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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGalusha The Magnificent - Chapter 17
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 17 Post by :goodsense Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :2694

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 17

CHAPTER XVII

Galusha had some difficulty in falling asleep that night. The habit of dropping into a peaceful and dreamless slumber within five minutes after blowing out his lamp, a habit which had been his for the past month, was broken. He had almost succeeded in forgetting the Wellmouth Development Company. His distress of mind and conscience concerning his dealings with it had very nearly vanished also. He had been forced into deceit to save Martha Phipps from great trouble, and the end justified the means. Having reached that conclusion in his thinking, he had firmly resolved to put the whole matter from his mind.

His one plunge into the pool of finance he had come to believe destined never to be revealed. No one had mentioned the Development Company or its stock for weeks. It was, apparently, dead and satisfactorily buried, and the Bangs' secret was entombed with it.

And now, if Martha's surmise was correct, here was a "resurrection man," in the person of Mr. Horatio Pulcifer, hanging about the cemetery. The capacity for hating was not in Galusha's make-up. He found it difficult to dislike any one strongly. But he could come nearer to disliking Raish Pulcifer than any one else, and now to dislike was added resentment. Why in the world should this Pulcifer person interfere with his peace of mind?

In the morning, and with the bright September sunshine streaming into the room, his disquietude of the previous night seemed rather foolish. No doubt Miss Martha had been mistaken; perhaps Horatio had not had any idea of buying her shares. Martha herself seemed a little doubtful.

"I've been thinkin' it over," she said, "and I wonder if I just imagined that's what he was after. It seems almost as if I must have. I can't think of any sensible reason why a man who was so dreadfully anxious to sell, and only a little while ago, should be wantin' to buy now. Perhaps he didn't mean anything of the kind."

Galusha comforted himself with the thought that this was, in all probability, the truth: Miss Martha had misinterpreted the Pulcifer purpose; Raish had not meant anything of the kind.

But the comfort was short-lived. A few days later Doctor Powers called at the Phipps' home. After he had gone Martha came to the sitting room, where her lodger was reading the paper, and, closing the door behind her, said:

"Mr. Bangs, I guess I was right, after all. Raish Pulcifer WAS hintin' at buyin' my Wellmouth Development stock."

Galusha dropped the paper in his lap. "Oh, dear! I--I mean, dear me!" he observed.

"Yes, I guess there isn't much doubt of it. Doctor Powers came here to tell me that he had sold his shares to him and that Eben Snow and Jim Henry Willis have sold theirs in the same place. He says he doesn't know for certain, but he thinks Raish has bought out all the little stockholders. He's been quietly buyin' the Development stock for the last week."

Mr. Bangs took off his spectacles and put them on again.

"Good gracious!" he stammered.

"That's what Doctor Powers says. He stopped in, just as an old friend, to drop the hint to me, so that I could be ready when Raish came to buy mine. I asked him what the Pulcifer man was payin' for the stock. He said as little as he had to, as near as he could find out. Of course, no one was supposed to tell a word about it--Raish had asked 'em not to do that--but SOMEBODY told, and then it all began to come out. As a matter of fact, you might as well ask water to run up hill as to ask Jim Willis to keep quiet about his own business or keep out of any one else's. The price paid, so the doctor says he's heard, runs all the way from eight dollars a share up to fourteen and a half. Poor old Mrs. Badger--Darius Badger's widow--got the eight dollars. She was somethin' like me, I guess--had given up the idea of ever gettin' a cent--and so she took the first offer Raish made her. Eben Snow got the fourteen and a half, I believe, the highest price. He needed it less than anybody else, which is usually the way. Doctor Powers sold his for twelve and a half. Said he thought, when he was doin' it, that he was mighty lucky. Now he wishes he hadn't sold at all, but had waited. 'Don't sell yours for a penny less than fifteen, Martha,' he told me. 'There's somethin' up. Either Raish has heard somethin' and is buyin' for a speculation, or else he's actin' as somebody else's agent.' What did you say, Mr. Bangs?"

Galusha had not said anything; and what he said now was neither brilliant nor original.

"Dear me, dear me!" he murmured. Martha looked at him, keenly.

"Why, what is it, Mr. Bangs?" she asked. "Raish's buyin' the stock won't make any difference to you, will it?"

"Eh?... To ME? Why--why, of course not. Dear me, no. Why--ah--how could it make any difference to me?"

"I didn't mean you, yourself. I meant to the Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot people, or whoever it was that bought my stock."

"Oh--oh, oh! To them? Oh, yes, yes! I thought for the moment you referred to me personally. Ha, ha! That would have been very--ah--funny, wouldn't it? No, I don't think it will make any difference to Cousin--ah--I mean to the purchasers of your shares. No, no, indeed--ah--yes. Quite so."

If Miss Phipps noticed a slight incoherence in this speech, she did not comment upon it. Galusha blinked behind his spectacles and passed a hand across his forehead. His landlady continued her story.

"I asked Doctor Powers what reason Raish was givin' people for his buyin'. The doctor said he gave reasons enough, but they weren't very satisfyin' ones to a thinkin' person. Raish said he owned a big block of the stock himself and yet it wasn't big enough to give him much say as to what should be done with the company. Of course, nothin' could be done with it at present, but still some time there might and so he thought he might as well be hung for an old sheep as a lamb and buy in what he could get, provided he could get it cheap enough. He had come to the doctor first, he said. Ha, ha! That was kind of funny."

"Eh?... Oh, yes, certainly.... Of course."

