“But—but if you refuse this what will you do?”
He smiled again. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t seem to care. But it is quite all right, Miss Martha. Really it is. I—I wouldn’t have you think— Oh, dear, no!”
“But what will you do? Tell me.”
“I don’t know. No doubt I shall do something. One has to do that, I suppose. It is only that—” Then, as a new thought came to him, he turned to her in alarm. “Oh, of course,” he cried, hastily, “I sha’n’t remain here. Please don’t think I intend imposing upon you longer. I shall go—ah—at once—to-morrow—ah almost immediately. You have been extremely kind and long-suffering already and—and—”
She interrupted. “Don’t!” she said, hurriedly. “Don’t! Mr. Bangs, have you truly made up your mind not to go to Egypt with that expedition? Won’t you please do it, if I beg you to?”
He slowly shook his head.
“It is like you,” he said, “to take such an interest, but, if—if you don’t mind, I had rather not. I can’t. Really, I—ah—can’t. It— Well, the thought of it—ah—repels me. Please don’t ask me, Miss Martha, because—I can’t.”
She hesitated. Then she said, “Would you go if I went with you?”
He had been looking, not at her, but at the sea. Now he slowly turned.
“Why—why—” he stammered. “Why, Miss— Oh, dear me, you don’t— you can’t mean—”
She shook her head. “I suppose I mean anything,” she said, “anything that will stop you from throwin’ away your life work.”
He was very pale and his eyes were fixed upon her face. “Do you mean—” he began, “do you mean you could—you would marry me?”
She shook her head again. “I think I must be crazy,” she said, desperately. “I think we all must be, your cousin as well as the rest of us. He came to me a little while ago and asked me to—to say yes to you. He did! He, of all people! The—the very one that I—I—”
“Yes, yes, yes, of course.” Galusha was trembling with eagerness. “Yes, of course. Cousin Gussie is an extraordinarily able man. He approves of it highly. He told me so.”
She scarcely heard him. “Oh, don’t you see,” she went on, “why it would be wicked for me to think of such a thing? You are a great man, a famous man; you have been everywhere and seen everything; I haven’t had any real education, any that counts besides yours; I haven’t been anywhere; I am just a country old maid. Oh, you would be ashamed of me in a month. . . . No, no, no, I mustn’t. I won’t.”
“But, Miss Martha—”
“No. Oh, no!”
She turned away. Galusha had what was, for him, an amazing and unprecedented inspiration.
“Very well,” he declared. “I shall go to—to the devil, I think. Yes, I will. I shall give away my money, all of it, and go to the devil.”