition
and re-repetition of the word “daughter” and something about “looking
out” and “danger.”

Captain Jethro caught at the word.

“Danger?” he queried. “Danger for Lulie? Is that what you mean, Julia?
I’m to look out on account of danger comin’ for Lulie? Is that it,
Julia?”

Lulie made one more desperate plea.

“Father,” she begged, “please don’t! Of course there isn’t any danger
for me. This is SO ridiculous.”

“Be still, I tell you.... Is that it, Julia? Is it?” Little Cherry
Blossom with some hesitation indicated that that was it. A rustle of
excitement stirred the circle.

“What kind of danger?” demanded the light keeper, eagerly. “Can’t you
tell me that, Julia?”

Apparently she could not, for there was no reply. The captain tried to
help by suggestion.

“Danger from--from her bein’--er--hurt?” he suggested. “Being run
over--or--or--drowned or somethin’?”

No, that was not it.

“Danger from somebody--some person?”

“Yes.” Another rustle of excitement in the circle. The light keeper
caught his breath.

“Julia,” he demanded, “do you mean that--that our girl’s in danger from
some--some MAN?”

“FATHER! I won’t stand this. It’s perfectly--”

“Lulie Hallett, you set down! Set DOWN!”

Martha Phipps laid a hand upon the girl’s arm. “Don’t excite him,” she
whispered. “I’d sit down if I were you, Lulie.”

Lulie, trembling with indignation, subsided under protest. Little Cherry
Blossom burst out with a gush of gibberish concerning some man, “bad,
wicked manee,” who was trying to influence “daughter” in some way
or other, just how was not particularly intelligible. Captain Jethro
offered another suggestion.

“Julia,” he demanded, “is it the outsider, the small, dark man you said
afore? Is it him?”

Yes, it was. The rustle in the circle was now so pronounced as to amount
almost to a disturbance. Mr. Abel Harding whispered audibly, “It’s
Nelson Howard she means, don’t she?” His wife even more audibly ordered
him to “shut up, for the land sakes.” Primmie dropped the mouth organ
on the floor with a metallic clatter. Startled, she made her customary
appeal to the ruler of Israel.

“It’s him, eh?” growled the light keeper. “I thought so. I’ve got my eye
on him, Julia, and he knows it. What’s he up to now? Where is he?”

“Near her.”

“Near her? Here?... In this HOUSE, do you mean?”

A moment’s hesitation, and then, “Ye-es, I--I shouldn’t wonder.”

This bit of information, even though unusually qualified considering
its spirit source, caused a genuine sensation. Almost every one said
something. Zach Bloomer whistled shrilly in Mr. Bangs’ ear and said,
“Godfreys!” Galusha said, “Oh, dear me!” with distressful emphasis.
Martha Phipps and Lulie clutched each other and the latter uttered
a faint scream. Primmie Cash, who had stooped to pick up the dropped
harmonica, fell on her knees beside it. Captain Jethro stamped and
roared for silence.

“Be still!” he shouted. “Stop! STOP! By the everlastin’,
I’ll--I’ll--Julia! Julia!”

But Julia did not answer this time. Neither did Little Cherry Blossom.
Whether Miss Hoag was frightened at the effect of her message or whether
she figured that she had caused sensation sufficient for one day are
matters for conjecture. At all events she stirred in her chair and
announced faintly, and in her natural, everyday tones and accent, that
she wished a drink of water.

“Where--where be I?” she gasped. “I--Oh, fetch me a drink, somebody,
won’t you, please?”

The light keeper, paying no need whatever, was shouting his wife’s name.

“Julia! Julia!” he cried. “Don’t go! I want you! I need you!”

Lulie called “Father” and hastened toward him. Zacheus whispered in
Galusha’s ear that he cal’lated ‘twouldn’t do no harm to turn on the
glim and proceeded forthwith to turn up the wick of one of the lamps.
The sudden illumination showed Captain Jethro standing in the middle
of the floor, his face flushed, his brows drawn together and his lips
twitching. He was glaring about the room and the expression upon his
face was so fierce that Mr. Bangs said, “Oh, dear me!” again when he saw
it.

Lulie put her arm about the light keeper’s shoulder. “Father, father,”
 she pleaded, “please don’t look that way. Come and sit down. Please do!”

But sitting down was far from the captain’s thoughts just then. He
impatiently tossed his daughter’s arm aside.

“So he’s here, is he,” he growled, between his teeth. “He’s in my house,
is he? By the everlastin’, I’ll show him!”

Martha Phipps pushed her way toward the pair.

“There, there, Jethro,” she said, quietly, “don’t act this way. Don’t
you see you’re frightenin’ Lulie half out of her wits? There’s nothin’
for you to look so savage about. Come over and sit down and rest. You’re
tired.”

“No, I ain’t tired, either. Be quiet, woman. By the Lord, if he’s in
this house I’ll find him. And WHEN I find him--”

“Sshh, sshh! What in the world are you talkin’ about? Marietta didn’t
say--”

“Julia--my spirit wife--told me that that skulkin’ swab of a Nelse
Howard was here in this house. You heard her. Let go of me, both of you!
Now where is he?”

He was turning directly toward the door leading to the front hall. Lulie
was very white and seemed on the point of collapse. Even Miss Phipps,
usually so calm and equal to the emergency, appeared to find this one
a trifle too much for her, for she glanced desperately about as if
in search of help. Zach Bloomer repeated “Godfreys” several times and
looked, for him, almost excited. As for Primmie, she was so frightened
as to be speechless, a miracle far more amazing than any other which the
seance had thus far produced. The remaining members of the circle were
whispering in agitation and staring wide-eyed at the captain and those
about him.

Then a masculine voice, a very soft, gentle masculine voice, said, “I
beg your pardon, Captain Hallett, but may I--ah--ask a question?”

The very gentleness of the voice and the calmness of its tone had more
effect in securing the light keeper’s attention than any shout could
possibly have done. Captain Jethro stopped in his stride.

“Eh?” he grunted. “Eh? What’s that?”

Galusha Bangs moved forward, quietly elbowing his way from the back
row of the circle to the open space before the inner line of chairs and
their excited occupants.

“It is--ah--I, Captain Hallett,” he observed, calmly, “I wished to ask
a question. You see, I have been very much interested by
the--ah--manifestations here this evening. Very much so, really--indeed,
yes.”

The light keeper interrupted. “Don’t bother me!” he ordered, savagely.
“I’m goin’ to find that sneakin’ rascal, and--Get out of my way, will
you?”

Somehow or other the little Egyptologist had moved forward until,
without appearing to have made an effort to do so, he was directly in
the captain’s way--that is, between the latter and the door of the front
hall. The command to get out of the way he acknowledged politely and
with caution.

“Yes, yes, of course,” he said, hastily. “I’m very sorry. Very sorry
indeed. I beg your pardon, Captain Hallett. Now there is one point in
this lady’s--ah--messages--ah--communications, you know--which puzzles
me somewhat. You see--”

“I can’t stop to talk to you now. I’m goin’ to--WILL you get out of my
way?”

“Was I in your way? I BEG your pardon. How clumsy of me! I--ah--You see,
this lady’s last message seemed to point so directly in my direction
that I felt constrained to speak. You see, when she, or her--control, is
it?--mentioned my being here in your house and accused me of having
an evil influence upon your daughter, I--well, I was surprised
and--ah--hurt.”

A general gasp of astonishment from the circle behind him interrupted.
Mr. Abel Harding shouted “Eh!” and, for a wonder, his wife did not
take him to task for it. For the matter of that, she had uttered
an exclamation also. So had Ophelia Beebe and many others. Zacheus
whistled. Primmie once more referred to her saving soul. Martha Phipps
cried out.

As for Jethro Hallett, he stared uncomprehendingly at the Bangs’ face
which looked so earnestly and gravely up into his. He drew a hand across
his forehead and breathed heavily.

“Wha--what are you talkin’ about?” he demanded. “Who--who said anything
about you?”

Galusha transferred his gaze from the light keeper’s countenance to that
of Miss Marietta Hoag. The medium’s moonlike visage bore an expression
of intense surprise.

“Why--ah--she did,” replied Galusha, gently. “This lady here. She said
that an outsider, a small, dark man, was exerting an evil influence upon
Miss Lulie--upon your daughter. Then she said this person was here in
your house. Now, as I am the only person present who answers to that
description, naturally I--well, I--really, I must protest. I have the
highest respect and regard for your daughter, Captain Hallett. I should
be the last, the very last, to wish to exert any such influence.”

“Nonsense!” The amazed captain shouted the word. “What are you talkin’
about? ‘Twan’t you she said. ‘Twas that Howard swab. He’s been hangin’
around Lulie for more ‘n a year.”

“Ah--pardon me, Captain Hallett, but really I must make my point. It
could not have been Mr. Howard to whom the--ah--control referred. Mr.
Howard is somewhat dark, perhaps, but he is not small. I am both dark
and small. And I am here, whereas Mr. Howard apparently is not. And I
am, beyond question, an outsider. Therefore--”

“Nonsense, I tell you! She said Nelson Howard was in this house.”

“Pardon me, pardon me, Captain Hallett. She said a small, dark man, an
outsider, was in this house. She mentioned no names. You mentioned no
names, did you, Miss--ah--Hoag?”

Marietta, thus unexpectedly appealed to, gasped, swallowed, turned red
and stammered that she didn’t know’s she did; adding hastily that she
never remembered nothin’ of what she said in the trance state. After
this she swallowed again and observed that she didn’t see WHY she
couldn’t have that drink of water.

“So you see, Captain Hallett,” went on Mr. Bangs, with the same gentle
persistence, “being the only person present answering the description
given by the medium I feel somewhat--ah--distressed. I must insist that
I am unjustly accused. I must ask Miss Phipps here and your daughter
herself to say whether or not my conduct toward Miss Lulie has not been
quite--ah--harmless and without--ah--malevolence. I shall be glad to
leave it to them.”

Of the pair to whom this appeal for judgment was made Martha Phipps
alone heeded it. Lulie, still white and trembling, was intent only
upon her father. But Martha rose to the occasion with characteristic
promptness.

“Of course, Mr. Bangs,” she declared, “you’ve behaved just as nice as
any one could be in this world. I could hardly believe my ears when
Marietta said you were an evil influence towards Lulie. You ought to be
careful about sayin’ such things, Marietta. Why, you never met Mr. Bangs
before this evenin’. How could you know he was an evil influence?”

Miss Hoag, thus attacked from an unexpected quarter, was thrown still
more out of mental poise. “I never said he was one,” she declared,
wildly. “I only just said there was a--a--I don’t know what I said.
Anyhow _I_ never said it, ‘twas my control talkin’. I’ll leave it to
‘Phelia Beebe. You know I don’t know what I’m sayin’ when I’m in
the trance state, don’t you, ‘Phelia? Anyhow, all I said was.... Oh,
‘Phelia,” wildly, “why don’t you help me out?... And--and I’ve asked no
less’n four mortal times for that drink of water. I--I--Oh, oh--”

She became hysterical. The circle ceased to be a circle and became a
series of agitated groups, all talking at once. Mr. Bloomer seized the
opportunity to turn up the wick of another lamp. Lulie, clinging to her
father’s arm, led him toward a chair in a secluded corner.

“Sit down, father,” she urged. “Sit down, and rest. Please do!”

The old light keeper’s fiery rage seemed to be abating. He passed his
hand across his forehead several times and his expression changed. He
looked like one awakening from a bad dream.

“I--I cal’late I will set down for a minute or so, Lulie,” he faltered.
“I do feel sort of tired, somehow or ‘nother. I don’t want to talk any
more, Mr. Bangs,” he added, wearily. “I--I’ll have to think it all out.
Lulie, I cal’late they’d better go home. Tell ‘em all to go. I’m tired.”

Martha Phipps passed from group to group whispering.

“I guess we’d better go,” she suggested. “He’s pretty well worn out, I’m
afraid. Everybody’s things are there in the dinin’ room or in the side
entry. We’d better go right away, it seems to me.”

Galusha had gotten his “things” already, his coat was over his arm.
The others followed his example. A few minutes more and the last of
the “ghost seiners” had left the house and were climbing into the
automobiles in the yard. Marietta Hoag’s voice was the last distinctly
audible.

“I can’t help it,” she wailed. “It wasn’t my fault anyway. And--and,
besides, that Bangs man hadn’t any right to say ‘twas him I meant.... I
mean the control meant. It wasn’t him at all.... I mean I don’t believe
‘twas. Oh, dear! I WISH you’d stop askin’ questions, Abe Hardin’. CAN’T
you stop?”

Galusha and Primmie set out for the Phipps’ homestead ahead of its
owner, but she caught up with them at the gate.

“He’s goin’ right up to bed,” she said. “Zach will look out for the
light to-night.”

“And--” asked Galusha, with significant emphasis.

Martha did not reply. She waited until they were in the sitting room and
alone, Primmie having been sentenced to go to her own room and to bed.
Miss Cash had no desire for bed; her dearest wish was to remain with her
mistress and their lodger and unload her burden of conversation.

“My savin’ soul!” she began. “My savin’ soul! Did you ever in your born
days! When that Marietta Hoag--or that Chinee critter--or Cap’n
Jeth’s ghost’s wife--or whoever ‘twas talkin’ that spirit jabber--when
she--them, I mean--give out that a small, dark man was right there in
that house, I thought--”

“Primmie, go to bed.”

“Yes’m. And when I remembered that Nelse Howard was--”

“Go to bed this minute!”

“Yes’m. But how do you ‘spose he’s goin’ to--”

Miss Phipps conducted her to the foot of the back stairs and, returning,
closed each door she passed through behind her. Then she answered her
lodger’s unspoken question.

“Lulie will go with her father and help him up to his room,” she said.
“After he is out of the way Nelson can come out and Zach, I suppose,
will let him out by the side door.”

Galusha smiled faintly. “The poor fellow must have been somewhat
disturbed when that--ah--medium person announced that the ‘evil
influence’ was in the house,” he observed.

Martha sniffed. “I guess likely we were all disturbed,” she said.
“Especially those of us who knew. But how did Marietta know? That’s what
I can’t understand. Or did she just guess?”

Before Bangs could answer there was a rap on the windowpane. Martha,
going to the door, admitted Nelson Howard himself. The young man’s first
speech was a question.

“Do you know what became of my hat?” he asked. “Like an idiot I hung my
hat and coat in that entry off the dining room when I went in. When I
came out just now the hat was gone.”

Martha looked troubled.

“It wasn’t that cap you wear so much, at the station and everywhere?”
 she asked. “I hope no one took THAT; they’d know whose ‘twas in a
minute.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m afraid of. I... Eh? Why, there it is now.”

The cap was lying on the couch beside Mr. Bangs’ overcoat. Howard picked
it up with an air of great relief.

“You brought it over for me, Mr. Bangs, didn’t you?” he cried.

“Why--why, yes, I--I did,” stammered Galusha. “You see, I--”

The young man broke in enthusiastically. “By jingo, that was clever
of you!” he cried. “I was afraid some one had got that cap who would
recognize it. Say,” he went on, “I owe you about everything to-night,
Mr. Bangs. When Marietta gave out her proclamation that the ‘small
dark man’ was in that house I came nearer to believing in her kind of
spiritualism than I ever thought I should. I was scared--not on my own
account, I hope--but for Lulie and her father. If the old cap’n had
found me hiding in that front hall I don’t know what he might have done,
or tried to do. And I don’t know what effect it might have had on him.
He was--well, judging from what I could hear, he was in a state that
was--that was pretty near to--to--”

While he was hesitating Martha Phipps finished the sentence. “To what
they put people in asylums for,” she said, emphatically. “He was, there
is no doubt about that. It’s a mercy he didn’t find you, Nelson. And if
I were you I wouldn’t take any such chances again.”

“I shan’t, you needn’t worry. When Lulie and I meet after this it will
be--Humph! well, I don’t know where it will be. Even the graveyard
doesn’t seem to be safe. But I must go. Tell Lulie I got away safe and
sound, thanks to Mr. Bangs here. And tell her to ‘phone me to-morrow.
I’m anxious about Cap’n Jeth. Sometimes I think it might be just as well
if I went straight to him and told him--”

Again Martha interrupted.

“My soul, no!” she exclaimed. “Not now, not till he gets that ‘small
dark man’ notion out of his head.”

“I suppose you’re right. And Mr. Bangs has set him guessing on that,
too. Honestly, Mr. Bangs, you’ve just about saved--well, if you haven’t
saved everybody’s life you’ve come pretty near to saving the cap’n’s
reason, I do believe. How Lulie and I can ever thank you enough I don’t
know.”

Galusha turned red. “Ah--ah--don’t--ah--please don’t,” he stammered. “It
was just--ah--a silly idea of mine. On the spur of the moment it came to
me that--ah--that the medium person hadn’t said WHO the small, dark man
was. And as I am rather dark perhaps--and small, certainly--it occurred
to me to claim identity. Almost every one else had received some sort
of--ah--spirit message and, you see, I didn’t wish to be neglected.”

“Well, it was the smartest dodge that I ever heard of. By jingo, it was!
Say, you don’t suppose Cap’n Jeth will take it seriously and begin to
get down on YOU, do you?”

Martha looked grave. “I was wonderin’ that myself,” she said.

Galusha smiled. “Oh, dear no,” he said. “I think there is no danger of
that, really. But, Mr. Howard, in regard to that--ah--cap of yours, I...
Eh?... Um... Why, dear me, I wonder--”

“Why is it you wonder, Mr. Bangs?” asked Martha, after a moment’s wait.

“Why--ah--considering that that cap of Mr. Howard’s is one which, so
you and he say, he is in the habit of wearing, and that many people have
often seen him wear, I was wondering--Dear me, yes, that might explain.”

“Explain what?”

“Why, it occurred to me that as that cap was hanging in
the--ah--entry--the little hall off Captain Hallett’s dining room--when
the people came in, and as the medium person--Miss--ah--bless me, what
IS her name?--as she came in with the rest, it occurred to me that she
might have seen the cap and--”

Miss Phipps clapped her hands. “She saw it and knew whose it was,” she
cried, excitedly. “Of course she did! THAT’S how she guessed the
small, dark man was in the house. THAT’S how ‘Little Toddy Blossom,’ or
whatever her name is, got so smart all at once. Well, well! Of course,
of course!”

“It--ah--occurred to me that that might possibly explain,” observed
Galusha, placidly.

“It does. But, Nelson, what set Marietta and her spirits after you in
particular? Has she got any grudge against you?”

“Not that I know of, Martha. She knows I don’t take any stock in her
kind of spirit messages. I don’t think she likes me very well on that
account.”

“Well, perhaps, that is reason enough. Or perhaps she just happened the
first time to mention the small dark man hit or miss and Cap’n Jethro
pinned the tag to you; after that she did her best to keep it there.
Well, thanks to Mr. Bangs, the cap’n isn’t as sure as he was, that’s
some comfort.”

Martha accompanied Nelson to the door. After he had gone and she
returned to the sitting room she found her lodger standing, lamp in
hand, at the foot of the stairs.

“Goin’ to turn in, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. “Goin’ to bed, I mean? Father
always used to call it turnin’ in; it’s a saltwater way of sayin’ it,
just as so many of his expressions were. I guess you must be pretty
tired. I know I am. Take it by and large--that is another of father’s
expressions--we’ve had an excitin’ evenin’.”

Galusha admitted the fact. His landlady regarded him with an odd
expression.

“Do you know,” she said, suddenly, “you are the most surprisin’ person I
ever met, Mr. Bangs?... There! I didn’t mean to say that,” she added.
“I was thinkin’ it and it sort of spoke itself, as you might say. I beg
your pardon.”

“Oh, that’s quite all right, quite, Miss Phipps,” Galusha assured her.
“I have no doubt you are perfectly correct. No doubt I am surprising;
at least most people seem to find a peculiar quality in most of
my--ah--actions.” He smiled his gentle smile, and added, “I presume it
must be a part of my profession. In books, you know--in novels--the
few I have read--the archaeologist or the scientific man or the college
professor is always peculiar.”

She shook her head. “That isn’t just what I meant,” she said. “So far as
that goes I’ve generally noticed that folks with little brains are fond
of criticizin’ those with bigger ones. Part of such criticisms is ‘don’t
understand’ and the rest is plain jealousy. But what I meant by callin’
you surprisin’ was--was--Well,” with a half laugh, “I might just as well
say it plain. Ever since you’ve been here, Mr. Bangs, the feelin’ has
been growin’ on me that you were probably the wisest man in the world
about some things and the most simple and impractical about others. Over
there in Egypt you know everything, I do believe. And yet right down
here on Cape Cod you need somebody to keep Ras Beebe and Raish Pulcifer
from cheatin’ you out of your last cent. That’s what I thought.
‘Mr. Bangs is wonderful,’ I said to myself, ‘but I’m afraid he isn’t
practical.’ And yet to-night, over there, you were the only practical
one amongst us.”

Galusha protested. “Oh, no, Miss Phipps,” he said. “Dear me, no. My
claiming to be the small, dark man was, as I said, merely a silly notion
which came to me. I acted on the spur of the moment. It was nothing.”

“It was about everything,” stoutly. “It was your notion, as you call it,
that saved Cap’n Jethro from findin’ Nelson Howard in that front hall;
and savin’ him from that saved us from havin’ a crazy man on our hands,
I truly believe. And you did it so right on the instant, so matter of
fact and common sense. Really, Mr. Bangs, I--I don’t know what to say to
you.”

Galusha smiled. “You said it before,” he observed, “when you said you
were surprised. I am surprised myself. Dear me, yes.”

“Don’t! That was a foolish thing for me to say and you mustn’t take
it the wrong way. And your bringing Nelson’s hat over here instead of
leavin’ it in that entry for more of Marietta’s crowd to notice and, ten
to one, recognize! We all knew it was hangin’ there. I saw Nelson hang
it there, myself, when he came in. But did _I_ think to take it out of
sight? Did _I_--Why, what is it? What’s the matter?”

Her lodger was protesting violently. “Don’t, don’t, don’t, Miss Phipps,”
 he begged. “Please don’t! You see, that hat--that cap of Mr. Howard’s--”

“Yes, you brought it over here.”

“Yes, I--I brought it over. I brought it--but--”

“But what?”

“But I didn’t know that I did. I must have been thinking of something
else when I went after my things and it is a mercy that I took my own
coat. It was only by accident that I took the--ah--young man’s cap. I
was under the impression that it was my own. I presume my own cap is
hanging in the Hallett entry at this moment.... Ah--good-night, Miss
Phipps. Good night. I have had a very pleasant evening, very pleasant
indeed.”



CHAPTER VIII


Martha Phipps and her lodger, to say nothing of Lulie Hallett, were
fearful of the effect which the eventful seance might have upon the
light keeper. It was with considerable foreboding that Martha called
Lulie up on the telephone the next morning. But the news she received
in answer to her call was reassuring. Captain Jethro, so Lulie said, was
apparently quite himself again, a little tired and a trifle irritable,
but otherwise all right.

“The only unusual thing about him,” said his daughter, “is that he has
not once mentioned the seance or anything that happened there. If
it wasn’t too ridiculous to be possible I should almost think he had
forgotten it.”

“Then for the land sakes don’t remind him,” urged Martha, eagerly.
“So long as HE is willin’ not to remember you ought to be. Yes, and
thankful,” she added.

“I guess likely he hasn’t forgotten,” she said afterwards, in
conversation with her lodger. “I imagine he is a good deal upset in his
mind; your bouncin’ in and claimin’ to be the ‘evil influence’ put him
‘way off his course and he hasn’t got his bearin’s yet. He’s probably
tryin’ to think his way through the fog and he won’t talk till he sees
a light, or thinks he sees one. I wish to goodness the light would be so
strong that he’d see through Marietta Hoag and all her foolishness, but
I’m afraid that’s too much to expect.”

Her surmise was correct, for a few days later the captain met Galusha on
the road leading to the village and, taking the little man by the arm,
became confidential.

“Mr. Bangs,” he said, “I cal’late you must think it’s kind of queer my
not sayin’ a word to you about what happened t’other night over to the
house.”

Galusha, who had been thinking of something else and was mentally
thousands of miles away--on the banks of the Nile, in fact--regarded him
rather vacantly.

“Eh? Oh--um--yes, of course,” he stammered. “I beg your pardon.”

“No reason why you should beg my pardon. I don’t blame you for thinkin’
so. It’s natural.”

“Yes--yes, of course, of course. But I don’t know that I quite
comprehend. Of what were you speaking, Captain Hallett?”

The captain explained. “Of course you think it’s queer that I haven’t
said a word about what Julia told us,” he went on. “Eh? Don’t you?”

“What--ah--what Miss Hoag said, you mean?”

“Plague take Marietta!” impatiently. “She wan’t nothin’ but the
go-between. ‘Twas my wife that said it. You understand ‘twas Julia, my
wife, talkin’, don’t you?”

“Why--ah--why--I suppose--”

“Suppose? Don’t you KNOW ‘twas?”

“Why--ah--no doubt, no doubt.”

“Course there ain’t any doubt. Well then, Julia said there was a dark
man heavin’ a sort of evil influence over Lulie.”

“She said a SMALL dark man, a stranger. And she said he was present
among us. So far as I can see I was the only small dark stranger.”

“But you ain’t an evil influence, are you?”

“Well, I--ah--hope not. Dear me, no!”

“I hope not, too, and I don’t believe you are. No, there is some mistake
somewheres. ‘Twas Nelson Howard she must have meant.”

“But, Captain Hallett, Mr. Howard is not small.”

“No, and he wan’t there that evenin’, neither. But I’m bettin’ ‘twas him
she meant just the same. Just the same.”

“Do you think that is quite fair to Mr. Howard? If he isn’t small, nor
very dark, and if he was not in your house that evening, how--”

“I don’t know--I don’t know. Anyhow, I don’t believe she meant you, Mr.
Bangs. She couldn’t have.”

“But--ah--why not?”

“Because--well, because you couldn’t be an evil influence if you tried,
you wouldn’t know how. THAT much I’ll bet on. There, there, don’t let’s
talk no more about it. Julia and me’ll have another talk pretty soon and
then I’ll find out more, maybe.”

So that was the end of this portion of the conversation. The light
keeper positively refused to mention the subject again. Galusha was left
with the uneasy feeling that his brilliant idea of claiming to be
the small, dark influence for evil had not been as productive of good
results as he had hoped. Certainly it had not in the least shaken the
captain’s firm belief in his spirit messages, nor had it, apparently,
greatly abated his prejudice against young Howard. On the other hand,
Lulie found comfort in the fact that in all other respects her father
seemed as rational and as keen as he had ever been. The exciting evening
with the Hoag spook had worked no lasting harm. For so much she and her
friends were grateful.

The autumn gales blew themselves out and blew in their successors, the
howling blasts of winter. Winter at Gould’s Bluffs, so Galusha Bangs
discovered, was no light jest of the weather bureau. His first January
no’theaster taught him that. Lying in his bed at one o’clock in the
morning, feeling that bed tremble beneath him as the wind gripped the
sturdy gables of the old house, while the snow beat in hissing tumult
against the panes, and the great breakers raved and roared at the foot
of the bluff--this was an experience for Galusha. The gray dawn of the
morning brought another, for, although it was no longer snowing, the
wind was, if anything, stronger than ever and the seaward view from his
bedroom window was a picture of frothing gray and white, of flying spray
and leaping waves, and on the landward side the pines were bending and
threshing as if they were being torn in pieces. He came downstairs,
somewhat nervous and a trifle excited, to find Mr. Bloomer, garbed in
oilskins and sou’wester, standing upon the mat just inside the dining
room door. Zacheus, it developed, had come over to borrow some coffee,
the supply at the light having run short. As Galusha entered, a more
than usually savage blast rushed shrieking over the house, threatening,
so it seemed to Mr. Bangs, to tear every shingle from the roof.

“Goodness gracious!” exclaimed Galusha. “Dear me, what a terrible storm
this is!”

Zacheus regarded him calmly. “Commenced about ten last night,” he
observed. “Been breezin’ on steady ever since. Be quite consider’ble
gale if it keeps up.”

Mr. Bangs looked at him with amazement.

“If it keeps up!” he repeated. “Isn’t it a gale now?”

Zach shook his head.

“Not a reg’lar gale, ‘tain’t,” he said. “Alongside of some gales I’ve
seen this one ain’t nothin’ but a tops’l breeze. Do you remember the
storm the night the Portland was lost, Martha?”

Miss Phipps, who had come in from the kitchen with a can of coffee in
her hand, shuddered.

“Indeed I do, Zacheus,” she said; “don’t remind me of it.”

“Why, dear me, was it worse than this one?” asked Galusha.

Martha smiled. “It blew the roof off the barn here,” she said, “and blew
down both chimneys on the house and both over at Cap’n Jeth’s. So far
as that goes we had plenty of company, for there were nineteen chimneys
down along the main road in Wellmouth. And trees--mercy! how the poor
trees suffered! East Wellmouth lost thirty-two big silver-leafs and
the only two elms it had. Set out over a hundred years ago, those elms
were.”

“Spray from the breakers flew clear over the top of the bank here,” said
Zach. “That’s some h’ist for spray, hundred and odd feet. I wan’t here
to see it, myself, but Cap’n Jeth told me.”

“You were in a more comfortable place, I hope,” observed Galusha.

“Um--we-ell, that’s accordin’ to what you call comf’table. I was aboard
the Hog’s Back lightship, that’s where I was.”

“Dear, dear! Is it possible?”

“Um-hm. Possible enough that I was there, and one spell it looked
impossible that I’d ever be anywheres else. Godfreys, what a night that
was! Whew! Godfreys domino!”

Primmie, who had also come in from the kitchen, was listening,
open-mouthed.

“I bet you that lightship pitched up and down somethin’ terrible, didn’t
it, Zach?” she asked.

Zacheus looked at her solemnly. “Pitched?” he repeated, after a moment’s
contemplation. “No, no, she didn’t pitch none.”

“Didn’t? Didn’t pitch up and down in such a gale’s that? And with waves
a hundred foot high? What kind of talk’s that, Zach Bloomer! How could
that lightship help pitchin’, I’d like to know?”

Mr. Bloomer adjusted the tin cover on the can in which Martha had put
the coffee, then he put the can in the pocket of his slicker.

“We-ll, I tell you, Primmie,” he drawled. “You see, we had pretty
toler’ble long anchor chains on that craft and when the captain see how
‘twas blowin’ he let them chains out full length. The wind blowed so
strong it lifted the lightship right out of the water up to the ends of
them chains and kept her there. Course there was a dreadful sea runnin’
underneath us, but we never felt it a mite; that gale was holdin’ us up
twenty foot clear of it!”

“Zacheus Bloomer, do you mean to say--”

“Um-hm. Twenty foot in the air we was all that night and part of next
day. When it slacked off and we settled down again we was leakin’ like a
sieve; you see, while we was up there that no’thwester had blowed ‘most
all the copper off the vessel’s bottom. Some storm that was, Posy,
some storm.... Well, so long, all hands. Much obliged for the coffee,
Martha.”

He tugged his sou’wester tighter on his head, glanced at Miss Cash’s
face, where incredulity and indignation were written large and
struggling for expression, turned his head in Mr. Bangs’ direction,
winked solemnly, and departed. The wind obligingly and enthusiastically
saved him the trouble of closing the door.

Galusha was not called upon to endure any such experiences as those
described by the veracious Mr. Bloomer in his record-breaking gale, but
during that winter he learned a little of what New England coast weather
could be and often was. And he learned, also, that that weather was,
like most blusterers, not nearly as savage when met squarely face to
face. He learned to put on layer after layer of garments, topping off
with oilskins, sou’wester and mittens, and tramp down to the village for
the mail or to do the household errands. He was growing stronger all
the time and if the doctor could have seen him plowing through drifts or
shouldering his way through a driving rain he would have realized that
his patient was certainly obeying the order to “keep out of doors.”
 Martha Phipps was perfectly certain that her lodger was keeping out of
doors altogether too much.

“You aren’t goin’ out to-day, Mr. Bangs, are you?” she exclaimed. “It’s
as cold as the North Pole. You’ll freeze.”

Galusha smiled beneath his cap visor and between the ear-laps.

“Oh, no, indeed,” he declared. “It’s brisk and--ah--snappy, that’s all.
A smart walk will do me good. I am accustomed to walking. In Egypt I
walk a GREAT deal.”

“I don’t doubt it; but you don’t have much of this sort of weather in
Egypt, if what I’ve heard is true.”

Mr. Bangs’ smile broadened. “I fear I shall have to admit that,” he
said; “but my--ah--physician told me that a change would be good for me.
And this IS a change, now isn’t it?”

“I should say it was. About as much change as a plate of ice cream after
a cup of hot coffee. Well, if you’re bound to go, do keep walkin’ fast.
Don’t forget that it’s down to zero or thereabouts; don’t forget that
and wander over to the old cemetery and kneel down in front of a slate
tombstone and freeze to death.”

“Oh, I shall be all right, Miss Phipps. Really I shall. Don’t worry, I
beg of you.”

He had begged her not to worry on many other occasions and she had been
accustomed to answer him in a manner half joking and half serious. But
this time she did not answer at all for a moment, and when she did there
was no hint of a joke in her tone.

“No,” she said, slowly. “I won’t. I couldn’t, I guess. Don’t seem as if
I could carry any more worries just now, any more than I am carryin’, I
mean.”

She sighed as she said it and he looked at her in troubled alarm.

“Oh, dear me!” he exclaimed. “I--I’m so sorry. Sorry that you are
worried, I mean. Is there anything I can do to--to--I should be very
glad to help in any way if--”

He was hesitating, trying to say the right thing and very fearful
of saying too much, of seeming to be curious concerning her personal
affairs, when she interrupted him. She was standing by the kitchen door,
with one hand upon the knob, and she spoke without looking at him.

“There is nothin’ you or anybody can do,” she said. “And there isn’t a
single bit of use talkin’ about it. Trot along and have your walk,
Mr. Bangs. And don’t pay any attention to what I said. It was just
silliness. I get a little nervous, sometimes, but that’s no reason for
my makin’ other people that way. Have a good walk.”

He did not have a very good walk and his thoughts while walking were not
as closely centered about ancient inscriptions, either Egyptian or East
Wellmouthian, as was usually the case upon such excursions. Miss Martha
Phipps was worried, she had said so, herself. Yes, and now that he
thought of it, she looked worried. She was in trouble of some sort. A
dreadful surmise entered his mind. Was it possible that he, his presence
in her house, was the cause of her worry? He had been very insistent
that she take him as boarder and lodger. The sum he paid each week
was ridiculously small. Was it possible that, having consented to the
agreement, she had found it a losing one and was too kind-hearted and
conscientious to suggest a change? He remembered agreements which he had
made, and having made, had hesitated to break, even though they turned
out to be decidedly unprofitable and unpleasant. He had often been
talked into doing things he did not want to do, like buying the yellow
cap at Beebe’s store. Perhaps he had talked Miss Phipps into taking him
as boarder and lodger and now she was sorry.

By the time Galusha returned from his walk he was in what might be
described as a state of mind.

As he entered the Phipps’ gate he met some one coming down the path
toward it. That some one, it developed, was no less a person than Mr.
Horatio Pulcifer. Raish and Galusha had not encountered each other for
some time, weeks, in fact, and Mr. Bangs expected the former’s greeting
to be exuberant and effusive. His shoulders and his spirit were alike
shrinking in anticipation.

But Raish did not shout when he saw him, did not even shake hands, to
say nothing of thumping the little man upon the back. The broad and
rubicund face of East Wellmouth’s leading politician and dealer in
real estate wore not a grin but a frown, and when he and Galusha came
together at the gate he did not speak. Galusha spoke first, which was
unusual; very few people meeting Mr. Horatio Pulcifer were afforded the
opportunity of speaking first.

“Ah--good-morning, Mr. Pulcifer,” said Galusha, endeavoring to open the
gate.

“Huh!” grunted Raish, jerking the gate from Mr. Bangs’ hand and pushing
it somewhat violently into the Bangs’ waistcoat. “Mornin’.”

“It is a nice--ah--cool day, isn’t it?” observed Galusha, backing from
the gateway in order to give Horatio egress. Mr. Pulcifer’s answer was
irrelevant and surprising.

“Say,” he demanded, turning truculently upon the speaker, “ain’t women
hell?”

Galusha was, naturally, somewhat startled.

“I--I beg your pardon?” he stammered.

“I say ain’t women hell? Hey? Ain’t they, now?”

Galusha rubbed his chin.

“Well,” he said, doubtfully, “I presume in--ah--certain instances
they--My experience has been limited, but--”

“Humph! Say, they make me sick, most of ‘em. They haven’t any more
business sense than a hen, the heft of ‘em ain’t. Go into a deal with
their eyes open and then, when it don’t turn out to suit ‘em, lay down
and squeal. Yes, sir, squeal.”

“Ah--I see. Yes, yes, of course. Squeal--yes. The--the hens, you mean.”

“HENS? No, women. They make me sick, I tell you.... And now a lot of dum
fools are goin’ to give ‘em the right to vote! Gosh!”

He strode off along the road to the village. Galusha wonderingly gazed
after him, shook his head, and then moved slowly up the path to the
house. Primmie opened the door for him. Her eyes were snapping.

“Hello, Mr. Bangs!” she said. “I ‘most wisht he’d drop down dead and
then freeze to death in a snowbank, that’s what I wish.”

Galusha blinked.

“Why, bless my soul!” he exclaimed. “Of whom are you speaking?”

“That everlastin’ Raish Pulcifer. I never did like him, and now if he’s
comin’ around here makin’ her cry.”

“Eh? Making her cry?”

“Sshh! She’ll hear you. Makin’ Miss Martha cry. She’s up in her room
cryin’ now, I’ll bet you on it. And he’s responsible.... Yes’m, I’m
comin’. Don’t say nothin’ to her that I told you, will you, Mr. Bangs?”

She hurried away in response to her mistress’ hail. Galusha said nothing
to Miss Phipps nor to any one else, but during the rest of that day
he did a great deal of thinking. Martha Phipps was worried, she was
troubled, she had been crying; according to Primmie Horatio Pulcifer was
responsible for her tears. Galusha had never fancied Mr. Pulcifer, now
he was conscious of a most extraordinary dislike for the man. He had
never disliked any one so much in all his life, he was sure of that.
Also he was conscious of a great desire to help Martha in her trouble.
Of course there was a certain measure of relief in learning that
Pulcifer and not he was responsible for that trouble, but the relief was
a small matter in comparison with the desire to help.

He could think of but one way in which Horatio Pulcifer could cause
worry for Martha Phipps and that was in connection with some business
matter. Certain fragments of conversations occurred to him, certain
things she had said to him or to Captain Hallett in his hearing which
were of themselves sufficient to warrant the surmise that her trouble
was a financial one. He remembered them now, although at the time they
had made little impression upon his mind. But Raish Pulcifer’s name was
not mentioned in any of those conversations; Captain Jethro’s had been,
but not Raish’s. Yet Primmie vowed that the latter had made Miss Martha
cry. He determined to seek Primmie and ask for more particulars that
very evening.

But Primmie saved him the trouble of seeking her. Miss Phipps and her
maid left him alone in the sitting room as soon as supper was over and
neither came back. He could hear the murmur of voices in the kitchen,
but, although he sat up until ten o’clock, neither Primmie nor her
mistress joined him. So he reluctantly went up to his room, but had
scarcely reached it when a knock sounded on the door. He opened it, lamp
in hand.

“Why, Primmie!” he exclaimed.

Primmie waved both hands in frantic expostulation.

“Sshh! shh! shh!” she breathed. “Don’t say nothin’. I don’t want her
to hear you. PLEASE don’t let her hear you, Mr. Bangs. And PLEASE come
right downstairs again. I want to talk to you. I’ve GOT to talk with
you.”

More bewildered than he had before been, even on that bewildering day,
Galusha followed Miss Cash down the stairs, through sitting room and
dining room to the kitchen. Then Primmie put down the lamp, which she
had taken from his hand, carefully closed the door behind them, turned
to her companion and burst out crying.

“Why--why, Primmie!” exclaimed Galusha. “Oh, dear me! What is it?”

Primmie did not answer. She merely waved her hands up and down and stood
there, dripping like a wet umbrella.

“But--my soul, Primmie!” cried Mr. Bangs. “Don’t! You--you mustn’t, you
know.”

But Primmie did, nevertheless. Galusha in desperation turned toward the
door.

“I’m going to call Miss Phipps,” he declared. Primmie, the tears still
pouring down her cheeks, seized him by the arm.

“Don’t you do it!” she commanded. “Don’t you dast to do it! I’ll--I’ll
stop cryin’. I--I’m goin’ to if you’ll only wait and give me a chance.
There! There! See, I’m--I’m stoppin’ now.”

And, with one tremendous sniff and a violent rub of her hand across her
nose, stop she did. But she was still the complete picture of misery.

“Why, what IS the matter?” demanded Galusha.

Primmie sniffed once more, gulped, and then blurted forth the
explanation.

“She--she’s canned me,” she said.

Galusha looked at her uncomprehendingly. Primmie’s equipment of Cape Cod
slang and idiom, rather full and complete of itself, had of late been
amplified and complicated by a growing acquaintance with the new driver
of the grocery cart, a young man of the world who had spent two hectic
years in Brockton, where, for a portion of the time, he worked in a shoe
factory. But Galusha Bangs, not being a man of the world, was not up in
slang; he did not understand.

“What?” he asked.

“I say she’s canned me. Miss Martha has, I mean. Oh, ain’t it awful!”

“Canned you? Really, I--”

“Yes, yes, yes! Canned me, fired me. Oh, DON’T stand there owlin’ at
me like that! Can’t you see, I--Oh, please, Mr. Bangs, excuse me for
talkin’ so. I--I didn’t mean to be sassy. I’m just kind of loony, I
guess. Please excuse me, Mr. Bangs.”

“Yes, yes, Primmie, of course--of course. Don’t cry, that’s all.
But what is this? Do I understand you to say that Miss Phipps
has--ah--DISCHARGED you?”

“Um-hm. That’s what she’s done. I’m canned. And I don’t know where to go
and--and I don’t want to go anywheres else. I want to stay here along of
her.”

She burst into tears again. It was some time before Galusha could calm
her sufficiently to get the story of what had happened. When told,
flavored with the usual amount of Primmieisms, it amounted to this:
Martha had helped her with the supper dishes and then, instead of going
into the sitting room, had asked her to sit down as she had something
particular to say to her. Primmie obediently sat and her mistress did
likewise.

“But she didn’t begin to say it right off,” said Primmie. “She started
four or five times afore she really got a-goin’. She said that what
she’d got to say was dreadful unpleasant and was just as hard for her to
say as ‘twould be for me to hear. And she said I could be sartin’ sure
she’d never say it if ‘twan’t absolutely necessary and that she hadn’t
made up her mind to say it until she’d laid awake night after night
tryin’ to think of some other way out, but that, try as she could, she
didn’t see no other way. And so then--so then she said it. Oh, my savin’
soul! I declare I never thought--”

“Hush, hush, Primmie. Ah--control yourself, please. You promised not to
cry, you know.”

“Cry! Well, ain’t I tryin’ not to cry, for mercy sakes? She was cryin’,
too, I tell you, afore she finished. If you’d seen the pair of us
settin’ there bellerin’ like a couple of young ones I cal’late you’d a
thought so.”

“Bellowing? Miss Phipps?”

“Oh, I don’t mean bellerin’ out loud like a--like a heifer. I guess
likely I was doin’ that, but she wan’t. She was just cryin’ quiet, you
know, but anybody could see how terrible bad she was feelin’. And then
she said it--oh, dear, dear! How CAN I tell it? How CAN I?”

Galusha groaned, in harassed desperation.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, “But I--really I wish you would.”

Miss Phipps had, it seemed, told her maidservant that, owing to the
steadily increasing cost of living, of food and clothes and every item
of daily expense, she was finding it more and more hard to get along.
She said her income was very small and her bills continually growing
larger. She had cut and scrimped in every possible way, hoping against
hope, but at last she had been driven to the point where even the small
wage she was paying Primmie seemed more than she could afford. Much as
she hated to do it, she felt compelled to let the girl go.

“She said she’d help me get another place,” said Primmie, “and that I
could stay here until I did get one, and all sorts of things like that.
I told her I didn’t want no other place and I didn’t care a bit about
the wages. I said I’d rather work here without a cent of wages. She said
no, she wouldn’t let me do that. If she couldn’t pay me I couldn’t work
here. I said I could and I should and she said I couldn’t and shouldn’t.
And--and we both cried and--and that’s the way it ended. And that’s why
I come to you, Mr. Bangs. I CAN’T go away and leave her. I CAN’T, Mr.
Bangs. She can’t keep this whole house a-goin’ without somebody to help.
I’ve GOT to stay. You make her keep me, Mr. Bangs. I don’t want no pay
for it. I never was no hand to care for money, anyhow. Pa used to say I
wan’t. None of our folks was. Matter of that, we never had none to care
for. But you make her keep me, Mr. Bangs.”

She began to sob once more. Poor Galusha was very much distressed. The
cause of Martha Phipps’ worry was plain enough now. And her financial
stress must be very keen indeed to cause her to take such drastic action
as the discharge of Primmie the faithful.

“You’ll make her keep me, won’t you, Mr. Bangs?” pleaded Primmie, once
more.

Galusha rubbed his chin. “Dear me,” he said, perplexedly, “I--Well, I
shall be glad to do all I can, of course, but how I can make her keep
you when she has made up her mind not to, I--really, I don’t see.
You don’t think, do you,” he added, “that my being here is in any way
responsible for a portion of Miss Phipps’ financial trouble? You don’t
think it might be--ah--easier for her if I was to--ah--go?”

Primmie shook her head. “Oh, no, no,” she declared, with decision, “You
ain’t a mite of bother, Mr. Bangs. I’ve heard Miss Martha say more’n a
dozen times what a nice man you was and how easy ‘twas to provide
for you. She likes you, Miss Martha does, and I do, too. Even when we
thought you was an undertaker huntin’ ‘round for remains we liked you
just the same.”

Galusha could not help feeling a certain satisfaction in this
whole-hearted declaration. It was pleasant to learn that he was liked
and that his hostess considered him a nice man.

“Thank you, Primmie,” he said. “But what I meant was--was--Well, I
pay what seems to me a ridiculously small sum for board and lodging. I
begged to be allowed to pay more, but Miss Phipps wouldn’t permit it.
Now I am sure she must be losing money in the transaction and if I were
to go--ah--elsewhere perhaps it might be--ah--easier for her. Candidly,
don’t you think so, Primmie?”

Miss Cash appeared to consider. Then she shook her head again. “No,” she
said, “I don’t. You pay your board and I’ve heard her say more’n once
that she felt as if you was payin’ too much. No, ‘tain’t that. It’s
more’n that. It ain’t anything to do really with you or me, Mr. Bangs.
Miss Martha’s lost some money somehow, I believe. She ain’t got enough
to get along on, ‘cause she told me she hadn’t. Now, she used to have
and I believe she’s lost some of it somewheres. And I believe that--”

Galusha felt it his duty to interrupt.

“Primmie,” he continued, “you mustn’t tell me anything which Miss Phipps
wouldn’t wish told. I wouldn’t for the world have you think that I am
unduly curious concerning her personal affairs. If there is any trait
which I--ah--detest above others it is that of unwarranted curiosity
concerning the--ah--private affairs of one’s acquaintances. I... Why do
you look at me like that? Were you about to speak?”

Primmie was staring at him in what seemed to be awe-stricken admiration.
She drew a long breath.

“My Lord of Isrul!” she exclaimed, fervently, “I never heard anybody
string talk along the way you can in all my born days, Mr. Bangs. I bet
you’ve said as many as seven words already that I never heard afore,
never heard ary one of ‘em, I ain’t. Education’s wonderful, ain’t it? Pa
used to say ‘twas, but all he had he picked up off fishin’ and clammin’
and cranberrin’ and around. All our family had a kind of picked-up
education, seemed so.”

“Yes, yes, Primmie, but--”

“But why don’t I mind my own business and stick to what I was goin’ to
say, you mean? All right, I will. I was goin’ to say that I believe Miss
Martha’s lost money somehow and I believe that dressed-up stuffed image
of a Raish Pulcifer is responsible for her losin’ it, that’s what I
believe.”

“Mr. Pulcifer! Why, Primmie, why do you say that? What proof have you?”

“Ain’t got no proof. If folks could get proof on Raish Pulcifer he’d
have been in jail long ago. Zach Bloomer said that only the other day.
But a body can guess, can’t they, even if they ain’t got proof, and
that’s what I’m doin’--guessin’. Every once in a while Miss Martha goes
up to the village to see this Pulcifer thing, don’t she? Yes, she does.
Went up twice inside of a fortni’t that I know of. Does she go ‘cause
she likes him? I cal’late she don’t. She likes him about the way I do
and I ain’t got no more use for him than a hen has for a toothbrush. And
t’other day she sent for him and asked him to come here and see her. How
do I know she did? ‘Cause she telephoned him and I heard her doin’ it,
that’s how. And he didn’t want to come and she just begged him to, said
she would try not to bother him again if he would come that once. And he
came and after he went away she cried, same as I told you she did.”

“But, Primmie, all that may be and yet Mr. Pulcifer’s visit may have no
connection with Miss Martha’s monetary trouble.”

“I want to know! Well, if that’s so, why was she and him talkin’ so hard
when he was here this afternoon? And why was she askin’ him to please
see if he couldn’t get some sort of an offer? I heard her ask that.”

“Offer for what?”

“Search me! For somethin’ she wanted to sell, I presume likely. And he
says to her, ‘No, I can’t,’ he says. ‘I’ve told you so a dozen times.
If I could get anybody to buy I’d sell my own, wouldn’t I? You bet your
life I would!’ And she waited a minute and then she says, kind of low
and more as if she was talkin’ to herself than to him, ‘What SHALL I
do?’ she says. And he heard her and says he--I’d like to have chopped
his head off with the kindlin’ hatchet when I heard him say it--says he,
‘_I_ don’t know. How do you s’pose _I_ know what you’ll do? I don’t know
what I’ll do, myself, do I?’ And she answered right off, and kind of
sharp, ‘You was sure enough what was goin’ to be done when you got
father into this thing.’ And he just swore and stomped out of the house.
So THAT sounds as if he had somethin’ to do with it, don’t it?”

Galusha was obliged to admit that it did so sound. And when he
remembered Mr. Pulcifer’s remark at the gate, that concerning women
and business, the evidence was still more convincing. He did not tell
Primmie that he was convinced, however. He swore her to secrecy, made
her promise that she would tell no one else what she had told him or
even that she had told him, and in return promised to do what he could
to bring about her retention in the Phipps’ home.

“Although, as I said, Primmie,” he added, “I’m sure I can’t at present
see what I can do.”

Another person might have found little encouragement in this, but
Primmie apparently found a good deal.

“You’ll see a way, I’ll bet you you will, Mr. Bangs,” she declared.
“Anybody that’s been through the kind of times you have, livin’ along
with critters that steal the shirt off your back, ain’t goin’ to let
a blowed-up gas balloon like Raish Pulcifer stump you. My savin’ soul,
no!”

Mr. Bangs smiled faintly.

“The shirt wasn’t on my back when it was stolen,” he said.

Primmie sniffed. “It didn’t have no chance to be,” she declared. “That
camel thing got it onto HIS back first. But, anyhow, I feel better. I
think now we’re goin’ to come out all right, Miss Martha and me. I don’t
know why I feel so, but I do.”

Galusha was by no means as confident. He went back to his room and to
bed, but it was long before he fell asleep. Just why the thought of
Martha Phipps’ trouble should trouble him so greatly he still did
not understand, exactly. Of course he was always sorry for any one in
trouble, and would have gone far out of his way to help such a person,
had the latter appealed to him. But Martha had not appealed to him; as a
matter of fact, it was evident that she was trying to keep knowledge
of her difficulty from him and every one else. Plainly it was not his
business at all. And yet he was filled with an intense desire, even a
determination, to make it his business. He could not understand why, but
he wasted no time trying to understand. The determination to help was
strong when at last he did fall asleep and it was just as strong when he
awoke the next morning.



CHAPTER IX


He endeavored, while dressing, to map out a plan of campaign, but
the map was but a meaningless whirligig of lines leading nowhere when
Primmie called from the foot of the stairs that breakfast was ready.
During breakfast he was more absent-minded than usual, which is saying a
good deal, and Martha herself was far from communicative. After the
meal he was putting on his hat and coat preparatory to going out for his
usual walk when Primmie came hurrying through the hall.

“She wants you,” said Primmie, mysteriously, her eyes shining with
excitement. “She wants to see you in the settin’ room. Come on, come on,
Mr. Bangs! What are you waitin’ for?”

As a general rule Galusha’s thoughts started upon the morning ramble
some little time before he did and recalling them was a rather slow and
patience-taxing process. In this case, however, they were already in the
sitting room with Martha Phipps and so had a shorter road home. But they
came slowly enough, for all that.

“Eh?” queried Galusha, peering out between the earlaps of his cap. “Eh?
What did you say, Primmie?”

“I say Miss Martha wants to see you a minute. She’s in there a-waitin’.
I bet you she’s goin’ to tell you about it. Hurry! hurry!”

“Tell me?... About what?”

“Why, about what ‘tis that’s worryin’ her so. About that Raish Pulcifer
and all the rest of it.... Oh, my Lord of Isrul! Don’t you understand
NOW? Oh, Mr. Bangs, won’t you PLEASE wake up?”

But Galusha was beginning to understand.

“Dear me! Dear me!” he exclaimed, nervously. “Do you think that--Did she
say she wished to see me, Primmie?”

“Ain’t I been tellin’ you she did? Now you talk right up to her, Mr.
Bangs. You tell her I don’t want no wages. Tell her I’ll stay right
along same as ever and--You TELL her, Mr. Bangs.”

Martha was standing by the stove in the sitting room when her lodger
entered. She turned to greet him.

“I don’t know as I’m doin’ right to keep you from your walk, Mr. Bangs,”
 she said. “And I won’t keep you very long. But I did want to talk with
you for just a minute or two. I wanted to ask your advice about--about a
business matter.”

Now this was very funny indeed. It would have been hard to find a richer
joke than the idea of consulting Galusha Bangs concerning a matter of
business. But both parties to this consultation were too serious to see
the joke at that moment.

Galusha nodded solemnly. He faltered something about being highly
honored and only too glad to be of service. His landlady thanked him.

“Yes,” she said, “I knew you would be. And, as I say, I won’t keep you
very long. Sit down, Mr. Bangs. Oh, not in that straight up-and-down
thing. Here, in the rocker.”

Galusha lifted himself from the edge of the straight-backed chair upon
which he had perched and sat upon the edge of the rocking-chair instead.
Martha looked at him sitting there, his collar turned up, his cap brim
and earlaps covering two thirds of his face and his spectacles at least
half of the remaining third, his mittened hands twitching nervously in
his lap, and, in spite of her feelings, could not help smiling. But it
was a fleeting smile.

“Take off your things, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “You’ll roast alive if you
don’t. It’s warm in here. Primmie forgot and left the dampers open and
the stove was pretty nearly red-hot when I came in just now. Yes, take
off your overcoat and cap, and those mittens, for mercy sakes.”

Galusha declared that he didn’t mind the mittens and the rest, but she
insisted and he hastily divested himself of his wrappings, dropping
them upon the floor as the most convenient repository and being greatly
fussed when Miss Phipps picked them up and laid them on the table.

“I--I beg your pardon,” he stammered. “Really, I DON’T know why I am
so thoughtless. I--I should be--ah--hanged or something, I think. Then
perhaps I wouldn’t do it again.”

Martha shook her head. “You probably wouldn’t in that case,” she said.
“Now, Mr. Bangs, I’m going to try to get at that matter I wanted to
ask your opinion about. Do you know anything about stocks--stockmarket
stocks, I mean?”

Her lodger looked rather bewildered.

“Dear me, no; not a thing,” he declared.

She did not look greatly disappointed.

“I didn’t suppose you did,” she said. “You--well, you don’t look like
a man who would know much about such things. And from what I’ve seen
of you, goodness knows, you don’t ACT like one! Perhaps I shouldn’t say
that,” she added, hastily. “I didn’t mean it just as it sounded.”

“Oh, that’s all right, that’s all right, Miss Phipps. I know I am
a--ah--donkey in most matters.”

“You’re a long way from bein’ a donkey, Mr. Bangs. And I didn’t say
you were, of course. But--oh, well, never mind that. So you don’t know
anything about stocks and investments and such?”

“No, I don’t. I am awfully sorry. But--but, you see, all that sort of
thing is so very distasteful to me. It bores me--ah--dreadfully. And so
I--I dodge it whenever I can.”

Martha sighed. “Some of the rest of us would like to dodge it, too,” she
said, “if we only could. And yet--” she paused and regarded him with the
odd expression she had worn more than once when he puzzled her--“and yet
I--I just can’t make you out, Mr. Bangs. You say you don’t know anything
about money and managin’ money, and yet those Egypt trips of yours must
cost a lot of money. And somebody must manage them. SOMEBODY must ‘tend
to payin’ the bills and the wages and all. Who does that?”

Galusha smiled. “Why, I do,” he admitted, “after a fashion. But it is a
very poor fashion. I almost never--I think I may safely say never come
in from one of those trips without having exceeded the--ah--estimate of
expenses. I always exceed it more or less--generally more.”

He smiled again. She looked more puzzled than ever.

“But some one has to pay the extra, don’t they?” she asked. “Who does
pay it, the museum people?”

“Why--ah--no, not exactly. It is--ah--ah--generally provided. But,” he
added, rather hastily, as if afraid she might ask more questions along
this line, “if I might make a suggestion, Miss Martha--Miss Phipps, I
mean--”

“Plain Martha will do well enough. I think you’re the only one in
East Wellmouth that calls me anything else. Of course you can make a
suggestion. Go ahead.”

“Well--ah--well, Miss Phipps--ah--Miss Martha, since you permit me to
call you so.... What is it?”

“Oh, nothin’, nothin’. I was goin’ to say that the ‘Miss’ wasn’t
necessary, but never mind. Go on.”

“Well--ah--Mar--ah--Miss Martha, I was about to suggest that you tell me
what you intended telling me. I am very anxious to help--ah--even if I
can’t, you know. Only I beg of you not to think I am actuated by idle
curiosity.”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Even if you were I don’t know that I shouldn’t want to tell you, just
the same,” she observed. “The fact is I’ve just GOT to talk this over
with some one. Mr. Bangs, I am so worried I don’t know what to do. It is
a money matter, of course, that’s worryin’ me, an investment father made
a little while before he died. Mr. Bangs, I don’t suppose it’s likely
that you ever heard of the Wellmouth Development Company? No, of course
you haven’t.”

And yet, as she looked into her lodger’s face, she was surprised at its
expression.

“Why, you never have heard of it, have you?” she demanded.