"But I haven't told you yet why it was funny. It seems he told every person he went to that he or she was the first. Doctor Powers prides himself on bein' a pretty good business man and I guess it provoked him to find that Raish had fooled him into takin' a lower price than some of the rest got. He said as much to me. He said that he agreed with what Raish said, that about he might as well be hung for an old sheep as a lamb. So long as he WAS hung, so the doctor said, he didn't care what it was for."

She laughed again and her lodger smiled, although rather feebly. He murmured that it was very amusing.

"Yes, wasn't it?" said Martha. "Well, the doctor was very anxious that I should not sell at a cent less than fifteen dollars a share. I wonder what he, or Raish Pulcifer either, would say if they knew I HAD sold already, and for as much as father paid, too. Oh, I wonder if Raish has been to see Cap'n Jeth yet. He won't buy HIS shares for any eight dollars a piece, he can be sure of that."

Galusha nodded; he was sure of it, too.

"But," said Martha, ending the conversation for the time, "why do you suppose Raish is buyin' at all? What is goin' on, anyway?"

She was by no means the only one who was asking that question. Three days later Captain Jethro asked Galusha the same thing. They met in the lane leading to the village and the light keeper approached the subject without preamble.

"Say, Mr. Bangs," he demanded, "what's Raish Pulcifer cal'late he's doin'?"

Galusha smiled. "I thank you for the compliment, Captain Hallett," he said, "but my intuition cannot keep pace with Mr. Pulcifer's--ah--calculations. No, indeed."

Jethro pulled his beard. "I asked you," he said, solemnly, "what Raish Pulcifer cal'lated he was doin' buyin' up Development stock? Do you know?"

"No. Is he buying it?"

"If you ain't heard that he is, you're about the only one in East Wellmouth. Ain't you heard it?"

Galusha would have liked to change the subject, but with Jethro Hallett that was not an easy task, as he knew from experience. He did not immediately make the attempt.

"Why--ah--yes," he admitted. "I have heard that he has bought--ah--some."

"Um-hm. Who told you; Martha?"

"Why--why--really, Captain, I don't know that I ought--You'll pardon me, but--"

"Been tryin' to buy Martha's, has he?"

Galusha sighed. "Have you noticed," he suggested, "what a remarkable view one gets from this point? The village and the bay in front, and, in the rear, the--ah--light and the--ah--rest. Quite remarkable, don't you think so, Captain?"

Captain Jethro looked gravely at the view.

"Raish been to see Martha about buyin' her stock, has he?" he asked.

Galusha rubbed his chin. "I have often wondered," he said, "why no summer cottage has been built just here. The spot would seem to possess very marked advantages. Very--ah--very much so."

The light keeper cleared his throat. "Zach said he see Raish comin' out of your gate t'other day," he said. "Been to see Martha about her shares then, had he?"

"The--ah--proximity to the main road is an advantage in particular," Galusha continued. "One would be near it and yet, so to speak, secluded from it. Really, a very exceptional spot, Captain Hallett."

Captain Jethro stroked his beard, frowned, and gazed steadily at the face of the little archaeologist. Galusha gazed serenely and with a pleased interest at the view. After a moment the light keeper said: "He's been after mine, too."

"Eh?... Oh, indeed? You mean--"

"I mean Raish Pulcifer's been tryin' to buy my Development stock same as he has Martha's. Hey? What say?"

"I said nothing, Captain. Not a word, really"

"Humph!... Well, he's been tryin' to buy mine, anyway. And, nigh's as I can find out, he's bought every loose share there is. All hands are talkin' about it now; some of 'em are wonderin' if they hadn't better have hung on. Eben Snow came to me this mornin' and he says, 'I don't know whether I did right to let go of that stock of mine or not,' he says. 'What do you think, Jeth?' I haven't got much use for Eben, and ain't had for years; I went to sea with him one v'yage and that generally tells a man's story. I've seen him at church sociables--in the days when I wasted my time goin' to such things--spend as much as five minutes decidin' whether to take a doughnut or a piece of pie. He couldn't eat both, but he was afraid whichever he took the other might turn out to be better. So when he asked me my opinion about his sellin' his Development, I gave it to him. 'You've been wantin' to sell, ain't you?' says I. 'I've heard you whinin' around for months because you couldn't sell. Now you HAVE sold. What more do you want?' He got mad. 'You ain't sold YOUR holdin's at any fourteen dollars a share, have you?' he says. I told him I hadn't. 'No, and I'll bet you won't, either,' says he. I told him he'd make money if he could get somebody to take the bet. Humph! the swab!"

For the first time Galusha asked a direct question.

"Did--ah--Mr. Pulcifer actually--ah--bid for your Development shares, Captain Hallett?" he inquired.

"Oh, he come as nigh to doin' it as I'd let him. Hinted maybe that he'd give me as much as he did Snow, fourteen fifty. I laughed at him. I asked him what made him so reckless, when, the last time he and I talked, he was tryin' to sell me his own shares for ten. And now he wanted to buy mine at fourteen and a half!"

"And--ah--what reason did he give for his change of heart? Or didn't he give any?"

"Humph! Yes, he gave a shipload of reasons, but there wouldn't any one of 'em float if 'twas hove overboard. He ain't buyin' on his own account, that I KNOW."

"Oh--ah--do you, indeed. May I ask why you are so certain?"

"For two reasons. First, because Raish ain't got money enough of his own to do any such thing. Second, and the main reason why I know he ain't buyin' for himself is because he says he is. Anybody that knows Raish knows that's reason enough."

Galusha ventured one more question.

"When he--ah--approached you, did you--that is, what excuse did you give him for--for your lack of interest, so to speak?"

