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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGalusha The Magnificent - Chapter 7
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 7 Post by :takabull Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :935

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 7

CHAPTER VII

The announcement exploded like a bomb in the midst of the little group in the light keeper's sitting room. Lulie turned a trifle pale and looked worried and alarmed. Martha uttered an exclamation, dropped the window shade and turned toward her young friend. Mr. Bangs looked from one to the other and was plainly very anxious to help in some way but not certain how to begin. Of the four Nelson Howard, the one most concerned, appeared least disturbed. It was he who spoke first and his tone was brisk and businesslike.

"Well, Lulie," he said, "what do you want me to do? Shall I stay and face it out? I don't mind. There's nothing for us to be ashamed of, you know."

But Lulie shook her head. "Oh, no, no, Nelson," she cried, "you mustn't. You had better go, right away. There will be a scene, and with all those people here--"

Miss Phipps put in a word. "But perhaps Nelson's right, after all, Lulie," she said. "There is no reason in the world why he shouldn't come to see you, and maybe he and Cap'n Jeth might as well have a plain understandin' now as any time."

Miss Hallett's agitation increased. "Oh, no," she cried, again. "Don't you see it mustn't happen, on father's account? You know how he--you know how excited and--and almost violent he gets when any one crosses him nowadays. I'm afraid something might happen to him. I'm afraid. Please go, Nelson, for my sake."

The young man nodded. "Of course, Lulie," he declared. "You're perfectly right. I'm off. Good-night."

He was hastening toward the dining room door, but Primmie, dancing up and down like a jumping jack, barred his way.

"No, no, no," she squealed, "you can't--you can't. They're almost to the door now. He'll catch you sure. He WILL. Oh, my Lord of Isrul!"

Sure enough, the latch of the door leading from the side porch to the dining room was rattling at that moment. Fortunately the door itself was hooked on the inside. Nelson hesitated.

"Humph!" he grunted. "Could I get through to the kitchen and out that way, do you think, Zach?"

"Godfreys, no! Not with them winder curtains strung up higher'n Haman the way they be. No, no! Godfreys!"

Martha stepped across the sitting room and flung open another door on the opposite side. As she did so there sounded a prodigious thumping from the side porch and the bull-like voice of Captain Hallett bellowed his daughter's name.

"Go let 'em in, Lulie," whispered Martha. "I'll look out for things here. Quick, Nelson, out this way, through the front hall and out the front door. QUICK!"

Captain Jeth was accompanying his shouts by thumping upon the side of the house. Lulie, after one desperate glance at her lover, hurried to the dining room. Young Howard hesitated a moment.

"My hat and coat?" he whispered. "Where are they?"

They were hanging in the entry upon the door of which the captain was thumping. Zach hastened to get them, but before he reached the dining room they heard the outer door open and Jeth's voice demanding to know why Lulie had kept him waiting so long. Nelson, with a somewhat rueful smile and a wave of the hand to Martha and Galusha, dodged into the blackness of the front hall. Miss Phipps closed the door after him. The conspirators looked at each other. Primmie's mouth opened but the expansive hand of Mr. Bloomer promptly covered it and the larger part of her face as well.

"This ain't no time to holler about your savin' soul," whispered Zacheus, hoarsely. "This is the time to shut up. And KEEP shut up. You be still, Dandelion!"

Primmie obeyed orders and was still. But even if she had shrieked it is doubtful if any one in the dining room could have heard her. The "ghost seiners," quoting from Mr. Bloomer, were pouring through the entry and, as all were talking at once, the clatter of tongues would have drowned out any shriek of ordinary volume. A moment later the Halletts, father and daughter, led the way into the sitting room. Lulie's first procedure was to glance quickly about the apartment. A look of relief crossed her face and she and Martha Phipps exchanged glances.

"Father has--he has come back," was her somewhat superfluous explanation. Captain Jethro noted the superfluity.

"Cal'late they can see that for themselves, Lulie," he observed. "How are you, Martha? Evenin', Mr. Bangs. Everything all right about the light, Zach?"

"Ay, ay, sir," was Mr. Bloomer's nautical reply. The captain grunted.

"Better go look at it," he said. Turning, he called over his shoulder, "Come in, all hands."

"All hands," that is, the company in the dining room--came in. There were fourteen of them, all told, and, as Martha Phipps told Galusha Bangs afterward, "If you had run a net from one end of Ostable County to the other you wouldn't have landed more freaks than there were in that house at that minute." The majority were women and the few men in the party looked as if each realized himself a minority at home and abroad.

"Set down, everybody," commanded Captain Jethro. "Lulie, you better help me fetch in them dining-room chairs. We'll need 'em."

"But, father," begged Lulie, "what are you going to do?"

"Do? We're goin' to have a meetin', that's what we're goin' to do. Set down, all of you that can. We'll have chairs for the rest in a minute."

"But, father--" began Lulie, again. The captain interrupted her. "Be still," he ordered, irritably. "Marietta, you set over here by the melodeon. That'll be about right for you, will it?"

Miss Marietta Hoag was a short, dumpy female with a face which had been described by Zach Bloomer as resembling a "pan of dough with a couple of cranberries dropped into it." She wore a blue hat with a red bow and a profusion of small objects--red cherries and purple grapes--bobbing on wires above it. The general effect, quoting Mr. Bloomer again, was "as if somebody had set off a firecracker in a fruit-peddler's cart." The remainder of her apparel was more subdued.

She removed the explosive headgear and came forward in response to the light keeper's command. She looked at the chair by the ancient parlor organ and announced: "Yes, indeed, it'll do real well, thank you, Cap'n Jethro." Her voice was a sharp soprano with liquid gurgles in it--"like pourin' pain-killer out of a bottle," this last still another quotation from the book of Zacheus.

