“Ain’t I been tellin’ you she did? Now you talk right up to her, Mr. Bangs. You tell her I don’t want no wages. Tell her I’ll stay right along same as ever and— You tell her, Mr. Bangs.”
Martha was standing by the stove in the sitting room when her lodger entered. She turned to greet him.
“I don’t know as I’m doin’ right to keep you from your walk, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “And I won’t keep you very long. But I did want to talk with you for just a minute or two. I wanted to ask your advice about—about a business matter.”
Now this was very funny indeed. It would have been hard to find a richer joke than the idea of consulting Galusha Bangs concerning a matter of business. But both parties to this consultation were too serious to see the joke at that moment.
Galusha nodded solemnly. He faltered something about being highly honored and only too glad to be of service. His landlady thanked him.
“Yes,” she said, “I knew you would be. And, as I say, I won’t keep you very long. Sit down, Mr. Bangs. Oh, not in that straight up-and-down thing. Here, in the rocker.”
Galusha lifted himself from the edge of the straight-backed chair upon which he had perched and sat upon the edge of the rocking-chair instead. Martha looked at him sitting there, his collar turned up, his cap brim and earlaps covering two thirds of his face and his spectacles at least half of the remaining third, his mittened hands twitching nervously in his lap, and, in spite of her feelings, could not help smiling. But it was a fleeting smile.
“Take off your things, Mr. Bangs,” she said. “You’ll roast alive if you don’t. It’s warm in here. Primmie forgot and left the dampers open and the stove was pretty nearly red-hot when I came in just now. Yes, take off your overcoat and cap, and those mittens, for mercy sakes.”
Galusha declared that he didn’t mind the mittens and the rest, but she insisted and he hastily divested himself of his wrappings, dropping them upon the floor as the most convenient repository and being greatly fussed when Miss Phipps picked them up and laid them on the table.
“I—I beg your pardon,” he stammered. “Really, I don’t know why I am so thoughtless. I—I should be—ah—hanged or something, I think. Then perhaps I wouldn’t do it again.”
Martha shook her head. “You probably wouldn’t in that case,” she said. “Now, Mr. Bangs, I’m going to try to get at that matter I wanted to ask your opinion about. Do you know anything about stocks—stockmarket stocks, I mean?”
Her lodger looked rather bewildered.
“Dear me, no; not a thing,” he declared.
She did not look greatly disappointed.
“I didn’t suppose you did,” she said. “You—well, you don’t look like a man who would know much about such things. And from what I’ve seen of you, goodness knows, you don’t act like one! Perhaps I shouldn’t say that,” she added, hastily. “I didn’t mean it just as it sounded.”