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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGalusha The Magnificent - Chapter 23
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 23 Post by :emailsuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :3645

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 23

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?"

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