"All right," said Captain Jeth, "then we'll begin. We've wasted enough time cruisin' way over to Trumet and back for nothin'. No need to waste any more. Set down, all hands, and come to order. Lulie, you and Martha and the rest of you set down, too."

"But, father," urged his daughter again, "I don't understand. What are you going to do?"

"Goin' to have a meetin', I tell you."

"But what sort of a meeting?"

"A seance. We cruised clear over to Trumet to hear that Brockton medium that was stayin' at Obed Taylor's there and when we got to Obed's we found she'd been called back home unexpected and had left on this afternoon's train. So we came back here and Marietta's goin' to try to get in communication herself. That's all there is to it.... Now don't waste any more time askin' fool questions. Set down. Martha Phipps, what are you and Mr. Bangs standin' up for?"

Martha's answer was quietly given.

"Why, good gracious, Jethro!" she observed, "why shouldn't we stand up? Mr. Bangs and I came over to spend the evenin' with Lulie. We didn't know you and Marietta and Ophelia and the rest were goin' to hold any--er--what do you call 'em?--seances. We'll run right along and leave you to enjoy yourselves. Come, Mr. Bangs."

For some reason or other this reply appeared to irritate the light keeper exceedingly. He glared at her.

"Set down, both of you," he ordered. "I want you to. 'Twill do you good. No, you ain't goin', neither. Lulie, you tell 'em to stay here."

His manner was so determined and the light in his eye so ominous that his daughter was alarmed.

"Oh, do stay, Martha," she pleaded. "Won't you please stay, you and Mr. Bangs? I think it will be for the best, truly I do. Please stay."

Martha looked at her lodger. Galusha smiled.

"I shall be very glad to remain," he observed. "Indeed yes, really."

Miss Phipps nodded. "All right, Lulie," she said, quietly. "We'll stay."

They took chairs in the back row of the double circle. Primmie, eyes and mouth open and agog with excitement, had already seated herself. Captain Jethro looked about the room.

"Are we all ready," he growled. "Eh? Who's that comin'? Oh, it's you. Well, set down and keep quiet."

It was Mr. Bloomer who had re-entered the room and was received so unceremoniously. He glanced at Galusha Bangs, winked the eye which the captain could not see, and sat down next to Primmie.

"Now then," said Captain Jeth, who was evidently master of ceremonies, "if you're all ready, Marietta, I cal'late we are. Cast off! Heave ahead!"

But Miss Hoag seemed troubled; evidently she was not ready to cast off and heave ahead.

"Why--why, Cap'n Jeth," she faltered, "I CAN'T. Don't you KNOW I can't? Everybody's got to take hands--and the lights must be turned way down--and--and we've GOT to have some music."

The captain pulled his beard. "Humph!" he grunted. "That's so, I forgot. Don't know what's the matter with me to-night, seem to be kind of--of upset or somethin'. Zach, turn them lamps down; more'n that, way down low.... That'll do. Now all hands hold hands. Make a--a kind of ring out of yourselves. That's it. Now what else was it, Marietta?"

"Music," faltered Miss Hoag, who seemed rather overawed by the captain's intensity and savage earnestness. "We always have music, you know, to establish the--the contact. Have somebody play the organ. 'Phelia, you play it; you know how."

Miss Ophelia Beebe, sister of the village storekeeper, was a tall, angular woman garbed in black. Her facial expression was as mournful as her raiment. She rose with a rustle and moved toward the ancient melodeon. Lulie spoke hurriedly.

"No, no, Ophelia," she protested, "it isn't any use. That old thing has been out of order for--why, for years. No one could possibly play on it. No one has for ever and ever so long. Father knows it perfectly well."

Again Captain Jethro tugged at his beard.

"Humph!" he grunted. "'Tis out of order; I remember now.... Humph! I--I forgot that. Well, we'll have to have some sort of music. Can anybody that's here play on anything?"

There was silence for a moment. Then a thin masculine voice from the dimness made proclamation.

"I can play on the fiddle," it said; and then added, as if in afterthought, "some."

There was a rustle in the corner from which the voice had come. Mutterings and whisperings arose. "Don't talk so foolish!" "Well, Sary, he asked if anybody could play on anything and I--" "Be still, I tell you! I declare if there's any chance for a person to make a jumpin' numbskull out of himself in front of folks I'll trust you to be right on deck." "Now, Sary, what are you goin' on like this for? I only just--"

The dispute was growing louder and more violent. Captain Jethro roared a command for silence.

"What's all this?" he demanded. "Silence there for'ard!" He waited an instant and then asked, "Who was it said they could play the fiddle? Was it you, Abel Hardin'?"

Mr. Abel Harding, clam digger and fish purveyor, resident in South Wellmouth, acknowledged his identity.

"Yus, Cap'n Jeth," he declared. "I said I could play the fiddle, and I can, too. Sary B., she says--"

"Sarah B."--otherwise Mrs. Abel Harding--interrupted. "He can't play nothin' but two jig tunes and he plays them like the very Old Scratch," she snapped, with emphasis.

"Well, I never said I was anything great at it, did I? I said I can play some, and I can. If you'd just keep your tongue to home and leave me be I--"

"SILENCE!" shouted the light keeper again. The domestic squabble broke off in the middle and some irreverent giggles from other sections of the circle subsided. Captain Jethro's indignant gaze swept the group. Primmie said afterward, "You couldn't see him glare at you, but you could FEEL him doin' it." When the stillness was absolute the captain asked, "Where is your fiddle, Abel?"

"Eh?" Mr. Harding paused and cleared his throat. "Why," he stammered, "it's--it's to home. Er--er--that's where I keep it, you know."