Galusha stroked his chin. “That day in the cemetery,” he murmured. “That
day when I was--ah--behind the tomb and heard Captain Hallett and Mr.
Pulcifer speaking. I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that they
mentioned the name of--ah--ah--”

“The Development Company? Of course they did and you told me so when you
got home. I remember now. Well, Cap’n Jeth and Raish were both mixed up
in it along with father. Yes, and Doctor Powers and a lot more, though
not so much. Raish, of course, was at the back of it in the beginnin’.
He got ‘em all in it, got himself into it, as far as that goes. You see,
it was this way.”

She told the story of the Wellmouth Development Company. It--the
story--began when the Eagle Fish Freezing Company of Denboro, a concern
then running and operating one large cold storage plant in that village,
were looking about for a favorable spot upon which to build a second.
The spot which appealed to their mind to purchase was the property at
the mouth of Skoonic Creek in East Wellmouth.

“It’s a real pretty place,” said Martha, “one of the prettiest spots
alongshore, and the view from the top of the bluff there is just
lovely. You can see miles and miles out to sea and all up and down the
shore--and back over the village, for that matter. But, come to think of
it, you know the place, Mr. Bangs. It’s only a little way from the old
Baptist buryin’ ground.”

Galusha nodded. “Isn’t it where my--ah--late lamented hat set sail?” he
asked.

“Why, of course it is. Just there. Well, the Eagle Fish folks made their
plans to buy all that property, the hills on both sides, and the low
land down by the creek. It was just the place for ‘em, you see. And they
were quietly makin’ arrangements to pick up the different parcels of
land from the owners here and there, when Raish Pulcifer got wind of it.
There’s precious little goin’ on down this part of the Cape that Raish
doesn’t get wind of, particularly if it’s somebody else’s secret. He’s
got a reg’lar pig’s nose for rootin’ up other people’s private concerns.
Well, Raish found out what the Eagle Company was up to and he started
bein’ up to somethin’ himself.”

Mr. Pulcifer, so Miss Phipps went on to say, conceived the idea of
buying the Skoonic Creek property before the Eagle Company could do so.
The principal difficulty was that just then his own limited capital was
tied up in various ways and he lacked ready money. So, being obliged to
borrow, he sought out Captain Hallett, got the shrewd old light keeper’s
cupidity aroused--not a very difficult task at any time--and Captain
Jethro agreed to help finance the deal.

“It didn’t need a whole lot of real money,” explained Martha. “Most
folks that owned that land had owned it for mercy knows how long and had
done nothin’ but pay taxes on it, so they were glad enough to sell for
somethin’ down to bind what Raish and Jethro called ‘options.’ Anyhow,
when the Eagle people finally started in to put their grand plan into
workin’, they bumped bows on into a shoal, at least that’s the way
father used to tell about it. They found that all that Skoonic Creek
land was in the hands of Raish Pulcifer and Cap’n Jeth Hallett; those
two either owned it outright or had options where they didn’t own.”

At first the Eagle Company declined to have anything to do with the new
owners. They declared the whole affair off, so far as the Skoonic
Creek location was concerned, and announced their intention of going
elsewhere. But there was no sufficiently attractive “elsewhere” to go.
There followed much proposing and counter-proposing and, at last, an
entirely new deal. A new corporation was formed, its name The Wellmouth
Development Company.

“I don’t know a great deal about it,” confessed Martha, “that is, not
about the reasons for it and all, but, as near as I can make out, Raish
and Jethro wouldn’t sell outright to the Eagle Company, but wanted to
come in on the profits from the cold storage business, which were
pretty big sometimes. And they couldn’t get into the reg’lar Eagle Fish
Freezing Company, the old one. So they and the Eagle folks together
undertook to form this new thing, the Development Company, the name
meanin’ nothin’ or a whole lot, ‘cordin’ to how the development
developed, I presume likely. The capital stock--I know all this because
Cap’n Jethro and father used to talk it over so much between ‘em and
Cap’n Jeth and I have talked so much since--was fifty thousand. An awful
lot of money, isn’t it, Mr. Bangs?”

Her tone was awe-stricken as she mentioned the amount. Galusha gravely
admitted that it was an “awful lot of money.” All sums were awful to
him; he would have agreed if the Wellmouth Development Company had been
capitalized from one thousand to a million. Miss Phipps went on.

“They put out the stock somethin’ like this: The Eagle folks took pretty
near half, somewhere around twelve hundred shares, I think they had.
And Raish he took five hundred shares, and Cap’n Jeth four hundred, and
father--after listenin’ to Jethro and Raish talk about dividends and
profit sharin’ and such till, as he said, the tar on his top riggin’
began to melt, he drew out money from the savin’s bank and sold some
other bonds and stocks he had and went in for two hundred and fifty
shares. Twenty dollars a share it was; did I tell you that? Yes, five
thousand dollars father put into that Development Company. It seemed
like a lot even then; but, my soul and body, WHAT a lot it seems to me
now!”

She paused for an instant, then sighed, and continued.

“If you’ve figured this all out in your head, Mr. Bangs,” she said,
“which I suppose you haven’t--?”

Galusha, surprised by the direct question, started, colored, and
guiltily admitted the correctness of her supposition.

“I--I haven’t,” he faltered. “Dear me, no. In fact I--ah--doubt if I am
capable of doing such a thing.”

“Well, never mind, you don’t have to. What it amounted to was that the
Eagle folks had twelve hundred shares and Raish and Jeth and father had
eleven hundred and fifty together. You see, neither side would let the
other have more’n half, or even quite half, because then whichever had
it could control things. So the remainin’ one hundred and fifty shares
was sold around Wellmouth and Trumet. Doctor Powers has a few shares
and Eben Taylor’s got some, and so have lots of folks, scattered around
here. You see, all hands were anxious to get in, it looked like a real
good investment.

“‘But,’ says father--right here in this very room I heard him say it
one night--‘it’s that one hundred and fifty shares that worry me. If
the Eagle crowd ever COULD buy up those shares they would control, after
all, and freeze us out. Freezin’ is their business, anyhow,’ he said,
and laughed that big laugh of his. Seems as if I could hear him laugh
now. Ah, hum!... But there, let’s get under way again or you’ll go to
sleep before the ship makes port. I declare, that was father’s word,
too, I’m always quotin’ him.... Let me see.... Oh, yes.... When father
said that about the one hundred and fifty shares controllin’ Cap’n
Jethro looked at Raish and Raish looked at him. Then Raish laughed, too,
only his laugh isn’t much like father’s.

“‘_I_ got those extra shares taken up,’ he said, ‘and I was particular
who took ‘em. There’s mighty few of those shares will be sold unless
I say the word. Most of the folks that bought those shares are under
consider’ble obligation to me.’ Just what he meant by that I don’t know,
of course, but I can guess. Raish makes it a point to have people
under what he calls ‘obligations’ to him. It comes in handy for him, in
politics and other ways, to have ‘em that way. He lends money and holds
mortgages and all that, and that’s where the obligations come in....
Well, anyhow, that’s what he said and, although father didn’t look any
too happy at the time and wouldn’t talk about it afterward, it seemed
to settle the objection about the hundred and fifty shares. So the new
company got under way, the stockholders paid their money in, old Cap’n
Ebenezer Thomas of Denboro was made president and Raish Pulcifer was
vice president and Judge Daniel Seaver of Wellmouth Centre was secretary
and treasurer. The Judge was Wellmouth Centre’s biggest gun, rich--at
least, that’s what everybody thought then--and pompous and dignified and
straight-backed as an old-fashioned church pew.

“Well, I’m pretty near to the end, although it may not seem that way.
For the first few months all hands were talkin’ about what great things
the Wellmouth Development Company was goin’ to do. Then Judge Seaver
gave ‘em somethin’ else to talk about. He shot himself one night, and
they found him dead and all alone in the sittin’ room of his big house.
And when they came to look over his papers and affairs they found that,
instead of bein’ rich, he hadn’t a cent in the world. He had lost all
his own money gamblin’ in stocks, and, not only that, but he’d lost all
that other folks had given him to take care of. He was treasurer of the
Eagle Fish Freezin’ Company and he’d stolen there until that company had
to fail. And, bein’ secretary and treasurer of the Wellmouth Development
Company, he had sent the fifty thousand its stockholders paid in after
the rest of his stealin’s. All there was left of that new Development
Company was the land over here by Skoonic Creek. He couldn’t steal that
very well, although, when you think of the stealin’ he did do, it’s a
wonder he hadn’t tried to carry it off by the wheelbarrow load.

“It isn’t worth while my tellin’ you all the hullabaloo that came after
the smash. It would take too long and I don’t know the ins and outs of
it, anyway. But the way it stands now is this: The Eagle Fish Freezin’
Company is out of business. Their factory is run now by another concern
altogether. The Wellmouth Development Company is still alive--at least
it’s supposed to be, but nobody but a doctor could tell it wasn’t
dead. The Denboro Trust Company has the Eagle Company’s twelve hundred
shares--I don’t know how it got ‘em; a long snarled-up tangle of loans,
and security for loans, and I don’t know what--and the rest of us have
got ours. All that’s back of those shares--all that the Development
Company owns--is that Skoonic Creek property and that is goin’ to be
worth a lot some day--maybe. But I guess likely the some day will be a
long, long time after MY day. There, Mr. Bangs, that’s the story of the
Wellmouth Development Company. And I presume likely you’re wonderin’ why
I tell it to you.”

Galusha, who had been faithfully endeavoring to grasp the details of
his hostess’ narrative, passed a hand in bewildered fashion across his
forehead. He murmured that the story was--ah--very interesting, very
interesting indeed--yes. Martha smiled faintly.

“I’m glad you think so,” she said. “It is interestin’ enough to some of
us here in Wellmouth, those of us who have our money tied up in it, but
I shouldn’t think a stranger would find much in it to amuse him.
But, you see, Mr. Bangs, I didn’t tell it to amuse you. I told it
because--because--well, because, I--I wondered if in any way you knew,
or could find out, how I could sell my two hundred and fifty shares.
You see, I--I’ve GOT to sell ‘em. At least, I’ve got to get more money
somehow or--or give up this house. And I can’t tell you what it would
mean to me to do that.”

Galusha murmured something, something meant to be sympathetic. Miss
Phipps’ evident distress and mental agitation moved him extraordinarily.
He wanted to say many things, reassuring things, but he could not at the
moment think of any. The best he could do was to stammer a hope that she
would not be obliged to sell the house.

She shook her head. “I’m afraid I shall,” she said. “I don’t see how
I can possibly keep it much longer. When father died he left me, so he
thought, with enough income to get along on. It wasn’t much--fact is, it
was mighty little--but we could and did get along on it, Primmie and
I, without touchin’ my principal. But then came the war and ever since
livin’ costs have been goin’ up and up and up. Now my income is the same
as it was, but what it will buy is less than half. It doesn’t cost much
to live down here, but I’m afraid it costs more than I can afford. If I
begin to take away from my principal I’ll have to keep on doin’ it and
pretty soon that will be all gone. After that--well, I don’t want to
look any further than that. I shouldn’t starve, I presume likely; while
I’ve got hands I can work and I’d manage to keep alive, if that was all.
But it isn’t all. I’d like to keep on livin’ in my own home. And I can’t
do that, Mr. Bangs. I can’t do that, as things are now. I must either
get some more money somehow, or sell this house, one or the other.”

Galusha leaned eagerly forward. He had been waiting for an excuse and
now he believed he saw one.

“Oh, Miss Phipps,” he cried, “I--I think I can arrange that. I do
indeed. You see, I have--ah--more money than I need. I seldom spend my
money, you know, and--”

She interrupted him and her tone was rather sharp.

“Don’t, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “Don’t say any more. If you’ve got the
idea that I’m hintin’ for you to LEND me money--you or anybody else--you
never was more mistaken in your life. Or ever will be.”

Galusha turned red. “I beg your pardon,” he faltered. “Of course I know
you were not hinting, Miss Martha. I--I didn’t dream of such a thing. It
was merely a thought of my own. You see, it would be such a favor to me
if you would permit me to--to--”

“Don’t.”

“But, Miss Phipps, it would be doing me such a GREAT favor. Really, it
would.”

He was so very much in earnest that, in spite of her own stress of mind,
she could not help smiling.

“A great favor to help you get rid of your money?” she asked. “You
havin’ such a tremendous lot of it, I presume likely.”

“Yes--ah--yes, that’s it, that’s it.”

Her smile broadened. “And ‘twas because you were so dreadfully rich that
you came here to East Wellmouth to live, I suppose. Mr. Bangs, you’re
the kindest, best-hearted man that ever stepped, I do believe, but truly
I doubt if you know whether you’re worth ten dollars or ten hundred.
And it doesn’t make the least difference, so far as I am concerned. I’ll
never borrow money while I’m alive and I’ll try to keep enough one side
to bury me after I’m dead. So don’t say any more about lendin’. That’s
settled.”

Galusha reluctantly realized that it was. He tried a new idea.

“I fear,” he stammered, “that my being here may have been a contributory
cause to your--ah--difficulties. Dear me, yes! I have realized since the
beginning that the amount I pay you is ridiculously small.”

“WHAT? The board you pay SMALL? Rubbish! You pay me altogether too much
and what I give you to eat isn’t worth half of it. But there, I didn’t
mean to go into all this at all. What I told you all this long rigmarole
for was to see if you could think of any way for me to turn those
Development Company shares of mine into money. Not what father paid
for them, of course, or even half of it. But SOME money at least. If I
thought they weren’t worth anything I shouldn’t think of tryin’ to sell
‘em. I don’t want to cheat--or steal. But they tell me they are worth
somethin’, maybe will be worth quite a good deal some day and I must
wait, that’s all. But, you see, that’s what I can’t do--wait.”

She had been, she said, to every one she could think of, to Pulcifer,
who would not give her any encouragement, declaring that he was “stuck”
 worse than she was and was only hoping some one might make a bid for his
holdings; to Captain Jethro, who, relying as usual upon his revelations
from the beyond, blandly told her to wait as he was waiting. It had been
communicated to him that he was to sell his own shares at a profit; if
she waited she might do likewise. The president of the Denboro Trust
Company had been very kind, but his counsel was not too encouraging.
The Development shares were nonsalable at the present time, he said, but
that did not mean that they were valueless. The Skoonic Creek property
was good. Shore land on the Cape was becoming more valuable every year.
Some time--perhaps ten years from now--she might--

“And where will I be in ten years?” asked Martha, sadly. “Goodness
knows, Mr. Bangs, I don’t. I tried to get the Trust Company man to take
my shares at almost any price and do the waitin’ for me, but he didn’t
see it that way. Said the bank was goin’ to hold on to what it had, but
it certainly didn’t want any more. So there I am.... And yet, and yet if
I COULD sell--if I COULD get two thousand dollars, yes, or even fifteen
hundred just now, it might tide me over until the cost of livin’ comes
down. And everybody says they ARE comin’ down. Mr. Bangs, can you see
any way out for me? Can you think of any one who would know about--Oh,
my soul and body! Look OUT!”

She sprang to her feet with a little scream. Her lodger’s rocking-chair,
with its occupant, had suddenly tilted over backward. Fortunately his
proximity to the wall had prevented a complete overturn, but there sat
Galusha, the back of the chair against the wall and his knees elevated
at a very acute angle. The alarming part of it was that he made no
effort to regain his equilibrium, but remained in the unusual, not to
say undignified, posture.

“What IS the matter?” demanded Miss Phipps, seizing him by the arm and
pulling him forward. “What was it? What happened?”

Galusha’s face was beaming. His eyes shone with excitement.

“It--it struck me at that moment,” he cried. “At that very moment.”

“Struck you?” Miss Phipps looked about the room. “What struck you?
Where? Are you hurt?”

Mr. Bangs’ beaming smile broadened.

“I mean the idea struck me,” he declared. “Dear me, how odd that it
didn’t do so before. Yes, he is exactly the right person. Exactly. Oh,
dear me, this is VERY good!”

Martha said afterward that she never in her life felt more like shaking
a person.

“What do you mean?” she demanded. “What was it that struck you?”

“Why, Cousin Gussie,” announced Galusha, happily. “Don’t you see? He
will be EXACTLY the one.”



CHAPTER X


When, at last--and it took some time--Martha Phipps was actually
convinced that her lodger’s “Cousin Gussie” was no less a person than
the senior partner of the famous banking firm of Cabot, Bancroft and
Cabot, she was almost as excited as he.

“Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot,” she repeated. “Why, everybody knows about
them! They are the biggest bankers in New England. I have heard father
say so ever so many times. And this Mr. Cabot, is he really your
cousin?”

Galusha nodded. “Oh, yes,” he said. “He is my cousin--really he is. I
have always called him Cousin Gussie; that is,” he added, “except when I
worked for him, of course. Then he didn’t like to have me.”

“Worked for him?”

“Yes, in his office, in the--ah--banking house, you know.”

“Do you mean to say you used to work for Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot? Were
you a banker?”

Galusha shook his head. “No,” he said. “Dear me, no! But once I tried to
be.”

“Oh! And you gave it up?”

“_I_ was given up--as a bad job. If you don’t mind,” he added,
apologetically, “I’d rather not talk about that. I’ve gotten over it
a long while ago, or I thought I had, but for a time I--I felt very
badly--ah--ungrateful, you know.”

Martha didn’t know, nor did she in the least understand, but she did
not, of course, press the subject.

“Why, I can hardly believe it,” she said. “That about your bein’ that
Mr. Cabot’s cousin, I mean. But of course I do believe it, if you say
so, Mr. Bangs. And you think he would tell me what to do with this
Development stock of mine, whether it is worth anything or not? He would
know, if anybody did, that’s a fact.”

Galusha nodded assent.

“He knows all about everything,” he declared; “everything of that kind,
I mean. He is used to making all sorts of--ah--investments for people,
and taking care of their money, and all that sort of thing. Why,” he
added, as a final clincher, “he takes care of all my money, really, he
does.”

Miss Phipps laughed.

“And that I suppose is enough to keep one man busy,” she observed.

Galusha was too much in earnest to notice the sarcasm.

“I’m sure it must be,” he said. “I never could do it myself.”

“I can believe that without any trouble. Now what is your idea, Mr.
Bangs; to write to your cousin, tell him everything I’ve told you, and
then ask his advice? Is that it?”

That was not exactly it, apparently. Galusha thought that perhaps he
might go to Boston forthwith, on the very next train, and consult Cousin
Gussie in person. But Martha did not think this advisable.

“I certainly shouldn’t put you to all that trouble,” she said. “No,
I shouldn’t, so please don’t let’s waste time arguin’ about it. And,
besides, I think a letter would be a great deal better.”

Galusha said that a letter was so slow.

“Maybe so, but it is sure. Truly now, Mr. Bangs, do you believe if you
went to your cousin that you could tell him this Development Company
yarn without gettin’ it all tangled up? I doubt if you could.”

He reflected for a moment, and then ruefully shook his head.

“I’m afraid you are right,” he admitted. “I presume I could learn
it--ah--by rote, perhaps, but I doubt if ever I could understand it
thoroughly.”

“Well, never mind. My plan would be to have you write your cousin a
letter givin’ him all the particulars. I’ll help you write the letter,
if you’ll let me. And we’ll ask him to write right back and tell us two
things: Number One--Is the Development stock worth anything, and what?
Number Two--If it is worth anything, can he sell it for that? What do
you think of that idea?”

Naturally, Galusha thought it a wonderful idea. He was very enthusiastic
about it.

“Why, Miss Phipps--Miss Martha, I mean,” he declared, “I really think
we--ah--may consider your troubles almost at an end. I shouldn’t be
in the least surprised if Cousin Gussie bought that stock of yours
himself.”

Martha smiled, faintly. “I should,” she said, “be very much surprised.
But perhaps he may know some one who will buy it at some price or
other. And, no matter whether they do or not, I am ever and ever so much
obliged to you, Mr. Bangs, for all your patience and sympathy.”

And, in spite of her professed pessimism she could not help feeling a
bit more hopeful, even sharing a bit of her lodger’s confidence. And so
when Primmie, in tears, came again that afternoon to beg to be retained
in service, Martha consented to try to maintain the present arrangement
for a few weeks more, at least.

“Although the dear land knows I shouldn’t, Primmie,” she said. “It’s
just postponin’ what is almost sure to come, and that isn’t right for
either of us.”

Primmie’s grin extended from ear to ear.

“You bet you it’s right for one of us, Miss Martha,” she declared.
“And you ain’t the one, neither. My Lord of Isrul, if I don’t feel some
better’n I did when I come into this room! Whew! My savin’ soul! Zach
Bloomer he says to me this mornin’. ‘What’s the matter, Posy?’ he says.
‘Seems to me you look sort of wilted lately. You better brace up,’ he
says, ‘or folks’ll be callin’ you a faded flower.’ ‘Well,’ says I, ‘I
may be faded, but there’s one old p’ison ivy around here that’s fresh
enough to make up.’ Oh, I squashed HIM all righty, but I never took no
comfort out of doin’ it. I ain’t took no comfort for the last two, three
days. But now--Whew!”

The letter to Cousin Gussie was written that very afternoon. Mr. Bangs
wrote it, with helpful suggestions, many of them, from Miss Phipps. At
Martha’s suggestion the envelope was marked “Personal.”

“I suppose it is foolish of me,” she said, “but somehow I hate to have
my affairs talked all over that office. Even when I was a little girl,
and things went wrong in school, I used to save up my cryin’ until I got
home. I’m the same now. This Development Company milk is spilled, and,
whether any of it can be saved or not, there is no use callin’ a crowd
to look at the puddle. If your cousin thinks it’s necessary to tell
other Boston folks, I presume he will, but WE won’t tell anybody but
him.”

Galusha hoped to receive an answer the following day, but none came. Nor
did it come the next day, nor the next. That week passed and no reply
came from Cousin Gussie. Galusha began to worry a little, but Miss
Phipps did not.

“Perhaps he’s away for a day or two, sick or somethin’,” she suggested.
“Perhaps he’s lookin’ up some facts about the Development Company.
Perhaps he hasn’t had time to read the letter at all yet. Mercy me, you
mustn’t expect as busy a man as the head of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot
to drop everything else and run around in circles attendin’ to my little
two-for-a-cent business!”

The relative of the great man admitted that there was reason in this
line of argument, but he was impatient, nevertheless. His daily walks
now included trips to the post office. On one of those trips he caught a
glimpse of Mr. Pulcifer’s hemispherical countenance through its wearer’s
office window, and, on the spur of the moment’s impulse, went in.

Horatio, who was smoking his customary cigar, reading a political
circular and humming “Beautiful Lady” all at the same time, looked up
from the reading and greeted him boisterously.

“Well, well, well!” exclaimed Raish. “If it ain’t the Perfessor
again! Welcome to amongst our midst, as the feller said. Have a chair,
Perfessor. How’s things in the graveyard these days? Kind of dead around
there, eh? Haw, haw, haw!”

He enjoyed his joke and laugh and Galusha smiled because he felt that
politeness required it. When the laugh and smile had run their course,
he endeavored to come to the point.

“Mr. Pulcifer,” he said, “I--if you are not too greatly occupied I
should like to ask--ah--a business question. Ah--may I?”

He most assuredly could. In fact, he was urged to ask it then and there.

“Never too busy to talk business, a feller usually ain’t; eh, Perfessor?
Haw, haw! I’d say he wan’t, eh? Set down, set down and ease your mind.
What’s the business question? Let ‘er go.”

Mr. Bangs let her go to the extent of stammering a request to be given
his companion’s candid opinion concerning the shares of the Wellmouth
Development Company. He was--ah--somewhat interested in them, so he
said.

Raish leaned back in his chair and scrutinized the questioner. He shot
at least five deep-drawn puffs of smoke into the already murky air of
the little office before replying.

“Humph!” he grunted, after the fifth puff. “Wellmouth Development
Company, eh? You’re interested in that, are you?”

“Why--ah--yes, yes. To a certain extent, yes, Mr. Pulcifer.”

“Humph! What d’you mean, interested? How interested?”

“Why, as--ah--as an investment, you know. As something to put one’s
money into.”

“Humph! Was you thinkin’ of puttin’ some of yours into it?”

“Why, not exactly. But, you see, a friend of mine--But, really, I think
I shouldn’t give any further particulars at the present time. You’ll
excuse me under the circumstances, Mr. Pulcifer, I’m sure. Dear me, I
hope you will.”

He was forgiven. Mr. Pulcifer assured him to that effect. But Raish
was still uncertain just how to proceed. He continued to puff and
scrutinize.

“What I wish to know,” continued his caller, after another moment’s
interval, “is--well, in short, I should like to know your opinion of
Wellmouth Development shares as an investment security.”

“Um--ye-es. Well, you said that before.”

“Did I? Dear me, I believe I did. Well, then, suppose, just suppose that
I actually did wish to buy some of those shares. Would you consider it a
good thing for me to do?”

Here at last was something tangible--and promising. Mr. Pulcifer’s puffy
lids drew nearer together to hide the gleam behind them. He took the
cigar from his mouth and held it between the fingers of his right hand.
During his next speech he gesticulated with it.

“Would I consid--” he began, and then paused, apparently overcome by his
feelings. The pause was not long, however. “Would I consider Wellmouth
Development a good thing for you to put your money in? WOULD I?”

“Ah--yes. Would you?”

“Say, Perfessor, you listen to me. _I_ know all about Wellmouth
Development. You’ve come to the right place. You listen.”

Galusha listened, listened for a long time. The red of the Pulcifer
cigar tip died out and that of the Pulcifer face brightened.

“And so I say,” vowed Raish, in conclusion, “with all that property
behind it and all that future ahead of it, if Development ain’t a good
investment, what is?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” confessed Galusha. “But--”

“Don’t know? You bet you don’t know! Nor nobody else. Not for quick
returns, maybe--though you can’t never tell. But for a feller that’s
willin’ to buy and put away and hang on--say, how can you beat it?”

“I don’t know, but--”

“You bet you don’t know! The main thing is to buy right. And I’m goin’
to put you wise--yes, sir, wise to somethin’ I wouldn’t let every Tom,
Dick, and Harry in on, by a consider’ble sight. I think I can locate a
fair-sized block of that stock at--well, at a little bit underneath the
market price. I believe--yes, sir, I believe I can get it for you at--at
as low as eighteen dollars a share. I won’t swear I can, of course, but
I MAY be able to. Only you’ll have to promise not to tell anybody how
you got it.”

“Eighteen dollars a share? Is that a fair price, do you think, Mr.
Pulcifer?”

“FAIR price?” Mr. Pulcifer was overcome by the absurdity of the
question. “A fair price!” he repeated. “Man alive, it’s a darned LOW
price! You buy Wellmouth Development at that price and then set back and
hang on. Yes, sir, that’s all you’ll have to do, just hang on and wait.”

To his surprise, Mr. Bangs seemed to find something humorous in this
suggestion. Instead of appearing thrilled, as he certainly should, he
smiled.

“Ah--yes,” he observed, quietly. “That is what my friend has been doing,
I believe. Yes, indeed, just that.”

Raish did not smile. He looked puzzled and a bit perturbed.

“What friend?” he demanded. “Been doin’ what?”

“Hanging on and waiting, as you advise, Mr. Pulcifer. She has
had--ah--several shares of the Development stock and she--”

“Hold on! Did you come here to SELL somebody’s stock for ‘em?”

“Why, no, not exactly. But, as I say, a friend of mine has some and she
was anxious to know what it was worth at the present time. When I tell
her that you will give eighteen dollars a share for it--”

“Here!” Raish’s smile and his urbanity had vanished. “Here,” he
demanded, “what are you talkin’ about? Who the devil said anything about
my givin’ eighteen dollars a share?”

“Why, I understood you to say that the--ah--shares were cheap at that
figure, that it was a very low price for them. You did say that, didn’t
you?”

Mr. Pulcifer seemed to find articulation difficult. He blew and
sputtered like a stranded porpoise and his face became redder than ever,
but he did not answer the question.

“I understood--” began Galusha, again, but a roar interrupted him.

“Aw, you understand too darn much,” shouted Raish. “You go back and tell
Martha Phipps I say I don’t know what them shares of hers are worth
and I don’t care. You tell her I don’t want to buy ‘em and I don’t know
anybody that does. Yes, and you tell her that if I did know anybody that
was fool enough to bid one dollar of real money for ‘em I’d sell him
mine and be darn glad of the chance. And say, you tell her not to bother
me no more. She took her chance same as the rest of us, and if she don’t
like it she can go--Eh? What is it?”

His caller had risen, rather suddenly for him, and was standing beside
the desk. There was a peculiar expression on his thin face.

“What’s the matter?” demanded Mr. Pulcifer. Galusha’s gaze was very
direct.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he said, quietly.

“Eh? Say what? I was just goin’ to say that if Martha Phipps didn’t like
waitin’ same as the rest of us she--”

“Yes, yes,” hastily, “I know. But I shouldn’t say it, if I were you.”

“You wouldn’t. Why not, for thunder sakes?”

“Because--well, I am sure you were speaking hastily--without thinking.”

“Is that so? How do YOU know I wasn’t thinkin’?”

“Because I am sure no one who had stopped to think would send that sort
of message to a lady.”

“Humph!... Well, I swear!... Wouldn’t send--I want to know!”

“Yes--ah--and now you do know. Good-day, Mr. Pulcifer.”

He was at the door when the surprised and, to tell the truth, somewhat
disconcerted Horatio called after him.

“Here! Hold on, Perfessor,” he hailed; “don’t go off mad. I didn’t mean
nothin’. Er--er--say, Perfessor, I don’t know’s there’s any use in your
tellin’ Martha what I said about them Development shares bein’ cheap
at eighteen. Of course, that was all--er--more or less of a joke, you
understand, and--Eh? What say?”

“I said I understood, Mr. Pulcifer.”

“Yes--er--yes, yes. Glad you do; I thought you would. Now I tell you
what to do: You tell Martha... you tell her... say, what ARE you goin’
to tell her?”

“Nothing. Good-day, Mr. Pulcifer.”

Galusha did not tell Martha of the interview in the real estate dealer’s
office, but the recollection of it did not tend to make him more easy
in his mind concerning her investment in Wellmouth Development Company.
And, as another week went by and still Cousin Gussie did not reply to
the letter of inquiry, his uneasiness grew with his impatience. Another
and more practical person would have called the Boston bankers by
telephone, but Galusha did not think of that. Martha offered no
suggestions; her advice was to wait.

“I don’t think we ought to hurry your cousin, Mr. Bangs,” she said.
“He’s probably lookin’ into things, and he’ll write when the time
comes.”

Galusha devoutly wished the time would come soon. He somewhat felt a
great responsibility in the matter. This sense of responsibility caused
him to assume more and more optimism as his nervousness increased. Each
day of waiting found him covering his disappointment and anxiety with a
more cheerful prophecy.

“I’ve been thinking, Miss Martha,” he said, “that Cousin Gussie must be
MOST interested in the--ah--Development Company. I really believe that
he may be considering going into it himself--ah--extensively, so to
speak. The more he delays replying to our letter, the more certain I am
that this is the case. You see, it is quite logical. Dear me, yes. If he
were not interested at all he would have replied at once, any one would.
And if only a little interested, he would have replied--say, at the end
of a week. But now he has taken almost three weeks, so--so--well, _I_
think we may infer GREAT interest, personal interest on his part. Now,
don’t you think so, Miss Martha?”

Martha shrugged. “Accordin’ to that reasonin,” she said, “if he never
answers at all it’ll be because he’s interested to death. Well, it
begins to look as if that might be it. There, there, Mr. Bangs, I
mustn’t talk that way, must I? We won’t give up the ship as long’s the
pumps work, as father used to say.”

It was the first symptom of discouragement she had shown. The next
morning Galusha crept downstairs before daylight, left a note on the
dining table saying he would be back next day, and started on his long
tramp to the railway station. At noon of that day he entered the Boston
office of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot.

Disappointment met him at the threshold, so to speak. The young,
extremely young, gentleman at the desk by the door, informed him that
Mr. Augustus Cabot was not in. Pressed still further, he admitted that
he would not be in that day. No, he would not be in that week. No, he
was not in Boston. Where was he? Well, he had gone away and the date of
his return was extremely uncertain.

Galusha, his spirits at a low ebb, stroked his chin in sad perplexity.

“Dear me! Dear me!” he observed. And then added:

“Is--is anybody in?”

Considering that the space behind the mahogany and brass railings was
crowded with clerks and that from the various inner offices people
were constantly coming and going, the question was peculiar. The young
guardian of the portal seemed to find it so. He regarded Mr. Bangs
with the puzzled stare of one not certain whether he has to do with a
would-be joker or an imbecile.

“Say, who do you want to see?” he demanded.

“Why, Mr. Cabot--Mr. Augustus Cabot.”

“Mr. Cabot’s away, I tell you. He’s out of town.”

A tall, thin man of middle age, who had just emerged from one of the
private offices, paused beside them. He looked at Galusha through his
eyeglasses, and then held out his hand.

“Why, Bangs!” he exclaimed. “It IS Bangs, isn’t it? Glad to see you.
Don’t you know me? I’m Minor. How are you?”

Galusha remembered him, of course. Minor had been a young assistant
bookkeeper in those far-off and dismal days when he, Galusha, had
worked--or attempted to work--in that very office. That was--mercy, that
was a great many years ago! Minor had changed very much.

They shook hands and Galusha was invited to come into Mr. Minor’s
private office.

“Let me see,” said the latter, “you are--you are--What is your business
now? I did hear, but I’ve forgotten.”

Galusha told of his connection with the National Institute.

“I do--ah--archaeological work,” he added. “Egyptology is my specialty.”

Minor nodded. “Yes, yes,” he said, doubtfully. “Just so.”

Plainly he regarded it as a weird sort of business.

“And you are still a--ah--banker?” queried Galusha.

“Yes. Very much so. I’m second vice president here now.”

“Dear me! dear me! You have been in this place ever since? Well, well!”

A pause, during which each regarded the other, trying not to show the
pity they felt. Then Minor asked if there was anything he could do for
his former associate. Galusha explained that he had come to town to
see his cousin, Mr. Augustus Cabot, on a business matter. Mr. Minor was
surprised, momentarily.

“That’s so,” he said, “he is a relative of yours, isn’t he? I had
forgotten.”

“Yes, yes, he is. He--ah--you see, he looks after things for
me--investments and--all that.”

“Humph! Well, if you wanted to see him personally, you’re out of luck.
He is away out in the Sierras, somewhere. Been there for a month and he
won’t come back till the doctors tell him he may. Goodness knows when
that will be.”

Cousin Gussie had, it appeared, suffered a severe nervous breakdown.
The physicians had ordered immediate dropping of business and business
cares.

“He must drop everything, they said, and cut, if he wanted to head off
something a good deal more serious. He must get out of doors and stay
there; go to bed early at night--instead of early in the morning, which
had been more in his line--and rough it generally.”

“Why--yes, yes, indeed. That was almost precisely what the doctors told
me I must do. Rest and--ah--good air, you know, and pleasant people. _I_
was very fortunate, really. I am at--ah--Gould’s Bluffs, Cape Cod, you
know.”

“Yes? Well, he’s away out in California or Nevada or thereabouts. His
secretary is with him--Thomas, the fellow he’s had so many years; you
remember him. Thomas has gone along to see that the chief--Mr. Cabot,
I mean--doesn’t get any business letters or wires or anything of that
sort. He looks out for those that do come, the personal matters.”

“Oh! Then perhaps my letter has been forwarded out there. That would
explain why I have received no answer. Yes, of course.”

“Sure! Thomas will write you by and by, no doubt. But now that you are
here, why don’t you see Barbour? Barbour is in charge of the chief’s
outside affairs while Thomas is away. That is, he is in charge of
everything that can be handled here. The most important stuff goes to
Thomas, of course. But come in and see Barbour. Perhaps he can tell you
what you want to know.”

Mr. Barbour was a bald-headed, worried-looking little man, who, in the
seclusion of a rear office, sat behind a big desk. Minor introduced
Galusha and Mr. Barbour extended a moist and flabby hand. Minor excused
himself and hastened out to the really important matters of life.
Galusha told Barbour the story of his letter to Cousin Gussie. He did
not tell what was in the letter, further than to say that it was an
inquiry concerning a certain investment security.

Barbour shook his head.

“Everything marked ‘Personal’ I forward to Thomas,” he said. “He’ll
write you pretty soon, although I’m pretty sure he won’t trouble the
chief with your question. Doctors are mighty strict about that. Nothing
we here can do to help, is there? Perhaps Mr. Minor might answer your
question.”

Galusha was thinking of Minor that very moment, but he shook his head.
Martha had asked that no one but Cousin Gussie be told of her trouble.
No, he would wait, at least until he heard from the secretary in the
West.

“Why, thank you, Mr. Barbour,” he said, rising. “I--I will wait, I
think.”

“All right, sir. Sorry, but you see how it is. Drop in again,
Mr.--er--Barnes. Barnes was the name, wasn’t it?”

“Why, not exactly. My name is Bangs, but it really doesn’t matter in
the least. Dear me, no. I am a relative of Mr. Cabot’s. But that doesn’t
matter either. Good-morning, Mr. Barbour.”

But it did seem to matter, after all. At any rate, Mr. Barbour for the
first time appeared actually interested.

“Eh?” he exclaimed. “Bangs? Oh, just a minute, Mr. Bangs. Just a minute,
if you please. Bangs? Why, are you--You’re not the--er--professor?
Professor Ga--Ga--”

“Galusha. Yes, I am Galusha Bangs.”

“You don’t mean it! Well, well, that’s odd! I was planning to write you
to-day, Professor. Let me see, here’s the memorandum now. We look after
your business affairs, I believe, Professor?”

Galusha nodded. He was anxious to get away. The significance of Cousin
Gussie’s illness and absence and what those might mean to Martha Phipps
were beginning to dawn upon him. He wanted to get away and think. The
very last thing he wished to do was to discuss his own business affairs.

“Yes,” he admitted; “yes, you--ah--do. That is, Cousin Gussie--ah--Mr.
Cabot does. But, really, I--”

“I won’t keep you but a moment, Professor. And what I’m going to tell
you is good news, at that. I presume it IS news; or have you heard of
the Tinplate melon?”

It was quite evident that Galusha had not heard. Nor, hearing now, did
the news convey anything to his mind.

“Melon?” he repeated. “Ah--melon, did you say?”

“Why, yes. The Tinplate people are--”

It was a rather long story, and telling it took longer than the minute
Mr. Barbour had requested. To Galusha it was all a tangled and most
uninteresting snarl of figures and stock quotations and references to
“preferred” and “common” and “new issues” and “rights.” He gathered
that, somehow or other, he was to have more money, money which was
coming to him because the “Tinplate crowd,” whoever they were, were to
do something or other that people like Barbour called “cutting a melon.”

“You understand, Professor?” asked Mr. Barbour, concluding his
explanation.

Galusha was at that moment endeavoring to fabricate a story of his own,
one which he might tell Miss Phipps. It must not be too discouraging, it
must--

“Eh?” he ejaculated, coming out of his daydream. “Oh, yes--yes, of
course.”

“As near as I can figure, your share will be well over twelve thousand.
A pretty nice little windfall, I should say. Now what shall I do with
it?”

“Yes.... Oh, I beg your pardon. Dear me, I am afraid I was not attending
as I should.”

“I say what shall I do with the check when it comes. That was what I
intended writing you to ask. Do you wish me to reinvest the money, or
shall I send the check to you?”

“Yes--ah--yes. If you will be so kind. You will excuse me, won’t you,
but really I must hurry on. Thank you very much, Mr. Barbour.”

“But I don’t quite understand which you wish me to do, Professor. Of
course, Thomas usually attends to all this--your affairs, I mean--but I
am trying not to trouble him unless it is absolutely necessary. Shall I
send the check direct to you, is that it?”

“Yes--yes, that will do very nicely. Thank you, Mr. Barbour.
Good-morning.”

He hurried out before Barbour could say any more. He cared nothing about
Tinplate melons or checks; in fact, he forgot them both almost before
he reached the street. But Martha Phipps--he had assured and reassured
Martha Phipps that Cousin Gussie would help her out of her financial
difficulties. And Cousin Gussie had not as yet learned of those
difficulties, nor, in all probability, would he be permitted ever to
learn of them.

Galusha Bangs’ trip back to East Wellmouth was by no means a pleasure
excursion. What should he say to Martha? How could he be truthful and
yet continue to be encouraging? If he had not been so unreasonably
optimistic it would be easier, but he had never once admitted the
possibility of failure. And--no, he would not admit it now. Somehow and
in some way Martha’s cares must be smoothed away. That he determined.
But what should he say to her now?

He was still asking himself that question when he turned in at the
Phipps’ gate. And Fate so arranged matters that it was Primmie who heard
the gate latch click and Primmie who came flying down the path to meet
him.

“Mr. Bangs! Oh, Mr. Bangs!” she cried, breathlessly. “It’s all right,
ain’t it? It’s all right?”

Galusha, startled, stared at her.

“Dear me, Primmie,” he observed. “How you do--ah--bounce at one, so to
speak. What is the matter?”

“Matter? I cal’late we both know what’s the matter, but what _I_ want to
know is if it’s goin’ to keep ON bein’ the matter. Is it all right? Have
you fixed it up?”

“Fixed what up? And PLEASE speak lower. Yes, and don’t--ah--bounce, if
you don’t mind.”

“I won’t, honest I won’t. But have you fixed up Miss Martha’s trouble;
you and them Bancroft folks, I mean? Have you, Mr. Bangs?”

“Bancroft folks?... How did you know I--”

“I seen it, of course. ‘Twas in that note you left on the table.”

“Note? Why, Primmie, that note was for Miss Phipps. Why did you read
it?”

“Why wouldn’t I read it? There ‘twas laid out on the table when I came
down to poke up the fire and set the kettle on. There wasn’t no name on
it, so ‘twan’t till I’d read it clear through that I knew ‘twas for Miss
Martha. It said: ‘Have gone to Boston to see--er--what’s-his-name and
Somebody-else and--’ Never mind, Bancroft’s all I remember, anyhow. But
it said you’d gone to them folks to see about ‘stock matter.’ Well, then
I knew ‘twas for Miss Martha. _I_ didn’t have no stock matters for folks
to see about. My savin’ soul, no! And then you said, ‘Hope to settle
everything and have good news when I come back.’ I remember THAT all
right.... Oh, Mr. Bangs, have you settled it? HAVE you got good news for
her?”

By this time she had forgotten all about the request to speak in a low
tone. Galusha glanced fearfully at the open door behind her.

“Sshh! shh, Primmie,” he begged.

“But have you? Have you, Mr. Bangs?”

“Why--why, perhaps, Primmie. I mean--that is to say--”

He stopped. Miss Phipps was standing in the doorway.

“Why, Mr. Bangs!” she exclaimed. “Are you here so soon? I didn’t expect
you till to-night. What are you standin’ out there in the cold for? Come
in, come in!”

And then Primmie, to make use of the expressive idiom of her friend, the
driver of the grocery cart, Primmie “spilled the beans.” She turned, saw
her mistress, and ran toward her, waving both hands.

“Oh, Miss Martha!” she cried, “he--he’s done it. He says it’s all right.
He does! he does!”

“Primmie!”

“He says he’s been to them--them Bancroft what’s-his-name folks and he’s
got the good news for you. Oh, ain’t it elegant! Ain’t it!”

This wild perversion of his guarded statement took Galusha completely
by surprise. He started forward aghast. And then he saw Martha Phipps’
face. Upon it were written such hope and relief and joy that the words
of expostulation and protest remained unspoken. And it was Martha who
spoke first.

“Oh, Mr. Bangs!” she gasped. “Oh, Mr. Bangs!”

Galusha’s chin quivered. His face became very red.

“Why--why--why, Miss Martha, I--I--”

His agitation caused his teeth actually to chatter. Martha noticed the
chatter and misinterpreted the cause.

“Mercy me!” she cried. “You’re standin’ out there and freezin’ to death.
Of course you are. Come right in! Primmie, open those stove dampers.
Put the kettle on front where it will boil quick.... No, Mr. Bangs, you
mustn’t tell me a word until you’re warm and rested. You would like to
go to your room, wouldn’t you? Certainly you would. Primmie will bring
you hot water as soon as it’s ready. No, don’t try to tell me a word
until after you are rested and washed up.”

It was a welcome suggestion, not because Galusha was so eager to “wash
up,” but because he was eager, very eager, to be alone where no one
could ask more embarrassing questions. Yet the last thing he saw as he
closed his room door was the expression upon Miss Phipps’ face. Hope,
relief, happiness! And what he had to tell would change them all.

Oh, if he had not been so foolishly optimistic! What should he say? If
he told the exact truth--the whole truth--

But there, what was the whole truth? After all, he did not KNOW that
nothing would come of his letter to Cousin Gussie. Something might
come of it. Yes, even something very good might come. If Cousin Gussie
himself never saw the letter, Thomas, the secretary, would see it and
very likely he would write encouragingly. He might--it was quite
likely that he would--give the names of other Boston financiers to whom
Wellmouth Development might be of interest. In this case, or even
the probability of such a case, he, Galusha, would certainly not be
justified in making his story too discouraging.

When, at last, he did descend to the sitting room, where Miss Phipps was
awaiting him, the tale he told her bore very little resemblance to the
hopeless, despairful narrative he had, while on the way down in the
train, considered inevitable and the telling of which he had so dreaded.
In fact, when it was finished Martha’s expression had changed but
little. She still looked happy.

She drew a long breath. “Well!” she exclaimed, “I can hardly believe it;
it seems almost too good to believe. And so that secretary man told you
that he felt sure that your cousin, or his other secretary--how many
secretaries does one man have to have, for mercy sakes?--would attend to
the Development thing and it would be all right if we would just wait a
little longer? Was that it?”

Galusha, who, in his intense desire not to be discouraging, had not
until now realized how far he had gone in the other direction, blinked
and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

“That was it, wasn’t it?” repeated Martha.

“Why--why--ah--yes, about that, as--ah--one might say. Yes.”

It was the first lie Galusha Bangs had told for many, many years, one of
the very few he had ever told. It was a very white lie and not told with
deliberation or malice aforethought. But, as so often happens, it was
destined to be the father of a pestilential pack which were neither
white nor unintentional.



CHAPTER XI


About the Phipps’ home hung now the atmosphere of expectancy. It had so
hung for several weeks, ever since the first letter to Cousin Gussie had
been posted, but now there was in it a different quality, a quality
of brightness, of cheer. Martha seemed more like herself, the capable,
adequate self which Galusha had met when he staggered into that house
out of the rain and wind of his first October night on Cape Cod. She was
more talkative, laughed more frequently, and bustled about her work with
much, if not all, of her former energy. She, herself, was quite aware
of the change and commented upon it rather apologetically in one of her
talks with her lodger.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said, “and I know it, but I can’t help it. I’m
as excited as a child and almost as sure everything is goin’ to come out
right as--well, as Primmie is. I wasn’t so at all in the beginnin’; when
we first sent that letter to your cousin I didn’t think there was much
more than one chance in a thousand that he would take any interest in
Wellmouth Development stock. But since you got back from your Boston
cruise, Mr. Bangs, I’ve felt altogether different. What the Cabot,
Bancroft and Cabot folks said wasn’t any too definite; when I sit right
down and think about it I realize it wasn’t. But it was encouraging,
real encouraging. And that bit of real encouragement has made me over,
like an old dress. Which reminds me that I’ve got to be makin’ over some
of MY old dresses pretty soon, or summer’ll be here and I won’t have
a thing fit to wear. I declare,” she added, with a laugh, “this is the
first time I’ve even thought about clothes since last fall. And when a
woman forgets to be interested in dressmakin’ she’s pretty far gone....
Why, what makes you look so sorrowful? Is anything wrong?”

Galusha replied that nothing whatever was wrong; there was, he said, no
reason in the world why he should appear sorrowful. Yet, this answer
was not the exact truth; there were reasons, and speeches such as Miss
Martha’s reminded him of them. They awoke his uneasy conscience to the
fear that the encouragement she found in his report from Cabot, Bancroft
and Cabot was almost entirely due to his interpretation of that report
and not to the facts behind it. However, as she must on no account
guess this to be the case, he smiled and assumed an air more than ever
carefree.

One afternoon, when, on his way home after an unusually lengthy walk, he
stopped at the post office, he found that the Phipps’ mail had already
been delivered.

“Zach Bloomer stopped along in and took it,” explained Miss Tamson
Black, the postmaster’s sister-in-law. “I told him I presumed likely
you’d be here after it yourself pretty soon, but it didn’t make no
difference. He said--but maybe I better not tell you.”

“Oh, yes--no doubt,” observed Galusha, who was, as usual, paying little
attention.

Tamson, plainly disappointed at his lack of curiosity, elevated her thin
nose.

“Well,” she observed, “what he SAID was that, fur’s things bein’ here
was concerned, Christmas would be here, give it time enough. Pretty
sassy kind of talk, _I_ call it, but maybe you ain’t so partic’lar, Mr.
Bangs.”

“Dear me! Of course. Well, well!... Oh, were there any letters
for--ah--for me, may I ask?”

“Why, yes, there was, two of ‘em. That’s what made me cal’late you
might like to get ‘em first yourself. I knew you didn’t get letters
very often, Mr. Bangs; that is, I’ve noticed you ain’t since I’ve been
helpin’ in this office. Anyhow, ‘most anybody would rather get their own
mail private than have Zach Bloomer cartin’ it from land-knows-where to
never-and-gone, smellin’ it all up with old tobacco pipes and fish or
whatever else he carries ‘round in his pockets. Course I don’t mean he
lugs fish around in his pocket, ‘tain’t likely--He, he, he--but that old
coat of his always smells like a--like a porgie boat. And I don’t know’s
I mean that those letters of yours were any more ‘special private than
common; anyhow, both envelopes was in MALE handwritin’--He, he, he! But
I noticed one was stamped from way out in--in Nevada, seems if ‘twas,
so--”

“Eh?” Galusha came to life with astonishing quickness. “From--from
Nevada, did you say?”

“Um-hm. I remember it real plain now. You see, it kind of caught my eye
as I was sortin.’ We don’t never get much mail from Nevada--not in this
office we don’t never hardly. So when I see... Well, my good land!”

The exclamation was caused by the unceremonious suddenness of Mr. Bangs’
exit. He was well across the road by the time Miss Black reached the
window.

“My good land!” exclaimed Tamson again. Later she told her
brother-in-law that she cal’lated that Nevada letter was maybe more
private than she cal’lated first, and that she bet you she was goin’ to
look pretty hard at the handwritin’ on the NEXT one that come.

Primmie, apparently, had been watching through the kitchen window for
Galusha to appear. At any rate, she opened the door for him. Her
mouth opened also, but he, for perhaps the first time in their
acquaintanceship, spoke first.

“I know--I know, Primmie,” he said, hastily; “or if I don’t know you can
tell me later on. Ah--please don’t delay me now.”

Primmie was struggling between surprise and disappointment.

“Well,” she observed, as the little man hurriedly shed his hat and coat;
“well, all right, Mr. Bangs. Only Zach, he told me to be sure and tell
you, and tell you how sorry he was that it happened, and that he can’t
exactly figger out just how it did come to happen, neither.”

“Eh?” Galusha paused, with one arm still in the sleeve of his overcoat.
“Happen? What has happened to--ah--Mr. Bloomer?”

“Ain’t nothin’ happened to him. ‘Twas him that made it happen to your
letter. And THAT letter of all letters! You see, Zach he don’t exactly
remember when ‘twas he got it from the post office, but it must have
been much as a week ago, sartin sure. Anyhow, when he took out the
lighthouse mail he left this letter in the pocket, and to-day, just now,
when he got them other letters of yours and put ‘em in the same pocket,
he found the first one. And when I see that ‘Cabot, What-d’ye-call-it
and Cabot’ name printed out right on the envelope and it come over me
that ‘twas THAT letter he’d forgot and had been totin’ ‘round with him,
‘WELL,’ says I. ‘My Lord of Isrul!’ I says--”

“Primmie! Primmie, stop! Stop--please! And tell me: Where are those
letters?”

“Hey? I was goin’ to tell you. _I_ put ‘em right here on the dinin’ room
table, but Miss Martha she carted ‘em off upstairs to your bedroom. Said
she presumed likely you’d want to open ‘em by yourself. _I_ don’t see
why--”

“Hush! Hush! Where is--ah--Miss Phipps?”

“She’s in the settin’ room. Told me not to disturb her, she wanted to be
alone. I--”

Galusha hastened away, leaving the excited Miss Cash still talking. From
the foot of the stairs he caught a glimpse of Martha in the chair by the
front window of the sitting room, looking out. She must have heard him,
but she did not turn her head. Nor did he speak to her. Time enough for
that when he had read what was in those letters.

There they were, three of them, upon his bureau. He picked up the one
on top. It bore upon the envelope the words “National Institute,
Washington, D. C.,” and was, he knew, merely a monthly report. Usually
such reports were of great interest to him; this one was not. He had
really important matters to claim his attention.

The second letter was, obviously, that which the forgetful Zacheus had
carried about with him for a week. In the corner was the Cabot, Bancroft
and Cabot name. He tore it open. An oblong slip of paper fell to the
floor. He did not even stoop to pick this up, for there was a letter,
too. It began:


“Prof. Galusha Bangs, East Wellmouth, Mass.

“DEAR SIR:

“Pursuant to your instructions in our conversation of recent date I am
enclosing check representing your share of the new Tinplate re-issue,
sale of rights, transfer of old stock, bonus, etc. The transfer has
been, as I told you I felt sure it would be, very advantageous and
profitable to stockholders like yourself. The amount due you, as shown
in statement attached, is--”


Galusha read no further. What did he care for Tinplate, profits,
business, or anything like that! There was not a word in the letter
concerning Wellmouth Development. It was a bitter disappointment.

But there was the third letter, the letter from Nevada. He opened that.
The first page which he looked at was that bearing the signature. Yes,
the letter was from George L. Thomas, and George L. Thomas was Cousin
Gussie’s private secretary. At last!

The letter shook in Galusha’s fingers as he began to read. Mr. Thomas
was glad to hear from him, glad to learn that he was in better health,
etc.... All right enough, this beginning, but not at all important.
Thomas also felt sure that he, Professor Bangs, would be grateful to
know that Mr. Cabot’s condition was, so his physician seemed to think,
steadily improving. The improvement was slow, of course, which was to
be expected, but... a long paragraph here which Galusha skipped. He was
highly pleased to know that Cousin Gussie was better, but at present
that was sufficient; he could not waste time in reading details of the
convalescence. WHY didn’t the man get down to business?

Ah, here it was! Mr. Thomas wrote:


“In your letter to Mr. Cabot I note your inquiry concerning the stock
of the Wellmouth Development Company, its desirability as an investment,
the likelihood of present sale, and so on. I know nothing of the matter
personally, and am not in a position to ascertain at the present time.
Speaking in a general way, however, and with my only knowledge of the
facts in the case that supplied by your letter, I should suggest that
your friend keep his stock and await developments. I am quite sure that
a forced sale--if such a sale could now be made at any price, which I
doubt--would involve the sacrifice of almost the entire amount invested.
I should suggest holding on and waiting.”


Galusha passed his shaking hand across his perspiring forehead.

“Oh, dear me!” he said aloud.


“This would be my advice,” went on the letter, “but if you wish a more
positive answer I suggest your writing Mr. Minor at our Boston office.
He will be very glad to look into the matter for you, I am sure,
although I am practically certain his views will agree with mine. Of
course, as you will understand, it is quite impossible to mention your
inquiry to Mr. Cabot. He is here to regain his health, which is still
very far from normal, his doctor is with him, and the one word which is
positively forbidden is ‘Business.’ Mr. Cabot is supposed to forget that
there is such a thing. By the way he spoke of you only the other day,
and jokingly said he wondered how mummies and quahaugs were mixing.
The fact that he is beginning to joke once more we all consider most
encouraging....”


A paragraph or two more of this sort of thing and then Mr. Thomas’
signature. Galusha stared at the letter dully. This--this was what
he and Martha Phipps had awaited so long! This was the outcome of his
brilliant idea which was to save the Phipps’ home... and its owner’s
peace of mind... and Primmie... and ....

Oh, dear me! dear me!

Galusha walked slowly across the room to the chair by the window, and,
sitting down, continued to stare hopelessly at the letter in his hand.
He read it for the second time, but this rereading brought no comfort
whatever. Rather, it served to bring home to him the hard realities
of the whole wretched affair. Cousin Gussie’s interest was what he had
banked on, and that interest was absolutely unapproachable. To write
Minor at the Boston office was a possibility, of course, but, in his
present frame of mind Galusha felt no hope that such a proceeding would
help. Thomas had written what amounted to that very thing; Thomas was
“practically certain” that Minor’s views would agree with his. And,
besides, to write Minor meant another long wait, and Martha Phipps must
be very close to her limit of waiting. How could he summon the courage
to descend to the sitting room and tell her that she must prepare for
another period of waiting, with almost certain disappointment at the
end?

A temperament like Galusha Bangs’ is capable of soaring to the heights
and descending to the depths. Just now the elevator was going down,
and down it continued to go to the very subcellar. It was dark in that
subcellar, not a ray of light anywhere. Galusha realized now, or thought
he did, that all his great scheme for helping Martha to dispose of her
Development shares had been based upon nothing substantial, nothing but
rainbow-tinted hopes which, in turn, were based upon nothing but wishes.
Omitting the hopes and wishes, what was there left? Just what the
president of the Trumet Trust Company had told Martha and what Raish
Pulcifer, when angered into truthtelling, had told him. That is, that
the shares of the Wellmouth Development Company might be worth something
some day, but that now they were worth nothing, because no one would buy
them.

Yes... yes, that was the truth.... But how could he go down to the
sitting room and tell Martha Phipps that truth, having already told her
so much that was quite different?

If she would only let him lend her the five thousand dollars, or
whatever it was. He did not know how much Cousin Gussie was taking care
of for him at present, but there had been a large sum at the time
of Aunt Clarissa’s death. He remembered that the figures had quite
frightened him then. He had not thought much about them since, because
they did not interest him. He always had enough for his needs and more
than enough, and dividends, and interests, and investments and all such
things bored him and made him nervous. But, now that he WAS interested
in an investment--Martha Phipps’ investment--it brought home to him the
undisputable fact that he, Galusha Bangs, had plenty of money to lend,
if he wished to lend it.

And if Cousin Gussie, or Cousin Gussie’s representatives, would let him
have it for such a purpose! Cousin Gussie always made such an unpleasant
disturbance when he expressed a desire for any of his money, asked so
many embarrassing questions as to what was to be done with it, and the
like. If he should go now and ask for five thousand dollars to lend
Martha Phipps, what...

But Martha Phipps would not accept a loan, anyway. She had told him that
very thing, and he knew her well enough by this time to know she meant
what she said.

Yet there remained the imminent and dreadful question: How, how, HOW
could he go down to where she was sitting waiting and tell her that her
hopes, hopes which he had raised, were based solely upon the vaporings
of an optimistic donkey?

