men would justify his act, and the jury would acquit
him without leaving the box. But why slay a man for
" The click of his watch guard reminded him that
he stood to lose something prized highly, a gold
watch that cost $120, presented to him by the Tad-
mor County bar at the expiration of his term on the
" Drop that! he shouted.
" The burglar wheeled quickly, and the next in
stant there blazed a dazzling light, there came an
ear-splitting crash, and something struck the pillow
a vicious blow. The thief waited an instant to see
if his shot had taken effect.
" That instant was the one that the judge, a squir
rel hunter of renown in his younger days, chose to
aim at the figure between him and the velvet sky,
powdered with faint stars. His shot was followed
by a coughing grunt and a long whimper. Then the
figure toppled out of the window to the ground with
a dull thump, and lay there a formless blot in the
" In another second the whole hotel was alive.
Guests came thronging in, buzzing with inquiries.
196 FOLKS BACK HOME
Through a back door, suddenly jerked open,
streamed a yellow trapezium of light illuminating
the man bubbling his life away on the grass.
" That s the man I shot! cried the judge. I did
it in self-defense. He shot at me first. Before God,
it was not murder!
" He hurriedly dressed and ran down the stairs.
" As he reached the little group, the dying man s
legs drew up and extended tremorously, and then
lay still forever.
" I guess he s dead all right/ said the night clerk,
and set the lamp down on the ground while he rolled
the body so that the light shone on the face. As the
features appeared, the judge groaned, reeled, and
Lippincott paused and then added: " He never
regained consciousness. They took him home, and
a week later he died. Toward the last they heard
him say: I killed him I didn t know The rest
"Killed his own son!" whispered Scrimgeour,
pallid with horror.
"Strangely enough," continued Lippincott, as if
he did not hear, " within an hour after the judge s
death, who should drive up to the door but Percy
and his wife and baby? It was a hard blow to him
that he could not show to the old man his grandson
and namesake, the pledge of filial forgiveness."
THE FICTIONAL MIND 197
Scrimgeour stared at him in amaze and then burst
out with: " But you just now said that the judge
killed Percy. Shot him."
" Not I. The man the judge killed was named
"But how could Alice marry Percy without "
" Alice didn t marry Percy. She is Mrs. Charles
Douthirt. Who ever knew child lovers to mate in
mature life? Don t you see that you are the victim
of the fictional mind? It was the most unlikely thing
in the world that the judge should slay his own son,
but that was the only thing you believed could
" Oh, dry up! " interrupted the angry Scrimgeour.
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN
DIDN T I tell you!" said Brother Otho Lit-
tell to his clerk, Clarence Bowersox. " I
jox, if he don t beat the Dutch, that feller."
Clarence had removed his apron and was getting
into his overcoat. It was cold out, remarkably cold
for the middle of December, and he was hungry for
his breakfast after opening up and getting the gro
cery ready against Mr. Littell came down. He
paused to get a good grip on his coat sleeve and
to prepare the torn lining of his overcoat sleeve
before he inquired: " What feller? "
" W y, Abel Horn."
" What s he Well, dod blast the daggone thing,
anyhow! I got to get married or git a new overcoat,
I do know which. What s he up to now? "
" W y, you know that there Christmas-tree cele
bration we re goin to have to our church "
" Is he goin to be Santy Claus? "
" Urn," assented Brother Littell, taking a chew
of fine cut and masticating it mournfully. Brother
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 199
Littell had had hopes of being struck by lightning
himself. He had not more than hinted his ambition
to his wife and to Clarence, but he was a prominent
member of Center Street M. E.; he had taught in
the Sunday school for years; he had given twenty
pounds of candy and a box of oranges to be divided
up among the children, and he was, as he said,
" about the right build and heft for old Santy," so
he had thought that perhaps he might be recog
nized. He felt it something of a slight that though
he was a member of the committee nobody had
even so much as mentioned his name, but the
prize had been given to Abel Horn as a matter of
" W y, that little sawed-off, dried-up, peaked end
o nothin ! " snorted Clarence, this time succeed
ing with his sleeve and donning the overcoat by a
series of humps and jumps. "What call has he to
be Santy Claus? How d they ever come to pick on
" I jox, I d know," said Brother Littell. " They
did, though. Told me once, he did: I never growed
a inch tell I was sixteen, and then I shot up luck a
weed. Huh!" Mr. Littell could not talk two min
utes about Abel Horn without repeating this joke,
for Abel s shortness was proverbial.