"Hey? I didn't give him any. And I didn't tell him I wasn't interested. I am interested--to see how far he'll go. I sha'n't tell him I've sold already, Mr. Bangs; your Boston friends needn't worry about that. When I sign articles I stick to my contract."

They had reached the Phipps' gate by this time and there they parted. The light keeper strode off, rolling heavily, his beard blowing across his shoulder. He had been, for him, remarkably good-humored and talkative. Galusha was inclined to attribute the good humor to the fact that Captain Jethro considered he had made a good bargain in selling his own shares at a price so much higher than that obtained by Snow and the rest. The next time they conversed the good humor was not as apparent. But that occasion was almost a fortnight later.

And, meantime, Mr. Pulcifer had become the center of interest in East Wellmouth and its neighborhood. An important figure he always was, particularly in his own estimation, but now the spotlight of publicity which beat upon his ample figure had in its rays the blue tinge of mystery. The question which all Wellmouth was asking was that which Captain Jethro had asked Mr. Bangs: "What is Raish up to now?"

And Mr. Pulcifer firmly refused to answer that question. Or, to be more exact, he always answered it, but the answers were not considered convincing. Some pretended to be satisfied with his offhand declaration that he "had a little chunk of the stock and just presumed likely I might as well have a little more. Ain't nothin' to make a fuss about, anyhow." A few pretended to accept this explanation as bona fide, but the remainder, the majority, received it with open incredulity.

The oddest part of it all was the fact that the great Horatio appeared to dislike the prominent position which his activities held in the community mind. Ordinarily prominence had been the delight of his soul. In every political campaign, wherever the limelight shone brightest there had strutted Mr. Pulcifer, cigar in mouth, hat over one eye, serene self-satisfaction in the possession of mysterious knowledge radiating from his person. He loved that sort of thing; to be the possessor of "inside information," however slight, or even to be popularly supposed to possess it, had hitherto been the meat upon which this, Wellmouth's, Caesar, fed and grew great.

But Raish was not enjoying this particular meal. And his attitude was not pretense, either; it was obvious that the more East Wellmouth discussed his buying the Development stock the less he liked it. When his fellow townsmen questioned him he grew peevish.

"Oh, forget it!" he exclaimed to one of the unfortunate who came seeking information. "You make me tired, Jim Fletcher, you and Ras Beebe and the whole gang. By cripes, a feller can't as much as take a five cent cigar out of his pocket without all hands tryin' to make a--a molehill out of it. Forget it, I tell you!"

Mr. Fletcher was a simple soul, decidedly not one of East Wellmouth's intellectual aristocracy, but he was persistent.

"Aw, hold on, Raish," he expostulated, "I never said a word about your takin' a five cent cigar out of your pocket.... Er--er--you ain't taken one out, have you?"

"No, and I ain't goin' to--not now."

"All right--all right. _I never asked you. All I said was--"

"I know what you said."

"Why, no, you don't neither. You're all mixed up. Nobody's said anything about cigars, or makin'--er--er--What was it you said they made?"

"Oh, nothin', nothin'. A molehill is what I said."

"What kind of a hill?"

"A molehill. Didn't you ever hear of a ground mole, for heaven sakes?"

"Course I've heard of a ground mole! But what's a ground mole got to do with a cigar, I want to know? And you said a moleHILL. What's a ground mole doin' up on a hill?"

"Not up ON one--IN one. A molehill is what a ground mole lives in, ain't it? It's just a sayin'.... Oh, never mind! Go on! Take a walk."

"_I don't want to walk. And a ground mole lives in a hole, not a hill, like a--like a ant. You know that as well as I do. And, anyhow, nobody said anything about ground moles, or--or mud turtles neither, far's that goes. No, nor five cent cigars. Now, Raish, I'll tell you what they're sayin'; they say--"

"And I'll tell YOU! Listen! Listen, now, because this is the last time I'll tell anybody anything except to go--"

"Sshh, shh, Raish! Alvira's right in the kitchen and the window's open.... No, 'tain't, it's shut. Where will they go?"

"Listen, you! I've bought those few extra shares of Development because I had some myself and thought I might as well have a few more. I bought 'em and I paid for 'em. Nobody says I ain't paid for 'em, do they?"

"No, no. Don't anybody say that. All they say IS--"

"Be still! Now I bought those shares. What of it? It's my business, ain't it? Yes. And I haven't bought any more. You can tell 'em that: I HAVEN'T BOUGHT ANY MORE."

"Oh, all right, Raish, all right. I'll tell 'em you ain't. But--"

"That's all. Now forget it! For-GET it!"

Which should, perhaps, have been sufficient and convincing. But there were still some unconvinced. For example, Martha happened to meet one morning, while on an errand in the village, the president of the Denboro Trust Company. He explained that he had motored over, having a little matter of personal business to attend to.

"I haven't seen you for some time, Miss Phipps," he observed. "Not since our--er--little talk about the Wellmouth Development stock. That was the last time, wasn't it?"

Martha said that it was. He lowered his voice a very little and asked, casually: "Still holding on to your two hundred and fifty shares, are you?"

"Why, that was what you told me to do, wasn't it?"

"Yes, yes. I believe it was. Humph! Just so, yes. So you've still got those shares?"

Martha smiled. "I haven't sold 'em to Raish Pulcifer, if that's what you're hintin' at," she said.

He seemed a bit embarrassed. "Well," he admitted, with a laugh, "I guess I'll have to own that I did mean that. There seems to be a good many who have sold to Pulcifer. All the little fellows, the small holders. You haven't, you say?"

"I haven't sold a share to him."

"Humph! Neither has Cap'n Jeth Hallett; he told me so just now.... Hum!... What is Raish buying for? What's the reason he's buying? Have you heard?"

