“An idiot, an imbecile. Nine people out of ten, those who don’t know him well, do consider him just that. Yet he isn’t. In some respects he is a mighty clever man. In his own line, in this musty-dusty museum business of his, this Egyptology he is so cracked about, he is really very close to the top. Geographic societies all over the world have given him medals; he is—why, if he wished to he could write a string of letters after his name a yard long. I believe—hang it, it sounds absurd, but I believe he has been—er—knighted or something like it, in one heathenish little kingdom. And in Washington there, at the Institute, they swear by him.”
She nodded. “They have just made him a wonderful offer to be the head of another expedition,” she said.
“So? Well, I am not surprised. But in most respects, outside of his mummy-chasing, he is an absolute ass. Money? Why, he would give away every cent if it occurred to him to do so. He wouldn’t know nor care. And what might become of him afterward he wouldn’t care, either. If it wasn’t that I watch him and try to keep his money out of his hands, I don’t know what would happen. Kind? Yes, of course. And generous; good Lord! But when it comes to matters of sentiment like—well, like this stock business for example, he is, as I say, an ass, that’s all. . . . I am telling you this, Miss Phipps, because I wouldn’t wish you to consider old Loosh altogether a fool, but only—”
He was sitting there, his knee in his hands, gazing blandly at the ceiling and, in judicial fashion, summing up his relative’s failings and virtues, when he was interrupted. And the interruption was a startling one. Martha Phipps sprang to her feet and faced him, her cheeks crimson and her eyes flashing.
“Oh, how dare you!” she cried, with fiery indignation. “How can you? You sit there and talk about him and—and call him names in that—that condescendin’ way as if he was dirt under our feet and yet—and yet he’s as far above us as the sky is. Oh, how can you! Don’t you see how good he is? Don’t you see how he’s sufferin’ now, poor soul, and why? You say he doesn’t care for money; of course he doesn’t. If it had cost fifty thousand and he had it, I suppose he’d have used it just the same if he thought it would help—help some friend of his out of trouble. But what is tearin’ him to pieces is the idea that he has, as he calls it, cheated me. That he has lied to Jethro and to me and hasn’t been the same straight, honest—gentleman he always is. That’s all. He doesn’t give himself credit for takin’ his own money to help other folks with. You would, I would, but he doesn’t. He talks as if he’d robbed us, or—or killed somebody or somethin’. He is the best— yes, I think he is the best and finest soul that ever breathed. And you sit there and—swing your foot and—and patronize—and call him a fool. A fool! . . . I—I mustn’t talk any more or—or I’ll say somethin’ I’ll wish I hadn’t. . . . Good-night, Mr. Cabot.”