GALUSHA THE MAGNIFICENT
By Joseph C. Lincoln
GALUSHA THE MAGNIFICENT
Mr. Horatio Pulcifer was on his way home. It was half-past five of a foggy, gray afternoon in early October; it had rained the previous day and a part of the day before that and it looked extremely likely to rain again at any moment. The road between Wellmouth Centre, the village in which Mr. Pulcifer had been spending the afternoon, and East Wellmouth, the community which he honored with his residence, was wet and sloppy; there were little puddles in the hollows of the macadam and the ruts and depressions in the sand on either side were miniature lakes. The groves of pitch pines and the bare, brown fields and knolls dimly seen through the fog looked moist and forsaken and dismal. There were no houses in sight; along the East Wellmouth road there are few dwellings, for no one but a misanthrope or a hermit would select that particular section as a place in which to live. Night was coming on and, to accent the loneliness, from somewhere in the dusky dimness a great foghorn groaned at intervals.
It was a sad and deserted outlook, that from the seat of Mr. Pulcifer's "flivver" as it bounced and squeaked and rattled and splashed its way along. But Mr. Pulcifer himself was not sad, at least his appearance certainly was not. Swinging jauntily, if a trifle ponderously, with the roll of the little car, his clutch upon the steering wheel expressed serene confidence and his manner self-satisfaction quite as serene. His plaid cap was tilted carelessly down toward his right ear, the tilt being balanced by the upward cock of his cigar toward his left ear. The light-colored topcoat with the soiled collar was open sufficiently at the throat to show its wearer's chins and a tasty section of tie and cameo scarf-pin below them. And from the corner of Mr. Pulcifer's mouth opposite that occupied by the cigar came the words and some of the tune of a song which had been the hit of a "Follies" show two seasons before. No, there was nothing dismal or gloomy in Mr. Horatio Pulcifer's appearance as he piloted his automobile toward home at the close of that October afternoon.
And his outward seeming did not belie his feelings. He had spent a pleasant day. At South Wellmouth, his first port of call, he had strengthened his political fences by dropping in upon and chatting with several acquaintances who prided themselves upon being "in the know" concerning local political opinion and drift. Mr. "Raish" Pulcifer—no one in Ostable county ever referred to him as Horatio—had already held the positions of town clerk, selectman, constable and postmaster. Now, owing to an unfortunate shift in the party vote, the public was, temporarily, deprived of his services. However, it was rumored that he might be persuaded to accept the nomination for state representative if it were offered to him. His acquaintances at South Wellmouth had that day assured him there was "a good, fair fightin' chance" that it might be.
Then, after leaving South Wellmouth, he had dined at the Rogers' House in Wellmouth Centre, "matching" a friend for the dinners and "sticking" the said friend for them and for the cigars afterward. Following this he had joined other friends in a little game in Elmer Rogers' back room and had emerged from that room three dollars and seventy-two cents ahead. No wonder he sang as he drove homeward. No wonder he looked quite care free. And, as a matter of fact, care free he was, that is, as care free as one is permitted to be in this care-ridden world. Down underneath his bright exterior there were a few cankers which might have gnawed had he permitted himself to think of them, but he did not so permit. Mr. Pulcifer's motto had always been: "Let the other feller do the worryin'." And, generally speaking, in a deal with Raish that, sooner or later, was what the other fellow did.
The fog and dusk thickened, Mr. Pulcifer sang, and the flivver wheezed and rattled and splashed onward. At a particularly dark spot, where the main road joined a cross country byroad, Raish drew up and climbed out to light the car lamps, which were of the old-fashioned type requiring a gas tank and matches. He had lighted one and was bending forward with the match ready to light the other when a voice at his elbow said:
"I beg your pardon, but—but will you kindly tell me where I am?"
It was not a loud, aggressive voice; on the contrary, it was hesitating and almost timid, but when one is supposedly alone at twilight on the East Wellmouth road any sort of voice sounding unexpectedly just above one's head is startling. Mr. Pulcifer's match went out, he started violently erect, bumping his head against the open door of the lamp compartment, and swung a red and agitated face toward his shoulder.
"I—beg your pardon," said the voice. "I'm afraid I startled you. I'm extremely sorry. Really I am."
"What the h-ll?" observed Raish, enthusiastically.
"I'm very sorry, very—yes, indeed," said the voice once more. Mr. Pulcifer, rubbing his bumped head and puffing from surprise and the exertion of stooping, stared wide-eyed at the speaker.
The latter was no one he knew, so much was sure, to begin with. The first impression Raish gained was of an overcoat and a derby hat. Then he caught the glitter of spectacles beneath the hat brim. Next his attention centered upon a large and bright yellow suitcase which the stranger was carrying. That suitcase settled it. Mr. Pulcifer's keen mind had diagnosed the situation.
"No," he said, quickly, "I don't want nothin'—nothin'; d'you get me?"
"But—but—pardon me, I—"
"Nothin'. Nothin' at all. I've got all I want."
The stranger seemed to find this statement puzzling.
"Excuse me," he faltered, after a moment's hesitation, during which Raish scratched another match. "I—You see—I fear—I'm sure you don't understand."
Mr. Pulcifer bent and lighted the second lamp. Then he straightened once more and turned toward his questioner.
"I understand, young feller," he said, "but you don't seem to. I don't want to buy nothin'. I've got all I want. That's plain enough, ain't it?"
"But—but—All you want? Really, I—"
"All I want of whatever 'tis you've got in that bag. I never buy nothin' of peddlers. So you're just wastin' your time hangin' around. Trot along now, I'm on my way."
He stepped to the side of the car, preparatory to climbing to the driver's seat, but the person with the suitcase followed him.
"Pardon me," faltered that person, "but I'm not—ah—a peddler. I'm afraid I—that is, I appear to be lost. I merely wish to ask the way to—ah—to Mr. Hall's residence—Mr. Hall of Wellmouth."
Raish turned and looked, not at the suitcase this time, but at the face under the hat brim. It was a mild, distinctly inoffensive face—an intellectual face, although that is not the term Mr. Pulcifer would have used in describing it. It was not the face of a peddler, the ordinary kind of peddler, certainly—and the mild brown eyes, eyes a trifle nearsighted, behind the round, gold-rimmed spectacles, were not those of a sharp trader seeking a victim. Also Raish saw that he had made a mistake in addressing this individual as "young feller." He was of middle age, and the hair, worn a little longer than usual, above his ears was sprinkled with gray.
"Mr. Hall, of—ah—of Wellmouth," repeated the stranger, seemingly embarrassed by the Pulcifer stare. "I—I wish to find his house. Can you tell me how to find it?"
Raish took the cigar, which even the bump against the lamp door had failed to dislodge, from the corner of his mouth, snapped the ash from its end, and then asked a question of his own.
"Hall?" he repeated. "Hall? Why, he don't live in Wellmouth. East Wellmouth's where he lives."
"Dear me! Are you sure?"
"Sure? Course I'm sure. Know him well."
"Oh, dear me! Why, the man at the station told me—"
"What station? The Wellmouth depot, do you mean?"
"No, the—ah—the South Wellmouth station. You see, I got off the train at South Wellmouth by mistake. It was the first Wellmouth called, you know, and I—I suppose I caught the name and—ah—rushed out of the car. I thought—it seemed to be a—a sort of lonely spot, you know—"
"Haw, haw! South Wellmouth depot? It's worse'n lonesome, it's God-forsaken."
"Yes—yes, it looked so. I should scarcely conceive of the Almighty's wishing to remain there long."
"Oh, it's not material. Pardon me. I inquired of the young man in charge of the—ah—station."
"Nelse Howard? Yes, sure."
"You know him, then?"
Mr. Pulcifer laughed. "Say," he observed, patronizingly, "there's mighty few folks in this neighborhood I don't know. You bet that's right!"
"The young man—the station man—was very kind and obliging, very kind indeed. He informed me that there was no direct conveyance from the South Wellmouth station to Wellmouth—ah—Centre, but he prevailed upon the driver of the station—ah—vehicle—"
"Eh? You mean Lem Lovett's express team?"
"I believe the driver's name was Lovett—yes. He prevailed upon him to take me in his wagon as far as a crossroads where I was to be left. From there I was to follow another road—ah—on foot, you know—until I reached a second crossroad which would, he said, bring me directly into Wellmouth Middle—ah—Centre, I should say. He told me that Mr. Hall lived there."
"Well, he told you wrong. Hall lives up to East Wellmouth. But what I can't get a-hold of is how you come to fetch up way off here. The Centre's three mile or more astern of us; I've just come from there."
"Oh, dear me! I must have lost my way. I was quite sure of it. It seemed to me I had been walking a very long time."
Mr. Pulcifer laughed. "Haw, haw!" he guffawed, "I should say you had! I tell you what you done, Mister; you walked right past that crossroad Nelse told you to turn in at. THAT would have fetched you to the Centre. Instead of doin' it you kept on as you was goin' and here you be 'way out in the fag-end of nothin'. The Centre's three mile astern and East Wellmouth's about two and a ha'f ahead. Haw, haw! that's a good one, ain't it!"
His companion's laugh was not enthusiastic. It was as near a groan as a laugh could well be. He put the yellow suitcase down in the mud and looked wearily up and down the fog-draped road. There was little of it to be seen, but that little was not promising.
"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "Dear me!" And then added, under his breath: "Oh, dear!"
Mr. Pulcifer regarded him intently. A new idea was beginning to dawn beneath the plaid cap.
"Say, Mister," he said, suddenly, "you're in a bad scrape, ain't you?"
"I beg your pardon? What? Yes, I am—I fear I am. Is it—is it a VERY long walk back to Wellmouth?"
"To the Centre? Three good long Cape Cod miles."
"And is the-ah—the road good?"
"'Bout as you see it most of the way. Macadam ain't so bad, but if you step off it you're liable to go under for the third time."
"Dear me! Dear me!"
"Dear me's right, I cal'late. But what do you want to go to the Centre for? Hall don't live there. He lives on ahead here—at East Wellmouth."
"Yes—that's true, that's true. So you said. But the South Wellmouth station man—"
"Oh, never mind Nelse Howard. He's a smart Aleck and talks too much, anyhow. He made a mistake, that's all. Now I tell you, Mister, I'm goin' to East Wellmouth myself. Course I don't make a business of carryin' passengers and this trip is goin' to be some out of my way. Gasoline and ile are pretty expensive these days, too, but—Eh? What say?"
The pale face beneath the derby hat for the first time showed a ray of hope. The eyes behind the spectacles were eager.