In his wrathful disgust with that donkey he shifted angrily in his chair
and his foot struck a bit of paper upon the floor. It rustled and the
rustle attracted his attention. Absently he stepped and picked up the
paper. It was the slip which had fallen from the Cabot, Bancroft and
Cabot letter and was a check drawn to his order for fourteen thousand,
three hundred and ten dollars and thirty-eight cents, his share of the
Tinplate “melon.”

Fifteen more minutes passed before Mr. Bangs came down to the sitting
room, but when he did he came in a great hurry. He dashed into the
apartment and announced his intention of starting for Boston at once.

“And--and if you will be so kind as to let me have those--ah--shares of
yours, Miss Martha,” he said.

Martha looked at him. She had been rather pale when he entered, but now
the color rushed to her face.

“Shares?” she repeated. “Do you mean--”

“Those--ah--Development shares of yours--yes. If you will be good enough
to let me take them with me--”

“Take them with you?... Oh, Mr. Bangs, you don’t mean you have heard
from your cousin and that he is goin’ to--”

“Yes--ah--yes,” broke in Galusha, hastily. “I have heard. I am to--that
is, I must take the shares with me and go to Boston at once. If you will
be willing to entrust them to me, Miss Martha.”

“I’ll get ‘em this minute.” She started toward the stairs, but paused
and turned.

“Is it really settled, Mr. Bangs?” she asked, as if scarcely daring to
believe in the possibility. “Are they really goin’ to buy that Wellmouth
stock of mine?”

“Why--why--” Galusha was yawing badly, but he clutched the helm and kept
on the course; “I--ah--hope so, Miss Martha, I hope so.”

“And pay me--pay me MONEY for it?”

“I presume so. I hope so. If you will--”

“I declare, it doesn’t seem possible! Who, for mercy sakes, is goin’ to
buy it? Mr. Cabot, himself?”

He had been expecting this and was prepared for it. He had rehearsed
his answer many times before coming downstairs. He held up a protesting
hand.

“I am very sorry,” he said, “but--but, you see, that is a--ah--secret,
I understand. Of course, they did not write me who was to buy the stock
and so--and so--”

“And so you don’t know. Well, it doesn’t make a bit of difference,
really. The Lord knows I shouldn’t care so long as I sell it honestly
and don’t cheat anybody. And a big house like Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot
ought to know what they’re doin’ when they buy, or let any of their
customers buy. I’ll get the certificate this very minute, Mr. Bangs.”

She hastened up the stairs. Galusha wiped his forehead and breathed
heavily. There was a knock on the door leading to the dining room; it
opened and Primmie’s head appeared.

“I heard her go upstairs,” she whispered, hoarsely. “Is it all right,
Mr. Bangs? Was there good news in that What-you-call-it-Bancroft letter,
Mr. Bangs? Was there?”

“Go away, Primmie! Go AWAY!”

“I’m a-goin’. But was there?”

“Yes--ah--no--I--I guess so.”

“Lord everlastin’ of Isrul! My savin’ soul!”

Martha’s footsteps on the stairs caused the head to disappear and the
door to close. Miss Phipps appeared, her hand clasping a highly ornate
document.

“Here’s the certificate,” she said, breathlessly. “I’m so upset and
excited I don’t know hardly whether I’m in the channel or hard aground,
as father used to say, but I’ve signed my name on the back. Once when I
sold two shares of railroad stock he left me I had to sign on the back
there. I HOPE I’ve done it in the right place.”

Galusha declared the signature to be quite right, yes. As a matter of
fact, he could not have told for certain that there was a signature
there. He crammed the certificate into his pocket.

“Oh, my sakes!” protested Martha, “you aren’t goin’ to just put it loose
into that pocket, are you? Don’t you think it ought to go in your--your
wallet, or somewhere?”

“Eh? Why--why, I presume it had.... Dear me, yes.... It would be a--a
joke if I lost it, wouldn’t it?”

“A JOKE! Well, it wouldn’t be my notion of a joke, exactly.”

“Oh, dear, dear! Did I say ‘joke’? I didn’t mean that it would actually
be--ah--humorous, of course. I meant... I meant.... Really, I don’t
think I know what I meant.”

“I don’t believe you do. Mr. Bangs, I truly think you are more excited
about all this than I am, and all on my account. What can I ever say--or
do--to--”

“Please, please, Miss Martha! Dear me, dear me, DON’T speak in that
way. It’s so--ah--nonsensical, you know. Now if--if I may have my coat
and--ah--cap--”

“Cap! Goodness gracious, you weren’t plannin’ to wear that old cap,
earlaps and all, to Boston, were you? And--mercy me! I didn’t think of
it until this minute--the train doesn’t go for ‘most two hours.”

She burst out laughing and, because she was overwrought and a trifle
hysterical, she laughed a good deal. Galusha laughed even longer than
she did, not because he was hysterical, but because laughing was very
much easier and safer than answering embarrassing questions.

When it really was time to leave for the railroad station and Galusha,
NOT wearing the earlapped cap, but hatted and garbed as became his rank
and dignity, was standing on the stone step by the outside door, she
said:

“Now do be careful, Mr. Bangs.”

“Yes--yes, I will, I promise you. I shall keep one hand in my pocket,
holding the pocketbook with the certificate in it, until I get to the
office. I shall think of nothing else.”

“Mercy me, think of SOMETHIN’ else, please! Think of yourself when
you’re goin’ across those Boston streets or you’ll be run over. I
declare, I don’t know as I ought to let you go.”

“Oh, I shall be quite safe, quite. But, really,” he added, with a
puzzled smile, “I can’t tell you how odd this seems. When I was a boy my
Aunt Clarissa, I remember, used to caution me about--about crossing the
streets, and so on. It makes me feel quite young again to have you do
it, Miss Martha. I assure you it does.”

Martha regarded him gravely.

“Hasn’t anybody since ever told you to be careful?” she asked; “anybody
since your aunt died, I mean?”

“Why, no, I think not. I presume,” he added, with the air of one
suggesting a happy explanation, “I presume no one has--ah--been
sufficiently interested. It would have been peculiar if they had been,
of course.”

“Hum!... Well, I hope you won’t think I am impudent for remindin’ you to
look out.”

“Oh, no, indeed. It is very nice of you to take the trouble. I like it,
really I do.”

The office of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot was closed when his train
reached Boston, so he went to a hotel and remained there over-night.
But he was on hand at the banking office early the next morning. In the
interval he had time for more reflection and, as a result, he determined
not to go to Mr. Barbour with his business. The fear that knowledge of
what he was about to do would reach Cousin Gussie’s ears was strong upon
him. Doubtless it was a fact that he had a right to do what he pleased
with his own money, but it was also a fact that Cousin Gussie seemed
to think he had no such right. Barbour was the Cabot secretary, or
assistant secretary, so decidedly it was best not to go to Barbour.

It was Minor whom he saw as he entered the banking house and to Minor he
divulged his business. Taking from his pocketbook the Tinplate check, he
asked if he might have it--ah--broken up, so to speak.

“You see,” he explained, “I want to get--ah--five thousand dollars.”

Minor appeared rather puzzled at first, and Mr. Bangs’ tangled and
nervous explanations did not seem to enlighten him greatly. At last,
however, he caught the idea.

“I see,” he said. “You don’t want to deposit and draw against it; you
want two checks instead of one. One check for five thousand and the
other for the balance.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” assented Galusha, much relieved. “That is it, exactly.
I am very much obliged to you--indeed I am--yes.”

Minor took him to one of the windows and introduced him to the clerk at
the desk behind it.

“Give Mr. Bangs whatever he wants,” he said.

Galusha explained. The clerk asked how he would have the
five-thousand-dollar check made out.

“In your own name?” he asked.

 Mr. Bangs reflected. “Why--ah--” he stammered, “I should prefer it
in--ah--some other name, if possible. I should prefer that my name was
not connected with it, if you don’t mind.”

“In the name of the person you intend paying it to?” inquired the clerk.

Galusha reflected again. If Martha Phipps’ name were written on that
check it would be possible that, some day or other, Cousin Gussie
might see it. And if he saw it, questions would be asked, embarrassing
questions.

“No-o,” he said, hesitatingly; “no, I think I should not care to have
her--that is, to have that person’s name appear, either. Isn’t
there some way by which the sum could be paid without any one’s name
appearing? A check to--to--oh, dear me! why CAN’T I think of it?”

“To bearer, you mean?”

“That’s it, that’s it. A check to bearer would be very satisfactory,
very satisfactory, indeed. Thank you very much.”

The clerk, who was a painstaking young man, destined to rise in his
profession, inspected the odd individual outside the railing.

“A check to bearer is almost the same as cash,” he said. “If you should
lose it, it would be negotiable--practically the money itself, or pretty
near it.”

Galusha started. He looked radiantly happy.

“That’s it!” he exclaimed. “That’s it, of course. Thank you for
the suggestion. The money will be the very thing. It will be such a
delightful surprise. And there will be no one’s name upon it at all. I
will take the money, of course.”

It took some time to convince the astonished clerk that Mr. Bangs
actually wished five thousand dollars in currency, but he finally was
convinced.

“How will you have it?” he asked. “Small bills or large?”

Galusha apparently did not care. Any denominations would be quite
satisfactory, he affirmed. So, when the transaction was finished, and he
left the Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot office, it was with a new check for
nine thousand, three hundred and ten dollars and thirty-eight cents in
his pocketbook and in his trousers’ pocket a roll of bills as thick as
his wrist. By way of modification to this statement, it may be well to
explain that Galusha Bangs’ wrists, considered AS wrists, were by no
means thick.

The clerk stared after him as he departed and a fellow clerk paused to
ask questions.

“Who was the old guy?” he inquired.

“Name’s Bangs.”

“What is he?”

“A nut,” was the reply, given with the assurance of absolute conviction.

The “nut” traveled back to East Wellmouth upon the afternoon train
and, back once more in the Phipps’ sitting room, “shelled out” upon the
center table. Martha stared at the heap of bills and caught her breath
with a gasp.

Galusha deposited the last bank note upon the table. “There!” he
exclaimed, with satisfaction; “that is all, I believe. And I have
actually gotten it here--all of it. I am quite sure I haven’t lost a--a
penny. Dear me, that is a very remarkable thing to do--for me to do, I
mean.”

Miss Phipps did not answer and, turning, he saw that she was sitting in
the rocking-chair, her hand to her forehead. Her face was white.

“Dear me!” he exclaimed, in alarm. “Miss Martha, are you ill?”

Still she did not answer and, very much frightened, he hastened to the
door, opened it, and shouted for Primmie. The summons for her handmaiden
acted as a complete restorative. Martha came to life at once.

“WHAT in the world are you callin’ Primmie for?” she demanded. “I don’t
want her. I wouldn’t have her see all that.... Oh, good heavens and
earth!”

Primmie was already in the room. She, as Mr. Bangs would have described
it, bounced in.

“Yes’m--I mean yes, sir,” was her salutation. “Here I be.... Oh, my
savin’ soul of Isrul!”

She had seen the mound of money upon the table. Two minutes later Martha
and her lodger were again alone in the sitting room. Primmie had been,
gently but firmly, escorted to outer darkness and the door closed behind
her. She was still asking questions and calling for her ransomed spirit
and the ruler of Israel; they could hear her do so even through the
door. The exclamations died away in the direction of the kitchen. Miss
Phipps, who had done escort duty, turned toward Galusha and ruefully
shook her head.

“I GUESS there isn’t anybody I’d rather should not have been here just
now than Primmie Cash,” she observed. “If there is I can’t think of
their names. Mr. Bangs, I know you meant well, because you couldn’t mean
any other way, but would you mind tellin’ me WHY you called for her?”

Galusha blinked in bewildered fashion behind his spectacles.

“Why--why,” he stammered, “you--you see--why, I spoke to you several
times and you did not answer--and you were so pale, I thought--I
thought--”

“You thought I was sick and so you sung out for Primmie. Humph! that’s a
good deal like jumpin’ into the well to get out of the rain. But there,
never mind. So I looked pale and didn’t answer when you spoke? Do
you wonder? Mr. Bangs,” she moved to the table and laid a hand, which
trembled a good deal, upon the pile of bills, “is this money really
mine?”

“Yes--oh, yes, indeed. It is yours, of course.”

“All of it? It doesn’t seem possible. How much is there here?”

He told her. She lifted the topmost bills from the heap and reverently
laid them down again.

“Five thousand dollars!” she repeated. “It’s like--it’s like somethin’
in a dream, or a book, isn’t it? I can hardly believe I am Martha
Phipps. So they did think Wellmouth Development was worth somethin’,
after all. And they paid--why, Mr. Bangs, they paid the full price,
didn’t they! Twenty dollars a share; as much as father paid in the first
place.”

“Yes--ah--yes, of course. Yes, indeed. Are you sure you feel quite well
again, Miss Martha?”

“I’m sure. But what did they say when they bought it, Mr. Bangs?”

“Say? Ah, say?... Why, they said--ah--um--they said there was the money
and--and I counted it, you know, and--”

“Yes, yes. But didn’t they say anything about the stock; about why they
bought it, and like that?”

“Why, no... no, I think nothing was--ah--so to speak--ah--said.
They--ah--Won’t you sit down again, Miss Martha? I think you had
better.”

“Sit down! Mr. Bangs, I’m too excited to sit down. I could fly, I think,
a good deal easier than I could sit; at least, I feel as if I could.
And so they just bought that stock and said nothing more than that? Just
bought it?”

“Yes--ah--yes, that’s it. They--ah--bought it, you know.”

“It seems strange. What did your cousin say?”

“Ah--my cousin? Cousin Gussie, you mean. Yes, yes, of course. Oh, he
said--ah--all sorts of things.”

“Did he? About the stock?”

“Oh, no, not about the stock so much. No, not so much about that,
about... a sort of general conversation it was, about--about the
weather, and--and the like.”

“The weather? Did he write about the weather in his letter?”

He had for the moment forgotten that his relative was an invalid in the
Far West and that Miss Phipps knew it. He turned red, coughed, stammered
and then broke out in a series of fragmentary and involved explanations
to the effect that Cousin Gussie was--ah--naturally much interested in
the weather because of his state of health and--and--She paid little
heed, for in the midst of his explaining she interrupted.

“Oh, never mind, never mind,” she said. “It doesn’t make one bit of
difference and why I asked about it I don’t know. You see, Mr. Bangs,
I’m not back on earth yet, as you might say, and I don’t suppose I shall
be for a little while, so you’ll have to be patient with me. All I can
think of is that now I can live here in this house, for a while longer
anyhow, and perhaps always. And I sha’n’t have to turn Primmie away.
And--and maybe I won’t have to lie awake night after night, plannin’ how
I can do this and do without that--and--and--”

She stopped, her sentence unfinished. Galusha said nothing. A moment
later she turned to him.

“Should I write your cousin a letter and thank him, do you think?” she
asked.

Galusha’s reply was hurriedly given and most emphatic. “Oh, no, no,” he
protested. “It will be quite unnecessary, quite. Indeed, no. He--ah--he
would not expect it.”

“No, I presume likely he wouldn’t. And, after all, it was just a matter
of business with his firm. But it wasn’t a matter of business with you,
Mr. Bangs. And if it hadn’t been for you, I--I--Well, I mustn’t say any
more or--or... Oh, you understand what I want to say, don’t you?”

“Now--now, Miss Martha, please. I have done nothing, really, nothing but
what any friend would have done.”

“Any friend like you, you mean. I don’t know where there are any more
such friends, Mr. Bangs.”

“Now, PLEASE. Miss Martha, I--I HOPE you won’t mention this again. It
will oblige me greatly if you will not. Really, I--I mean it.”

She nodded, slowly. “Yes,” she said, “bein’ you, I think you do mean it.
So I won’t say any more; but I shall think a great deal, Mr. Bangs, and
I never shall stop thinkin’.... There! And now what shall I do with all
this money? Of course, I’ll put it in the bank to-morrow, but what will
I do with it to-night? By the way,” she added, “it seems queer they
should have paid you in cash instead of a check. Why did they, I
wonder?”

Here was a demand for more explaining. Galusha plunged headlong,
foundered, and then emerged, like a dog, with an explanation, such as it
was, between his teeth.

“They--ah--they thought the money would be safer,” he said.

Martha laughed aloud. “Safer?” she repeated. “Why, that’s funny. Perhaps
they’re right, but I know the only way I shall feel safe between now
and bankin’ time tomorrow is to stay awake and watch every minute. Oh,
I sha’n’t do that exactly, of course, but I’m beginnin’ to realize the
responsibility of havin’ riches. Ah hum! I laugh, Mr. Bangs, but you
mustn’t think it’s because I don’t realize what you--I mean... well, I
guess I laugh because I’m kind of hysterical and--happy. I haven’t been
so happy for a long, long time. I won’t say it again because you don’t
want me to, but for this once more, thank you, Mr. Bangs.”

As Galusha left her to go to his room, she said: “Now I must go out and
get after Primmie again. I’m scared to death that she’ll tell everybody
from here to Provincetown about my bein’ worth a million dollars. She
won’t make it any LESS than a million, and the chances are it will be
consider’ble more.”

“But, Miss Martha, you have already told her not to tell about the
money. I heard you tell her just now when you sent her out of the room.”

Martha shrugged her shoulders.

“When you pour water into a sieve,” she said, “it doesn’t do much good
to tell the sieve not to leak. Father used to say that some folks’ heads
were built so that whatever was poured into their ears ran right out of
their mouths. Primmie’s is made that way, I’m afraid. She’ll swear she
won’t tell, and she won’t mean to tell, but... Well, good-night, Mr.
Bangs.”



CHAPTER XII


Miss Phipps had prophesied that the cares attending the possession of
wealth might interfere with her sleep that night. Concerning his own
slumbers Galusha made no prophecy, but the said slumbers were broken
and scanty, nevertheless. Martha’s happiness, her relief, and the kind
things she had said to him, all these were pleasant to reflect upon and
to remember. Not so pleasant was the thought of the deception he had
practiced. Of course, he had deceived for a good purpose and certainly
with no idea of personal gain, quite the contrary. But he had been
deceitful--and to Martha Phipps, of all people. What would she say if
she ever found it out? He reflected upon the amazing number of--ah--fibs
he had told her, and the question what would she say if she ever learned
of these was even more terrifying in its possibilities. She must not
learn of them, she must never, never know that it was his own money
which he had brought from Boston, that he, and no one else, had bought
that stock of hers.

Here he sat up in bed, having suddenly remembered the certificate for
two hundred and fifty shares of Wellmouth Development Company stock
which she had handed him when he started for Boston. He had folded
it lengthwise and crosswise and had put it in his pocket--and had not
thought of it since, until that moment. A cold chill ran down his back.
What if--

He scrambled out of bed and, the room being distinctly cool, chills
immediately ran up and down other portions of his anatomy. He did not
mind those, however, but finding the matches, lighted the lamp and
began pawing over his garments, those which he had worn upon his Boston
pilgrimage.

The certificate was not in the coat pocket. Galusha gasped. Had he
dropped it in the train? Or in the office of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot?
Why, if the last were true, it would be found and traced to him, and
Minor and Barbour and, eventually, Cousin Gussie would learn that he....

Here he remembered that Martha had urged him not to put it in his coat
pocket but in his pocketbook. Oh, joy! He delved for the pocketbook,
opened it--and found no certificate therein.

Oh, dear, dear! Oh, dear! Suppose he had not lost it in Boston. Suppose
he had that very evening dropped it in the house here at home, in the
sitting room, or the dining room. Suppose Primmie should find it, or
Miss Phipps herself. Then she would KNOW that he had deceived her--and
lied to her--

And then he remembered that, instead of putting the certificate in his
pocketbook, he had found the latter too small for the purpose, and had
put the document in the inside pocket of his waistcoat. And in that
waistcoat pocket he found it.

So that was all right, all right so far; but the fact remained that,
instead of the troublesome thing--damning evidence of his guilt and
deception--reposing safely in the vaults of a Boston bank, where he had
intended putting it, it was here, in the house, in the house of Miss
Martha Phipps, who might find it at any time.

He tried various hiding places, the drawers of his bureau, the
table drawer, under the straw matting in the corner, but none seemed
satisfactorily secure. Under the matting was, at first thought, ideal,
but, after secreting it there and getting into bed, he remembered that
Martha had declared his room needed new matting and, if ever she
could afford that cost, new matting it should have. Having come into
possession of five thousand dollars, she might feel that she could now
afford it. He climbed, shivering, out of bed again, resurrected the
certificate and hid it under his pillow, an orthodox but safe hiding
place for that night only. The next morning he wrapped it in a summer
undergarment and placed the said garment at the bottom of a pile of
similar intimacies in his bureau drawer. And each night of the following
week, before retiring, he dug it out to make sure of its safety.

The day after her boarder’s return from Boston, Martha went over to
Wellmouth Centre. The bank there had charge of her account, such as it
was, and she wished to have it take charge of the, to her, huge sum of
real money which Mr. Bangs had brought. She told the cashier that
she was desirous of speaking with him on a matter of business, and he
invited her into his little room at the end of the counter. There she
took from her “Boston bag” a brown paper parcel and, unwrapping the
brown paper, disclosed the five thousand dollars.

Cashiers of small town banks know the true financial strength and
weakness of dwellers in those towns, just as the doctors know their
physical ones. Mr. Edgar Thacher, which was the cashier’s name in this
instance, knew how much of an estate Cap’n Jim Phipps had left his
daughter and how that estate was divided as to investments. So he was
surprised when Martha revealed the money.

“Good land, Martha!” he exclaimed. “What’s happened? Haven’t gone into
the counterfeiting trade, have you?”

Martha smilingly shook her head. “No, Edgar,” she said. “It’s too late
in life for me to begin learnin’ new trades, I guess. Just count that,
will you, please? I want to make sure it’s all there and that I didn’t
really have only half of it and dream the rest.”

The cashier counted the money. “Five thousand, I make it,” he said.

“That’s what it ought to be. Now will you put that to my account? I
don’t know how long it’ll stay there--the whole of it not very long, I’m
afraid--but it will be earnin’ a little interest while it does stay.”

“Yes, sure. Well, Martha, it’s none of my business, of course, but, as
long as you say you haven’t been counterfeiting, I wish you would give
me your receipt for making money. Anybody that can make five thousand in
one lump these hard times is doing well.”

Martha shook her head once more. She and the cashier were old friends.
“No receipt to give, Edgar,” she said. “I wish there was; I’d be busy
usin’ it, I tell you. I just sold somethin’ I owned, that’s all, and got
a good deal better price than I ever expected to. In fact, I had about
given up hope of ever gettin’ a cent. But there, I mustn’t talk so much.
You’ll deposit that to my account, won’t you, Edgar? And, if you SHOULD
see your way clear to pay seven or eight per cent interest instead of
four, or whatever you do pay, don’t bother to write and ask me if I’ll
take it, because you’ll only be wastin’ your time.... Eh? Why, good
gracious, Jethro! What are you doin’ over here?”

The captain’s big frame blocked the doorway of the cashier’s office. He
had opened that door without knocking, because it was his habit to
open doors that way. Captain Jethro Hallett’s position as keeper of
the Gould’s Bluffs light was not an exalted or highly paid one, but his
influence in Wellmouth and its vicinity was considerable, nevertheless.
He was accounted a man of means, he had always been--more especially in
the years before his wife’s death and the break in health which followed
it--a person of shrewd business ability and keenness in a trade, and
even now, when some of the townsfolk grinned behind his back and
told stories of his spiritualistic obsessions, they were polite and
deferential to his face. As a matter of fact, it would have been
extremely impolitic to be otherwise than deferential to him. Captain
Jeth was quite aware of his worth and expected deference.

He was as surprised to see his neighbor as she was to see him.

“Why, hello, Martha!” he grunted. “What fetched you here?”

“I asked you first, Cap’n Jeth, but it doesn’t make any difference.
My feet brought me as far as the corner and Ras Beebe’s grocery cart
brought me the rest of the way. I had planned to come in the train,
but Ras saved me the trouble--AND the fare. He’s goin’ back in a few
minutes, so I’ve got to hurry.”

“Humph! But what did you come here FOR?”

“Oh, I had a little business with Edgar and the bank. Excuse me, Jethro.
Edgar...”

She stooped and whispered to the cashier. He nodded.

“Yes, Martha, of course,” he said. “You’ve got your book? All right.
Back in a minute, Cap’n.”

He picked up the pile of money from the desk, took from Miss Phipps’
hand the pass book she handed him, and together they stepped out into
the public room. Captain Jethro, whose eyes had caught sight of the
bills, leaned forward and peered through the little grating above Mr.
Thacher’s desk. He saw the cashier and Martha standing by the teller’s
window. The former said something and handed the teller the bank book
and the roll of bills. A moment later the teller, having counted the
money and made an entry in the book, handed the latter back to the lady.

“Five thousand,” he said, and his tone was not low. “There you are, Miss
Phipps. Thank you.”

When, having escorted the lady to the door, Thacher came back to his
private office, he found the light keeper sitting in the armchair
reserved for customers and pulling thoughtfully at his beard.

“Well, Cap’n,” said Mr. Thacher, “what can I do for you?”

Captain Jethro crossed his legs. “I come over to cash a couple of checks
I got by mail,” he said. “Had plenty of time so I thought I’d drop in
and see you a minute.”

“Oh, yes, yes. Glad to see you.”

“Um-hm. Ain’t so glad to see me as you was to see Martha Phipps, I
guess likely. _I_ ain’t depositin’ any five thousand dollars. ‘Twas five
thousand she just deposited, wasn’t it?”

The cashier was rather annoyed. He did not answer at once. His visitor
repeated the question.

“Martha just put five thousand in the bank, didn’t she?” he asked.

“Why--yes. Did she tell you she was going to?”

“No. I heard Eldridge say five thousand when he give her back her bank
book. Five thousand is a lot of money. Where’d she get it from?”

“I don’t know, Cap’n, I’m sure. Little more spring-like out to-day,
isn’t it?”

“Um-hm. Martha been borrerin’ from the bank, has she?”

“No.”

“Didn’t know but she might have mortgaged the Phipps’ place. Ain’t done
that, you say?”

“No. At least, if she has she didn’t tell me of it. How are things over
at the lighthouse?”

“All right enough. I don’t hardly believe she could raise more’n three
thousand on a mortgage, anyhow.... Humph! Five thousand is a sight of
money, too.... Didn’t she tell you nothin’ about how she got it?”

Thacher’s annoyance increased. The ordinary caller displaying such
persistent curiosity would have been dismissed unceremoniously; but
Jethro Hallett was not to be dismissed that way. The captain owned
stock in the bank and, before his illness, his name had been seriously
considered to fill the first vacancy in its list of directors.

“Must have told you SOMETHIN’ about how she got hold of all that money,”
 persisted the light keeper. “What did she say to you, anyway, Ed?”

“She said--she said--Oh, well, she said she had sold something she owned
and had got the five thousand for it.”

“Humph! I want to know! Sold somethin’, eh? What was it she sold?”

“She didn’t say, Cap’n. All she said was that she had sold it and got
the five thousand. Oh, yes, she did say that it was a bigger price
than she ever expected to get and that there was a time when she never
expected to get a cent.”

“Humph! I want to know! Funny she should sell anything without comin’
to me first. She generally comes to ask my advice about such things....
Humph!... She didn’t sell the house? No, I’d a-known if she had done
that. And what else.... Humph!...”

He pulled at his beard in silence for a moment. The teller, a brisk
young man, possessed of a profound love of mischief and a corresponding
lack of reverence, entered the office.

“Oh, excuse me,” he said. “I thought you was alone, Mr. Thacher.” Then,
with a wink at his superior over the light keeper’s tousled gray head,
he observed, “Well, Cap’n Jeth, what’s this I hear about Marietta Hoag?
They tell me she’s left the Spiritualists and gone over to Holiness
chapel. Is it so?”

Jethro came out of his reverie. His deep-set eyes flashed and his big
fist pounded the office table. No, it was not so. It was a lie. Who
said it? Who was responsible for starting such sacrilegious, outrageous
yarns? Marietta Hoag was a woman called and chosen to receive and
give out revelations from on high. The Holiness crowd was a crew of
good-for-nothin’, hollerin’ hard-shells. By the everlastin’--

He blew out of the office and out of the bank, rumbling and spitting
fire like a volcano. The teller and the cashier watched him go. Then the
former said:

“That’s the way to get rid of him, Mr. Thacher. He’ll set ‘round and
talk you to death if you give him half a chance. When you want him to
go, tell him somebody at the other end of the town has been running
down the Spiritualists. He’ll be so anxious to get there and heave ‘em
overboard that he’ll forget to stop and finish what he was saying here.”

Which may or may not have been true, but the fact remains that the light
keeper did not entirely forget what he and the cashier said concerning
Martha Phipps’ surprising bank deposit. And the next morning, as Martha
was walking up the lane from the village, where she had been on a
supply-purchasing excursion, she heard heavy footsteps and, turning,
saw her neighbor tramping toward her, his massive figure rolling, as it
always did when in motion, from side to side like a ship in a seaway.

“Why, hello, Jethro!” she exclaimed. Captain Jethro merely nodded. His
first remark was a question, and very much to the point.

“Look here, Martha,” he demanded. “Have you sold that Development stock
of yours?”

Martha stared at him. For a moment she was inclined to believe in the
truth of the light keeper’s “spirit revelations.”

“Why--why, Jethro!” she gasped. The captain, gazing at her keenly
beneath his shaggy brows, seemed to find his answer in her face.

“Humph!” he observed. “You have sold it, ain’t you? Well, by the
everlastin’!”

“Why--why, Jethro! What are you talkin’ about?”

“About that two hundred and fifty shares of Wellmouth Development of
yours. You’ve sold it, ain’t you, Martha? And you must have got par for
it, too. Did the Trumet Trust Company folks buy it?”

But Miss Phipps was recovering from her surprise. She waited a moment
before replying and, when she did reply, her tone was as crisp, if not
as domineering, as her interrogator’s.

“See here, Jethro,” she said; “you’re takin’ a good many things for
granted, aren’t you?”

“No, I don’t cal’late I am. I know you’ve sold somethin’ and got five
thousand dollars for it. I see you deposit the five thousand, myself,
and Ed Thacher told me, after I pumped it out of him, that you said
you’d sold somethin’ you owned and got a good price when you didn’t know
as you’d ever get a cent. Now, you ain’t sold your place because I’d
know if you had, and it ain’t worth five thousand, anyway. The other
stocks and bonds you’ve got ain’t--”

But Martha interrupted.

“Jethro,” she said, sharply, “I just said that you were takin’ a good
many things for granted. You are. One of ‘em is that you can talk to
me as if I was Zach Bloomer or a fo’masthand on your old schooner. I’m
neither of those and I don’t care to be talked to in that way. Another
is that what I chose to do with my property is your business. It isn’t,
it’s mine. I may have sold that stock or any other, or the house or the
barn or the cat, as far as that goes, but if I have or haven’t it is
my affair. And I think you’d better understand that before we talk any
more.”

She turned and walked on again. Captain Jethro’s eyes flashed. It had
been some time since any one had addressed him in that manner. However,
women were women and business was business, and the captain was just
then too intent upon the latter to permit the whims of the former to
interfere. He swallowed his temper and strode after his neighbor.

“Martha,” he said, complainingly, “I don’t see as you’ve got any call to
talk to me that way. I’ve been a pretty good friend to you, seems to me,
and I was your father’s friend, his chum, as you might say. Seems as if
I had--well, a right to be interested in--in what you do.”

Martha paused. After all, there was truth in what he said. He had been
her father’s close friend, and, no doubt, he meant to be hers. And he
was Lulie’s father, and not well, not quite his old self mentally or
physically. Perhaps she should make allowances.

“Well, all right, Cap’n Jeth,” she said. “It wasn’t what you said so
much as it was how you said it. Now will you tell me why you’re so
dreadfully anxious to know how I got that five thousand dollars I
deposited over to the bank yesterday?”

The light keeper pulled at his beard; the latter was so thick as to
make a handful, even for one of his hands. “Well,” he said, somewhat
apologetically, “you see, Martha, it’s like this: IF you sold them
Development shares of yours--and I swan I can’t think of anything else
you own that would sell for just that money--IF you sold ‘em, I say, I’d
like to know how you done it. I’ve got four hundred shares of that stock
I’d like to sell fust-rate--fust-rate I would.”

She had not entirely forgiven him for his intrusion in her affairs and
his manner of the moment before. She could not resist giving him a dig.

“Cap’n Jeth,” she said, “I don’t see why you need to worry. I’ve heard
you say a good many times that you had promises from--well, from the
spirits that you were goin’ to sell your Development stock and at
a profit. All you had to do, you said, was wait. Now, you see, _I_
couldn’t wait.”

The captain nodded in satisfaction. “So ‘TWAS the Development you sold,”
 he growled. “I figgered out it couldn’t be nothin’ else.”

Martha scarcely knew whether to frown or laugh. Some of her pity
concerning the old man’s mental state had been, obviously, unnecessary.
He was still sharp enough in business matters.

“Well,” she said, with both laugh and frown, “suppose it was, what of
it?”

“Why, just this, Martha: If there’s anything goin’ on on the inside of
the Development Company I want to know it.”

“There isn’t anything goin’ on so far as I know.”

“Then who bought your stock? The Denboro Trust Company folks?”

“No. They don’t know a thing about it.”

“‘Twan’t that blasted Pulcifer?”

“No. I should hope not. Now don’t ask any more, because I sha’n’t tell
you. It’s a secret, that’s all, and it’s got to stay that way.”

He looked at her. She returned his look and nodded. She meant what she
said and he reluctantly recognized the fact.

“Humph! Well, all right, Martha,” he growled. “But--but will you do this
much for me? Will you ask these folks--whoever ‘twas bought your two
hundred and fifty--if they don’t want my four hundred? If they’re really
buyin’, I shouldn’t be surprised if they would want it. If they bought
it just as a favor to you, and are goin’ to hang on and wait--why--why
then, maybe they’d do a favor to a friend of yours and your father’s
afore you. Maybe they will, you can’t tell. And you can tell ‘em I’ve
had word from--from over yonder that it’s all goin’ to turn out right.
You ask ‘em if they don’t want to buy my stock, will you, Martha?”

Martha took time for reflection. Then she said: “Cap’n Jeth, if I do ask
‘em that, will you promise not to tell a soul a word about my sellin’
my stock, or about the money, or anything of the kind? Will you promise
that?”

The light keeper nodded. “Sartin sure,” he said. “I’ll promise you,
Martha.”

“All right, I’ll ask, but you mustn’t count on anything comin’ from it.”

The captain’s brows drew together. “What I count on,” he said, solemnly,
“is a higher promise than yours or mine, Martha Phipps. What we do down
here will only be what them up aloft want us to do. Don’t you forget
that.”

They parted at the Phipps’ gate. Captain Jethro walked moodily home.
Lulie met him at the door. She was wearing her hat and coat.

“I’m going up to the village, father,” she said. “I have some errands to
do. I’ll be back pretty soon.”

Her father watched her as she walked away. The thought crossed his mind
that possibly Nelson Howard might be visiting the village that forenoon.
He called her name, and she turned and came back.

“What is it, father?” she asked.

Jethro hesitated. He passed a hand across his forehead. His head felt
tired. Somehow he didn’t want to talk any more. Even as important a
topic as Nelson Howard did not arouse his interest.

“Oh, nothin’, nothin’,” he assured. “Cal’late maybe I’ll lay down and
turn in a little spell afore dinner. Is Zach on deck?”

“Yes, he is out in the kitchen, or was a minute ago. Primmie was over
on an errand and I heard their tongues going. Shall I speak to Zach,
father?”

He told her no, and went into the house. There was a couch in the dining
room and he stretched himself upon it. The head of the couch was near
the door leading to the kitchen. That door was closed, but from behind
it sounded voices, voices which were audible and distinct. A dispute
seemed to be in progress between Mr. Bloomer and Miss Cash and, although
Zacheus continued to grumble on in an even key, Primmie’s tone became
higher and shriller with each retort.

“I tell you ‘tis so, Zach Bloomer.... Well, maybe ‘twan’t a hundred and
fifty thousand, but I bet you ‘twas more money than you ever see in YOUR
life. So now!”

The assistant light keeper was heard to cough. Primmie seemed to discern
a hint of skepticism even in the cough.

“Oh, you can set there and keep on turnin’ up your nose and--and
coughin’,” she declared, “but--”

Zacheus interrupted to say that he hardly ever turned up his nose when
he coughed.

“Seems to come handier to turn it down, Posy,” he said.

“Oh, be still, foolish! Well, anyhow, it’s true, every word of it. I see
more money at one time and in one--er--er junk, as you might say, than
ever I see afore--yes, or I bet you ever see neither, Zach Bloomer.”

“We-ll, course what I ever see never amounted to much, but if it’s more
than YOU see, Rosebud, then it must have been consider’ble of a lot.
Over in them Mashpaug woods, where you hail from, money kind of grows
on the bushes, like huckleberries, I presume likely. Martha Phipps been
over there berryin’, has she?”

“No, she ain’t. Besides, I never said Miss Martha brought the money into
the house. All’s I said was that ‘twas in there and I see it with my own
eyes.”

“Sho! With your own eyes, eh? Well, well! What do you cal’late ‘twould
have looked like if you’d borrered somebody else’s eyes? Say, Posy,
was it you fetched the billion and a half, or whatever ‘twas, into the
house?”

“Me? ME with all that money? My savin’ soul!”

“Well, who did fetch it? Santy Claus?”

“I sha’n’t tell you. I promised Miss Martha I wouldn’t tell one word
about that money and I ain’t goin’ to.”

“Hooray, Posy! That’s the way to talk! Well, now, be honest about it:
What did you have for supper night afore last? Mince pie, was it? Why
didn’t you eat another slice? Then you’d have dreamed about a mackerel
keg full of di’monds, most likely.”

Captain Jethro, trying to fall asleep on the couch in the dining room,
turned over in disgust and raised himself upon an elbow preparatory
to shouting an order for silence. But Primmie’s next speech caught his
attention and the order was not given.

“Dreamed!” retorted the indignant young woman. “Are you tryin’ to tell
me I only dreamed about that money, Zacheus Bloomer? Huh! My Lord of
Isrul! If you’d seen that great big piled-up heap of bills layin’ right
there on the table in our settin’ room where Mr. Bangs put ‘em, I guess
you’d have said ‘dreams’ and more, too. Ten dollar bills there was and
twenties and--and thirties and forties, for all I know.”

“That so? Right where Mr. Bangs put ‘em, eh? Now I KNOW you was
dreamin’, Pansy Blossom. That little dried-up Bangs man ain’t worth
more’n ten cents, if that.”

“He ain’t? How do you know he ain’t?”

“Same as I know when that Lucy Larcom tomcat of Martha’s has been in a
fight, by the looks of him. Look at the Bangs man’s clothes, and--and
his hat--and--why, Godfreys mighty, he can’t afford to get his hair cut
oftener than once in three months! Anyhow, he don’t. And you stand there
and tell me he come cruisin’ in t’other night and commenced sheddin’
million dollar bills all over the furniture. Where’d he get ‘em to? Dig
‘em up over in the Baptist graveyard?”

“No, he never. He got ‘em up to Boston. Leastways, I guess he did,
‘cause that’s where he went. And, besides, what do you know about how
much he’s worth? He may look kind of--of ratty, but all the same he’s
got rich relations. Why, one of his relations is head of the biggest
broke--I mean, brokin’ and bank place there is in Boston. Cabot,
Bancroft and--and Thingumbob is the name of it. And Miss Martha told me
‘twas--”

There was much more of this and the listener on the dining room couch
heard it all. He remained on that couch until Miss Cash, at the back
door of the kitchen, delivered her triumphant farewell.

“So there now, Zach Bloomer,” she said, “I guess you believe now I
didn’t dream it. And you needn’t ask any more questions because I
sha’n’t tell you a single word. I promised Miss Martha I wouldn’t never
tell and I’m goin’ to keep my promise.”

That evening Martha approached her lodger on the subject of the
possibility of selling the light keeper’s Development holdings for
him. To say the least, she received no encouragement. Galusha was quite
emphatic in his expression of disbelief in that possibility.

“Oh, dear me, no, Miss Martha,” he stammered. “I--ah--I feel quite
sure it would be unwise to--ah--attempt such a thing. You see--ah--you
see--my cousin is--is--”

“I know, he’s sick, poor man, and shouldn’t be disturbed. You’re right,
of course, Mr. Bangs. It was only that Cap’n Jeth had always been a good
friend of father’s and mine and I thought if Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot
really were buyin’ the stock perhaps they might like to buy his. But I
can see why you wouldn’t want to trouble Mr. Cabot again just now. I’m
sorry I mentioned it to you; I’m afraid I have made you nervous.”

Galusha was nervous, certainly, and showed it. He protested, however,
that he was quite all right really, and, as his landlady did not mention
the subject again, he recovered a portion of his equilibrium. And during
the following week he gradually gained more and more confidence. The
telltale certificate hidden in his bureau drawer was, of course, a
drawback to his peace of mind, and the recollection of his recent
outbreak of prevarication and deception was always a weight upon his
conscience. But, to offset these, there was a changed air about the
Phipps’ home and its inmates which was so very gratifying that, if it
did not deaden that conscience, it, at least, administered to it an
effective dose of soothing syrup.

Primmie wept no more into the dishwater nor sighed despairingly when
serving breakfast. She sang now and, although an unprejudiced person
might not have found the change an unmixed delight, Galusha did. Miss
Phipps sang, too, occasionally, not with the camp-meeting exuberance of
her maid, but with the cheery hum of the busy bee. She was happy; she
said so and looked so, and, in spite of his guilty knowledge of the
deceit upon which that happiness was founded, her lodger was happy
because she was.

“Do you know,” he observed, on Saturday morning of that week, as, coated
and capped for his daily walk, he stood by the door of the dining room,
“it’s quite extraordinary, really. I have been thinking, you know, and
it really is quite extraordinary.”

Martha was sitting in the rocker by the window, the morning sunshine
streaming in through the leaves and blossoms of the potted plants on the
brackets dappling her hair and cheek with cheery splashes of light and
shade. She was consulting the pages of her cookbook, as a preliminary to
preparing a special dessert for Sunday’s dinner, and was humming as she
did so.

She looked up when he spoke.

“What is extraordinary?” she asked. “Your thinkin’, do you mean? I don’t
see anything very extraordinary about that. You’re thinkin’ most of the
time, seems to me.”

“Oh, I don’t mean that. I meant what I was thinking was extraordinary.
Or not precisely that, either. I--ah--I mean--well, you see, when I
was in Washington--at the Institute, you know--it used to annoy
me--ah--extremely, to have any one sing or whistle in my vicinity.
Really, it did. I sometimes spoke very sharply--ah--irritably to any
one who did that. And now, as I stood here and heard you singing,
Miss Martha, it suddenly came over me that I do not mind it at all.
I--ah--actually like to hear you. I do, very much, indeed. Now, isn’t
that extraordinary!”

Martha laughed aloud. “Why, yes,” she declared; “I think it is. Anybody
likin’ to hear me sing is about as extraordinary as anything that ever
was, I guess. Mr. Bangs, you’re awfully funny.”

Galusha nodded. “Yes,” he said, “I am sure I must be. I think if I were
any one else I should laugh at myself a great deal. I mean--ah--I mean
in that case I should laugh, not at myself, but at me. Good gracious, I
haven’t made that very clear, have I?”

His smile was so contagious that she laughed again.

“I didn’t mean you were funny to laugh at, but to laugh with,” she said.
“You’re goin’ to have an especially nice walk this mornin’. It’s such a
lovely forenoon I almost wish I was goin’ with you.”

Galusha beamed. “Why--why, so do I!” he exclaimed, in delighted
surprise. “Yes, I do, I do, indeed! Ah--ah--why don’t you?”

“Mercy me, I couldn’t think of it! I must stay here and get to cookin’
or we’ll have no puddin’ to-morrow noon. I’ll be with you in spirit, as
the books say; how will that do?”

Whether or not she was with him in spirit, she was very much in her
lodger’s thoughts as he walked down the path to the gate. It was such a
beautiful forenoon, with the first promise of spring in the air, that,
instead of starting toward the village, as was his usual custom, he
turned in the other direction and strolled toward the lighthouse. The
sea view from the cliff edge should be magnificent on a morning like
this.

But it was not of the view, or the beauty of the morning, that he
thought as he wandered slowly on. His mind, for some reason or other,
seemed to be filled with the picture of Martha Phipps as she sat in the
rocking-chair, with the background of old-fashioned plants and blossoms,
and the morning sunshine illumining her pleasant, comely face. He could
visualize every feature of that face, which fact was extremely odd, for
it had been many years since he had noticed a female face sufficiently
for that face to impress itself upon his memory. Years and years before
Galusha Bangs had been forced to the conclusion that the interest of
attractive feminity was not for him and he had accepted the inevitable
and never permitted his own interest to stray in that direction. A
few feminine faces he could, of course, recall; the face of his Aunt
Clarissa, for instance, and--dear me, yes! that of the pestiferous Mrs.
Worth Buckley, his--ah--not his “old man of the sea” exactly, but his
equally troublesome, middle-aged woman of the mountains. Mrs. Buckley
had not attracted his notice, she had seized it, served a subpoena upon
it, and his provokingly contrary memory persisted in recalling her face,
probably because he so earnestly desired to forget it.

But he found a real pleasure in visualizing the face of Miss Martha
Phipps. Her eyes now--her eyes were--ah--um--they were blue; no, they
were gray--or a sort of gray-blue, perhaps, or even a shade of brown.
But the precise color made no real difference. It was the way they
looked at one, and--ah--smiled, so to speak. Odd, because he had never
before realized that one could--ah--smile with one’s eyes. Attractive,
too, that smile of hers, the eyes and the lips in combination. A sort of
cheerful, comfortable smile--yes, and--ah--attractive--ah--inviting,
as one might say; a homelike smile; that was the word he
wanted--“homelike.” It had been a long, long time since he had had a
home. As a matter of fact, he had not cared to have one. A tent in Egypt
or Syria, furnished with a mummy or two, and with a few neighborly ruins
next door--this had been his idea of comfort. It was his idea still, but
nevertheless--

And then he became aware that from somewhere, apparently from the
heavens above, a voice was shouting--yes, roaring--his name.

“Mr. Bangs!... Hi-i, Mr. Bangs!”

Galusha came out of his walking dream, stared about him, found that he
had walked almost to the fence surrounding the light keeper’s home and
would have collided with that fence in another stride or two, looked
around, down, and finally up--to see Captain Jethro leaning over the
iron rail surrounding the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse.

“Oh! Why--ah--good gracious!” he exclaimed. “Were you calling me,
Captain Hallett?”

Captain Jethro shook his big head. “Callin’!” he repeated. “I’ve been
bellerin’ like the foghorn for five minutes. A little more of it and
I’d have run out of steam or bust a b’iler, one or t’other. Ain’t been
struck deef, have you, Mr. Bangs?”

“No--ah--no, I trust not. I was--ah--thinking, I presume, and I did not
hear you. I’m very sorry.”

“That’s all right. Glad you was only thinkin’ and no worse. I didn’t
know but you’d been struck by walkin’ paralysis or somethin’. Say,”
 he leaned further over the rail and lowered his voice. “Say,” he said
again, “would you mind comin’ up here a minute? I want to talk to you.”

Mr. Bangs did not mind and, entering the round tower, he climbed the
spiral stair to the little room at the top. The great lantern, with its
glittering facets and lenses filled that room almost entirely, and the
light keeper’s great form filled it still more. There was scarcely space
for little Galusha to squeeze in.

Jethro explained that he had been cleaning the lantern. “It’s Zacheus’
job really,” he observed, “but I have to do it myself once in a while
to keep it shipshape. Say,” he added, opening the door which led to the
balcony, “look out yonder. Worth lookin’ at, ain’t it?”

It was. The morning was dry and clear, a brisk wind from the west, and
not a cloud. The lighthouse, built as it was upon the knoll at the edge
of the bluff, seemed to be vastly higher than it actually was, and to
tower far above all else until the view from its top was almost like
that from an aeroplane. The horizon swept clear and unbroken for three
quarters of a circle, two of those quarters the sharp blue rim of the
ocean meeting the sky. The white wave-crests leaped and twinkled and
danced for miles and miles. Far below on the yellow sand of the beach,
the advancing and retreating breakers embroidered lacy patterns which
changed constantly.

“Worth looking at, ain’t it?” repeated the captain.

Galusha nodded. “Indeed it is,” he said, with emphasis. Yet it surprised
him slightly to find the gruff old light keeper enthusiastic concerning
a scene which must be so very much a matter of course to him.

“The Almighty done a good job when He built that,” observed Captain
Jethro, waving his hand toward the Atlantic. “Don’t never get tired
of lookin’ at salt water, I don’t, and yet I’ve been in it or on it or
around it pretty much all my life. And now I’m up above it,” he added,
thoughtfully. “We’re pretty high up where we are now, Mr. Bangs. I like
to set up here and--er--well, kind of think about things, sometimes....
Humph!... Do you cal’late we’re any nigher when we’re up aloft here than
we are down on the ground yonder; nigher to THEM, I mean?”

His visitor was puzzled. “I--I beg your pardon?” he stammered.
“Nigher--ah--nearer to--ah--what?”

“Nigher to them--them that’s gone afore. Seems sometimes, when I’m alone
up here, particular of a foggy day, as if I was consider’ble nigher
to them--to HER, especial--than when I’m on the ground. Think there’s
anything in it, do you?”

Galusha said he didn’t know; we know so little about such things,
really. He wondered what the captain had invited him up there to talk
about. Some spiritualistic subject, very likely; the conversation seemed
to be tending that way. Jethro appeared to have forgotten altogether
the seance and his, Galusha’s, assumption of the character of the small,
dark “evil influence.” It looked very much as if that assumption--so far
as it entailed the permanent shifting of prejudice from Nelson Howard to
himself--had been effort wasted.

Captain Jeth pulled at his beard and seemed to be dreaming. Galusha
pitied the old fanatic as he stood there, massive, rugged, brows drawn
together, sturdy legs apart as if set to meet the roll of a ship at
sea--a strong figure, yet in a way the figure of a wistful, dreaming
child, helpless--

“Mr. Bangs,” said the light keeper, “don’t you cal’late, if you set out
to, you could sell my four hundred Wellmouth Development same as you
sold Martha’s two hundred and fifty?”

Galusha would have sat down, if there had been anything except the floor
to sit down on. As a matter of fact, even that consideration might not
have prevented his sitting; his knees bent suddenly and he was on his
way to the floor, but his shoulders struck the wall behind him and
furnished the support he so very much needed. So far as speech was
concerned, that was out of the question. His mouth opened and shut, but
nothing audible issued therefrom. Mr. Bangs, at that moment, gave a very
good imitation of a fish unexpectedly jerked out of deep water to dry,
very dry land.

Captain Jethro did not seem to realize the effect of his question upon
his visitor. His big fist moved downward from his chin to the tip of his
beard, only to rise and take a new hold at the chin again. His gaze was
fixed upon the rolling sea outside.

“You see,” he went on, “I kind of figger it out this way: If them folks
who bought Martha’s stock are cal’latin’ to buy up Development they’ll
want more’n two hundred and fifty. I’ll sell ‘em mine at a reasonable
figger; sha’n’t ask much over what I paid for it, I sha’n’t. If they
ain’t buyin’ for anything ‘special, but just ‘cause they think it’s a
good thing to keep--well, then--”

Galusha interrupted. The faculty of framing words and uttering them was
returning to him, albeit slowly and jerkily.

“Why--why, Captain Hallett,” he faltered. “How--how--who--who--”

“Martha didn’t tell me nothin’ except that she had sold her stock,”
 broke in the light keeper. “I guessed that, too, afore she told me.
She never mentioned your name, Mr. Bangs, nor where she sold it, nor
nothin’. But, of course, when I found out ‘twas you who went to
Boston and fetched home the five thousand dollars I didn’t need to be
told--much. Now, Mr. Bangs, I wish you’d see if you can’t sell my four
hundred shares for me. It’ll be consider’ble of a favor if you will. You
see, them shares--”

But Galusha did not wait for him to finish. His alarmed protests fairly
tumbled over each other.

“Why--why, Captain Hallett,” he cried, “really I--I... ah... What you
ask is quite impossible. Oh, very much so--ah--very. You see... Well,
really, I... Captain Hallett, this entire matter was supposed to be a
secret, an absolute secret. I am surprised--and--ah--shocked to learn--”

The captain’s big paw was uplifted as a signal. “Sshh! Heave to! Come up
into the wind a minute, Mr. Bangs. ‘Tis a secret, fur’s I’m consarned,
and ‘twill be just the same after I’ve sold my stock. I realize that
business men don’t want business matters talked about, ‘tain’t likely.
All I’d like to have you do is just see if you can’t dispose of that
four hundred of mine, same as you done with Martha’s. Just as a favor
I’m askin’ it.”

Galusha shook his head violently. His agitation was as great as ever.
After going through the agony of the frying pan and congratulating
himself that that torment was over, then to find he had escaped merely
into the fire was perfectly maddening--not to say frightening--and--oh,
dear, dear, dear!

“Really, I’m very sorry, very,” he reiterated. “But I am QUITE sure I
can do nothing with your shares, Captain Hallett. It--it--such a thing
would be absolutely impossible. I’m sorry.”

Captain Jethro’s calm was unshaken. “We-ll,” he said, slowly, “I ain’t
altogether surprised. Course I could see that maybe you wouldn’t want to
go cruisin’ up to them folks again, ‘specially they bein’ relations. I
don’t blame you for that, Mr. Bangs. But, in case you did feel that way,
I’d made up my mind I’d go up there myself and see ‘em.”

“Eh? Ah--ah--See? See whom?”

“Why, them relations of yours. Them Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot folks.
I know OF ‘em; everybody that knows anything about bankin’ does, of
course. I don’t know any of ‘em personal, but I cal’lated maybe you’d
be willin’ to give me a note, a letter introducin’ me, you see. Then
I could tell ‘em why I come, and how I wanted to talk with ‘em about
sellin’ some more of the same stock they sold for you. That would be all
right, wouldn’t it, Mr. Bangs?”

Galusha did not answer. The absolute hopelessness of the situation was
beginning to force itself upon his understanding. Whether or not he gave
the letter of introduction, the light keeper would go to Cabot, Bancroft
and Cabot--oh, how on earth did he ever learn that THEY had anything
to do with it?--and begin talkin’ about Martha Phipps’ stock; and they
would deny knowing anything of it; and then the captain would persist,
giving details; and Barbour and Minor and the rest would guess the truth
and probably write Thomas, who would eventually tell Cousin Gussie; and
the light keeper would return home and tell Martha, and she would learn
that he had lied to her and deceived her--

“Well, what do you say, Mr. Bangs?” inquired Captain Jethro.

Bangs turned a haggard gaze in the speaker’s direction. The latter was
standing in exactly the same attitude, feet apart, hand to beard, sad
eyes gazing out to sea; just as he had stood when Galusha’s sympathy had
gone out to him as a “helpless, dreaming child.”

“What are you laughin’ at?” asked Captain Jeth, switching his gaze from
old ocean to the face of the little archaeologist.

Galusha had not laughed, but there was a smile, a wan sort of smile,
upon his face.

“Oh, nothing in particular,” he replied. “I was reflecting that
it seemed rather too bad to waste pity in quarters where it was
not--ah--needed, when there was such a pressing demand, as one might
say, at home.”



CHAPTER XIII


The earnest young man behind the counter in the office of Cabot,
Bancroft and Cabot--the young man who had so definitely classified
Galusha Bangs as a “nut”--was extremely surprised when that individual
reappeared before his window and, producing the very check which he had
obtained there so short a time before, politely requested to exchange
it for eighty-two hundred dollars in cash and another check for the
balance.

“Why--why--but--!” exclaimed the young man.

“Thank you. Yes, if--ah--if you will be so good,” said Galusha.

The young man himself asked questions, and then called Mr. Minor into
consultation, and Mr. Minor asked more. The answers they received were
not illuminating, but in the end the transaction was made as requested.

“But, Bangs,” said Minor, laughing, “what I can’t understand is why you
want to bother with the check for eleven hundred and odd--whatever it
is. Why not take the whole amount in cash and be done with it?”

Galusha shook his head. “I prefer it the--ah--other way. If you don’t
mind,” he added, politely.

“Oh, we don’t mind. But--well, it seems rather funny, that’s all. Ha,
ha!”

“Does it? Yes, I--ah--dare say it does.”

“Ha, ha! Yes, rather. Of course, it is your business, you know, but--”

He laughed again. The harassed Galusha waited until the laugh was over.
Then he said, gently, “Yes, I was under that impression.”

“Eh? What impression?”

“That it was, as you say, my--ah--business.”

“Yes. Why... Eh? Oh!... Humph!... Why, yes, surely, certainly. Here,”
 turning briskly to the clerk, “give Mr. Bangs what he wishes at once.”

He walked away, pulling thoughtfully at his mustache. Galusha, rubbing
his chin, looked gravely after him. The clerk began making out the
check. This done and the check entrusted to a messenger to be taken to
the private office for signing, the next business was the counting of
the money.

“Eighty-two hundred, you said?” asked the clerk.

“Eighty-two hundred--ah--yes,” said Galusha.

Eight thousand was, of course, the price at par of Jethro Hallett’s
four hundred shares of Wellmouth Development stock. The additional two
hundred was a premium paid, so to speak, to the departed spirit of the
late Mrs. Jethro Hallett. She, by or through the Chinese control of Miss
Marietta Hoag, had notified her husband that he was destined to sell his
Development shares at a profit, a small profit perhaps, but a profit,
nevertheless.

So, when at that point of their conversation in the lantern room of the
Gould’s Bluffs light, Galusha, recognizing his helpless position and the
alternative of buying the Hallett holdings or being exposed to Cousin
Gussie as a sentimental and idiotic spendthrift and to Martha Phipps as
a liar and criminal--when Galusha, facing this alternative, stammered a
willingness to go to Boston and see if he could not dispose of Jethro’s
stock as he had Martha’s, the captain added an additional clause.

“I won’t sell for par,” he declared stubbornly. “Julia revealed to me
that I wouldn’t, and so I sha’n’t. I’ll sell for fifty cents a share
extry, but I won’t sell for twenty flat. Rather than do that I’ll go
to them Cabot folks myself and see if I can’t find out who’s buyin’ and
why. Then I’ll go to the real buyers and make the best trade I can with
them. If they really want to get hold of that stock, fifty cents a share
won’t stand in their way, I’ll bet you.”

It did not stand in Galusha’s way, either. In his desperate position he
would have paid any amount obtainable rather than have the light keeper
go to Boston on such an errand.

