Copyright
Eugene Wood.

Folks back home online

. (page 14 of 17)
Online LibraryEugene WoodFolks back home → online text (page 14 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


enough, but who could it be at this hour? He hoped
not that Christian Science fellow come to tell about
curing the cat of fits by reading to it out of a book,
or Daniel the Second come to explain what Daniel
the First meant by " a time, times, and a half time."
What possessed crazy folks to come trailing after
him so?

He tried to make out the features of the man
standing timidly on the verge of the front porch.



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 255

" Don t you recognize me? " asked the stranger,
coming a little nearer. " I m Chris. Th-n-n-n! Chris
Hyams."

" Oh, how do you do? " said Jimmy with some
embarrassment.

The man waited an awkward moment.

" Are are you busy? "

" Why, no, I was just going to bed."

" I er could I come in an set a while? "

"Why, certainly. Certainly. Walk in. Walk in."
Jimmy blushed to think that he was forgetting how
to act when company came.

Mr. Hyams entered, flickering his eyes at the
light. He sat down on the edge of the first chair he
saw. Coming inside seemed to satisfy him. He sat
there and flickered his eyes in silence for some min
utes. He needed a shave, had needed it for about
a week. His hair was tousled, his linen was black
ened at the edges, and his clothing had patches of
dried mud upon it. At times he trembled so vio
lently as to alarm Jimmy. He looked to be kind
of run down in health, and as if his system needed
toning up. That did not seem to be an auspicious
opening for conversation though, and Jimmy had
about decided to begin with, " To what am I in
debted for the honor of this visit? " when Mr. Hyams
announced:

" Twa n t no way to act."



256 FOLKS BACK HOME

" What say? "

" Huh? Oh er I said it wa n t no way to act.
Lockin up the house on me that way/

Jimmy wrinkled his brows at this cryptic state
ment. Locking him up?

" But you got out," he ventured.

" Huh? "

" I say you got out."

" I was out," said Hyams ruefully. " I couldn t git
in."

He flickered his eyes for some minutes longer, and
then proceeded.

" I went round to the back door, an it was locked.
So I tried the side door. It was locked. So I couldn t
git in there. So I went round and rung the front
door bell. Two, three times I rung it. Nob dy come.
So I tried to git in the pantry window, but they
was a case knife stuck in so s it wouldn t hyste. I
could of broke in the window, but I thought I bet
ter not. So I didn t. Would you? "

" No," replied the mystified Jimmy. He felt that
it was safe to say that.

" No. Me neither. So I went to the suller door to
git in that way. Suller door was padlocked. Yes, sir.
It was padlocked! Never heard o such a thing be
fore. So so I clomb up to where I could peek in at
the window. Not the sign of a livin soul about. Not
a livin soul! "



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 257

He sighed, and stopped short as if he had fin
ished.

" Er whose house did you say this was? "

" Didn t appear to be nob dy s," replied Mr.
Hyams with an engaging smile.

" Looks o things. So so I went over to the old
lady s. I knocked, an she come to the door. Go
on away from here/ she says to me, jist luck that.
Go on away now/ An I says, Hold on a second/
I says, I want to ast you somepin/ I says. Well,
she ain t here/ she says, if that s what you re after/
she says. Well/ I says, I m a-comin in to see if
she ain t/ I says. I wasn t goin to let her bluff me
that way. Aw, no! Aw, no! Deed you ain t/ she
says, deed you ain t. You git right out of my yard/
she says. These is my premises/ she says, an you
git, right this instant/ she says. You dass to make
a move to come into my house/ she says, without
I ast you/ she says, an I ll take an mash your
head in with the ax/ she says. You lazy, good-for-
nothin , triflin , on ry, drunken hound/ she says. An
I wasn t drunk at all. Jist as sober as what you see
me right now."

" Who was this that you had this conversation
with? " inquired Jimmy.

" Miz Funk."

" Oh, Mrs. Funk. Hetty s mother."

" Miz Mary Ann Funk said them very words to



258 FOLKS BACK HOME

me. To me, mind you, her own lawful son-in-law,
by jing! Aw, she talked to me meaner n a dog."

" And what had you done? "

"Me? I hadn t done nothin . Not one thing." He
paused and reflected.

"An 9 I ain t likely to do much of anything now
for quite a spell."

" How so? "

"Lost my job." v

" Lost your job? "

" M m. Got the sack. Went round this mornin*
think it was this mornin what day s to-day? "

" To-day? To-day s Friday."

"Friday! Aw, git out! Aw, quitch foolin . Tain t
Friday."

" Certainly it s Friday."