"I—I didn't say anything, I believe," was the hurried answer, "but I should like to say that—that if you COULD find it possible to take me with you in your car—if you COULD do me so great a favor, I should be only too happy to pay for the privilege. Pay—ah—almost anything. I am—I have not been well and I fatigue easily. If you could—"
Mr. Pulcifer's hand descended squarely upon the shoulder of the dark overcoat.
"Don't say nothin' more," he ordered, heartily. "I'm only too glad to do a feller a favor any time, if it's a possible thing. That's me, that is. I shouldn't think of chargin' you a cent, but of course this cruise is a little mite off my track and it's late and—er—well, suppose we call it three dollars? That's fair, ain't it?"
"Oh, yes, quite, quite. It's very reasonable. Very generous of you. I'm extremely grateful, really."
This prompt and enthusiastic acceptance of his offer was a bit disconcerting. Raish was rather sorry that he had not said five. However, to do him justice, the transaction was more or less what he would have called "chicken-feed stuff." Mr. Pulcifer was East Wellmouth's leading broker in real estate, in cranberry bog property, its leading promoter of deals of all kinds, its smartest trader. Ordinarily he did not stoop to the carrying of passengers for profit. But this particular passenger had been delivered into his hand and gasoline WAS expensive.
"Jump right in, Mister," he said, blithely. "All aboard! Jump right in."
His fare did not jump in, exactly. He climbed in rather slowly and painfully. Raish, stowing the suitcase between his feet, noticed that his shoes and trouser legs above them were spattered and daubed with yellow mud.
"You HAVE had some rough travelin', ain't you, Mister?" he observed. "Oh—er—what did you say your name was? Mine's Pulcifer."
"Oh, yes—yes. Ah—how do you do, Mr. Pulcifer? My name is Bangs."
"Bangs, eh? That's a good Cape name, or used to be. You any relation to Sylvanus Bangs, over to Harniss?"
"No—no, not that I am aware. Ours is a Boston branch of the family."
"Boston, eh? Um-hm. I see. Yes, yes. What's your first name?"
"Mine? Oh, my name is Galusha."
"Eh? Ga—WHAT did you say 'twas?"
"Galusha. It IS an odd name."
"Yes, I'd say 'twas. Don't cal'late as I ever heard tell of it afore. Ga—Ga—"
"Galushy, eh? I see. Strange what names folks 'll christen onto children, ain't it? There's lots of queer things in the world; did you ever stop to think about that, Mister—Mister Bangs?"
Mr. Bangs, who was leaning back against the upholstered seat as if he found the position decidedly comforting, smiled faintly.
"We have all thought that, I'm sure," he said. "'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'"
Mr. Pulcifer was not easily startled, but his jerk of surprise sent the car perilously near the side of the road.
"How in the devil did you know my name?" he demanded.
"Your name? Why, you told me. It is Pulcifer, isn't it?"
"No, no. My first name—Horatio. I never told you that, I'll swear."
Mr. Bangs smiled and the smile made his face look younger.
"Now that's rather odd, isn't it?" he observed. "Quite a coincidence."
"Oh, nothing, nothing. I didn't know your name, Mr.—ah—Pulcifer. My using it was an accident. I was quoting—ah—from Hamlet, you know."
Mr. Pulcifer did not know, but he thought it not worth while advertising the fact. Plainly this passenger of his was a queer bird, as queer within as in dress and appearance. He turned his head slightly and looked him over. It was growing too dark to see plainly, but one or two points were obvious. For instance, the yellow leather suitcase was brand new and the overcoat was old. It was shiny about the cuffs. The derby hat—and in October, in Wellmouth, derby hats are seldom worn—the derby hat was new and of a peculiar shade of brown; it was a little too small for its wearer's head and, even as Raish looked, a gust of wind lifted it and would have sent it whirling from the car had not Mr. Bangs saved it by a sudden grab. Raish chuckled.
"Come pretty nigh losin' somethin' overboard that time, didn't you?" he observed.
Mr. Bangs pulled the brown derby as far down upon his head as it would go.
"I—I'm afraid I made a mistake in buying this hat," he confided. "I told the man I didn't think it fitted me as it should, but he said that was because I wasn't used to it. I doubt if I ever become used to it. And it really doesn't fit any better to-day than it did yesterday."
"New one, ain't it?" inquired Raish.
"Yes, quite new. My other blew out of the car window. I bought this one at a small shop near the station in Boston. I'm afraid it wasn't a very good shop, but I was in a great hurry."
"Where was you comin' from when your other one blew away?"
"From the mountains."
Raish said that he wanted to know and waited for his passenger to say something more. This the passenger did not do. Mr. Pulcifer whistled a bar or two of his "Follies" song and then asked another question.
"You any relation to Josh?" he asked.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Eh? Oh, that's all right. I just asked you if you was a relation of Josh's—of Hall's, I mean, the folks you're goin' to see."
"Oh, no, no. We are not related. Merely friends."
"I see. I thought there wan't any Bangses in that family. His wife was a Cahoon, wan't she?"
"I—I BEG your pardon?"
"I asked you if she wan't a Cahoon; Cahoon was her name afore she married Hall, wan't it?"
"Oh, I don't know, I'm sure.... Now, really, that's very funny, very."
"Why, you see, I—" Mr. Bangs had an odd little way of pausing in the middle of a sentence and then, so to speak, catching the train of his thought with a jerk and hurrying on again. "I understood you to ask if she was a—a cocoon. I could scarcely believe my ears. It WAS funny, wasn't it?"
Raish Pulcifer thought it was and said so between roars. His conviction that his passenger was a queer bird was strengthening every minute.
"What's your line of business, Mr. Bangs?" was his next question.
"I am not a business man. I am connected with the Archaeological Department of the National Institute at Washington."
If he had said he was connected with the interior department of a Brontosaurus the statements would have conveyed an equal amount of understanding to the Pulcifer mind. However, it was a fixed principle with Raish never to admit a lack of knowledge of any subject whatsoever. So he said:
"From Washin'ton, eh? I see. Yes, yes. Cal'latin' to stay here on the Cape long, Mr. Bangs?"
"Why, I don't know, I'm sure. I have not been—ah—well of late. The doctors advise rest and—ah—outdoor air and all that. I tried several places, but I didn't care for them. The Halls invited me to visit them and so I—well, I came."
"Never been here to the Cape afore, then?"
"Well, sir, you've come to the right place when you came to Wellmouth. I was born right here in East Wellmouth and I've lived here for fifty-two year and if anybody should ask me what I thought of the place I'd tell 'em—"
He proceeded to tell what he would tell 'em. It was a favorite topic with him, especially in the summer and with visitors from the city. Usually the discourse ended with a suggestion that if the listener should ever think of investing a little money in real estate "that'll be wuth gold dollars to you—yes, sir, gold dollars—" he, Horatio G. Pulcifer, would be willing to point out and exhibit just the particular bit of real estate to invest in. He did not reach the climax this time, however. A gentle nasal sound at his shoulder caused Raish to turn his head. Mr. Bangs had fallen asleep. Awakened by a vigorous nudge, he apologized profusely.
"Really," he declared, with much embarrassment, "I—I am quite ashamed of myself. I—you see—I have, as I say, been somewhat unwell of late, and the fatigue of walking—I DO hope you will excuse me. I was very much interested in what you were saying. What—ah—what was it?"
Before Raish could have repeated his real estate sermon, even had he so desired, the car came to the top of a hill, emerged from the clumps of pines shutting in the road on both sides, and began to descend a long slope. And through the fog and blackness at the foot of the slope there shone dimly first one and then several lights. Mr. Bangs leaned forward and peered around the edge of the wet windshield.
"Is that it?" he asked, in much the same tone that Mrs. Noah may have used when her husband announced that the lookout had sighted Ararat.
Raish Pulcifer nodded. "Yes, sir," he declared, proudly. "Yes, sir, that's East Wellmouth."
The fog in the valley was thicker even than that upon the hill and East Wellmouth was almost invisible. Mr. Bangs made out a few houses, a crossroads, a small store, and that was about all. From off to the right a tremendous bellow sounded. The fog seemed to quiver with it.
"WHAT is that?" asked Mr. Bangs, nervously. "I've heard it ever since I left the train, I believe. Some sort of a—ah—steam whistle, isn't it?"
"Foghorn over to the light," replied Raish, briskly. "Well, sir, here you be."
The car rolled up to the side of the road and stopped.
"Here you be, Mr. Bangs," repeated Mr. Pulcifer. "Here's where Hall lives, right here."
Mr. Bangs seemed somewhat astonished. "Right here?" he asked. "Dear me, is it possible!"
"Possible as anything ever you knew in your life. Why not? Ain't sorry, are you?"
"Oh, no—no, indeed, I'm very glad. I was—ah—a trifle surprised, that is all. You said—I think you spoke of Mr. Hall's cottage as being—ah—off the track and so I—well I scarcely expected to reach his house so easily."
Raish had forgotten his "off the track" statement, which was purely a commercial fiction invented on the spur of the moment to justify the high price he was charging for transportation. He was somewhat taken aback, but before he could think of a good excuse his companion spoke again. He was leaning forward, peering out at the house before which the car had stopped. It was a small, gray-shingled dwelling, sitting back from the road in the shadow of two ancient "silver-leafs," and Mr. Bangs seemed to find its appearance surprising.
"Are you—are you SURE this is the Hall cottage?" he stammered.
"Am I sure? Me? Well, I ought to be. I've lived in East Wellmouth all my life and Josh Hall's lived in this house ever since I can remember."
This should have been reassuring, but it did not appear to be. Mr. Pulcifer's passenger drew a startled breath.
"What—WHAT is his Christian name?" he asked. "The—the Mr. Hall who lives here?"
"His name is—Why? What's the matter?"
"I'm afraid there has been a mistake. Is this Mr. Hall an entomologist?"
"Eh? He ain't nothin' in particular. Don't go to meetin' much, Josh don't. His wife's a Spiritu'list."
"But—but, I mean—Dear me, dear me!" Mr. Bangs was fumbling in the inside pocket of his coat. "If I—Would you mind holding this for me?" he begged. "I have a photograph here and—Oh, thank you very much."
He handed Pulcifer a small pocket electric lamp. Raish held it and into its inch of light Mr. Bangs thrust a handful of cards and papers taken from a big and worn pocketbook. One of the handful was a postcard with a photograph upon its back. It was a photograph of a pretty, old-fashioned colonial house with a wide porch covered with climbing roses. Beneath was written: "This is our cottage. Don't you think it attractive?"