Leaving the clerk’s window with his pocket bulging with bank notes, Mr.
Bangs proceeded sadly, but with determination, to the private office
of Mr. Barbour, his cousin’s “second secretary.” There, producing from
another pocket a huge envelope, portentously daubed and sealed with red
wax, he handed it to Barbour. It contained the two stock certificates,
each signed in blank, Martha’s for two hundred and fifty shares, Captain
Jethro’s for four hundred. The envelope and the wax he had procured at a
stationer’s near the South Station. The obliging salesman had permitted
him to do the sealing on the premises.

“Mr. Barbour,” he faltered, “I should like to leave this with you,
if--if quite convenient, that is to say.”

Barbour turned the big envelope over.

“Yes, Mr. Bangs, surely,” he said, but he looked puzzled. “What is it?”

Galusha blushed and stammered. “Why--why--” he began; “I--ah--you
see--it is--ah--something of mine.”

“Something you wish me to take care of?” asked Barbour, still looking at
the envelope.

His caller grasped at the straw.

“Yes--yes, that is it,” he said, eagerly. “Dear me, yes. If you will be
so kind.”

“Yes, indeed, Mr. Bangs. No trouble at all. I’ll put it--”

But the little man stopped the sentence in the middle.

“If--if you please,” he protested. “Ah--please don’t. I don’t wish to
know where you put it. Really, I don’t, not in the least. I very much
prefer not to know where it is.... Ah--good-day, Mr. Barbour. Thank you
very much.”

The general opinion in the office of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot
concerning the senior partner’s queer cousin was strengthened by this
visit. The surmise that Galusha Bangs was a “nut” became a conviction.

But, for the “nut” himself, life during the coming weeks and months
became a much less worrisome struggle. Returning to East Wellmouth,
for the second time laden with legal tender, he delivered his burden to
Captain Jethro, who, in return, promised faithfully never to reveal a
word concerning the sale of his Development stock or drop a hint which
might help to locate its purchasers.

“Course I won’t say nothin’,” vowed the captain. “I realize that
business men don’t want their business talked about. And if them Cabot,
Bancroft and Cabot folks are tryin’ to buy in the stock, whether it’s
for themselves or somebody else, they’ll want it kept dark. No, I ain’t
told a soul on this earth and I WON’T tell one. That is satisfactory,
ain’t it?”

The shadow of a smile passed across Galusha’s face. “Quite, quite,” he
replied. “Nothing could be more so unless--”

“Well, unless what?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing. Thank you--ah--thank you very much.”

It had occurred to him that, considering the light keeper’s
peculiarities, the promise not to tell a soul on earth might be
stretched to include those elsewhere; but he kept the thought to
himself. Captain Jethro did not press his question. The shrewd
old captain was so thoroughly delighted at having sold, and at the
prophesied profit, his troublesome holdings in the Wellmouth Development
Company, that his mood was neither combative nor inquisitive.

Galusha did not tell Miss Phipps of his business deal with the light
keeper. In the first place, his telling her would involve more deception
and, also, might lead to more possibilities of discovery. The average,
well-meaning person, having been driven by relentless fate to the
committing of murder, could scarcely have felt more conscience-stricken
and depraved than did little Galusha Bangs at having lied to Martha
Phipps. Of course, the lies and deceit had resulted in a distinct
benefit to her and had been perpetrated solely with that idea, but this
fact he ignored entirely. And no murderer could have been more anxious
to hide his guilty secret than was he. So, for the first few days
after his return with the light keeper’s money, he was inclined to be
thoughtful and nervous, to fall into troubled trances at table or in
the middle of a conversation, and to start rather violently when aroused
from those trances. Primmie was disposed to attribute these lapses to
disease. She confided her fears to her employer.

“You know what I think ‘tis makes him act so, Miss Martha?” she asked,
on one occasion.

“Makes who act how?”

“Makes Mr. Bangs set there and go moonin’ off and not pay no attention
and then jump when you wake him up as if you’d stuck a pin in him. You
know what I think ‘tis? I think maybe it’s dropsy.”

“WHAT?”

“Um-hm. I had a great-aunt once; had a slew of ‘em, fur’s that goes,
‘cause my grandmother on the starboard side--”

“WHAT side?”

“Eh! Oh, that’s what pa used to call his side of the family, the
starboard side. All ma’s folks was port side, ‘cordin’ to his tell.
He’d worked aboard vessels, pa had; that is, as much as he ever worked
anywheres. Well, anyhow, his grandmother she had eight sisters and three
brothers, so I had great-aunts thicker’n miskeeters in a swamp hole--my
savin’ soul, yes! Well, anyhow, one of ‘em, Aunt Lucifer ‘twas--”

“PRIMMIE! WHAT was her name?”

“Lucifer. Ma and us children always called her Aunt Lucy, though; she
liked it better.”

“Heavens and earth! I should think she might. WHAT possessed anybody to
name a child Lucifer? And a girl-child at that!”

“Does sound kind of funny, don’t it? Folks ‘most always used to laugh
when they heard what her name was. That is, fust along they did; but
they never laughed but once when she was around. Talk about makin’
anybody mad! And temper--my Lord of Isrul! Why, if they laughed at
her name she was li’ble to grab hold of the fust thing come to hand,
flatiron or frying pan or chunk of stove wood or anything, and let ‘em
have it rattlety-bang-jing. _I_ never seen her do it, of course--all
that was afore MY time--but pa used to say it never made no difference
whether ‘twas the man come tryin’ to collect the store bill or the
minister or anybody, she’d up and flatten him just the same. Course pa
said ‘twas a whole lot more li’ble to be the bill man than the minister
‘cause there was precious few ministers ever--”

“There, there, Primmie! I can’t stop to listen any longer, I’m busy. But
do tell me why they named the poor thing Lucifer? How did they ever hear
the name, anyway; way over in those Mashpaug woods?”

“Oh, there was a story about that, kind of a pretty story ‘twas,
too. ‘Cordin’ to pa’s tell, the fust time Aunt Lucy’s ma--my great
grandmother, and the land knows what HER name was, _I_ don’t--the fust
time she went out after the baby was born she went to camp meetin’. And
one of the ministers there he talked some consider’ble about a critter
name of Lucifer that was a fallen-down angel, whatever that is. Well, my
great-grandmother she didn’t understand much about what he was talkin’
about--I cal’late none of ‘em did fur’s that goes, and no wonder--but
the name of Lucifer sort of stuck in her head ‘cause she thought ‘twas
kind of pretty. And when she got back home they told her the baby had
fetched loose from the bed where it had been asleep and fell onto the
floor and pretty nigh busted itself in two. And it never hardly cried
at all--was a reg’lar angel they said--and that made her think about the
fallen-down angel she’d just heard tell of to camp meetin’ and its name
was Lucifer. And they hadn’t named the baby yet, so--”

“I see. Ha, ha! Primmie, you are--well, there aren’t many like you, I’m
sure. Now I must go. Well, what is it?”

“Oh, nothin’, only I ain’t told you why I think Mr. Bangs may be comin’
down with dropsy. You see, Aunt Lucy--this Lucifer one I’ve been tellin’
you about--she had it. I only remember her ‘long towards her last. She
wan’t heavin’ any teakittles at folks then; my savin’ soul, no! She used
to set in a big rockin’-chair over by the stove and was all puffed-up
like--like a featherbed, you might say; and she’d kind of doze along and
doze along and you could holler your head off and she wouldn’t pay no
attention, and then she’d kind of wake up, as you might say, and sing
out, ‘Hey? What say?’ just like Mr. Bangs, for all the world. And ‘twas
dropsy she had, so now you see, don’t you, Miss Martha?”

“Yes, yes, Primmie, I see. Tut, tut, tut! You certainly have a great
imagination, of its kind. I shouldn’t worry about Mr. Bangs’ disease, if
I were you. The poor man isn’t really strong yet and he has been runnin’
back and forth to Boston lately altogether too much for his own good. He
is tired and his nerves are tired, too; so we must make it as easy as we
can for him, Primmie, you and I.”

“Yes’m. He’s a good man, ain’t he?”

“Indeed he is!”

“Yes’m. Even if he is so kind of--of funny.”

Often, in earlier conversations with her housemaid, Miss Phipps had
agreed that her lodger was, to say the least, “funny”; but now she
seemed to resent the word.

“Humph!” she observed, crisply, “if he is, I presume likely he has the
right to be. And I know this, if there were more ‘funny’ people like
him in this world it would be a big improvement. Primmie, go and do your
sweepin’.”



CHAPTER XIV


With the end of the following week spring came in earnest to Gould’s
Bluffs, not yet as a steady boarder--spring in New England is a young
lady far too fickle for that--but to make the first of her series of
ever-lengthening visits. Galusha found her, indeed, a charming young
person. His walks now were no longer between snowdrifts or over frozen
fields and hills. Those hills and fields were still bare and brown, of
course, but here and there, in sheltered hollows, tiny bits of new green
began to show. In April, by disturbing the layers of dead leaves and
sodden vegetation through which these hints of greenness peeped, one was
likely to come upon fragrant treasures, the pink and white blossoms of
the trailing arbutus.

There was a superfluity of mud, of course, and as Miss Phipps often
informed him, Galusha’s boots and lower trouser legs were “sights to
see” when he came back from those walks. He expressed contrition and
always proclaimed that he should be much more careful in future--much
more, yes. But he was not, nor did he care greatly. He was feeling quite
well again, better than he had felt for years, and spring was in his
middle-aged blood and was rejuvenating him, just as it was rejuvenating
the world and its creatures about him, including Lucy Larcom, Martha’s
ancient and rheumatic Thomas cat. Lucy--an animal as misnamed as
Primmie’s “Aunt Lucifer”--instead of slumbering peacefully and
respectably in his cushioned box in the kitchen, which had been his
custom of winter nights, now refused to come in at bedtime, ignored his
mistress’ calls altogether, and came rolling home in the morning with
slit ears and scarred hide and an air of unrepentant and dissipated
abandon.

Galusha, inspecting the prodigal’s return one morning, observed: “Luce,
when I first met you, you reminded me strongly of my Aunt Clarissa. The
air of--ah--dignity and respectable disapproval with which you looked me
over was much like hers. But now--now, if you wore a hat on one side and
an--ah--exuberant waistcoat, you would remind me more of Mr. Pulcifer.”

With April came the fogs, and the great foghorn bellowed and howled
night after night. Galusha soon learned to sleep through the racket. It
was astonishing, his capacity for sleep and his capability in sleeping
up to capacity. His appetite, too, was equally capable. He was, in fact,
feeling so very well that his conscience began troubling him
concerning his duty to the Institute. He wrote to the directors of that
establishment suggesting that, as his health was so greatly improved,
perhaps he had better return to his desk. The reply was prompt. The
directors were, so the letter said, much pleased to hear of his improved
health, but they wished him to insure the permanence of that improvement
by remaining away for another six months at least. “We have,” the writer
added, “a plan, not yet definite and complete, although approaching that
condition, which will call for your knowledge and experienced guidance.
Our plan will probably materialize in the fall or winter. I can say no
more concerning it now, except to add that we feel sure that it will
be acceptable to you and that you should take every precaution to gain
strength and health as a preparatory measure.”

Galusha could not guess what the plan might be, but he was a bit
surprised to find himself so willing to agree to the directors’ mandate
that he remain in East Wellmouth for the present. His beloved desk in
his beloved study there in Washington had been torn from him, or rather
he had been torn from it, and for a time it had really seemed as if the
pangs of severance might prove fatal. By all that was fit and proper he
should fiercely resent the order to remain away for another six months.
But he did not resent it fiercely; did not resent it at all; in fact, to
be quite honest, he welcomed it. He was inwardly delighted to be ordered
to remain in East Wellmouth. Such a state of mind was surprising, quite
nonunderstandable.

And, day by day and week by week, the fear that his guilty secret
concerning the Wellmouth Development stock might be discovered became
less and less acute. Captain Jethro never mentioned it; Martha Phipps,
when she found that he preferred not to discuss it, kept quiet, also.
Perhaps, after all, no one would ever know anything about it. And the
change in Martha’s spirits was glorious to see.

He and Lulie Hallett had many quiet talks together. Ever since the
evening of the seance when, partially by craft and partially by luck,
he had prevented her father’s discovering young Howard’s presence in
the house, she had unreservedly given him her friendship. And this gift
Galusha appreciated. He had liked her when they first met and the liking
had increased. She was a sensible, quiet, unaffected country girl. She
was also an extremely pretty girl, and when a very pretty girl--and
sensible and unaffected and the rest--makes you her confidant and asks
your advice concerning her love affair and her heart’s most precious
secrets, even a middle-aged “mummy duster,” whose interest in the female
sex has, until very recently, centered upon specimens of that sex who
have been embalmed several thousand years--even such a one cannot help
being gratified by the subtle flattery.

So when Lulie asked his advice Galusha gave it, such as he happened to
have in stock, whole-heartedly and without reserve. He and she had many
chats and the subjects of these chats were almost invariably two--her
father and Nelson Howard. How could she reconcile the one with and to
the other? Mr. Bangs’ council was, of course, to wait and hope, but
a council of procrastination is, to say the most, but partially
satisfying.

One afternoon, in the middle of May, he met her on the way back from the
village and, as they walked on together, he asked her if there were any
new developments in the situation. She looked troubled.

“I don’t exactly know what you mean by developments,” she said. “If you
mean that father is any more reconciled to Nelson, he isn’t, that’s all.
On any other subject he is as nice as he can be. If I wanted anything in
the world, and he had money enough to buy it, I do believe I could have
it just for the asking. That is a good deal to say,” she added, with a
half smile, “considering how fond father is of money, but honestly, Mr.
Bangs, I think it’s true.”

Galusha declared that he had no doubt of its truth, indeed, no.

“But, you see,” continued Lulie, “the one thing I do want--which is for
father to like Nelson--can’t be bought with money. I try to talk with
him, and argue with him; sometimes when he is especially good-natured
and has been especially nice to me, I try to coax him, but it always
ends in one way; he gets cross and won’t listen. ‘Don’t talk to me
about that Howard swab, I won’t hear it.’ That’s what he always says. He
always calls Nelson a ‘swab.’ Oh, dear! I’m so tired of it all.”

“Yes--ah--yes, I’m sure you must be. Ah--um--swab? Swab? It doesn’t
sound agreeable. What is a--ah--swab, may I ask?”

“Oh, I believe it’s a kind of mop that the sailors use aboard ship to
clean decks with. I believe that is what it is.”

“Indeed? Yes, yes, of course. Now that is quite interesting, isn’t it?
A mop--yes. But really, I don’t see why Mr. Howard should be called
a--ah--mop. There is nothing about him which suggests a mop to me. Now
in my case--why, this very morning Miss Mar--Miss Phipps suggested that
my hair needed cutting very badly. I hadn’t noticed it, myself, but when
she called my attention I looked in the mirror and--ah--really, I was
quite a sight. Ah--shaggy, you know, like a--like a yak.”

“A what?”

“A yak. The--ah--Tibetan animal. I spent a season in Tibet a number
of years ago and they use them there for beasts of burden. They have a
great deal of hair, you know, and so did I--ah--this morning. Dear me,
yes; I was quite yaklike.”

Lulie turned an amused glance at him. “So Martha tells you when--”
 she began, and then stopped, having spoken without thinking. But her
companion was not offended.

“Oh, yes, yes,” he said cheerfully. “She tells me many things for my own
good. She quite manages me. It is extremely good of her, for goodness
knows I need it. Dear me, yes!” He thoughtfully rubbed his shorn neck
and added, “I told that barber that my hair needed cutting badly.
I--ah--fear that is the way he cut it.... I read that joke in the paper,
Miss Lulie; it isn’t original, really.”

He smiled and she burst out laughing. But she did not laugh long. When
she next spoke she was serious enough.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said, “you don’t think it dishonorable, or mean to
father, for me to keep on seeing Nelson, do you? Father keeps ordering
me not to, but I never say I won’t. If he asked me I should tell him
that I did.”

Galusha’s answer was promptly given.

“No, I don’t think it dishonorable,” he said. “Of course, you must see
him. It is too bad that you are obliged to see him in--ah--ah--dear me,
what is the word I want? Clan--clan--sounds Scottish, doesn’t
it?--oh, yes, clandestine! It is too bad you are obliged to see him
clandestinely, but I suppose your father’s attitude makes anything else
impossible. I am very sorry that my claiming to be the evil influence
has had so little effect. That was a mistake, I fear.”

“Don’t say that, Mr. Bangs. You saved us all from a dreadful scene, and
father himself from--I hate to think what. Don’t ever say that it was a
mistake, please. But I do so hate all this hiding and pretending. Some
day it will have to end, but how I don’t know. Nelson comes first,
of course; but how can I leave father? I shall see him--Nelson, I
mean--to-night, Mr. Bangs. He has written me saying he is coming over,
and I am going to meet him. He says he has good news. I can’t think what
it can be. I can’t think of any good news that could come for him and
me, except that father has stopped believing in Marietta Hoag’s
spirits and has gotten over his ridiculous prejudice; and that WON’T
come--ever.”

“Oh, yes, it will! I’m sure it will. Dear me, you mustn’t lose heart,
you know.”

“Mustn’t I? No, I suppose I mustn’t. Thank you, Mr. Bangs. Nelson and I
are ever and ever so much obliged to you. You are a great comfort to me.
I told Martha that very thing yesterday,” she added.

Galusha could not help looking pleased. “Did you, indeed?” he observed.
“Well, well--ah--dear me, that was a rather rash statement, wasn’t it?”

“Not a bit. And do you want to know what she said? She said you were a
great comfort to a good many people, Mr. Bangs. So there; you see!”

That evening the moon rolled, like a silver bowl, over the liquid rim of
the horizon, and, upsetting, spilled shimmering, shining, dancing
fire in a broad path from sky edge to the beach at the foot of Gould’s
Bluffs. At the top of that bluff, in the rear of a clump of bayberry
bushes which shielded them from the gaze of possible watchers at the
lighthouse, Nelson Howard and Lulie, walking slowly back and forth, saw
it rise.

Nelson told her the good news he had mentioned in his letter. It was
that he had been offered a position as operator at the great wireless
station in Trumet. It was what he had been striving for and hoping for
and his war record in the radio service had made it possible for him
to obtain it. The pay was good to begin with and the prospect of
advancement bright.

“And, of course, the best of it is,” he said, “that I shall be no
further away from you than I am now. Trumet isn’t a bit farther than
South Wellmouth. There! Don’t you think that my good news IS good news?”

Of course she did and said so.

“And I’m awfully proud of you, too,” she told him.

“Nothing to be proud of; I’m lucky, that’s all. And don’t you see, dear,
how this is going to help us? I shall be earning good pay and I shall
save every cent possible, you can bet on that. Rooms are furnished by
the company for single men, and houses, nice, comfortable houses, for
the married ones. In three months, or in six at the most, I shall have
added enough to what I have saved already to make it possible for us to
be married. And we WILL be married. Just think of you and me having one
of those pretty little houses for our own, and being there together, in
our home! Just think of it! Won’t it be wonderful!”

He looked down into her face and smiled and she, looking up into his,
smiled, too. But she shook her head, nevertheless.

“Yes, dear,” she said, “it would be wonderful. But it’s too wonderful to
be true, I’m afraid.”

“Why? Nonsense! Of course it can be true. And it’s going to be, too, in
six months, perhaps sooner.”

But still she shook her head.

“It can’t be, Nelson,” she said, sadly. “Don’t you see it can’t? There
is father.”

“Your father will be all right. That’s one of the good things about this
new job of mine. You will be only a little way from him. He’ll be here
at the light, with Zach to look after him, and you can come over every
few days to make sure things are going as they should. Why--”

She touched his lips with her fingers.

“Don’t, dear,” she begged. “You know you’re only talking just because
it is nice to make-believe. I like to hear you, too; but what is the use
when it’s ONLY make-believe? You know what father’s health really
is; you know how nervous he is. Doctor Powers told me he must not be
overexcited or--or dreadful things might happen. You saw him at that
horrid seance thing.”

He shrugged. “If I didn’t see I heard,” he admitted.

“Yes, you heard. And you know how near--Now suppose I should tell him
that you and I intended getting married and going to Trumet to live;
what do you think would happen?”

“But, look here, Lulie: You’ve got to tell him some time, because we ARE
going to be married, you know.”

“Are we? Yes, I--I hope we are. But, oh, Nelson, sometimes I get almost
discouraged. I CAN’T leave him in that way, you know that. And, in a
sense, I don’t want to leave him, because he is my father and I love
him.”

“But, confound it, you love me, too, don’t you?”

“You know I do. But--but--oh, dear! What can I do?”

He did not answer at once. After a moment he said, rebelliously: “You
have got your own life to live. Your father has lived the biggest part
of his. He hasn’t any right to prevent your being happy. It would be
different if he had any excuse for it, reasonable excuse. I’m a--well,
I’m not a thief--or a fool, quite, I hope. I can provide for you
comfortably and I’ll do my level best to be a good husband to you. If
there was any excuse for his hating me, any except that idiotic spirit
craziness of his. And what right has he to order you around? A hundred
years or so ago fathers used to order their sons and daughters to marry
this one or the other, and if they didn’t mind they disinherited ‘em, or
threw ‘em out of doors, or some such stuff. At least, that’s the way it
worked, according to the books and plays. But that doesn’t go nowadays.
What right has he--”

But again she touched his lips.

“Don’t, Nelson, please,” she said, gently. “Rights haven’t anything to
do with it, of course. You know they haven’t, don’t you? You know it’s
just--just that things are AS they are and that’s all. If father was as
he used to be, his real self, and he behaved toward you as he is doing,
I shouldn’t hesitate at all. I should marry you and feel I was doing
exactly right. But now--”

She stopped and he, stooping, caught a gleam of moisture where the
moonlight touched her cheek. He put his arm about her waist.

“Don’t, dear,” he said, hastily. “I’m sorry. Forgive me, will you? Of
course you’re dead right and I’ve been talking like a jackass. I’ll
behave, honest I will.... But what ARE we going to do? I won’t give you
up, you know, no matter if every spirit control in--in wherever they
come from orders me to.”

She smiled. “Of course we’re not going to give each other up,” she
declared. “As for what we’re going to do, I don’t know. I suppose there
is nothing to do for the present except to wait and--and hope father may
change his mind. That’s all, isn’t it?”

He shook his head. “Waiting is a pretty slow game,” he said. “I wonder,
if I pretended to fall in love with Marietta Hoag, if those Chinese
spooks of hers would send word to Cap’n Jeth that I was really a fairly
decent citizen. Courting Marietta would be hard medicine to take, but if
it worked a cure we might try it. What do you think?”

“I should be afraid that the remedy might be worse than the disease.
Once in Marietta’s clutches how would you get away?”

“Oh, that would be easy. I’d have Doctor Powers swear that I had been
suffering from temporary softening of the brain and wasn’t accountable
for what I’d been doing.”

“She might not believe it.”

“Maybe not, but everybody else would. Nothing milder than softening of
the brain would account for a fellow’s falling in love with Marietta
Hoag.”

A little later, as they were parting, she said, “Nelson, you’re an
awfully dear fellow to be so thoughtful and forbearing and--and patient.
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t let you wait for me any longer.”

“Let me! How are you going to stop me? Of course I’ll wait for you.
You’re the only thing worth waiting for in the world. Don’t you know
that?”

“I know you think so. But, oh, dear, it seems sometimes as if there
never would be any end to the waiting, and as if I had no right to
ask--”

“There, there! Don’t YOU begin talking about rights. There’s going to be
an end and the right kind of end. No Chinese spooks are going to keep us
apart, my girl, not if I can help it.”

“I know. But can you help it?... I must go now. Yes, I must, or father
will wonder where I am and begin looking for me. He thinks I am over at
Martha Phipps’, you know. Good-night, dear.”

“Good-night, girlie. Don’t worry, it’s coming out all right for us, I’m
sure of it. This new job of mine is the first step in that direction.
There! Kiss me and run along. Good-night.”

They kissed and parted, Lulie to hasten back along the path to the
light and Nelson to stride off in the opposite direction toward South
Wellmouth. Neither of them saw two figures which had, the moment before,
appeared upon the summit of the knoll about thirty yards from the edge
of the bluff and directly behind them. But the pair on the knoll saw
them.

Martha Phipps had been standing by the window of the sitting room in her
home looking out. She had been standing there for some minutes. Galusha
Bangs, in the rocking-chair by the center table, was looking at her.
Suddenly Martha spoke.

“I declare!” she exclaimed. “I do believe that’s the loveliest moon I
ever saw. I presume likely,” she added, with a laugh, “it’s the same
moon I’ve always seen; it just looks lovelier, that’s all, seems to me.
It will be beautiful to look at from the top of the bluff, the light on
the water, I mean. You really ought to walk over and see it, Mr. Bangs.”

Galusha hesitated, rubbed his spectacles, and then was seized with an
inspiration.

“I--I will if you will go, too,” he said.

Martha turned to see if he was in earnest.

“Mercy me!” she exclaimed. “Why should I go? I’ve seen that moon on that
same water more times than I like to count.”

“But you haven’t seen it--ah--recently. Now have you?”

“Why, no, I don’t know as I have. Come to think of it, I don’t believe
I’ve been over to the top of the bank to see the moonlight since--well,
since father died. Father loved to look at salt water by sunlight
or moonlight--or no light. But, good gracious,” she added, “it seems
awfully foolish, doesn’t it, to go wading through the wet grass to look
at the moon--at my age?”

“Why, not at all, not at all,” persisted Galusha. “I must be--ah--vastly
older than you, Miss Phipps, and--”

“Nonsense!”

“Oh, but I am, really. One has only to look at me to see. And there
are times when I feel--ah--incredibly ancient; indeed, yes. Now in your
case, Miss Martha--”

“In my case I suppose I’m just a slip of a girl. For mercy sakes, don’t
let’s talk ages, no, nor think about ‘em, either.... Do YOU want to go
out to-night to look at that moon, Mr. Bangs?”

“Why, yes--I--if you--”

“Then get your rubbers and cap. I’ll be ready in a minute.”

The moon was well up now and land and sea were swimming in its misty
radiance. There was not a breath of wind and the air was as mild as if
the month had been June and not May. Under their feet the damp grass and
low bushes swished and rustled. An adventurous beetle, abroad before his
time, blundered droning by their heads. From the shadow of a bunch of
huckleberry bushes by the path a lithe figure soared lightly aloft, a
furry paw swept across, and that June bug was knocked into the vaguely
definite locality known as the “middle of next week.”

Martha uttered a little scream. “Goodness gracious me!” she exclaimed.
“Lucy Larcom, you bad cat, how you did scare me!”

Lucy leaped soundlessly over the clump of huckleberry bushes and
galloped gayly into the distance, his tail waving like a banner.

“WELL!” observed his mistress; “for a cat as old as you are I must say!”

“He feels young to-night,” said Galusha. “It must be the--ah--moonlight,
I think. Really, I--ah--I feel surprisingly young, myself. I do,
indeed!”

Martha laughed blithely. They came to the abrupt little slope at the
southwestern edge of the government property and when he offered to help
her down she took his hand and sprang down herself, almost as
lightly and easily as Lucy could have done it. Galusha laughed, too,
light-heartedly as a boy. His spectacles fell off and he laughed at
that.

The minute afterward they arrived at the crest of the knoll. Another
moment and the silhouetted figures of Lulie Hallett and Nelson Howard
appeared from behind the clump of bayberry bushes and walked onward
together, his arm about her waist. The pair on the knoll saw the
parting.

Lulie ran up the path and the door of the light keeper’s cottage closed
behind her. Howard disappeared around the bend of the hill. Martha and
Galusha turned hastily and began walking toward home. Neither spoke
until they were almost there. Then Miss Phipps, apparently feeling that
something should be said, observed: “The moon was--was real pretty,
wasn’t it, Mr. Bangs?”

Galusha started. “Eh?” he queried. “Oh, yes! yes, indeed! Ah--quite so.”

He made the next remark also; it was quite irrelevant.

“Youth,” he said, musingly. “Youth is a wonderful thing, really it is.”

Possibly his companion understood his thought, or had been thinking
along the same line herself. At all events she agreed. “Yes, it is,” she
said. “It is so. And most of us don’t realize how wonderful until it’s
gone.”

From the shadows by the gate Lucy Larcom sprang aloft to knock another
beetle galley-west. Lucy was distinctly a middle-aged cat, but he did
not allow the fact to trouble him. He gathered his June bugs while he
might and did not stop to dream vain dreams of vanished youth.



CHAPTER XV


Early June came to Gould’s Bluffs. The last of the blossoms fell from
the apple and pear trees in the Phipps’ orchard, there were young
swallows in the nests beneath the eaves of the shed, and tulips and
hyacinths gave color and fragrance to the flower beds in the front yard.
Down in the village Ras Beebe began his twice-a-year window dressing,
removing the caps, candy, sweaters, oil heaters, patent medicines and
mittens to substitute bathing suits, candy, straw hats, toy shovels,
patent medicines and caps. Small boys began barefoot experiments.
Miss Tamson Black departed for Nantucket to visit a cousin. Mr. Raish
Pulcifer had his wife resurrect his black-and-white striped flannel
trousers from the moth chest and hang them in the yard. “No use
talkin’,” so Zach Bloomer declared, “summer is headin’ down our way.
She’ll be here afore we know it.”

She was. One pleasant morning Galusha, emerging from the Phipps’ “side
door,” saw workmen about the premises of the Restabit Inn. For a week
thereafter the neighborhood echoed with hammer blows and reeked with the
smell of new paint. The Restabit Inn, shaking off its winter shabbiness,
emerged scrubbed, darned, patched and pressed, so to speak, in its
last--and several “lasts before that”--summer suit made over, ready to
receive callers.

On the twentieth of the month the callers began to arrive. East
Wellmouth broke out, as a child breaks out with the measles, in
brilliant speckles, the disease in this instance being unmistakably
a pronounced case of summer boarders. The “speckles” were everywhere,
about the post office, in Ras Beebe’s store, about the lighthouse,
on the beaches, and far and wide over the hills and hollows. They
picknicked in the pine groves, they giggled in the back seats on prayer
meeting nights, they sang noisily on the way back to the hotel after
evening mail sorting, they danced jazzily in the hotel parlor and on the
porches.

Martha did not mind them; she said they were rather nice, on the
whole, because they helped to remind her that all creation wasn’t East
Wellmouth. Galusha didn’t object to them, except when they were TOO
noisy at midnight or thereabouts and interfered with his slumbers.
Primmie condescended to them and aired her knowledge of local
celebrities and traditions. Captain Jethro ignored them utterly and
Lulie was popular among them. Only Zacheus, the philosopher, seemed to
find them unmitigated nuisances. Somehow or other the summer visitor got
under Mr. Bloomer’s hard shell and upon his salt-seasoned nerves.

“Blast ‘em!” grumbled Zach, “I don’t know why ‘tis, but they rile me
like fury. Prob’ly it’s because I ain’t never been much used to ‘em the
way I would have been if I’d been keepin’ light ashore all my days. Out
on the old Hog’s Back we never had no visitors to speak of and we used
to hanker for ‘em. Here, by Godfreys, they don’t give us no time to
hanker for nothin’. And they ask such foolhead questions! One woman, she
says to me yesterday, she says--I was showin’ her the foghorn, and says
she: ‘Do you have to turn a crank to make it go?’ Think of that! A hand
crank to make the fourth highest-power foghorn on the coast blow! I lost
my patience. ‘No ma’am,’ says I, ‘a crank ain’t necessary. I just put
my mouth to the touch-hole,’ I says, ‘and breathe natural and she
chirrups.’ She believed it, too. I cal’late I’ll catch thunder from
Cap’n Jeth if he finds out what I told her, but I can’t help it; there’s
limits, by Godfreys domino, limits!”

Galusha found, except for the slight annoyance of too many of these
sojourners, that summer at Gould’s Bluffs and vicinity was even more
delightful than the fall and spring had been. His friends, the Halls,
whose invitation to their cottage at Wellmouth had been the cause of his
coming to the Cape, were not occupying that cottage this summer; they
had rented it for the season and gone abroad. So he had no old friends
to call upon. But his new friendships were enjoyable and dependable. His
health improved steadily; he gained in strength, and the fear that
his guilt in the affair of the Wellmouth Development stock might be
discovered grew less and less. Only one thing troubled him, and that
was so vague that it was scarcely a trouble. The Institute people had
written him of some great plan for his professional services, a plan
which was to develop in the fall. Now, by all that was right and proper,
he should have been tremendously curious concerning that plan, should
have been eagerly guessing what it might be and counting the days until
the time came for his return to work and its immediate development.
But he was not curious, he did not count the days; for some weird and
unnatural reason--or for no reason whatever--he was not eager to return
to work. He, Galusha Bangs, whose life had been devoted to his pet
science, who had had no thought except for that science, had labored
for it and in it every day for twenty years and had dreamed about it at
night--he did not seem to care to go back to it. He did not seem to
want to go anywhere. Contentment for him was apparently right there
at Gould’s Bluffs and nowhere else. Amazing but true. And no less
disgraceful than amazing. It was a state of mind, of course, a
psychological state due to physiological causes and doubtless was but
temporary. Nevertheless, it troubled him a bit.

One morning in July he received a shock. Zacheus, returning from the
post office, met him at the Phipps’ gate and handed him a letter.

“Come in last night’s mail,” explained Zach. “I happened to be cruisin’
up to the village so I thought I might as well fetch it down to you, Mr.
Bangs.”

Galusha thanked him and put the letter in his pocket. After
dinner, having gone to his room, he was searching his pockets for a
handkerchief; finding his handkerchief invariably entailed a search,
because he was quite as likely to have put it in his waistcoat pocket as
in those of his trousers, and just as likely to find it at last in the
pocket of his overcoat downstairs on the rack. In this case he did
not find it at all, having dropped it on the road, but he did find the
letter. Still wondering where he could have put the handkerchief, he
absently tore open the envelope and began to read, as follows:


“Professor Galusha C. Bangs, East Wellmouth, Mass.

“DEAR SIR:

“Mr. Augustus Cabot wishes me to inform you that he has returned to this
office, having, so he feels, quite regained his health. He sends his
regards to you and hopes that you, too, are getting on toward complete
recovery.”


Galusha, having read so far, leaned back in his chair. Cousin Gussie
well again! Back again at his Boston office! Why, this was unexpected
news! He was gratified and pleased, of course. Nevertheless, coupled
with the gratification was a slight feeling of uneasiness. Nevada--well,
Nevada was such a long and safe way off; whereas Boston was so very
and dangerously near. To a person with a guilty conscience, one with
a secret to conceal, the advantages of Nevada as a residence for a
possibly inquisitive relative were obvious. And was Thomas writing
merely to impart the news of his employer’s return? Or were there other
reasons?


“You will remember” [began the next sentence of the letter], “writing
him some time ago, while he and I were in Nevada, asking his advice
concerning some corporation, the stock of which a friend of yours was
considering, either as a purchase or sale, I do not remember which.”


Galusha closed his eyes and passed an agitated hand across his forehead.
His question was answered; there WERE other reasons.


“You may not be aware” [the letter continued], “of the forest fire
which, on April seventeenth, destroyed the sanitarium and camps in which
Mr. Cabot and I were staying. The entire institution, including our own
camp, was burned and with it were destroyed all my business records,
letters received, copies of letters sent, etc. At the time we were not
at all concerned with this loss, being fearful of the effect which
the excitement might have upon Mr. Cabot’s health. I am glad to say,
however, that the effect, if any, was not injurious. But the loss of all
correspondence, including that with you, is now causing some annoyance.
My recollection is that I advised your friend not to buy any stock of
the nature you described, or, if he owned any, not to attempt a forced
sale. As we have heard nothing further from you since, and as neither
our Mr. Minor nor Mr. Barbour report your consulting them on the
subject, I take it your interest in the matter is closed.”


Again Galusha leaned back in his chair. But this time he drew a long
breath of relief. Mr. Thomas “took it” that his interest in the matter
was closed, did he? Well, it was, indeed it was. The sole interest he
now had in the Wellmouth Development Company was to forget it utterly.

And yet, if it was not concerning the Development matter that Thomas was
writing, what was it? The beatific smile which had followed the sigh of
relief faded from his face and he began to read again.


“In looking over your affairs which, among others, have kept me very
busy since my return, I find,” wrote Thomas, “that Mr. Barbour, at your
request, sent you a check on March 13th, for fourteen thousand three
hundred and ten dollars and thirty-eight cents, the same being your
share of the Tinplate reorganization profits. On March 15th, you came
personally to this office and exchanged that check for five thousand
dollars in cash and another check for ninety-three hundred and ten
dollars and thirty-eight cents. On March 24th, according to our records,
you again came in person and exchanged this new check for eighty-two
hundred dollars in cash and a third check for eleven hundred and ten
dollars and thirty-eight cents. This third check we do not find has as
yet been presented for payment nor has it been deposited to your account
with us. Considering the lapse of time since the check was drawn, this
seems somewhat unusual and so I am writing to ask concerning it. Mr.
Cabot wishes me to add, also, that as thirteen thousand, two hundred
dollars, the amount of cash drawn by you on the two occasions mentioned,
is a large sum, he is, as your financial guardian--this is the term he
requests me to use--a trifle anxious concerning it. He cannot, he says,
conceive of a use to which you could put such a sum, particularly in
your present location on the Cape. He wishes me to ask you to write him
particulars in the matter. To his request I am adding my own concerning
the missing check. A prompt reply will greatly oblige us both.
Apologizing for the inconvenience which this may cause you, and with Mr.
Cabot’s sincere regards and good wishes, I am,

“Yours respectfully,

“GEORGE L. THOMAS.”


Mr. Bangs’ smiles, beatific or otherwise, had so far vanished by this
time that he could not summon them again that day. He attempted to
appear cheerful during supper that evening and breakfast next morning,
but it was a sorrowful cheer. Martha asked if he was sick. He said he
was not, indeed no, really, but she looked as if she did not believe
him. Primmie’s suspicions of dropsy, or some equally distressing
ailment, revived. She watched him for signs of relapse.

The letter requested an immediate reply. That reply was neither written
nor sent. Mr. Bangs could not think of a reply which would embrace the
two elements, safety and sanity. It was impossible to tell the truth
and dangerous to attempt to tell anything else. So he did not answer the
Thomas letter.

In a week he received a second one, asking if he had gotten the first.
This simply HAD to be acknowledged, so he did so. He wrote that his
friend was no longer interested in the stock concerning which he had
inquired. Also he returned the check for the balance of the Tinplate
payment--it had been lying in his bureau drawer ever since he brought
it from Boston--but he made no mention of what he had done with the
eighty-two hundred dollars in cash nor the five thousand which he had
previously drawn. He did not refer to these sums at all. He requested
that the check for the Tinplate balance be deposited to his account and
sent it in the envelope with his letter to Thomas. Then he fearfully
awaited the next blow.

It came, and in a new fashion, about a week later. He and Martha were in
the sitting room after supper when the telephone bell rang.

“Pardon me, Miss Martha,” said Galusha, “but wasn’t that our--I should
say your ring?”

Martha smiled. “I didn’t notice,” she said. “You’re always thinkin’ you
hear our ring, Mr. Bangs. The last time you heard it and called me to
the ‘phone, it turned out to be Emulous Dodd, the undertaker. He said,
‘I don’t want you.’ I told him I was thankful for that.”

Her lodger shook his head. “I’m very sorry,” he said. “These telephone
calls down here--‘Two long and three short’ and--ah--the like--they
do confuse me, I admit. I really can’t seem to get accustomed to them.
Now... Oh, but that IS your ring, isn’t it, Miss Martha?”

It was. Martha took down the receiver.

“Yes... yes,” she said. “Yes, this is Phipps.... Oh, all right.... The
girl says it’s a long-distance call,” she added, turning to Galusha.
“Who can be callin’ ME from long distance?... Yes... yes.... This is
Miss Phipps speakin’ now.... Who?... Oh, Mr. Bangs? Yes, he’s right
here. It’s for you, Mr. Bangs.”

Galusha took the receiver from her hand. “Ah--hello!” he hailed. The
wire buzzed and sang. Then, in his ear and with surprising clearness and
nearness, a voice said, brusquely: “Hello! Hello, there! Is that you,
Loosh?”

Galusha recognized the voice. He had not heard it for a long time, but
he recognized it at once. And, recognizing it, something like panic
seized him.

“Hello!” shouted the voice again. “Hello, Galusha! Is that you?”

Galusha glanced fearfully over his shoulder. Martha was gazing at him.
She looked alarmed.

“Oh, what is it, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. “It--it’s not bad news, is it?”

“No--ah--no,” he faltered. “I--I--”

“Eh? What’s that?” demanded the voice in the receiver, impatiently.
“Hello! Who is this, anyway?”

“Is there somebody sick or--or anything?” asked Martha. “No--no, Miss
Martha. It’s all right, really. Yes, indeed, I--Oh, quite right. Yes.”

“But you look so frightened.”

“Do I? Oh, not in the least. That is, I... Yes, yes, I hear. Yes, this
is Bangs speaking.”

“Oh, it is! Well, I’m glad you’re speaking at last. You’re Galusha
Bangs, you say?”

“Yes. Yes, I--I think so.”

“You THINK so! That’s good! Don’t you know whether you are or not?”

“I meant I--I thought I said so. I am Galusha Bangs. Yes.”

“Good! Then we’ve settled so much. You know who I am, of course?”

Did he? Oh, if he only did not! He cast another alarmed glance in his
landlady’s direction. He wondered if the voice which was so distinctly
audible in his ear could be heard and understood in the room. Oh, this
was dreadful, dreadful!

“HELLO!” roared the voice again. “Hello, Bangs! Are you there?”

“Oh, yes--ah--yes. I am here. Quite so--yes.”

“Well, I’m glad. I thought you might have gone clamming or something.
Well, I asked if you knew who this was? Do you?”

Galusha swallowed, shut his eyes, and then faced the inevitable.

“It--it is Cousin Gussie, isn’t it?” he faltered.

He heard, or imagined that he did, a little gasp of surprise from Miss
Phipps. He did not dare look again in her direction.

“That’s right,” said the voice. “You’re a good guesser. How are you,
anyway?”

Galusha stammered that he was very well. He added that he was glad to
see his relative. The relative promptly observed that his eyesight must
be remarkably good.

“You know what I’ve called you up for, of course?” she added.

Martha had risen and was leaving the room on tiptoe.

“You and your cousin can talk better alone, I know,” she whispered. “I
want to see Primmie a minute, anyway.”

Her lodger regarded her mutely. The expression of dumb misery on his
face caused her to pause for an instant.

“You’re SURE there’s no bad news, Mr. Bangs?” she asked, anxiously.

He managed to smile, but the smile was not a convincing success.
“Oh, yes--ah--quite, quite,” he protested. “It--it is--ah--extremely
pleasant, really.... Yes--yes, Cousin Gussie, I am--I am still here.”

“Oh, you are! Fine! I thought probably you had gone to dig another
quahaug. Why don’t you answer letters?”

Galusha glanced desperately at the kitchen door. Thank heaven, it was
closed.

“I answered yours,” he declared.

“You did not. You only half answered it. That idiot Barbour sent you a
check for over fourteen thousand dollars. Of course, if I had been well
and here he wouldn’t have done any such fool thing. He says you told him
to.”

“Ah--did I?”

“Did you? Don’t you know whether you did or not? Well, never mind.
You came up here on two separate occasions, so they tell me, and drew
thirteen thousand of that in cash and took it away with you. Now what on
earth did you do that for?”

Galusha did not answer. Cabot immediately demanded to know if he was
still there. Assured of this, he repeated his question.

“I--I wanted it,” faltered Galusha.

“You WANTED it! Wanted thirteen thousand two hundred dollars in cash
down there on the clam flats? What did you want it FOR?”

“I--I--Well, you see--you see--”

“No, I don’t see. Now, look here, old man: I realize you’re of age and
that your money is your own, and all that. It isn’t, legally speaking,
one single bit my business if you take every cent you’ve got and sink it
in the middle of Cape Cod Bay. But I promised your aunt before she died
that I would try and see that you didn’t do that kind of thing. She knew
you couldn’t take care of money; I knew it; why, confound it, you knew
it, too! You and I talked that whole matter over and we agreed I wasn’t
to give you any large sums of your money, no matter how hard you begged
for them, unless you told me why you wanted them and I was satisfied it
was all right. Didn’t we agree to that? Isn’t that so?”

“Why--why, yes, Cousin Gussie. You have been very kind. I appreciate it,
I assure you.”

“Oh, be hanged! I haven’t been kind. I’ve only been trying to keep you
from being TOO kind to people who work you for a good thing, that’s all.
Look here, Loosh: _I_ know what you’ve done with that thirteen thousand
dollars.”

Galusha shot one more pitiful glance in the direction of the kitchen.

“Ah--ah--do you?” he stammered.

“Yes. You’ve given it away, haven’t you?”

“Well--well, you see--”

“You have? I knew it! And I know whom you’ve given it to.”

There was no answer to be made to this appalling assertion. Poor Galusha
merely clung to the receiver and awaited his death sentence.

“You’ve given it to some mummy-hunter to fit out another grave-robbing
expedition. Now, haven’t you?”

“Why--why--”

“Be a sport now, Loosh! Tell me the truth. That’s what you’ve done,
isn’t it?”

Galusha hesitated, closing his eyes, struggled with his better
nature, conquered it, and faltered: “Why--why--in a way of speaking, I
suppose--”

“I knew it! I bet Minor a dinner on it. Well, confound you, Loosh; don’t
you realize they’re only working you for what they can get out of you?
Haven’t I told you not to be such an ass? You soft-headed old... Here!
What’s the matter with this wire? Hello, Central! Hello!...”

The Cabot oration broke off in the middle and was succeeded by a series
of rattles and thumps and jingles like a barrel of kitchenware falling
downstairs; this was followed by a startling stillness, which was, in
turn, broken by an aggrieved voice wailing: “Say, Central, why can’t I
get that twenty-seven ring fourteen Bayport? I bet you you’ve given me
every other d----number on Cape Cod!”

Galusha hung up the receiver. Then he sat down in the rocker and gazed
at the opposite wall. His secret was safe. But that safety he had bought
at the price of another falsehood--told to Cousin Gussie this time.
He did not seem to be the same Galusha Cabot Bangs at all. That
Galusha--the former Galusha--had considered himself a gentleman and
would no more have told a lie than he would have stolen his neighbor’s
spoons. This one--his present self--lied not only once but twice and
thrice. He told one untruth to cover another. He lived in an atmosphere
of blackest falsehood and deception. The sole ray of light in the
darkness was the knowledge that Martha Phipps did not know his real
character. She considered him honest and truthful. In order that she
might continue to think him so, he would go on prevaricating forever, if
necessary.

It preyed upon his conscience, nevertheless. The thought uppermost in
his mind was expressed in a reply which he made to a question asked by
Mr. Bloomer on an afternoon of that week. Zach and Primmie were, as so
often happened, involved in an argument and, as also so often happened,
they called on him to act as referee.

“We was talkin’ about names, Mr. Bangs,” explained Primmie. “He’s always
makin’ fun of my name. I told him my name was pretty enough to get put
into poetry sometimes. You know--”

“I told her,” broke in Zach, solemnly, but with a wink at Galusha,
“that the only thing I could think of to rhyme with ‘Primrose’ was ‘Jim
Crows.’”

“I never said it rhymed,” protested Miss Cash, hotly. “You can have
your name in poetry without its rhymin’, I guess likely. You’re always
tellin’ me about how ‘Zacheus he, climbed up a tree--’ Now if your name
had to rhyme ‘twould have to be--er--er--well, nothing’,” triumphantly;
“‘cause nothin’ COULD rhyme with Zacheus.”

Mr. Bloomer, solemn as ever, shook his head.

“Yes, it could,” he declared. “What’s the name of that plant Lulie’s got
in the settin’ room window over home? The one with the prickers on it.
Cat-tailed--no, rat-tailed--um--”

“Cactus.” Galusha supplied the word.

“That’s it,” said Zach. “That would do it.


     ‘Old man Zach’us
      Shinned up a cactus--’


Have to step lively, wouldn’t he?” he added, with a chuckle.

Primmie sniffed. “Silly!” she retorted. “What was that pretty piece of
poetry you told me the other day that had my name in it, Mr. Bangs? The
one about it bein’ so and so and not much else? You know the one.”

Galusha obliged.


     “‘A primrose by the river’s brim
       A yellow primrose was to him,
         And it was nothing more.’”


“There!” said Primmie, triumphantly. “Do you hear that, Zach Bloomer?
That’s poetry, the real kind. And it’s got my name in it, too.”

Zach shook his head.

“You ain’t a yellow primrose, Posy,” he said. “You’re a red one-red and
speckled. Mr. Bangs,” he added, before the outraged Primmie could reply,
“I think consider’ble about names, havin’ such a out-of-common sort of a
one myself. I never heard your name afore.... Galusha.... Godfreys! Was
you named for somebody in the family?”

“Yes.”

“I see. Yes, yes. Most generally names like that, the tough ones,
come out of the Bible in the fust place. Is your name in Scriptur’
anywheres?”

“I don’t know. I--ah--presume I should, but I don’t.”

“Um-hm. Queer names in the Bible.... Um-hm. And some good ones, too....
I’ve always been a good deal interested in names. Used to set around
hours at a stretch, when I was aboard the old lightship, and try to pick
out what name in Scriptur’ I cal’lated I’d ruther be called. Finally
I got down to two--John and Paul. Both of ‘em short and sensible, no
frills to ‘em. Of the two I figgered maybe Paul would fit me best. Paul,
he was shipwrecked one time, you remember, and I’ve been wrecked no
less’n three.... Paul.... Um-hm.... Say, Mr. Bangs, have you ever tried
to fit yourself with a Bible name?”

Galusha smiled and said he never had. Primmie, who had been silent for
almost three minutes, could remain so no longer.

“I think Solomon would be the right name for you, Mr. Bangs,” she cried,
enthusiastically. “You know such a terrible lot--about some kinds of
things.” This last a hasty addition.

Zach snorted. “Solomon!” he repeated. “Dan Beebe--Ras Beebe’s cousin
over to Trumet--named his boy Solomon, and last week they took the
young-one up to the State home for feeble-minded. What name would you
pick out of the Bible for yourself, Mr. Bangs?”

It was then that Galusha made the reply to which reference has been
made. His smile changed and became what Primmie described as “one of his
one-sided ones.”

“Ah--um--well--Ananias, perhaps,” he said, and walked away.

Zach and Miss Cash stared after him. Of course, it was the latter who
spoke first.

“Ananias!” she repeated. “Why, Ananias was the feller that--that lied so
and was struck down dead. I remember him in Sunday school. Him and his
wife Sophrony. Seems to me ‘twas Sophrony; it might have been Maria,
though. But, anyhow, they died lyin’.”

“That so? I thought they lied dyin’.”

“Oh, be still! But what did Mr. Bangs pick out THAT name for--of all
names? Can you tell me that?”

Zacheus could not, of course, nor did he attempt it. Instead, he rose
and gazed sadly at his companion.

“He said it for a joke, Buttercups,” he observed. “Joke. YOU know, a
joke. One of them things that--I tell you what: You look up ‘joke’ in
the dictionary and then, after you’ve found out what ‘tis, I’ll lend you
a patent-medicine almanac with one or two of ‘em in it.... Well, I’ve
got to be gettin’ under way. So long, Posy.”

Possibly Primmie might have inquired further into the reasons which
led the Phipps’ lodger to select for himself the name of the person
who “died lying,” but that very afternoon, while on an errand in the
village, she heard the news that Nelson Howard had been offered a
position as operator at the Trumet wireless station, had accepted
and was already there and at work. Every professional gossip in East
Wellmouth was talking about it, not only because of its interest as a
piece of news, but because of the astonishing fact that no one but those
intimately interested had previously known of the offer.

“Why in the world,” said Becky Blount, expressing the opinion of what
Captain Jethro Hallett would have called her “tribe,” “he felt ‘twas
necessary to hide it as if ‘twas something to be ashamed of, _I_ don’t
see. Most folks would have been proud to be offered such a chance.
But that Nelse Howard’s queer, anyhow. Stuck-up, I call him; and Lulie
Hallett’s the same way. She nor him won’t have anything to do with
common folks in this town. And it’ll be worse NOW.”

This was quite untrue, of course, for Lulie and Nelson were extremely
friendly with all except the Blounts, Marietta Hoag, and a few more of
their kind. The solid, substantial people in the village liked them,
just as they liked and respected Martha Phipps. These people took pains
to congratulate young Howard and to whisper a hope to Lulie that her
father’s unreasonable opposition to the former might be lessened by the
news of his advancement.

Primmie, returning home with the sensation, was disappointed to find it
no sensation at all. Lulie had told both Miss Phipps and Galusha shortly
after Nelson told her. She had told her father also, but he had not
expressed gratification. Instead, the interview between them had ended
unpleasantly.

“The first thing he did,” said Lulie, when telling the story to her
confidants at the Phipps’ home, “was to ask me how I knew about it. I
told him that Nelson told me.”

Martha lifted her brows. “My!” she exclaimed. “You did?”

“Yes, I did. I don’t know why exactly. Somehow I felt just then as if I
didn’t care.”

“And what did he say?”

“He didn’t say as much as I thought he would. He turned and stared at
me under those big eyebrows of his, and then he said: ‘When did you see
him?’ I said, ‘Yesterday.’ ‘When did you see him before that?’ I said,
‘About a week ago. Nelson and I usually see each other about once a
week, father,’ I told him.”

“My!” exclaimed Martha, again. “That was plain enough, to be sure.”

“Yes, wasn’t it? I wonder now that I had the courage. He didn’t flare up
as I expected he would, as I am sure he would have done last fall, for
instance. He just looked and looked at me. Then he said: ‘Are you really
planning to marry that fellow, Lulie?’ I thought that as I had gone so
far, I might as well go the rest, so I said: ‘Yes, father, some day.
Not as long as you want me or need me, but some day, if he is willing
to wait for me.’ He just kept on pulling his beard and looking at me.
At last, when he did speak, he asked, ‘In spite of me and--and your
mother?’ It made me feel dreadfully wicked; I almost cried, I guess. But
I had to go through with it then, so I said: ‘I don’t want to marry “in
spite” of any one, father. You know I don’t. And I shall never leave
you--never. But can’t you PLEASE see Nelson as he is and not--and not--’
He interrupted me there; in fact, I doubt if he heard me. ‘Your mother
has warned me against that young fellow,’ he said. ‘You know she has,
Lulie.’ ‘I know you THINK she has, father,’ I said.”

Martha’s hands fell in her lap. Galusha shook his head.

“Dear me!” he observed. “Dear me!”

Lulie nodded. “Yes, I know,” she said. “As soon as I said it I thought
‘Dear me,’ too. But I don’t believe he heard that, either. He seemed
to be thinking and didn’t speak for ever so long. Then he said, ‘The
revelations from above ain’t to be set aside. No, no, they lay a duty on
us.’ Then he stopped again and turned and walked away. The last words he
said, as he was going out of the room, were, ‘Don’t let me ever see that
Howard around this house. You hear me?’ And that is the way it ended. He
hasn’t mentioned the subject since. But, at least,” said Lulie, with an
attempt at a smile, “he didn’t call Nelson a ‘swab.’ I suppose that is
some comfort.”

Martha and Galusha agreed that it was. The latter said: “It seems to
me that you may consider it all quite encouraging, really. It is only
the--ah--spirits which stand in the way now.”

“Yes, but oh, Mr. Bangs, they always will stand in the way, I’m afraid.
Other things, real things or real people we might change or persuade,
but how can you change a--a make-believe spirit that isn’t and never
was, except in Marietta Hoag’s ridiculous imagination? Oh, Martha,” she
added, “you and Mr. Bangs don’t think I’m horrid to speak like this,
do you? Of course, if I believed, as father does, that it was really my
mother’s spirit speaking, I should--well, I should be.... But what is
the use? I CAN’T believe such a thing.”

“Of course you can’t, child,” said Martha. “I knew your mother and if
she was comin’ back to this earth she wouldn’t do it through Marietta
Hoag’s head. She had too much self-respect for that.”

Galusha stroked his chin. “I suppose,” he said, “if there were some
way in which we might influence that imagination of Miss--ah--Hoag’s, a
change might be brought about. It would be difficult to reach the said
imagination, however, wouldn’t it? I once found a way to reach a tomb
of the XIIIth Dynasty which had been buried for thousands of years under
thirty-three feet of rock and sand. I located it by accident--that is,
in a way, it was an accident; of course, we had been searching for some
time. I happened to strike the earth at a certain point with my camera
tripod and it sounded quite hollow. You see, there was a--ah--sort of
shaft, as one might say, which came quite close to the surface at that
point. It sounded surprisingly hollow, like a--like something quite
empty, you know. Yes.”

Martha nodded. “If you struck Marietta’s head anywhere,” she observed,
“it would sound the same way. She’s got about as much brains as a punkin
lantern.”

“Yes--ah--yes, but I fear we should gain little by doing that. We
shouldn’t get at our ‘spirit’ that way. But perhaps we may find a way.
There are obstacles, but there were obstacles above and about that tomb
also. Dear me, yes. We must consider, Miss Lulie; we must, so to speak,
consider.”

His advice to Nelson was similar.

“I should say the situation was a bit more encouraging, Mr. Howard,”
 he said. They had been discussing Lulie’s talk with her father. Nelson
nodded.

“Perhaps it is, a little bit,” he admitted. “It seems barely possible
that the old man is not quite as bitter against me as he was. For
instance, I met him yesterday at the post office and said ‘Good-morning,
Cap’n Jeth.’ I always speak to him whenever I meet him, make it a point
to, but he never speaks to me. He didn’t speak yesterday, but he did
bow. It was more of a bob than a bow and he looked savage enough to bite
me; but, at least, he went so far as to show he knew I was on earth.
That was rather funny, too, his doing that. I wonder why he did.”

Galusha reflected a moment. Then he said: “I shouldn’t be greatly
surprised if your new position at the radio station may be the cause,
Captain Hallett is--ah--not unmindful of success in business. Miss
Mar--ah--that is, Miss Phipps says he is a very shrewd business man.
My own experience,” he added, meditatively, “would lead me to that
conclusion, also.”

Nelson was surprised.

“Have you had business dealings with the cap’n?” he asked. “I never
thought of you as a business man, Mr. Bangs.”

Galusha started and seemed embarrassed.

“Oh--ah--ah--I’m not, Mr. Howard,” he declared, hastily. “Indeed, no.”

“But you spoke of your business experience with Cap’n Jeth; or I thought
you did.”

The little archaeologist looked very solemn.

“Such experiences as I have had with Captain Hallett,” he observed,
“have been--ah--most unbusinesslike.”

They parted a few minutes later. Said Nelson, gloomily:

“I’m afraid the situation hasn’t changed a whole lot, after all, Mr.
Bangs. Cap’n Jeth may think more of my new job than he did of my old
one, but he doesn’t think any better of me as a son-in-law. And he
won’t, so long as he believes in that fool spirit stuff.”

