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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGalusha The Magnificent - Chapter 8
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 8 Post by :takabull Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :1890

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 8

CHAPTER VIII

Martha Phipps and her lodger, to say nothing of Lulie Hallett, were fearful of the effect which the eventful seance might have upon the light keeper. It was with considerable foreboding that Martha called Lulie up on the telephone the next morning. But the news she received in answer to her call was reassuring. Captain Jethro, so Lulie said, was apparently quite himself again, a little tired and a trifle irritable, but otherwise all right.

"The only unusual thing about him," said his daughter, "is that he has not once mentioned the seance or anything that happened there. If it wasn't too ridiculous to be possible I should almost think he had forgotten it."

"Then for the land sakes don't remind him," urged Martha, eagerly. "So long as HE is willin' not to remember you ought to be. Yes, and thankful," she added.

"I guess likely he hasn't forgotten," she said afterwards, in conversation with her lodger. "I imagine he is a good deal upset in his mind; your bouncin' in and claimin' to be the 'evil influence' put him 'way off his course and he hasn't got his bearin's yet. He's probably tryin' to think his way through the fog and he won't talk till he sees a light, or thinks he sees one. I wish to goodness the light would be so strong that he'd see through Marietta Hoag and all her foolishness, but I'm afraid that's too much to expect."

Her surmise was correct, for a few days later the captain met Galusha on the road leading to the village and, taking the little man by the arm, became confidential.

"Mr. Bangs," he said, "I cal'late you must think it's kind of queer my not sayin' a word to you about what happened t'other night over to the house."

Galusha, who had been thinking of something else and was mentally thousands of miles away--on the banks of the Nile, in fact--regarded him rather vacantly.

"Eh? Oh--um--yes, of course," he stammered. "I beg your pardon."

"No reason why you should beg my pardon. I don't blame you for thinkin' so. It's natural."

"Yes--yes, of course, of course. But I don't know that I quite comprehend. Of what were you speaking, Captain Hallett?"

The captain explained. "Of course you think it's queer that I haven't said a word about what Julia told us," he went on. "Eh? Don't you?"

"What--ah--what Miss Hoag said, you mean?"

"Plague take Marietta!" impatiently. "She wan't nothin' but the go-between. 'Twas my wife that said it. You understand 'twas Julia, my wife, talkin', don't you?"

"Why--ah--why--I suppose--"

"Suppose? Don't you KNOW 'twas?"

"Why--ah--no doubt, no doubt."

"Course there ain't any doubt. Well then, Julia said there was a dark man heavin' a sort of evil influence over Lulie."

"She said a SMALL dark man, a stranger. And she said he was present among us. So far as I can see I was the only small dark stranger."

"But you ain't an evil influence, are you?"

"Well, I--ah--hope not. Dear me, no!"

"I hope not, too, and I don't believe you are. No, there is some mistake somewheres. 'Twas Nelson Howard she must have meant."

"But, Captain Hallett, Mr. Howard is not small."

"No, and he wan't there that evenin', neither. But I'm bettin' 'twas him she meant just the same. Just the same."

"Do you think that is quite fair to Mr. Howard? If he isn't small, nor very dark, and if he was not in your house that evening, how--"

"I don't know--I don't know. Anyhow, I don't believe she meant you, Mr. Bangs. She couldn't have."

"But--ah--why not?"

"Because--well, because you couldn't be an evil influence if you tried, you wouldn't know how. THAT much I'll bet on. There, there, don't let's talk no more about it. Julia and me'll have another talk pretty soon and then I'll find out more, maybe."

So that was the end of this portion of the conversation. The light keeper positively refused to mention the subject again. Galusha was left with the uneasy feeling that his brilliant idea of claiming to be the small, dark influence for evil had not been as productive of good results as he had hoped. Certainly it had not in the least shaken the captain's firm belief in his spirit messages, nor had it, apparently, greatly abated his prejudice against young Howard. On the other hand, Lulie found comfort in the fact that in all other respects her father seemed as rational and as keen as he had ever been. The exciting evening with the Hoag spook had worked no lasting harm. For so much she and her friends were grateful.