"Mrs. Hall sent me that—ah—last June—I think it was in June," explained Mr. Bangs, hurriedly. "But you SEE," he added, waving an agitated hand toward the gray-shingled dwelling beneath the silver-leafs, "that CAN'T be the house, not if"—with a wave of the photograph in the other hand—"if THIS is."
Mr. Pulcifer took the postcard and stared at it. His brows drew together in a frown.
"Say," he said, turning toward his passenger, "is this the house you've been tryin' to find? This is a picture of the old Parker place over to Wellmouth Centre. I thought you told me you wanted to be took to Joshua Hall's house in East Wellmouth."
"Joshua? Oh, no, I'm sure I never could have said Joshua. That isn't his name."
"Then when I said 'Josh Hall' why didn't you say so?"
"Oh, good gracious! Did you say 'Josh?' Oh, dear, that explains it; I thought you said 'George.' My friend's name is George Hall. He is an entomologist at the New York Museum of Natural History. I—"
"Say," broke in Raish, again, "is he a tall, bald-headed man with whiskers; red whiskers?"
"Yes—yes, he is."
"Humph! Goes gallopin' round the fields chasin' bugs and grasshoppers like a young one?"
"Why—why, entomology is his profession, so naturally he—"
"Humph! So THAT'S the feller! Tut, tut, tut! Well, if you'd only said you meant him 'twould have been all right. I forgot there was a Hall livin' in the Parker place. If you'd said you meant 'Old Bughouse' I'd have understood."
"Oh, that's what the Wellmouth post-office gang call him. Kind of a joke 'tis. And say, this is kind of a joke, too, my luggin' you 'way over here, ain't it, eh? Haw, haw!"
Mr. Bangs' attempt at a laugh was feeble.
"But what shall I do now?" he asked, anxiously.
"Well, that's the question, ain't it? Hum... hum... let's see. Sorry I can't take you back to the Centre myself. Any other night I'd be glad to, but there's a beans and brown-bread supper and sociable up to the meetin' house this evenin' and I promised the old woman—Mrs. Pulcifer, I mean—that I'd be on hand. I'm a little late as 'tis. Hum... let's see... Why, I tell you. See that store over on the corner there? That's Erastus Beebe's store and Ras is a good friend of mine. He's got an extry horse and team and he lets 'em out sometimes. You step into the store and ask Ras to hitch up and drive you back to the Centre. Tell him I sent you. Say you're a friend of Raish Pulcifer's and that I said treat you right. Don't forget: 'Raish says treat me right.' You say that to Ras and you'll be TREATED right. Yes, SIR! If Ras ain't in the store he'll be in his house right back of it. Might as well get out here, Mr. Bangs, because there's a hill just ahead and I kind of like to get a runnin' start for it. Shall I help you with the suitcase? No, well, all right... Sorry you made the mistake, but we're all liable to make 'em some time or another. Eh? haw, haw!"
Poor Mr. Bangs clambered from the automobile almost as wearily and stiffly as he had climbed into it. The engine of the Pulcifer car had not stopped running so Raish was not obliged to get out and crank. He took a fresh grip on the steering wheel and looked down upon his late passenger.
"Well, good-night, Mr. Bangs," he said.
"Good-night—ah—good-night, Mr. Pulcifer. I'm very much obliged to you, I am indeed. I'm sorry my mistake made you so much trouble."
"Oh, that's all right, that's all right. Don't say a word... Well—er—good-night."
"Good-night, sir... good-night."
But still the little car did not start. It's owner's next remark was explanatory of the delay.
"Course I HOPE you and I'll meet again, Mr. Bangs," said Raish. "May see you in Wellmouth, you know. Still, such things are—er—kind of uncertain and—er—sendin' bills is a nuisance, so perhaps 'twould be better—er—easier for both of us—if we settled that little matter of ours right now. Eh?"
"I beg your pardon. Little matter? I'm afraid I don't quite—"
"Oh, that little matter of the three dollars for fetchin' you over. Course it don't amount to nothin', but I kind of like to get them little things off my mind, don't you? Eh?"
Mr. Bangs was very much "fussed." He hurriedly dragged forth the big pocketbook.
"I beg your pardon—really I BEG your pardon," he stammered over and over again. "I quite forgot. It was inexcusable of me. I'm SO sorry."
Evidently he felt that he had committed a crime. Mr. Pulcifer took the three one dollar bills and waved the apologies aside with them.
"Don't say a word, Mr. Bangs," he called, cheerily, as the car began to move. "Anybody's liable to forget. Do it myself sometimes. Well, so long. Hope to see you again one of these days. Good-night."
The flivver moved rapidly away, gaining speed as it rushed for the hill. Galusha Bangs watched its tail-light soar and dwindle until it disappeared over the crest. Then, with a weary sigh, he picked up the heavy suitcase, plodded across the road and on until he reached the step and platform of Erastus Beebe's "General and Variety Store." There was a kerosene lamp burning dimly upon the counter within, but the door was locked. He pounded on the door and shook it, but no one answered. Then, remembering Mr. Pulcifer's instructions, he entered the yard behind the store, found the door of Mr. Beebe's house and knocked upon that. There was not even a light in the house. The Beebes had gone—as most of East Wellmouth had gone—to the baked beans and brown-bread supper and sociable at the church. Galusha Bangs was not aware of this, of course. What he was aware of—painfully, distressingly aware—was the fact that he was alone and supperless, very, very weak and tired, and almost discouraged.
However, there was no use in standing in the wet grass of the Beebe yard and giving way to his discouragement. Galusha Bangs was a plucky little soul, although just now a weak and long-suffering one. He waded and slopped back to the store platform, where he put down his suitcase and started on a short tour of exploration. Through the fog and darkness he could dimly perceive a signpost standing at the corner of the crossroad where the store was located. He tramped over to look at it.
There were two signs affixed to the post. By the aid of the pocket flashlight he read them. That at the top read thus: "TO THE LIGHTHOUSE—1 1/2 MILES." There was an arrow pointing along the crossroad and off to the right. Galusha paid little attention to this sign; it was the other nailed beneath it which caught and held his attention. It was a rather gaudy sign of red, white, and blue, and it read thus: "THE RESTABIT INN AT GOULD'S BLUFFS—1 MILE." And the arrow pointed in the same direction as the other.
Mr. Bangs uttered his favorite exclamation.
"Dear me! Why, dear me!"
He read the sign again. There was no mistake, his first reading had been correct.
He trotted back to the platform of Mr. Beebe's store. Then, once more dragging forth the big pocketbook, he fumbled in its various compartments. After spilling a good many scraps of paper upon the platform and stopping to pick them up again, he at length found what he was looking for. It was an advertisement torn from the Summer Resort advertising pages of a magazine. Holding it so that the feeble light from Mr. Beebe's lamp fell upon it, Galusha read, as follows:
THE RESTABIT INN at Beautiful Gould's Bluffs, East Wellmouth, Mass. Rest, sea air, and pleasant people: Good food and plenty of it. Reasonable prices. NO FRILLS.
He had chanced upon the advertisement in a tattered, back number magazine which a fellow passenger had left beside him in a car seat a month before. He had not quite understood the "NO FRILLS" portion. Apparently it must be important because the advertiser had put it in capital letters, but Mr. Bangs was uncertain as to just what it meant. But there was no uncertainty about the remainder of the "ad."
Rest! His weary muscles and aching joints seemed to relax at the very whisper of the word. Food! Well, he needed food, it would be welcome, of course—but rest! Oh, rest!!
And food and rest, not to mention reasonable prices and pleasant people and no frills, were all but a mile away at the Restabit Inn at Gould's Bluffs—beautiful Gould's Bluffs. No wonder they called them beautiful.
He returned the pocketbook to his inside pocket and the flashlight to an outside one, turned up his coat collar, pulled the brown derby down as tightly upon his brow as he could, picked up the heavy suitcase and started forth to tramp the mile which separated his tired self from food and rest—especially rest.
The first hundred yards of that mile cut him off entirely from the world. It was dark now, pitch dark, and the fog was so thick as to be almost a rain. His coat and hat and suitcase dripped with it. The drops ran down his nose. He felt as if there were almost as much water in the air as there was beneath him on the ground—not quite as much, for his feet were wetter than his body, but enough.
And it was so still. No sound of voices, no dogs barking, no murmur of the wind in trees. There did not seem to be any trees. Occasionally he swept a circle of his immediate surroundings with the little flashlight, but all its feeble radiance showed was fog and puddles and wet weeds and ruts and grass—and more fog.
Still! Oh, yes, deadly still for a long minute's interval, and then out of the nowhere ahead, with a suddenness which each time caused his weakened nerves to vibrate like fiddle strings, would burst the bellow of the great foghorn.
Silence, the splash and "sugg" of Galusha's sodden shoes moving up and down, up and down—and then:
Once a minute the foghorn blew and once a minute Galusha Bangs jumped as if he were hearing it for the first time.
The signboard had said "1 MILE." One hundred miles, one thousand miles; that was what it should have said to be truthful. Galusha plodded on and on, stopping to put down the suitcase, then lifting it and pounding on again. He had had no luncheon; he had had no dinner. He was weak from illness. He was wet and chilled. And—yes, it was beginning to rain.
He put down the suitcase once more.
"Oh, my soul!" he exclaimed, and not far away, close at hand, the word "soul" was repeated.
"Oh, dear!" cried Galusha, startled.
"Dear!" repeated the echo, for it was an echo.
Galusha, brandishing the tiny flashlight, moved toward the sound. Something bulky, huge, loomed in the blackness, a building. The flashlight's circle, growing dimmer now for the battery was almost exhausted, disclosed steps and a broad piazza. Mr. Bangs climbed the steps, crossed the piazza, the boards of which creaked beneath him. There were doors, but they were shut tight; there were windows, but they were shuttered. Down the length of the long piazza tramped Galusha, his heart sinking. Every window was shuttered, every door was boarded up. Evidently this place, whatever it was, was closed. It was uninhabited.
He came back to the front door again. Over it was a sign, he had not looked as high before. Now he raised the dimming flashlight and read:
"THE RESTABIT INN. Open June 15 to September 15."
September 15!!! Why, September was past and gone. This was the 3rd of October. The Restabit Inn was closed for the season.
Slowly, Galusha, tugging the suitcase, stumbled to the edge of the piazza. There he collapsed, rather than sat down, upon the upper step. Above him, upon the piazza roof, the rain descended heavily. The flashlight dimmed and went out altogether.
"OW—ooo—-ooo—ooo—OOO!!" whooped the foghorn.
Later, just how much later he never knew exactly, Mr. Bangs awoke from his faint or collapse or doze, whichever it may have been, to hear some one calling his name.