"I've heard what he's told other folks; that's all I know about it."

"Hum.... Yes, yes. Well, here's my advice, Miss Phipps: If I were you--if I were you, I say, and he came to me and wanted to buy, I shouldn't be in too big a hurry to sell. Not in too big a hurry, I shouldn't."

"Why not?"

He glanced at her quickly. "Oh, he HAS been to see you about buying your shares, then?" he suggested.

She shook her head. "I didn't say he had," she replied. "I just asked why I shouldn't sell if he wanted to buy, that's all. Why shouldn't I?"

He seemed more embarrassed and a trifle irritated.

"Why--why--Oh, well, I suppose you should, perhaps, if he offers you enough. But I wish you wouldn't until--until--Well, couldn't you let me know before you give him his answer? Would you mind doing that?"

And now she looked keenly at him. "What would I gain by that?" she asked. "YOU aren't thinkin' of buyin' more of that stock, are you? The other time when we talked, you told me the Trust Company had all they cared to own and were keepin' it because they had to. I would have been glad--yes, awfully glad, to sell you my shares. But you wouldn't even consider buyin'. Do you want to buy now?"

He frowned. "I don't know what I want," he said, impatiently. "Except that the one thing we want to find out is why Pulcifer is buying. The Trust Company holds a big block of that stock and--and if there is anything up we want to know of it."

"What do you mean by 'anything up'?"

"Oh, I mean if some other people are trying to get--er--into the thing. Of course, it isn't likely, but--"

He did not finish the sentence. She asked another question.

"Has Raish been to see you about buyin' the Trust Company stock?" she asked.

"No. He hasn't been near us."

"Perhaps he would if you told him you wanted to sell."

"I don't know that we do want to sell. That's a pretty good piece of property over there and some day--Ahem! Oh, well, never mind. But I wish you would let us know before you sell Pulcifer your holdings. It might--I can't say positively, you know--but it MIGHT be worth your while."

Martha, of course, made no promise, but she thought a good deal during her walk homeward. She told her lodger of the talk with the Trust Company official, and he thought a good deal, also.

His thoughts, however, dealt not with the possible rise in value of the six hundred and fifty shares which, endorsed in blank, reposed, presumably, somewhere in the vaults of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot. He thought not at all of anything like that. He had gotten rid of those certificates and hoped never to hear of them again. But now, with all this stir and talk, there was distinct danger that not only he but others might hear of them. Galusha Bangs and Raish Pulcifer had, just now, one trait in common, both detested the publicity given their dealings in the securities of the Wellmouth Development Company.

But, in spite of this detestation, Horatio still seemed anxious to deal in those securities. He visited the Phipps' home twice that week, both times after dark and, as the watchful Primmie observed and commented upon, each time coming not by the lane, but across the fields. And when he left, at the termination of his second visit, the expression upon his face was by no means one of triumph.

And Martha, of course, told her lodger what had transpired.

"I declare," she said, after her caller had gone, "I shall really begin to believe somethin' IS up in that Development Company, just as the Trust Company man said. Raish certainly wants to buy the two hundred and fifty shares he thinks I've got. This is the third time he's been to see me, sneakin' across lots in the dark so nobody else would see him, and each time he raised his bid. He got up to eighteen dollars a share to-night. And, I do believe, if I had given him the least bit of encouragement, he would have gone higher still. What do you think of that, Mr. Bangs?"

Galusha did not know what to think of it; he found it extremely unpleasant to think of it at all.

"Have you--ah--have you told him you do not intend selling?" he asked.

"Why, no, I haven't. You see, if I do he'll think it's awfully queer, because he knows how anxious I was, a while ago, TO sell. I just keep puttin' him off. Pretty soon I suppose I shall HAVE to tell him I won't sell no matter what he offers; but we'll try the puttin' off as long as possible." She paused, and then added, with a mischievous twinkle, "Really, Mr. Bangs, I am gettin' a good deal of fun out of it. A few months ago I was the one to go to him and talk about that stock. Now he comes to me and I'm just as high and mighty as he ever was, you can be sure of that. 'Well, Raish,' I said to him to-night, 'I don't know that I am very much interested. If the stock is worth that to you, I presume likely it's worth it to me.' Ha, ha! Oh, dear! you should have seen him squirm. He keeps tryin' to be buttery and sweet, but his real feelin's come out sometimes. For instance, to-night his spite got a little too much for him and he said: 'Humph!' he said, 'somebody must have willed you money lately, Martha. Either that or keepin' boarders must pay pretty well.' 'Yes,' said I, 'it does. The cost of livin is comin' down all the time.' Oh, I'm havin' a beautiful game of tit-for-tat with Raish."

She laughed merrily. Galusha did not laugh. The game was altogether too risky for him to enjoy it. A person sitting on a powder barrel could scarcely be expected to enjoy the sight of a group of children playing with matches in close proximity. An explosion, sooner or later, might be considered certain. But the children continued to play and day after day went by, and no blow-up took place. Galusha sat upon his barrel pondering apprehensively and--waiting. There were times when, facing what seemed the inevitable, he found himself almost longing for the promised summons from the Institute. An expedition to the wilds of--of almost anywhere, provided it was remote enough--offered at least a means of escape. But, to offset this, was the knowledge that escape by flight involved giving up East Wellmouth and all it had come to mean to him. Of course, he would be obliged to give it up some day and, in all probability, soon--but--well, he simply could not bring himself to the point of hastening the separation. So he shifted from the powder barrel to the sharp horn of the other dilemma and shifted back again. Both seats were most uncomfortable. The idea that there was an element of absurdity in his self-imposed martyrdom and that, after all, what he had done might be considered by the majority as commendable rather than criminal, did not occur to him at all. He would not have been Galusha Cabot Bangs if it had.