The autumn gales blew themselves out and blew in their successors, the howling blasts of winter. Winter at Gould's Bluffs, so Galusha Bangs discovered, was no light jest of the weather bureau. His first January no'theaster taught him that. Lying in his bed at one o'clock in the morning, feeling that bed tremble beneath him as the wind gripped the sturdy gables of the old house, while the snow beat in hissing tumult against the panes, and the great breakers raved and roared at the foot of the bluff--this was an experience for Galusha. The gray dawn of the morning brought another, for, although it was no longer snowing, the wind was, if anything, stronger than ever and the seaward view from his bedroom window was a picture of frothing gray and white, of flying spray and leaping waves, and on the landward side the pines were bending and threshing as if they were being torn in pieces. He came downstairs, somewhat nervous and a trifle excited, to find Mr. Bloomer, garbed in oilskins and sou'wester, standing upon the mat just inside the dining room door. Zacheus, it developed, had come over to borrow some coffee, the supply at the light having run short. As Galusha entered, a more than usually savage blast rushed shrieking over the house, threatening, so it seemed to Mr. Bangs, to tear every shingle from the roof.

"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed Galusha. "Dear me, what a terrible storm this is!"

Zacheus regarded him calmly. "Commenced about ten last night," he observed. "Been breezin' on steady ever since. Be quite consider'ble gale if it keeps up."

Mr. Bangs looked at him with amazement.

"If it keeps up!" he repeated. "Isn't it a gale now?"

Zach shook his head.

"Not a reg'lar gale, 'tain't," he said. "Alongside of some gales I've seen this one ain't nothin' but a tops'l breeze. Do you remember the storm the night the Portland was lost, Martha?"

Miss Phipps, who had come in from the kitchen with a can of coffee in her hand, shuddered.

"Indeed I do, Zacheus," she said; "don't remind me of it."

"Why, dear me, was it worse than this one?" asked Galusha.

Martha smiled. "It blew the roof off the barn here," she said, "and blew down both chimneys on the house and both over at Cap'n Jeth's. So far as that goes we had plenty of company, for there were nineteen chimneys down along the main road in Wellmouth. And trees--mercy! how the poor trees suffered! East Wellmouth lost thirty-two big silver-leafs and the only two elms it had. Set out over a hundred years ago, those elms were."

"Spray from the breakers flew clear over the top of the bank here," said Zach. "That's some h'ist for spray, hundred and odd feet. I wan't here to see it, myself, but Cap'n Jeth told me."

"You were in a more comfortable place, I hope," observed Galusha.

"Um--we-ell, that's accordin' to what you call comf'table. I was aboard the Hog's Back lightship, that's where I was."

"Dear, dear! Is it possible?"

"Um-hm. Possible enough that I was there, and one spell it looked impossible that I'd ever be anywheres else. Godfreys, what a night that was! Whew! Godfreys domino!"

Primmie, who had also come in from the kitchen, was listening, open-mouthed.

"I bet you that lightship pitched up and down somethin' terrible, didn't it, Zach?" she asked.

Zacheus looked at her solemnly. "Pitched?" he repeated, after a moment's contemplation. "No, no, she didn't pitch none."

"Didn't? Didn't pitch up and down in such a gale's that? And with waves a hundred foot high? What kind of talk's that, Zach Bloomer! How could that lightship help pitchin', I'd like to know?"

Mr. Bloomer adjusted the tin cover on the can in which Martha had put the coffee, then he put the can in the pocket of his slicker.

"We-ll, I tell you, Primmie," he drawled. "You see, we had pretty toler'ble long anchor chains on that craft and when the captain see how 'twas blowin' he let them chains out full length. The wind blowed so strong it lifted the lightship right out of the water up to the ends of them chains and kept her there. Course there was a dreadful sea runnin' underneath us, but we never felt it a mite; that gale was holdin' us up twenty foot clear of it!"

"Zacheus Bloomer, do you mean to say--"

"Um-hm. Twenty foot in the air we was all that night and part of next day. When it slacked off and we settled down again we was leakin' like a sieve; you see, while we was up there that no'thwester had blowed 'most all the copper off the vessel's bottom. Some storm that was, Posy, some storm.... Well, so long, all hands. Much obliged for the coffee, Martha."

