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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGalusha The Magnificent - Chapter 21
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 21 Post by :emailsuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :1718

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 21

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.

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