"Loosh! Loosh! Loosh!"
This was odd, very odd. "Loosh" was what he had been called at college. That is, some of the fellows had called him that, those he liked best. The others had even more offensive nicknames. He disliked "Loosh" very much, but he answered to it—then.
"Loosh! Loosh! Loosh, where are you?"
Queer that any one should be calling him "Loosh"—any one down here in... Eh? Where was he? He couldn't remember much except that he was very tired—except—
"Loosh! Looshy! Come Looshy!"
He staggered to his feet and, leaving the suitcase where it was, stumbled away in the direction of the voice. The rain, pouring down upon him, served to bring him back a little nearer to reality. Wasn't that a light over there, that bright yellow spot in the fog?
It was a light, a lighted doorway, with a human figure standing in it. The figure of a woman, a woman in a dark dress and a white apron. It must be she who was calling him. Yes, she was calling him again.
"Loosh! Loosh! Looshy! Oh, my sakes alive! Why don't you come?"
Mr. Bangs bumped into something. It was a gate in a picket fence and the gate swung open. He staggered up the path on the other side of that gate, the path which led to the doorway where the woman was standing.
"Yes, madam," said Galusha, politely but shakily lifting the brown derby, "here I am."
The woman started violently, but she did not run nor scream.
"My heavens and earth!" she exclaimed. Then, peering forward, she stared at the dripping apparition which had appeared to her from the fog and rain.
"Here I am, madam," repeated Mr. Bangs.
The woman nodded. She was middle-aged, with a pleasant face and a figure of the sort which used to be called "comfortable." Her manner of looking and speaking were quick and businesslike.
"Yes," she said, promptly, "I can see you are there, so you needn't tell me again. WHY are you there and who are you?"
Galusha's head was spinning dizzily, but he tried to make matters clear.
"My name is—is—Dear me, how extraordinary! I seem to have forgotten it. Oh, yes, it is Bangs—that is it, Bangs. I heard you calling me, so—"
"Heard ME calling YOU?"
"Yes. I—I came down to the hotel—the rest—Rest—that hotel over there. It was closed. I sat down upon the porch, for I have been ill recently and I—ah—tire easily. So, as I say—"
The woman interrupted him. She had been looking keenly at his face as he spoke.
"Come in. Come into the house," she commanded, briskly.
Mr. Bangs took a step toward her. Then he hesitated.
"I—I am very wet, I'm afraid," he said. "Really, I am not sure that—"
"Rubbish! It's because you are wet—wet as a drowned rat—that I'm askin' you to come in. Come now—quick."
Her tone was not unkind, but it was arbitrary.
Galusha made no further protest. She held the door open and he preceded her into a room, then into another, this last evidently a sitting room. He was to know it well later; just now he was conscious of little except that it was a room—and light—and warm—and dry.
"Sit down!" ordered his hostess.
Galusha found himself standing beside a couch, an old-fashioned sofa. It tempted him—oh, how it tempted him!—but he remembered the condition of his garments.
"I am very wet indeed," he faltered. "I'm afraid I may spoil your—your couch."
Galusha sat. The room was doing a whirling dervish dance about him, but he still felt it his duty to explain.
"I fear you must think this—ah—very queer," he stammered. "I realize that I must seem—ah—perhaps insane, to you. But I have, as I say, been ill and I have walked several miles, owing to—ah—mistakes in locality, and not having eaten for some time, since breakfast, in fact, I—"
"Not since BREAKFAST? Didn't you have any dinner, for mercy sakes?"
"No, madam. Nor luncheon. Oh, it is quite all right, no one's fault but my own. Then, when I found the—the hotel closed, I—I sat down to rest and—and when I heard you call my name—"
"Wait a minute. What IS your name?"
"My name is Bangs, Galusha Bangs. It seems ridiculous now, as I tell it, but I certainly thought I heard you or some one call me by the name my relatives and friends used to use. Of course—"
"Wait. What was that name?"
Even now, dizzy and faint as he was, Mr. Bangs squirmed upon the sofa.
"It was—well, it was Loosh—or—ah—Looshy" he admitted, guiltily.
His hostess' face broke into smiles. Her "comfortable" shoulders shook.
"Well, if that doesn't beat everything!" she exclaimed. "I was callin' my cat; his name is Lucy—Lucy Larcom; sometimes we call him 'Luce' for short.... Eh? Heavens and earth! Don't do THAT!"
But Galusha had already done it. The dervish dance in his head had culminated in one grand merry-go-round blotting out consciousness altogether, and he had sunk down upon the sofa.
The woman sprang from her chair, bent over him, felt his pulse, and loosened his collar.
"Primmie," she called. "Primmie, come here this minute, I want you!"
There was the sound of scurrying feet, heavy feet, from the adjoining room, the door opened and a large, raw-boned female, of an age which might have been almost anything within the range of the late teens or early twenties, clumped in. She had a saucer in one hand and a dishcloth in the other.
"Yes'm," she said, "here I be." Then, seeing the prone figure upon the sofa, she exclaimed fervently, "Oh, my Lord of Isrul! Who's that?"
"Now don't stand there swearin' and askin' questions, but do as I tell you. You go to the—"
"But—but what AILS him? Is he drunk?"
"Drunk? What put such a notion as that in your head? Of course he isn't drunk."
"He ain't—he ain't dead?"
"Don't be so silly. He's fainted away, that's all. He's tired out and half sick and half starved, I guess. Here, where are you goin'?"
"I'm a-goin' to fetch some water. They always heave water on fainted folks."
"Well, this one's had all the water he needs already. The poor thing is soaked through. You go to the pantry and in the blue soup tureen, the one we don't use, you'll find a bottle of that cherry rum Cap'n Hallet gave me three years ago. Bring it right here and bring a tumbler and spoon with it. After that you see if you can get Doctor Powers on the telephone and ask him to come right down here as quick as he can. HURRY! Primmie Cash, if you stop to ask one more question I—I don't know what I'll do to you. Go ALONG!"
Miss Cash went along, noisily along. Her mistress bent over the wet, pitiful little figure upon the sofa.
And thus, working by devious ways, did Fate bring about the meeting of Galusha Cabot Bangs, of the National Institute, Washington, D. C., and Miss Martha Phipps, of East Wellmouth, which, it may be said in passing, was something of an achievement, even for Fate.
And in order to make clear the truth of the statement just made, namely, that Fate had achieved something when it brought Galusha Bangs to the door of Martha Phipps' home that rainy night in October—in order to emphasize the truth of that statement it may be well, without waiting further, to explain just who Galusha Cabot Bangs was, and who and what his family was, and how, although the Bangses were all very well in their way, the Cabots—his mother's family—were "the banking Cabots of Boston," and were, therefore, very great people indeed.
"The banking Cabots" must not be confused with any other branch of the Cabots, of which there are many in Boston. All Boston Cabots are "nice people," many are distinguished in some way or other, and all are distinctly worth while. But "the banking Cabots" have been deep in finance from the very beginning, from the earliest of colonial times. The salary of the Reverend Cotton Mather was paid to him by a Cabot, and another Cabot banked whatever portion of it he saved for a rainy day. In the Revolution a certain Galusha Cabot, progenitor of the line of Galusha Cabots, assisted the struggling patriots of Beacon Hill to pay their troops in the Continental army. During the Civil War his grandson, the Honorable Galusha Hancock Cabot, one of Boston's most famous bankers and financiers, was of great assistance to his state and nation in the sale of bonds and the floating of loans. His youngest daughter, Dorothy Hancock Cabot, married—well, she should, of course, have married a financier or a banker or, at the very least, a millionaire stockbroker. But she did not, she married John Capen Bangs, a thoroughly estimable man, a scholar, author of two or three scholarly books which few read and almost nobody bought, and librarian of the Acropolis, a library that Bostonians and the book world know and revere.
The engagement came as a shock to the majority of "banking Cabots." John Bangs was all right, but he was not in the least "financial." He was respected and admired, but he was not the husband for Galusha Hancock Cabot's daughter. She should have married a Kidder or a Higginson or some one high in the world of gold and securities. But she did not, she fell in love with John Bangs and she married him, and they were happy together for a time—a time all too brief.
In the second year of their marriage a baby boy was born. His mother named him, her admiring husband being quite convinced that whatever she did was sure to be exactly the right thing. So, in order to keep up the family tradition and honors—"He has a perfect Cabot head. You see it, don't you, John dear"—she named him Galusha Cabot Bangs. And then, but three years afterward, she died.
John Capen Bangs remained in Boston until his son was nine. Then his health began to fail. Years of pawing and paring over old volumes amid the dust and close air of book-lined rooms brought on a cough, a cough which made physicians who heard it look grave. It was before the days of Adirondack Mountain sanitariums. They told John Bangs to go South, to Florida. He went there, leaving his son at school in Boston, but the warm air and sunshine did not help the cough. Then they sent him to Colorado, where the boy Galusha joined him. For five years he and the boy lived in Colorado. Then John Capen Bangs died.
Dorothy Hancock Cabot had a sister, an older sister, Clarissa Peabody Cabot. Clarissa did not marry a librarian as her sister did, nor did she marry a financier, as was expected of her. This was not her fault exactly; if the right financier had happened along and asked, it is quite probable that he would have been accepted. He did not happen along; in fact, no one happened along until Clarissa was in her thirties and somewhat anxious. Then came Joshua Bute of Chicago, and when wooed she accepted and married him. More than that, she went with him to Chicago, where stood the great establishment which turned out "Bute's Banner Brand Butterine" and "Bute's Banner Brand Leaf Lard" and "Bute's Banner Brand Back-Home Sausage" and "Bute's Banner Brand Better Baked Beans." Also there was a magnificent mansion on the Avenue.
Aunt Clarissa had family and culture and a Boston manner. Uncle Joshua had a kind heart, a hemispherical waistcoat and a tremendous deal of money. Later on the kind heart stopped beating and Aunt Clarissa was left with the money, the mansion and—but of course the "manner" had been all her own all the time.
So when John Bangs died, Aunt Clarissa Bute sent for the son, talked with the latter, and liked him. She wrote to her relative, Augustus Adams Cabot, of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot, in Boston, who, although still a young man, was already known as a financier, and looked out for her various investments, saying that she found young Galusha "a nice boy, though rather odd, like his father," and that she thought of taking his rearing and education into her own hands. "I have no children of my own, Augustus. What do you think of the idea?" Augustus thought it a good one; at least he wrote that he did. So Aunt Clarissa took charge of Galusha Bangs.