" Honest? Well, mebby tis. I kind o lost track.
Anyways, I went round. So so Kearney, he seen
me hanging up my hat, so he says to me, Nixy.
Your services is no longer required, he says.
You re through, he says. * You got the bounce.
Fly away, pretty bird! Say! He s too fresh, that
man is. I don t like to see a man too fresh. Specially
a foreman. A foreman a foreman had orta have
more more dignity about him than to go an git
fresh. Aw, go on, I says, * I gotta go to work an
earn a few pennies, I says. Not here, he says. * Aw,
now, Mike/ I says, I need the money/ I says. * I



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 259

ain t got a sou markee/ I told him. That don t in
terest me none, he says. We don t want no more
drunken bums around this shop, he says, a-holdin
up a hurry job while they re off on a toot, he says.
We re all through with em, he says. Aw, he talked
to me meaner n a dog. * Well, I says, * give us the
price till Saddy night, I says. I ll give you a poke
in the eye/ he says, if you don t walk out o here/
he says. I was mad then. I was. I jist up an told
him what I thought of him. Looky here/ I says,
< you

" You needn t repeat what you said to Kearney,"
interrupted Jimmy hastily.

" Well, all right. I give it to him strong an plenty,
you bet. So so one word led to another, an the
first thing I knowed he ketched a holt of me an
throwed me downstairs. You know how steep them
stairs is to the paint shop. Well, sir, he throwed me
down em. I like to broke mun neck."

Jimmy hardly knew what to say. After a few more
flickers of the eyes, Mr. Hyams resumed his tale.

" So from there I went over to Oesterle s. Was
it Oesterle s or Ryan s? Well, anyway. So Oesterle,
he ordered me out. So I went over to Ryan s. Yes,
that s right. I went to Oesterle s first. Tom Haley
was tendin bar at Ryan s. Soon s he seen me, he
sung out. Nix. No more here. Beat it. So I went
to Miller s. Same thing. I went all round. I even



260 FOLKS BACK HOME

went to Slattery s. He gimme a shell o beer and
chased me."

This was familiar ground to Jimmy. In all the
temperance stories it tells how the drunkard is made
welcome so long as he has money in his pocket,
but when he is stripped of everything

" Well," interrupted Mr. Hyams, " I don t know s
they stripped me exactly. I guess I got about all my
clothes. I hain t missed nothin yet. They gotta pro
tect themselves. I don t blame them; I blame her"

11 1 don t understand."

" Why, it s as plain as the nose on your face. No
offense, you understand. They was two weeks pay
comin to me Saddy night. Are you right sure this
is Friday? Well, sir, it don t seem possible! So so
I was goin to pay the grocery bill an a few other
little things me an her had had words about that
the last pay day so I stopped in at Oesterle s to
have a little somepin first, an they was quite a
crowd around, an Th-n-n-n! the first thing I
knowed I was layin over by the brick yard, or mebby
a hundred yards this side the brick yard, right flat
on the ground. Yes, sir, right smack dab on the
ground. An not a sou markee in mup pocket. So
I went round to the shop."

He checked off the items on his fingers.

" So I went round to all the s loons. I told you
that. So I went round to the house. I told you that.



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 261
So I went to Miz Funk s. I told you that. So there
I was. No place to go, not a sou markee in mup
pocket, an she s been all round an told em not to
let me have anything more, or she ll prosecute em.
So, thinks I, What m I goin to do? So I walked
around, an walked around. Shamed to go to any
of muf Mends, don t ye understand? So thinks I,
There s Jimmy Darling. Him an Het used to be
pretty thick one time. She would a took up with
him if he hadn t commenced to wearin his hair long.
So I seen the light. So I knocked on the door. So "
His voice dwindled into a feeble smile, which he
turned on Jimmy.

" You want me to go to her and intercede for
you? "

" W y, yes, that might not be a bad idy. It s git-
tin* pretty late though, now. To-morrow will do as
well."

" But do you think it would be right for her to
take you back unless you reformed? Supposing you
should go to drinking again."

" Me? Never. Not another drop passes my lips.
Never touch it again the longest day I live. W y,
look what it s done for me. You know me, Jimmy.
You know I m a good hand. You know they ain t a
neater, prettier striper in the State of Ohio than
what I am when I m at musself. You re a pretty good
hand, Jimmy, but you ain t nothin to me when I m at



262 FOLKS BACK HOME

musself. Ever see any of my imitation burl walnut?
I m a Hickey at burl walnut. An Kearney throwed
me out, ears over apple cart. Was it Kearney? No!
It wasn t Kearney. Twas Rum. Rum done it, Jim.
Here I am, on the hog, not a sou markee in mup
pocket, no job, wife gone back on me, mother-in-
law says she ll mash my head in with the ax, an
I need a shave the worst way, an what done it?
Rum done it. My pore wife! Jimmy, when I think
o what that pore woman has underwent for my
sake, I could set right down an cry, I could, for
a fact, all jokes aside. I could set right down and
cry. Nice woman, Jim. Bully woman in many re
spects. Darn shame you didn t git her. You would
have, too, if it hadn t of be n for your wearin your
hair long. I ve heard her say so. She s got her good
points, Jim, same as you an me. But, Jimmy. Was
it any way to act? Lockin up the house on me that
way? An then for her to go round an tell em not
to let me have anything or she ll prosecute em. En
tirely unnecessary. Utterly uncalled for. Because I ve
quit. You know that, Jim. You re my witness that
I ve quit. Lockin up the house on me, an not the
scratch of a pen or a pencil. No note under the door
mat to say where the key was. Nothin . Because I
looked, Jimmy. So help my God, I looked in under
that door mat; if I looked once I looked twenty
times. Not the scratch of a pen or pencil. Nothin .