"Well, Judas priest! don t you folks to Center
Street git about enough o him every Sunday, lead-
200 FOLKS BACK HOME
in* the singin , startin in before everybody and
hangin on after everybody gits through? "
" I d know s we re any worse n some others.
Comp ny K don t appear to be any ways capable of
throwin off the yoke," retorted Brother Littell.
Clarence was a corporal in Company K, and when
they got up " The Drummer Boy of Shiloh " he had
entertained hopes of being chosen to play the hero.
He also had his little ambitions. He had studied
elocution and was a subscriber to The Dramatic Mir
ror, but when that thrilling drama of the Civil War
was presented at Melodeon Hall the best part he
could get was Orderly to General Grant, while Abel
Horn was cast for the hero. When Company K had
the walking match and Private Lafe Henderson,
amateur, walked against Miss Elsa von Baum, pro
fessional pedestrian, Clarence was to have been the
announcer, but Abel Horn got in ahead of him there,
Remembering these things, Clarence took his
thumb off the latch and returned to Mr. Littell.
" How does he do it? That s what I want to
know," he demanded fiercely. " He don t ever think
o* things first. He don t hustle round and git up
su scriptions or advertisements for the programmes.
He don t see to the printin or do one formed haet,
as fur as I can see, to make the entertainment a
sucksess, and yit his name is always first on the list
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 201
and he crowds in to be head man in everything. You
tell me how he does it."
Apparently Brother Littell refused to divulge the
secret. He pursed up his lips, opened the stove door,
and spat genteelly on the coals.
" Tain t as if he was a big, fine-lookin feller, like
Mose Tuttle," persisted Clarence, " or spoke his
words nice like Well, like Henry Miller, though
he ain t never studied elocution; or was a comical
actor like Mr. BoZenta, or could play the piano like
Charley Pope, or sing nice like Doc Avery. He ain t
got any accomplishment, only jist gall. Folks laugh
at him, but they let him ride over em, jist the same.
Now, why is it? "
" I jox, I d know," said Mr. Littell thoughtfully.
He was remembering what his wife had said to him
the night before when he came home and told her
what the committee had decided upon. " Huh! " she
said. " Huh! And you set there and Well, if I was
a man I d be a man and not let myself be led around
by any such Johnny-fly-up-the-creek as Abel Horn.
I d a told him. No, sir, he couldn t run the whole
shebang all the time, and from everlastin to ever-
lastin . Why, pa, whatever possessed you? " Mr.
Littell said then as he said now: " I jox, I d know."
" Pity he couldn t do somepin with all that natch-
erl ability o his n for blanneyin folks into doin
what he wants em to," sneered Clarence, forgetting
202 FOLKS BACK HOME
how his breakfast was cooling at the Widow Par
ker s, where he boarded. " Pity he couldn t go into
business and make his everlastin fortune."
" I jox! I bet you he could if he was to try once/
said Brother Littell. " He ain t never got around
to it, though. Two or three times when he was a
boy he wanted to quit school and go to work, but,
no, sir! she wouldn t have it. She wasn t goin to
have her Abel ordered around by common folks. She
was goin to bring him up a gentleman. He wanted
to go into business, but they was so much hemmin
and hawin about her lettin him have the capital
that it all fell through."
" Cuts everybody out o everything," Clarence
jawed on, " but I take notice he can t git married.
The girls don t want to take up with no sech little,
" Aw, now, don t you fool yourself, Clarence,"
corrected Mr. Littell, taking his foot down from the
fender. " They ain t no man, Clarence, I don t keer
how insignificant-lookin he is or how onry he is,
that can t git married to a good woman if he wants
" Then how come Abel don t? He flies around
amongs em enough to be a marryin man."
" On account of his ma, I tell you. She made him
promise her he wouldn t git married whilst she was
alive. Oh, don t you tell me what you d do and what
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 203
you wouldn t do. You don t know that woman. For
all she s so giggly and gushy she makes him walk
a chalk when he s with her. He can ride over other
folks, but he don t dass to say his soul s his own
around home, ner his pa, either, when he was alive.
Abel flies around amongs em, yes, but not stiddy
with any one girl, if you take notice. 5
" Oh, well, Lide. He s be n goin with Lide now
sence she put on long dresses. Went with all her
sisters, too. Looks like Lide s elected to stay at
home. Darn shame, too. Pick o the whole tribe, I
say. Pretty girl and a good girl."