"Humph!" Captain Jethro's scorn was withering. "And home is eleven mile away or such matter. How much good is your bein' able to play on it goin' to do us when 'tain't here for you to play on?"

There were discreet snickers from the dimness. Mrs. Hardin's voice was audible, saying, "There, I told you so, foolhead." The captain once more ordered and obtained silence.

"We've had enough of this," he growled. "This ain't a play-actin' show to laugh at. If we can't behave accordin' as we should we'll give it up. Marietta says she can't get into contact with the sperit world without music. Would it do if we was to sing somethin', Marietta?"

Miss Hoag faltered that she didn't know's she hardly believed 'twould. "I always HAVE had some sort of instrumental music, Cap'n Jethro. Don't seem to me's if I could hardly get along without it."

The captain grunted again. "Can't anybody play ANYTHING?" he demanded. "Anything that's within hailin' distance, I mean."

Another silent interval. And then a voice said, timidly, "I can play the mouth organ."

It was Primmie's voice and as she was sitting next Zach Bloomer, who was next Galusha Bangs, the unexpectedness of it made the latter jump. Miss Phipps, next in line on Galusha's left, jumped likewise.

"Primmie," she said, sharply, "don't be silly."

"But I CAN, Miss Martha. You know I can. Zach knows it, too. You've heard me, ain't you, Zach? Ain't you? Ain't you?"

Thus urged, Mr. Bloomer answered, "I've heard you," he said. And added, fervently and under his breath, "Godfreys!"

"Primmie," began Martha, again, but Captain Jethro broke in.

"Quiet, Martha Phipps," he ordered. "Stop your talkin', all hands. Marietta, do you cal'late you could get under way with mouth organ music?"

"Why--why, I don't know. Maybe I could if--if it played church tunes."

"Can you play hymn tunes, Primmie?"

"Yes, sir. I can play 'Sweet By and By' and 'Brighten the Corner Where You Be' and 'Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag.' No, that ain't one, is it? But I can play--"

"Where's your mouth organ now?"

"It's in my jacket pocket out yonder in the kitchen."

"Go fetch it."

Sounds as of one individual falling over others, accompanied by exclamations and confusion, indicated that Miss Cash was going in search of the instrument. Lulie made one more attempt at persuasion.

"Father," she pleaded, "what makes you try to hold a seance to-night? You've been 'way over to Trumet and back and you must be tired. You aren't very well, you know, and all this excitement isn't good for you. Won't you please--"

Her father stamped his foot. "Set down," he shouted. "I know what I'm doin'. This is my house and I'll do as I please in it. Stop! I don't want to hear any more. Where's that Cash girl?"

Primmie was returning bearing the mouth organ. She plowed through the circle like an armored tank through a wire entanglement and reached the light keeper's side.

"Here I be," she announced, "and here 'tis. Shall I commence to begin now? Where do you want me to set?"

She was given a seat in the front row, facing the medium. Captain Hallett, after some final instructions to Zacheus concerning the turning lower of one of the lamps and a last order for stillness, gave the command.

"All ready! Heave ahead!"

Miss Hoag leaned back in her rocking-chair and closed her eyes. Primmie drew a long breath and the first bars of the "Sweet By and By" were forcibly evicted from the harmonica. Zach Bloomer, the irrepressible, leaned over and breathed into his neighbor's ear.

"Say, Mr. Bangs," he whispered, "if you was a sperit would you leave a comf'table berth up aloft to come and anchor alongside THAT noise?"

The "noise" became more enthusiastic as the musician warmed to her work. Miss Hoag stirred uneasily in her chair. Captain Jethro bent toward her.

"Tell her not to play so LOUD," whispered Marietta. The captain obeyed.

"Come, come, Primmie," he said, irritably. "Go easy on it, soften her down. Play low. And stop stompin' out the time with your foot."

Thus cautioned Miss Cash played low, very low, and also very slowly. "The Sweet By and By" droned on, over and over, in the dark stuffiness of the crowded room. Galusha Bangs, who had been at first much amused, began to be bored. Incidentally he was extremely sorry for Lulie, poor girl, who was compelled to be present at this ridiculous exhibition of her father's obsession. Heavy breathing sounded near at hand, growing steadily heavier until it became a snore. The snore broke off in the middle and with a sharp and most unchurchly ejaculation, as if the snorer had been awakened suddenly and painfully. Galusha fancied he recognized Mr. Harding's voice. Primmie ended her thirty-second rendition of the "Sweet By and By" chorus and began the thirty-third.

Then Miss Hoag began to groan. The first groan was so loud and unexpected that Miss Cash gasped "My savin' soul!" into the mouth organ. Marietta continued to groan, also to pound the floor with her heels. In her capacity as "medium" she, like other mediums--mediums of her stripe, that is--was "getting under control."

Then followed the usual sort of thing which follows at this sort of seance. Miss Hoag, through her "control," began to receive and transmit "messages." The control spoke in a kind of husky howl, so to speak, and used a lingo most unusual on this plane, however common it may be elsewhere.

Mr. Bangs was startled when first favored with a sample of this--literally--unearthly elocution.

"Oh, dear me!" he exclaimed. "Oh, dear! WHY does she do that? Is--is she ill?"

Miss Beebe answered, from her place in the circle. "It's her sperit control talkin' now," she whispered. "She's controlled by a China woman."

"Name of Little Cherry Blossom," whispered Mr. Harding.

"Sshh!" said several voices, indignantly.

"Allee samee comee manee namee Johnee," announced Little Cherry Blossom. "Anybody heree knowee manee Johnee?"