He tugged his sou'wester tighter on his head, glanced at Miss Cash's face, where incredulity and indignation were written large and struggling for expression, turned his head in Mr. Bangs' direction, winked solemnly, and departed. The wind obligingly and enthusiastically saved him the trouble of closing the door.

Galusha was not called upon to endure any such experiences as those described by the veracious Mr. Bloomer in his record-breaking gale, but during that winter he learned a little of what New England coast weather could be and often was. And he learned, also, that that weather was, like most blusterers, not nearly as savage when met squarely face to face. He learned to put on layer after layer of garments, topping off with oilskins, sou'wester and mittens, and tramp down to the village for the mail or to do the household errands. He was growing stronger all the time and if the doctor could have seen him plowing through drifts or shouldering his way through a driving rain he would have realized that his patient was certainly obeying the order to "keep out of doors." Martha Phipps was perfectly certain that her lodger was keeping out of doors altogether too much.

"You aren't goin' out to-day, Mr. Bangs, are you?" she exclaimed. "It's as cold as the North Pole. You'll freeze."

Galusha smiled beneath his cap visor and between the ear-laps.

"Oh, no, indeed," he declared. "It's brisk and--ah--snappy, that's all. A smart walk will do me good. I am accustomed to walking. In Egypt I walk a GREAT deal."

"I don't doubt it; but you don't have much of this sort of weather in Egypt, if what I've heard is true."

Mr. Bangs' smile broadened. "I fear I shall have to admit that," he said; "but my--ah--physician told me that a change would be good for me. And this IS a change, now isn't it?"

"I should say it was. About as much change as a plate of ice cream after a cup of hot coffee. Well, if you're bound to go, do keep walkin' fast. Don't forget that it's down to zero or thereabouts; don't forget that and wander over to the old cemetery and kneel down in front of a slate tombstone and freeze to death."

"Oh, I shall be all right, Miss Phipps. Really I shall. Don't worry, I beg of you."

He had begged her not to worry on many other occasions and she had been accustomed to answer him in a manner half joking and half serious. But this time she did not answer at all for a moment, and when she did there was no hint of a joke in her tone.

"No," she said, slowly. "I won't. I couldn't, I guess. Don't seem as if I could carry any more worries just now, any more than I am carryin', I mean."

She sighed as she said it and he looked at her in troubled alarm.

"Oh, dear me!" he exclaimed. "I--I'm so sorry. Sorry that you are worried, I mean. Is there anything I can do to--to--I should be very glad to help in any way if--"

He was hesitating, trying to say the right thing and very fearful of saying too much, of seeming to be curious concerning her personal affairs, when she interrupted him. She was standing by the kitchen door, with one hand upon the knob, and she spoke without looking at him.

"There is nothin' you or anybody can do," she said. "And there isn't a single bit of use talkin' about it. Trot along and have your walk, Mr. Bangs. And don't pay any attention to what I said. It was just silliness. I get a little nervous, sometimes, but that's no reason for my makin' other people that way. Have a good walk."

He did not have a very good walk and his thoughts while walking were not as closely centered about ancient inscriptions, either Egyptian or East Wellmouthian, as was usually the case upon such excursions. Miss Martha Phipps was worried, she had said so, herself. Yes, and now that he thought of it, she looked worried. She was in trouble of some sort. A dreadful surmise entered his mind. Was it possible that he, his presence in her house, was the cause of her worry? He had been very insistent that she take him as boarder and lodger. The sum he paid each week was ridiculously small. Was it possible that, having consented to the agreement, she had found it a losing one and was too kind-hearted and conscientious to suggest a change? He remembered agreements which he had made, and having made, had hesitated to break, even though they turned out to be decidedly unprofitable and unpleasant. He had often been talked into doing things he did not want to do, like buying the yellow cap at Beebe's store. Perhaps he had talked Miss Phipps into taking him as boarder and lodger and now she was sorry.

By the time Galusha returned from his walk he was in what might be described as a state of mind.

As he entered the Phipps' gate he met some one coming down the path toward it. That some one, it developed, was no less a person than Mr. Horatio Pulcifer. Raish and Galusha had not encountered each other for some time, weeks, in fact, and Mr. Bangs expected the former's greeting to be exuberant and effusive. His shoulders and his spirit were alike shrinking in anticipation.