" Right old for a girl," commented Clarence
" O pshaw! O pshaw! She don t look a day over
twenty-nine. I d know s she is much either. She
took off that part in The Drummer Boy reel nice,
didn t she? "
" Aw, say ! She was all right, now, I tell you ! "
declared the enthusiastic Clarence. " No discountin
her. She s got reel ability. You know that place
where she comes in an says "
" Folks talked it around that that was about the
first time her and Abel ever got a right good chance
to make love like they wanted to," interrupted
Brother Littell, with more meaning in his words
than Clarence appreciated.
204 FOLKS BACK HOME
" Her actin in the love scenes was all right. But
he was rotten. W y, when he come back from the
war, you know, and everybody thought he was dead,
and he throwed his arms around her fine situation.
I wisht I d a had that part w y, the top o his
head didn more n come up to her chin. Jist killed
the scene. No heart interest. It was jist funny."
" You run along now and gitch breakfast. Sist
Parker ll be in my wool lettin you keep the break
fast dishes standin so long."
" Better order in some more sugar. We re about
out, and they ll be a big call for it for their pies and
puddens and things."
" I jox! I meant to do that yesterday. Them s nice
cranberries, ain t they? I d know s I ever seen any
nicer. You run along now and gitch breakfast and
hurry right back."
In one way it would have made Abel Horn feel
bad to know what people said about him. Nobody
likes to be laughed at. In another way, it would have
pleased him. Everybody likes to be envied. He had
good enough opinion of himself to be able to treat
the talk of some " with silent contempt," as the
phrase goes, or to " take it from whence it came,"
as another phrase goes. As for the other people, he
knew that they liked him. Nobody could help doing
that, for Abel was as good as wheat. He would have
known that if they resented his officiousness it was
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 205
just as we resent the officiousness of a police officer
and yet we would not be without the policeman.
Abel was popular with the " younger crowd," and,
even if old Marinus Moran declared that he had for
got more religion than Abel Horn ever knew, and
Uncle Billy Nicholson and a few more of them up
in the Amen corner were opposed to him for having
the choir sing voluntaries before meeting took up,
the " older crowd " recognized the fact that Abel s
membership in Center Street M. E. was no occa
sion for stumbling, and his loud and tireless leading
of the singing at protracted meeting time was a
great help. Brother Nicholson was a little behind
the times, anyhow. He was opposed to oyster sup
pers in the church parlors, and just now was going
about like a roaring lion raging against having a
Christmas tree and Santa Claus.
On the other hand, Abel was thought to have be
haved badly in regard to Lide Burkhart. At one
time everybody was sure he was going to marry Lide
whether or no, but as time went on the town settled
down to the belief that Abel had let his mother bluff
him out of it. He still went with Lide, and always
saw her home from choir meeting, but he went with
other girls, too, so it was concluded that he was
not even engaged to her.
Everybody said: "Look at it in a business way,
of course Abel d be foolish to take a wife to sup-
206 FOLKS BACK HOME
port when he didn t have no way of purvidin for
her. He never learnt a trade and never had no busi
ness experience. And it u d be Jerush Horn all over
to turn him out with jist the clothes to his back.
She ll have her own way if she busts a hamestring."
Nevertheless, lovers are expected to do rash
things, and if Abel Horn had defied his mother all the
town would have " gloried in his spunk," even if
they had not found employment for him. Jobs are
scarce in Minuca Center.
But what about Lide Burkhart? The women folks
said that if she was left an old maid it was her own
fault, and they didn t pity her one bit. She always
did think herself a little above anybody else. If she
didn t have any more pluck than to Well, what
was the use? It was her own affair, and if she didn t
care any more than she let on to, why, it wasn t
any hide off their backs as far as they could see. But
still . . .
And that " but still " meant a great deal, please
remember. As Minnie De Wees said: "These here
long engagements, you needn t tell me. There s a
nigger in the woodpile, somewheres or somewheres
else. Now you mark."