Several did, of course, and John was soon undergoing cross-examination. He proved to be the cousin of Mrs. Hannah Peters' first husband who was drowned on the Grand Banks fifteen or sixteen years before. "John-ee" was, like so many of his kind, a bit shaky on names and dates but strong on generalities. However, everybody except the few skeptics from the Phipps' place seemed satisfied and made no embarrassing comments.

Everybody but Mr. Bloomer, that is; Zacheus, the philosopher who had studied his profession aboard a lightship, commented on everything. Sitting next Mr. Bangs, he put his lips close to the ear of the last-named gentleman and breathed caustic sarcasm into it. Galusha found it distracting and, at times, annoying, for Mr. Bloomer's mustache was bristly.

"Little Cherry Blossom talks's if she had a cold," whispered Zach. "Better take a little cherry rum, hadn't she, eh?"

The control was loudly paging a person named Noah.

"Sperit heree wantee talkee with Noah," she cried. "Wheree isee Noah?"

"'Board the Ark, most likely," whispered Mr. Bloomer. "Be hollerin' for Jonah next, won't she? Cal'late so. Yus, yus."

Message after message came and was recognized and acknowledged by the devout. The group from the Phipps' house had so far been slighted, so, too, had Captain Jethro Hallett. There was a slight hubbub in the circle, owing to the fact that two of its members simultaneously recognized and laid claim to the same spirit, each declaring him to be or have been an entirely different person when living. During this little controversy Zacheus whispered in his neighbor's ear.

"Say, Mr. Bangs," he whispered, "this is gettin' kind of tiresome, ain't it? Must be worse for Nelse, though, eh?"

Galusha did not catch his meaning. "For--for whom?" he asked. "I beg your pardon."

"Oh, you're welcome. Why, I mean Nelse Howard must be gettin' more tired than we be, shut up in that front hall the way he is."

"Shut up--Why, really, I--Mr. Howard left the house long ago, didn't he? By the front door, you know."

Zach chuckled. "That front door is locked and the key's been lost for more'n a fortn't. Cal'late Lulie forgot that when she told him to skip out that way. He can't GET out. He's in that front entry now and he'll have to stay there till all hands have gone and the cap'n gone to bed. That's a note, ain't it!... Sshh! They're goin' to begin again."

The identity of the spiritual visitor having been tentatively established, the "communications" continued. Galusha paid little heed to them. The thought of young Howard a prisoner in the front hall was uncomfortable of itself, but still more uncomfortable was the mental picture of what might happen should his presence there be discovered by Captain Hallett. The old light keeper was bigoted and absurdly prejudiced against his daughter's lover at all times. An encounter between them would always be most unpleasant. But this evening, when the captain was in his most fanatical mood, for him to find Nelson Howard hiding in his own house--well, the prospect was almost alarming.

Galusha, much troubled in mind, wondered if Lulie had remembered the locked door and the lost key. Did she realize her fiance's plight? If so, she must be undergoing tortures at that moment. Nelson, of course, could take care of himself and was in no danger of physical injury; the danger was in the effect of the discovery upon Captain Jethro. He was not well, he was in a highly nervous and excited state. Galusha began to fidget in his chair. More than ever he wished the seance would end.

However, it did not end. The messages continued to come. Apparently the line of spirits waiting to communicate was as long as that at the ticket office of a ball park on a pleasant Saturday. And suddenly Mr. Bangs was startled out of his fidgets by the husky voice of Little Cherry Blossom calling the name which was in his mind at the moment.

"Jethro," wheezed Little Cherry Blossom. "Jethro. Some one heree wantee talkee Jethro."

Martha Phipps, sitting next to Galusha, stirred and uttered an impatient exclamation under her breath. From beyond, where Lulie sat, Galusha caught a quick gasp and a frightened "Oh, dear!" Zacheus whispered, "Godfreys!" Primmie bounced up and down with excitement. The circle rustled and then grew very still.

"Well," growled Captain Jethro, a quaver in his deep voice, "I'm here. It is--is it you, Julia?"

Little Cherry Blossom said that it was. Mr. Bangs heard another sniff of disgust from Miss Phipps. He was himself thoroughly disgusted and angry. This mockery of a great sorrow and a great love seemed so wicked and cruel. Marietta Hoag and her ridiculous control ceased to be ridiculous and funny. He longed to shake the fat little creature, shake her until her silly craze for the limelight and desire to be the center of a sensation were thoroughly shaken out of her. Marietta was not wicked, she was just silly and vain and foolish, that was all; but at least half of humanity's troubles are caused by the fools.

"Julia," said Captain Jethro, his big voice trembling as he said it, "I--I'm here, Julia. What is it?"

"Julia she say she gladee you heree," gurgled Little Cherry Blossom. Martha Phipps drew a breath between her teeth as if in pain. Her hand squeezed Lulie's tight. She was suffering with the girl. As for Galusha, sensitive soul that he was, he blushed all over in sympathetic embarrassment.

"I'm glad to be here, Julia," said the captain. "You know it, too, I guess likely. Is all well with you, Julia?"

Cherry Blossom in horrible pidgin English affirmed that all was well, all was happiness and delight and bliss in the realm beyond. Galusha did not hear much of this, he was suffering too acutely to listen. Then he heard Captain Jethro ask another question.

"Is there any special message you've got for me, Julia?"

Yes, there was. "Daughter, daughter." There was some message about a daughter.

"Lulie? Is there somethin' you want to tell me about Lulie, Julia?"

"Father!" It was Lulie herself who uttered the exclamation. "Father," she cried. "Don't! Oh, don't! Please don't!"

Her father's reply was a furious roar.

"Stop!" he thundered. "Be still! Don't you say another word!"

"But, father, PLEASE--"

"Stop!... Julia, Julia... are you there? What is it about Lulie? Tell me."

