“You haven’t bored me, Mr. Bangs,” she said,
“Oh, but I must have, really. I should know better. You see. . . . Well, it’s quite extraordinary my talking to you in this way, isn’t it? I don’t do it often—ah—except to other members of my profession. Why, up there in the mountains—at the place where I spent the past month or two, I scarcely talked of—ah—my work at all. And I was constantly being asked to do so. There was a dreadful—ah—that is, there was a woman who. . . . But I promise you I won’t go on in this way again, Miss Phipps, really I won’t.”
Martha drew a long breath and shook her head.
“I hope you won’t promise any such thing,” she declared. “I feel as if I had been readin’ the most interestin’ storybook that ever was. . . . My, my!” she added, with a sigh. “What a curious thing life is, isn’t it? There’s nothin’ new in that thought, of course, but it comes to us all every little while, I suppose. Just think of the difference there has been in our two lives, for instance. Here are you, Mr. Bangs, you’ve been everywhere, pretty nearly, and yet you’re—well, you’re not so very big or strong-lookin’. The average person would say I was the one best fitted to trot around the world, and all my life—or nearly all—I’ve been keepin’ house in this little corner of East Wellmouth. That’s curious, isn’t it? Of course I can’t see myself doin’ the things you do—ridin’ a camel, for instance.”
“Oh, but it is quite easy, quite,” Galusha hastened to assure her. “You could do it very well, I’m sure, Miss Phipps.”
“Maybe so, but I’m afraid I’m a little bit doubtful. I should want my camel on wheels, with a railin’ around his hump. But you must feel lost enough down in this tame place, Mr. Bangs. The wildest thing around here is a woodchuck.”
She laughed. Galusha smiled, but he answered promptly.
“I like it here, Miss Phipps,” he said, earnestly. “I do, really. I like it very much indeed. In fact—in fact—Miss Phipps, would you mind answering a question or two? . . . Oh, they’re not personal questions, personal to you, I mean. Really they are not. May I ask them?”
She was puzzled and looked so.
“Why, of course,” she said.
“Well . . . well, they’re foolish questions, I suppose, for I think I know the answers already. But, you see, I want my conscience to be quite clear before making a decision. . . . That is, the decision is already made, but you see . . . oh, no, you don’t see, of course, do you?”
“Why not ask your questions, Mr. Bangs?” she suggested.
“Yes—ah—thank you; yes, I will. The first one is about—ah— rest. This is a good spot for one to—ah—rest in, isn’t it?”
She laughed. “Are you jokin’, Mr. Bangs?” she asked. “Rest! I should say the average person would find it easier to rest here than to do anything else. But you are jokin’, of course?”