It was a curious fact that Abel should take so
much less interest in being Santa Claus than his
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 207
mother. Wouldn t you think, now, that a spare, wiry,
little man would regard his selection for such a part
as the highest possible tribute to his powers of per
suasion? His mother did and chuckled over it no
little, but Abel did not seem to care much. She
dragged it out of him bit by bit, what he said to
them and what they said to him, how Brother Lit-
tell had asked if it oughtn t to be a kind of " pussy,"
heavy-set man, because Santa Claus was kind of
" pussy " and heavy-set in the pictures, and how
Abel had said, no, it would be better to have an
active, light man to climb down on the scantlings
of which the scenic chimney was to be built at the
back of the pulpit platform.
" He was hintin ," said Mrs. Horn, winking as
she bit off her thread. " He was puttin in a good
word for himself there. What they goin to do with
Abel said nothing, but stared at the stove.
" What they goin to do with the sofy, I ast you? "
" What sofy? "
" What sofy? W y, the sofy Brother Longenecker
sets on, o course. What they goin to do with it?
Take it into the study? "
"Oh, the sofy. W y ah "
" W y what? " snapped his mother after waiting
long enough for Abel to come out of his trance.
" W y, they re goin to leave it there and build
208 FOLKS BACK HOME
the chimney around it. They re goin to cover it up
with red tinsel and stuff so s to look like a bed o
coals. Be easy to light on, too."
"Laws! I don t believe any o them young ones
ever seen a old-fashioned fireplace. I s pose they
won t have no crane nor nothin to hang a kittle on."
Abel was silent.
"What s got into you here lately?" she de
manded. " I don t know what ails you. Set there
and set there and never open your head. Ain t you
" W y, yes, I m all right."
" Well, you don t act all right. Don t you go to
gittin sick now, not till after Christmas, anyways.
I wouldn t miss that for a pretty. Stand up. I want
to try this here Santy Claus suit on you. It s goin
to look awful cute. Go easy, now; it s only basted.
Now, if it binds you in under the armholes you must
tell me," she said, with her mouth full of pins, turn
ing him around and pulling him this way and that as
if he were a dummy. " You needn t to mind if it s
too full in front. I got to low for the stuffin ."
"Put a pillow in?"
" W y, no, child. I thought some o usin excel
sior. Don t forget to remind me to get some to
morrow. Hold still. I ain t done marktin yet. I m
goin to trim it all up with cotton battin to look
like white fur. I was thinkin o swan s-down, but
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 209
they s no use goin to that expense. I ll make you
a pointed cap and sew in some wickin for hair, and
I got a false-face nose with whiskers to it that you
can tie over your ears. I picked it out down to Cox s
Abel put it on to please her and cut up a few
monkey shines, but his heart was not in it. He sat
around a while, and at last he said he believed he d
go out for a walk. His mother said she d sit up for
him, but he told her not to.
As she sewed she smiled. She was as pleased to
dress him up as if he were a doll, and she a girl
again. In none of his other public performances had
she had the making of his costume. Though he was
getting bald in front, he was her " baby " yet, a
kind of plaything, not to be seriously regarded. She
had done her duty by the four girls by Mr. Horn s
first wife, but Abel had been her pet. She could
hardly wait till the girls got married and moved
away to enjoy life with her own son. She was rather
glad he had not grown up to be a tall man. Little
men were cuter. Abel was always so cute.
Other people besides her were noticing that Abel
was very quiet here lately. Sometimes he would
laugh and cut up as usual, and then again they said
that he " acted as if somepin was kind of on his
mind." They wondered what.
Clarence Bowersox told Brother Littell the Satur-
210 FOLKS BACK HOME
day morning before Christmas (it came on Wednes
day that year): " Say, whadda you s pose? "
Mr. Littell was feeling frisky that morning so he
made answer: " I can s pose most anything you like,
" Aw, now, I ain t foolin . I m in earnest. I was
comin along in front o Burkhart s last night, and lo
and behold you there was Abel and Lide a-holdin
a close confab over the gate "
" He always takes her home from choir meetin s.
That don t signify nothin ."
" Wait till I tell you. We was walkin along
"Who s we?"
" W y, me and this party I was escortin home.
And jist as we "
" I thought you and Gertie had broke it off? "
" Well, so we did, but we made it up ag in. I jist
ignored her, let on I didn t know she was alive, but
when I went there yisterday morning for the order
she come out, and first thing you know we was good
friends ag in, same as ever, and I ast her if I could
call for her in the evenin you know they re trim-
min up the Prispaterian church, her an a lot more
" What s that got to do with Lide and Abel?"