He meditated much and Primmie, always on the lookout for new symptoms, noticed the meditations. When Primmie noticed a thing she never hesitated to ask questions concerning it. She was dusting the sitting room one morning and he was sitting by the window looking out.

"You're thinkin' again, ain't you, Mr. Bangs?" observed Primmie.

Galusha started. "Eh?" he queried. "Thinking? Oh, yes--yes!--I suppose I was thinking, Primmie. I--ah--sometimes do."

"You 'most always do. I never see anybody think as much as you do, Mr. Bangs. Never in my born days I never. And lately--my savin' soul! Seems as if you didn't do nothin' BUT think lately. Just set around and think and twiddle that thing on your watch chain."

The thing on the watch chain was a rather odd charm which Mr. Bangs had possessed for many years. "Twiddling" it was a habit of his. In fact, he had twiddled it so much that the pivot upon which it had hung broke and Martha had insisted upon his sending the charm to Boston for repairs. It had recently been returned.

"What is that thing, Mr. Bangs?" asked Primmie. "I was lookin' at it t'other day when you left your watch chain layin' out in the sink."

"In the sink? You mean BY the sink, don't you, Primmie?"

"No, I don't, I mean IN it. You'd forgot your watch and Miss Martha she sent me up to your room after it. I fetched it down to you and you and her was talkin' in the kitchen and you was washin' your hands in the sink basin. Don't you remember you was?"

"Was I? I--I presume I was if you say so. Really I--I have forgotten."

"Course you have. And you forgot your watch, too. Left it layin' right alongside that tin washbasin full of soapsuds. 'Twas a mercy you didn't empty out the suds on top of it. Well, I snaked it out of the sink and chased out the door to give it to you and you was halfway to the lighthouse and I couldn't make you hear to save my soul. 'Twas then I noticed that charm thing. That's an awful funny kind of thing, Mr. Bangs. There's a--a bug on it, ain't there?"

"Why--ah--yes, Primmie. That charm is a very old scarab."

"Hey? A what? I told Miss Martha it looked for all the world like a pertater bug."

Galusha smiled. He held out the charm for her inspection.

"I have had that for a long time," he said. "It is a--ah--souvenir of my first Egyptian expedition. The scarab is a rather rare example. I found it myself at Saqqarah, in a tomb. It is a scarab of the Vth Dynasty."

"Hey? Die--what?"

"The Vth Dynasty; that is the way we classify Egyptian--ah--relics, by dynasties, you know. The Vth Dynasty was about six thousand years ago."

Primmie sat down upon the chair she had been dusting.

"Hey?" she exclaimed. "My Lord of Isrul! Is that bug thing there six thousand year old?"

"Yes."

"My savin' soul! WHAT kind of a bug did you say 'twas?"

"Why, I don't know that I did say. It is a representation of an Egyptian beetle, Ateuchus Sacer, you know. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the beetle and so they--"

"Wait! Wait a minute, Mr. Bangs. WHAT did you say they done to it?"

"I said they worshiped it, made a god of it, you understand."

"A god! Out of a--a pertater bug! Go long, Mr. Bangs! You're foolin', ain't you?"

"Dear me, no! It's quite true, Primmie, really. The ancient Egyptians had many gods, some like human beings, some in the forms of animals. The goddess Hathor, for example, was the goddess of the dead and is always represented in the shape of a cow."

"Eh! A cow! Do you mean to sit there and tell me them folks--er--er--went to church meetin' and--and flopped down and said their prayers to a COW?"

Galusha smiled. "Why, yes," he said, "I presume you might call it that. And another god of theirs had the head of a hawk--the bird, you know. The cat, too, was a very sacred animal. And, as I say, the beetle, like the one represented here, was--"

"Hold on, Mr. Bangs! HO-OLD on! Don't say no more to me NOW. Let me kind of--of settle my stomach, as you might say, 'fore you fetch any more onto the table. Worshipin' cows and--and henhawks and--and cats and bugs and--and hoptoads and clams, for what _I know! My savin' soul! What made 'em do it? What did they do it FOR? Was they all crazy?"

"Oh, no, it was the custom of their race and time."

"WELL!" with a heartfelt sigh, "I'm glad times have changed, that's all I've got to say. Goin' to cow meetin' would be too much for ME! Mr. Bangs, where did you get that bug thing?"

"I found it at a place called Saqqarah, in Egypt. It was in a tomb there."

"A tomb! What was you doin' in a tomb, for the land sakes?"

"I was opening it, looking for mummies and carvings, statues, relics, anything of the kind I might find. This scarab was in a ring on the finger of the mummy of a woman. She was the wife of an officer in the royal court. The mummy case was excellently preserved and when the mummy itself was unwrapped--"

"Wait a minute! Hold on just another minute, won't you, Mr. Bangs? You're always talkin' about mummies. A mummy is a--a kind of an image, ain't it? I've seen pictures of 'em in them printed report things you get from that Washin'ton place. An image with funny scrabblin' and pictures, kind of, all over it. That's a mummy, ain't it, Mr. Bangs?"

"Why, not exactly, Primmie. A mummy is--"

He proceeded to tell her much concerning mummies. From that he went on to describe the finding of the particular mummy from whose finger the scarab had been taken. Miss Cash listened, her mouth and eyes opening wider and wider. She appeared to be slowly stiffening in her chair. Galusha, growing interested in his own story, was waxing almost eloquent, when he was interrupted by a gasp from his listener. She was staring at him, her face expressing the utmost horror.