The boy was fourteen then, a dreamy, shy youngster, who wore spectacles and preferred curling up in a corner with a book to playing baseball. It was early spring when he came to live with Aunt Clarissa and before the summer began he had already astonished his relative more than once. On one occasion a visitor, admiring the Bute library, asked how many volumes it contained. Aunt Clarissa replied that she did not know. "I have added from time to time such books as I desired and have discarded others. I really have no idea how many there are." Then Galusha, from the recess by the window, looked up over the top of the huge first volume of Ancient Nineveh and Its Remains which he was reading and observed: "There were five thousand six hundred and seventeen yesterday, Auntie."
Aunt Clarissa started so violently that her eyeglasses fell from her aquiline nose to the end of their chain.
"Good heavens, child! I didn't know you were there. What did you say?"
"I said there were five thousand six hundred and seventeen books on the shelves here yesterday."
"How do you know?"
"I counted them."
"COUNTED them? Mercy! What for?"
Galusha's spectacles gleamed. "For fun," he said.
On another occasion his aunt found him still poring over Ancient Nineveh and Its Remains; it was the fifth volume now, however.
"Do you LIKE to read that?" she asked.
"Yes, Auntie. I've read four already and, counting this one, there are five more to read."
Now Aunt Clarissa had never read Ancient Nineveh herself. Her bookseller had assured her that it was a very remarkable set, quite rare and complete. "We seldom pick one up nowadays, Mrs. Bute. You should buy it." So Aunt Clarissa bought it, but she had never thought of reading it.
She looked down over her nephew's shoulder at the broad page with its diagram of an ancient temple and its drawings of human-headed bulls in bas-relief.
"Why do you find it so interesting?" she asked.
Galusha looked up at her. His eyes were alight with excitement.
"They dig those things up over there," he said, pointing to one of the bulls. "It's all sand and rocks—and everything, but they send an expedition and the people in it figure out where the city or the temple or whatever it is ought to be, and then they dig and—and find it. And you can't tell WHAT you'll find, exactly. And sometimes you don't find much of anything."
"After all the digging and work?"
"Yes, but that's where the fun comes in. Then you figure all over again and keep on trying and trying. And when you DO find 'em there are sculptures like this—oh, yards and yards of 'em—and all sort of queer, funny old inscriptions to be studied out. Gee, it must be great! Don't you think so, Auntie?"
Aunt Clarissa's reply was noncommittal. That evening she wrote a letter to Augustus Cabot in Boston. "He is a good boy," she wrote, referring to Galusha, "but queer—oh, dreadfully queer. It's his father's queerness cropping out, of course, but it shouldn't be permitted to develop. I have set my heart on his becoming a financier like the other Galushas in our line. Of course he will always be a Bangs—more's the pity—but his middle name is Cabot and his first IS Galusha. I think he had best continue his schooling in or near Boston where you can influence him, Augustus. I wish him well grounded in mathematics and—oh, you understand, the financial branches. Select a school, the right sort of school, for him, to oblige me, will you, Gus?"
Augustus Cabot chose a school, a select, aristocratic and expensive school near the "Hub of the Universe." Thither, in the fall, went Galusha and there he remained until he was eighteen, when he entered Harvard. At college, as at school, he plugged away at his studies, and he managed to win sufficiently high marks in mathematics. But his mathematical genius was of a queer twist. In the practical dollars and cents sort of figuring he was almost worthless. Money did not interest him at all. What interested him was to estimate how many bricks there were in "Mem" and how many more there might have been if it had been built a story higher.
"This room," he said to a classmate, referring to his study in old Thayer, "was built in ——" naming the year. "Now allowing that a different fellow lived in it each year, which is fair enough because they almost always change, that means that at least so many fellows," giving the number, "have occupied this room since the beginning. That is, provided there was but one fellow living in the room at a time. Now we know that, for part of the time, this was a double room, so—"
"Oh, for the love of Mike, Loosh!" exclaimed the classmate, "cut it out. What do you waste your time doing crazy stunts like that for?"
"But it's fun. Say, if they had all cut their initials around on the door frames and the—ah—mop boards it would be great stuff to puzzle 'em out and make a list of 'em, wouldn't it? I wish they had."
"Well, I don't. It would make the old rat hole look like blazes and it is bad enough as it is. Come on down and watch the practice."
One of young Bangs' peculiar enjoyments, developed during his senior year, was to visit every old cemetery in or about the city and examine and copy the ancient epitaphs and inscriptions. Pleasant spring afternoons, when normal-minded Harvard men were busy with baseball or track or tennis, or the hundred and one activities which help to keep young America employed in a great university, Galusha might have been, and was, seen hopping about some grass-grown graveyard, like a bespectacled ghoul, making tracings of winged death's-heads or lugubrious tombstone poetry. When they guyed him he merely grinned, blushed, and was silent. To the few—the very few—in whom he confided he made explanations which were as curious as their cause.
"It's great fun," he declared. "It keeps you guessing, that's it. Now, for instance, here's one of those skull jiggers with wings on it. See? I traced this over at Copp's Hill last spring, a year ago. But there are dozens of 'em all about, in all the old graveyards. Nobody ever saw a skull with wings; it's a—a—ah—convention, of course. But who made the first one? And why did it become a convention? And—and—why do some of 'em have wings like this, and some of 'em crossbones like a pirate's flag, and some of 'em no wings or bones, and why—"
"Oh, good Lord! I don't know. Forget it. You make a noise like a hearse, Loosh."
"Of course you don't know. I don't know. I don't suppose anybody knows, exactly. But isn't it great fun to study 'em up, and see the different kinds, and think about the old chaps who carved 'em, and wonder about 'em and—"
"No, I'll be banged if it is! It's crazy nonsense. You've got pigeons in your loft, Loosh. Come on out and give the birds an airing."
This was the general opinion of the class of 19—, that old "Loosh had pigeons in his loft." However, it was agreed that they were harmless fowl and that Galusha himself was a good old scout, in spite of his aviary.
He graduated with high honors in the mathematical branches and in languages. Then the no less firm because feminine hand of Aunt Clarissa grasped him, so to speak, by the collar and guided him to the portals of the banking house of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot, where "Cousin Gussie" took him in charge with the instructions to make a financier of him.
"Cousin Gussie," junior member of the firm, then in his early thirties, thrust his hands into the pockets of his smart tweed trousers, tilted from heels to toes of his stylish and very shiny shoes and whistled beneath his trim mustache. He had met Galusha often before, but that fact did not make him more optimistic, rather the contrary.
"So you want to be a banker, do you, Loosh?" he asked.
Galusha regarded him sadly through the spectacles.
"Auntie wants me to be one," he said.
The experiment lasted a trifle over six months. At the end of that time the junior partner of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot had another interview with his firm's most recent addition to its list of employees.
"You're simply no good at the job, that's the plain truth," said the banker, with the candor of exasperation. "You've cost us a thousand dollars more than your salary already by mistakes and forgetfulness and all the rest of it. You'll never make your salt at this game in a million years. Don't you know it, yourself?"
"Yes," he said, simply.
"Eh? Oh, you do! Well, that's something."
"I knew it when I came here."
"Knew you would be no good at the job?"
"At this job, yes."
"Then for heaven's sake why did you take it?"
"I told you. Aunt Clarissa wanted me to."
"Well, you can't stay here, that's all. I'm sorry."
"So am I, for Auntie's sake and yours. I realize I have made you a lot of—ah—trouble."
"Oh, that's all right, that's all right. Hang it all, I feel like a beast to chuck you out this way, but I have partners, you know. What will you do now?"
"I don't know."
Cousin Gussie reflected. "I think perhaps you'd better go back to Aunt Clarissa," he said. "Possibly she will tell you what to do. Don't you think she will?"
"Humph! You seem to be mighty sure of it. How do you know she will?"
For the first time a gleam, a very slight and almost pathetic gleam, of humor shone behind Galusha's spectacles.
"Because she always does," he said. And thus ended his connection with the banking profession.
Aunt Clarissa was disgusted and disappointed, of course. She expressed her feelings without reservation. However, she laid most of the blame upon heredity.
"You got it from that impractical librarian," she declared. "Why did Dorothy marry him? She might have known what the result would be."
Galusha was more downcast even than his relative.
"I'm awfully sorry, Aunt Clarissa," he said. "I realize I am a dreadful disappointment to you. I tried, I honestly did, but—"
And here he coughed, coughed lengthily and in a manner which caused his aunt to look alarmed and anxious. She had heard John Capen Bangs cough like that. That very afternoon the Bute family physician saw, questioned and examined Galusha. The following day an eminent specialist did the same things. And both doctors looked gravely at each other and at their patient.
Within a week Galusha was on his way to an Arizona ranch, a place where he was to find sunshine and dry climate. He was to be out of doors as much as possible, he was to ride and walk much, he was to do all sorts of distasteful things, but he promised faithfully to do them, for his aunt's sake. As a matter of fact, he took little interest in the matter for his own. His was a sensitive spirit, although a quiet, shy and "queer" one, and to find that he was "no good" at any particular employment, even though he had felt fairly certain of that fact beforehand, hurt more than he acknowledged to others. Galusha went to Arizona because his aunt, to whose kindness and generosity he owed so much, wished him to do so. For himself he did not care where he went or what became of him.
But his feelings changed a few months later, when health began to return and the cough to diminish in frequency and violence. And then came to the ranch where he lodged and boarded an expedition from an eastern museum. It was an expedition sent to explore the near-by canyon for trace of the ancient "cliff dwellers," to find and, if need be, excavate the villages of this strange people and to do research work among them. The expedition was in charge of an eminent scientist. Galusha met and talked with the scientist and liked him at once, a liking which was to grow into adoration as the acquaintanceship between the two warmed into friendship. The young man was invited to accompany the expedition upon one of its exploring trips. He accepted and, although he did not then realize it, upon that trip he discovered, not only an ancient cliff village, but the life work of Galusha Cabot Bangs.
For Galusha was wild with enthusiasm. Scrambling amid the rocks, wading or tumbling into the frigid waters of mountain streams, sleeping anywhere or not sleeping, all these hardships were of no consequence whatever compared with the thrill which came with the first glimpse of, high up under the bulging brow of an overhanging cliff, a rude wall and a cluster of half ruined dwellings sticking to the side of the precipice as barn swallows' nests are plastered beneath eaves. Then the climb and the glorious burrowing into the homes of these long dead folk, the hallelujahs when a bit of broken pottery was found, and the delightfully arduous labor of painstakingly uncovering and cleaning a bit of rude carving. The average man would have tired of it in two days, a week of it would have bored him to distraction. But the longer it lasted and the harder the labor, the brighter Galusha's eyes sparkled behind his spectacles. Years before, when his aunt had asked him concerning his interest in the books about ancient Nineveh, he had described to her the work of the explorers and had cried: "Gee, it must be great!" Well, now he was, in a very humble way, helping to do something of the sort himself, and—gee, it WAS great!