Little Cherry Blossom herself seemed a bit nervous, for her next message was given with a trifle less assurance. It was an incoherent repetition and re-repetition of the word "daughter" and something about "looking out" and "danger."

Captain Jethro caught at the word.

"Danger?" he queried. "Danger for Lulie? Is that what you mean, Julia? I'm to look out on account of danger comin' for Lulie? Is that it, Julia?"

Lulie made one more desperate plea.

"Father," she begged, "please don't! Of course there isn't any danger for me. This is SO ridiculous."

"Be still, I tell you.... Is that it, Julia? Is it?" Little Cherry Blossom with some hesitation indicated that that was it. A rustle of excitement stirred the circle.

"What kind of danger?" demanded the light keeper, eagerly. "Can't you tell me that, Julia?"

Apparently she could not, for there was no reply. The captain tried to help by suggestion.

"Danger from--from her bein'--er--hurt?" he suggested. "Being run over--or--or--drowned or somethin'?"

No, that was not it.

"Danger from somebody--some person?"

"Yes." Another rustle of excitement in the circle. The light keeper caught his breath.

"Julia," he demanded, "do you mean that--that our girl's in danger from some--some MAN?"

"FATHER! I won't stand this. It's perfectly--"

"Lulie Hallett, you set down! Set DOWN!"

Martha Phipps laid a hand upon the girl's arm. "Don't excite him," she whispered. "I'd sit down if I were you, Lulie."

Lulie, trembling with indignation, subsided under protest. Little Cherry Blossom burst out with a gush of gibberish concerning some man, "bad, wicked manee," who was trying to influence "daughter" in some way or other, just how was not particularly intelligible. Captain Jethro offered another suggestion.

"Julia," he demanded, "is it the outsider, the small, dark man you said afore? Is it him?"

Yes, it was. The rustle in the circle was now so pronounced as to amount almost to a disturbance. Mr. Abel Harding whispered audibly, "It's Nelson Howard she means, don't she?" His wife even more audibly ordered him to "shut up, for the land sakes." Primmie dropped the mouth organ on the floor with a metallic clatter. Startled, she made her customary appeal to the ruler of Israel.

"It's him, eh?" growled the light keeper. "I thought so. I've got my eye on him, Julia, and he knows it. What's he up to now? Where is he?"

"Near her."

"Near her? Here?... In this HOUSE, do you mean?"

A moment's hesitation, and then, "Ye-es, I--I shouldn't wonder."

This bit of information, even though unusually qualified considering its spirit source, caused a genuine sensation. Almost every one said something. Zach Bloomer whistled shrilly in Mr. Bangs' ear and said, "Godfreys!" Galusha said, "Oh, dear me!" with distressful emphasis. Martha Phipps and Lulie clutched each other and the latter uttered a faint scream. Primmie Cash, who had stooped to pick up the dropped harmonica, fell on her knees beside it. Captain Jethro stamped and roared for silence.

"Be still!" he shouted. "Stop! STOP! By the everlastin', I'll--I'll--Julia! Julia!"

But Julia did not answer this time. Neither did Little Cherry Blossom. Whether Miss Hoag was frightened at the effect of her message or whether she figured that she had caused sensation sufficient for one day are matters for conjecture. At all events she stirred in her chair and announced faintly, and in her natural, everyday tones and accent, that she wished a drink of water.

"Where--where be I?" she gasped. "I--Oh, fetch me a drink, somebody, won't you, please?"

The light keeper, paying no need whatever, was shouting his wife's name.

"Julia! Julia!" he cried. "Don't go! I want you! I need you!"

Lulie called "Father" and hastened toward him. Zacheus whispered in Galusha's ear that he cal'lated 'twouldn't do no harm to turn on the glim and proceeded forthwith to turn up the wick of one of the lamps. The sudden illumination showed Captain Jethro standing in the middle of the floor, his face flushed, his brows drawn together and his lips twitching. He was glaring about the room and the expression upon his face was so fierce that Mr. Bangs said, "Oh, dear me!" again when he saw it.

Lulie put her arm about the light keeper's shoulder. "Father, father," she pleaded, "please don't look that way. Come and sit down. Please do!"

But sitting down was far from the captain's thoughts just then. He impatiently tossed his daughter's arm aside.

"So he's here, is he," he growled, between his teeth. "He's in my house, is he? By the everlastin', I'll show him!"

Martha Phipps pushed her way toward the pair.

"There, there, Jethro," she said, quietly, "don't act this way. Don't you see you're frightenin' Lulie half out of her wits? There's nothin' for you to look so savage about. Come over and sit down and rest. You're tired."

"No, I ain't tired, either. Be quiet, woman. By the Lord, if he's in this house I'll find him. And WHEN I find him--"

"Sshh, sshh! What in the world are you talkin' about? Marietta didn't say--"

"Julia--my spirit wife--told me that that skulkin' swab of a Nelse Howard was here in this house. You heard her. Let go of me, both of you! Now where is he?"

He was turning directly toward the door leading to the front hall. Lulie was very white and seemed on the point of collapse. Even Miss Phipps, usually so calm and equal to the emergency, appeared to find this one a trifle too much for her, for she glanced desperately about as if in search of help. Zach Bloomer repeated "Godfreys" several times and looked, for him, almost excited. As for Primmie, she was so frightened as to be speechless, a miracle far more amazing than any other which the seance had thus far produced. The remaining members of the circle were whispering in agitation and staring wide-eyed at the captain and those about him.

Then a masculine voice, a very soft, gentle masculine voice, said, "I beg your pardon, Captain Hallett, but may I--ah--ask a question?"

The very gentleness of the voice and the calmness of its tone had more effect in securing the light keeper's attention than any shout could possibly have done. Captain Jethro stopped in his stride.

"Eh?" he grunted. "Eh? What's that?"