Galusha stroked his chin. “We must consider those spirits, Mr. Howard,”
 he said. “Dear me, yes; we must seriously consider those spirits.”



CHAPTER XVI


August is the banner month at all northern seaside resorts. August at
East Wellmouth crowded the Restabit Inn to overflowing. On pleasant
Sundays the long line of cars flying through the main road of the
village on the way to Provincetown met and passed the long line
returning Bostonward. The sound of motor horns echoed along the lane
leading to Gould’s Bluffs. Galusha found it distinctly safer and less
nerve-racking to walk on the grass bordering that lane than in the lane
itself, as had hitherto been his custom. The harassed Zacheus led more
visitors than ever up and down the lighthouse stairs, expressing his
opinion of those visitors, after their departure, with fluency and
freedom. Mr. Bloomer’s philosophy helped him through most annoyances but
it broke down under the weight of the summer boarder and his--or--her
questions.

Galusha, in his daily walks, kept far afield, avoiding the traveled
ways. His old resort, the Baptist cemetery, he seldom visited now,
having examined and re-examined all the interesting stones within its
borders. He had discovered another ancient burial ground, over on the
South Wellmouth road, and occasionally his wanderings took him as far as
that. The path to and from this cemetery led over the edge of the bluff
and wound down to the beach by the creek and landlocked harbor where his
hat--the brown derby--had put to sea that Sunday morning in the previous
October. The path skirted the creek for a little way, then crossed on a
small bridge and climbed the pine-clad hills on the other side.

Late one afternoon in August, Galusha, returning along this path, met
a man coming in the other direction. The man was a stranger to him
and obviously not a resident of East Wellmouth. He was a stout,
prosperous-looking individual, well-dressed and with a brisk manner.
When Mr. Bangs first saw him he was standing at a point near the foot
of the bluff, and gazing intently at the view. Galusha turned the corner
above the bridge where the path re-entered the pine grove. When he
emerged again the man had walked on to the little rise by the farther
edge of the creek. He was standing there, as he had stood at the point
where Galusha first noticed him, looking about, up and down the creek,
across the little harbor, at the beaches, the sand cliffs, the pines and
the sea.

Galusha crossed the bridge and approached along the path. The stranger
heard his step and turned.

“Good-afternoon,” said Galusha.

The man nodded and returned the greeting.

“Nice view from here,” he observed. Galusha agreed that the view was
very nice, indeed. He passed on and turned to climb the bluff. Then the
stranger called to him.

“Excuse me,” he said. “But may I ask you a question or two? Don’t want
to keep you if you are in a hurry, though.”

Galusha declared himself to be not in the least hurried. The man walked
toward him.

“Are you acquainted about here?” he asked.

“Why--why--ah--yes, to some extent. Yes.”

“I mean do you know the lay of the land in this vicinity?”

“Why--ah--yes, I think so. Fairly well.”

“I see. Can you tell me how much water there is in that channel out
yonder?” He pointed toward the mouth of the inlet, where the two lines
of creaming breakers approached each other, but did not meet.

“No--no, I am sorry, but I can’t.”

“How deep is it off here opposite where we’re standing?”

“Dear me! I’m afraid I don’t know that, either. When you asked
concerning the lay of the land I didn’t understand you meant
the--ah--lay of the water. I’m very sorry.”

The man laughed. “That’s all right,” he said. “Asked my question the
wrong way, didn’t I? Well, tell me a little about the land, then. Are
the woods the other side of that hill or only on this?”

Galusha informed him concerning the extent of the pine grove. The
stranger asked some questions about the course of the creek above the
bridge, the distance from the main highway, whether the land beyond the
hill was settled or unoccupied. His final question was concerning the
Restabit Inn.

“Any other hotels around here within ten miles?” he asked. When told
there were not, he merely nodded, making no comment.

“Well, I’m much obliged,” he said. “I was just loafing around and a
little curious, that’s all. Thanks. Hope I haven’t kept you too long.
Good-day.”

Galusha followed the winding path up the face of the high bluff. When,
having reached its top, he paused to get fresh breath in place of that
he had lost, he looked down and saw his questioner standing where he had
left him and, apparently, still admiring the view.

The following afternoon they saw each other again. This time the
stranger was on the other side of the creek, wandering about at the
edge of the pine grove. He acknowledged Galusha’s bow with a wave of the
hand, but he did not come nearer to ask more questions.

That evening, at the supper table, Mr. Bangs mentioned the meeting.
Primmie, who prided herself upon knowing every visitor in town and where
he or she came from, was ready with the information in this case.

“I know who he is,” she declared. “His name’s Williams and him and his
wife’s stoppin’ at the Restabit. They never meant to stay there only one
night, but his automobile blowed up or busted out somethin’ and they had
to send to Boston to get a new one. It’s a dreadful expensive kind of
a one, the auto is, one of them--them Pieced-Arrows, all upholstery
and drapery window curtains and places to put bouquets and your feet in
winter to warm ‘em--your feet, I mean, not the bouquets--and--”

“There, there, Primmie,” said Martha. “That will do. For mercy sakes,
how did you find out all that?”

“Their chauffeur told me. I know him, too. Him and me was introduced
last night when he stopped in to get a drink of water. His name is
Kelly, and he--”

“Wait a minute. When you and he were introduced, you say? Who introduced
you?”

“Why, he did, Miss Martha. You see, he was comin’ along by and he see
me out settin’ on the side steps, you know. And he stopped and he says:
‘You look lonesome’ he says. ‘Well,’ says I, ‘I may LOOK so, but I
ain’t; my savin’ soul, no!’ Then he wanted to know if he couldn’t have a
drink of water and, of course--”

“Yes, I see--of course. I think you had better sit in the house this
evenin’, Primmie.”

The “Pieced-Arrow” car, with Mr. Kelly on the driver’s seat and Mr. and
Mrs. Williams inside, left East Wellmouth at the end of that week. Yet
once more before the season closed Galusha fancied that he caught a
glimpse of that car’s owner. The time was the first week in September
and Galusha, returning later than usual along the path from South
Wellmouth, saw two figures walking along the beach of the inlet. They
were a good way off, but one certainly did resemble Williams as he
remembered him. The brisk step was like his and the swing of the heavy
shoulders. The other figure had seemed familiar, too, but it disappeared
behind a clump of beach-plum bushes and did not come out again during
the time that Galusha remained in sight. On reflection the latter
decided that he was mistaken. Of course, Williams could not be one of
the pair, having left the Cape. It was too dark to see plainly; and,
after all, it made little difference whether it was he or not. Mr. Bangs
stopped speculating on the subject and promptly forgot it entirely.

On the morning after Labor Day there was a general exodus of city
sojourners from the Inn and on September 15 it closed its doors. The
weather was still beautiful and mild, even more so than during the
previous month, but East Wellmouth’s roads and lanes were no longer
crowded. The village entered upon its intermediate season, that autumn
period of quiet and restful beauty, which those who know and love the
Cape consider most delightful of the year.

Galusha enjoyed its beauties hugely. He could stroll where he pleased
now and no charging and bellowing motor car was likely to awaken him
from his daydreams and cause him to leap frantically into the gutter.
Sunsets over the western dunes and the Bay were hazily wonderful
fantasies of crimson and purple and gold and sapphire, with the nets
and poles of the distant fish weirs scattered here and there about the
placid water like bits of fairy embroidery. And then to end his walk by
turning in at the Phipps’ gate; the lamplight in the cozy dining room
shining a welcome and Martha’s pleasant, attractive face above the
teacups. It was like coming home, like coming to a real home, his home.
He dreaded to think of leaving it--even for his loved science and the
promised “great plan” which the Institute people were to present him
that very fall or winter.

He had heard nothing further from them concerning the plan, but he knew
he was likely to hear at any moment. He was well, perfectly well now,
and stronger than he had been for a long, long time. He felt himself
abundantly able to take charge of an exploring expedition, or to
reorganize a department, to do anything which the Institute might ask
him to do. His guess was that the plan was for another archaeological
expedition, one to go farther afield and equipped for more thorough
research than any yet sent out. He himself had urged the need of such an
expedition many times, but when the war came all such ideas were given
up. The giving up had been, on his part, although he realized the
necessity which prompted it and even urged the yielding to that
necessity, a bitter disappointment.

And now--well, now he could not seem to arouse an atom of real
enthusiasm. He should be too excited to sleep, but he did sleep well.
When he dreamed of Egypt and the tombs of the Ptolemies, there was
always a Cape Cod cottage in the foreground. And the cottage never
varied in design; it was always the “Phipps’ place,” and its mistress
was always standing in the doorway. That was the great trouble, he knew
it. He was going to be homesick for that cottage and its contents. If
they might only be transferred with him to Egypt, then the land of the
Pharaohs would be even more paradisical than he used to think it.

He told Martha of the promised plan and its call to duty. Oddly enough,
thereafter they discussed it but little. Other subjects, although
mere commonplaces, they seemed to find more interesting. One evening,
however, they were together in the sitting room and Martha said:

“I noticed you got a letter from Washin’ton to-day, Mr. Bangs.”

Galusha nodded. “Yes,” he said. “It wasn’t a letter exactly. Merely
another of the regular reports, that is all.”

“I see.... Well, I suppose you will be hearin’ from them pretty soon
about--about that other matter. The plan they told you they had for
you.”

He nodded again. “Dear me, yes,” he agreed. “I suppose I shall.”

“Why do you say ‘Dear me’? You want to hear, don’t you? It will be a
wonderful thing for you, I should think. It is sure to be somethin’ you
will like, because they said so in their letter.”

“Yes--ah--yes.”

Both were silent for a brief interval, then Martha said:

“I presume likely I shall be sittin’ here in this very room this winter,
doin’ just the very same thing I’m doin’ now, knittin’ or sewin’,
with everything just as it is, cat and plants and Primmie and all the
everyday things I’ve been amongst all my life. And you’ll be away off,
goodness knows where, among goodness knows what sorts of queer people
and queer places.... Well,” she added, with a smile, “you won’t have any
one to fret you about whether you put on rubbers or not. That’ll be a
comfort for you, at any rate.”

He did not seem to find great comfort in the prospect.

“I shall not put them on,” he said. “I know I sha’n’t. I shall forget
all about them, and forget to eat at regular times, and to--ah--keep
my head covered in the sun. Why, do you know,” he added, in a burst of
confidence and quite as if he had not said the same thing before,
“when I am by myself I always forget things like that, things that real
people--ah--normal people, remember. Then I have--ah--indigestion and
headaches and all sorts of miserable ailments. I shall forget again, of
course, and my friends, the normal ones, will tell me, as they always
do, that I need a--ah--keeper, so to speak. Oh, dear, yes.”

She was indignant. “A keeper!” she repeated. “The idea! I do wish you
wouldn’t keep speakin’ of yourself as simple-minded or crazy, Mr. Bangs.
You are absent-minded, I know, but what of it? Whose business is that?”

He rubbed his chin. “Why, here,” he observed, smiling slightly, “you
have been kind enough to make it YOUR business, Miss Martha. The reason
I do not have--ah--sunstrokes and colds and headaches here is that you
take pains to see that I am protected against their causes. I realize
that. And I realize, too,” he added, “that in Egypt I shall miss
your--your great kindness. I shall miss all this--this room and
all--very much, indeed. I think--no, I know I have never spent such a
pleasant year as this has been. And I fear I shall never spend another
as pleasant.”

She laughed, but she looked pleased, nevertheless.

“Nonsense!” she exclaimed. “You’ll have many more a great deal
pleasanter, of course. You’re well now, Mr. Bangs, and good health makes
such a difference. You will enjoy your work more than ever.”

“Will I? I don’t believe I shall. That is very odd, I know, but I
think it is true. I have been thinking about it a great deal of late
and--ah--I--well, you know, I am very sure I shall be lonely.”

“Lonely? You! Lonesome over in Egypt, after all you’ve told me about
your lovin’ it so, Mr. Bangs! Lonesome for what, for mercy sakes?”

“Why, for--for the Cape, you know; and this house and this pleasant room
and--and the kindness which has been shown me here.”

“Don’t. What do what you call kindnesses amount to--the little things
Primmie and I have been able to do for you--what do they amount to
compared to what you did for me? I shouldn’t be in this house, I
shouldn’t own it, if it wasn’t for the interest you took and the trouble
you went to. Lonesome! I think I’M goin’ to be the real lonesome one
this winter. Since you’ve been livin’ here, Mr. Bangs, I’ve had a chance
to talk of somethin’ beside the little two-for-a-cent things that most
of us Gould’s Bluffs people have to talk about from December to
June. I’ve had the chance to talk about somethin’ besides Primmie’s
foolishness or Cap’n Jethro’s ‘spirits,’ or the post office gossip. It
has been wonderful for me. When father was alive no gale that ever blew
could keep him from trampin’ up to the office after his mornin’ paper.
He used to say that readin’ the paper was the only way he could keep
enough canvas drawing to pull him out of the doldrums. More of his sea
talk, that was, of course, but you understand what he meant.”

Galusha understood. “We all have our--ah--doldrums,” he observed.

“Yes, seems as if we did. But, there!” briskly picking up her knitting,
“I don’t know as it does us much good to sit and talk about ‘em. Primmie
had a book around here last week, an old thing, one of Mrs. Southworth’s
it was; Primmie borrowed it somewhere. I looked it over one afternoon,
that was as much as I wanted to do with it, and I remember there was
an old woman in it who seemed to spend most of her time dreamin’ of
her ‘vanished past.’ She seemed to worry over that vanished past a good
deal, but, so far as I could see, she didn’t gain much by it. She might
have done some plain sewin’ and gained more. I can’t see that you and I
gain much by sittin’ here and frettin’ about next winter, Mr. Bangs. I
suppose when winter is really here you will be trottin’ around Egypt on
a camel, or some sort of menagerie animal, and I shall be sweepin’ and
dustin’ and makin’ pies. And we both will be too busy to remember we’re
lonesome at all. I--Yes, Primmie, what is it?”

Miss Cash’s head and shoulders appeared between the door and the jamb.

“Miss Martha,” she whispered, hoarsely, “there’s somebody come to see
you.”

“Come to see me? Who is it; Cap’n Jethro?”

“No’m. It’s Raish--I mean Mr. Pulcifer. And,” confidentially, “he won’t
tell what he’s come for, neither.”

“And I presume likely you asked him that very thing. Well, bring him
into the dinin’ room and tell him I’ll be right there. Humph!” she
added, after Primmie had departed, “I wonder what Raish Pulcifer wants
to see me about. I can’t imagine, but I guess it isn’t likely to be very
important. I’ll be back in a few minutes, Mr. Bangs.”

It was, however, a full half hour before she re-entered the sitting
room, and when she did so there was a puzzled expression on her face.

“Now, that’s funny,” she observed, musingly; “that certainly is funny.
What is he drivin’ at, I wonder?”

“Mr. Pulcifer?” inquired Galusha.

“Why, yes. He didn’t say so in so many words; in fact, he didn’t really
say much of anything right out. He wouldn’t be Raish Pulcifer if he was
straight and plain. He talked about the weather and how he hadn’t seen
me for some time and just thought he’d call, and so on. That was just
greasin’ the ways for the launchin’, as father would have said. He edged
around and edged around and finally brought up the thing I’m pretty sure
he came to see me about, my two hundred and fifty shares of Wellmouth
Development Company stock.”

Galusha caught his breath. “Eh?” he exclaimed.

“Yes; I think he came to see me about just those shares. Of course, he
thinks I’ve still got them. He talked about his own shares and about the
company in general and how it wasn’t likely to amount to much and--oh,
well, never mind; he talked a mile before he gained a foot. But I think,
Mr. Bangs, I THINK he came to see if I would sell him that stock of
mine, and, if I would, what I would sell it for. Considerin’ that only a
little while ago he told you he wouldn’t touch the Wellmouth Development
stock with a ten-foot pole, that’s kind of funny, isn’t it?”



CHAPTER XVII


Galusha had some difficulty in falling asleep that night. The habit of
dropping into a peaceful and dreamless slumber within five minutes after
blowing out his lamp, a habit which had been his for the past month, was
broken. He had almost succeeded in forgetting the Wellmouth Development
Company. His distress of mind and conscience concerning his dealings
with it had very nearly vanished also. He had been forced into deceit to
save Martha Phipps from great trouble, and the end justified the means.
Having reached that conclusion in his thinking, he had firmly resolved
to put the whole matter from his mind.

His one plunge into the pool of finance he had come to believe destined
never to be revealed. No one had mentioned the Development Company or
its stock for weeks. It was, apparently, dead and satisfactorily buried,
and the Bangs’ secret was entombed with it.

And now, if Martha’s surmise was correct, here was a “resurrection man,”
 in the person of Mr. Horatio Pulcifer, hanging about the cemetery. The
capacity for hating was not in Galusha’s make-up. He found it difficult
to dislike any one strongly. But he could come nearer to disliking Raish
Pulcifer than any one else, and now to dislike was added resentment.
Why in the world should this Pulcifer person interfere with his peace of
mind?

In the morning, and with the bright September sunshine streaming into
the room, his disquietude of the previous night seemed rather foolish.
No doubt Miss Martha had been mistaken; perhaps Horatio had not had any
idea of buying her shares. Martha herself seemed a little doubtful.

“I’ve been thinkin’ it over,” she said, “and I wonder if I just imagined
that’s what he was after. It seems almost as if I must have. I can’t
think of any sensible reason why a man who was so dreadfully anxious to
sell, and only a little while ago, should be wantin’ to buy now. Perhaps
he didn’t mean anything of the kind.”

Galusha comforted himself with the thought that this was, in all
probability, the truth: Miss Martha had misinterpreted the Pulcifer
purpose; Raish had not meant anything of the kind.

But the comfort was short-lived. A few days later Doctor Powers called
at the Phipps’ home. After he had gone Martha came to the sitting room,
where her lodger was reading the paper, and, closing the door behind
her, said:

“Mr. Bangs, I guess I was right, after all. Raish Pulcifer WAS hintin’
at buyin’ my Wellmouth Development stock.”

Galusha dropped the paper in his lap. “Oh, dear! I--I mean, dear me!” he
observed.

“Yes, I guess there isn’t much doubt of it. Doctor Powers came here to
tell me that he had sold his shares to him and that Eben Snow and Jim
Henry Willis have sold theirs in the same place. He says he doesn’t
know for certain, but he thinks Raish has bought out all the little
stockholders. He’s been quietly buyin’ the Development stock for the
last week.”

Mr. Bangs took off his spectacles and put them on again.

“Good gracious!” he stammered.

“That’s what Doctor Powers says. He stopped in, just as an old friend,
to drop the hint to me, so that I could be ready when Raish came to buy
mine. I asked him what the Pulcifer man was payin’ for the stock. He
said as little as he had to, as near as he could find out. Of course, no
one was supposed to tell a word about it--Raish had asked ‘em not to do
that--but SOMEBODY told, and then it all began to come out. As a matter
of fact, you might as well ask water to run up hill as to ask Jim Willis
to keep quiet about his own business or keep out of any one else’s. The
price paid, so the doctor says he’s heard, runs all the way from eight
dollars a share up to fourteen and a half. Poor old Mrs. Badger--Darius
Badger’s widow--got the eight dollars. She was somethin’ like me, I
guess--had given up the idea of ever gettin’ a cent--and so she took
the first offer Raish made her. Eben Snow got the fourteen and a half,
I believe, the highest price. He needed it less than anybody else, which
is usually the way. Doctor Powers sold his for twelve and a half. Said
he thought, when he was doin’ it, that he was mighty lucky. Now he
wishes he hadn’t sold at all, but had waited. ‘Don’t sell yours for a
penny less than fifteen, Martha,’ he told me. ‘There’s somethin’ up.
Either Raish has heard somethin’ and is buyin’ for a speculation,
or else he’s actin’ as somebody else’s agent.’ What did you say, Mr.
Bangs?”

Galusha had not said anything; and what he said now was neither
brilliant nor original.

“Dear me, dear me!” he murmured. Martha looked at him, keenly.

“Why, what is it, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. “Raish’s buyin’ the stock won’t
make any difference to you, will it?”

“Eh?... To ME? Why--why, of course not. Dear me, no. Why--ah--how could
it make any difference to me?”

“I didn’t mean you, yourself. I meant to the Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot
people, or whoever it was that bought my stock.”

“Oh--oh, oh! To them? Oh, yes, yes! I thought for the moment you
referred to me personally. Ha, ha! That would have been very--ah--funny,
wouldn’t it? No, I don’t think it will make any difference to
Cousin--ah--I mean to the purchasers of your shares. No, no,
indeed--ah--yes. Quite so.”

If Miss Phipps noticed a slight incoherence in this speech, she did not
comment upon it. Galusha blinked behind his spectacles and passed a hand
across his forehead. His landlady continued her story.

“I asked Doctor Powers what reason Raish was givin’ people for his
buyin’. The doctor said he gave reasons enough, but they weren’t very
satisfyin’ ones to a thinkin’ person. Raish said he owned a big block of
the stock himself and yet it wasn’t big enough to give him much say as
to what should be done with the company. Of course, nothin’ could be
done with it at present, but still some time there might and so he
thought he might as well be hung for an old sheep as a lamb and buy in
what he could get, provided he could get it cheap enough. He had come to
the doctor first, he said. Ha, ha! That was kind of funny.”

“Eh?... Oh, yes, certainly.... Of course.”

“But I haven’t told you yet why it was funny. It seems he told every
person he went to that he or she was the first. Doctor Powers prides
himself on bein’ a pretty good business man and I guess it provoked him
to find that Raish had fooled him into takin’ a lower price than some
of the rest got. He said as much to me. He said that he agreed with what
Raish said, that about he might as well be hung for an old sheep as a
lamb. So long as he WAS hung, so the doctor said, he didn’t care what it
was for.”

She laughed again and her lodger smiled, although rather feebly. He
murmured that it was very amusing.

“Yes, wasn’t it?” said Martha. “Well, the doctor was very anxious that
I should not sell at a cent less than fifteen dollars a share. I wonder
what he, or Raish Pulcifer either, would say if they knew I HAD sold
already, and for as much as father paid, too. Oh, I wonder if Raish
has been to see Cap’n Jeth yet. He won’t buy HIS shares for any eight
dollars a piece, he can be sure of that.”

Galusha nodded; he was sure of it, too.

“But,” said Martha, ending the conversation for the time, “why do you
suppose Raish is buyin’ at all? What is goin’ on, anyway?”

She was by no means the only one who was asking that question. Three
days later Captain Jethro asked Galusha the same thing. They met in the
lane leading to the village and the light keeper approached the subject
without preamble.

“Say, Mr. Bangs,” he demanded, “what’s Raish Pulcifer cal’late he’s
doin’?”

Galusha smiled. “I thank you for the compliment, Captain
Hallett,” he said, “but my intuition cannot keep pace with Mr.
Pulcifer’s--ah--calculations. No, indeed.”

Jethro pulled his beard. “I asked you,” he said, solemnly, “what Raish
Pulcifer cal’lated he was doin’ buyin’ up Development stock? Do you
know?”

“No. Is he buying it?”

“If you ain’t heard that he is, you’re about the only one in East
Wellmouth. Ain’t you heard it?”

Galusha would have liked to change the subject, but with Jethro Hallett
that was not an easy task, as he knew from experience. He did not
immediately make the attempt.

“Why--ah--yes,” he admitted. “I have heard that he has
bought--ah--some.”

“Um-hm. Who told you; Martha?”

“Why--why--really, Captain, I don’t know that I ought--You’ll pardon me,
but--”

“Been tryin’ to buy Martha’s, has he?”

Galusha sighed. “Have you noticed,” he suggested, “what a remarkable
view one gets from this point? The village and the bay in front, and, in
the rear, the--ah--light and the--ah--rest. Quite remarkable, don’t you
think so, Captain?”

Captain Jethro looked gravely at the view.

“Raish been to see Martha about buyin’ her stock, has he?” he asked.

Galusha rubbed his chin. “I have often wondered,” he said, “why no
summer cottage has been built just here. The spot would seem to possess
very marked advantages. Very--ah--very much so.”

The light keeper cleared his throat. “Zach said he see Raish comin’ out
of your gate t’other day,” he said. “Been to see Martha about her shares
then, had he?”

“The--ah--proximity to the main road is an advantage in particular,”
 Galusha continued. “One would be near it and yet, so to speak, secluded
from it. Really, a very exceptional spot, Captain Hallett.”

Captain Jethro stroked his beard, frowned, and gazed steadily at the
face of the little archaeologist. Galusha gazed serenely and with a
pleased interest at the view. After a moment the light keeper said:
“He’s been after mine, too.”

“Eh?... Oh, indeed? You mean--”

“I mean Raish Pulcifer’s been tryin’ to buy my Development stock same as
he has Martha’s. Hey? What say?”

“I said nothing, Captain. Not a word, really”

“Humph!... Well, he’s been tryin’ to buy mine, anyway. And, nigh’s as
I can find out, he’s bought every loose share there is. All hands are
talkin’ about it now; some of ‘em are wonderin’ if they hadn’t better
have hung on. Eben Snow came to me this mornin’ and he says, ‘I don’t
know whether I did right to let go of that stock of mine or not,’ he
says. ‘What do you think, Jeth?’ I haven’t got much use for Eben,
and ain’t had for years; I went to sea with him one v’yage and that
generally tells a man’s story. I’ve seen him at church sociables--in the
days when I wasted my time goin’ to such things--spend as much as
five minutes decidin’ whether to take a doughnut or a piece of pie. He
couldn’t eat both, but he was afraid whichever he took the other might
turn out to be better. So when he asked me my opinion about his sellin’
his Development, I gave it to him. ‘You’ve been wantin’ to sell, ain’t
you?’ says I. ‘I’ve heard you whinin’ around for months because you
couldn’t sell. Now you HAVE sold. What more do you want?’ He got mad.
‘You ain’t sold YOUR holdin’s at any fourteen dollars a share, have
you?’ he says. I told him I hadn’t. ‘No, and I’ll bet you won’t,
either,’ says he. I told him he’d make money if he could get somebody to
take the bet. Humph! the swab!”

For the first time Galusha asked a direct question.

“Did--ah--Mr. Pulcifer actually--ah--bid for your Development shares,
Captain Hallett?” he inquired.

“Oh, he come as nigh to doin’ it as I’d let him. Hinted maybe that he’d
give me as much as he did Snow, fourteen fifty. I laughed at him.
I asked him what made him so reckless, when, the last time he and I
talked, he was tryin’ to sell me his own shares for ten. And now he
wanted to buy mine at fourteen and a half!”

“And--ah--what reason did he give for his change of heart? Or didn’t he
give any?”

“Humph! Yes, he gave a shipload of reasons, but there wouldn’t any
one of ‘em float if ‘twas hove overboard. He ain’t buyin’ on his own
account, that I KNOW.”

“Oh--ah--do you, indeed. May I ask why you are so certain?”

“For two reasons. First, because Raish ain’t got money enough of his own
to do any such thing. Second, and the main reason why I know he ain’t
buyin’ for himself is because he says he is. Anybody that knows Raish
knows that’s reason enough.”

Galusha ventured one more question.

“When he--ah--approached you, did you--that is, what excuse did you give
him for--for your lack of interest, so to speak?”

“Hey? I didn’t give him any. And I didn’t tell him I wasn’t interested.
I am interested--to see how far he’ll go. I sha’n’t tell him I’ve sold
already, Mr. Bangs; your Boston friends needn’t worry about that. When I
sign articles I stick to my contract.”

They had reached the Phipps’ gate by this time and there they parted.
The light keeper strode off, rolling heavily, his beard blowing
across his shoulder. He had been, for him, remarkably good-humored and
talkative. Galusha was inclined to attribute the good humor to the fact
that Captain Jethro considered he had made a good bargain in selling his
own shares at a price so much higher than that obtained by Snow and the
rest. The next time they conversed the good humor was not as apparent.
But that occasion was almost a fortnight later.

And, meantime, Mr. Pulcifer had become the center of interest in East
Wellmouth and its neighborhood. An important figure he always was,
particularly in his own estimation, but now the spotlight of publicity
which beat upon his ample figure had in its rays the blue tinge of
mystery. The question which all Wellmouth was asking was that which
Captain Jethro had asked Mr. Bangs: “What is Raish up to now?”

And Mr. Pulcifer firmly refused to answer that question. Or, to be
more exact, he always answered it, but the answers were not considered
convincing. Some pretended to be satisfied with his offhand declaration
that he “had a little chunk of the stock and just presumed likely I
might as well have a little more. Ain’t nothin’ to make a fuss about,
anyhow.” A few pretended to accept this explanation as bona fide, but
the remainder, the majority, received it with open incredulity.

The oddest part of it all was the fact that the great Horatio appeared
to dislike the prominent position which his activities held in the
community mind. Ordinarily prominence had been the delight of his soul.
In every political campaign, wherever the limelight shone brightest
there had strutted Mr. Pulcifer, cigar in mouth, hat over one eye,
serene self-satisfaction in the possession of mysterious knowledge
radiating from his person. He loved that sort of thing; to be the
possessor of “inside information,” however slight, or even to be
popularly supposed to possess it, had hitherto been the meat upon which
this, Wellmouth’s, Caesar, fed and grew great.

But Raish was not enjoying this particular meal. And his attitude
was not pretense, either; it was obvious that the more East Wellmouth
discussed his buying the Development stock the less he liked it. When
his fellow townsmen questioned him he grew peevish.

“Oh, forget it!” he exclaimed to one of the unfortunate who came seeking
information. “You make me tired, Jim Fletcher, you and Ras Beebe and the
whole gang. By cripes, a feller can’t as much as take a five cent cigar
out of his pocket without all hands tryin’ to make a--a molehill out of
it. Forget it, I tell you!”

Mr. Fletcher was a simple soul, decidedly not one of East Wellmouth’s
intellectual aristocracy, but he was persistent.

“Aw, hold on, Raish,” he expostulated, “I never said a word about your
takin’ a five cent cigar out of your pocket.... Er--er--you ain’t taken
one out, have you?”

“No, and I ain’t goin’ to--not now.”

“All right--all right. _I_ never asked you. All I said was--”

“I know what you said.”

“Why, no, you don’t neither. You’re all mixed up. Nobody’s said anything
about cigars, or makin’--er--er--What was it you said they made?”

“Oh, nothin’, nothin’. A molehill is what I said.”

“What kind of a hill?”

“A molehill. Didn’t you ever hear of a ground mole, for heaven sakes?”

“Course I’ve heard of a ground mole! But what’s a ground mole got to do
with a cigar, I want to know? And you said a moleHILL. What’s a ground
mole doin’ up on a hill?”

“Not up ON one--IN one. A molehill is what a ground mole lives in, ain’t
it? It’s just a sayin’.... Oh, never mind! Go on! Take a walk.”

“_I_ don’t want to walk. And a ground mole lives in a hole, not a hill,
like a--like a ant. You know that as well as I do. And, anyhow, nobody
said anything about ground moles, or--or mud turtles neither, far’s that
goes. No, nor five cent cigars. Now, Raish, I’ll tell you what they’re
sayin’; they say--”

“And I’ll tell YOU! Listen! Listen, now, because this is the last time
I’ll tell anybody anything except to go--”

“Sshh, shh, Raish! Alvira’s right in the kitchen and the window’s
open.... No, ‘tain’t, it’s shut. Where will they go?”

“Listen, you! I’ve bought those few extra shares of Development because
I had some myself and thought I might as well have a few more. I bought
‘em and I paid for ‘em. Nobody says I ain’t paid for ‘em, do they?”

“No, no. Don’t anybody say that. All they say IS--”

“Be still! Now I bought those shares. What of it? It’s my business,
ain’t it? Yes. And I haven’t bought any more. You can tell ‘em that: I
HAVEN’T BOUGHT ANY MORE.”

“Oh, all right, Raish, all right. I’ll tell ‘em you ain’t. But--”

“That’s all. Now forget it! For-GET it!”

Which should, perhaps, have been sufficient and convincing. But there
were still some unconvinced. For example, Martha happened to meet one
morning, while on an errand in the village, the president of the Denboro
Trust Company. He explained that he had motored over, having a little
matter of personal business to attend to.

“I haven’t seen you for some time, Miss Phipps,” he observed. “Not since
our--er--little talk about the Wellmouth Development stock. That was the
last time, wasn’t it?”

Martha said that it was. He lowered his voice a very little and asked,
casually: “Still holding on to your two hundred and fifty shares, are
you?”

“Why, that was what you told me to do, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, yes. I believe it was. Humph! Just so, yes. So you’ve still got
those shares?”

Martha smiled. “I haven’t sold ‘em to Raish Pulcifer, if that’s what
you’re hintin’ at,” she said.

He seemed a bit embarrassed. “Well,” he admitted, with a laugh, “I guess
I’ll have to own that I did mean that. There seems to be a good many who
have sold to Pulcifer. All the little fellows, the small holders. You
haven’t, you say?”

“I haven’t sold a share to him.”

“Humph! Neither has Cap’n Jeth Hallett; he told me so just now....
Hum!... What is Raish buying for? What’s the reason he’s buying? Have
you heard?”

“I’ve heard what he’s told other folks; that’s all I know about it.”

“Hum.... Yes, yes. Well, here’s my advice, Miss Phipps: If I were
you--if I were you, I say, and he came to me and wanted to buy, I
shouldn’t be in too big a hurry to sell. Not in too big a hurry, I
shouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

He glanced at her quickly. “Oh, he HAS been to see you about buying your
shares, then?” he suggested.

She shook her head. “I didn’t say he had,” she replied. “I just asked
why I shouldn’t sell if he wanted to buy, that’s all. Why shouldn’t I?”

He seemed more embarrassed and a trifle irritated.

“Why--why--Oh, well, I suppose you should, perhaps, if he offers you
enough. But I wish you wouldn’t until--until--Well, couldn’t you let me
know before you give him his answer? Would you mind doing that?”

And now she looked keenly at him. “What would I gain by that?” she
asked. “YOU aren’t thinkin’ of buyin’ more of that stock, are you? The
other time when we talked, you told me the Trust Company had all they
cared to own and were keepin’ it because they had to. I would have been
glad--yes, awfully glad, to sell you my shares. But you wouldn’t even
consider buyin’. Do you want to buy now?”

He frowned. “I don’t know what I want,” he said, impatiently. “Except
that the one thing we want to find out is why Pulcifer is buying. The
Trust Company holds a big block of that stock and--and if there is
anything up we want to know of it.”

“What do you mean by ‘anything up’?”

“Oh, I mean if some other people are trying to get--er--into the thing.
Of course, it isn’t likely, but--”

He did not finish the sentence. She asked another question.

“Has Raish been to see you about buyin’ the Trust Company stock?” she
asked.

“No. He hasn’t been near us.”

“Perhaps he would if you told him you wanted to sell.”

“I don’t know that we do want to sell. That’s a pretty good piece of
property over there and some day--Ahem! Oh, well, never mind. But I
wish you would let us know before you sell Pulcifer your holdings. It
might--I can’t say positively, you know--but it MIGHT be worth your
while.”

Martha, of course, made no promise, but she thought a good deal during
her walk homeward. She told her lodger of the talk with the Trust
Company official, and he thought a good deal, also.

His thoughts, however, dealt not with the possible rise in value of
the six hundred and fifty shares which, endorsed in blank, reposed,
presumably, somewhere in the vaults of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot. He
thought not at all of anything like that. He had gotten rid of those
certificates and hoped never to hear of them again. But now, with all
this stir and talk, there was distinct danger that not only he but
others might hear of them. Galusha Bangs and Raish Pulcifer had, just
now, one trait in common, both detested the publicity given their
dealings in the securities of the Wellmouth Development Company.

But, in spite of this detestation, Horatio still seemed anxious to deal
in those securities. He visited the Phipps’ home twice that week, both
times after dark and, as the watchful Primmie observed and commented
upon, each time coming not by the lane, but across the fields. And when
he left, at the termination of his second visit, the expression upon his
face was by no means one of triumph.

And Martha, of course, told her lodger what had transpired.

“I declare,” she said, after her caller had gone, “I shall really begin
to believe somethin’ IS up in that Development Company, just as the
Trust Company man said. Raish certainly wants to buy the two hundred and
fifty shares he thinks I’ve got. This is the third time he’s been to see
me, sneakin’ across lots in the dark so nobody else would see him,
and each time he raised his bid. He got up to eighteen dollars a
share to-night. And, I do believe, if I had given him the least bit of
encouragement, he would have gone higher still. What do you think of
that, Mr. Bangs?”

Galusha did not know what to think of it; he found it extremely
unpleasant to think of it at all.

“Have you--ah--have you told him you do not intend selling?” he asked.

“Why, no, I haven’t. You see, if I do he’ll think it’s awfully queer,
because he knows how anxious I was, a while ago, TO sell. I just keep
puttin’ him off. Pretty soon I suppose I shall HAVE to tell him I won’t
sell no matter what he offers; but we’ll try the puttin’ off as long
as possible.” She paused, and then added, with a mischievous twinkle,
“Really, Mr. Bangs, I am gettin’ a good deal of fun out of it. A few
months ago I was the one to go to him and talk about that stock. Now he
comes to me and I’m just as high and mighty as he ever was, you can be
sure of that. ‘Well, Raish,’ I said to him to-night, ‘I don’t know that
I am very much interested. If the stock is worth that to you, I presume
likely it’s worth it to me.’ Ha, ha! Oh, dear! you should have seen him
squirm. He keeps tryin’ to be buttery and sweet, but his real feelin’s
come out sometimes. For instance, to-night his spite got a little too
much for him and he said: ‘Humph!’ he said, ‘somebody must have willed
you money lately, Martha. Either that or keepin’ boarders must pay
pretty well.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘it does. The cost of livin is comin’
down all the time.’ Oh, I’m havin’ a beautiful game of tit-for-tat with
Raish.”

She laughed merrily. Galusha did not laugh. The game was altogether too
risky for him to enjoy it. A person sitting on a powder barrel could
scarcely be expected to enjoy the sight of a group of children playing
with matches in close proximity. An explosion, sooner or later, might be
considered certain. But the children continued to play and day after
day went by, and no blow-up took place. Galusha sat upon his barrel
pondering apprehensively and--waiting. There were times when, facing
what seemed the inevitable, he found himself almost longing for the
promised summons from the Institute. An expedition to the wilds of--of
almost anywhere, provided it was remote enough--offered at least a means
of escape. But, to offset this, was the knowledge that escape by flight
involved giving up East Wellmouth and all it had come to mean to him.
Of course, he would be obliged to give it up some day and, in all
probability, soon--but--well, he simply could not bring himself to the
point of hastening the separation. So he shifted from the powder barrel
to the sharp horn of the other dilemma and shifted back again. Both
seats were most uncomfortable. The idea that there was an element of
absurdity in his self-imposed martyrdom and that, after all, what he
had done might be considered by the majority as commendable rather than
criminal, did not occur to him at all. He would not have been Galusha
Cabot Bangs if it had.

He meditated much and Primmie, always on the lookout for new symptoms,
noticed the meditations. When Primmie noticed a thing she never
hesitated to ask questions concerning it. She was dusting the sitting
room one morning and he was sitting by the window looking out.

“You’re thinkin’ again, ain’t you, Mr. Bangs?” observed Primmie.

Galusha started. “Eh?” he queried. “Thinking? Oh, yes--yes!--I suppose I
was thinking, Primmie. I--ah--sometimes do.”

“You ‘most always do. I never see anybody think as much as you do, Mr.
Bangs. Never in my born days I never. And lately--my savin’ soul! Seems
as if you didn’t do nothin’ BUT think lately. Just set around and think
and twiddle that thing on your watch chain.”

The thing on the watch chain was a rather odd charm which Mr. Bangs had
possessed for many years. “Twiddling” it was a habit of his. In fact, he
had twiddled it so much that the pivot upon which it had hung broke and
Martha had insisted upon his sending the charm to Boston for repairs. It
had recently been returned.

“What is that thing, Mr. Bangs?” asked Primmie. “I was lookin’ at it
t’other day when you left your watch chain layin’ out in the sink.”

“In the sink? You mean BY the sink, don’t you, Primmie?”

“No, I don’t, I mean IN it. You’d forgot your watch and Miss Martha she
sent me up to your room after it. I fetched it down to you and you and
her was talkin’ in the kitchen and you was washin’ your hands in the
sink basin. Don’t you remember you was?”

“Was I? I--I presume I was if you say so. Really I--I have forgotten.”

“Course you have. And you forgot your watch, too. Left it layin’ right
alongside that tin washbasin full of soapsuds. ‘Twas a mercy you didn’t
empty out the suds on top of it. Well, I snaked it out of the sink
and chased out the door to give it to you and you was halfway to the
lighthouse and I couldn’t make you hear to save my soul. ‘Twas then
I noticed that charm thing. That’s an awful funny kind of thing, Mr.
Bangs. There’s a--a bug on it, ain’t there?”

“Why--ah--yes, Primmie. That charm is a very old scarab.”

“Hey? A what? I told Miss Martha it looked for all the world like a
pertater bug.”

Galusha smiled. He held out the charm for her inspection.

“I have had that for a long time,” he said. “It is a--ah--souvenir of my
first Egyptian expedition. The scarab is a rather rare example. I found
it myself at Saqqarah, in a tomb. It is a scarab of the Vth Dynasty.”

“Hey? Die--what?”

“The Vth Dynasty; that is the way we classify Egyptian--ah--relics, by
dynasties, you know. The Vth Dynasty was about six thousand years ago.”

Primmie sat down upon the chair she had been dusting.

“Hey?” she exclaimed. “My Lord of Isrul! Is that bug thing there six
thousand year old?”

“Yes.”

“My savin’ soul! WHAT kind of a bug did you say ‘twas?”

“Why, I don’t know that I did say. It is a representation of an Egyptian
beetle, Ateuchus Sacer, you know. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the
beetle and so they--”

“Wait! Wait a minute, Mr. Bangs. WHAT did you say they done to it?”

“I said they worshiped it, made a god of it, you understand.”

“A god! Out of a--a pertater bug! Go long, Mr. Bangs! You’re foolin’,
ain’t you?”

“Dear me, no! It’s quite true, Primmie, really. The ancient Egyptians
had many gods, some like human beings, some in the forms of animals. The
goddess Hathor, for example, was the goddess of the dead and is always
represented in the shape of a cow.”

“Eh! A cow! Do you mean to sit there and tell me them
folks--er--er--went to church meetin’ and--and flopped down and said
their prayers to a COW?”

Galusha smiled. “Why, yes,” he said, “I presume you might call it that.
And another god of theirs had the head of a hawk--the bird, you know.
The cat, too, was a very sacred animal. And, as I say, the beetle, like
the one represented here, was--”

“Hold on, Mr. Bangs! HO-OLD on! Don’t say no more to me NOW. Let me kind
of--of settle my stomach, as you might say, ‘fore you fetch any more
onto the table. Worshipin’ cows and--and henhawks and--and cats and bugs
and--and hoptoads and clams, for what _I_ know! My savin’ soul! What
made ‘em do it? What did they do it FOR? Was they all crazy?”

“Oh, no, it was the custom of their race and time.”

“WELL!” with a heartfelt sigh, “I’m glad times have changed, that’s
all I’ve got to say. Goin’ to cow meetin’ would be too much for ME! Mr.
Bangs, where did you get that bug thing?”

“I found it at a place called Saqqarah, in Egypt. It was in a tomb
there.”

“A tomb! What was you doin’ in a tomb, for the land sakes?”

“I was opening it, looking for mummies and carvings, statues, relics,
anything of the kind I might find. This scarab was in a ring on the
finger of the mummy of a woman. She was the wife of an officer in the
royal court. The mummy case was excellently preserved and when the mummy
itself was unwrapped--”

“Wait a minute! Hold on just another minute, won’t you, Mr. Bangs?
You’re always talkin’ about mummies. A mummy is a--a kind of an image,
ain’t it? I’ve seen pictures of ‘em in them printed report things you
get from that Washin’ton place. An image with funny scrabblin’ and
pictures, kind of, all over it. That’s a mummy, ain’t it, Mr. Bangs?”

“Why, not exactly, Primmie. A mummy is--”

He proceeded to tell her much concerning mummies. From that he went on
to describe the finding of the particular mummy from whose finger the
scarab had been taken. Miss Cash listened, her mouth and eyes opening
wider and wider. She appeared to be slowly stiffening in her chair.
Galusha, growing interested in his own story, was waxing almost
eloquent, when he was interrupted by a gasp from his listener. She was
staring at him, her face expressing the utmost horror.

“Why, dear me, Primmie, what is it?” he begged.

Primmie gasped again. “And you set there,” she said, slowly, “and tell
me that you hauled that poor critter that had been buried six thousand
years out of--of--My Lord of Isrul! Don’t talk no more to me now, Mr.
Bangs. I sha’n’t sleep none THIS night!” She marched to the door and
there, turning, looked at him in awe-stricken amazement.

“And to think,” she said, slowly, “that I always cal’lated you was meek
and gentle and--and all like that--as Moses’s grandmother. WELL, it just
shows you can’t tell much by a person’s LOOKS. Haulin’ ‘em out of their
graves and--and unwrappin’ ‘em like--like bundles, and cartin’ ‘em off
to museums. And thinkin’ no more of it than I would of--of scalin’ a
flatfish. My savin’ soul!”

She breathed heavily once more and departed. That evening she came
to her mistress with a new hint concerning the reason for the Bangs’
absent-mindedness.

“It’s his conscience,” she declared. “He’s broodin’, that’s what he’s
doin’. Broodin’ and broodin’ over them poor remains in the showcases
in the museums. He may be a good man; I don’t say he ain’t. He’s just
lovely NOW, and that’s why his conscience keeps a-broodin’, poor thing.
Oh, I know what I’m talkin’ about, Miss Martha. You ask him some time
where he got that bug thing--a Arab, he calls it--that he wears on his
watch chain. Just ask him. You’ll hear somethin’ THEN, I bet you! Whew!”

Galusha found considerable amusement in talks like those. Primmie was
a distinct relief, for she never mentioned the troublesome Development
Company. Talk in the village concerning it was dying down and Mr.
Pulcifer’s assertion that he had bought only the shares of the small
holders was becoming more generally believed. But in the Gould’s Bluffs
settlement this belief was scoffed at. Captain Jeth Hallett told Galusha
the truth and his statement was merely a confirmation of Martha Phipps’.

“Raish is hotfoot after that stock of mine,” growled the light keeper.
“He’s ‘round to see me every day or two. Don’t hint any more neither;
comes right out and bids for it. He’s got to as high as nineteen a
share now. And he’d go higher, too. HOW far he’ll go I don’t know, but I
cal’late I’ll keep him stringin’ along till I find out.”

He pulled at his beard for a moment and then added:

“It’s plain enough, of course, that Raish is agent for somebody that
wants to buy in that stock. Who ‘tis, though, I can’t guess. It ain’t
your Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot crowd, Mr. Bangs. That’s plain enough,
too.”

Galusha tried to look innocently interested.

“Oh--ah--yes,” he said. “Is it?”

“Sartin ‘tis. THEY wouldn’t need to be sendin’ anybody to buy my shares,
would they? They’ve bought ‘em already. The whole thing is queer. Look
here! Why should anybody be chasin’ ME for those shares? Why don’t they
get a list of stockholders from the books? Those transfer books ought to
show that I’ve sold, hadn’t they? They would, too, if any transfer had
been made. There ain’t been any made, that’s all the answer I can think
of. I signed those certificates of mine in blank, transferred ‘em in
blank on the back. And somebody--whoever ‘twas bought ‘em--ain’t turned
‘em in for new ones in their own name, but have left ‘em just the way
they got ‘em. That’s why Raish and his crowd think I’ve still got my
stock. Now ain’t that funny, Mr. Bangs? Ain’t that strange?”

It was not at all funny to Galusha. Nor strange. The light keeper tugged
at his beard and his shaggy brows drew together. “I don’t know’s I did
right to let go of that stock of mine, after all,” he said, slowly.
“Don’t know as I did, no.”

Galusha asked him why.

“Because I don’t know as I did, that’s all. If I’d hung on I might have
got more for it. Looks to me as if Raish’s crowd, whoever they are, are
mighty anxious to buy. And the Denboro Trust Company folks might bid
against ‘em if ‘twas necessary. They’ve got too much of that stock to
let themselves be froze out. Humph!... Humph! I ain’t sure as I did
right.”

“But--but you did get a profit, Captain Hallett. The profit
you--ah--expected.”

“Humph! I got a profit, but how do I know ‘twas the profit Julia meant?
I ought to have gone and asked her afore I sold, that’s what I ought to
have done, I cal’late.”

He frowned heavily and added, in a tone of gloomy doubt: “I presume
likely I’ve been neglectin’ things--things like that, lately, and that’s
why punishments are laid onto me. I suppose likely that’s it.”

Galusha, of course, did not understand, but as the captain seemed to
expect him to make some remark, he said: “Oh--ah--dear me! Indeed?
Ah--punishments?”

“Yes. I don’t know what else they are. When your own flesh and blood--”
 He stopped in the middle of his sentence, sighed, and added: “Well,
never mind. But I need counsel, Mr. Bangs, counsel.”

Again Galusha scarcely knew what to say.

“Why--ah--Captain Hallett,” he stammered, “I doubt if my advice would be
worth much, really, but such as it is I assure you it--”

Captain Jethro interrupted.

“Counsel from this earth won’t help me any, Mr. Bangs,” he declared.
“It’s higher counsel that I need. Um-hm, higher.”

He walked away without saying more. Galusha wondered what had set him
off upon that tack. That afternoon, while in the village, he met Nelson
Howard and the latter furnished an explanation. It seemed that the young
man had been to see Captain Jethro, had dared to call at the light with
the deliberate intention of seeing and interviewing him on the subject
of his daughter. The interview had not been long, nor as stormy as
Nelson anticipated; but neither had it been satisfactory.

“It’s those confounded ‘spirits’ that are rocking the boat,” declared
Nelson. “The old man practically said just that. He seems to have gotten
over some of his bitterness against me--perhaps it is, as you say, Mr.
Bangs, because I have a better position now and good prospects. Perhaps
it is that, I don’t know. But he still won’t consider my marrying Lulie.
He seems to realize that we could marry and that he couldn’t stop us,
but I think he realizes, too, that neither Lulie nor I would think of
doing it against his will. ‘But why, Cap’n Hallett?’ I kept saying.
‘WHY? What is the reason you are so down on me?’ And all I could get out
of him was the old stuff about ‘revelations’ and ‘word from above’ and
all that. We didn’t get much of anywhere. Oh, pshaw! Wouldn’t it make
you tired? Say, Mr. Bangs, the last time you and I talked you said you
were going to ‘consider’ those Marietta Hoag spirits. I don’t know what
you meant, but if you could consider some sense into them and into Cap’n
Jeth’s stubborn old head, I wish you would.”

Galusha smiled and said he would try. “I don’t exactly know what
I meant, myself, by considering them,” he admitted. “However,
I--ah--doubtless meant something and I’ll try and--ah--consider what it
was. It seems to me that I had a vague thought--not an idea,
exactly, but--Well, perhaps it will come back. I have had a number
of--ah--distractions of late. They have caused me to forget the spirits.
I’m very sorry, really. I must try now and reconsider the considering.
Dear me, how involved I am getting! Never mind, we are going to win yet.
Oh, I am sure of it.”

The distractions to which he referred were, of course, the recent
and mysterious machinations of Raish Pulcifer. And he was to be again
distracted that very afternoon. For as, after parting with Howard,
he was walking slowly along the main road, pondering deeply upon the
problem presented by the love affair of his two young friends and its
spirit complications, he was awakened from his reverie by a series of
sharp clicks close at his ear. He started, looked up and about, and saw
that he was directly opposite the business office of the great Horatio.
He heard the clicks again and realized that they were caused by the
tapping of the windowpane by a ring upon a masculine finger. The
ring appeared to be--but was not--a mammoth pigeon-blood ruby and it
ornamented, or set off, the hand of Mr. Pulcifer himself.

Galusha stared uncomprehendingly at the hand and ring. Then the hand
beckoned frantically. Mr. Bangs raised his eyes and saw, through the
dingy pane, the face of the owner of the hand. The lower portion of the
face was in eager motion. “Come in,” Mr. Pulcifer was whispering. “Come
on in!”

Galusha wonderingly entered the office. He had no desire for
conversation with its proprietor, but he was curious to know what the
latter wanted.

“Ah--good-afternoon, Mr. Pulcifer,” he said.

Raish did not answer immediately. His first move was to cross to the
door by which his visitor had entered, close and lock it. His next was
to lower the window shade a trifle. Then he turned and smiled--nay,
beamed upon that visitor.

“Set down, set down, Perfessor,” he urged, with great cordiality. “Well,
well, well! It’s good to see you again, be hanged if it ain’t now! How’s
things down to the bluffs? Joggin’ along, joggin’ along in the same old
rut, the way the feller with the wheelbarrer went to market? Eh? Haw,
haw, haw! Have a cigar, Perfessor?”

Galusha declined the cigar. He would also have declined the invitation
to sit, but Mr. Pulcifer would not hear of it. He all but forced his
caller into a chair.

“Set down,” he insisted. “Just as cheap settin’ as standin’ and
consider’ble lighter on shoe leather, as the feller said. Haw, haw! Hey?
Yes, indeed. Er--Have a cigar?”

But Galusha was still resolute as far as the cigar was concerned. Raish
lighted one himself and puffed briskly. To a keen observer he might have
appeared a trifle nervous. Galusha was not a particularly keen observer
and, moreover, he was nervous himself. If there had been no other
reason, close proximity to a Raish Pulcifer cigar was, to a sensitive
person, sufficient cause for nervousness.

Mr. Pulcifer continued to talk and talk and talk, of the weather, of the
profits of the summer season just past, of all sorts of trivialities.
Mr. Bangs’ nervousness increased. He fidgeted in his chair.

“Really,” he stammered, “I--I fear I must be going. You will excuse me,
I hope, but--ah--I must, really.”

Pulcifer held up a protesting hand. It was that holding the cigar and he
waved it slowly back and forth. One of Galusha’s experiences had been to
be a passenger aboard a tramp steamer loaded with hides when fire broke
out on board. The hides had smoked tremendously and smelled even more
so. As the dealer in real estate slowly waved his cigar back and forth,
Galusha suddenly remembered this experience. The mental picture was
quite vivid.

“Wait, Perfessor,” commanded Horatio. “Throttle her down. Put her into
low just a minute. Say, Perfessor,” he lowered his voice and leaned
forward in his chair: “Say, Perfessor,” he repeated, “do you want to
make some money?”

Galusha gazed at him uncomprehendingly.

“Why--ah--Dear me!” he faltered. “I--that is--well, really, I fear I do
not fully grasp your--ah--meaning, Mr. Pulcifer.”

Raish seemed to find this amusing. He laughed aloud. “No reason why you
should yet awhile, Perfessor,” he declared. “I’ll try to get it across
to you in a minute, though. What I asked was if you wanted to make
money. Do, don’t you?”

“Why--why, I don’t know. Really, I--”

“Go ‘way, boy!” derisively. “Go ‘way! Don’t tell me you don’t want
money. Everybody wants it. You and me ain’t John D.’s yet, by a
consider’ble sight. Hey? Haw, haw! Anyhow _I_ ain’t, and I’ll say this
for you, Perfessor, if you are, you don’t look it. Haw, haw!”

He laughed again. Galusha glanced despairingly at the locked door. Mr.
Pulcifer leaned forward and gesticulated with the cigar just before his
visitor’s nose. The visitor leaned backward.

“If--if you don’t mind,” he said, desperately, “I really wish you
wouldn’t.”

“What?”

“Put that thing--that cigar quite so near. If you don’t mind.”

Raish withdrew the cigar and looked at it and his companion.

“Oh, yes, yes; I see!” he said, after a moment. “You object to tobacco,
then?”

Galusha drew a relieved breath. “Why--ah--no,” he said, slowly, “not
to--ah--tobacco.” Then he added, hastily: “But, really, Mr. Pulcifer, I
must be going.”

Pulcifer pushed him back into the chair again. His tone became brisk and
businesslike. “Hold on, Perfessor,” he said. “You say you want to make
money?”

Galusha had not said so, but it seemed scarcely worth while to deny the
assertion. And Raish waited for no denial. “You want to make money,”
 he repeated. “All right, so do I. And I’ve got a scheme that’ll help us
both to make a little. Now listen. But before I tell you, you’ve got to
give me your word to keep it dark; see?”

Galusha promised and Raish proceeded to explain his scheme. Briefly it
amounted to this: Galusha Bangs, being a close acquaintance of Martha
Phipps and Jethro Hallett, was to use that acquaintanceship to induce
them to sell their shares in the Development Company. For such an
effort, if successful, on the part of Mr. Bangs, he, Horatio Pulcifer,
was prepared to pay a commission of fifty dollars, twenty-five when he
received Martha’s shares and twenty-five when Jethro’s were delivered.

“There,” he said, in conclusion, “is a chance I’m offerin’ you, as a
friend, to clean up fifty good, hard, round dollars. What do you say,
old man?”

The “old man”--Galusha winced slightly at the appellation--did not seem
to know what to say. His facial expression might have indicated any or
all of a variety of feelings. At last, he stammered a question. Why did
Mr. Pulcifer wish to obtain the Development stock? This question Raish
would not answer.

“Never mind,” he said. “I do, that’s all. And I’ve got the money to do
it with. I’ll pay cash for their stock and I’ll pay you cash when you or
they hand it over. That’s business, ain’t it?”

“But--but, dear me, Mr. Pulcifer, why do you ask ME to do this? Why--”

“Ain’t I told you? You’re a friend of mine and I’m givin’ you the chance
because I think you need the money. That’s a reason, ain’t it?”

“Why--yes. It is--ah--a reason. But why don’t you buy the stock
yourself?”

For an instant Raish’s smoothness deserted him. His temper flared.

“Because the cussed fools won’t sell it to me,” he snapped. “That is,
they ain’t said they’d sell yet. Perhaps they’re prejudiced against
me, I don’t know. Maybe they will sell to you; you and they seem to
be thicker’n thieves. Er--that is, of course, you understand I don’t
mean--Oh, well, you know what I mean, Perfessor. Now what do you say?”

Galusha rose and picked up his hat from the floor.

“I’m afraid I must say no,” he said, quietly, but with a firmness which
even Raish Pulcifer’s calloused understanding could not miss. “I could
not think of accepting, really.”

“But, say, Perfessor--”

“No, Mr. Pulcifer. I could not.”

“But why not? IF--Well, I tell you, maybe I might make it sixty dollars
instead of fifty for you.”

“No. I couldn’t, Mr. Pulcifer.... If you will kindly unlock the door?”