"Why, dear me, Primmie, what is it?" he begged.

Primmie gasped again. "And you set there," she said, slowly, "and tell me that you hauled that poor critter that had been buried six thousand years out of--of--My Lord of Isrul! Don't talk no more to me now, Mr. Bangs. I sha'n't sleep none THIS night!" She marched to the door and there, turning, looked at him in awe-stricken amazement.

"And to think," she said, slowly, "that I always cal'lated you was meek and gentle and--and all like that--as Moses's grandmother. WELL, it just shows you can't tell much by a person's LOOKS. Haulin' 'em out of their graves and--and unwrappin' 'em like--like bundles, and cartin' 'em off to museums. And thinkin' no more of it than I would of--of scalin' a flatfish. My savin' soul!"

She breathed heavily once more and departed. That evening she came to her mistress with a new hint concerning the reason for the Bangs' absent-mindedness.

"It's his conscience," she declared. "He's broodin', that's what he's doin'. Broodin' and broodin' over them poor remains in the showcases in the museums. He may be a good man; I don't say he ain't. He's just lovely NOW, and that's why his conscience keeps a-broodin', poor thing. Oh, I know what I'm talkin' about, Miss Martha. You ask him some time where he got that bug thing--a Arab, he calls it--that he wears on his watch chain. Just ask him. You'll hear somethin' THEN, I bet you! Whew!"

Galusha found considerable amusement in talks like those. Primmie was a distinct relief, for she never mentioned the troublesome Development Company. Talk in the village concerning it was dying down and Mr. Pulcifer's assertion that he had bought only the shares of the small holders was becoming more generally believed. But in the Gould's Bluffs settlement this belief was scoffed at. Captain Jeth Hallett told Galusha the truth and his statement was merely a confirmation of Martha Phipps'.

"Raish is hotfoot after that stock of mine," growled the light keeper. "He's 'round to see me every day or two. Don't hint any more neither; comes right out and bids for it. He's got to as high as nineteen a share now. And he'd go higher, too. HOW far he'll go I don't know, but I cal'late I'll keep him stringin' along till I find out."

He pulled at his beard for a moment and then added:

"It's plain enough, of course, that Raish is agent for somebody that wants to buy in that stock. Who 'tis, though, I can't guess. It ain't your Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot crowd, Mr. Bangs. That's plain enough, too."

Galusha tried to look innocently interested.

"Oh--ah--yes," he said. "Is it?"

"Sartin 'tis. THEY wouldn't need to be sendin' anybody to buy my shares, would they? They've bought 'em already. The whole thing is queer. Look here! Why should anybody be chasin' ME for those shares? Why don't they get a list of stockholders from the books? Those transfer books ought to show that I've sold, hadn't they? They would, too, if any transfer had been made. There ain't been any made, that's all the answer I can think of. I signed those certificates of mine in blank, transferred 'em in blank on the back. And somebody--whoever 'twas bought 'em--ain't turned 'em in for new ones in their own name, but have left 'em just the way they got 'em. That's why Raish and his crowd think I've still got my stock. Now ain't that funny, Mr. Bangs? Ain't that strange?"

It was not at all funny to Galusha. Nor strange. The light keeper tugged at his beard and his shaggy brows drew together. "I don't know's I did right to let go of that stock of mine, after all," he said, slowly. "Don't know as I did, no."

Galusha asked him why.

"Because I don't know as I did, that's all. If I'd hung on I might have got more for it. Looks to me as if Raish's crowd, whoever they are, are mighty anxious to buy. And the Denboro Trust Company folks might bid against 'em if 'twas necessary. They've got too much of that stock to let themselves be froze out. Humph!... Humph! I ain't sure as I did right."

"But--but you did get a profit, Captain Hallett. The profit you--ah--expected."

"Humph! I got a profit, but how do I know 'twas the profit Julia meant? I ought to have gone and asked her afore I sold, that's what I ought to have done, I cal'late."

He frowned heavily and added, in a tone of gloomy doubt: "I presume likely I've been neglectin' things--things like that, lately, and that's why punishments are laid onto me. I suppose likely that's it."

Galusha, of course, did not understand, but as the captain seemed to expect him to make some remark, he said: "Oh--ah--dear me! Indeed? Ah--punishments?"

"Yes. I don't know what else they are. When your own flesh and blood--" He stopped in the middle of his sentence, sighed, and added: "Well, never mind. But I need counsel, Mr. Bangs, counsel."

Again Galusha scarcely knew what to say.

"Why--ah--Captain Hallett," he stammered, "I doubt if my advice would be worth much, really, but such as it is I assure you it--"

Captain Jethro interrupted.

"Counsel from this earth won't help me any, Mr. Bangs," he declared. "It's higher counsel that I need. Um-hm, higher."

He walked away without saying more. Galusha wondered what had set him off upon that tack. That afternoon, while in the village, he met Nelson Howard and the latter furnished an explanation. It seemed that the young man had been to see Captain Jethro, had dared to call at the light with the deliberate intention of seeing and interviewing him on the subject of his daughter. The interview had not been long, nor as stormy as Nelson anticipated; but neither had it been satisfactory.

"It's those confounded 'spirits' that are rocking the boat," declared Nelson. "The old man practically said just that. He seems to have gotten over some of his bitterness against me--perhaps it is, as you say, Mr. Bangs, because I have a better position now and good prospects. Perhaps it is that, I don't know. But he still won't consider my marrying Lulie. He seems to realize that we could marry and that he couldn't stop us, but I think he realizes, too, that neither Lulie nor I would think of doing it against his will. 'But why, Cap'n Hallett?' I kept saying. 'WHY? What is the reason you are so down on me?' And all I could get out of him was the old stuff about 'revelations' and 'word from above' and all that. We didn't get much of anywhere. Oh, pshaw! Wouldn't it make you tired? Say, Mr. Bangs, the last time you and I talked you said you were going to 'consider' those Marietta Hoag spirits. I don't know what you meant, but if you could consider some sense into them and into Cap'n Jeth's stubborn old head, I wish you would."