Galusha Bangs moved forward, quietly elbowing his way from the back row of the circle to the open space before the inner line of chairs and their excited occupants.

"It is--ah--I, Captain Hallett," he observed, calmly, "I wished to ask a question. You see, I have been very much interested by the--ah--manifestations here this evening. Very much so, really--indeed, yes."

The light keeper interrupted. "Don't bother me!" he ordered, savagely. "I'm goin' to find that sneakin' rascal, and--Get out of my way, will you?"

Somehow or other the little Egyptologist had moved forward until, without appearing to have made an effort to do so, he was directly in the captain's way--that is, between the latter and the door of the front hall. The command to get out of the way he acknowledged politely and with caution.

"Yes, yes, of course," he said, hastily. "I'm very sorry. Very sorry indeed. I beg your pardon, Captain Hallett. Now there is one point in this lady's--ah--messages--ah--communications, you know--which puzzles me somewhat. You see--"

"I can't stop to talk to you now. I'm goin' to--WILL you get out of my way?"

"Was I in your way? I BEG your pardon. How clumsy of me! I--ah--You see, this lady's last message seemed to point so directly in my direction that I felt constrained to speak. You see, when she, or her--control, is it?--mentioned my being here in your house and accused me of having an evil influence upon your daughter, I--well, I was surprised and--ah--hurt."

A general gasp of astonishment from the circle behind him interrupted. Mr. Abel Harding shouted "Eh!" and, for a wonder, his wife did not take him to task for it. For the matter of that, she had uttered an exclamation also. So had Ophelia Beebe and many others. Zacheus whistled. Primmie once more referred to her saving soul. Martha Phipps cried out.

As for Jethro Hallett, he stared uncomprehendingly at the Bangs' face which looked so earnestly and gravely up into his. He drew a hand across his forehead and breathed heavily.

"Wha--what are you talkin' about?" he demanded. "Who--who said anything about you?"

Galusha transferred his gaze from the light keeper's countenance to that of Miss Marietta Hoag. The medium's moonlike visage bore an expression of intense surprise.

"Why--ah--she did," replied Galusha, gently. "This lady here. She said that an outsider, a small, dark man, was exerting an evil influence upon Miss Lulie--upon your daughter. Then she said this person was here in your house. Now, as I am the only person present who answers to that description, naturally I--well, I--really, I must protest. I have the highest respect and regard for your daughter, Captain Hallett. I should be the last, the very last, to wish to exert any such influence."

"Nonsense!" The amazed captain shouted the word. "What are you talkin' about? 'Twan't you she said. 'Twas that Howard swab. He's been hangin' around Lulie for more 'n a year."

"Ah--pardon me, Captain Hallett, but really I must make my point. It could not have been Mr. Howard to whom the--ah--control referred. Mr. Howard is somewhat dark, perhaps, but he is not small. I am both dark and small. And I am here, whereas Mr. Howard apparently is not. And I am, beyond question, an outsider. Therefore--"

"Nonsense, I tell you! She said Nelson Howard was in this house."

"Pardon me, pardon me, Captain Hallett. She said a small, dark man, an outsider, was in this house. She mentioned no names. You mentioned no names, did you, Miss--ah--Hoag?"

Marietta, thus unexpectedly appealed to, gasped, swallowed, turned red and stammered that she didn't know's she did; adding hastily that she never remembered nothin' of what she said in the trance state. After this she swallowed again and observed that she didn't see WHY she couldn't have that drink of water.

"So you see, Captain Hallett," went on Mr. Bangs, with the same gentle persistence, "being the only person present answering the description given by the medium I feel somewhat--ah--distressed. I must insist that I am unjustly accused. I must ask Miss Phipps here and your daughter herself to say whether or not my conduct toward Miss Lulie has not been quite--ah--harmless and without--ah--malevolence. I shall be glad to leave it to them."

Of the pair to whom this appeal for judgment was made Martha Phipps alone heeded it. Lulie, still white and trembling, was intent only upon her father. But Martha rose to the occasion with characteristic promptness.

"Of course, Mr. Bangs," she declared, "you've behaved just as nice as any one could be in this world. I could hardly believe my ears when Marietta said you were an evil influence towards Lulie. You ought to be careful about sayin' such things, Marietta. Why, you never met Mr. Bangs before this evenin'. How could you know he was an evil influence?"

Miss Hoag, thus attacked from an unexpected quarter, was thrown still more out of mental poise. "I never said he was one," she declared, wildly. "I only just said there was a--a--I don't know what I said. Anyhow _I never said it, 'twas my control talkin'. I'll leave it to 'Phelia Beebe. You know I don't know what I'm sayin' when I'm in the trance state, don't you, 'Phelia? Anyhow, all I said was.... Oh, 'Phelia," wildly, "why don't you help me out?... And--and I've asked no less'n four mortal times for that drink of water. I--I--Oh, oh--"

She became hysterical. The circle ceased to be a circle and became a series of agitated groups, all talking at once. Mr. Bloomer seized the opportunity to turn up the wick of another lamp. Lulie, clinging to her father's arm, led him toward a chair in a secluded corner.

"Sit down, father," she urged. "Sit down, and rest. Please do!"

The old light keeper's fiery rage seemed to be abating. He passed his hand across his forehead several times and his expression changed. He looked like one awakening from a bad dream.

"I--I cal'late I will set down for a minute or so, Lulie," he faltered. "I do feel sort of tired, somehow or 'nother. I don't want to talk any more, Mr. Bangs," he added, wearily. "I--I'll have to think it all out. Lulie, I cal'late they'd better go home. Tell 'em all to go. I'm tired."

Martha Phipps passed from group to group whispering.