But Raish did not shout when he saw him, did not even shake hands, to say nothing of thumping the little man upon the back. The broad and rubicund face of East Wellmouth's leading politician and dealer in real estate wore not a grin but a frown, and when he and Galusha came together at the gate he did not speak. Galusha spoke first, which was unusual; very few people meeting Mr. Horatio Pulcifer were afforded the opportunity of speaking first.

"Ah--good-morning, Mr. Pulcifer," said Galusha, endeavoring to open the gate.

"Huh!" grunted Raish, jerking the gate from Mr. Bangs' hand and pushing it somewhat violently into the Bangs' waistcoat. "Mornin'."

"It is a nice--ah--cool day, isn't it?" observed Galusha, backing from the gateway in order to give Horatio egress. Mr. Pulcifer's answer was irrelevant and surprising.

"Say," he demanded, turning truculently upon the speaker, "ain't women hell?"

Galusha was, naturally, somewhat startled.

"I--I beg your pardon?" he stammered.

"I say ain't women hell? Hey? Ain't they, now?"

Galusha rubbed his chin.

"Well," he said, doubtfully, "I presume in--ah--certain instances they--My experience has been limited, but--"

"Humph! Say, they make me sick, most of 'em. They haven't any more business sense than a hen, the heft of 'em ain't. Go into a deal with their eyes open and then, when it don't turn out to suit 'em, lay down and squeal. Yes, sir, squeal."

"Ah--I see. Yes, yes, of course. Squeal--yes. The--the hens, you mean."

"HENS? No, women. They make me sick, I tell you.... And now a lot of dum fools are goin' to give 'em the right to vote! Gosh!"

He strode off along the road to the village. Galusha wonderingly gazed after him, shook his head, and then moved slowly up the path to the house. Primmie opened the door for him. Her eyes were snapping.

"Hello, Mr. Bangs!" she said. "I 'most wisht he'd drop down dead and then freeze to death in a snowbank, that's what I wish."

Galusha blinked.

"Why, bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Of whom are you speaking?"

"That everlastin' Raish Pulcifer. I never did like him, and now if he's comin' around here makin' her cry."

"Eh? Making her cry?"

"Sshh! She'll hear you. Makin' Miss Martha cry. She's up in her room cryin' now, I'll bet you on it. And he's responsible.... Yes'm, I'm comin'. Don't say nothin' to her that I told you, will you, Mr. Bangs?"

She hurried away in response to her mistress' hail. Galusha said nothing to Miss Phipps nor to any one else, but during the rest of that day he did a great deal of thinking. Martha Phipps was worried, she was troubled, she had been crying; according to Primmie Horatio Pulcifer was responsible for her tears. Galusha had never fancied Mr. Pulcifer, now he was conscious of a most extraordinary dislike for the man. He had never disliked any one so much in all his life, he was sure of that. Also he was conscious of a great desire to help Martha in her trouble. Of course there was a certain measure of relief in learning that Pulcifer and not he was responsible for that trouble, but the relief was a small matter in comparison with the desire to help.

He could think of but one way in which Horatio Pulcifer could cause worry for Martha Phipps and that was in connection with some business matter. Certain fragments of conversations occurred to him, certain things she had said to him or to Captain Hallett in his hearing which were of themselves sufficient to warrant the surmise that her trouble was a financial one. He remembered them now, although at the time they had made little impression upon his mind. But Raish Pulcifer's name was not mentioned in any of those conversations; Captain Jethro's had been, but not Raish's. Yet Primmie vowed that the latter had made Miss Martha cry. He determined to seek Primmie and ask for more particulars that very evening.

But Primmie saved him the trouble of seeking her. Miss Phipps and her maid left him alone in the sitting room as soon as supper was over and neither came back. He could hear the murmur of voices in the kitchen, but, although he sat up until ten o'clock, neither Primmie nor her mistress joined him. So he reluctantly went up to his room, but had scarcely reached it when a knock sounded on the door. He opened it, lamp in hand.

"Why, Primmie!" he exclaimed.

Primmie waved both hands in frantic expostulation.

"Sshh! shh! shh!" she breathed. "Don't say nothin'. I don't want her to hear you. PLEASE don't let her hear you, Mr. Bangs. And PLEASE come right downstairs again. I want to talk to you. I've GOT to talk with you."