Galusha smiled and said he would try. "I don't exactly know what I meant, myself, by considering them," he admitted. "However, I--ah--doubtless meant something and I'll try and--ah--consider what it was. It seems to me that I had a vague thought--not an idea, exactly, but--Well, perhaps it will come back. I have had a number of--ah--distractions of late. They have caused me to forget the spirits. I'm very sorry, really. I must try now and reconsider the considering. Dear me, how involved I am getting! Never mind, we are going to win yet. Oh, I am sure of it."

The distractions to which he referred were, of course, the recent and mysterious machinations of Raish Pulcifer. And he was to be again distracted that very afternoon. For as, after parting with Howard, he was walking slowly along the main road, pondering deeply upon the problem presented by the love affair of his two young friends and its spirit complications, he was awakened from his reverie by a series of sharp clicks close at his ear. He started, looked up and about, and saw that he was directly opposite the business office of the great Horatio. He heard the clicks again and realized that they were caused by the tapping of the windowpane by a ring upon a masculine finger. The ring appeared to be--but was not--a mammoth pigeon-blood ruby and it ornamented, or set off, the hand of Mr. Pulcifer himself.

Galusha stared uncomprehendingly at the hand and ring. Then the hand beckoned frantically. Mr. Bangs raised his eyes and saw, through the dingy pane, the face of the owner of the hand. The lower portion of the face was in eager motion. "Come in," Mr. Pulcifer was whispering. "Come on in!"

Galusha wonderingly entered the office. He had no desire for conversation with its proprietor, but he was curious to know what the latter wanted.

"Ah--good-afternoon, Mr. Pulcifer," he said.

Raish did not answer immediately. His first move was to cross to the door by which his visitor had entered, close and lock it. His next was to lower the window shade a trifle. Then he turned and smiled--nay, beamed upon that visitor.

"Set down, set down, Perfessor," he urged, with great cordiality. "Well, well, well! It's good to see you again, be hanged if it ain't now! How's things down to the bluffs? Joggin' along, joggin' along in the same old rut, the way the feller with the wheelbarrer went to market? Eh? Haw, haw, haw! Have a cigar, Perfessor?"

Galusha declined the cigar. He would also have declined the invitation to sit, but Mr. Pulcifer would not hear of it. He all but forced his caller into a chair.

"Set down," he insisted. "Just as cheap settin' as standin' and consider'ble lighter on shoe leather, as the feller said. Haw, haw! Hey? Yes, indeed. Er--Have a cigar?"

But Galusha was still resolute as far as the cigar was concerned. Raish lighted one himself and puffed briskly. To a keen observer he might have appeared a trifle nervous. Galusha was not a particularly keen observer and, moreover, he was nervous himself. If there had been no other reason, close proximity to a Raish Pulcifer cigar was, to a sensitive person, sufficient cause for nervousness.

Mr. Pulcifer continued to talk and talk and talk, of the weather, of the profits of the summer season just past, of all sorts of trivialities. Mr. Bangs' nervousness increased. He fidgeted in his chair.

"Really," he stammered, "I--I fear I must be going. You will excuse me, I hope, but--ah--I must, really."

Pulcifer held up a protesting hand. It was that holding the cigar and he waved it slowly back and forth. One of Galusha's experiences had been to be a passenger aboard a tramp steamer loaded with hides when fire broke out on board. The hides had smoked tremendously and smelled even more so. As the dealer in real estate slowly waved his cigar back and forth, Galusha suddenly remembered this experience. The mental picture was quite vivid.

"Wait, Perfessor," commanded Horatio. "Throttle her down. Put her into low just a minute. Say, Perfessor," he lowered his voice and leaned forward in his chair: "Say, Perfessor," he repeated, "do you want to make some money?"

Galusha gazed at him uncomprehendingly.

"Why--ah--Dear me!" he faltered. "I--that is--well, really, I fear I do not fully grasp your--ah--meaning, Mr. Pulcifer."

Raish seemed to find this amusing. He laughed aloud. "No reason why you should yet awhile, Perfessor," he declared. "I'll try to get it across to you in a minute, though. What I asked was if you wanted to make money. Do, don't you?"

"Why--why, I don't know. Really, I--"

"Go 'way, boy!" derisively. "Go 'way! Don't tell me you don't want money. Everybody wants it. You and me ain't John D.'s yet, by a consider'ble sight. Hey? Haw, haw! Anyhow _I ain't, and I'll say this for you, Perfessor, if you are, you don't look it. Haw, haw!"

He laughed again. Galusha glanced despairingly at the locked door. Mr. Pulcifer leaned forward and gesticulated with the cigar just before his visitor's nose. The visitor leaned backward.

"If--if you don't mind," he said, desperately, "I really wish you wouldn't."

"What?"

"Put that thing--that cigar quite so near. If you don't mind."

Raish withdrew the cigar and looked at it and his companion.

"Oh, yes, yes; I see!" he said, after a moment. "You object to tobacco, then?"

Galusha drew a relieved breath. "Why--ah--no," he said, slowly, "not to--ah--tobacco." Then he added, hastily: "But, really, Mr. Pulcifer, I must be going."