"I guess we'd better go," she suggested. "He's pretty well worn out, I'm afraid. Everybody's things are there in the dinin' room or in the side entry. We'd better go right away, it seems to me."

Galusha had gotten his "things" already, his coat was over his arm. The others followed his example. A few minutes more and the last of the "ghost seiners" had left the house and were climbing into the automobiles in the yard. Marietta Hoag's voice was the last distinctly audible.

"I can't help it," she wailed. "It wasn't my fault anyway. And--and, besides, that Bangs man hadn't any right to say 'twas him I meant.... I mean the control meant. It wasn't him at all.... I mean I don't believe 'twas. Oh, dear! I WISH you'd stop askin' questions, Abe Hardin'. CAN'T you stop?"

Galusha and Primmie set out for the Phipps' homestead ahead of its owner, but she caught up with them at the gate.

"He's goin' right up to bed," she said. "Zach will look out for the light to-night."

"And--" asked Galusha, with significant emphasis.

Martha did not reply. She waited until they were in the sitting room and alone, Primmie having been sentenced to go to her own room and to bed. Miss Cash had no desire for bed; her dearest wish was to remain with her mistress and their lodger and unload her burden of conversation.

"My savin' soul!" she began. "My savin' soul! Did you ever in your born days! When that Marietta Hoag--or that Chinee critter--or Cap'n Jeth's ghost's wife--or whoever 'twas talkin' that spirit jabber--when she--them, I mean--give out that a small, dark man was right there in that house, I thought--"

"Primmie, go to bed."

"Yes'm. And when I remembered that Nelse Howard was--"

"Go to bed this minute!"

"Yes'm. But how do you 'spose he's goin' to--"

Miss Phipps conducted her to the foot of the back stairs and, returning, closed each door she passed through behind her. Then she answered her lodger's unspoken question.

"Lulie will go with her father and help him up to his room," she said. "After he is out of the way Nelson can come out and Zach, I suppose, will let him out by the side door."

Galusha smiled faintly. "The poor fellow must have been somewhat disturbed when that--ah--medium person announced that the 'evil influence' was in the house," he observed.

Martha sniffed. "I guess likely we were all disturbed," she said. "Especially those of us who knew. But how did Marietta know? That's what I can't understand. Or did she just guess?"

Before Bangs could answer there was a rap on the windowpane. Martha, going to the door, admitted Nelson Howard himself. The young man's first speech was a question.

"Do you know what became of my hat?" he asked. "Like an idiot I hung my hat and coat in that entry off the dining room when I went in. When I came out just now the hat was gone."

Martha looked troubled.

"It wasn't that cap you wear so much, at the station and everywhere?" she asked. "I hope no one took THAT; they'd know whose 'twas in a minute."

"Yes, that's what I'm afraid of. I... Eh? Why, there it is now."

The cap was lying on the couch beside Mr. Bangs' overcoat. Howard picked it up with an air of great relief.

"You brought it over for me, Mr. Bangs, didn't you?" he cried.

"Why--why, yes, I--I did," stammered Galusha. "You see, I--"

The young man broke in enthusiastically. "By jingo, that was clever of you!" he cried. "I was afraid some one had got that cap who would recognize it. Say," he went on, "I owe you about everything to-night, Mr. Bangs. When Marietta gave out her proclamation that the 'small dark man' was in that house I came nearer to believing in her kind of spiritualism than I ever thought I should. I was scared--not on my own account, I hope--but for Lulie and her father. If the old cap'n had found me hiding in that front hall I don't know what he might have done, or tried to do. And I don't know what effect it might have had on him. He was--well, judging from what I could hear, he was in a state that was--that was pretty near to--to--"

While he was hesitating Martha Phipps finished the sentence. "To what they put people in asylums for," she said, emphatically. "He was, there is no doubt about that. It's a mercy he didn't find you, Nelson. And if I were you I wouldn't take any such chances again."

"I shan't, you needn't worry. When Lulie and I meet after this it will be--Humph! well, I don't know where it will be. Even the graveyard doesn't seem to be safe. But I must go. Tell Lulie I got away safe and sound, thanks to Mr. Bangs here. And tell her to 'phone me to-morrow. I'm anxious about Cap'n Jeth. Sometimes I think it might be just as well if I went straight to him and told him--"

Again Martha interrupted.

"My soul, no!" she exclaimed. "Not now, not till he gets that 'small dark man' notion out of his head."

"I suppose you're right. And Mr. Bangs has set him guessing on that, too. Honestly, Mr. Bangs, you've just about saved--well, if you haven't saved everybody's life you've come pretty near to saving the cap'n's reason, I do believe. How Lulie and I can ever thank you enough I don't know."

Galusha turned red. "Ah--ah--don't--ah--please don't," he stammered. "It was just--ah--a silly idea of mine. On the spur of the moment it came to me that--ah--that the medium person hadn't said WHO the small, dark man was. And as I am rather dark perhaps--and small, certainly--it occurred to me to claim identity. Almost every one else had received some sort of--ah--spirit message and, you see, I didn't wish to be neglected."

"Well, it was the smartest dodge that I ever heard of. By jingo, it was! Say, you don't suppose Cap'n Jeth will take it seriously and begin to get down on YOU, do you?"

Martha looked grave. "I was wonderin' that myself," she said.

Galusha smiled. "Oh, dear no," he said. "I think there is no danger of that, really. But, Mr. Howard, in regard to that--ah--cap of yours, I... Eh?... Um... Why, dear me, I wonder--"

"Why is it you wonder, Mr. Bangs?" asked Martha, after a moment's wait.

"Why--ah--considering that that cap of Mr. Howard's is one which, so you and he say, he is in the habit of wearing, and that many people have often seen him wear, I was wondering--Dear me, yes, that might explain."

