“I should be very glad to make you a present of them, Cousin Gussie,” he said, listlessly. “I do not care for them, really.”
“I don’t doubt that, but you won’t do anything of the kind. As a matter of fact, your buying those shares and taking them out of the market was a mighty good thing for us. That Trust Company crowd was getting anxious, so the Phipps woman says. By the way, I will send her a check at once for her shares and she will hand it over to you. She was very much disturbed because you had—as she called it—given her that five thousand dollars.”
Galusha nodded sadly. “Of course,” he said. “It was a—a very dreadful thing to do. Oh, dear!”
His relative, who was watching him intently, smiled. “She and I have had a long talk,” he continued. “She couldn’t understand about you, how you could have so much money to—er—waste in that way. I gathered she feared you might have impoverished yourself, or pledged the family jewels, or something. And she plainly will not be easy one moment until she has paid you. She is a very extraordinary woman, Loosh.”
His companion did not answer. His gaze was fixed upon a winged death’s head on a battered slate gravestone near at hand. The death’s head was grinning cheerfully, but Galusha was not.
“I say she is remarkable, that Phipps woman,” repeated Cousin Gussie. The little man stirred uneasily upon the fence rail.
“Her—ah—name is Martha—Martha Phipps—ah—miss Martha Phipps,” he suggested, with a slight accent upon the “Miss.” The banker’s smile broadened.
“Apologies, Galusha,” he said, “to her—and to you.” He turned and gazed steadily down at his relative’s bowed head.
“Loosh,” he said.
“Eh?” Galusha looked up. “Eh? Did you speak?” he asked.
“I did. No, don’t look at that gravestone, look at me. Say, Loosh, why did you do it?”
“Eh? . . . I beg pardon. . . . Why did I . . . You mean why did I—ah—buy the stock—and—and—”
“Of course. Why did you? Oh, I know she was hard up and feared she couldn’t keep her home and all that; she has told me her story. And she is a good woman and you were sorry for her. But, my boy, to take five thousand dollars—even for you to take five thousand cold, hard, legal tender dollars and toss them away for something which, so far as you knew, was not worth five cents—that argues a little more than sympathy, doesn’t it? And when you add eight thousand more of those dollars to the original five, then— Why did you do it, Loosh?”
Galusha’s gaze fell. He looked solemnly at the battered cherub upon the gravestone and the cherub’s grin was broad.
“I bought Captain Hallett’s stock,” he explained, “because I did not wish Miss Mar—Miss Phipps to know that I had lied—and all the rest.”
“Yes, yes, so you said. But why did you lie, Loosh? Why didn’t you tell her that you couldn’t sell her stock for her? She would have been disappointed, of course, but she would have understood; she is a sensible woman.”