Pulcifer pushed him back into the chair again. His tone became brisk and businesslike. "Hold on, Perfessor," he said. "You say you want to make money?"

Galusha had not said so, but it seemed scarcely worth while to deny the assertion. And Raish waited for no denial. "You want to make money," he repeated. "All right, so do I. And I've got a scheme that'll help us both to make a little. Now listen. But before I tell you, you've got to give me your word to keep it dark; see?"

Galusha promised and Raish proceeded to explain his scheme. Briefly it amounted to this: Galusha Bangs, being a close acquaintance of Martha Phipps and Jethro Hallett, was to use that acquaintanceship to induce them to sell their shares in the Development Company. For such an effort, if successful, on the part of Mr. Bangs, he, Horatio Pulcifer, was prepared to pay a commission of fifty dollars, twenty-five when he received Martha's shares and twenty-five when Jethro's were delivered.

"There," he said, in conclusion, "is a chance I'm offerin' you, as a friend, to clean up fifty good, hard, round dollars. What do you say, old man?"

The "old man"--Galusha winced slightly at the appellation--did not seem to know what to say. His facial expression might have indicated any or all of a variety of feelings. At last, he stammered a question. Why did Mr. Pulcifer wish to obtain the Development stock? This question Raish would not answer.

"Never mind," he said. "I do, that's all. And I've got the money to do it with. I'll pay cash for their stock and I'll pay you cash when you or they hand it over. That's business, ain't it?"

"But--but, dear me, Mr. Pulcifer, why do you ask ME to do this? Why--"

"Ain't I told you? You're a friend of mine and I'm givin' you the chance because I think you need the money. That's a reason, ain't it?"

"Why--yes. It is--ah--a reason. But why don't you buy the stock yourself?"

For an instant Raish's smoothness deserted him. His temper flared.

"Because the cussed fools won't sell it to me," he snapped. "That is, they ain't said they'd sell yet. Perhaps they're prejudiced against me, I don't know. Maybe they will sell to you; you and they seem to be thicker'n thieves. Er--that is, of course, you understand I don't mean--Oh, well, you know what I mean, Perfessor. Now what do you say?"

Galusha rose and picked up his hat from the floor.

"I'm afraid I must say no," he said, quietly, but with a firmness which even Raish Pulcifer's calloused understanding could not miss. "I could not think of accepting, really."

"But, say, Perfessor--"

"No, Mr. Pulcifer. I could not."

"But why not? IF--Well, I tell you, maybe I might make it sixty dollars instead of fifty for you."

"No. I couldn't, Mr. Pulcifer.... If you will kindly unlock the door?"

Pulcifer swore. "Well, you must be richer'n you look, that's all I've got to say," he snarled. He kicked the wastebasket across the room and growled: "I'll get the stuff away from 'em yet, just the same. What the fools are hangin' on for is more'n I can see. Martha Phipps was down on her knees beggin' me to buy only a little spell ago. Old Jeth, of course, thinks his 'spirits' are backin' HIM up. Crazy old loon! Spirits! In this day and time! God sakes! Humph! I wish to thunder I could deal with the spirits direct; might be able to do business with THEM. Perfessor, now come, think it over. There ain't anything crooked about it.... Why, what is it, Perfessor?" eagerly. "Changed your mind, have you?"

Galusha's expression had changed, certainly. He looked queerly at Mr. Pulcifer, queerly and for an appreciable interval of time. There was an odd flash in his eye and the suspicion of a smile at the corner of his lips. But he was grave enough when he spoke.

"Mr. Pulcifer," he said, "I appreciate your kindness in--ah--considering me in this matter. I--it is impossible for me to accept your offer, of course, but--but--"

"Now, hold on, Perfessor. You think that offer over."

"No, I cannot accept. But it has occurred to me that perhaps... perhaps... Mr. Pulcifer, do you know Miss Hoag?"

"Hey? Marietta Hoag? KNOW her? Yes, I know her; know her too well for my own good. Why?"

"Have you any--ah--influence with her? That is, would she be likely to listen to a suggestion from you?"

"Listen! SHE? Confound her, I've got a note of hers for seventy-five dollars and it's two months overdue. She'd BETTER listen! Say, what are you drivin' at, Perfessor?"

Galusha deposited his hat upon the floor again, and sat down in the chair he had just vacated. Now it was he who, regardless of the cigar, leaned forward.

"Mr. Pulcifer," he said, "an idea occurred to me while you were speaking just now. I don't know that it will be of any--ah--value to you. But you are quite welcome to it, really. This is the idea--"

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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 18
CHAPTER XVIIIIf Ras Beebe or Miss Blount or some others of the group of East Wellmouthians who guessed Galusha Bangs to be "a little teched in the head," had seen that gentleman walking toward home after his interview with Mr. Pulcifer in the latter's office--if they had seen him on his way to Gould's Bluffs that day, they would have ceased guessing and professed certain knowledge. Galusha meandered slowly along the lane, head bent, hands clasped behind him, stumbling over tussocks and stepping with unexpected emphasis into ruts and holes. Sometimes his face wore a disturbed expression, almost a frightened one;
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Galusha The Magnificent - Chapter 13
CHAPTER XIIIThe earnest young man behind the counter in the office of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot--the young man who had so definitely classified Galusha Bangs as a "nut"--was extremely surprised when that individual reappeared before his window and, producing the very check which he had obtained there so short a time before, politely requested to exchange it for eighty-two hundred dollars in cash and another check for the balance. "Why--why--but--!" exclaimed the young man. "Thank you. Yes, if--ah--if you will be so good," said Galusha. The young man himself asked questions, and then called Mr. Minor into consultation, and Mr. Minor
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