The man who had asked the question accepted the invitation and entered the dining room. He was a big, broad-shouldered man in a raccoon motor coat. He took off a cap which matched the coat and looked about the room. Then he saw Galusha.
“Why, hello, Loosh!” he said.
Galusha knew him, had recognized the voice before he saw its owner. His mouth opened, shut, and opened again. He was quite pale.
“Ah—ah—why, Cousin Gussie!” he stammered.
For the man in the fur coat standing there in Martha Phipps’ dining room was the senior partner of Cabot, Bancroft and Cabot.
For perhaps thirty seconds after the exchange of greetings, the trio in the Phipps’ dining room stood where they were, practically without moving. Mr. Cabot, of course, was smiling broadly, Miss Phipps was gazing in blank astonishment from one to the other of the two men, and Galusha Bangs was staring at his relative as Robinson Crusoe stared at the famous footprint, “like one thunderstruck.”
It was Cabot who broke up the tableau. His smile became a hearty laugh.
“What’s the matter, Loosh?” he demanded. “Great Scott, old man, I expected to surprise you, but I didn’t expect to give you a paralytic stroke. How are you?”
He walked over and held out his hand. Galusha took it, but he looked as if he was quite unaware of doing so. “Cousin Gussie!” he repeated, faintly. Then he added his favorite exclamation. “Dear me!”
Even Martha, who by this time was used to his eccentricities, thought his conduct strange.
“Why, Mr. Bangs,” she cried, “are you sick? What is it?”
Galusha blinked, put a hand to his forehead, knocked off his spectacles, picked them up again and, in doing so, appeared to pick up a little of his normal self.
“Why, Cousin Gussie,” he observed, for the third time; adding, “I— I am surprised.”
His cousin’s laugh made the little room echo.
“Good, Loosh!” he exclaimed. “I guessed as much; you looked it. Well, it is all right; I’m here in the flesh. Aren’t you glad to see me?”
Galusha stammered that he was very glad to see him—yes, indeed— ah—quite so—very, of course.
“Ah—ah—won’t you sit down?” he asked.
Martha could stand it no longer. “Why, mercy’s sakes, Mr. Bangs,” she exclaimed, “of course he’ll sit down! And he’d probably take off his coat, if you asked him.”
This pointed hint had an immediate effect. Her lodger sprang forward.
“Oh, dear me!” he cried. “I’m so sorry. Of course, of course. I beg your pardon, Cousin Gussie.”
He hindered a little more than he helped with the removal of the coat and then stood, with the garment in his arms, peering over the heap of fur like a spectacled prairie-dog peeping out of a hole.