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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGalusha The Magnificent - Chapter 18
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 18 Post by :emailsuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :938

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 18

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.

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 19 Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 19

Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 19
CHAPTER XIXFor 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
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 17
CHAPTER XVIIGalusha 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
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