Such enthusiasm as his and such marked aptitude, amounting almost to genius, could not help but make an impression. The distinguished savant at the head of the expedition returned the young man's liking. Before returning East, he said:
"Bangs, next fall I am planning an expedition to Ecuador. I'd like to have you go with me. Oh, this isn't offered merely for your sake, it is quite as much for mine. You're worth at least three of the average young fellows who have trained for this sort of thing. There will be a salary for you, of course, but it won't be large. On the other hand, there will be no personal expense and some experience. Will you go?"
Would he GO? Why—
"Yes, I know. But there is your health to be considered. I can't afford to have a sick man along. You stay here for the present and put in your time getting absolutely fit."
"But—but I AM fit."
"Um—yes; well, then, get fitter."
Galusha went to Ecuador. Aunt Clarissa protested, scolded, declared him insane—and capitulated only when she found that he was going anyhow. He returned from the expedition higher than ever in favor with his chief. He was offered a position in the archeological department of the museum. He accepted first and then told Aunt Clarissa.
That was the real beginning. After that the years rolled placidly along. He went to Egypt, under his beloved chief, and there found exactly what he had dreamed. The desert, the pyramids, the sculptures, the ancient writings, the buried tombs and temples—all those Galusha saw and took, figuratively speaking, for his own. On his return he settled down to the study of Egyptology, its writings, its history, its every detail. He made another trip to the beloved land and distinguished himself and his museum by his discoveries. His chief died and Galusha was offered the post left vacant. He accepted. Later—some years later—he was called to the National Institute at Washington.
When he was thirty-seven his Aunt Clarissa died. She left all her property to her nephew. But she left it in trust, in trust with Cousin Gussie. There was a letter to the latter in the envelope with the will. "He is to have only the income, the income, understand—until he is forty-five," Aunt Clarissa had written. "Heaven knows, I am afraid even THAT is too young for a child such as he is in everything except pyramids."
Cousin Gussie, now the dignified and highly respected senior partner of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot, took charge of the Bute—now the Bangs—property. There was not as much of it as most people had supposed; since Uncle Joshua passed on certain investments had gone wrong, but there was income enough to furnish any mortal of ordinary tastes with the means of gratifying them and still have a substantial residue left. Galusha understood this, in a vague sort of way, but he did not care. Outside of his beloved profession he had no tastes and no desires. Life for him was, as Cousin Gussie unfeelingly put it, "one damned mummy after the other." In fact, after the arrival of the first installment of income, he traveled posthaste to the office of his Boston relative and entered a protest.
"You—you mustn't send any more, really you mustn't," he declared, anxiously. "I don't know what to do with it."
"DO with it? Do with the money, you mean?"
"Yes—yes, that's it."
"But don't you need it to live on?"
"Oh, dear me, no!"
"What DO you live on?"
"Why, my salary."
"How much is your salary, if you don't mind telling us?"
Galusha did not in the least mind. The figure he named seemed a small one to his banking relative, used to big sums.
"Humph!" grunted the latter; "well, that isn't so tremendous. They don't overpay you mummy-dusters, do they? And you really don't want me to send you any more?"
"No, not if you're sure you don't mind."
"Oh, I don't mind. Then you want me to keep it and reinvest it for you; is that it?"
"I—I think so. Yes, reinvest it or—ah—something."
"But you may need some of it occasionally. If you do you will notify me, of course."
"Oh, yes; yes, indeed. Thank you very much. It's quite a weight off my mind, really it is."
Cabot could not help laughing. Then a thought struck him.
"Did you bring back the check I sent you?" he asked. Galusha looked somewhat confused.
"Why, why, no, I didn't," he admitted. "I had intended to, but you see—Dear me, dear me, I hope you will feel that I did right. You see, our paleontological department had been hoping to fit out an expedition to the Wyoming fossil fields, but it was lamentably short of funds, appropriations—ah—and so on. Hambridge and I were talking of the matter. A very adequate man indeed, Hambridge. Possibly you've read some of his writings. He wrote Lesser Reptilian Life in the Jurassio. Are you acquainted with that?"
Cousin Gussie shook his head. "Never have been introduced," he observed, with a chuckle. Galusha noted the chuckle and smiled.
"I imagine not," he observed. "I fear it isn't what is called a—ah—best seller. Well—ah—Dear me, where was I? Oh, yes! Hambridge, poor fellow, was very much upset at the prospect of abandoning his expedition and I, knowing from experience what such a disappointment means, sympathized with him. Your check was at that moment lying on my desk. So—so—It was rather on the spur of the moment, I confess—I—"
The banker interrupted.
"Are you trying to tell me," he demanded, "that you handed that check over to that other—that other—"
He seemed rather at a loss for the word.
"To finance Hambridge's expedition? Yes," he said.
"ALL of it?"
"Well, by George!"
"Perhaps it was impulsive on my part. But, you see, Hambridge DID need the money. And of course I didn't. The only thing that troubles me is the fact that, after all, it was money Aunt Clarissa left to me and I should prefer to do what she would have liked with it. I fear she might not have liked this."
Cabot nodded, grimly. He had known Aunt Clarissa very, very well.
"You bet she wouldn't," he declared.
"Yes. So don't send me any more, will you? Ah—not unless I ask for it."
"No, I won't." Then he added, "And not then unless I know WHY you ask for it, you can bet on that."
Galusha was as grateful as if he had been granted a great favor. As they walked through the outer office together he endeavored to express his feelings.
"Thank you, thank you very much, Cousin Gussie," he said, earnestly. His relative glanced about at the desks where rows of overjoyed clerks were trying to suppress delighted grins and pretend not to have heard.
"You're welcome, Loosh," he said, as they parted at the door, "but don't you ever dare call me 'Cousin Gussie' again in public as long as you live."
Galusha Bangs returned to his beloved work at the National Institute and his income was reinvested for him by the senior partner of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot. Occasionally Galusha requested that a portion of it be sent him, usually for donation to this department or that or to assist in fitting out an expedition of his own, but, generally speaking, he was quite content with his modest salary. He unwrapped his mummies and deciphered his moldering papyri, living far more in ancient Egypt than in modern Washington. The Great War and its demands upon the youth of the world left the Institute short-handed and he labored harder than ever, doing the work of two assistants as well as his own. It was the only thing he could do for his country, the only thing that country would permit him to do, but he tried to do that well. Then the Hindenburg line was broken, the armistice was signed and the civilized world rejoiced.
But Galusha Bangs did not rejoice, for his health had broken, like the enemy's resistance, and the doctors told him that he was to go away at once.
"You must leave all this," commanded the doctor; "forget it. You must get away, get out of doors and stay out."
For a moment Galusha was downcast. Then he brightened.
"There is an expedition from the New York museum about to start for Syria," he said. "I am quite sure I would be permitted to accompany it. I'll write at once and—"
"Here, here! Wait! You'll do nothing of the sort. I said forget that sort of thing. You can't go wandering off to dig in the desert; you might as well stay in this place and dig here. Get away from it all. Go where there are people."
"But, Doctor Raymond, there are people in Syria, a great many of them, and most interesting people. I have—"
"No. You are to forget Syria and Egypt and your work altogether. Keep out of doors, meet people, exercise—play golf, perhaps. The main trouble with you just now is nerve weariness and lack of strength. Eat, sleep, rest, build up. Eat regular meals at regular times. Go to bed at a regular hour. I would suggest your going to some resort, either in the mountains or at the seashore. Enjoy yourself."
"But, doctor, I DON'T enjoy myself at such places. I am quite wretched. Really I am."
"Look here, you must do precisely as I tell you. Your lungs are quite all right at present, but, as you know, they have a tendency to become all wrong with very little provocation. I tell you to go away at once, at once. And STAY away, for a year at least. If you don't, my friend, you are going to die. Is that plain?"
It was plain, certainly. Galusha took off his spectacles and rubbed them, absently.
"Dear me!... Dear me!—ah—Oh, dear!" he observed.
A resort? Galusha knew precious little about resorts; they were places he had hitherto tried to avoid. He asked his stenographer to name a resort where one would be likely to meet—ah—a good many people and find—ah—air and—ah—that sort of thing. The stenographer suggested Atlantic City. She had no idea why he asked the question.
Galusha went to Atlantic City. Atlantic City in August! Two days of crowds and noise were sufficient. A crumpled, perspiring wreck, he boarded the train bound for the mountains. The White Mountains were his destination. He had never visited them, but he knew them by reputation.
The White Mountains were not so bad. The crowds at the hotels were not pleasant, but one could get away into the woods and walk, and there was an occasional old cemetery to be visited. But as the fall season drew on the crowds grew greater. People persisted in talking to Galusha when he did not care to be talked to. They asked questions. And one had to dress—or most DID dress—for dinner. He tired of the mountains; there were too many people there, they made him feel "queerer" than ever.
On his way from Atlantic City to the mountains he happened upon the discarded magazine with the advertisement of the Restabit Inn in it. Just why he had torn out that "ad" and kept it he was himself, perhaps, not quite sure. The "rest" and "sea air" and "pleasant people" were exactly what the doctor had prescribed for him, but that was not the whole reason for the advertisement's retention. An association of ideas was the real reason. Just before he found the magazine he had received Mrs. Hall's postcard with its renewal of the invitation to visit the Hall cottage at Wellmouth. And the Restabit Inn was at East Wellmouth.
His determination to accept the Hall invitation and make the visit was as sudden as it was belated. The postcard came in August, but it was not until October that Galusha made up his mind. His decision was brought to a focus by the help of Mrs. Worth Buckley. Mrs. Buckley's help had not been solicited, but was volunteered, and, as a matter of fact, its effect was the reverse of that which the lady intended. Nevertheless, had it not been for Mrs. Buckley it is doubtful if Galusha would have started for Wellmouth.
She came upon him first one brilliant afternoon when he was sitting upon a rock, resting his weary legs—they wearied so easily nowadays—and looking off at the mountain-side ablaze with autumn coloring. She was large and commanding, and she spoke with a manner, a very decided manner. She asked him if—he would pardon her for asking, wouldn't he?—but had she, by any chance, the honor of addressing Doctor Bangs, the Egyptologist. Oh, really? How very wonderful! She was quite certain that it was he. She had heard him deliver a series of lectures—oh, the most WONDERFUL things, they were, really—at the museum some years before. She had been introduced to him at that time, but he had forgotten her, of course. Quite natural that he should. "You meet so many people, Doctor Bangs—or should I say 'Professor'?"