Pulcifer swore. “Well, you must be richer’n you look, that’s all I’ve
got to say,” he snarled. He kicked the wastebasket across the room and
growled: “I’ll get the stuff away from ‘em yet, just the same. What the
fools are hangin’ on for is more’n I can see. Martha Phipps was down
on her knees beggin’ me to buy only a little spell ago. Old Jeth,
of course, thinks his ‘spirits’ are backin’ HIM up. Crazy old loon!
Spirits! In this day and time! God sakes! Humph! I wish to thunder I
could deal with the spirits direct; might be able to do business with
THEM. Perfessor, now come, think it over. There ain’t anything crooked
about it.... Why, what is it, Perfessor?” eagerly. “Changed your mind,
have you?”

Galusha’s expression had changed, certainly. He looked queerly at Mr.
Pulcifer, queerly and for an appreciable interval of time. There was an
odd flash in his eye and the suspicion of a smile at the corner of his
lips. But he was grave enough when he spoke.

“Mr. Pulcifer,” he said, “I appreciate your kindness in--ah--considering
me in this matter. I--it is impossible for me to accept your offer, of
course, but--but--”

“Now, hold on, Perfessor. You think that offer over.”

“No, I cannot accept. But it has occurred to me that perhaps...
perhaps... Mr. Pulcifer, do you know Miss Hoag?”

“Hey? Marietta Hoag? KNOW her? Yes, I know her; know her too well for my
own good. Why?”

“Have you any--ah--influence with her? That is, would she be likely to
listen to a suggestion from you?”

“Listen! SHE? Confound her, I’ve got a note of hers for seventy-five
dollars and it’s two months overdue. She’d BETTER listen! Say, what are
you drivin’ at, Perfessor?”

Galusha deposited his hat upon the floor again, and sat down in the
chair he had just vacated. Now it was he who, regardless of the cigar,
leaned forward.

“Mr. Pulcifer,” he said, “an idea occurred to me while you were speaking
just now. I don’t know that it will be of any--ah--value to you. But you
are quite welcome to it, really. This is the idea--”



CHAPTER XVIII


If Ras Beebe or Miss Blount or some others of the group of East
Wellmouthians who guessed Galusha Bangs to be “a little teched in the
head,” had seen that gentleman walking toward home after his interview
with Mr. Pulcifer in the latter’s office--if they had seen him on his
way to Gould’s Bluffs that day, they would have ceased guessing and
professed certain knowledge. Galusha meandered slowly along the lane,
head bent, hands clasped behind him, stumbling over tussocks and
stepping with unexpected emphasis into ruts and holes. Sometimes his
face wore a disturbed expression, almost a frightened one; at other
times he smiled and his eyes twinkled like those of a mischievous boy.
Once he laughed aloud, and, hearing himself, looked guiltily around
to see if any one else had heard him. Then the frightened expression
returned once more. If Primmie Cash had been privileged to watch him she
might have said, as she had on a former occasion, that he looked “as if
he was havin’ a good time all up one side of him and a bad one all down
t’other.”

As a matter of fact, this estimate would not have been so far wrong.
Galusha was divided between pleasurable anticipation and fear. There was
adventure ahead, adventure which promised excitement, a probable benefit
to some individuals and a grievous shock to others, and surprise to all.
But for him there was involved a certain amount of risk. However, so he
decided before he reached the Phipps’ gate, he had started across the
desert and it was too late to turn back. Whether he brought his caravan
over safely or the Bedouins got him was on the knees of the gods. And
the fortunes of little Galusha Bangs had been, ere this, on the knees of
many gods, hawk-headed and horned and crescent-crowned, strange gods in
strange places. It was quite useless to worry now, he decided, and
he would calmly wait and see. At the best, the outcome would be good,
delightful. At the worst, except for him--well, except for him it could
not be much worse than it now was. For him, of course--he must not think
about that.

He endeavored to assume an air of light-hearted, care-free innocence
and sometimes overdid it a bit. Primmie, the eagle-eyed, remarked to her
mistress: “Well, all’s I can say is that I never see such a change in a
body as there is in Mr. Bangs. He used to be so--so quiet, you know, all
the time, and he is yet most of it. When I used to come along and find
him all humped over thinkin’, and I’d ask him what he was thinkin’
about, he’d kind of jump and wake up and say, ‘Eh? Oh, nothin’, nothin,’
Primmie, really. Er--quite so--yes.’ And then he’d go to sleep again, as
you might say. But he don’t do so now; my savin’ soul, no! This mornin’
when I says, ‘What you thinkin’ about, Mr. Bangs?’ he says, ‘Nothin’,
nothin’, Primmie,’ same as usual; but then he says, ‘DON’T look at me
like that, Primmie. I wasn’t thinkin’ of anything, I assure you. Please
don’t DO it.’ And then he commenced to sing, sing out loud. I never
heard him do it afore and I don’t know’s I exactly hanker to have him
do it again, ‘cause ‘twas pretty unhealthy singin’, if you ask ME. But
what--”

“Oh, now run along, run along, Primmie, for mercy’s sakes! I never heard
any one use so many words and get so little good out of ‘em in my life.
Let Mr. Bangs alone.”

“_I_ ain’t doin’ nothin’ to him. Lord of Isrul, no! But, Miss Martha,
what started him to singin’ all to once? If ‘twas somebody else but him
and I didn’t know the cherry rum was all gone, I--”

“What? What’s that? How did you know the cherry rum was all gone?”

Primmie blinked and swallowed hard. “Why--er--why--er--Miss Martha,” she
stammered, “I--I just happened to find it out--er--sort of by accident.
Zach--Zacheus Bloomer, I mean--over to the lighthouse, you know--”

“There, there! Know? Of course I know Zach Bloomer, I should think I
might. Don’t be any sillier than the Lord made you, Primmie. It isn’t
necessary.”

“Well--well, you see, Miss Martha, Zach he was over here one time
a spell ago and--and--Well, we got to--to kind of arguin’ with one
another--er--er--arguin’, you know.”

“Yes, I know. I ought to. Go on.”

“Yes’m. And Zach he got to--to bettin’, as you might say. And we got
talkin’ about--er--cherry rum, seems so. It’s kind of funny that we
done it, now I come to think of it, but we did. Seems to me ‘twas Zach
started it.”

“Um.... I see. Go on.”

“Well, we argued and argued and finally he up and bet me there wasn’t a
drink of cherry rum in this house. Bet me five cents, he did, and I took
him up. And then I went and got the bottle out of the soup tureen in the
closet and fetched it and showed it to him. ‘There!’ says I. ‘There’s
your drink, Zach Bloomer,’ says I. ‘Now hand over my five cents.’ ‘Hold
on, Posy,’ he says, ‘hold on. I said a drink. There ain’t a drink in
that bottle.’ ‘Go ‘long,’ says I, ‘the bottle’s half full.’ But he stuck
it out there wasn’t a drink in it and afore he’d pay me my bet he had to
prove it to himself. Even then, after he’d swallowed the whole of it,
he vowed and declared there wasn’t a real drink. But he had to hand over
the five cents.... And--and that’s how I know,” concluded Primmie, “that
there ain’t any cherry rum in the house, Miss Martha.”

Miss Phipps’ remarks on the subject of the wily Mr. Bloomer and the rum
drove the thoughts of Mr. Bangs’ odd behavior from the mind of her maid.
But the consciousness of conspiracy was always present with Galusha, try
as he might to forget it. And he was constantly being reminded--of it.
Down at the post office at mail time he would feel his coat-tail pulled
and looking up would see the face of Mr. Pulcifer solemnly gazing
over his head at the rows of letter boxes. Apparently Raish was quite
unconscious of the little man’s presence, but there would come another
tug at the coat-tail and a barely perceptible jerk of the Pulcifer head
toward the door.

Feeling remarkably like a fool, Galusha would follow to the front steps
of the post office. There Raish would suddenly and, in a tone of joyful
surprise, quite as if they had not met for years, seize his hand, pump
it up and down and ask concerning his health, the health of the Gould’s
Bluffs colony and the “news down yonder.” Then, gazing blandly up the
road at nothing in particular, he would add, speaking in a whisper and
from the corner of his mouth: “Comin’ along, Perfessor. She’s a-comin’
along. Keep your ear out for signals.... What say? Why, no, I don’t
think it does look as much like rain as it did, Mr. Bangs.”

One evening Galusha, entering the Phipps’ sitting room, found Lulie
there. She and Martha were in earnest conversation and the girl was
plainly much agitated. He was hurriedly withdrawing, but Miss Phipps
called him back.

“Come in, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “I think Lulie would like to talk to
you. She said she would.”

“Yes. Yes, I would, Mr. Bangs,” put in Lulie, herself. “Could you spare
just a minute or two?”

Galusha cheerfully avowed that he had so many spare minutes that he did
not know what to do with them.

“If time were money, as they say it is,” he added, “I should be
a--ah--sort of mint, shouldn’t I?” Then he smiled and added: “Why,
no, not exactly that, either. A mint is where they make money and I
certainly do not make time. But I have just as much time as if I did.
Yes--ah--quite so. As our philosophizing friend Zacheus is so fond
of saying, I have ‘all the time there is.’ And if time IS
money--why--ah.... Eh? Dear me, possibly you ladies know what I am
talking about; _I_ don’t.”

They both burst out laughing and he smiled and stroked his chin. Martha
looked him over.

“What makes you so nervous, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. He started and
colored. He was a trifle nervous, having a shrewd suspicion as to what
Miss Hallett wished to talk with him about. She promptly confirmed the
suspicion.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said, “I am in such trouble. It’s about father, as
usual. I’m afraid he is at it again.”

“Eh? I beg pardon? Oh, yes, certainly.”

Martha shook her head. “He hasn’t the slightest idea what you mean,
Lulie,” she declared. “That’s why he says ‘Oh, yes, certainly.’ She
means, Mr. Bangs, that Cap’n Jethro is beginnin’ to break out with
another attack of Marietta Hoag’s spirits, and we’ve been tryin’ to
think of a way to stop him. We haven’t yet. Perhaps you can. Can you?”

Lulie went on to explain. Her father had been more gloomy and thoughtful
for the last week or two. She had noticed it and so had Zach. He talked
with her less and less as the days passed, lapsed into silences at
meals, and on nights when he was supposed to be off duty and asleep she
often heard him walking about his room. If she asked him, as, of course,
she often did, what was the matter, if he was not feeling well or if
there was anything troubling him, he only growled a negative or ordered
her not to bother him.

“And when, last Wednesday at supper,” she went on, “Zach said something
about the engine for the foghorn not working just as it should, father’s
answer showed us both what was in his mind. I had guessed it before and
Zach says he had, but then we knew.”

“Tell Mr. Bangs what he said,” urged Martha.

“He didn’t say so very much, Mr. Bangs, but it was the way he said it.
He glowered at poor Zach, who hadn’t said or done anything wrong, and
pulled his beard as he always does. Then he said: ‘There’s no wonder the
engine’s out of kilter. There’s no wonder about that. The wonder is
that anything’s right aboard here. We’ve been trying to steer without a
compass. We’ve got so we think we don’t need a pilot or a chart, but
are so everlasting smart we can cruise anywhere on our own hook.’ ‘Why,
father,’ said I, ‘what do you mean?’ He glared at me then. ‘Mean?’ he
asked. ‘I mean we’ve had guidance offered to us, offered to us over and
over again, and we’ve passed it by on the other side.’”

She paused. Galusha looked puzzled.

“Ah--um, yes,” he observed. “On the other side? Yes--ah--quite so.”

“Oh, that was just his way of speaking, Mr. Bangs. I tried to change
the subject. I asked him if he didn’t think we should report the engine
trouble to the inspector when he came next month. It was a mistake, my
saying that. He got up from his chair. ‘I’m going to report,’ he said.
‘I’m going to make my report aloft and ask for guidance. The foghorn
ain’t the only thing that’s runnin’ wild. My own flesh and blood defies
me.’”

Martha interrupted. “You hear that, Mr. Bangs?” she said. “And we were
all hopin’ THAT snarl was straightenin’ itself out.”

Galusha looked very uneasy. “Dear me,” he said. “Really, now. Oh, dear!”

“Well,” continued Lulie, “that was enough, of course. And the next day,
last Thursday, Zacheus said Ras Beebe told him that Ophelia--that’s his
sister, you know--told him that Abel Harding told her that his wife said
that Marietta Hoag told HER--I HOPE I’ve got all the ‘hims’ and ‘hers’
straight--that Cap’n Jeth Hallett was going to have another seance down
at the light pretty soon. Marietta said that father felt he needed help
from ‘over the river’.... What is it, Mr. Bangs?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing. For a moment I did not get the--ah--allusion, the
‘over the river,’ you know. I comprehend now, the--ah--Styx; yes.”

But now Martha looked puzzled.

“Sticks!” she repeated. “Lulie didn’t say anything about sticks. Neither
did Cap’n Jethro. Spirits he was talkin’ about.”

“Yes, I know. Certainly, quite so. The shades beyond the Styx.”

“SHADES? STICKS! For mercy’s sakes, Mr. Bangs--!”

Lulie laughed aloud. “He means the River Styx, Martha,” she explained.
“Don’t you know? The river of the dead, that the ancients believed in,
where Charon rowed the ferry.”

And now Martha laughed. “My goodness gracious me!” she cried. “Yes, yes,
of course. I’ve read about it, but it was a long while ago. Mr. Bangs,
I’m dreadfully ignorant, I realize it about once every ten minutes when
I’m with you. Perhaps I’ve got a little excuse this time. I’ve been
figurin’ I must buy new curtains for the dinin’ room. I was thinkin’
about it all this forenoon. And when YOU began to talk about shades and
sticks, I--Mercy me! I am funny, I declare!”

She laughed again and Lulie and Galusha joined her. They were still
laughing when the dining room door opened. Mr. Bloomer’s substantial if
not elegant form appeared.

“Ain’t buttin’ in, be I?” inquired Zach. “I knew you was over here,
Lulie, so I stopped to tell you the news. It’s all settled.”

“Settled?” Lulie and Martha repeated the word together. Zach nodded,
portentously.

“Um-hm,” he declared. “Settled’s the word. The whistle’s piped to
quarters. All hands, alow and aloft, are ordered to report on board the
good ship Gould’s Bluffs Lighthouse, Cap’n Jethro Hallet commandin’,
on Friday next, the--er--I-forget-what of this month, at seven bells in
the--”

“Zach! Zach!” broke in Lulie. “Stop it! What are you talking about?”

“Talkin’ about what I’m tryin’ to tell you,” said Zacheus, who seemed,
for him, a good deal disturbed. “All able believers, fo’mast hands,
and roustabouts and all full-rated ghosts, spooks, sperits and Chinee
controls are ordered to get together in the parlor next Saturday night
and turn loose and raise-whatever ‘tis they raise. Signed, Marietta
Hoag, Admiral, and Cap’n Jethro Hallett, Skipper. There, by Godfreys!
Now if you don’t know ‘tain’t my fault, is it? Yes, sir, there’s goin’
to be another one of them fool sea-ants, or whatever ‘tis they call ‘em,
over to the house next Friday night. And I think it’s a darn shame,
if you want to know what _I_ think. And just as you and me, Lulie, was
hopin’ the old man was gettin’ so he’d forgot Marietta and all her crew.
A healthy note, by Godfreys, ain’t it now!”

“A healthy note,” or words to that effect, was exactly what it was;
Martha and Lulie were in thorough accord with Zach as to that. Galusha
did not say very much. He rubbed his chin a good deal and when, after
Bloomer had departed, Lulie came close to breaking down and crying, he
still was silent, although nervous and evidently much disturbed. Lulie
bravely conquered her emotion.

“Please don’t mind me,” she begged. “It’s awfully silly of me, I know.
But, you see, Nelson and I had really begun to think that perhaps father
had broken away from--from all that. For a time he was--oh, different.
Nelson told you that he bowed to him once and I told you how--But what
is the use? Here he goes again. And now goodness knows what dreadful
ideas that Hoag woman will put into his head. Nelson and I had hoped
that perhaps--perhaps we might be married in six months or a year.
Now--Oh, it is SO discouraging!”

Martha soothed her, told her not to be discouraged, that no doubt this
spirit outbreak would be only a mild one, that she was sure Captain Jeth
would “come around all right” in time, and grasped at any other straws
of comfort she found afloat. Galusha stood awkwardly by, his face
expressing concern, but his tongue silent. When Lulie declared she must
go home, he insisted upon walking to the light with her.

“But you don’t need to, Mr. Bangs,” she declared. “It is a pleasant
night and such a little way. And you know I am used to running about
alone. Why, what on earth do you think would be likely to hurt me, down
here in this lonesomeness?”

Nevertheless, he insisted. But, although she chatted during their short
walk, it was not until they reached the light keeper’s gate that he
spoke. Then he laid a hand on her arm.

“Ah--ah--Miss Lulie--” he began, but she stopped him.

“I thought we had settled long ago,” she said, “that I wasn’t to be
‘Miss’ Lulie. Now you are beginning again.”

“Yes--yes. I beg your pardon, of course. Well, Miss--Oh, dear me, HOW
ridiculous I am! Well, Lulie, I should like to tell you a story. May I?”

It seemed a queer place and an odd time to tell stories, but she said of
course he might.

“It wasn’t a very long story,” he went on, “but it is a true one.
I happened to think of it just now while we were talking, you and I
and--ah--Miss Martha. It is about me. On one of my expeditions in Egypt,
Miss Lu--Oh, good gracious!--On one of my Egyptian expeditions, Lulie,
I was in search of a certain tomb, or group of tombs. It was on this
expedition, by the way, that we found the very remarkable statue of
Amenemhait; Amenemhait III, you know.”

Lulie smiled. “I DON’T know,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter.”

“Eh? Oh, no, not at all, not in the least. He was a Pharaoh of the first
Theban period. But that doesn’t matter either; and he hasn’t anything
to do with this story. We had learned of the existence of this group of
tombs, or that they had existed at one time, and of their approximate
location, from an inscription dug up by myself at--”

The door of the light keeper’s cottage swung open with a bang. A voice
roared across the night.

“Lulie!” shouted Captain Jethro. “Lulie!”

The Bangs’ story broke off in the middle. Its narrator and his young
companion turned startled faces toward the sound.

“Lulie!” bellowed Captain Jeth, again. “Lulie!”

Lulie answered. “Why, yes, father,” she said. “I am right here, at the
gate. Why are you shouting so? What is the matter?”

The captain seemed much surprised. He raised a hand to shield his eyes
from the lamplight in the room behind him.

“Hey?” he queried. “Where be you? You ain’t right there at the gate, are
you?”

“Why, yes, of course I am.”

“Humph!...” Then, with renewed suspicion, “Who’s that with you?”

“Mr. Bangs. I ran over to Martha’s for a minute or two, and he walked
home with me.”

“Good-evening, Captain Hallett,” hailed Galusha. Captain Jethro pulled
his beard.

“Humph!” he grunted. “Humph! Mr. Bangs, eh?... Humph! I
thought--Cal’late I must have fell asleep on the sofy and been
dreamin’.... Humph!... Lulie, you better come in now, it’s chilly out
here. Mr. Bangs can come, too, I suppose likely--if he wants to.”

It was not the most cordial of invitations and Galusha did not accept
it.

“I must get back to the house, Captain,” he said. “It IS chilly, as you
say. No doubt he is right, Lulie. You mustn’t stay. Good-night.”

“But, Mr. Bangs, you haven’t finished your story.”

“Eh? Dear me, so I haven’t. Well--”

“Lulie!” Captain Jethro’s voice was fretful. “Lulie, you come along in
now. I want you.”

Lulie shook her head resignedly. “Yes, father,” she replied, “I’m
coming this minute. You see?” she whispered. “He is getting back all
the impatience and--and strangeness that he had last fall. It is that
dreadful spirit business. Oh, dear!”

Galusha softly patted her shoulder. “I won’t finish my story,” he
said, in a low tone. “It isn’t necessary, because I can tell you
the--ah--moral, so to speak, and that will do as well. We found those
tombs at last by doing a thing which, we were all sure, was the worst
thing we could possibly do. It turned out to be that ‘worst thing’ which
saved us. And--and I wish you would think that over, Lulie,” he added,
earnestly. “It looked to be the very worst thing and--and it turned out
to be the best.... Ah--good-night.”

But she detained him. “I don’t understand, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “What
do you mean? You said you were going to tell me the moral of your story.
That isn’t a moral, is it?”

“Eh? No--ah--no. I suppose it isn’t. But--but you think it over, to
please me, you know. A--a something which looked to be the worst
that could happen was the miracle that gave us our tombs. Perhaps
the--perhaps what you dread most may give you yours. Not your tomb; dear
me, no! I hope not. But may be the means of--of saving the situation.
There, there, I must go. Good-night.”

“Wait, wait, Mr. Bangs.... Oh, yes, father, I’m coming now.... Mr.
Bangs, what DO you mean? What I dread the most? What I dread--I think I
dread that silly seance next Saturday night more than anything else. Mr.
Bangs, you don’t mean--”

“Now, now, now, Lulie. I mustn’t say a word more. I--I have said too
much, I know. Just think over the--ah--moral, that’s all. Think
it over--but don’t mention it to any one else, please. Good-night.
Good-night, Captain Hallett.”

He hurried away. Lulie stared after him, wonderingly; then she turned
and walked slowly and thoughtfully to the door. Her father regarded her
with a troubled expression.

“I dreamed,” he said, slowly, “that Julia come to me and said somethin’
about you. I don’t seem to recollect just what ‘twas she said. But ‘twas
somethin’ about you--somethin’ about me lookin’ out for you.... Seem’s
if,” he added, doubtfully, “as if she said you’d look out for me, but
that’s just foolishness and wouldn’t mean nothin’. It couldn’t be, that
couldn’t.... Humph! Well, come on in.”

The remainder of that week the seance to be held in the light keeper’s
cottage on Saturday evening was much talked about. The devout, including
the Beebes, the Hardings and the Blounts were quite excited about it.
The scoffers derided and waxed sarcastic. Of these scoffers the most
outspoken was Horatio Pulcifer. He declared that the whole fool business
made him tired. Old Cap’n Jeth Hallett must be getting cracked as one of
them antique plates. He wasn’t sure that the selectmen hadn’t ought to
stop the thing, a lot of ninnies sitting in a round circle holding hands
and pretending to get spirit messages. Huh! Just let ‘em get a message
that proved something, that meant something to somebody, and he’d
believe, too, he’d be glad to believe. But he was from Missouri and
they’d got to show him. With much more to the same effect.

In private, and in the ear of Galusha Bangs, he made a significant
remark.

“Go?” he repeated. “Me go to that seance thing? Not so you’d notice
it, Perfessor. I’m what they call a wise bird. I get up early, a
consider’ble spell before breakfast. Um-hm, a consider’ble spell.
Saturday night I’m goin’ to be a long ways from Gould’s Bluffs
lighthouse, you bet on that.”

Galusha expressed surprise and gave reasons for that emotion. Raish
winked and nodded.

“Yes, I know,” he said, “but I’m goin’ to have what they call an alibi.
You ain’t been to court much, I presume likely, Perfessor, so you may
not be on to what alibi is. When Bill Alworthy was hauled up for sellin’
without a license we had an alibi for him. He proved he was fourteen
mile away from where he sold the stuff--I mean from where they said he
sold it--and it was that what got him off. Well, on Saturday night
I’m goin’ to have an alibi. I’m goin’ to be settin’ in at a little
penny-ante in Elmer Rogers’ back room over to the Centre. An alibi’s
a nice thing to have in the house, Perfessor. Hey? Haw, haw, haw! Yes,
sir-ee! In case there’s any talk they won’t be able to pin much on your
Uncle Raish, not much they won’t.”

He nudged the Bangs’ ribs and walked off, chuckling. Galusha, too,
smiled as he watched him go. Both he and Mr. Pulcifer seemed to find
amusement in the situation. Yet, and Galusha realized it, there was also
for him that element of risk.

On Thursday Captain Jethro stopped at the Phipps’ home to invite
its inmates to the Saturday evening meeting. His invitation was not
precisely whole-hearted, but the reason he gave for offering it caused
its acceptance.

“Lulie seems to want you and Mr. Bangs,” he said, “so come along if you
feel like it. I know you’re one of the don’t-believers, Martha, and I
guess likely Bangs is, but never mind. The door’s open if you want to
come. Maybe you’ll hear somethin’ that’ll lead you to the light; let’s
hope so. Anyhow, Lulie wants you.”

It will be noticed that Primmie’s name was not mentioned in the
invitation, but that did not prevent her acceptance. That evening, after
the supper dishes were washed, Miss Phipps heard agonized wails coming
from the kitchen and, going there, found her maid seated in a chair,
swaying back and forth, and, as Zach Bloomer once described a similar
performance, “tootin’ her everlastin’ soul into the harmonica.”

“I’m practicin’ up for Saturday night,” she informed her mistress,
cheerfully. “I’ve been tryin’ to think up some other hymn tunes and I’ve
thought of one, but I can’t remember what ‘tis, the whole of it, I mean.
You know, Miss Martha, the one about:


     ‘Oh, what a sight ‘twill be
      When the somethin’-or-other host we see,
      As numberless as the sands on the seashore.’


What kind of a host is it, Miss Martha? All I can think of is ‘rancid’
and I’m plaguy sure ‘tain’t THAT.”

Martha burst out laughing. “It is ‘ransomed,’ Primmie,” she said. “But
if you’re figurin’ on playin’ that thing over at the seance, I’m afraid
you’ll be disappointed. Cap’n Jethro has had the old melodeon repaired,
I believe. And, so far as I’ve heard, you haven’t been asked to come,
have you?”

Primmie became a statue of despair.

“Oh, Miss Martha,” she pleaded, “CAN’T I go? Can’t I please go? You’re
goin’ and so’s Mr. Bangs, and--and I do like ‘em so, those spirit
meetin’s. They scare me ‘most to death and I just love ‘em. PLEASE can’t
I go, Miss Martha?”

Martha took pity on her. “Well, all right, Primmie,” she said. “Go, if
you want to. I don’t believe Jethro will care. And,” with a shrug, “I
don’t know as another idiot, more or less, added to the rest of us, will
make much difference.”

Saturday, the eventful day, or the day of the eventful evening, was fine
and clear. At noon an unexpected event, the first of several, occurred;
Zacheus, bringing the mail from the post office, brought a large and
heavy letter addressed to Galusha Bangs, Esq., and stamped in the upper
left-hand corner with the name of the National Institute of Washington.
Galusha opened it in his room alone. It was the “plan,” the long-ago
announced and long-expected plan in all its details. An expedition was
to be fitted out, more completely and more elaborately than any yet
equipped by the Institute, and was to go to the Nile basin for extended
and careful research lasting two years at least. And he was offered
the command of that expedition, to direct its labors and to be its
scientific head. Whatever it accomplished, he would have accomplished;
the rewards--the understanding gratitude of his fellow archaeologists
the world over would be his, and his alone.

He sat there in his room and read and reread the letter. The terms
in which the offer had been made were gratifying in the extreme. The
confidence in his ability and scientific knowledge were expressed
without stint. But, and more than this, between the lines he could read
the affection of his associates there at the Institute and their pride
in him. His own affection and pride were touched. A letter like this and
an offer and opportunity like these were wonderful. The pride he felt
was a very humble pride. He was unworthy of such trust, but he was proud
to know they believed him worthy.

He sat there, the many sheets of the letter between his fingers, looking
out through the window at the brown, windswept hollows and little hills
and the cold gray-green sea beyond. He saw none of these. What he did
see was the long stretch of ridged sand, heaving to the horizon, the
brilliant blue of the African sky, the line of camels trudging on, on.
He saw the dahabeah slowly making its way up the winding river, the flat
banks on either side, the palm trees in silhouetted clusters against the
sunset, the shattered cornice of the ruins he was to explore just coming
into view. He saw and heard the shrieking, chattering laborers digging,
half naked, amid the scattered blocks of sculptured stone and, before
and beneath them, the upper edge of the doorway which they were
uncovering, the door behind which he was to find--who knew what
treasures.

“Mr. Bangs,” called Martha from the foot of the stairs, “dinner’s
ready.”

Galusha was far away, somewhere beyond the Libyan desert, but he heard
the summons.

“Eh?” he exclaimed. “Oh, yes, yes, Miss Martha, I am coming.”

As he descended the stairs, it occurred to him that the voices calling
him to dinner across the sands or beneath the palms would be quite
different from this one, they would be masculine and strange and without
the pleasant, cheerful cordiality to which he had become accustomed.
Martha Phipps called one to a meal as if she really enjoyed having him
there. There was a welcome in her tones, a homelike quality, a... yes,
indeed, very much so.

At table he was unusually quiet. Martha asked him why he looked at her
so queerly.

“Eh? Do I?” he exclaimed. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I wasn’t aware. I beg your
pardon. I hope you’re not offended.”

She laughed. “Mercy me,” she said, “I’m not offended so easily. And if
your absent-mindedness could make me take offense, Mr. Bangs, we
should have quarreled long ago. But I should like to know what you were
thinkin’ about. You sat there and stared at me and your face was as
solemn as--as Luce’s when it is gettin’ past his dinner time. You looked
as if you had lost your best friend.”

He did not smile even then. Nor did he make any reply worth noting. As a
matter of fact, he was awakening to the realization that if he accepted
the call to Egypt--and accept he must, of course--he would in solemn
truth lose his best friend. Or, if not lose her exactly, go away and
leave her for so long that it amounted to a loss. He must leave this
dining room, with its plants and old pictures and quaint homeliness,
leave the little Phipps’ cottage, leave its owner.... The dazzling
visions of sands and sphinxes, of palms and pyramids, suddenly lost
their dazzle. The excitement caused by the reading of the letter dulled
and deadened. The conviction which had come upon him so often of late
returned with redoubled vigor, the conviction that he had been happy
where he was and would never be as happy anywhere else. Egypt, even
beloved Egypt with all the new and wonderful opportunities it now
offered him, did not appeal. The thought was alarming. When he did
not want to go to Egypt there must be something the matter with him,
something serious. What was it?

After dinner he told her of the offer which had been made him.

“Perhaps you would like to see the letter,” he said. “It is a very kind
one. Dear me, yes. Much kinder than I deserve.”

She read the long letter through, read the details of the great plan
from end to end. When the reading was finished she sat silent, the
letter in her lap, and she did not look at him.

“They are very kind to me, aren’t they?” he said, gravely. “Very kind
and generous. The thought of it quite--ah--overwhelms me, really. Of
course, I know what they say concerning my--ah--the value of my service
is quite ridiculous, overstated and--and all that, but they do
that thinking to please me, I suppose. I... Why--why, Miss Martha,
you--you’re not--”

She smiled, a rather misty smile. “No,” she said, “I’m not. But I think
I shall if you keep on talkin’ in that way.”

“But--but, Miss Martha, I’m so sorry. I assure you I did not mean to
hurt your feelings. If I have said anything to distress you I’m VERY
sorry. Dear me, dear me! What did I say? I--”

She motioned him to silence. “Hush, hush!” she begged. “You didn’t say
anything, of course, except what you always say--that what you have
done doesn’t amount to anything and that you aren’t of any consequence
and--all that. You always say it, and you believe it, too. When I read
this letter, Mr. Bangs, and found that THEY know what you really are,
that they had found you out just as--as some of your other friends have,
it--it--”

She paused. Galusha turned red. “I--I--” he stammered. “Oh, you mustn’t
talk so, Miss Martha. It’s all nonsense, you know. Really it is.”

She shook her head and smiled once more.

“All right,” she argued. “Then we’ll call it nonsense; but it’s pretty
glorious nonsense, seems to me. I do congratulate you, Mr. Bangs. And
I congratulate the Institute folks a great deal more. Now tell me some
more about it, please. Where is this place they want you to go to?”

That afternoon Galusha spent in wandering about the countryside. He went
as far from home as the old graveyard in South Wellmouth. He took a long
walk and it should have been a pleasant one, but somehow it was not,
particularly. All he could think of was the two facts--one, that he had
been offered a wonderful opportunity, for which he should be eagerly and
hugely grateful; two, that he was not grateful at all, but resentful and
rebellious. And what on earth was the matter with him?

Martha was setting the supper table when he came in. He went to his
room and when he came down supper was almost ready. Primmie was in the
kitchen, busy with the cooking.

“We’re having an early supper, Mr. Bangs,” said Martha. “That
everlastin’ seance begins about half past seven, so Cap’n Jethro took
pains to tell me, and he’ll be crosser’n a hen out in a rainstorm if
we’re not on time.”

Galusha looked surprised. He had forgotten the seance altogether. Yes,
he had quite forgotten it. And, up to that noon, he had thought of very
little else the entire week. What WAS the matter with him?

“Lulie is goin’ to send Zach over to tell us when they’re ready to set
sail for Ghost Harbor,” went on Martha. “That will save us watchin’ the
clock. What say?”

But he had not said anything and she went on arranging the dishes. After
an interval she asked a question.

“How soon--that is, when will you have to leave us--leave here, Mr.
Bangs?” she asked. She was not looking at him when she asked it.

Galusha sighed. “In about two weeks, I--ah--suppose,” he said.

“Oh!”

“Ah--yes.”

There was another silent interval. Then Martha turned her head to
listen.

“Wasn’t that an automobile I heard then?” she asked. “Yes, it is. It
can’t be the Spiritualist crowd comin’ so soon. No, it is stoppin’ here,
at our gate. Is it Doctor Powers, I wonder?”

She went to the window, pulled aside the shade and looked out.

“It is a big car,” she said. “It isn’t the doctor, that’s sure. There’s
a man gettin’ out, a big man in a fur coat. Who on earth--?”

Steps sounded without upon the walk, then there was a knock upon the
side door, that of the dining room. Martha opened the door. A man’s
voice, a brisk, businesslike voice, asked a question.

“Why, yes,” replied Miss Phipps, “he lives here. He’s right here now.
Won’t you step in?”

The man who had asked the question accepted the invitation and entered
the dining room. He was a big, broad-shouldered man in a raccoon motor
coat. He took off a cap which matched the coat and looked about the
room. Then he saw Galusha.

“Why, hello, Loosh!” he said.

Galusha knew him, had recognized the voice before he saw its owner. His
mouth opened, shut, and opened again. He was quite pale.

“Ah--ah--why, Cousin Gussie!” he stammered.

For the man in the fur coat standing there in Martha Phipps’ dining room
was the senior partner of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot.



CHAPTER XIX


For perhaps thirty seconds after the exchange of greetings, the trio
in the Phipps’ dining room stood where they were, practically without
moving. Mr. Cabot, of course, was smiling broadly, Miss Phipps was
gazing in blank astonishment from one to the other of the two men, and
Galusha Bangs was staring at his relative as Robinson Crusoe stared at
the famous footprint, “like one thunderstruck.”

It was Cabot who broke up the tableau. His smile became a hearty laugh.

“What’s the matter, Loosh?” he demanded. “Great Scott, old man, I
expected to surprise you, but I didn’t expect to give you a paralytic
stroke. How are you?”

He walked over and held out his hand. Galusha took it, but he looked
as if he was quite unaware of doing so. “Cousin Gussie!” he repeated,
faintly. Then he added his favorite exclamation. “Dear me!”

Even Martha, who by this time was used to his eccentricities, thought
his conduct strange.

“Why, Mr. Bangs,” she cried, “are you sick? What is it?”

Galusha blinked, put a hand to his forehead, knocked off his spectacles,
picked them up again and, in doing so, appeared to pick up a little of
his normal self.

“Why, Cousin Gussie,” he observed, for the third time; adding, “I--I am
surprised.”

His cousin’s laugh made the little room echo.

“Good, Loosh!” he exclaimed. “I guessed as much; you looked it. Well, it
is all right; I’m here in the flesh. Aren’t you glad to see me?”

Galusha stammered that he was very glad to see him--yes,
indeed--ah--quite so--very, of course.

“Ah--ah--won’t you sit down?” he asked.

Martha could stand it no longer. “Why, mercy’s sakes, Mr. Bangs,” she
exclaimed, “of course he’ll sit down! And he’d probably take off his
coat, if you asked him.”

This pointed hint had an immediate effect. Her lodger sprang forward.

“Oh, dear me!” he cried. “I’m so sorry. Of course, of course. I BEG your
pardon, Cousin Gussie.”

He hindered a little more than he helped with the removal of the coat
and then stood, with the garment in his arms, peering over the heap of
fur like a spectacled prairie-dog peeping out of a hole.

“Ah--sit down, sit down, please,” he begged. “I--ah--please do.”

Again Martha interrupted. “Here, let me take that coat, Mr. Bangs,”
 she said, and took it forthwith. Galusha, coming to himself still more,
remembered the conventionalities.

“Oh, Miss Phipps,” he cried, “may I introduce my--ah--cousin, Mr. Cabot.
Mr. Cabot, this is the lady who has taken charge of me, so to speak.”

Both Martha and Cabot burst out laughing.

“That sounds as if I had arrested him, doesn’t it?” observed the former.
“But it is all right, Mr. Cabot; I’ve only taken him to board.”

“I understand. Well, unless he has changed a lot since I used to know
him, he needs some one to take charge of him. And it agrees with him,
too. Why, Loosh, I thought you were an invalid; you look like a football
player. Oh, pardon me, Miss Phipps, but don’t trouble to take that coat
away. I can stay only a little while. My chauffeur is waiting outside
and I must get on to the hotel or I’ll be late for dinner.”

Martha, who was on her way to the hall and the coat rack, turned.
“Hotel?” she repeated. “What hotel, Mr. Cabot?”

“Why, the Something-or-other House over in the next town. The Robbins
House, is it? Something like that.”

“Robbins House? There isn’t any. Oh, do you mean Roger’s Hotel at the
Centre?”

“Why, yes, that is it. I was told there was a hotel here, but they
forgot to tell me it was open only in the summer. What sort of place is
this Roger’s Hotel?”

Martha looked at him and then at Galusha.

“Altogether too bad for any relation of Mr. Bangs’s to go to,” she
declared. “At least, to eat supper. You and Mr. Bangs will excuse me,
won’t you? I’ll be right back.”

She hung the fur coat upon the rack and hastened back through the dining
room and out into the kitchen. Cabot took a chair and turned toward
Galusha.

“She is a capable woman,” he observed, with a jerk of his head toward
the kitchen door. “She has certainly taken good care of you. You look
better than when I saw you last and that was--Good Lord, how long ago
was it?”

Galusha replied that it was a good many years ago and then switched the
subject to that which was causing painful agitation in his bosom at
the moment, namely, the reason for his cousin’s appearance in East
Wellmouth.

Cousin Gussie laughed. “I came to see you, Loosh,” he declared. “Family
ties, and all that. I thought I would run down and get you to picnic on
the beach with me. How is the bathing just now?”

The chill October wind rattled the sash and furnished answer sufficient.
Galusha smiled a sad sort of acknowledgment of the joke. He did not feel
like smiling. The sensation of sitting on a powder barrel had returned
to him, except that now there was no head to the barrel and the air was
full of sparks.

“I--I did not expect you,” he faltered, for the sake of saying
something. Cabot laughed again.

“Of course you didn’t,” he said. “Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t
come purposely to see you, old man. There has been a little business
matter down here which hasn’t gone as I wanted it to, and I decided,
pretty much on the spur of the moment, to motor down and see what was
the matter. The friend for whom I was trying to handle the thing--it is
only a little matter--was coming with me, but this morning I got a wire
that he was detained and couldn’t make it. So, as it was a glorious
day and my doctor keeps telling me to forget business occasionally, I
started alone. I didn’t leave town until nearly eleven, had some motor
trouble, and didn’t reach here until almost five. Then I found the
fellow I came to see had gone somewhere, nobody knew where, and the
hotel was closed for the season. I inquired about you, was given your
address at the post office, and hunted you up. That’s the story.”

Galusha’s smile was less forced this time. He nodded reflectively.

“That explains it,” he said, slowly. “Yes, quite so. Of course, that
explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Why--ah--it explains why you came here, you know.”

“Well, I hope it does. That was the idea. If it doesn’t I don’t know
what will.”

Miss Phipps entered briskly from the kitchen. She proceeded to set
another place at the supper table.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said, “hadn’t you better take Mr. Cabot up to your
room? Probably he’d like to clean up after ridin’ so far. Better go
right away, because supper is nearly ready. Mr. Cabot, it is Saturday
night and you’ll get a Saturday night supper, beans and brown bread. I
hope you won’t mind.”

Galusha’s relative was somewhat taken aback.

“Why, Miss Phipps,” he protested, “of course I can’t think of dining
here. It is extremely kind of you, but really I--”

Martha calmly interrupted. “It isn’t kind at all,” she said. “And
it isn’t dinner, it is supper. If you don’t stay I shall think it is
because you don’t like baked beans. I may as well tell you,” she added,
“that you will get beans and nothin’ else over at Elmer Roger’s. They
won’t be as good as these, that’s all. That isn’t pride,” she continued,
with a twinkle in her eye. “Anybody’s beans are better than Elmer’s,
they couldn’t help bein’.”

The visitor still hesitated. “Well, really, Miss Phipps,” he said,
“I--Well, I should like to stay. I should, indeed. But, you see, my
chauffeur is outside waiting to take me over to the Roger’s House.”

Martha smiled. “Oh, no, he isn’t,” she said. “He is havin’ his supper
in the kitchen now. Run along, Mr. Bangs, and you and your cousin hurry
down as soon as you can.”

On the way upstairs Cabot asked a question.

“She is a ‘reg’lar’ woman, as the boys say,” he observed. “I like her.
Does she always, so to speak, boss people like that?”

Galusha nodded, cheerfully. “When she thinks they need it,” he replied.

“Humph! I understand now what you meant by saying she had taken charge
of you. Does she boss you?”

Another cheerful nod. “I ALWAYS need it,” answered Galusha.

Martha, of course, presided at the supper table. Primmie did not sit
down with the rest. She ate in the kitchen with the Cabot chauffeur.
But she entered the dining room from time to time to bring in hot brown
bread or beans or cookies, or to change the plates, and each time she
did so she stared at Cousin Gussie with awe in her gaze. Evidently the
knowledge that the head of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot was sitting there
before her had impressed her hugely. It was from Cabot, Bancroft and
Cabot, so Primmie remembered, that Mr. Bangs had procured the mammoth
pile of bank notes which she had seen upon her mistress’s center table.
She had never actually been told where those notes came from, but she
had guessed. And now the proprietor of the “money factory”--for that is
very nearly what it was in her imagination--was there, sitting at the
Phipps’ ‘dining table, eating the baked beans that she herself had
helped prepare. No wonder that Primmie was awe-stricken, no wonder
that she tripped over the mat corner and just escaped showering the
distinguished guest with a platterful of those very beans.

Mr. Cabot seemed to enjoy his supper hugely. He was jolly, talkative,
and very entertaining. He described his camp sojourn in Nevada and,
according to him, life in a mountain sanitarium, under the care of a
doctor and two husky male nurses, was a gorgeous joke. Martha, who, to
tell the truth, had at first secretly shown a little of Primmie’s awe,
was soon completely at ease. Even Galusha laughed, though not as often.
It was hard for him to forget the powder barrel sensation. Each time
his cousin opened his mouth to speak, he dreaded to hear reference to a
dangerous subject or to be asked a question which would set fire to the
fuse.

The clock struck seven. Martha glanced at it and suddenly uttered an
exclamation.

“My goodness gracious!” she exclaimed. “I declare, Mr. Bangs, you and
I have forgotten all about that blessed seance. And half past seven was
the time for it to begin. Good gracious me!”

Galusha started. “Dear me, dear me!” he cried. “So it was. I had
completely forgotten it, really I had.”

He put his hand to his forehead.

“I shall have to go to it,” declared Martha. “Lulie begged me to come
and the cap’n won’t like it if I stay away. But I don’t see that you
need to, Mr. Bangs. You and your cousin can stay right here and talk
and be comfortable. He is goin’ to stay overnight. Oh, yes, you are, Mr.
Cabot. I wouldn’t let a stray cat go to Elmer Roger’s hotel if I could
help it, to say nothin’ of Mr. Bangs’ cousin. The spare room’s all ready
and Primmie is up there now, airin’ it. She took your bag up with her; I
had your chauffeur bring it in from the car.”

Her guest stared at her for a moment, laughed and shook his head.

“Well, really, Miss Phipps,” he said, “I don’t know what to say to you.
You rather take me off my feet. It is very kind of you and, of course, I
am very much obliged; but, of course, too, I couldn’t think of staying.”

“Now, please, Mr. Cabot! It isn’t the least little bit of trouble, and
that’s honest. Mr. Bangs, you tell him to stay.”

Galusha, thus appealed to, tried to say something, but succeeded only in
looking distressed.

“We WANT him to stay, don’t we, Mr. Bangs?” urged Martha.

“Why--why, certainly. Oh, yes, indeed. Ah--yes,” faltered Galusha. If
there was one thing which he distinctly did not want, it was just that.
And there was no doubt that Cabot was wavering.

“But, you see, Miss Phipps,” said Cousin Gussie, “it will be quite
impossible. My chauffeur--”

“Yes, I know. I’m awfully sorry I haven’t got a room for him. I wish I
had. But he can go to Elmer’s. He wouldn’t mind so much--at least I hope
he wouldn’t--and there’s a garage for the car over there. I spoke to him
about it and he’s only waitin’ for you to say the word, Mr. Cabot.”

The visitor protested a bit more and then yielded. “Frankly, Miss
Phipps,” he said, “I have been wanting to stay ever since I entered your
door. This house takes me back to my boyhood, when I used to visit my
great-uncle Hiram down at Ostable. You remember him, Galusha, Uncle
Hiram’s dining room had the same wholesome, homey atmosphere that yours
has, Miss Phipps. And I honestly believe I haven’t enjoyed a meal since
those old days as I have enjoyed this supper of yours.”

Martha colored with pleasure. Galusha, forgetting his powder barrel,
beamed in sympathy.

“But there is just one more thing,” continued Cousin Gussie. “You
and Bangs were going out somewhere, were expected at some--er--social
affair, weren’t you?”

Miss Phipps and her lodger exchanged looks. Both appeared embarrassed.

“Well--well, you see,” faltered the former. Then, after a moment’s
reflection, she added, “Well, I’ll tell you, Mr. Cabot.”

She did tell him, briefly, of Captain Hallett’s spirit obsession, of
her friendship and sympathy for Lulie. She said nothing, of course,
concerning the latter’s love story.

“So,” she said, in conclusion, “although I haven’t the least bit of
belief in Marietta Hoag or any of her seances, I am sorry for Cap’n
Jethro and I am very fond of Lulie. She is worried, I know, and she
has asked me to be there tonight. You and Mr. Bangs will excuse me,
everything considered, won’t you?”

But Galusha had something to say. “Miss Martha,” he said, “I am afraid I
must go, too. I promised Mr.--ah--um--I mean I promised Lulie I would be
there. And this is going to be a very important seance.”

Martha turned to him.

“It is?” she asked. “Important--how? What do you mean?”

Her lodger looked as if he had said more than he intended. Also as if he
did not know what to say next. But Cabot saved him the trouble.

“I wonder if I might attend this--er--function?” he suggested. “It is
in the nature of a public affair, isn’t it? And,” with a twinkle of the
eye, “it sounds as if it might be interesting.”

Galusha and Miss Phipps regarded him gravely. Both seemed a little
troubled. It was Martha who answered.

“There isn’t any real reason why you shouldn’t go, if you want to, Mr.
Cabot,” she said. “There is only one thing--only one reason why I didn’t
say yes right away. I guess Mr. Bangs knows that reason and feels the
same as I do about it. Don’t you, Mr. Bangs?”

Galusha nodded.

“You see,” went on Miss Phipps, “Cap’n Hallett is kind of--well, queer
in some ways, but he has been, in his day, a good deal of a man. And his
daughter is a lovely girl and I think the world of her. I wouldn’t
want to hurt their feelings. If they should see you laugh--well, you
understand--”

Cousin Gussie nodded.

“Don’t say any more, Miss Phipps,” he replied. “It is quite all right.
I’ll stay in your home here and be perfectly happy.”

“But you didn’t wait for me to finish. I was goin’ to say that if you
should laugh you must manage not to let any one hear you; especially
Cap’n Jeth. Lulie has lots of common sense; she wouldn’t mind except
for the effect on her father, and she realizes how funny it is. But
her father doesn’t and--and he is pretty close to the breakin’ point
sometimes. So save up your laughs until we get back, please.”

“You seem to take it for granted that I shall feel like laughing.
Perhaps I sha’n’t. I only suggested my attending this affair because I
thought it would be a novelty to me.”

“Yes, yes, of course. Well, it will be a novelty, I guess likely, and a
pretty novel novelty, too. But there’s one thing more, Mr. Cabot, that I
want you to promise me. Don’t you dare take that crowd at that seance as
a fair sample of Wellmouth folks, because they’re not.”

“Why, Miss Phipps--”

“Because they’re not. Every town and every neighborhood, city or
country, has its freaks and every freak within five miles will be over
in that lighthouse parlor to-night. Just take ‘em for freaks, that’s
all, but DON’T take ‘em for samples of our people down here.” She
paused, and then added, with an apologetic laugh, “I guess you think
I am pretty peppery on the subject. Well, I get that way at times,
particularly just after the summer is over and the city crowd has been
here lookin’ for ‘characters.’ If you could see some of the specimens
who come over from the hotel, see the way they dress and act and speak!
‘Oh,’ one creature said to me; ‘oh, Miss Phipps,’ she gushed, ‘I am just
dyin’ to meet some of your dear, funny, odd, quaint characters. Where
can I find them?’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘I think I should try the Inn, if I
were you. There are funnier characters there than anywhere else I know.’
Of course, I knew she was at the Inn herself, but that didn’t make it
any the less true.... There! I’ve preached my sermon. Now, Mr. Cabot,
we’ll go into the sittin’ room and let Primmie clear off the table. Zach
Bloomer--he’s the assistant light keeper--is comin’ to tell us when it’s
time to go to the seance.”

In the sitting room they talked of various things. Galusha, listening to
his cousin’s stories and jokes, had almost forgotten his powder barrel.
And then, all at once, a spark fell, flashed, and the danger became
imminent.

Said the banker, addressing Martha and referring to her lodger: “What
does this cousin of mine find to do down here, Miss Phipps? How does he
manage to spend so much money?”

“Money?” repeated Martha. “He--spend money? Why, I didn’t know that he
did, Mr. Cabot. He is very prompt in paying his board. Perhaps I charge
him too much. Is that what you mean?”

“I guess not. He hasn’t paid you thirteen thousand dollars for board,
has he?”

“Thirteen thousand dollars! Well, I guess not--scarcely. What are you
talkin’ about, Mr. Cabot? What is the joke?”

“I don’t know. That’s one of the things which, now that I am down here,
I should like to find out. Somehow or other, since he has been on the
Cape, he has managed to get rid of over thirteen thousand dollars. He
SAYS he has given it to some of his mummy-hunting friends, but I am
rather suspicious. He hasn’t been organizing a clam trust, has he, Miss
Phipps?”

Plainly, Martha did not know what to make of this speech. It was a joke,
of course, but just where the point of the joke was located she was not
sure. To her, thirteen thousand dollars was an enormous sum. The idea
that her lodger, gentle, retiring little Galusha Bangs, possessed a half
of that fortune was a joke in itself. But... And then she saw Galusha’s
face and the expression upon it.

“Why--why, Mr. Bangs!” she exclaimed.

Cabot turned and he, too, saw the expression. He burst out laughing.

“See!” he cried. “Doesn’t he look guilty? It IS a clam trust, Miss
Phipps. By Jove, Loosh, you are discovered! Galusha Bangs, the Clam
King! Ha, ha, ha! Look at him, Miss Phipps! Look at him! Did you ever
see a plainer case of conscious guilt? Ha, ha!”

He was enjoying himself hugely. And really Galusha was a humorous
spectacle. He was very red in the face, he was trembling, and he
appeared to be struggling for words and finding none.

“I--I insist,” he stammered. “I--I mean I protest. It is
ridiculous--ah--ah--absurd! I--I--”

His cousin broke in upon him. “Ha, ha!” he cried. “The secret is out.
And you gave me to understand the mummy-hunters had it. Oh, Galusha!”

Galusha made another attempt.

“I--I told you--” he faltered. “I--I told you--”

“You told me it had gone to Egypt. But I was suspicious, old man. Why,
Miss Phipps, isn’t it glorious? Look at him!”

Martha was looking. Her face wore a puzzled expression.

“Isn’t it glorious?” repeated Cousin Gussie.

She shrugged. “I suppose it is,” she said. “Maybe it would be more so if
I knew what it was all about. And Mr. Bangs doesn’t look as if he found
much glory in it.”

“Of course he doesn’t. Serves him right, the rascal. You see, Miss
Phipps, I am supposed to take care of his money for him, and, while
I was away in the mountains, my secretary sent him a check for over
fourteen thousand dollars, sent it to him by mistake. _I_ never should
have done it, of course. I know him of old, where money is concerned.
Well, almost immediately after receiving the check, up he comes to our
Boston office and--”

“Cousin Gussie! I--I protest! I--”

“Up he comes, Miss Phipps, and draws five thousand of the fourteen
thousand in cash, in money, and takes it away with him. Then--”

“Cousin Gussie! Mr. Cabot!”

The tone in which Galusha spoke was so different from his usual one, and
the fact of his addressing his relative as “Mr. Cabot” so astonishing,
that the latter was obliged to stop even in the full tide of his
enjoyment of the joke. He turned, to find Galusha leaning forward, one
hand upon the center table, and the other extending a forefinger in his
direction. The finger shook a little, but its owner’s countenance was
set like a rock. And now it was not crimson, but white.

“Mr. Cabot,” said Galusha, “I must insist that you say no more on
this matter. My personal business is--ah--presumably my own. I--I must
insist. Insist--ah--absolutely; yes.”

His cousin looked at him and he returned the look. Cabot’s hesitation
was but momentary. His astonishment was vast, but he accepted the
situation gracefully. He laughed no more.

“I beg your pardon, Galusha,” he said. “I’m sorry. I had no thought
of offending you, old man. I--well, perhaps I am inclined to joke too
freely. But, really, I didn’t suppose--I never knew you to be--”

He paused. Galusha’s expression did not change; he said nothing.

“I am very sorry,” went on the banker. “It was only thoughtlessness on
my part. You’ll forgive me, Loosh, I hope.”

Galusha bowed, but he did not smile. A little of the color came back to
his cheeks.

“Ah--ah--Yes, certainly,” he stammered. “Certainly, quite so.”

He sat down in his chair again, but he did not look in Miss Phipps’
direction. He seemed to know that she was regarding him with a fixed and
startled intentness.

“Five thousand dollars!” she said, in a low tone. Neither of the men
appeared to hear her. Cabot, too, sat down. And it was he who, plainly
seeking for a subject to relieve the tension, spoke next.

“I was telling my cousin,” he said, addressing Martha, “that I came down
here to attend to a little matter of business. The business wasn’t my
own exactly, but it was a commission from a friend and client of mine
and he left it in my charge. He and I supposed we had an agent here in
your town, Miss Phipps, who was attending to it for us, but of late he
hasn’t been very successful. I received a letter from Williams--from my
friend; he is in the South--asking me to see if I couldn’t hurry matters
up a bit. So I motored down. But this agent of ours was not in. Probably
you know him. His name is Pulcifer.”

Martha and Galusha started simultaneously.

“Pulcifer?” queried Martha. “Raish Pulcifer, do you mean?”

“It doesn’t seem to me that his Christian name is--What did you say,
Miss Phipps?”

“I said ‘Raish’; that’s what every one down here calls the man I mean.
His real name, of course, is Horatio.”

“Horatio? That sounds more like it. I didn’t hire him--Williams did
that--and I have never met him, although he and Thomas, my secretary,
have had some correspondence. Wait a moment, I have his name here.”

He took from his pocket a memorandum book and turned over the leaves.

“Yes,” he said, “that’s it. Horatio Pulcifer. Here is his card. ‘Horatio
Pulcifer, Dealer in Real Estate of All Kinds; Cranberry Bog Property
Bought and Sold; Mortgages Arranged For; Fire, Life and Accident
Insurance; Money Loaned; Claims Adjusted; Real or Household Goods
Auctioned Off or Sold Private; etc., etc.’ Humph! Comprehensive person,
isn’t he? Is this the fellow you know, Miss Phipps?”

Martha nodded. “Yes,” she said, “I know him.”

Cabot glanced at her. “I see,” he observed. “Well, what sort of a
character is he? Would you trust him?”

She hesitated. “Why--why,” she replied, “I suppose I should, if--if--”

“If he was not too far away, or around the corner, or anything like
that? I understand.”

Martha was a bit disturbed. “You mustn’t put words in my mouth, Mr.
Cabot,” she said. “I didn’t say Raish Pulcifer was dishonest.”

“No, that is true. And I beg your pardon for asking embarrassing
questions. I have seen some of the fellow’s letters and usually a letter
is a fairly good indication of character--or lack of it. I have had my
surmises concerning the ubiquitous Horatio for some time.”

Martha seemed to be thinking.

“I understood you to say he was your agent for somethin’ down here, Mr.
Cabot,” she said. “Sellin’ somethin’, was he? That kind of an agent?”

“No. As a matter of fact, he was supposed to be buying something, but he
hasn’t made much progress. He started out well, but of late he seems
to have found trouble. I am rather surprised because we--that is,
Williams--pay him a liberal commission. I judge he doesn’t hate a
dollar and that kind of man usually goes after it hammer and tongs. You
see--But there, I presume I should not go into particulars, not yet.”

“No, no, Mr. Cabot. Of course not, of course not.”

“No.” Cabot had been turning over the leaves of the memorandum book
while speaking. “And yet,” he went on, “there are one or two names here
concerning which you might be able to help us. Pulcifer writes that
two of the largest stockholders.... Humph!... Eh? Why, by Jove, this is
remarkable! You are Miss Martha Phipps, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Was your father, by any chance, James H. Phipps?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I declare! This IS remarkable.... And--why, you have been
speaking of a Captain--er--Jethro Somebody? Is he--He isn’t Jethro
Hallett, is he?”

“Why, yes. I told you his name. He is the light keeper here at Gould’s
Bluffs and we are all goin’ over to his house in a few minutes, for the
seance, you know.”

“Well, well, well! And here I have been sitting and talking with one of
the very persons whom I came down here hoping to see.”

“To see? You came down here hopin’ to see ME? Mr. Cabot, is this another
joke?”

“Not a bit of it. If it is, the joke is on me for not identifying you
with the Martha Phipps that Pulcifer writes he can’t do business with.
Miss Phipps, you own something we want to buy.”

“I? Somethin’ you want to buy?”

“Yes. Williams wants to buy it and I am interested with him. Miss
Phipps, you own two hundred and fifty shares of the stock of the
Wellmouth Development Company, don’t you?”

He must have been surprised at the effect of this question. Martha
stared at him. Then, without speaking, she turned and looked past him at
Galusha Bangs. She looked so long and so steadily that Cabot also turned
and looked. What he saw caused him to utter an exclamation.