More bewildered than he had before been, even on that bewildering day, Galusha followed Miss Cash down the stairs, through sitting room and dining room to the kitchen. Then Primmie put down the lamp, which she had taken from his hand, carefully closed the door behind them, turned to her companion and burst out crying.

"Why--why, Primmie!" exclaimed Galusha. "Oh, dear me! What is it?"

Primmie did not answer. She merely waved her hands up and down and stood there, dripping like a wet umbrella.

"But--my soul, Primmie!" cried Mr. Bangs. "Don't! You--you mustn't, you know."

But Primmie did, nevertheless. Galusha in desperation turned toward the door.

"I'm going to call Miss Phipps," he declared. Primmie, the tears still pouring down her cheeks, seized him by the arm.

"Don't you do it!" she commanded. "Don't you dast to do it! I'll--I'll stop cryin'. I--I'm goin' to if you'll only wait and give me a chance. There! There! See, I'm--I'm stoppin' now."

And, with one tremendous sniff and a violent rub of her hand across her nose, stop she did. But she was still the complete picture of misery.

"Why, what IS the matter?" demanded Galusha.

Primmie sniffed once more, gulped, and then blurted forth the explanation.

"She--she's canned me," she said.

Galusha looked at her uncomprehendingly. Primmie's equipment of Cape Cod slang and idiom, rather full and complete of itself, had of late been amplified and complicated by a growing acquaintance with the new driver of the grocery cart, a young man of the world who had spent two hectic years in Brockton, where, for a portion of the time, he worked in a shoe factory. But Galusha Bangs, not being a man of the world, was not up in slang; he did not understand.

"What?" he asked.

"I say she's canned me. Miss Martha has, I mean. Oh, ain't it awful!"

"Canned you? Really, I--"

"Yes, yes, yes! Canned me, fired me. Oh, DON'T stand there owlin' at me like that! Can't you see, I--Oh, please, Mr. Bangs, excuse me for talkin' so. I--I didn't mean to be sassy. I'm just kind of loony, I guess. Please excuse me, Mr. Bangs."

"Yes, yes, Primmie, of course--of course. Don't cry, that's all. But what is this? Do I understand you to say that Miss Phipps has--ah--DISCHARGED you?"

"Um-hm. That's what she's done. I'm canned. And I don't know where to go and--and I don't want to go anywheres else. I want to stay here along of her."

She burst into tears again. It was some time before Galusha could calm her sufficiently to get the story of what had happened. When told, flavored with the usual amount of Primmieisms, it amounted to this: Martha had helped her with the supper dishes and then, instead of going into the sitting room, had asked her to sit down as she had something particular to say to her. Primmie obediently sat and her mistress did likewise.

"But she didn't begin to say it right off," said Primmie. "She started four or five times afore she really got a-goin'. She said that what she'd got to say was dreadful unpleasant and was just as hard for her to say as 'twould be for me to hear. And she said I could be sartin' sure she'd never say it if 'twan't absolutely necessary and that she hadn't made up her mind to say it until she'd laid awake night after night tryin' to think of some other way out, but that, try as she could, she didn't see no other way. And so then--so then she said it. Oh, my savin' soul! I declare I never thought--"

"Hush, hush, Primmie. Ah--control yourself, please. You promised not to cry, you know."

"Cry! Well, ain't I tryin' not to cry, for mercy sakes? She was cryin', too, I tell you, afore she finished. If you'd seen the pair of us settin' there bellerin' like a couple of young ones I cal'late you'd a thought so."

"Bellowing? Miss Phipps?"

"Oh, I don't mean bellerin' out loud like a--like a heifer. I guess likely I was doin' that, but she wan't. She was just cryin' quiet, you know, but anybody could see how terrible bad she was feelin'. And then she said it--oh, dear, dear! How CAN I tell it? How CAN I?"

Galusha groaned, in harassed desperation.

"I don't know," he admitted, "But I--really I wish you would."

Miss Phipps had, it seemed, told her maidservant that, owing to the steadily increasing cost of living, of food and clothes and every item of daily expense, she was finding it more and more hard to get along. She said her income was very small and her bills continually growing larger. She had cut and scrimped in every possible way, hoping against hope, but at last she had been driven to the point where even the small wage she was paying Primmie seemed more than she could afford. Much as she hated to do it, she felt compelled to let the girl go.

