In the melodramas, the sort which most people laugh at as “old-fashioned” and enjoy thoroughly, there is usually a scene in which the hero, or the heroine, or both, are about to be drowned in the sinking ship or roasted in the loft of the burning building, or butchered by the attacking savages, or executed by the villain and his agents. The audience enjoys some delightful thrills while watching this situation—whichever it may be—develop, but is spared any acute anxiety, knowing from experience that just at the last moment the rescuing boat, or the heroic firemen, or the troops, or a reprieve from the Governor, will arrive and save the leading man or woman and the play from a premature end and for another act.
It does not happen as often in real life, at least one cannot count upon it with the certainty of the theater. But when Miss Primrose Cash knocked upon the door of the Phipps’ sitting room and delivered her call to the seance, she was as opportune and nick-of-timey as was ever a dramatic Governor’s messenger. Certainly that summons of hers was to Galusha Bangs a reprieve which saved him from instant destruction.
Cousin Gussie, who had been on the point of repeating his demand to know if his relative was ill, turned instead to look toward the door. Martha, whose gaze had been fixed upon her lodger with an intentness which indicated at least the dawning of a suspicion, turned to look in the same direction. Galusha, left poised upon the very apex of the explosion, awaited the moment when the fragments, of which he was one, should begin to fall.
But they did not fall—then. Primmie gave them no opportunity to do so.
“Miss Martha,” she cried, “Miss Martha, do you hear me? Zach—he says—”
Her mistress answered. “Yes, yes, Primmie,” she said, “I hear you.” Then, turning again toward the banker and his relative, she said, “Mr. Cabot, I—did I understand you to say—?”
“Miss Martha!” The voice outside the door was more insistent than ever. “Miss Martha, Zach he says we’ve all hands got to come right straight off, ’cause if we don’t there’ll be hell to pay. . . . My savin’ soul, I never meant to say that, Miss Martha! Zach, he said it, but I never meant to. I—I— Oh, my Lord of Isrul! I—I— oh, Miss Martha!”
Further wails of the frightened and repentant one were lost in an ecstatic shout of laughter from Mr. Cabot. Martha slowly shook her head.
“Well,” she observed, dryly, “I guess likely we’d better go, hadn’t we? If it is as bad as all that I should say we had, sure and certain. Primmie Cash, I’m ashamed of you. Mr. Cabot, we’ll finish our talk when we come back. What under the sun you can possibly mean I declare I don’t understand. . . . But, there, it will keep. Come, Mr. Bangs.”