He hoped she would say neither. He had an odd prejudice of his own against titles, and to be called "Mister" Bangs was the short road to his favor. He tried to tell this woman so, but it was of no use. In a little while he found it quite as useless to attempt telling her anything. The simplest way, apparently, was silently and patiently to endure while she talked—and talked—and talked.
Memories of her monologues, if they could have been taken in shorthand from Galusha's mind, would have been merely a succession of "I" and "I" and "I" and "Oh, do you really think so, Doctor Bangs?" and "Oh, Professor!" and "wonderful" and "amazing" and "quite thrilling" and much more of the same.
She followed him when he went to walk; that is, apparently she did, for he was continually encountering her. She came and sat next him on the hotel veranda. She bowed and smiled to him when she swept into the dining room at meal times. Worst of all, she told others, many others, who he was, and he was aware of being stared at, a knowledge which made him acutely self-conscious and correspondingly miserable. There was a Mr. Worth Buckley trotting in her wake, but he was mild and inoffensive. His wife, however—Galusha exclaimed, "Oh, dear me!" inwardly or aloud whenever he thought of her.
And she WOULD talk of Egypt. She and her husband had visited Cairo once upon a time, so she felt herself as familiar with the whole Nile basin as with the goldfish tank in the hotel lounge. To Galusha Egypt was an enchanted land, a sort of paradise to which fortunate explorers might eventually be permitted to go if they were very, very good. To have this sacrilegious female patting the Sphinx on the head was more than he could stand.
So he determined to stand it no longer; he ran away. One evening Mrs. Buckley informed him that she and a little group—"a really select group, Professor Bangs"—of the hotel inmates were to picnic somewhere or other the following day. "And you are to come with us, Doctor, and tell us about those wonderful temples you and I were discussing yesterday. I have told the others something of what you told me and they are quite WILD to hear you."
Galusha was quite wild also. He went to his room and, pawing amid the chaos of his bureau drawer for a clean collar, chanced upon the postcard from Mrs. Hall. The postcard reminded him of the advertisement of the Restabit Inn, which was in his pocketbook. Then the idea came to him. He would go to the Hall cottage and make a visit of a day or two. If he liked the Cape and Wellmouth he would take lodgings at the Restabit Inn and stay as long as he wished. The suspicion that the inn might be closed did not occur to him. The season was at its height in the mountains, and Atlantic City, so they had told him there, ran at full blast all the year. So much he knew, and the rest he did not think about.
He spent most of that night packing his trunk and his suitcase. He left word for the former to be sent to him by express and the latter he took with him. He tiptoed downstairs, ate a hasty breakfast, and took the earliest train for Boston, The following afternoon he started upon his Cape Cod pilgrimage, a pilgrimage which was to end in a fainting fit upon the sofa in Miss Martha Phipps' sitting room.
The 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 urged him to drink.
"But really I—I am quite well now. And your sofa—"
"Never mind the sofa. You aren't the first soakin' wet mortal that has been on it. No, you mind me and stay still.... Primmie!"
"Yes'm. Here I be."
"Did you get the doctor on the 'phone?"
"Yes'm. He said he'd be right down soon's ever he could. He was kind of fussy 'long at fust; said he hadn't had no supper and was wet through, and all such talk's that. But I headed HIM off, my savin' soul, yes! Says I, 'There's a man here that's more'n wet through; he ain't had a thing but rum since I don't know when.'"
"Heavens and earth! WHAT did you tell him that for?"
"Why, it's so, ain't it, Miss Marthy? You said yourself he was starved."
"But what did you tell him about the rum for? Never mind, never mind. Don't stop to argue about it. You go out and make some tea, hot tea, and toast some bread. And hurry, Primmie—HURRY!"
"HURRY!... And Primmie Cash, if you scorch that toast-bread I'll scrape off the burned part and make you eat it, I declare I will. Now you lie right still, Mr.—er—Bangs, did you say your name was?"
"Yes, but really, madam—"
"My name is Phipps, Martha Phipps."
"Really. Mrs. Phipps—"
"Miss, not Mrs."
"I beg your pardon. Really, Miss Phipps, I cannot permit you to take so much trouble. I must go on, back to the village—or—or somewhere. I—Dear me?"
"What is it?"
"Nothing, nothing, my head is rather confused—dizzy. I shall be all right again, shortly. I am ashamed of myself."
"You needn't be. Anybody that has walked 'way down here, a night like this, on an empty stomach—" She paused, laughed, and exclaimed, "Of course, I don't mean you walked on your stomach, exactly, Mr. Bangs."
Galusha smiled, feebly. "There were times when I began to think I should be forced to," he said.
"I don't doubt it. There, there! now don't try to talk any more till you've had something to eat. Doctor Powers will be here pretty soon; it isn't very far—in an automobile. I'm afraid he's liable to have a queer notion of what's the matter with you. The idea of that Primmie tellin' him you hadn't had anything but rum for she didn't know how long! My, my! Well, 'twas the truth, but it bears out what my father used to say, that a little truth was like a little learnin', an awfully dangerous thing.... There, there! don't talk. I'll talk for both of us. I have a faculty that way—father used to say THAT, too," she added, with a broad smile.
When Doctor Powers did arrive, which was about fifteen minutes later, he found the patient he had come to see drinking hot tea and eating buttered toast. He was sitting in a big rocker with his steaming shoes propped against the stove. Miss Phipps introduced the pair and explained matters to the extent of her knowledge. Galusha added the lacking details.
The doctor felt the Bangs' pulse and took the Bangs temperature. The owner of the pulse and temperature made feeble protests, declaring himself to be "perfectly all right, really" and that he must be going back to the village. He couldn't think of putting every one to so much trouble.
"And where will you go when you get back to the village?" asked Doctor Powers.
"Why, to the—ah—hotel. I presume there is a hotel."
"No, there isn't. The Inn across the road here is the only hotel in East Wellmouth, and that is closed for the season."
"Dear me, doctor! Dear me! Well, perhaps I may be able to hire a—ah—car or wagon or something to take me to Wellmouth. I have friends in Wellmouth; I intended visiting them. Do you know Professor Hall—ah—George Hall, of New York?"
"Yes, I know him well. He and his family are patients of mine. But the Halls are not in Wellmouth now."
"They are not?"
"No, they went back to New York two weeks or more ago. Their cottage is closed."
"Dear me!... Oh, dear!... Why, but—but there IS a hotel at Wellmouth?"
"Yes, a kind of hotel, but you mustn't think of going there to-night." Then, with a motion of his hand, he indicated to Miss Phipps that he wished to speak with her alone. She led the way to the kitchen and he followed.
"Martha," he said, when the door closed, "to be absolutely honest with you, that man in there shouldn't go out again to-night. He has been half sick for some time, I judge from what he has told me, and he is weak and worn out from his tramp and wetting."
Miss Phipps shook her head impatiently.
"The idea of Raish Pulcifer's cartin' him 'way over here and then leavin' him in the middle of the road," she said. "It's just like Raish, but that doesn't help it any; nothin' that's like Raish helps anything—much," she added.
The doctor laughed.
"I'm beginning to believe you're right, Martha," he agreed.
"I'm pretty sure I am. I think I know Raish Pulcifer by this time; I almost wish I didn't. Father used to say that if ignorance was bliss the home for feeble-minded folks ought to be a paradise. But I don't know; sometimes I wish I wasn't so wise about some things; I might be happier."
Her pleasant, comely face had clouded over. Doctor Powers thought he understood why.
"Haven't heard anything hopeful about the Wellmouth Development Company, have you?" he asked.
"Not a word. I've almost given up expectin' to. How about you?"
"Oh, I've heard nothing new. Well, I've got only ten shares, so the loss, if it is a loss, won't break me. But Cap'n Jethro went in rather heavily, so they say."
"I believe he did."
"Yes. Well, it may be all right, after all. Raish says all we need is time."
"Um-hm. And that's all the Lord needed when He made the world. He made it in six days. Sometimes when I'm out of sorts I wonder if one more week wouldn't have given us a better job.... But there, that's irreverent, isn't it, and off the track besides? Now about this little Bangs man. What ought to be done with him?"
"Well, as I say, he shouldn't go out to-night. Of course he'll have to."
"Why will he have to?"
"Because he needs to go to bed and sleep. I thought perhaps I could get him down to the light and Cap'n Jethro and Lulie could give him a room."
"There's a room here. Two or three of 'em, as far as that goes. He isn't very big; he won't need more than one."
"But, Martha, I didn't know how you would feel about taking a strange man into your house, at night, and—"
Miss Phipps interrupted him.
"Heavens and earth, doctor!" she exclaimed, "what DO you think I am? I'm forty-one years old next August and I weigh—Well, I won't tell you what I weigh, but I blush every time I see the scales. If you think I'm afraid of a little, meek creature like the one in the sittin' room you never made a bigger mistake. And there's Primmie to help me, in case I need help, which I shan't. Besides he doesn't look as if he would run off with the spoons, now does he?"
Doctor Powers laughed heartily. "Why, no, he doesn't," he admitted. "I think you'll find him a quiet little chap."
"Yes. And he isn't able to half look after himself when he's well, to say nothin' of when he's sick. Anybody—any woman, anyhow—could tell that just by lookin' at him. And I've brought up a father, so I've had experience. He'll stay right here in the spare bedroom to-night—yes, and to-morrow night, too, if you think he'd better. Now don't talk any more rubbish, but go in and tell him so."
Her hand was on the latch of the sitting room door when the doctor asked one more question.
"Say, Martha," he asked, "this is not my business, but as a friend of yours I—Tell me: Cap'n Jim—your father, I mean—didn't put more money than he could spare in that Development scheme, did he? I mean you, yourself, aren't—er—likely to be embarrassed in case—in case—"
Miss Phipps interrupted hastily, almost too hastily, so Doctor Powers thought.
"No, no, of course not," she said.
"Truly, Martha? I'm only asking as a friend, you know."
"Why, of course. There now, doctor, don't you worry about me. You know what father and I were to each other; is it likely he would leave me in trouble of any kind? Now come in and see if Primmie has talked this little sick man of ours into another faintin' fit."