"She said she'd help me get another place," said Primmie, "and that I could stay here until I did get one, and all sorts of things like that. I told her I didn't want no other place and I didn't care a bit about the wages. I said I'd rather work here without a cent of wages. She said no, she wouldn't let me do that. If she couldn't pay me I couldn't work here. I said I could and I should and she said I couldn't and shouldn't. And--and we both cried and--and that's the way it ended. And that's why I come to you, Mr. Bangs. I CAN'T go away and leave her. I CAN'T, Mr. Bangs. She can't keep this whole house a-goin' without somebody to help. I've GOT to stay. You make her keep me, Mr. Bangs. I don't want no pay for it. I never was no hand to care for money, anyhow. Pa used to say I wan't. None of our folks was. Matter of that, we never had none to care for. But you make her keep me, Mr. Bangs."

She began to sob once more. Poor Galusha was very much distressed. The cause of Martha Phipps' worry was plain enough now. And her financial stress must be very keen indeed to cause her to take such drastic action as the discharge of Primmie the faithful.

"You'll make her keep me, won't you, Mr. Bangs?" pleaded Primmie, once more.

Galusha rubbed his chin. "Dear me," he said, perplexedly, "I--Well, I shall be glad to do all I can, of course, but how I can make her keep you when she has made up her mind not to, I--really, I don't see. You don't think, do you," he added, "that my being here is in any way responsible for a portion of Miss Phipps' financial trouble? You don't think it might be--ah--easier for her if I was to--ah--go?"

Primmie shook her head. "Oh, no, no," she declared, with decision, "You ain't a mite of bother, Mr. Bangs. I've heard Miss Martha say more'n a dozen times what a nice man you was and how easy 'twas to provide for you. She likes you, Miss Martha does, and I do, too. Even when we thought you was an undertaker huntin' 'round for remains we liked you just the same."

Galusha could not help feeling a certain satisfaction in this whole-hearted declaration. It was pleasant to learn that he was liked and that his hostess considered him a nice man.

"Thank you, Primmie," he said. "But what I meant was--was--Well, I pay what seems to me a ridiculously small sum for board and lodging. I begged to be allowed to pay more, but Miss Phipps wouldn't permit it. Now I am sure she must be losing money in the transaction and if I were to go--ah--elsewhere perhaps it might be--ah--easier for her. Candidly, don't you think so, Primmie?"

Miss Cash appeared to consider. Then she shook her head again. "No," she said, "I don't. You pay your board and I've heard her say more'n once that she felt as if you was payin' too much. No, 'tain't that. It's more'n that. It ain't anything to do really with you or me, Mr. Bangs. Miss Martha's lost some money somehow, I believe. She ain't got enough to get along on, 'cause she told me she hadn't. Now, she used to have and I believe she's lost some of it somewheres. And I believe that--"

Galusha felt it his duty to interrupt.

"Primmie," he continued, "you mustn't tell me anything which Miss Phipps wouldn't wish told. I wouldn't for the world have you think that I am unduly curious concerning her personal affairs. If there is any trait which I--ah--detest above others it is that of unwarranted curiosity concerning the--ah--private affairs of one's acquaintances. I... Why do you look at me like that? Were you about to speak?"

Primmie was staring at him in what seemed to be awe-stricken admiration. She drew a long breath.

"My Lord of Isrul!" she exclaimed, fervently, "I never heard anybody string talk along the way you can in all my born days, Mr. Bangs. I bet you've said as many as seven words already that I never heard afore, never heard ary one of 'em, I ain't. Education's wonderful, ain't it? Pa used to say 'twas, but all he had he picked up off fishin' and clammin' and cranberrin' and around. All our family had a kind of picked-up education, seemed so."

"Yes, yes, Primmie, but--"

"But why don't I mind my own business and stick to what I was goin' to say, you mean? All right, I will. I was goin' to say that I believe Miss Martha's lost money somehow and I believe that dressed-up stuffed image of a Raish Pulcifer is responsible for her losin' it, that's what I believe."

"Mr. Pulcifer! Why, Primmie, why do you say that? What proof have you?"