"Explain what?"

"Why, it occurred to me that as that cap was hanging in the--ah--entry--the little hall off Captain Hallett's dining room--when the people came in, and as the medium person--Miss--ah--bless me, what IS her name?--as she came in with the rest, it occurred to me that she might have seen the cap and--"

Miss Phipps clapped her hands. "She saw it and knew whose it was," she cried, excitedly. "Of course she did! THAT'S how she guessed the small, dark man was in the house. THAT'S how 'Little Toddy Blossom,' or whatever her name is, got so smart all at once. Well, well! Of course, of course!"

"It--ah--occurred to me that that might possibly explain," observed Galusha, placidly.

"It does. But, Nelson, what set Marietta and her spirits after you in particular? Has she got any grudge against you?"

"Not that I know of, Martha. She knows I don't take any stock in her kind of spirit messages. I don't think she likes me very well on that account."

"Well, perhaps, that is reason enough. Or perhaps she just happened the first time to mention the small dark man hit or miss and Cap'n Jethro pinned the tag to you; after that she did her best to keep it there. Well, thanks to Mr. Bangs, the cap'n isn't as sure as he was, that's some comfort."

Martha accompanied Nelson to the door. After he had gone and she returned to the sitting room she found her lodger standing, lamp in hand, at the foot of the stairs.

"Goin' to turn in, Mr. Bangs?" she asked. "Goin' to bed, I mean? Father always used to call it turnin' in; it's a saltwater way of sayin' it, just as so many of his expressions were. I guess you must be pretty tired. I know I am. Take it by and large--that is another of father's expressions--we've had an excitin' evenin'."

Galusha admitted the fact. His landlady regarded him with an odd expression.

"Do you know," she said, suddenly, "you are the most surprisin' person I ever met, Mr. Bangs?... There! I didn't mean to say that," she added. "I was thinkin' it and it sort of spoke itself, as you might say. I beg your pardon."

"Oh, that's quite all right, quite, Miss Phipps," Galusha assured her. "I have no doubt you are perfectly correct. No doubt I am surprising; at least most people seem to find a peculiar quality in most of my--ah--actions." He smiled his gentle smile, and added, "I presume it must be a part of my profession. In books, you know--in novels--the few I have read--the archaeologist or the scientific man or the college professor is always peculiar."

She shook her head. "That isn't just what I meant," she said. "So far as that goes I've generally noticed that folks with little brains are fond of criticizin' those with bigger ones. Part of such criticisms is 'don't understand' and the rest is plain jealousy. But what I meant by callin' you surprisin' was--was--Well," with a half laugh, "I might just as well say it plain. Ever since you've been here, Mr. Bangs, the feelin' has been growin' on me that you were probably the wisest man in the world about some things and the most simple and impractical about others. Over there in Egypt you know everything, I do believe. And yet right down here on Cape Cod you need somebody to keep Ras Beebe and Raish Pulcifer from cheatin' you out of your last cent. That's what I thought. 'Mr. Bangs is wonderful,' I said to myself, 'but I'm afraid he isn't practical.' And yet to-night, over there, you were the only practical one amongst us."

Galusha protested. "Oh, no, Miss Phipps," he said. "Dear me, no. My claiming to be the small, dark man was, as I said, merely a silly notion which came to me. I acted on the spur of the moment. It was nothing."

"It was about everything," stoutly. "It was your notion, as you call it, that saved Cap'n Jethro from findin' Nelson Howard in that front hall; and savin' him from that saved us from havin' a crazy man on our hands, I truly believe. And you did it so right on the instant, so matter of fact and common sense. Really, Mr. Bangs, I--I don't know what to say to you."

Galusha smiled. "You said it before," he observed, "when you said you were surprised. I am surprised myself. Dear me, yes."

"Don't! That was a foolish thing for me to say and you mustn't take it the wrong way. And your bringing Nelson's hat over here instead of leavin' it in that entry for more of Marietta's crowd to notice and, ten to one, recognize! We all knew it was hangin' there. I saw Nelson hang it there, myself, when he came in. But did _I think to take it out of sight? Did _I_--Why, what is it? What's the matter?"

Her lodger was protesting violently. "Don't, don't, don't, Miss Phipps," he begged. "Please don't! You see, that hat--that cap of Mr. Howard's--"

"Yes, you brought it over here."

"Yes, I--I brought it over. I brought it--but--"

"But what?"

"But I didn't know that I did. I must have been thinking of something else when I went after my things and it is a mercy that I took my own coat. It was only by accident that I took the--ah--young man's cap. I was under the impression that it was my own. I presume my own cap is hanging in the Hallett entry at this moment.... Ah--good-night, Miss Phipps. Good night. I have had a very pleasant evening, very pleasant indeed."

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 8
CHAPTER VIIIMartha Phipps and her lodger, to say nothing of Lulie Hallett, were fearful of the effect which the eventful seance might have upon the light keeper. It was with considerable foreboding that Martha called Lulie up on the telephone the next morning. But the news she received in answer to her call was reassuring. Captain Jethro, so Lulie said, was apparently quite himself again, a little tired and a trifle irritable, but otherwise all right. "The only unusual thing about him," said his daughter, "is that he has not once mentioned the seance or anything that happened there. If it
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CHAPTER IIIThe fainting fit did not last long. When Galusha again became interested in the affairs of this world it was to become aware that a glass containing something not unpleasantly fragrant was held directly beneath his nose and that some one was commanding him to drink. So he drank, and the fragrant liquid in the tumbler descended to his stomach and thence, apparently, to his fingers and toes; at all events those chilled members began to tingle agreeably. Mr. Bangs attempted to sit up. "No, no, you stay right where you are," said the voice, the same voice which had
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