" Well, I d tell you if you d only keep still long
enough to let me. We was standin still, kind o ,
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 211
and all of a sudden I heard Lide speak up: I jist
can t stand it this way no longer! she says, her
voice all trimbly and excited, like she was a-cryin .
Or, It jist can t go on this way no longer. I won t
be sure which. And Abel ketched sight of us and
says: Ssh! Here comes somebody, and we come
on past and didn t hear no more. But I seen her
wipe her eyes or leastways she put her handkerchief
up. Now what about that? "
" I jox! I wonder! " said Mr. Littell, half whisper
" Well," said Clarence grimly, looking to one
side. " There you are. There s somepin up now, sure
as you re a foot high."
Mr. Littell meant as much as anything to tell this
to his wife when he went home to dinner that noon,
and to ask her what she thought about it. But it
was a very busy morning and he forgot. That night
at supper he knew there was something he wanted
to say, but he had to hurry back to the store and
he never did think of it until the cat was out of the
bag entirely. Mrs. Littell told him then she was just
provoked at him, so she was. She never saw such a
I don t know what gets into the days before
Christmas to make them drag along so, but even
212 FOLKS BACK HOME
the longest days will pass, so that finally seven-thirty
Christmas eve did come around and the Center
Street M. E. children, and a lot more that began to
go to Sunday school about that time, found them
selves packed in the pews, not in the regular places
for their classes, but the infant class in the front
seats, and so on back to the older members of the
congregation. In the right-hand Amen corner were
the children from the "Barefoot " church up in
Stringtown (Faith Mission was the right name for
it). The shabby little young ones in quaint, bunchy,
made-over clothes were the guests of Center Street
for this occasion. Lide Burkhart had them in charge,
because Clara JoHantgen, who had drilled them, had
suddenly taken a bad sore throat. Little Rosetta
Smith, one of old Very Dirty Smith s thirteen or
fourteen, sat next to Lide, and kept looking up into
her face. Lide smiled down at her. She was a pretty
little thing. She made signs she wanted to whisper to
her. Lide bent down. She put her arms around
Lide s neck.
" Teacher," she whispered. " Are they any Santy
" Why, yes," answered Lide. " You just wait and
you ll see him."
" Aw, now, you re kiddin ."
" Honest," said Lide. " Cross my heart." And she
THE MAKIN S OF ABEL HORN 213
The child gave a happy sigh. It was all right if
teacher crossed her heart.
The left-hand Amen corner was where the choir
sat. Right by them was the door that led down
stairs to the pastor s study. A row of screens masked
the approach from the study to the back of the
scenic chimney down which Santa Claus was to
climb. Arching above it on the wall, tacked on
the mackerel sky that showed between the pillars
of the marble temple painted on the plaster, was
the motto: "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGH
EST," made of cedar. I need not tell you that
the N and the S were hind side before. They
But the main thing was the Christmas tree, twin
kling and glittering with its candles and fruitage of
gilded glass. Yards and yards of strung popcorn
looped from branch to branch whereon hung hun
dreds of red mosquito netting bags of candy. The
air was spicy with oranges, and though the children
from the Barefoot church swallowed and swallowed,
their chins were wet most of the time, the smell of
candy and oranges was so strong.
Everybody was on the broad grin and the chil
dren jumped and fidgeted and whispered, and little
Selma Morgenroth, who had never been to Sunday
school in her life until the week before, got so ex
cited when she saw another little girl she knew that
214 FOLKS BACK HOME
she cried: " O Maggie! Oo-hoo! " and fluttered her
hand at her.
The nervous tension was very near the breaking
point when Mr. Perkypile, the superintendent, came
forward and stood by the Christmas tree to say:
" The school will now come to order. We will open
the exercises by singing number thirty-seven. Num
ber thirty-seven. Now, children, you all know this,
and I want you to sing out now. Don t be afraid
to let the people hear how nice you can sing." Num
ber thirty-seven was " Merry, Merry Christmas
Bells/ and in their efforts to sing out the children
scowled and twisted their jaws, and almost tore the
lining out of their throats. If you had not known
they were singing you would have thought they
were being skinned alive, by the sound of it.
Brother Longenecker offered prayer, which he
had the grace to make a short one, and then he
talked about the first Christmas that ever was.
How beautiful that story is! When our first par
ents peered through the guarded gateway of the
Eden they had lost forever, how sadly lovely must
have seemed that glowing sward, those waving
branches in whose pleasant shade they nevermore
might walk again. Something of their longing makes