Primmie had not, but the "little sick man" came, apparently, very near to fainting when told that he was to occupy the Phipps' spare bedroom overnight. Oh, he could not possibly do such a thing, really he couldn't think of it! "Dear me, Miss Phipps, I—"
Miss Phipps paid absolutely no heed to his protests. Neither did the doctor, who was giving her directions concerning some tablets. "One to be taken now and another in the morning. Perhaps he had better stay in bed until I come, Martha. I'll be down after breakfast."
"All right, doctor. Do you think he's had enough to eat?"
"Enough for to-night, yes. Now, Mr. Bangs," turning to the still protesting Galusha, "you and I will go upstairs and see that you get to bed."
"But, really, doctor, I—"
"What's troublin' me, doctor," broke in Miss Phipps, "is what on earth to give him to sleep in. There may be a nightshirt of father's around in one of the trunks somewhere, but I doubt it, for I gave away almost everything of that kind when he died. I suppose he might use one of Primmie's nightgowns, or mine, but either one would swallow him whole, I'm afraid."
Doctor Powers, catching a glimpse of the expression on his patient's face, was obliged to wait an instant before venturing to reply. Galusha himself took advantage of the interval.
"Why—why—" he cried, "I—Dear me, dear me, I must have forgotten it entirely. My suitcase! I—ah—it must be on the veranda of that hotel. I left it there."
"What hotel? The Restabit Inn?"
He got no further. His hostess began issuing orders. A few minutes later, Primmie, adequately if not beautifully attired in a man's oilskin "slicker," sou'wester, and rubber boots, clumped forth in search of the suitcase. She returned dripping but grinning with the missing property. Its owner regarded it with profound thankfulness. He could at least retire for the night robed as a man and a brother.
"Everything in there you need, Mr. Bangs?" asked Doctor Powers, briskly.
"Oh, yes, quite, quite—ah—thank you. But really—"
"Then you and I will go aloft, as old Cap'n Jim would have said. Cap'n Jim Phipps was Miss Martha's father, Mr. Bangs, and there may have been finer men, but I never met any of 'em. All ready? Good! Here, here, don't hurry! Take it easy. Those stairs are steep."
They were steep, and narrow as well. Galusha went first but before he reached the top he was extremely thankful that the sturdy physician was behind to steady him. Miss Martha called to say that she had left a lighted lamp in the bedroom. Beyond the fact that the room itself was of good size Galusha noticed little concerning it, little except the bed, which was large and patchwork-quilted and tremendously inviting.
Doctor Powers briskly helped him to undress. The soaked shoes and stockings made the physician shake his head.
"Your feet are as cold as ice, I suppose, eh?" he inquired.
"Why, a trifle chilled, but nothing—really nothing."
Miss Martha called up the stairs.
"Doctor," she called, "here's a hot-water bag. I thought probably 'twould feel comfortable."
Doctor Powers accepted the bag and returned to the room, shaking his head.
"That woman's got more sense than a—than a barn full of owls," he declared, solemnly. "There, Mr. Bangs, that'll warm up your underpinning. Anything more you want? All right, are you?"
"Oh, yes, quite, quite. But really, doctor, I shouldn't permit this. I feel like a trespasser, like—a—a—"
"You feel like going to sleep, that's what I want you to feel like. Lucky the rain has driven off the fog or the foghorn would keep you awake. It sounds like the crack of doom down here. Perhaps you noticed it?"
"Yes, I did—ah—at least that."
"I shouldn't wonder. Anybody but a graven image would notice the Gould's Bluffs foghorn. Matches right there by the lamp, in case you want 'em. If you feel mean in the night sing out; Martha'll hear you and come in. I'll be on hand in the morning. Good-night, Mr. Bangs."
He blew out the lamp and departed, closing the door behind him. The rain poured upon the roof overhead and splashed against the panes of the two little windows beneath the eaves. Galusha Bangs, warm and dry for the first time in hours, sank comfortably to sleep.
He woke early, at least he felt sure it was early until he looked at his watch. Then he discovered it was almost nine o'clock. He had had a wonderful night's rest and he felt quite himself, quite well again, he—
Whew! That shoulder WAS a trifle stiff. Yes, and there was a little more lameness in his ankles and knees than he could have wished. Perhaps, after all, he would not get up immediately. He would lie there a little longer and perhaps have the hotel people send up his breakfast, and—Then he remembered that he was not at the hotel; he was occupying a room in the house of a total stranger. No doubt they were waiting breakfast for him. Dear me, dear me!
He climbed stiffly out of bed and began to dress. This statement is not quite correct; he prepared to begin to dress. Just as he reached the important point where it was time to put something on he made a startling discovery: His clothes were gone!
It was true, they were gone, every last item of them with the unimportant exceptions of crumpled collar and tie. Galusha looked helplessly about the room and shivered.
"Oh, dear me!" he cried, aloud. "Oh, dear!"
A voice outside his chamber door made answer.
"Be you awake, Mr. Bangs?" asked Primmie. "Here's your things. Doctor Powers he come up and got 'em last night after you'd fell asleep and me and Miss Martha we hung 'em alongside the kitchen stove. They're dried out fine. Miss Martha says you ain't to get up, though, till the doctor comes. I'll leave your things right here on the floor.... Or shall I put 'em inside?"
"Oh, no, no! Don't, don't! I mean put them on the floor—ah—outside. Thank you, thank you."
"Miss Martha said if you was awake to ask you if you felt better."
"Oh, yes—yes, much better, thank you. Thank you—yes."
He waited in some trepidation, until he heard Primmie clump downstairs. Then he opened the door a crack and retrieved his "things." They were not only dry, but clean, and the majority of the wrinkles had been pressed from his trousers and coat. The mud had even been brushed from his shoes. Not that Galusha noticed all this just then. He was busy dressing, having a nervous dread that the unconventional Primmie might find she had forgotten something and come back to bring it.
When he came downstairs there was no one in the sitting room and he had an opportunity to look about. It was a pleasant apartment, that sitting room, especially on a morning like this, with the sunshine streaming in through the eastern windows, windows full of potted plants set upon wire frames, with hanging baskets of trailing vines and a canary in a cage about them. There were more plants in the western windows also, for the sitting room occupied the whole width of the house at that point. The pictures upon the wall were almost all of the sea, paintings of schooners, and one of the "Barkentine Hawkeye, of Boston. Captain James Phipps, leaving Surinam, August 12, 1872." The only variations from the sea pictures were a "crayon-enlarged" portrait of a sturdy man with an abundance of unruly gray hair and a chin beard, and a chromo labeled "Sunset at Niagara Falls." The portrait bore sufficient resemblance to Miss Martha Phipps to warrant Galusha's guess that it was intended to portray her father, the "Cap'n Jim" of whom the doctor had spoken. The chromo of "Sunset at Niagara Falls" was remarkable chiefly for its lack of resemblance either to Niagara or a sunset.
He was inspecting this work of art when Miss Phipps entered the room. She was surprised to see him.
"Mercy on us!" she exclaimed. "WHAT in the world are you doin' downstairs here?"
Galusha blushed guiltily and hastened to explain that he was feeling quite himself, really, and so had, of course, risen and—ah—dressed.
"But I do hope, Miss Phipps," he added, "that I haven't kept you waiting breakfast. I'm afraid I have."
She laughed at the idea. "Indeed you haven't," she declared. "If you don't mind my sayin' so, Mr. Bangs, the angel Gabriel couldn't keep me waitin' breakfast till half past nine on a Saturday mornin'. Primmie and I were up at half-past six sharp. That is, I got up then and Primmie was helped up about five minutes afterward. But what I want to know," she went on, "is why you got up at all. Didn't the doctor say you were to stay abed until he came?"
"Why—why, yes, I believe he did, but you see—you see—"
"Never mind. The main thing is that you ARE up and must be pretty nearly starved. Sit right down, Mr. Bangs. Your breakfast will be ready in two shakes."
"But Miss Phipps, I wish you wouldn't trouble about my breakfast. I feel—"
"I know how you feel; that is, I know how I should feel if I hadn't eaten a thing but toast-bread since yesterday mornin'. Sit down, Mr. Bangs."
She hastened from the room. Galusha, the guilty feeling even more pronounced, sat down as requested. Five minutes afterward she returned to tell him that breakfast was ready. He followed her to the dining room, another comfortable, sunshiny apartment, where Primmie, grinning broadly, served him with oatmeal and boiled eggs and hot biscuits and coffee. He was eating when Doctor Powers' runabout drove up.
The doctor, after scolding his patient for disobeying orders, gave the said patient a pretty thorough examination.
"You are in better shape than you deserve to be," he said, "but you are not out of the woods yet. What you need is to gain strength, and that means a few days' rest and quiet and good food. If your friends, the Halls, were at their cottage at the Centre I'd take you there, Mr. Bangs, but they're not. I would take you over to my house, but my wife's sister and her children are with us and I haven't any place to put you."
Galusha, who had been fidgeting in his chair, interrupted. "Now, Doctor Powers," he begged, "please don't think of such a thing. I am quite well enough to travel."
"Excuse me, but you are not."
"But you said yourself you would take me to Wellmouth if the Halls were there."
"I did, but they're not there."
"I know, but there is a hotel there, Mr.—ah—Pulcifer said so."
The doctor and Miss Phipps looked at each other.
"He said there was a hotel there," went on Galusha. "Now if you would be so kind as to—ah—take me to that hotel—"
Dr. Powers rubbed his chin.
"I should like to have you under my eye for a day or two," he said.
"Yes—yes, of course. Well, couldn't you motor over and see me occasionally? It is not so very far, is it?... As to the additional expense, of course I should expect to reimburse you for that."
Still the physician looked doubtful.
"It isn't the expense, exactly, Mr. Bangs," he said.
"I promise you I will not attempt to travel until you give your permission. I realize that I am still—ah—a trifle weak—weak in the knees," he added, with his slight smile. "I know you must consider me to have been weak in the head to begin with, otherwise I shouldn't have gotten into this scrape."
The doctor laughed, but he still looked doubtful.
"The fact is, Mr. Bangs," he began—and stopped. "The fact is—the fact—"
Martha Phipps finished the sentence for him.
"The fact is," she said, briskly, "that Doctor Powers knows, just as I or any other sane person in Ostable County knows, that Elmer Rogers' hotel at the Centre isn't fit to furnish board and lodgin' for a healthy pig, to say nothin' of a half sick man. You think he hadn't ought to go there, don't you, doctor?"
"Well, Martha, to be honest with you—yes. Although I shouldn't want Elmer to know I said it."
"Well, you needn't worry; he shan't know as far as I am concerned. Now of course there's just one sensible thing for Mr. Bangs here to do, and you know what that is, doctor, as well as I do. Now don't you?"