"Ain't got no proof. If folks could get proof on Raish Pulcifer he'd have been in jail long ago. Zach Bloomer said that only the other day. But a body can guess, can't they, even if they ain't got proof, and that's what I'm doin'--guessin'. Every once in a while Miss Martha goes up to the village to see this Pulcifer thing, don't she? Yes, she does. Went up twice inside of a fortni't that I know of. Does she go 'cause she likes him? I cal'late she don't. She likes him about the way I do and I ain't got no more use for him than a hen has for a toothbrush. And t'other day she sent for him and asked him to come here and see her. How do I know she did? 'Cause she telephoned him and I heard her doin' it, that's how. And he didn't want to come and she just begged him to, said she would try not to bother him again if he would come that once. And he came and after he went away she cried, same as I told you she did."

"But, Primmie, all that may be and yet Mr. Pulcifer's visit may have no connection with Miss Martha's monetary trouble."

"I want to know! Well, if that's so, why was she and him talkin' so hard when he was here this afternoon? And why was she askin' him to please see if he couldn't get some sort of an offer? I heard her ask that."

"Offer for what?"

"Search me! For somethin' she wanted to sell, I presume likely. And he says to her, 'No, I can't,' he says. 'I've told you so a dozen times. If I could get anybody to buy I'd sell my own, wouldn't I? You bet your life I would!' And she waited a minute and then she says, kind of low and more as if she was talkin' to herself than to him, 'What SHALL I do?' she says. And he heard her and says he--I'd like to have chopped his head off with the kindlin' hatchet when I heard him say it--says he, '_I don't know. How do you s'pose _I know what you'll do? I don't know what I'll do, myself, do I?' And she answered right off, and kind of sharp, 'You was sure enough what was goin' to be done when you got father into this thing.' And he just swore and stomped out of the house. So THAT sounds as if he had somethin' to do with it, don't it?"

Galusha was obliged to admit that it did so sound. And when he remembered Mr. Pulcifer's remark at the gate, that concerning women and business, the evidence was still more convincing. He did not tell Primmie that he was convinced, however. He swore her to secrecy, made her promise that she would tell no one else what she had told him or even that she had told him, and in return promised to do what he could to bring about her retention in the Phipps' home.

"Although, as I said, Primmie," he added, "I'm sure I can't at present see what I can do."

Another person might have found little encouragement in this, but Primmie apparently found a good deal.

"You'll see a way, I'll bet you you will, Mr. Bangs," she declared. "Anybody that's been through the kind of times you have, livin' along with critters that steal the shirt off your back, ain't goin' to let a blowed-up gas balloon like Raish Pulcifer stump you. My savin' soul, no!"

Mr. Bangs smiled faintly.

"The shirt wasn't on my back when it was stolen," he said.

Primmie sniffed. "It didn't have no chance to be," she declared. "That camel thing got it onto HIS back first. But, anyhow, I feel better. I think now we're goin' to come out all right, Miss Martha and me. I don't know why I feel so, but I do."

Galusha was by no means as confident. He went back to his room and to bed, but it was long before he fell asleep. Just why the thought of Martha Phipps' trouble should trouble him so greatly he still did not understand, exactly. Of course he was always sorry for any one in trouble, and would have gone far out of his way to help such a person, had the latter appealed to him. But Martha had not appealed to him; as a matter of fact, it was evident that she was trying to keep knowledge of her difficulty from him and every one else. Plainly it was not his business at all. And yet he was filled with an intense desire, even a determination, to make it his business. He could not understand why, but he wasted no time trying to understand. The determination to help was strong when at last he did fall asleep and it was just as strong when he awoke the next morning.

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 9
CHAPTER IXHe endeavored, while dressing, to map out a plan of campaign, but the map was but a meaningless whirligig of lines leading nowhere when Primmie called from the foot of the stairs that breakfast was ready. During breakfast he was more absent-minded than usual, which is saying a good deal, and Martha herself was far from communicative. After the meal he was putting on his hat and coat preparatory to going out for his usual walk when Primmie came hurrying through the hall. "She wants you," said Primmie, mysteriously, her eyes shining with excitement. "She wants to see you in
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CHAPTER VIIThe 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
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