“You liar!” he roared again. “Out of my house, you swindler! You damned cheat!”
This blast, delivered with the full force of the old skipper’s quarter-deck voice, had the effect of completely upsetting the already tense nerves of the majority in the circle. Two or three of the women began to cry. Chairs were overturned. There was a babel of cries and confusion. The light keeper stilled it.
“Be still, all hands!” he shouted. “Turn up them lamps! Turn ’em up!”
Mr. Cabot, although himself somewhat startled and disturbed by the unexpected turn of events, was at least as cool as any one. He reached over the prostrate heap at his feet—it was Ophelia Beebe hysterically repeating: “He’s gone crazy! He’s gone loony! Oh, my soul! Oh, my land! WHAT’LL I do?” and the like—and turned up one of the lamps. Obed Taylor did the same with the other.
The sudden illumination revealed Captain Jethro, his face pale, his eyes flashing fire, holding the dumpy Miss Hoag fast in her chair with one hand and with the other brandished above her head like the hammer of Thor. The audience, for the most part, were in various attitudes, indicating alarm and a desire to escape. Mrs. Harding had a strangle hold on her husband’s neck and was slowly but inevitably choking him to death; Mrs. Peters, as well as Miss Beebe, was on the floor; and Primmie Cash was bobbing up and down, flapping her hands and opening her mouth like a mechanical figure in a shop window. Lulie and Martha Phipps, pale and frightened, were trying to force their way to the captain’s side. Galusha Bangs alone remained seated.
The light keeper again commanded silence.
“Look at her!” he cried, pointing his free hand at the cowering figure of the medium. “Look at her! The lyin’ cheat!”
Marietta was, in a way, worth looking at. She had shrunk as far down in the chair as the captain’s grip would permit, her usually red face was now as white as the full moon, which it resembled in some other ways, and she was, evidently, as Primmie said afterwards, “scart to death and some left over.”
“Father, father,” she pleaded. “Please—oh—please!”
Her father paid no attention. It was to Miss Hoag that he continued his attentions.
“You miserable, swindlin’ make-believe!” he growled, his voice shaking with emotion. “You—you come here and—and pretend— Oh, by The Almighty, if you was a man, if you wasn’t the—the poor, pitiful fool that you be, I’d—I’d—”
His daughter had reached his side. “Father,” she begged. “Father, for my sake—”
“Be still! Be still, girl! . . . Marietta Hoag, you answer me. Who put you up to tellin’ me to sell that stock to Pulcifer? Who did it? Answer me?”
Marietta tried, but she could do little but gurgle. She gurgled, however, in her natural tones, or a frightened imitation of them. Little Cherry Blossom had, apparently, fluttered to the Chinese spiritland.