“For heaven’s sakes, Loosh!” he exclaimed.

His cousin, as white as the proverbial sheet, which means much whiter
than some sheets, Elmer Rogers’, for example, was slowly rising from his
chair. One hand was pressed against his forehead and he looked as if he
were dazed, stunned, suffering from a stroke. As a matter of fact, he
was suffering from all three. The spark had at last reached the powder
and the barrel was in the very act of disintegrating.

“Galusha,” demanded Cousin Gussie, “are you sick? What is it?”

Galusha did not answer. Before the alarmed banker could repeat his
question there came a knock at the door.

“Miss Martha,” called Primmie, in tremulous excitement. “Miss Martha,
Zach he’s come and he says the seance is just a-goin’ to begin and Cap’n
Jeth says to hurry right straight over. Zach says the old man is as
tittered up and nervous as ever he see him and ‘twon’t do to keep him
waitin’ a minute. My savin’ soul, no! Zach says for all hands to heave
right straight ahead and come.”



CHAPTER XX


In the melodramas, the sort which most people laugh at as
“old-fashioned” and enjoy thoroughly, there is usually a scene in
which the hero, or the heroine, or both, are about to be drowned in
the sinking ship or roasted in the loft of the burning building, or
butchered by the attacking savages, or executed by the villain and his
agents. The audience enjoys some delightful thrills while watching
this situation--whichever it may be--develop, but is spared any acute
anxiety, knowing from experience that just at the last moment the
rescuing boat, or the heroic firemen, or the troops, or a reprieve from
the Governor, will arrive and save the leading man or woman and the play
from a premature end and for another act.

It does not happen as often in real life, at least one cannot count
upon it with the certainty of the theater. But when Miss Primrose Cash
knocked upon the door of the Phipps’ sitting room and delivered her
call to the seance, she was as opportune and nick-of-timey as was ever
a dramatic Governor’s messenger. Certainly that summons of hers was to
Galusha Bangs a reprieve which saved him from instant destruction.

Cousin Gussie, who had been on the point of repeating his demand to know
if his relative was ill, turned instead to look toward the door. Martha,
whose gaze had been fixed upon her lodger with an intentness which
indicated at least the dawning of a suspicion, turned to look in
the same direction. Galusha, left poised upon the very apex of the
explosion, awaited the moment when the fragments, of which he was one,
should begin to fall.

But they did not fall--then. Primmie gave them no opportunity to do so.

“Miss Martha,” she cried, “Miss Martha, do you hear me? Zach--he says--”

Her mistress answered. “Yes, yes, Primmie,” she said, “I hear you.”
 Then, turning again toward the banker and his relative, she said, “Mr.
Cabot, I--did I understand you to say--?”

“Miss Martha!” The voice outside the door was more insistent than ever.
“Miss Martha, Zach he says we’ve all hands got to come right straight
off, ‘cause if we don’t there’ll be hell to pay.... My savin’ soul, I
never meant to say that, Miss Martha! Zach, he said it, but _I_ never
meant to. I--I--Oh, my Lord of Isrul! I--I--oh, Miss Martha!”

Further wails of the frightened and repentant one were lost in an
ecstatic shout of laughter from Mr. Cabot. Martha slowly shook her head.

“Well,” she observed, dryly, “I guess likely we’d better go, hadn’t
we? If it is as bad as all that I should say we had, sure and certain.
Primmie Cash, I’m ashamed of you. Mr. Cabot, we’ll finish our talk when
we come back. What under the sun you can possibly mean I declare I don’t
understand.... But, there, it will keep. Come, Mr. Bangs.”

She led the way from the sitting room. Cabot followed her and,
staggering slightly and with a hand still pressed to his forehead,
Galusha followed them. He was saved for the time, he realized that, but
for such a very short time. For an hour or two he was to hang in the air
and then would come the inevitable crash. When they returned home, after
the seance was over, Martha would question Cousin Gussie, Cousin Gussie
would answer, then he would be questioned and--and the end would come.
Martha would know him for what he was. As they emerged from the Phipps’
door into the damp chill and blackness of that October evening, Galusha
Bangs looked hopelessly up and down and for the first time in months
yearned for Egypt, to be in Egypt, in Abyssinia, in the middle of the
great Sahara--anywhere except where he was and where he was fated to be.

The windows of the light keeper’s cottage were ablaze as they drew near.
Overhead the great stream of radiance from the lantern in the tower shot
far out. There was almost no wind, and the grumble of the surf at the
foot of the bluff was a steady bass monotone.

Zacheus, who had waited to walk over with them, was in a fault-finding
state of mind. It developed that he could not attend the meeting in the
parlor; his superior had ordered that he “tend light.”

“The old man says I hadn’t no business comin’ to the other sea-ants
thing,” said Zach. “Says him and me ain’t both supposed never to leave
the light alone. I cal’late he’s right, but that don’t make it any
better. There’s a whole lot of things that’s right that hadn’t ought to
be. I presume likely it’s right enough for you to play that mouth organ
of yours, Posy. They ain’t passed no law against it yet. But--”

“Oh, be still, Zach Bloomer! You’re always talkin’ about my playin’ the
mouth organ. I notice you can’t play anything, no, nor sing neither.”

“You’re right, Pansy Blossom. But the difference between you and me
is that I know I can’t.... Hey? Why, yes, Martha, I shouldn’t be a bit
surprised if the fog came in any time. If it does that means I’ve got to
tend foghorn as well as light. Godfreys!”

Before they opened the side door of the Hallett home, the buzz of voices
in the parlor was distinctly audible. Lulie heard the door open and met
them in the dining room. She was looking anxious and disturbed. Martha
drew her aside and questioned her concerning her father. Lulie glanced
toward the parlor door and then whispered:

“I don’t know, Martha. Father seems queer to-night, awfully queer. I
can’t make him out.”

“Queer? In what way? He is always nervous and worked up before these
silly affairs, isn’t he?”

“Yes, but I don’t mean that, exactly. He has been that way for over a
week. But for the last two days he has been--well, different. He seems
to be troubled and--and suspicious.”

“Suspicious? Suspicious of what?”

“I don’t know. Of every one.”

“Humph! Well, if he would only begin to get suspicious of Marietta and
her spirit chasers I should feel like givin’ three cheers. But I suppose
those are exactly the ones he isn’t suspicious of.”

Lulie again glanced toward the parlor door.

“I am not so sure,” she said. “It seemed to me that he wasn’t as cordial
to them as usual when they came to-night. He keeps looking at Marietta
and pulling his beard and scowling, the way he does when he is puzzled
and troubled. I’m not sure, but I think something came in the mail
yesterday noon and another something again to-day which may be the cause
of his acting so strangely. I don’t know what they were, he wouldn’t
answer when I asked him, but I saw him reading a good deal yesterday
afternoon. And then he came into the kitchen where I was, took the lid
off the cookstove and put a bundle of printed pages on the fire. I asked
him what he was doing and he snapped at me that he was burning the words
of Satan or something of that sort.”

“And couldn’t you save enough of the--er--Old Scratch’s words to find
out what the old boy was talkin’ about?”

“No. There was a hot fire. But to-day, when the second package came,
I caught a glimpse of the printing on the wrapper. It was from The
Psychical Research Society; I think that was it. There is such a
society, isn’t there?”

“I believe so. I... Ssh! Careful, here he is.”

Captain Jethro strode across the parlor threshold. He glared beneath his
heavy eyebrows at the couple.

“Lulie,” he growled, “don’t you know you’re keepin’ the meetin’ waitin’?
You are, whether you know it or not. Martha Phipps, come in and set
down. Come on, lively now!”

Martha smiled.

“Cap’n Jeth,” she said, “you remind me of father callin’ in the cat.
You must think you’re aboard your old schooner givin’ orders. All right,
I’ll obey ‘em. Ay, ay, sir! Come, Lulie.”

They entered the parlor, whither Galusha, Mr. Cabot and Primmie had
preceded them and were already seated. The group in the room was made
up about as on the occasion of the former seance, but it was a trifle
larger. The tales of the excitement on the evening when the light keeper
threatened to locate and destroy the “small, dark outsider” had spread
and had attracted a few additional and hopeful souls. Mr. Obed Taylor,
driver of the Trumet bake-cart, and a devout believer, had been drawn
from his home village; Miss Tamson Black, her New Hampshire visit
over, was seated in the front row; Erastus Beebe accompanied his sister
Ophelia. The Hardings, Abel and Sarah B., were present and accounted
for, and so, too, was Mrs. Hannah Peters.

Galusha Bangs, seated between Miss Cash and the immensely interested
Cousin Gussie, gazed dully about the circle. He saw little except a blur
of faces; his thoughts were elsewhere, busy in dreadful anticipation of
the scene he knew he must endure when he and his cousin and Miss
Phipps returned to the house of the latter. He did not dare look in
her direction, fearing to see once more upon her face the expression
of suspicion which he had already seen dawning there--suspicion of him,
Galusha Bangs. He sighed, and the sigh was so near a groan that his
relative was startled.

“What’s the matter, Galusha?” he whispered. “Brace up, old man! you look
as if you were seeing spooks already. Not sick--faint, or anything like
that?”

Galusha blushed. “Eh?” he queried. “Oh--oh, no, no. Quite so, really.
Eh? Ah--yes.”

Cabot chuckled. “That’s a comprehensive answer, at any rate,” he
observed. “Come now, be my Who’s-Who. For example, what is the name of
the female under the hat like a--a steamer basket?”

Galusha looked. “That is Miss Hoag, the--ah--medium,” he said.

“Oh, I see. Did the spirits build that hat for her?”

Miss Hoag’s headgear was intrinsically the same she had worn at the
former seance, although the arrangement of the fruit, flowers, sprays
and other accessories was a trifle different. The red cherries, for
example, no longer bobbed at the peak of the roof; they now hung
jauntily from the rear eaves, so to speak. The purple grapes had also
moved and peeped coyly from a thicket of moth-eaten rosebuds. The wearer
of this revamped millinery triumph seemed a bit nervous, even anxious,
so it seemed to Martha Phipps, who, like Cabot and Galusha, was looking
at her. Marietta kept hitching in her seat, pulling at her gown, and
glancing from time to time at the gloomy countenance of Captain Jethro,
who, Miss Phipps also noticed, was regarding her steadily and slowly
pulling at his beard. This regard seemed to add to Miss Hoag’s
uneasiness.

The majority of those present were staring at the senior partner of
Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot. The object of the attention could not help
becoming aware of it.

“What are they all looking at me for?” he demanded, under his breath.

Galusha did not hear the question, but Primmie did, and answered it.

“They don’t know who you be,” she whispered.

“What of it? I don’t know who they are, either.”

Miss Cash sniffed. “Humph!” she declared, “you wouldn’t know much worth
knowin’ if you did--the heft of ‘em.... Oh, my savin’ soul, it’s a-goin’
to begin! Where’s my mouth organ?”

But, to her huge disappointment, her services as mouth organist were
not to be requisitioned this time. Captain Hallett, taking charge of the
gathering, made an announcement.

“The melodeon’s been fixed,” he said, “and Miss Black’s kind enough to
say she’ll play it for us. Take your places, all hands. Come on, now,
look alive! Tut, tut, tut! Abe Hardin’, for heaven’s sakes, can’t you
pick up your moorin’s, or what does ail you? Come to anchor! Set down!”

Mr. Harding was, apparently, having trouble in sitting down. He made
several nervous and hurried attempts, but none was successful. His
wife begged, in one of her stage whispers, to be informed if he’d been
“struck deef.” “Don’t you hear the cap’n talkin’ to you?” she demanded.

“Course I hear him,” retorted her husband, testily, and in the same
comprehensively audible whisper. “No, I ain’t been struck deef--nor dumb
neither.”

“Humph! You couldn’t be struck any dumber than you are. You was born
dumb. Set DOWN! Everybody’s lookin’ at you. I never was so mortified in
my life.”

The harassed Abel made one more attempt. He battled savagely with his
chair.

“I CAN’T set down,” he said. “This everlastin’ chair won’t set even. I
snum I believe it ain’t got but three laigs. There! Now let’s see.”

He seated himself heavily and with emphasis. Mr. Jim Fletcher, whose
place was next him, uttered an agonized “Ow!”

“No wonder ‘twon’t set even, Abe,” he snorted. “You’ve got the other
laig up onto my foot. Yus, and it’s drove half down through it by this
time. Get UP! Whew!”

A ripple of merriment ran around the circle. Every one laughed or
ventured to smile, every one except the Hardings and Captain Hallett
and, of course, Galusha Bangs. The latter’s thoughts were not in the
light keeper’s parlor. Cousin Gussie leaned over and whispered in his
ear:

“Loosh,” whispered Mr. Cabot, chokingly, “if the rest of this stunt
is as good as the beginning I’ll forgive you for handing that fourteen
thousand to the mummy-hunters. I wouldn’t have missed it for more than
that.”

Captain Jethro, beating the table, drove his guests to order as of old
he had driven his crews. Having obtained silence and expressed, in a few
stinging words, his opinion of those who laughed, he proceeded with his
arrangements.

“Tamson,” he commanded, addressing Miss Black, “go and set there by
the organ. Come, Marietta, you know where your place is, don’t you? Set
right where you did last time. And don’t let’s have any more mockery!”
 he thundered, addressing the company in general. “If I thought for a
minute there was any mockery or make-believe in these meetin’s, I--I--”
 He paused, his chest heaving, and then added, impatiently, but in a
milder tone, “Well, go on, go on! What are we waitin’ for? Douse those
lights, somebody.”

Miss Hoag--who had been glancing at the light keeper’s face and behaving
in the same oddly nervous, almost apprehensive manner which Martha had
noticed when she entered the parlor--took her seat in the official
chair and closed her eyes. Mr. Beebe turned down the lamps. The ancient
melodeon, recently prescribed for and operated upon by the repairer from
Hyannis, but still rheumatic and asthmatic, burst forth in an unhealthy
rendition of a Moody and Sankey hymn. The seance for which Galusha Bangs
had laid plans and to which he had looked forward hopefully if a little
fearfully--that seance was under way. And now, such was the stunning
effect of the most recent blow dealt him by Fate, he, Galusha, was
scarcely aware of the fact.

The melodeon pumped on and on. The rustlings and shiftings in the circle
subsided and the expectant and shivery hush which Primmie feared and
adored succeeded it. Miss Black wailed away at the Moody and Sankey
selection. Miss Hoag’s breathing became puffy. She uttered her first
preliminary groan. Cousin Gussie, being an unsophisticated stranger,
was startled, as Mr. Bangs had been at the former seance, but Primmie’s
whisper reassured him.

“It’s all right,” whispered Primmie. “She ain’t sick nor nothin’. She’s
just a-slippin’ off.”

The banker did not understand.

“Slipping off?” he repeated. “Off what?”

“Off into sperit land. In a minute you’ll hear her control talkin’
Chinee talk.... There! My savin’ soul! hear it?... Ain’t it awful!”

“Little Cherry Blossom” had evidently been waiting at the transmitter.
The husky croak which had so amazed Galusha was again heard.

“How do? How do, everybodee?” hailed Little Cherry Blossom. “I gladee
see-ee you. Yes, indeedee.”

Cabot made mental note of the fact that the Blossom spoke her spirit
pidgin-English with a marked Down-East accent. Before he had time to
notice more, the control announced that she had a message. The circle
stirred in anticipation. Primmie wiggled in fearful ecstasy.

“Listen!” commanded Little Cherry Blossom. “Everybodee harkee. Spirit
comee heree. He say-ee--”

“Ow-ooo-ooo--ooo--OOO!!”

As prophesied by Mr. Zacheus Bloomer, the fog had come in and Zacheus,
faithful to his duties as associate guardian of that section of the
coast, had turned loose the great foghorn.

The roar was terrific. The windows rattled and the whole building seemed
to shake. The effect upon the group in the parlor, leaning forward
in awed expectation to catch the message from beyond, was upsetting,
literally and figuratively. Miss Tamson Black, perched upon the slippery
cushion of a rickety and unstable music stool, slid to the floor with
a most unspiritual thump and a shrill squeal. Primmie clutched her
next-door neighbor--it chanced to be Mr. Augustus Cabot--by the middle
of the waistcoat, and hers was no light clutch. Mr. Abel Harding shouted
several words at the top of his lungs; afterward there was some dispute
as to just what the exact words were, but none whatever as to their lack
of propriety. Almost every one jumped or screamed or exclaimed. Only
Captain Jeth Hallett, who had heard that horn many, many times, was
quite unmoved. Even his daughter was startled.

But perhaps the most surprising effect of the mammoth “toot” was that
which it produced in the spirit world. It seemed to blow Little Cherry
Blossom completely back to her own sphere, for it was a voice neither
Chinese nor ethereal which, coming from Miss Hoag’s lips, shrieked
wildly: “Oh, my good land of love! Wh--what’s that?”

It was only after considerable pounding of the table and repeated orders
for silence that Captain Jethro succeeded in obtaining it. Then he
explained concerning the foghorn.

“It’ll blow every minute from now on, I presume likely,” he growled,
“but I don’t see as that need to make any difference about our goin’ on
with this meetin’. That is, unless Marietta minds. Think ‘twill bother
you about gettin’ back into the trance state, Marietta?”

Erastus Beebe had turned up one of the lamps and it happened to be the
one just above Miss Hoag’s head. By its light Martha Phipps could see
the medium’s face, and it seemed to her--although, as she admitted
afterward, perhaps because of subsequent happenings she only imagined
that it seemed so--it seemed to her that Marietta was torn between an
intense desire to give up mediumizing for that evening and a feeling
that she must go on.

“She looked to me,” said Martha, “as if she was afraid to go on, but
more afraid to stop.”

However, go on she did. She told the light keeper that she guessed she
could get back if Tamson would play a little spell more. Miss Black
agreed to do so, provided she might have a chair instead of a music
stool.

“I wouldn’t risk settin’ on that plaguy, slippery haircloth thing again
for no mortal soul,” declared the irate Tamson, meaning, doubtless, to
include immortals. A chair was provided, again the lights were dimmed,
and the seance resumed, punctuated now at minute intervals by the
shattering bellows of the great foghorn.

In a few minutes the messages began to arrive. They were of similar
vague import to those of the previous seance and, couched in Little
Cherry Blossom’s weird gibberish, were vaguer still. Occasionally a
spirit seeking identification went away unrecognized, but not often. For
the most part the identifying details supplied were so general that they
were almost certain to fit a departed relative or friend of some
one present. And, as is usual under such circumstances, the would-be
recognizer was so pathetically eager to recognize. Even Galusha, dully
inert as he was just then, again felt his indignation stirred by the
shabby mockery of it all.

Obed Taylor received a message from his brother Daniel who had died
in infancy. Daniel declared himself very happy. So, too, did Ophelia
Beebe’s great-aunt Samona, who had “passed over” some time in the
‘fifties. Aunt Samona was joyful--oh, so joyful. Miss Black’s name was
called.

“Tamson!” croaked Little Cherry Blossom. “Some one heree wantee Tamson.”

Miss Black uttered an exclamation of startled surprise. “Good gracious
me!” she cried. “Who is it?”

“Namee seem likee--likee Flora--Flora--somethin’,” announced the
control. The circle rustled in anticipation while Tamson ransacked her
memory.

“Flora?” she repeated. “Flora?”

“Yes--yes. Flora--ah--ah--somethin’. Somethin’--soundee likee somethin’
you ring.”

“Somethin’ I RING. Why, all a body rings is a bell. Hey? My heavens
above, you don’t mean Florabel? That ain’t the name, is it--Florabel?”

“Yes--yes--yes--yes.” Little Cherry Blossom was eagerly certain that
that was the name.

“Mercy on us! Florabel? You don’t mean you’ve got a message from my
niece Florabel Tidditt, do you?”

“Yes--yes--yes--oh, yes!” The control was just as certain that niece
Florabel was on the wire.

“I don’t believe a word of it.”

This unusual manner of receiving a message shocked the devout. A murmur
of protest arose.

“Now, now, now, Tamson,” remonstrated Miss Beebe. “You mustn’t talk so.
Course you believe it if the control says so.”

“I don’t neither. Florabel Tidditt ain’t dead. She’s as well as I be. I
had a letter from her yesterday.”

There was considerable agitation for a few minutes. Then it developed
that the Florabel seeking to communicate was not Miss Tidditt, but
another, a relative so long gone that Tamson had forgotten she ever
existed. At length she was brought to the point of admitting that
it seemed as if she had heard of a cousin of her grandmother’s named
Florabel or Annabel or something. The message was not very coherent nor
particularly interesting, so the incident ended.

A short time later came the sensation which was to make the evening
memorable in East Wellmouth’s spiritualistic circles. Little Cherry
Blossom called the name which many had expected and some, Lulie Hallett
and Martha Phipps in particular, dreaded to hear.

“Jethro!” croaked the Blossom. “Jethro!”

Captain Hallett had been very quiet, particularly since the Florabel
message was tangled in transit. Martha could see his shaggy head in
silhouette against the dim light of the lamp and had noticed that that
head scarcely moved. The light keeper seemed to be watching the medium
very intently. Now he spoke.

“Yes?” he said, as if awakened from sleep. “Yes, here I am. What is it?”

“Jethro,” cried the control once more. “Jethro, somebodee come speakee
to you.... Julia! Julia!”

Captain Jethro rose from his chair. The loved name had as always an
instant effect. His heavy voice shook as he answered.

“Yes, yes, Julia,” he cried. “Here I am, Julia, waitin’--waitin’.”

It was pathetic, pitiful. One listener in that circle felt, in spite of
his own misery, a pang of remorse and a little dread. After all, perhaps
it would have been better to--

“Julia,” cried the light keeper. “Speak to me. I’m waitin’.”

The foghorn boomed just here, but even after the sound had subdued
Little Cherry Blossom seemed to find it difficult to proceed. She--or
the medium--choked, swallowed, and then said:

“Julia got message. Yes, indeedee. Important message, she sayee, for
Jethro. Jethro must do what she sayee.”

The captain’s big head nodded vigorously. Martha could see it move, a
tousled shadow against the light.

“Yes, yes, Julia, of course,” he said. “I always do what you say. You
know I do. Go on.”

“Father!” It was Lulie’s voice, raised in anxious protest. “Father,
please.”

Her father sharply ordered her to be quiet.

“Go on, Julia,” he persisted. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

Again Little Cherry Blossom seemed to have difficulty in articulating.
There was a quaver in her voice when she did speak.

“Julia say,” she faltered; “Julia sayee ‘Jethro, you sell R.P.’”

This was unexpected. It was not at all the message the group of
listeners, with one exception, had anticipated. There was no hint of
Nelson Howard here. They did not know what to make of it. Nor, it was
evident, did Jethro Hallett.

“What?” he demanded. “What, Julia? I don’t understand.”

Little Cherry Blossom cleared her--or the medium’s--throat and
falteringly went on.

“Julia sayee ‘Jethro, you sell R. P. what you got.’ Sellee him what you
got, what he want buyee. You know. You sellee R. P. the stock.”

But still it was clear that Captain Jeth did not understand.

“Sell R. P.?” he repeated. “R. P. Who’s R. P.? And what... Eh? Do you
mean--”

He paused. When he next spoke his tone was quite different. There was a
deeper note in it, almost a note of menace.

“R. P.?” he said again. “Does ‘R. P.’ mean--is that supposed to stand
for Horatio Pulcifer? Eh? Does ‘R. P.’ mean Raish Pulcifer?”

The control did not reply instantly. The light keeper pressed his
question.

“Does it?” he demanded.

“Yes... yes,” stammered the Blossom. “Yes, Julia say sellee Raish what
he wantee buy.”

“Wantee BUY? What have I got he wants to buy?”

“Julia she sayee you know. She say ‘De--De--Develop stock.’ That’s it.
Yes, Develop stock. She sayee you sell Raish Develop stock. She sayee
she wantee you to. You do right then.”

The foghorn howled once more. Captain Jethro was standing erect beside
his chair. When, at last, he did speak, his tone was still more tense
and threatening. Even the shallowest mind in that room--and, as
Miss Phipps had said, practically every “crank” within ten miles was
present--even the shallowest realized that something was impending,
something ominous.

“Do you mean to say,” demanded Jethro Hallett, speaking very slowly,
“that Julia’s, my wife’s spirit is tellin’ me to sell my four hundred
shares of Wellmouth Development stock to Raish Pulcifer? Do you mean
that SHE says that?”

Little Cherry Blossom croaked twice, but the second croak was a feeble
“Yes.”

“SHE says that? Julia, my dead wife, tells me to do that?”

“Yes. Yes--yes--yes. She say you sell Raish four hundred Develop stock
and you be so gladee. She be gladee, too. She--”

“STOP!”

The light keeper’s shout rang through the room. “Stop!” he shouted
again. “You--you LIAR!”

The word shot from beneath his teeth and, judging by the effect, might
have hit almost every individual in the room. There was absolute
silence for just the briefest instant; then a chorus of faint screams,
exclamations, startled and indignant protests. Above them all Primmie’s
call upon her Lord of Isrul sounded plainly. Captain Jethro paid no
heed.

“You liar!” he roared again. “Out of my house, you swindler! You damned
cheat!”

This blast, delivered with the full force of the old skipper’s
quarter-deck voice, had the effect of completely upsetting the already
tense nerves of the majority in the circle. Two or three of the women
began to cry. Chairs were overturned. There was a babel of cries and
confusion. The light keeper stilled it.

“Be still, all hands!” he shouted. “Turn up them lamps! Turn ‘em up!”

Mr. Cabot, although himself somewhat startled and disturbed by the
unexpected turn of events, was at least as cool as any one. He reached
over the prostrate heap at his feet--it was Ophelia Beebe hysterically
repeating: “He’s gone crazy! He’s gone loony! OH, my soul! OH, my land!
WHAT’LL I do?” and the like--and turned up one of the lamps. Obed Taylor
did the same with the other.

The sudden illumination revealed Captain Jethro, his face pale, his eyes
flashing fire, holding the dumpy Miss Hoag fast in her chair with one
hand and with the other brandished above her head like the hammer
of Thor. The audience, for the most part, were in various attitudes,
indicating alarm and a desire to escape. Mrs. Harding had a strangle
hold on her husband’s neck and was slowly but inevitably choking him to
death; Mrs. Peters, as well as Miss Beebe, was on the floor; and Primmie
Cash was bobbing up and down, flapping her hands and opening her mouth
like a mechanical figure in a shop window. Lulie and Martha Phipps, pale
and frightened, were trying to force their way to the captain’s side.
Galusha Bangs alone remained seated.

The light keeper again commanded silence.

“Look at her!” he cried, pointing his free hand at the cowering figure
of the medium. “LOOK at her! The lyin’ cheat!”

Marietta was, in a way, worth looking at. She had shrunk as far down in
the chair as the captain’s grip would permit, her usually red face was
now as white as the full moon, which it resembled in some other ways,
and she was, evidently, as Primmie said afterwards, “scart to death and
some left over.”

Lulie called.

“Father, father,” she pleaded. “Please--oh--please!”

Her father paid no attention. It was to Miss Hoag that he continued his
attentions.

“You miserable, swindlin’ make-believe!” he growled, his voice shaking
with emotion. “You--you come here and--and pretend--Oh, by The Almighty,
if you was a man, if you wasn’t the--the poor, pitiful fool that you be,
I’d--I’d--”

His daughter had reached his side. “Father,” she begged. “Father, for my
sake--”

“Be still! Be still, girl!... Marietta Hoag, you answer me. Who put you
up to tellin’ me to sell that stock to Pulcifer? Who did it? Answer me?”

Marietta tried, but she could do little but gurgle. She gurgled,
however, in her natural tones, or a frightened imitation of them. Little
Cherry Blossom had, apparently, fluttered to the Chinese spiritland.

“I--I--Oh, my good land!” she wailed.

“Answer!”

“Father--father!” cried Lulie. “Don’t talk so! Don’t act so!”

“Act so! Be still! Let me alone, Martha Phipps! This woman here is a
cheat. She’s a liar! How do I KNOW? DON’T ask such fool questions. I
know because--because she says my wife--Julia--my wife--tells me to sell
my four hundred shares of Wellmouth Development stock--”

“Yes, of course. But, perhaps--”

“There ain’t any perhaps. You, woman,” addressing the cowering medium,
“didn’t you say that?”

“Yes--oh, yes, Cap’n Jeth, I said it. PLEASE don’t!”

“And you pretended my dead wife’s spirit said it, didn’t you?”

“Yes. Yes, she did. Oh--oh--”

“She did not! Listen, all of you!” with scornful disgust. “Listen! That
four hundred shares of Development stock this--this critter here says
Julia knows I’ve got and wants me to sell to Raish Pulcifer I SOLD two
months ago. Yes, by the everlastin’, I sold ‘em! And--eh? Yes, there he
is. I sold ‘em to that Bangs man there. He knows it. He’ll tell you I
did.... And now this swindler, this cheat, she--she--Who put you up to
it? Who did? Was it Pulcifer?”

Marietta began to sob. “Ye-es, yes,” she faltered. “He--he said he--”

“I thought so. And you pretended ‘twas my--my Julia, my wife.... Oh,
my God! And you’ve been pretendin’ all the time. ‘Twas all cheatin’ and
lies, wasn’t it? She--she never come to you. She never told you nothin’.
Ain’t it so?”

Poor, publicity-loving, sensation-loving Marietta’s nerve was completely
gone. She sobbed wildly.

“Oh--oh, I guess so. I--I guess likely ‘twas,” she wailed. “I--I don’t
know. I only--”

Captain Jethro took his hand from her shoulder. He staggered a little.

“Get out of my house!” he ordered. “Out of my house--all of you. You’re
all liars and cheats together.... Oh, Julia! Oh, my Lord above!”

He collapsed in a chair and put his hands to his head. Lulie, the tears
streaming down her face, tried to comfort him. Martha, also weeping,
essayed to help. Cabot, walking over to where his cousin was standing,
laid a hand on his arm. Galusha, pale and wan, looking as if the world
had slipped from under him and he was left hanging in cold space, turned
a haggard face in his direction.

“Well, Loosh,” said Cousin Gussie, dryly, “I think you and I had
better go home, hadn’t we? This has been an interesting evening,
an--ah--illuminating evening. You appear to be the only person who can
add to the illumination, and--well, don’t you think it is time you did?”



CHAPTER XXI


Galusha did not answer. He regarded his relative vacantly, opened his
mouth, closed it, sighed and turned toward the dining room. By this time
most of the congregation were already in the yard and, as Cabot and
his companion emerged into the dripping blackness of out-of-doors, from
various parts of that blackness came the clatter of tongues and the
sound of fervent ejaculations and expressions of amazement.

“Well! WELL! Don’t talk to ME! If this don’t beat all ever _I_ see!...”
 “I should say it did! I was just sayin’ to Sarah B., s’ I, ‘My soul and
body,’ s’ I, ‘if this ain’t--’”... “And what do you s’pose made him--”
 “And when they turned up them lights and I see him standin’ there
jammin’ her down into that chair and wavin’ that big fist of his over
top her head, thinks I, ‘Good-NIGHT! He’s goin’ to hammer her right down
through into the cellar, don’t know’s he ain’t!’”

These were a few fragments which Cousin Gussie caught as they pushed
their way to the gate. In one spot where a beam of light from the window
faintly illuminated the wet, he glimpsed a flowered and fruited hat
picturesquely draped over its wearer’s ear while from beneath its
lopsided elegance a tearful voice was heard hysterically demanding to
be taken home. “Take me home, ‘Phelia. I--I--I... Oh, take me home!
I--I--I’ve forgot my rubbers and--and I feel’s if my hair was comin’
off--down, I mean--but--oh, I don’t CARE, take me HOME!”

Galusha, apparently, heard and saw nothing of this. He blundered
straight on to the gate and thence along the road to the Phipps’
cottage. It seemed to Cabot that he found it by instinct, for the fog
was so thick that even the lighted windows could not be seen further
than a few yards. But he did find it and, at last, the two men stood
together in the little sitting room. Then Cousin Gussie once more laid a
hand on his relative’s arm.

“Well, Galusha,” he said, again, “what about it?”

Galusha heaved another sigh. “Yes--ah--yes,” he answered.
“Yes--ah--quite so.”

“Humph! What is quite so? I want to know about that stock of the
Wellmouth Development Company.”

“Yes.... Yes, certainly, I know.”

“That Captain--um--What’s-his-name, the picturesque old lunatic with the
whiskers--Hallett, I mean--made a statement that was, to say the least,
surprising. I presume he was crazy. That was the most weird collection
of insanity that I ever saw or heard. Ha, ha! Oh, dear!... Well, never
mind. But what did old Hallett mean by saying he had sold YOU his four
hundred shares of that stock?”

Galusha closed his eyes. He smiled sadly.

“He meant that he had--ah--sold them to me,” he answered.

“LOOSH!”

“Yes.”

“Loosh, are you crazy, too?”

“Very likely. I often think I may be. Yes, I bought the--ah--stock.”

“You bought the--YOU? Loosh, sit down.”

Mr. Bangs shook his head. “No, Cousin Gussie,” he said. “If you don’t
mind I--I won’t sit down. I shall go to my room soon. I bought Captain
Hallett’s stock. I bought Miss Phipps’, too.”

It was Cabot himself who sat down. He stared, slowly shook his head, and
then uttered a fervent, “Whew!”

Galusha nodded. “Yes,” he observed. “Ah--yes.”

“Loosh, do you know what you are saying? Do you mean that you actually
bought Hallett’s four hundred shares and this woman’s--?”

“Miss Phipps is her name. Miss Martha Phipps.”

“Yes, yes, of course. And you bought... Eh? By Jove! Is THAT what you
did with that thirteen thousand dollars?”

Again Galusha nodded. “Yes,” he said.

Cousin Gussie whistled again. “But why did you do it, Loosh?” he asked,
after a moment. “For heaven’s sake, WHY?”

Galusha did not answer immediately. Then he said, slowly: “If--if you
don’t mind, Cousin Gussie, I think I should tell HER that first. That
is, I mean she should--ah--be here when I do tell it.... I--I think I
will change my mind and sit down and wait until she comes.... Perhaps.
you will wait, too--if you don’t mind.... And, please--please don’t
think me rude if I do not--ah--talk. I do not feel--ah--conversational.
Dear me, no.”

He sat down. Cabot stared at him, crossed his knees, and continued to
stare. Occasionally he shook his head, as if the riddle were proving
too much for him. Galusha did not move. Neither man spoke. The old clock
ticked off the minutes.

Primmie came home first. “Miss Martha said to tell you she would be over
in a few minutes,” she announced. “Cap’n Jeth, he’s a-comin’ around all
right, so Miss Martha and Zach and them think. But, my savin’ soul, how
he does hang onto Lulie! Keeps a-sayin’ she’s all he’s got that’s true
and honest and--and all that sort of talk. Give me the crawlin’ creeps
to hear him. And after that seance thing, too! When that everlastin’
foghorn bust loose the first time, I cal’lated--”

Galusha interrupted. “Primmie,” he suggested, gravely, “would you--will
you be--ah--kind enough to go into the kitchen?”

“Hey? Go into the kitchen? Course I will. What do you want in the
kitchen, Mr. Bangs?”

He regarded her solemnly. “I should like to have you there, if you don’t
mind,” he observed. “This gentleman and I are--we would prefer to be
alone. I’m very sorry, but you must excuse me this time and--ah--go.”

“Go? You want me to go out and--and not stay here?”

“Yes. Yes--ah--quite so, Primmie. Ah--good-night.”

Primmie departed, slamming the door and muttering indignation. Galusha
sighed once more. Then he relapsed into silence.

Twenty minutes later Martha herself came in. They heard her enter the
dining room, then Primmie’s voice in resentful explanation. When Miss
Phipps did come into the sitting room, she was smiling slightly.

“Primmie’s heart is broken,” she observed. “Oh, don’t worry, it isn’t
a very serious break. She hasn’t had so much to talk about for goodness
knows when and yet nobody wants to listen to her. I told her to tell
Luce about it, but that didn’t seem to soothe her much. Luce is Lucy
Larcom, Mr. Cabot,” she explained. “He is our cat.”

Cousin Gussie, already a much bewildered man, looked even more
bewildered, but Martha did not observe his condition. She turned to his
companion.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said, “it’s all right. Or goin’ to be all right, I’m
sure. Cap’n Jeth is takin’ the whole thing a good deal better than I was
afraid there at first. He is dreadfully shaken, poor man, and he seems
to feel as if the last plank had foundered from beneath him, as father
used to say; but, if it doesn’t have any worse effect than that, I shall
declare the whole business a mercy and a miracle. If it has the effect
of curin’ him of the Marietta Hoag kind of spiritualism--and it really
looks like a cure--then it will be worth all the scare it gave us. At
first all he would say was that everything was a fraud and a cheat,
that his faith had been taken away, there was nothin’ left--nothin’. But
Lulie, bless her heart, was a brave girl and a dear one. She said, ‘I am
left, father. You’ve got me, you know.’ And he turned to her and clung
to her as if she was his only real sheet anchor. As, of course, she is,
and would have been always if he hadn’t gone adrift after Little Cherry
Blossom and such rubbish. Mr. Bangs, I--”

She paused. She looked first at Galusha and then at the Boston banker.
Her tone changed.

“Why, what is it?” she asked, quickly. “What is the matter?... Mr.
Bangs--”

Galusha had risen when she entered. He was pale, but resolute.

“Miss Phipps,” he began, “I--I have been waiting to--to say something to
you. I--ah--yes, to say something. Yes, Miss Phipps.”

It was the first time he had addressed her as “Miss Phipps” for many
months. He had, ever since she granted him permission and urged him to
drop formality, addressed her as Miss Martha and seemed to take pride
in that permission and to consider it an honor. Now the very fact of his
returning to the old manner was, although she did not yet realize it, an
indication that he considered his right to her friendship forfeited.

“Miss Phipps,” he began once more, “I--I wish to make a confession, a
humiliating confession. I shall not ask you to forgive me. I realize
that what I have done is quite beyond pardon.”

He stopped again; the road was a hard one to travel. Martha gazed at
him, aghast and uncomprehending. Cabot, understanding but little more,
shrugged his shoulders.

“For heaven’s sake, old man,” he exclaimed, “don’t speak like that! You
haven’t committed murder, have you?”

Galusha did not answer nor heed him. It was to Martha Phipps he spoke
and at her that he looked, as a guilty man in the prisoners’ dock might
regard the judge about to pronounce his death sentence.

“Miss Phipps,” he began, for the third time, “I have deceived you. I--I
have lied to you, not only once but--ah--ah--a great many times. I am
quite unworthy of your respect--ah, quite.”

Martha’s face expressed many things, absolute amazement predominant.

“Why--why, Mr. Bangs!” she gasped. “What--”

“Pardon me,” went on Galusha. “I was about to explain. I--I will try to
make the explanation brief. It is--ah--very painful to me to make and
will be, I fear, as painful for you to hear. Miss Phipps, when I told
you--or gave you to understand--that my cousin here, or his firm, Cabot,
Bancroft and Cabot, bought that--ah--Development stock of yours, I
deceived you; I told you a falsehood. They did not buy it.... I bought
it, myself.”

He blurted out the last sentence, after a short but apparent mental
struggle. Martha’s chest heaved, but she said no word. The criminal
continued:

“I will not attempt at this time to tell you how I was--ah--forced into
buying it,” he said; “further than to say that I--I had very foolishly
led you to count upon my cousin’s buying it and--and felt a certain
responsibility and--a desire not to disappoint you. I--of course,
I should have told you the truth, but I did not. I bought the stock
myself.”

Again he paused and still Martha was silent. Cousin Gussie seemed about
to speak and then to change his mind.

“Perhaps,” went on Galusha, with a pitiful attempt at a smile, “you
might have forgiven me that, although it is doubtful, for you had
expressly forbidden my lending you money or--or assisting you in any
way, which I was--please believe this--very eager to do. But,
after having bought it, I, as I say, deceived you, falsified,
prevaricated--excuse me--lied to you, over and over.... Oh, dear me!”
 he added, in a sudden burst, “I assure you it is unbelievable how many
falsehoods seemed to be necessary. I lied continually, I did, indeed.

“Well, that is all,” he said. “That is all, I believe.... I--I am
very sorry.... After your extreme kindness to me, it was--I... I think
perhaps, if you will excuse me, I will go to my room. I am--ah--somewhat
agitated. Good-night.”

He was turning away, but Cabot called to him.

“Here, wait a minute, Loosh,” he cried. “There is one thing more
you haven’t told us. Why on earth did you buy Hallett’s four hundred
shares?”

Galusha put his hand to his forehead.

“Oh, yes, yes,” he said. “Yes, of course. That was very simple. I
was--ah--as one may say, coerced by my guilty conscience. Captain
Hallett had learned--I don’t know precisely how, but it is quite
immaterial--that Miss Phipps had, through me and to you, Cousin Gussie,
as he supposed, sold her shares. He wished me to sell his. I said I
could not. Then he said he should go to your office in Boston and see
you, or your firm, and sell them himself. I could not allow that, of
course. He would have discovered that I had never been there to sell
anything at all and--and might have guessed what had actually happened.
So I was obliged to buy his stock also and--and pretend that you had
bought it. I lied to him, too, of course. I--I think I have lied to
every one.... I believe that is really all. Good-night.”

“One more thing, Loosh. What did you do with the certificates, Hallett’s
and Miss Phipps’? You got them, I suppose.”

“Eh? Yes, oh, yes, I got them. I don’t know where they are.”

“WHAT? Don’t know where they ARE?”

“No. I took them to your office, Cousin Gussie. I enclosed them in
a large envelope and took them there. I gave them to a person
named--ah--Taylor, I think that was the name.”

“Taylor? There is no Taylor in our office.”

“It was not Taylor. It may have been Carpenter, although that doesn’t
seem exactly right, either. It was the name of some one--ah--a person
who does something to you, you know, like a tailor or a carpenter or
a--a butcher--or--”

“Barbour! Was it Barbour?”

“Yes, that was it--Barbour. I gave Mr. Barbour the envelope. I don’t
know what he did with it; I told him I preferred not to know.... Please
excuse me. Good-night.”

He turned abruptly and walked from the room. They heard him ascending
the stairs. For a moment the pair he had left looked at each other in
silence. Then Cabot burst into a shout of laughter. He rocked back and
forth in his chair and laughed until Martha, who was not laughing, began
to think he might laugh forever.

“Oh, by Jove, this is funny?” he exclaimed, as soon as he could speak.
“This is the funniest thing I ever heard of. Excuse the hysterics, Miss
Phipps, but it certainly is. For the past month Williams and I, through
this fellow Pulcifer down here, have been working heaven and earth to
get the six hundred and fifty shares of that stock we supposed you and
Hallett owned. And all the time it was locked up in my own safe there
in Boston! And to think that old Loosh, of all persons, should have put
this over on us. Ho, ho, ho! Isn’t it rich!”

He roared and rocked for another interval. Still Martha did not speak,
nor even smile. She was not looking at him, but at the braided rug
beneath her feet, and he could not see the expression of her face.

“I may as well explain now,” he went on, when this particular laugh was
over, “that my friend Williams is one of the leading hotel men of this
country. He owns two very big hotels in Florida and one in the Tennessee
mountains. He has for some time been looking for a site on which to
build another here on the northern coast. He was down this way a while
ago and, quite by accident, he discovered this shore property which, he
found out later, was owned by the Wellmouth Development Company. It was
ideal, according to his estimate--view, harbor, water privileges,
still water and surf bathing, climate--everything. He came to me and we
discussed buying it. Then we discovered that this Development Company
owned it. Fifty thousand dollars, the concern’s capitalization, was
too much to pay. A trust company over here in your next town had
twelve hundred shares, but we found out that they knew the value of the
property and, if they learned what we were up to, would hold for a
fancy price. So, through this chap Pulcifer--we bought HIS five hundred
shares--we began buying up the thirteen hundred which would give us a
controlling interest and force the other crowd to do what we wanted. We
picked up the small holdings easily enough, but we couldn’t get yours or
Hallett’s. And for a very good reason, too. Ho, ho, ho! And old Loosh,
of all people! Ho, ho!”

Still Miss Phipps did not laugh, nor did she look at him. “By the way,”
 he observed, “I presume my--er--relative paid you a fair price for the
stock, Miss Phipps?”

“He paid me twenty dollars a share,” she said, quietly.

“Did he, indeed! Well, that is more than we’ve paid any one else, except
Pulcifer. We allowed him a commission--a margin--on all he succeeded in
buying.... Humph!... And I suppose Galusha paid old Hallett par, too.
But why he should do such a thing is--well, it is beyond me.”

She answered, but still she did not look at him.

“He told you,” she said. “He knew I needed money. I was foolish enough
to let him guess--yes, I told him that I had a hard time to get along.
He was interested and he tried to cheer me up by tellin’ me he thought
you might buy that stock of mine. He couldn’t have been more interested
if it had been somethin’ of his own. No, not nearly so much; he and his
own interests are the last thing he thinks about, I guess. And then he
kept cheerin’ me up and pretendin’ to be more and more sure you would
buy and--and when he found you wouldn’t he--but there, he told us the
truth. _I_ understand why he did it, Mr. Cabot.”

The banker shook his head. “Well, I suppose I do, too, in a way,” he
said. “It is because he is Galusha Bangs. Nobody else on earth would
think of doing such a thing.”

“No, nobody else would. But thirteen thousand dollars, Mr. Cabot! Why,
that’s dreadful! It’s awful! He must have used every cent he owns, and
I didn’t suppose he owned any, scarcely. Oh, Mr. Cabot, I must pay
him back; I must pay him right away. DO you want to buy that stock he
bought? Will you buy it of him, so he can have his money again?”

She was looking at him now and her voice was shaking with anxiety. Cabot
laughed once more.

“Delighted, Miss Phipps,” he assured her. “That is what I have been
trying to do for a month or more. But don’t worry about old Galusha’s
going broke. He--why, what is it?”

“Oh, nothin’. I was thinkin’ about what he did and--and--”

“Yes, I know. Isn’t it amazing? I have known him all my life, but I’m
never sure how he will fly off the handle next. Of course, I realize you
must think him a perfect jackass, an idiot--”

“What! Think him WHAT?”

“An idiot, an imbecile. Nine people out of ten, those who don’t know him
well, do consider him just that. Yet he isn’t. In some respects he is a
mighty clever man. In his own line, in this musty-dusty museum business
of his, this Egyptology he is so cracked about, he is really very close
to the top. Geographic societies all over the world have given him
medals; he is--why, if he wished to he could write a string of letters
after his name a yard long. I believe--hang it, it sounds absurd, but
I believe he has been--er--knighted or something like it, in one
heathenish little kingdom. And in Washington there, at the Institute,
they swear by him.”

She nodded. “They have just made him a wonderful offer to be the head of
another expedition,” she said.

“So? Well, I am not surprised. But in most respects, outside of his
mummy-chasing, he is an absolute ass. Money? Why, he would give away
every cent if it occurred to him to do so. HE wouldn’t know nor care.
And what might become of him afterward he wouldn’t care, either. If it
wasn’t that I watch him and try to keep his money out of his hands, I
don’t know what would happen. Kind? Yes, of course. And generous; good
Lord! But when it comes to matters of sentiment like--well, like this
stock business for example, he is, as I say, an ass, that’s all.... I am
telling you this, Miss Phipps, because I wouldn’t wish you to consider
old Loosh altogether a fool, but only--”

He was sitting there, his knee in his hands, gazing blandly at the
ceiling and, in judicial fashion, summing up his relative’s failings and
virtues, when he was interrupted. And the interruption was a startling
one. Martha Phipps sprang to her feet and faced him, her cheeks crimson
and her eyes flashing.

“Oh, how dare you!” she cried, with fiery indignation. “How CAN you?
You sit there and talk about him and--and call him names in that--that
condescendin’ way as if he was dirt under our feet and yet--and yet he’s
as far above us as the sky is. Oh, how can you! Don’t you see how good
he is? Don’t you SEE how he’s sufferin’ now, poor soul, and why? You say
he doesn’t care for money; of course he doesn’t. If it had cost fifty
thousand and he had it, I suppose he’d have used it just the same if he
thought it would help--help some friend of his out of trouble. But
what is tearin’ him to pieces is the idea that he has, as he calls it,
cheated ME. That he has lied to Jethro and to me and hasn’t been the
same straight, honest--GENTLEMAN he always is. That’s all. HE doesn’t
give himself credit for takin’ his own money to help other folks with.
YOU would, _I_ would, but HE doesn’t. He talks as if he’d robbed us,
or--or killed somebody or somethin’. He is the best--yes, I think he
is the best and finest soul that ever breathed. And you sit there
and--swing your foot and--and patronize--and call him a fool. A FOOL!...
I--I mustn’t talk any more or--or I’ll say somethin’ I’ll wish I
hadn’t.... Good-night, Mr. Cabot.”

She had held her handkerchief tightly crumpled in her hand during this
outburst. Now she dabbed hastily with it at either eye, turned and
hastened into the dining room, closing the door behind her.

A minute later Primmie came into the room, bearing a lighted lamp.

“I cal’late now I can dast come in here, can’t I?” she observed, with
dignity. “Anyhow, I hope so, ‘cause Miss Martha sent me. She said I was
to show you where your bedroom was, Mr. Cabot.”

The Boston banker, who had scarcely recovered from the blast launched
at his head by his hostess, rose, still blinking in a dazed fashion, and
followed the lamp-bearer up the steep and narrow stairs. She opened a
door.

“Here you be,” she said, tartly. “And I hope you’ll sleep ‘cause I’m
precious sure _I_ sha’n’t. All I’ll see from now till mornin’ is Cap’n
Jeth gettin’ ready to lam that Marietta Hoag one over the top of the
head. My Lord of Isrul! Don’t talk to ME!”

Cabot regarded her with interest. “What is YOUR name?” he inquired.

“Primrose Cash.”

“Eh? Primrose?”

“Um-hm. Name of a flower, ‘tis. Some folks don’t like it, but I do.”

“Primrose!” The visitor slowly shook his head. “Well--er--Primrose,” he
asked, “is there any other asylum in this vicinity?”

“Hey? ASYLUM? What--”

“Never mind. I wondered, that’s all. Good-night.”

He took the lamp from her hand and went into his room. The amazed
Primmie heard from behind the door of that room a mighty roar of
laughter, laughter loud and long continued. Martha, in her room, heard
it and stirred indignantly. Galusha, in his room, heard it and moaned.

He wondered how, in all the world, there was any one who, on this night
of misery, could laugh.



CHAPTER XXII


There were two people in that house who ate a real breakfast the
following morning. One was Primmie and the other was Augustus Cabot. It
took much, very much, to counteract Miss Cash’s attraction toward food,
and as for the Boston banker, the combination of Cape Cod air and
Martha Phipps’ cooking had sharpened his appetite until, as he told his
hostess, he was thoroughly ashamed, but tremendously contented.

Martha smiled a faint recognition of the joke. Galusha, sitting opposite
her, did not smile; he was plainly quite unaware that there was humor
anywhere. The little archaeologist looked, so Primmie told Zach later
on, “like one of them wax string beans, thin and drawed-out and yeller.”
 He kept his gaze fixed on his plate and, beyond wishing her an uncertain
good-morning, not once did he look at or venture to address Martha
Phipps.

While they were at table Lulie came in. Considering all that she had
undergone, the young lady was wonderfully radiant. Her eyes sparkled,
there was color in her cheeks, and Mr. Cabot, who, in his time, had
accounted himself a judge, immediately rated her as a remarkably pretty
girl. Her first move, after greeting the company, was to go straight to
Galusha and take his hand.

“Mr. Bangs,” she cried, “how can I thank you? How can Nelson and I ever,
ever thank you?”

Galusha’s embarrassment managed to pump a little color into his wan
cheeks. “I--I--ah--dear me, it was nothing,” he stammered. “I--I
am--ah--yes, quite so. Please don’t mention it.”

“But I shall mention it. Indeed, I shall. Why, Martha, do you realize
who was really responsible for father’s being so suspicious of Marietta
Hoag last evening? It was Mr. Bangs here, and no one else. Do you
remember I told you that father had been receiving printed things,
booklets and circulars, in the mails for the past few days, and that he
had been reading them and they seemed to agitate him very much? Do you
remember that?”

Martha said of course she remembered it.

“Yes. Well, those circulars and books came from the Psychical Research
Society--the people who look up real spirit things and expose the other
kind, the fraud kind, you know. Those told all about lots of cases of
cheats like Marietta, and father read them, and he confessed to me this
morning that they disturbed his faith in her a lot and he was suspicious
when the seance began. Don’t you know he hinted something about it?”

“Yes, yes, Lulie, I remember. But what did Mr. Bangs have to do with
those circulars and things?”

“He sent them. Or he had them sent, I am sure. They came from Washington
and who else could have done it? Who else would have had them sent--from
there--to father--and just at the right time? You did have them sent,
didn’t you, Mr. Bangs?”

Of course, the others now looked at Galusha and also, of course, this
had the effect of increasing his embarrassment.

“Why--why, yes,” he admitted, “I suppose I am responsible. You see,
I--well--ah--I have friends at the Washington branch of the Society and
I dropped a line requesting that some--ah--literature be sent to Captain
Hallett. But it was nothing, really. Dear me, no. How is your father
this morning, Lulie?”

Lulie’s face expressed her happiness. “Oh, he is ever and ever so much
better,” she declared. “Last night I was so afraid that the shock and
the dreadful disappointment and all might have a very had effect upon
him, but it hasn’t. He is weak this morning and tired, of course, but
his brain is perfectly clear and he talks as calmly as you or I. Yes,
a good deal more calmly than I am talking just now, for I am very much
excited.”

She laughed a little. Then, with a blush which caused the Boston
connoisseur to re-endorse his own estimate of her looks, added: “I just
must tell you this, Martha, you and Mr. Bangs, for I know you will be
almost as much delighted as I am--of course, I put in the ‘almost.’
This morning, a little while ago, I ventured to mention Nelson’s name
to father and to hint that perhaps now that he knew Marietta’s ‘medium’
nonsense to be all a fraud, he would believe as I did that the things
she said about Nelson were frauds, too. I said it in fear and trembling,
and for some time he didn’t answer. Then he called me to him and said he
guessed I was probably right. ‘You seem to have been right most of the
time, Lulie,’ he said, ‘and I’ve been clear off the course.’ Then he
said something about his getting old and about ready for the scrap heap,
but at the end he said: ‘You ask that young Howard to cruise around
here and see me some one of these days. I want to talk to him.’ There!”
 triumphantly. “Isn’t that splendid? Isn’t that something for him to
say?”

Martha beamed delightedly. “For your father to say it’s more than
somethin’, it’s a whole big lot,” she declared. “Well, well, well! Cap’n
Jeth invitin’ Nelson to come and see him and talk with him! Mercy me!
‘Wonders ‘ll never cease, fish fly and birds swim,’ as my own father
used to say,” she added, with a laugh. “Mr. Cabot, excuse me for talkin’
about somethin’ you don’t understand, but, you see, Lulie is--Well,
Primmie, what is it?”

Primmie’s face expressed great excitement as she pushed it around the
edge of the kitchen door. “My savin’ soul!” was her salutation. “Who
do you suppose is comin’ right up our walk this very minute? Raish
Pulcifer, that’s who! And--and I bet you he’s heard about last night’s
doin’s, Miss Martha.”

A little of Miss Cash’s excitement was communicated to the others by her
announcement. To every one except Mr. Bangs, of course. Galusha,
after his acknowledgment of Lulie’s thanks, had relapsed into his
absent-minded apathy. Martha looked at Lulie.

“Humph!” she said, after a moment. “Well, let him come, as far as I’m
concerned. I never was afraid of Raish Pulcifer yet and I’m not now.
Lulie, if you don’t want to meet him, you might go into the sitting
room.”

Lulie hesitated. “Well, perhaps I will,” she said. “Father has told me
a little about--Well, I imagine Raish will be disagreeable and I don’t
feel like going through more disagreeableness just now. I’ll wait in
here till he goes, Martha.”

“Perhaps you’d like to go, too, Mr. Cabot,” suggested Martha.

Cabot shrugged. “Not unless you wish me to,” he replied. “I’ve never
met this agent of ours and I wouldn’t mind seeing what he looks like.
Williams hired him, so he doesn’t know me from Adam.”

For the first time that morning Miss Phipps addressed her boarder
directly. “How about you, Mr. Bangs?” she asked.

Galusha did not appear to hear the question, and before it was repeated
a knock, loud, portentous, threatening, sounded upon the door.

“Let him in, Primmie,” commanded Miss Phipps.

Mr. Pulcifer entered. His bearing was as ominous as his knock. He nodded
to Martha, glanced inquiringly at Cabot, and then turned his gaze upon
Galusha Bangs.

“Well, Raish,” said Martha, cheerfully, “you’re an early bird this
mornin’. How do you do?”

The great Horatio’s only acknowledgment of the greeting was a nod. He
did not even remove his cap. He was looking at the little man in the
chair at the foot of the table and he seemed quite oblivious of any one
else. And Galusha, for that matter, seemed quite as oblivious of him.

The Pulcifer mouth opened and the Pulcifer finger pointed.

“Say,” commanded Raish. “Say--you!” And as this seemed to have little or
no effect upon the individual toward whom the finger pointed, he added:
“Say, you--er--What’s-your-name--Bangs.”

Galusha, who had been absently playing with his napkin, twisting it into
folds and then untwisting it, looked up.

“Eh?” he queried. “Oh, yes--yes, of course. How do you do, Mr.
Pulcifer?”

This placidity seemed to shut off Raish’s breath for the moment, but it
returned in full supply.

“How do I DO!” he repeated. “Well, I ain’t what you’d call fust-rate,
I’d say. I’m pretty darn sick, if anybody should ask you. I’ve had
enough to make me sick. Say, look here, Bangs! What kind of a game is
this you’ve been puttin’ over on me--hey?... Hey?”

“Game?... I--ah--pardon me, I don’t know that I quite understand, Mr.
Pulcifer.”

“Don’t you? Well, I don’t understand neither. But I cal’late to pretty
quick. What did Jeth Hallett mean last night by sayin’ that he’d sold
his four hundred Development a couple of months ago? What did he mean by
it?”

Martha Phipps was about to speak. Cabot, too, leaned forward. But
Galusha raised a protesting hand.

“Please,” he said. “Mr. Pulcifer has a perfect right to ask. I
have--ah--been expecting him to do so. Well, Mr. Pulcifer, I presume
Captain Hallet meant that he had--ah--sold the stock.”

“He did? I want to know! And what did he mean by sayin’ he’d sold it to
YOU?”

Again Miss Phipps and Cousin Gussie seemed about to take a hand and
again Galusha silenced them.

“If you please,” he begged. “It is quite all right, really.... I
suppose, Mr. Pulcifer, he meant that he had done just that. He did.
I--ah--bought his stock.”

“You did! YOU did? Say, what kind of a--Say, am I crazy or are you?”

