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.”