“Oh, I am. Dear me, yes, Mr. Pulcifer. At all events, I purchased the
stock from Captain Hallett. I bought Miss Phipps’ shares at the same
time.”

It took more than a trifle to “stump” Raish Pulcifer. He was accustomed
to boast that it did. But he had never been nearer to being stumped than
at that moment.

“You--bought--” He puffed the words as a locomotive puffs smoke when
leaving a station.

“Yes,” said Galusha, calmly, “I bought both his and hers.”

“You did!... You did!... Well, by cripes! But--but why?”

“Because, I--ah--For reasons of my own, Mr. Pulcifer. Please pardon me
if I do not go into that. I do not wish to appear rude, but the reasons
are quite personal, really.”

“Personal!... Well, I’ll be dummed if this ain’t the nerviest piece of
brass cheek ever I--Say, look here, Bangs! Why didn’t you tell me you’d
bought them shares? What did you--Why, you must have had ‘em all the
time I was offerin’ you commissions for buyin’ ‘em. Hey? DID you have
‘em then?”

“Why--ah--yes, I did.”

“And you never said nothin’, but just let me talk! And--and how about
this seance thing? You was the one put me up to making Marietta pretend
to get messages from Jeth’s wife tellin’ him to sell his stock to me.
YOU done it. I’d never thought of it if you hadn’t put the notion in my
head. And--and all the time--Oh, by CRIPES!”

Again his agitation brought on a fit of incoherence. And he was not the
only astonished person about that table. Galusha, however, was quite
calm. He continued to fold and unfold his napkin.

“It may be,” he said, slowly, “that I owe you an apology, Mr. Pulcifer.
I did deceive you, or, at least, I did not undeceive you.” He paused,
sighed, and then added, with a twisted smile, “I seem to have been
a--ah--universal deceiver, as one might say. However, that is not
material just now. I had what seemed to me good reasons for wishing
Captain Hallett to learn that Miss Hoag was not a genuine--ah--psychic.
It occurred to me that a mention of his late wife’s wish to have him
sell something he did not possess might accomplish that result. I misled
you, of course, and I apologize, Mr. Pulcifer. I am sorry, but it seemed
necessary to do so. Yes, quite.”

He ceased speaking. Martha drew a long breath. Mr. Cabot looked very
much puzzled. Raish slowly shook his head. “Well!” he began; tried
again, but only succeeded in repeating the word. Then he blurted out his
next question.

“Who’d you buy them shares for?”

“Eh? For?”

“Yes, for. Who did you buy Cap’n Jeth’s and Martha’s stock for? Who got
you to buy it? ‘Twasn’t the Trust Company crowd, was it?”

“The Trust Company? I beg pardon? Oh, I see--I see. Dear me, no. I
bought the stock myself, quite on my own responsibility, Mr. Pulcifer.”

Raish could not believe it. “You bought it yourself!” he repeated. “No,
no, you don’t get me. I mean whose money paid for it?”

“Why, my own.”

Still it was plain that Horatio did not believe. As a matter of fact,
the conviction that Galusha Bangs was poverty-stricken was so thoroughly
implanted in the Pulcifer mind that not even a succession of earthquakes
like the recent disclosures could shake it loose. But Raish did not
press the point, for at that moment a new thought came to him. His
expression changed and his tone changed with it.

“Say, Bangs,” demanded he, eagerly, “do you mean you’ve still got that
six hundred and fifty Development? Mean you ain’t turned ‘em over yet to
anybody else?”

“Eh? Why, no, Mr. Pulcifer, I haven’t--ah--turned them over to any one
else.”

“Good! Fust-rate! Fine and dandy! You and me can trade yet. You’re all
right, Perfessor, you are. You’ve kind of put one acrost on me, but
don’t make the mistake of thinkin’ I’m holdin’ that against you. No,
sir-ee! When a feller’s smart enough to keep even with your Uncle Raish
in a deal then I know he gets up early--yes, sir, early, and that’s when
I get up myself. Hey, Perfessor? Haw, haw! Now, I tell you: Let’s you
and me go down to my office or somewheres where we can talk business.
Maybe I might want to buy that stock yet, you can’t tell. Hey? Haw,
haw!”

He was exuding geniality now. But just here Mr. Augustus Cabot spoke.
Judging by his face, he had enjoyed the passage at arms between his
cousin and his business agent hugely. Now he entered the lists.

“That’s all right, Pulcifer,” he said. “You needn’t trouble. I’ll look
out for that stock, myself.”

Horatio turned and stared. He had scarcely noticed the visitor before,
now he looked him over from head to foot.

“Hey? What’s that?” he demanded. Cabot repeated his statement. Raish
snorted.

“You’ll look after the stock!” he repeated. “YOU will? Who are you?”

Cousin Gussie tossed a card across the table. “Cabot is my name,” he
said.

Galusha suddenly remembered.

“Oh, dear me!” he exclaimed. “I--I forgot. Please forgive me.
Cousin Gussie, this is Mr. Pulcifer. Mr. Pulcifer, this gentleman is
my--ah--Cousin Gu--I mean my cousin, Mr. Cabot, from Boston.”

But Mr. Pulcifer did not hear. He was staring at the names of the
individual and of the firm upon the card and icy fingers were playing
tunes up and down his vertebrae. For the second time that morning he
could not speak. Cabot laughed.

“It’s all right, Pulcifer,” he said, reassuringly. “You won’t have to
worry about the Development matter any longer. I’ll handle the rest of
it. Oh, you did your best. I’m not blaming you. I’ll see that you get a
fair return, even if you couldn’t quite deliver. But you must keep still
about the whole thing, of course.”

Raish breathed heavily. Slowly the icy fingers ceased trifling with
his spine and that backbone began to develop--quoting Miss Phipps’
description--at least one new joint to every foot. He suppled visibly.
He expressed himself with feeling. He begged the honor of shaking hands
with the great man from Boston. Then he shook hands with Galusha and
Miss Phipps. If Primmie had been present doubtless he would have
shaken hands with her. When Cabot suggested that the interview had best
terminate, he agreed with unction and oozed, rather than walked, through
that doorway. Watching from the window, they saw him stop when he
reached the road, draw a long breath, take a cigar from his pocket,
light it, hitch his cap a trifle to one side, and stride away, a moving
picture of still unshaken and serene self-confidence.

Cabot laughed delightedly. “That fellow is a joy forever,” he declared.
“He’s one of the seven wonders of the world.”

Martha sniffed. “Then the world better keep a sharp watch on the other
six,” was her comment. “I wouldn’t trust Raish Pulcifer alone
with Bunker Hill monument--not if ‘twas a dark night and he had a
wheelbarrow.”

Lulie came rushing from the sitting room. She had heard all the
Pulcifer-Bangs’ dialogue and her one desire was to thank Galusha. But
Galusha was not present. While Martha and Mr. Cabot were at the window
watching the departure of Raish, the little man had left the room.

“But I must see him,” cried Lulie. “Oh, Martha, just think! He is
responsible for EVERYTHING. Not only for sending father the Psychical
Society books, but for planning all that happened at the seance. You
heard what Raish said. He said that Mr. Bangs put him up to bribing
Marietta to pretend getting the message ordering father to sell his
stock. Why, if that is true--and, of course, it must be--and if--if
Nelson and I should--if it SHOULD end right for us--why, Martha, he will
be the one who made it possible. Oh, do you believe he did plan it, as
Raish said?”

Martha nodded and turned away. “He seems to have spent most of his time
plannin’ for other folks,” she said.

“He didn’t come through the sitting room,” said Lulie, “so he must be in
the kitchen with Primmie. I’m going to find him.”

But she did not find him. Primmie said that Mr. Bangs had come out into
the kitchen, taken his hat and coat, and left the house by the back
door. Looking from that door, they saw his diminutive figure, already a
good distance off, moving across the fields.

“He’s on his way to the graveyard,” declared Primmie. Cabot was
startled.

“On his way to the graveyard!” he repeated. “Why, he looked remarkably
well to me. What do you mean?”

Lulie laughingly explained. A few minutes later, declaring that she must
leave her father alone no longer, she hurried away. Martha watched her
go.

“She scarcely knows there is ground under her feet,” she observed. “A
light heart makes easy ballast, so my father used to say.”

Cabot expressed his intention of starting for the city shortly after
noon.

“Now that I know where those missing shares are, I can go with an easy
conscience,” he said. “I came ‘way down here to get them and the faster
I came the farther off they were. Ha, ha! It’s a great joke. I’ve had
a wonderful time, Miss Phipps. Well, I must see Galusha and get him to
sell that stock to me. I don’t anticipate much difficulty. The old boy
didn’t even know nor care where Barbour had put it.”

Martha seemed to hesitate a moment. Then she said: “Mr. Cabot, I wonder
if you could spare a few minutes. I want to talk with you about
the money I owe--the money he GAVE me--for that stock, and a little
about--about your cousin himself. Last night when you spoke of him I
was--well, I was excited and upset and I didn’t treat you very well, I’m
afraid. I’m sorry, but perhaps you’ll excuse me, considerin’ all that
had happened. Now I want to ask you one or two questions. There are some
things I don’t--I can’t quite understand.”



CHAPTER XXIII


An hour or so later Galusha, sitting, forlorn and miserable, upon the
flat, damp and cold top of an ancient tomb in the old Baptist burying
ground, was startled to feel a touch upon his shoulder. He jumped,
turned and saw his cousin smiling down at him.

“Well, Loosh,” hailed the banker, “at your old tricks, aren’t you? In
the cemetery and perfectly happy, I suppose. No ‘Hark from the tombs,
a doleful sound’ in years, eh?... Hum! You don’t look very happy this
time, though.” Then, with a comprehensive glance at the surroundings, he
shrugged and added, “Heavens, no wonder!”

The picture was a dismal one on that particular day. The sky was
overcast and gray, with a distinct threat of rain. The sea was gray and
cold and cheerless. The fields were bare and bleak and across them
moved a damp, chill, penetrating breeze. From horizon to horizon not a
breathing creature, except themselves, was visible. And in the immediate
foreground were the tumbled, crumbling memorials of the dead.

“Heavens, what a place!” repeated Cabot. “It’s enough to give anybody
the mulligrubs. Why in the world do you come over here and--and go to
roost by yourself? Do you actually LIKE it?”

Galusha sighed. “Sometimes I like it,” he said. Then, sliding over on
the tomb top, he added, “Won’t you--ah--sit down, Cousin Gussie?”

His relative shook his head. “No, I’ll be hanged if I do!” he declared;
“not on that thing. Come over and sit on the fence. I want to talk to
you.”

He led the way to a section of the rail fence which, although rickety,
was still standing. He seated himself upon the upper rail and Galusha
clambered up and perched beside him. The banker’s first question was
concerning the six hundred and fifty shares of Development stock.

“I know you gave the Phipps woman par for hers,” he said. “You told me
so and so did she. Did you pay old Whiskers--Hallett, I mean--the same
price?”

Galusha shook his head. “I--ah--was obliged to pay him a little more,”
 he said. “His--ah--wife insisted upon it.”

“His wife? I thought his wife was dead.”

“Yes--ah--she is. Yes, indeed, quite so.”

When this matter was satisfactorily explained Cousin Gussie asked if
Galusha would be willing to sell his recently purchased shares at the
price paid. Of course Galusha would.

“I should be very glad to make you a present of them, Cousin Gussie,” he
said, listlessly. “I do not care for them, really.”

“I don’t doubt that, but you won’t do anything of the kind. As a matter
of fact, your buying those shares and taking them out of the market
was a mighty good thing for us. That Trust Company crowd was getting
anxious, so the Phipps woman says. By the way, I will send her a check
at once for her shares and she will hand it over to you. She was very
much disturbed because you had--as she called it--given her that five
thousand dollars.”

Galusha nodded sadly. “Of course,” he said. “It was a--a very dreadful
thing to do. Oh, dear!”

His relative, who was watching him intently, smiled. “She and I have had
a long talk,” he continued. “She couldn’t understand about you, how
you could have so much money to--er--waste in that way. I gathered
she feared you might have impoverished yourself, or pledged the family
jewels, or something. And she plainly will not be easy one moment until
she has paid you. She is a very extraordinary woman, Loosh.”

His companion did not answer. His gaze was fixed upon a winged death’s
head on a battered slate gravestone near at hand. The death’s head was
grinning cheerfully, but Galusha was not.

“I say she is remarkable, that Phipps woman,” repeated Cousin Gussie.
The little man stirred uneasily upon the fence rail.

“Her--ah--name is Martha--Martha Phipps--ah--MISS Martha Phipps,” he
suggested, with a slight accent upon the “Miss.” The banker’s smile
broadened.

“Apologies, Galusha,” he said, “to her--and to you.” He turned and gazed
steadily down at his relative’s bowed head.

“Loosh,” he said.

“Eh?” Galusha looked up. “Eh? Did you speak?” he asked.

“I did. No, don’t look at that gravestone, look at me. Say, Loosh, why
did you do it?”

“Eh?... I beg pardon.... Why did I... You mean why did I--ah--buy the
stock--and--and--”

“Of course. Why did you? Oh, I know she was hard up and feared she
couldn’t keep her home and all that; she has told me her story. And she
is a good woman and you were sorry for her. But, my boy, to take five
thousand dollars--even for YOU to take five thousand cold, hard, legal
tender dollars and toss them away for something which, so far as you
knew, was not worth five cents--that argues a little more than sympathy,
doesn’t it? And when you add eight thousand more of those dollars to the
original five, then--Why did you do it, Loosh?”

Galusha’s gaze fell. He looked solemnly at the battered cherub upon the
gravestone and the cherub’s grin was broad.

“I bought Captain Hallett’s stock,” he explained, “because I did not
wish Miss Mar--Miss Phipps to know that I had lied--and all the rest.”

“Yes, yes, so you said. But why did you lie, Loosh? Why didn’t you
tell her that you couldn’t sell her stock for her? She would have
been disappointed, of course, but she would have understood; she is a
sensible woman.”

Galusha, apparently, was considering the matter. It was a perceptible
interval before he answered.

“I don’t know, Cousin Gussie,” he confessed, after the interval was
over. “Really, I don’t know. I think I felt, as I told you last night,
as if I had encouraged her to believe I should surely sell her shares
and--and that, therefore, I would be responsible for her disappointment.
And I--well, really, I simply could not face the thought of that
disappointment and all it would mean to her. I could not, indeed, no. I
suppose you consider it quite extraordinary, my feeling that so acutely.
Dear me, I suppose most people would. But I felt it. And I should do the
same thing again, I know I should.”

“For her, you mean?”

“Yes--yes, of course, for her.”

“Humph! Say, Loosh, may I ask you a purely personal question? Will you
promise not to be offended if I do?”

“Eh? Why, of course, Cousin Gussie. Of course. Dear me, ask anything you
like.”

“All right. Loosh, are you in love with Miss Phipps?”

Galusha started so violently as to throw him off his balance upon the
fence rail. He slid forward until his feet touched the ground. His
coat-tails, however, caught upon a projecting knot and the garment
remained aloft, a crumpled bundle, between his shoulder blades and the
back of his neck. He was not aware of it. His face expressed only one
emotion, great astonishment. And as his cousin watched, that expression
slowly changed to bewilderment and dawning doubt.

“Well, how about it?” queried Cabot. “Are you in love with her, Loosh?”

Galusha’s mouth opened. “Why--good gracious!” he gasped. “Dear
me--ah--Why--why, I don’t know.”

The banker had expected almost any sort of reply, except that.

“You don’t KNOW!” he repeated.

“No, I--I don’t. I--I never thought of such a thing.”

Cousin Gussie slowly shook his head.

“Loosh,” he declared, “you are superb; do you realize it? So you don’t
know whether you are in love with her or not. Well, put it this way:
Would you like to marry her, have her for your wife, live with her for
the rest of your days?”

Galusha considered this astounding proposition, but only for the
briefest possible moment. His gentle, dreamy, wistful countenance seemed
almost to light up from within. His answer was given in one breath and
as if entirely without conscious volition.

“Oh, very much,” he said, in a low tone. “Oh, yes, very much.”

The Boston banker had been on the point of laughing when he asked the
question. But he did not laugh. He whistled instead. Then he smiled, but
it was not a smile of ridicule.

Jumping from the fence rail, he laid a hand on his relative’s shoulder.

“Well, by Jove!” he exclaimed. “Forgive me, old man, will you? I had no
idea you were taking it so seriously. I... Well, by Jove!”

Galusha did not speak. The same queer ecstatic brightness was upon his
face and he was looking now, not at the grinning cherub, but at the
distant horizon line of gray-green ocean and slate-gray sky. Cabot’s
grip on his shoulder tightened.

“So you really want to marry her,” he said.... “Humph!... Well, I’ll be
hanged! Loosh, you--you--well, you certainly can surprise a fellow when
you really make a business of it.”

The brightness was fading from Galusha’s face. He sighed, removed his
spectacles, and seemed to descend from the clouds. He sighed again, and
then smiled his faint smile.

“Dear me,” he said, “how ridiculous it was, wasn’t it? You like a joke,
don’t you, Cousin Gussie?”

“Was it a joke, Loosh? You didn’t look nor speak like a joker.”

“Eh? Oh, yes, it was a joke, of course. Is it likely that a woman like
that would marry ME?”

Again he astonished his relative into turning and staring at him. “Marry
you?” he cried. “SHE marry YOU? For heaven’s sake, you don’t imagine
there is any doubt that she would marry you if you asked her to, do
you?”

“Why, of course. Why should she?”

“Why SHOULD she? Why shouldn’t she jump at the chance, you mean!”

“Oh--oh, no, I don’t. No, indeed. You are joking again, Cousin Gussie,
of course you are. Women don’t like me; they laugh at me, they always
have, you know. I don’t blame them. Very often I laugh at myself. I am
eccentric. I’m ‘queer’; that is what every one says I am--queer. I don’t
seem to think just as other people do, or--or to be able to dress as
they do--or--ah--oh, dear, everything. It used to trouble me a good deal
when I was young. I used to try, you know--ah--try very hard not to be
queer. I hated being queer. But it wasn’t any use, so at last I gave
up trying. My kind of queerness is something one can’t get over,
apparently; it’s a sort of incurable disease. Dear me, yes, quite
incurable.”

He had moved forward and his coat-tails had fallen into their normal
position, so the “queerness” of his outward appearance was modified;
but, as he stood there, with his puzzled, wistful expression, slowly
and impersonally picking himself to pieces, so to speak, Cabot felt
an overwhelming rush of pity for him, pity and a sort of indignant
impatience.

“Oh, shut up, Galusha!” he snapped. “Don’t be so confoundedly absurd.
You are one of the cleverest men in the world in your line. You are
distinguished. You are brilliant. If you were as queer as Dick’s
hatband--whatever that is--it would make no difference; you have a right
to be. And when you tell me that a woman--yes, almost any woman, to say
nothing of one lost down here in these sand-hills--wouldn’t marry you in
a minute, you’re worse than queer--you’re crazy, absolutely crazy.”

“But--but Cousin Gussie, you forget. If there were no other reasons, you
forget what I have done. She could never believe in me again. No, nor
forgive me.”

“Oh, DON’T! You disturb my digestion. Do you suppose there is a woman on
earth who wouldn’t forgive a man who gave up thirteen thousand dollars
just to help her out of a difficulty? Gave it up, as you did, without a
whimper or even a whisper? And whose one worry has been that she might
find out the truth about his weird generosity? Oh, Loosh, Loosh, you ARE
crazy.”

Galusha made no attempt to deny the charge of insanity. He was thinking
rapidly now and his face expressed his thought.

“Do you--do you really think she might forgive me?” he asked,
breathlessly.

“Think! Why, she and I had a long talk just before I came over here.
She thinks you are the best and most wonderful man on earth and all
she feared was that you had taken your last cent, or even borrowed the
money, to come to her rescue. When I told her you were worth a quarter
of a million, she felt better, but it didn’t lessen her gratitude.
Forgive you! Oh, good Lord!”

Galusha had heard only the first part of this speech. The ecstatic
expression was returning. He drew a long breath.

“I--I wonder if she really would consider such a thing?” he murmured.

“Consider what? Marriage? Well, I should say she wouldn’t take much time
for consideration. She’ll jump at it, I tell you. You are the one to
consider, old man. You are rich, and famous. Yes, and, although I have
never pinned quite as much faith to the ‘family’ idea as most of our
people do, still we have a sort of tradition to keep up, you know.
Now this--er--Miss Phipps is all right, no doubt; her people were good
people, doubtless, but--well, some of our feminine second and third
cousins will make remarks, Galusha. They surely will.”

Galusha did not even trouble to answer this speech. His cousin
continued.

“But that is your business, of course,” he said. “And I honestly believe
that in a good many ways she would make the ideal wife for you. She is
not bad looking, in a wholesome sort of way, she is competent and very
practical, has no end of common sense, and in all money matters she
would make the sort of manager you need. She... Say, look here, have you
heard one word of all I have been saying for the last three minutes ?”

“Eh?... Oh, yes, indeed. Of course, quite so.”

“I know better; you haven’t.”

“Yes--yes. That is, I mean no.... Pardon me, Cousin Gussie, I fear I was
not paying attention.... I shall ask her. Yes, if--if you are QUITE sure
she has forgiven me, I shall ask her.”

He started toward the cemetery gate as if he intended asking her at
the first possible moment. His cousin followed him, his expression
indicating a mixture of misgiving and amusement. Suddenly he laughed
aloud. Galusha heard him and turned. His slight figure stiffened
perceptibly.

“I beg pardon,” he said, after a moment. “Doubtless it is--ah--very
amusing, but I confess I do not quite see the joke.”

Cabot laughed again.

“Is it--ah--so funny?” inquired Galusha. “It does not seem so to me.”

The banker took him by the arm. “No offense, old chap,” he said. “Funny?
Of course it’s funny. It’s wildly funny. Do you know what I was just
thinking? I was thinking of Aunt Clarissa. What do you suppose she would
have said to this?”

He shouted at the thought. Galusha joined him to the extent of a smile.
“She would have said it was just what she expected of me,” he observed.
“Quite so--yes.”

They walked on in silence for some time. Then Galusha stopped short.

“I have just thought of something,” he said. “It--it MAY have some
influence. She has often said she wished she might see Egypt. We could
go together, couldn’t we?”

Cousin Gussie roared again. “Of course you could,” he declared. “And
I only wish I could go along. Loosh, you are more than superb. You are
magnificent.”

He telephoned for his car and chauffeur and, soon after dinner, said
good-by to his hostess and his cousin and prepared to start for Boston.
The Sunday dinner was a bountiful one, well cooked, and he did justice
to it. Galusha, however, ate very little. He seemed to be not quite
certain whether he was at the table or somewhere in the clouds.

The chauffeur discovered that he had scarcely oil and gasoline
sufficient for his hundred-mile trip and decided to drive to Trumet to
obtain more. Cabot, who felt the need of exercise after his hearty meal,
took a walk along the bluff edge as far as the point from which he could
inspect the property owned by the Development Company.

He was gone almost an hour. On his return he met Galusha walking slowly
along the lane. The little man was without his overcoat, his hands were
clasped behind him and, although his eyes were open, he seemed to
see nothing, for he stumbled and staggered, sometimes in the road and
sometimes in the dead weeds and briars beside it. He did not see his
cousin, either, until the latter spoke. Then he looked up and nodded
recognition.

“Oh!” he observed. “Yes, of course. Ah--How do you do?”

Cabot was looking him straight in the face.

“Loosh,” he asked, sharply. “What is it? What is the matter?”

Galusha passed his hand across his forehead.

“Oh, nothing, nothing,” he answered.

“Nonsense! You look as if--Well, you can’t tell me nothing is wrong.
ISN’T there something wrong?”

The saddest smile in all creation passed across Galusha’s face.
“Why--why, yes,” he said. “I suppose everything is wrong. I should have
expected it to be, of course. I--I did, but--ah--for a little while I
was--ah--foolish and--and hoped. It is quite all right, Cousin Gussie,
absolutely so. She said it was--ah--impossible. Of course it is. She is
quite right. Oh, quite.”

Cabot caught his meaning. “Do you mean to say,” he demanded, “that you
asked that--that Phipps woman to marry you and she REFUSED?”

“Eh? Oh, yes, she refused. I told you she would not think of such a
thing. That is exactly what she said; it was impossible, she could not
think of it.”

“Well, confound her impudence!... Oh, all right, Galusha, all right. I
beg your pardon--and hers. But, really--”

Galusha stopped him. “Cousin Gussie,” he said, “if you don’t mind I
think I won’t talk about it any more. You will excuse me, won’t you?
I shall be all right, quite all right--after I--ah--after a time, you
know.”

“Where are you going now?”

“Eh? Oh, I don’t know. Just somewhere, that’s all. Good-by, Cousin
Gussie.”

He turned and walked on again, his hands clasped behind his back and his
head bent. Cabot watched him for several minutes, then, entirely upon
impulse and without stopping to consider, he began what was, as he said
afterwards, either the craziest or the most inspired performance of
his life. He walked straight to the Phipps’ gate and up the walk to the
Phipps’ door. His chauffeur called to him that the car was ready, but he
did not answer.

Primmie opened the door in answer to his knock. Yes, Miss Martha was
in the sitting room, she said. “But, my savin’ soul, what are you doin’
back here, Mr. Cabot? Has the automobile blowed up?”

He did not satisfy her curiosity. Instead, he knocked on the door of the
sitting room and, when Miss Phipps called to him to come in, he obeyed,
closing the door behind him. She was sitting by the window and her
sewing was in her lap. Yet he was almost certain she had not been
sewing. Her face was very grave and, although he could not see
distinctly, for the afternoon was cloudy and the room rather dark, it
seemed to him that there was a peculiar look about her eyes. She, like
her maid, was surprised to see him again.

“Why, Mr. Cabot,” she cried, rising, “what is it? Has something
happened?”

He plunged headfirst into the business that had brought him there. It
was the sort of business which, if approached with cool deliberation,
was extremely likely never to be transacted.

“Miss Phipps,” he said, “I came back here on an impulse. I have
something I want to say to you. In a way it isn’t my affair at all
and you will probably consider my mentioning it a piece of brazen
interference. But--well, there is a chance that my interfering now may
prevent a very serious mistake--a grave mistake for two people--so I am
going to take the risk. Miss Phipps, I just met my cousin and he gave me
to understand that you had refused his offer of marriage.”

He paused, momentarily, but she did not speak. Her expression said a
good many things, however, and he hurried on in order to have his say
before she could have hers.

“I came here on my own responsibility,” he explained. “Please don’t
think that he has the slightest idea I am here. He is, as you know, the
mildest person on earth, but I’m not at all sure he wouldn’t shoot me if
he knew what I came to say to you. Miss Phipps, if you possibly can do
so I earnestly hope you will reconsider your answer to Galusha Bangs.
He is very fond of you, he would make you a kind, generous husband, and,
honestly, I think you are just the sort of wife he needs.”

She spoke then, not as if she had meant to, but more as if the words
were involuntarily forced from her by shock.

“You--you think I am the sort of wife he needs?” she gasped. “_I_?”

“Yes, you. Precisely the sort.”

“For--for HIM. YOU think so?”

“Yes. Now, of course, if you do not--er--care for him, if you could not
think of him as a husband--oh, hang it, I don’t know how to put it, but
you know what I mean. If you don’t WANT to marry him then that is your
business altogether and you are right in saying no. But if you SHOULD
care for him and refused him because you may have thought there was
any--er--unsuitability--er--unfitness--oh, the devil, I don’t know what
to call it--if you thought there was too large an element of that in the
match, then I beg of you to reconsider, that’s all. He needs you.”

“Needs me? Needs ME?... Oh--oh, you must be crazy!”

“Not a bit of it. He needs you. You have all the qualities, common
sense, practicability, everything he hasn’t got. It is for his sake I’m
asking this, Miss Phipps. I truly believe you have the making or marring
of his future in your hands--now. That is why I hope you will--well,
change your mind.... There! I have said it. Thank you for listening.
Good-day.”

He turned to the door. She spoke once more. “Oh, you MUST be jokin’!”
 she cried. “How CAN you say such things? His people--his family--”

“Family? Oh... well, I’ll tell you the truth about that. When he
was young he had altogether too much family. Now he hasn’t any,
really--except myself, and I have expressed my opinion. Good-by, Miss
Phipps.”

He went out. Martha slowly went back to her rocking-chair and sat down.
A moment later she heard the roar of the engine as the Cabot car got
under way. The sound died away in the distance. Martha rose and went
up the stairs to her own room. There she sat down once more and
thought--and thought.

Some time later she heard her lodger’s footstep--how instantly she
recognized it--in the hall and then in his bedroom. He was in that room
but a short time, then she heard him go down the stairs again. Perhaps
ten minutes afterward Primmie knocked. She wished permission to go down
to the village.

“I just thought maybe I’d go down to the meetin’ house,” explained
Primmie. “They’re goin’ to have a Sunday school concert this afternoon
at four o’clock. Zach he said he was cal’latin’ to go. And besides,
Mr. Bangs he give me this letter to leave to the telegraph office, Miss
Martha.”

“The telegraph office isn’t open on Sundays, Primmie.”

“No’m, I know ‘tain’t. But Ras Beebe he takes care of all the telegraphs
there is and telephones ‘em over to Denboro, where the telegraph place
IS open Sundays.”

“Oh, all right, Primmie, you may go. Is Mr. Bangs in?”

“No’m, he ain’t. He’s gone out somewheres. To walk, I cal’late. Last I
see of him he was moonin’ along over towards the lighthouse way.”

Primmie departed and Martha, alone in the gathering dimness of the
afternoon, resumed her thinking. It was an endless round, that thinking
of hers--but, of course, it could end in but one way. Even to wish such
things was wicked. For his sake, that was what Mr. Cabot had said. Ah,
yes, but it was for his sake that she must remain firm.

A big drop of rain splashed, and exploded like a miniature watery
bombshell, against the windowpane. Martha looked up. Then she became
aware of a faint tinkling in the room below. The telephone bell was
ringing.

She hurried downstairs and put the receiver to her ear. It was Mr. Beebe
speaking and he wished to ask something concerning a message which had
been left in his care by Primmie Cash.

“It’s signed by that Mr. Galushy Bangs of yours,” explained Erastus.
“I’ve got to ‘phone it to the telegraph office and there’s a word in it
I can’t make out. Maybe you could help me, Martha, long’s Bangs isn’t
there. ‘Tain’t nothin’ private, I don’t cal’late. I’ll read it to you if
you want I should.”

He began to read without waiting for permission. The message was
addressed to the Board of Directors of the National Institute at
Washington, D. C., and began like this:

“Deeply regret necessity of refusing your generous and flattering offer
to lead--”

It was just here that Mr. Beebe’s ability to decipher the Bangs’
handwriting broke down.

“I can’t make out the next word, Martha,” he said. “It begins with an
F, but the rest of it ain’t nothin’ but a string of kinks. It’s all head
and no tail, that word is.”

“What does it look like?”

“Hey? Looks like a whiplash or an eel, more’n anything else. It might be
‘epizootic’ or--or--‘eclipsin’’--or--The word after it ain’t very plain
neither, but I kind of think that it’s ‘expedition.’”

“‘Expedition’? Is the word you can’t make out ‘Egyptian’?”

“Hey?... ‘Egyptian?’ Well, I snum, I guess ‘tis! ‘Egyptian.’ . . .
Humph! I never thought of that. I--”

“Read me the whole of that telegram, Erastus. Read it.”

Mr. Beebe read it. “Deeply regret necessity of refusing your generous
and flattering offer to lead Egyptian expedition. Do not feel equal to
the work. Decision final. Will write.--Galusha Bangs.”

Martha’s hand shook as it held the receiver to her ear. He had refused
the greatest honor of his life. He had declined to carry out the
wonderful “plan” concerning which he and she had so often speculated....
And she knew why he had refused.

“Erastus! Ras!” she called. “Hello, Ras! Hold that telegram. Don’t send
it yet. Do you hear?”

Mr. Beebe’s voice expressed his surprise. “Why, yes, Martha,” he said,
“I hear. But I don’t know. You see, Mr. Bangs, he sent a note along with
the telegram sayin’ he wanted it rushed.”

“Never mind. You hold it until you hear from me again--or from him. Yes,
I’ll take all the responsibility. Erastus Beebe, don’t you send that
telegram.”

She hung up the receiver and hurried to the outer door. Galusha was
nowhere in sight. Then she remembered that Primmie had said he had gone
toward the lighthouse. She threw a knitted scarf over her shoulders,
seized an umbrella from the rack--for the walk showed broad splashes
where drops of rain had fallen--and started in search of him. She had
no definite plan. She was acting as entirely upon impulse as Cabot
had acted in seeking their recent interview; but of one thing she was
determined--he should not wreck his career if she, in any way, could
prevent it.

She reached the gate of the government property, but she did not open
it. She was certain he would not be in the light keeper’s cottage; she
seemed to have an intuition as to where he was, and, turning, followed
the path along the edge of the bluff. She followed it for perhaps three
hundred yards, then she saw him. He was sitting upon a knoll, his hands
clasped about his knees. The early dusk of the gloomy afternoon was
rapidly closing in, the raindrops were falling more thickly, but he did
not seem to realize these facts, or, if he did, to care. He sat there, a
huddled little bundle of misery, and her heart went out to him.

He did not hear her approach. She came and stood beside him.

“Mr. Bangs,” she said.

Then he looked up, saw her, and scrambled to his feet.

“Why--why, Miss Martha!” he exclaimed. “I did not see you--ah--hear you,
I mean. What is it? Is anything wrong?”

She nodded. She found it very hard to speak and, when she did do so, her
voice was shaky.

“Yes,” she said, “there is. Somethin’ very wrong. Why did you telegraph
the Institute folks that you wouldn’t accept their offer?... Oh, I found
it out. Ras Beebe couldn’t get one word in your message and he read it
to me over the ‘phone. But that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t count. Why
did you refuse, Mr. Bangs?”

He put his hand to his forehead. “I--I am sorry if it troubled you,”
 he said. “I didn’t mean for you to know it--ah--yet. I refused
because--well, because I did not care to accept. The--the whole thing
did not appeal to me, somehow. I have lost interest in it--ah--quite.
Dear me, yes--quite.”

“Lost interest! In Egypt? In such a wonderful chance as this gives you?
Oh, you can’t! You mustn’t!”

He sighed and then smiled. “It does seem queer, doesn’t it?” he
admitted. “Yet it is quite true. I have lost interest. I don’t seem to
care even for Egypt. Now that is very odd.”

“But--but if you refuse this what WILL you do?”

He smiled again. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t seem to care. But it
is quite all right, Miss Martha. Really it is. I--I wouldn’t have you
think--Oh, dear, no!”

“But what WILL you do? Tell me.”

“I don’t know. No doubt I shall do something. One has to do that, I
suppose. It is only that--” Then, as a new thought came to him, he
turned to her in alarm. “Oh, of course,” he cried, hastily, “I sha’n’t
remain here. Please don’t think I intend imposing upon you longer. I
shall go--ah--at once--to-morrow--ah almost immediately. You have been
extremely kind and long-suffering already and--and--”

She interrupted. “Don’t!” she said, hurriedly. “Don’t! Mr. Bangs, have
you truly made up your mind not to go to Egypt with that expedition?
Won’t you PLEASE do it, if I beg you to?”

He slowly shook his head.

“It is like you,” he said, “to take such an interest, but, if--if you
don’t mind, I had rather not. I can’t. Really, I--ah--can’t. It--Well,
the thought of it--ah--repels me. Please don’t ask me, Miss Martha,
because--I can’t.”

She hesitated. Then she said, “Would you go if I went with you?”

He had been looking, not at her, but at the sea. Now he slowly turned.

“Why--why--” he stammered. “Why, Miss--Oh, dear me, you don’t--you can’t
mean--”

She shook her head. “I suppose I mean anything,” she said, “anything
that will stop you from throwin’ away your life work.”

He was very pale and his eyes were fixed upon her face. “Do you mean--”
 he began, “do you mean you could--you would marry me?”

She shook her head again. “I think I must be crazy,” she said,
desperately. “I think we all must be, your cousin as well as the rest of
us. He came to me a little while ago and asked me to--to say yes to you.
HE did! He, of all people! The--the very one that I--I--”

“Yes, yes, yes, of course.” Galusha was trembling with eagerness. “Yes,
of course. Cousin Gussie is an extraordinarily able man. He approves of
it highly. He told me so.”

She scarcely heard him. “Oh, don’t you see,” she went on, “why it would
be wicked for me to think of such a thing? You are a great man, a famous
man; you have been everywhere and seen everything; I haven’t had any
real education, any that counts besides yours; I haven’t been anywhere;
I am just a country old maid. Oh, you would be ashamed of me in a
month.... No, no, no, I mustn’t. I won’t.”

“But, Miss Martha--”

“No. Oh, no!”

She turned away. Galusha had what was, for him, an amazing and
unprecedented inspiration.

“Very well,” he declared. “I shall go to--to the devil, I think. Yes, I
will. I shall give away my money, all of it, and go to the devil.”

It was absurd enough, but the absurdity of it did not strike either of
them then.

“Oh, WON’T you go to Egypt?” she begged. “Won’t you, PLEASE?”

He was firm. “No,” he declared. “Not unless you go with me. Ah--ah--Miss
Martha, will you?”

She hesitated, wrung her hands--and surrendered. “Oh, I suppose I shall
have to,” she said.

He did not dare believe it.

“But--but I don’t want you to have to,” he cried. “YOU mustn’t marry me
for--for Egypt, Miss Martha. Of course, it is too much to ask; no
doubt it is quite impossible, but you--you mustn’t marry me unless you
really--ah--want to.”

And then a very astonishing thing happened. Martha turned to him, and
tears were in her eyes.

“Oh,” she cried, breathlessly, “do you suppose there is a woman in this
world who wouldn’t want to marry a man like YOU?”



After a while they discovered that it was raining. As a matter of fact,
it had been raining for some time and was now raining hard, but as
Galusha said, it didn’t make a bit of difference, really. They put up
the umbrella, which until now had been quite forgotten, and walked home
along the wet path, between the dripping weeds and bushes. It was almost
dark and, as they passed the lighthouse, the great beacon blazed from
the tower.

Galusha was babbling like a brook, endlessly but joyful.

“Miss Martha--” he began. Then he laughed aloud, a laugh of
sheer happiness. “It--it just occurred to me,” he exclaimed. “How
extraordinary I didn’t think of it before. I sha’n’t have to call you
Miss Martha now, shall I? It is very wonderful, isn’t it? Dear me, yes!
Very wonderful!”

Martha laughed, too. “I’m afraid other people are goin’ to think it is
very ridiculous,” she said. “And perhaps it is. Two middle-aged, settled
folks like us startin’ up all at once and gettin’ married. I know I
should laugh if it was anybody else.”

But Galusha stoutly maintained there was nothing ridiculous about it. It
was wonderful, that was all.

“Besides,” he declared, “we are not old; we are just beginning to be
young, you and I. Personally, I feel as if I could jump over a bush and
annihilate a--ah--June bug, as Luce did that night when we went out to
see the moon.”

Luce himself was at the door waiting to be let in. He regarded the pair
with the air of condescending boredom which the feline race assumes when
confronted with the idiosyncrasies of poor humanity. Possibly he was
reflecting that, at least, he knew enough to go in when it rained.
Martha opened the door, but Galusha paused for a moment on the
threshold.

“Do you know,” he said, “that, except--ah--occasionally, in wet weather,
it scarcely ever rains in Egypt?”



CHAPTER XXIV


(A letter from Mrs. Galusha Bangs to Miss Lulie Hallett.)


Shepheard’s Hotel, Cairo, Egypt, February tenth.

MY DEAR LULIE:

Well, as you can see by this hotel letter paper, here we are, actually
here. Of course we are only a little way toward where we are going, but
this is Egypt, and I am beginning to believe it. Of course, I can’t yet
quite believe it is really truly me that is doing these wonderful things
and seeing these wonderful places. About every other morning still I
wake up and think what a splendid dream I have had and wonder if it
isn’t time for me to call Primmie and see about getting breakfast. And
then it comes to me that it isn’t a dream at all and that I don’t have
to get up unless I want to, that I don’t have to do anything unless I
want to, and that everything a sensible person could possibly want to do
I CAN do, and have a free conscience besides, which is considerable.
I don’t mean that I lay a-bed much later than I used to. I never could
abide not getting up at a regular time, and so half past seven generally
finds me ready to go down to breakfast. But, oh, it is a tremendous
satisfaction to think that I could sleep later if I ever should want to.
Although, of course, I can’t conceive of my ever wanting to.

Well, I mustn’t fill this whole letter with nonsense about the time I
get up in the morning. There is so much to write about that I don’t know
where to begin. I do wish you could see this place, Lulie. I wish you
could be here now looking out of my room window at the crowds in the
street. I could fill a half dozen pages telling you about the clothes
the people wear, although I must say that I have seen some whose clothes
could be all told about in one sentence, and not a very long sentence
at that. But you see all kinds of clothes, uniforms, and everyday things
such as we wear, and robes and fezzes and turbans and I don’t know what.
You know what a fez is, of course. It’s shaped like a brown-bread tin
and they wear it little end up with a tassel hanging down. And turbans!
To me, when I used to see pictures of people wearing turbans, they were
just pictures, that’s all. It didn’t seem as if any one actually tied up
the top of their head in a white sheet and went parading around looking
like a stick with a snowball stuck on the end of it. But they do, and
most of them look as dignified as can be, in spite of the snowball. And
I have seen camels, quantities of them, and donkeys, and, oh, yes, about
a million dogs, not one of them worth anything and perfectly contented
to be that way. And dirt! Oh, Lulie, I didn’t believe there was as much
dirt in all creation as there is in just one of the back streets over
here. Galusha asked me the other day if I didn’t wish I could go into
one of the houses and see how the people lived; he meant the poor
people. I told him no, not if he ever expected me to get anywhere else.
If the inside of one of those houses was like the outside, I was sure
and certain that I should send for a case of soap and a hundred barrels
of hot water and stay there scrubbing the rest of my life. And, oh, yes,
I have seen the Pyramids.

Of course, you want to know how I got along on the long voyage over. I
wrote you a few lines from Gibraltar telling you a little about that. I
wasn’t seasick a single bit. I think it must be in our blood, this being
able to keep well and happy on salt water. Our family has always been to
sea, as far back as my great-great-grandfather, at least, and I suppose
that explains why, as soon as I stepped aboard the steamer, I felt as
if I was where I belonged. And Galusha, of course, has traveled so much
that he is a good sailor, too. So, no matter whether it was calm or
blowy, he and I walked decks or sat in the lee somewhere and talked of
all that had happened and of what was going to happen. And, Lulie, I
realized over and over, as I have been realizing ever since I agreed
to marry him, what a wonderful man he is and what a happy and grateful
woman I ought to be--and am, you may be sure of that. Every day I make
a little vow to myself that I will do my best not to make him ashamed of
me. Of course, no matter what I did he would think it all right, but I
mean to prevent other people from being ashamed for him. That is, if I
can, but I have so much to learn.

You should see how he is treated over here, by the very finest people,
I mean. It seems to me that every scientist or explorer or professor of
this or that from China to London has been running after him, all those
that happen to be in this part of the world, I mean. And always he is
just the same quiet, soft-spoken, gentle person he was at the Cape, but
it is plain to see that when it comes to matters about his particular
profession, my husband is known and respected everywhere. Perhaps you
will think, Lulie, that I am showing off a little when I write “my
husband” like that. Well, I shouldn’t wonder if I was. Nobody could help
being proud of him.

I had a trial the other evening. That is, it seemed as if it would be
the greatest trial that ever I had to face and my, how I dreaded it. Sir
Ernest Brindlecombe, an English scientist, and, so Galusha says, a very
great man, indeed, is here with his wife, and they have known Galusha
for years. So nothing would do but we must come to their house to
dinner. He is in the English government service and they have a
wonderful home, more like a palace than a house--that is, what I have
always supposed a palace must be like. I felt as if I COULDN’T go, but
Galusha had accepted already, so what was there to do?

Of course, you are wondering what I wore. Well, as I wrote you from
Washington, I had bought a lot of new things. The wife of Professor
Lounsbury, at the Institute, helped me pick them out, and oh, what
should I have done without her! Galusha, of course, would have rigged
me up like the Queen of Sheba, if he had had his way. I tried going
shopping with him at first, but I had to give it up. Every pretty dress
he saw, no matter if it was about as fitting for my age and weight as a
pink lace cap would be for a cow, he wanted to buy it right off. If the
price was high enough, that seemed to be the only thing that counted in
his mind. I may as well say right here, Lulie, that I have learned
by this time, when he and I do go shopping together, to carry the
pocketbook myself. In that way we can manage to bring home something,
even if it is only enough to buy a postage stamp.

But I am wandering, as usual. You want to know about the dinner at the
Brindlecombes’. Well, thanks to Mrs. Lounsbury’s help and judgment, I
had two dresses to pick from, two that seemed right for such a grand
affair as I was afraid this was going to be. And I picked out a black
silk, trimmed--

(Two pages of Mrs. Bangs’ letter are omitted here)

There is more of it at the top and bottom than there was to a whole lot
of evening gowns I have seen, on the steamer and in Washington, but I
can’t help that. I guess I am old-fashioned and countrified, but it
does seem to me that the place to wear a bathing suit is in the water,
especially for a person of my age. However, it is a real sensible and
rich-looking dress, even if it is simple, and I think you would like it.
At any rate, I put it on and Galusha got into his dress suit, after I
had helped him find the vest, and stopped him from putting one gold stud
and two pearl ones in his shirt. HE didn’t notice, bless him, he was
thinking of everything but what he was doing at the minute, as he always
is.

So, both in our best bibs and tuckers, and all taut and ready for the
sea, as father would have said, we were driven over to the Brindlecombe
house, or palace, whichever you call it. Mr. Brindlecombe--or Sir Ernest
I suppose he should be called, although _I_ never remembered to do
it, but called him Mr. Brindlecombe the whole evening--was a fleshy,
bald-headed man, who looked the veriest little bit like Mr. Dearborn,
the Congregational minister at Denboro, and was as pleasant and jolly as
could be. His wife was a white-haired little lady, dressed plainly--the
expensive kind of plainness, you know--and with a diamond pin that
was about as wonderful as anything I ever saw. And I kept thinking
to myself: “Oh, what SHALL I say to you? What on EARTH shall we talk
about?” and not getting any answer from myself, either.

But I needn’t have worried. She was just as sweet and gentle and
every-day as any one could be, and pretty soon it came out that we both
loved flowers. That was enough, of course, and so while Mr. Sir Ernest
and Galusha were mooning along together about “dynasties” and “papyri”
 and “sphinxes” and “Ptolemies” and “hieroglyphics” and mummies and mercy
knows what, his wife and I were having a lovely time growing roses and
dahlias and lilies. She told me a new way to keep geranium roots alive
for months after taking them up. She learned it from her gardener and if
ever I get a chance I am going to try it. Well, Lulie, instead of
having a dreadful time I enjoyed every minute of it, and yesterday Mrs.
Brindlecombe--Lady Brindlecombe, I suppose she really is--came and took
me to drive. We shopped and had a glorious afternoon. I presume likely
I said “Mercy me” and “Goodness gracious” as often as I usually do and
that they sounded funny to her. But she said “My word” and “Fancy”
 and they sounded just as funny to me. And it didn’t make a bit of
difference.

There was one thing that came from our dinner at the Brindlecombes’
which I must tell you, because it is so very like this blessed husband
of mine. I happened to speak of Mrs. Brindlecombe’s pin, the wonderful
one I just wrote about. The very next day Galusha came trotting in,
bubbling over with mischief and mystery like the boy he is in so many
things, and handed me a jeweler’s box. When I opened it there was a
platinum brooch with a diamond in it as big--honestly, Lulie, I believe
it was as big as my thumbnail, or two thirds as big, anyway. This
husband of mine had, so he told me, made up his mind that nobody’s wife
should own a more wonderful pin than HIS wife owned. “Because,” he
said, “nobody else has such a wonderful wife, you know. Dear me, no. No,
indeed.”

Well, I almost cried at first, and then I set about thinking how I could
get him to change the pin and do it without hurting his feelings. As for
wearing it--why, Lulie, I would have looked like the evening train just
coming up to the depot platform. That diamond flashed like the Gould’s
Bluffs light. The sight of it would have made Zach Bloomer feel at home.
And when I found out what it cost! My soul and body! Well, I used all
the brains I had and strained them a little, I’m afraid, but at last
I made him understand that perhaps something a tiny bit smaller would
look, when I wore it in the front of my dress, a little less like a
bonfire on a hill and we went back to the jewelry store together. The
upshot of it was that I have a brooch--lots smaller, of course--and a
ring, either of which is far, far too grand for a plain woman like me,
and which I shall wear only on the very stateliest of state occasions
and NEVER, I think, both at the same time, and I saved Galusha a good
many dollars besides.

So, you see, Lulie, that he is the same impractical, absent-minded, dear
little man he was down there in East Wellmouth, even though he is such
a famous scientist and discoverer. I think I got the best salve for
my conscience from knowing that, otherwise I should always feel that I
never should have let him marry me. In most respects I am not a bit
the wife he should have, but I hope I am of some use in his practical
affairs and that at last I can keep him from being imposed upon. I try.
For instance, on the steamer his cap blew overboard. I wish you could
have seen the cap the ship’s steward sold him. The thing he bought at
Ras Beebe’s store was stylish and subdued compared to it. And I wish you
could have seen that steward when I got through talking to him. Every
day smooth-talking scamps, who know him by reputation, come with schemes
for getting him to invest in something, or with pitiful tales about
being Americans stranded far away from home. I take care of these sharks
and they don’t bite me, not often. I told one shabby, red-nosed rascal
yesterday that, so far as he was concerned, no doubt it was tough to be
stranded with no way of getting to the States, as he called them; but
that I hadn’t heard yet how the States felt about it. So I help Galusha
with money matters and see that he dresses as he should and eats what
and when he should, and try, with Professor King, his chief assistant
with the expedition, to keep his mind from worry about little things. He
seems very happy and I certainly mean to keep him so, if I can.

We talk about you and Nelson and Captain Jethro every day. The news in
your last letter, the one we found at Gibraltar, was perfectly splendid.
So you are to be married in June. And Galusha and I can’t come to your
wedding; that is a shame. By the time we get back you will be so long
settled in the cottage at the radio station that it won’t seem new at
all to you. But it will be very new to us and we shall just love to see
it and the new furniture and your presents and everything. We both think
your father’s way of taking it perfectly splendid. I am glad he still
won’t have a word to say to Marietta Hoag or her crowd of simpletons.
Galusha says to tell your father that he must not feel in the least
obliged to him for his help in exposing Marietta as a cheat. He says it
was very good fun, really, and didn’t amount to much, anyway. You and I
know it did, of course, but he always talks that way about anything he
does. And your thanks and Captain Jethro’s pleased him very much.

Primmie writes that...

(A page omitted. See Primmie’s letter.)

Please keep an eye on her and see that she doesn’t set fire to the house
or feed the corn to the cat and the liver to the hens, or some such
foolishness. And don’t let her talk you deaf, dumb and blind.

There! this letter is so long that I think it will have to go in a
trunk, by express or freight or something. One week more and we
start for upper Egypt, by water, up the Nile, at first, then on by
automobiles. Yes, little American automobiles. Galusha says we shall
use camels very little, for which I say “Hurrah, hurrah!” I cannot see
myself navigating a camel--not for long, and it IS such a high perch
to fall from. Our love to you and Nelson and to your father. And oh, so
very much to yourself. And we DO wish we might come to your wedding.
We shall be there in spirit--and that doesn’t mean Marietta’s kind of
spirits, either.

Your affectionate friend,

MARTHA BANGS.


(A letter from Miss Primrose Cash to Mrs. Galusha Bangs.)


East Wellmouth, Massachusetts, United States of America. January
seventh.

DEAR MRS. MARTHA:

I take my pen in hand to write that I am first rate and fine and dandy
and hope you and Mr. Galusha are the same, although I am homesick for
the sight of you and hope you ain’t. I mean homesick. By this time I
calculate you must be somewheres over in Egypt or Greek or China or land
knows where. I am sending this letter to the address you give me and if
you don’t get it before you get there you will then, I hope and trust.
And I hope, too, you had a good voyage and was not washed overboard or
seasick like Captain Ephraim Small’s son, Frankie D., who had it happen
to him up on the fish banks, you remember. I mean the washing overboard
happened to him for, of course, I don’t know whether he was seasick or
not, though I presume likely, for I always am, no matter if it’s carm
as a milpond, but anyhow they never found his body, poor soul. I presume
likely you want to hear the news from around here at East Wellmouth.
Well, there ain’t none, but I will try and tell all there is that I
can think of. The hens are well and Lucy Larkum is fine and dandy and
appytite, my savin’ soul. I tell him he will eat me out of house and
home, though I realize it ain’t neither of them mine, but yours, Mrs.
Martha. Captain Jethro is doing fine. For a spell after the seants where
your husband made a fool out of Maryetter Hoag and Raish Pulcifer to
thank the Lord, he was reel kind of feeble and Lulie and me and Zach was
worried. But he is swell now and all hands is talking about his making
up with Nelse Howard and agreeing for him and Lulie to get married and
live over to the Radyo stashun pretty soon I presume likely, for the
weding is to be held in June so Zach says. At first go off, Captain Jeth
he calculated maybe he would heave up, I mean his job tending light,
and go live along with them, but after he got feeling better he said he
wouldent but would stick to the ship and keep on the course long as he
could stay aflote. That’s what Zach says he said and I tell you I am
mity glad, because if I was Lulie and Nelse I wouldent want anybody even
if it was my own father coming to live along with me and bossing things,
because Captain Jeth couldent no more stop bossing than he could stop
pulling his whiskers and he won’t never stop that long as he ain’t
parulised. So he will live here along with Zach and them two will tend
light and Lulie can come over and see her pa every little spell and they
can telyfone back and forth between times. And she and Nelse have been
up to Boston to pick out fernichure and ain’t they enjoying it, my lord
of isryel. Lulie is about as loony over getting married as ever I see
anybody unless it was you and Mr. Bangs, Mrs. Martha. I seen Raish
Pulcifer down street yesterday and he said give you his love when I
wrote. I told him I guessed likely you could get along without any
special love of his and he said never mind I could keep it myself then.
I told him I could get along without it a considerable sight bettern
I could with it. He is as sassy and fresh as ever and more so to on
account of Mr. Cabot paying him so much money for his stock. And the new
hotel is going to be bilt over on the land by the Crick and all hands
says it’s going to be the best in the state. Raish has got a whole new
rigout of clothes and goes struting around as if everything was due to
his smartness. Zach says Raish Pulcifer is running for the job of first
mate to the Allmighty but he don’t hardly calculate he will be elected.
Maryetter Hoag is going to heave up speritulism so Tamson Black told
me she heard and going to help in a millunary store over to Onset next
summer. Maybe it’s so and maybe it ain’t, because Tamson is such an
awful liar you can’t depend on nothing she says. Zach says if an eel
tried to follow one of Tamson’s yarns he would get his backboan in
such a snarl it would choak him to death. And Zach says he calculates
Maryetter will take little Cherry Blossom in silent partener. Zach comes
over to see me sometimes nights after supper and we set in the kitchen
and talk and talk about you and Mr. Galusha mostly, but about Lulie and
Nelse and Captain Jeth, too, and about everybody else we happen to run
afoul of or that comes handy. Zach is real good company, although he
does call me Posy and Pink and Geranyum and dear land knows what and
keeps his talk agoing so nobody else can’t scarcely get a word in
between breaths. He says tell you that he will keep a weather eye on
me and see that I didn’t get the lockjor nor swallow my mouthorgan nor
nothing. I tell him nobody could get lockjor where he was on account of
watching how he keeps his own jor agoing. He means well but he is kind
of ignorant Zach is. Speaking of weather reminds me that the northeast
gale we had last week blowed the trellis off the back part of the house
and ripped the gutter off the starboard side of the barn. I had Jim
Fletcher put it on again and he charged me three dollars, the old skin.
I ain’t paid him yet and he can whisle for his money till he whisles one
dollar off the bill anyhow. There, Mrs. Martha, I have got to stop. Luce
is around screeching and carrying on for his dinner till you would think
he hadent had anything for a month instead of only since breakfast. I
will write again pretty soon. Lots of love to you and Mr. Bangs and do
tell me when you go to ride on a camel. That would be some sight, I will
say, and Zach he says so, too, but he bets you can do it if you set
out to and so do I. Anyhow, you can if Mr. Galusha skippers the cruise
because that man can do anything. And to think that I used to calculate
he had the dropsy or was a undertaker or a plain fool or something.
Well, you can’t never tell by a person’s looks, can you, Mrs. Martha.
Zach says so, too.

Yours truly,

PRIMROSE CASH.

P.S. Have you seen Mr. Bangs dig up any mummies yet? How he can do it
and keep out of jale, my saving soul, I don’t know. To say nothing of
maybe catching whatever it was they died of.

P.S. Won’t you please try and see if you can’t have a tintype took when
you ride the camel and send me one?


(Extracts from a letter from Mr. Galusha Bangs to Mr. Augustus Cabot.)


. . . And so, as you see, Cousin Gussie, we are getting on well with
the work of preparation and shall be ready to leave soon. Our excavating
this season will be but preliminary, of course owing to our late start.
I am enjoying it all immensely and it is wonderfully exhilarating and
inspiring to be back once more in the field. But my greatest inspiration
is my wife. She is a remarkable woman. A most extraordinary woman,
I assure you. How in the world I managed to exist without her
companionship and guidance and amazingly practical help all these
years I cannot imagine. And I did not really exist, of course, I merely
blundered along. She is--well, I really despair of telling you how
wonderful she is. And when I think how much of my present happiness I
owe to you, Cousin Gussie, I...

             *      *      *      *      *

But the greatest miracle, the miraculousness--I don’t know there is such
a word, but there should be--of which sets me wondering continually, is
that she should have been willing to marry an odd, inconsequential sort
of stick like me. And I find myself saying over and over: “WHAT have I
ever done to deserve it?...”


Mr. Cabot was reading the letter from which these extracts were made to
a relative, a Miss Deborah Cabot, known to him and the family as “Third
Cousin Deborah.” At this point in the reading he looked up and laughed.

“By Jove!” he exclaimed. “Isn’t that characteristic? Isn’t that like
him? Well, I told him once that he was magnificent. And he is, not as I
meant it then, but literally.”

Third Cousin Deborah sniffed through her thin nostrils. “Well, perhaps,”
 she admitted, “but such a performance as this marriage of his is a
little too much. _I_ can’t understand him, Augustus. I confess he is
quite beyond ME.”

Cabot smiled. “In many things--and possibly the things that count most,
after all, Deborah,” he observed, “I have come to the conclusion that
old Galusha is far beyond the majority of us.”





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