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 263

An me on the streets, Jim. Everybody gone back
on me, all but Slattery, an* he gimme a bowl o suds
an chased me. Friendless an alone, an needin a
shave! My God, it s awful!

No one to love me, none to caress;
No one to pity me, no one to bless.
Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam

See. What comes after that? Funny I can t think.
Well, anyways,

Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam,
Tol-tde-rol-idle-dum, out any home.

An what done it? Rum done it, Jim. An I m done
with Rum, henceforth an f revermore! "

" Brother Hyams, your hand upon it! "

Hyams looked into Jimmy s face with brimming
eyes, and grasped his hand.

" But, my brother, you cannot get the victory in
your own strength. Er suppose we have a word of
prayer."

There are some who presume to doubt if the old-
time faith still lives among men. It does. When
Jimmy Darling poured forth his fervent supplication
for help for his brother sinner, he no more doubted
that the Kind Father, the Maker and Governor of
all things, both in heaven and earth, hushed the
quiring angels that he might the better hearken,
than he doubted that the tremulous, broken man be-



264 FOLKS BACK HOME

side him heard the same petition. The tragedy of
a great grief struggling to express itself in the
drunkard s slangy babble Jimmy could faintly real
ize; perhaps it was as well he did not realize its
comedy. It is not so much godless education that
undermines belief as a too ticklish sense of humor.

When they had risen from their knees, Hyams
was weeping. He shuddered horribly.

"There! There!" soothed Jimmy, laying his hand
upon his penitent s arm. " You re all unstrung."

" I guess you re right. I am unstrung. But you
know how it is, Ji Brother Darling. When you hit
it up as hard s I have, you feel mighty rocky after
wards. I ain t never going to touch another drop of
the accursed stuff. D ye understand? Not another
drop. Well, mebby now an ag in No! No! Not
another drop, if it kills me. Only if I jist had a
little small hooker now to "

" Hooker? "

" Yes, jist a little small hooker to tone me
up "

"Oh, Dr. Hooker s Celebrated Chil-e-na. The
very thing! Why, yes. That ought to tone you up
fine."

He rose and went toward the cupboard. Hyams
eyes followed him with an insane glitter.

" Let me see what it says. Hum-ah. For general
debility "



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 265

" Yes, yes."

" Nervous prostration

"Oh-oh-oh!"

" That sinking feeling "

"Aw, Brother Darling! Give it to me! Aw, pleasel
Aw, if you only knowed how I suffer! Aw, please,
Brother Jimmy! Aw, pleasel"

He ran and fell on his knees, and clasped Jimmy
by the legs, sobbing and pleading. "Aw, do! Aw, do
give it to me! "

" Dose, two tablespoonfuls to be taken before
each meal, and

Hyams broke down and cried like a child. It was
something to drink, no matter what. Indeed, what
had led him to go back to the paint shop had been
the hope that he might get to steal a little shellac
to quench his unnatural thirst.

"Aw, God bless you, Brother Darling! " For
Jimmy was measuring out the dose. An instant
longer and Hyams would have throttled him to get
it. He grabbed the cup with shaking hands, and
swallowed its contents with a gulp. " Nectar! " he
whispered and gave a contradictory shudder. Then
he looked up at Jimmy with a quizzical air. A slow
wink crept out, but finding no encouragement in
Jimmy s innocent face, stole shyly back, and was
as if it had not been.

" Feel any better? "



266 FOLKS BACK HOME

" Oh, a heap. A heap. Say! That s great stuff."

" I think so," answered the unsuspecting Mr.
Darling. " I find it beneficial. I take it regularly
three times a day."

" You do, eh? "

" Yes, and when I m exhausted and all played out
it does me a wonderful sight of good. I don t know
how I d get along without it."

" Yes, I can understand that."

" I m satisfied it s saved me from many a hard
spell of sickness. I buy it by the case and keep it
in the cellar."

"In the cellar, eh?"

" It s a vegetable compound "

" Oh, sure."

" Composed of roots and herbs, discovered by
Isaiah Hooker, D.D., M.D. He s a returned medi
cal missionary, you know. It says here: Prepared in
a suitable vehicle. Now that always puzzled me. I
always thought a vehicle was a wagon or a car-
riage."

" Perfectly correct use of the word, Brother
Darling. It went down my throat like it was on
wheels." This time the wink came boldly forth.
Jimmy paid no heed. When a man s nerves are all
unstrung, it doesn t do to take notice of every little
thing.

" You think it did you good? "



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 267

" I know it did. One more would fix me so s I
could get a good night s rest. Pour me out another
little hooker, won t you, Brother Darling? "

" Well, I don t know. It s a powerful medicine,
you understand, and I m no doctor."

" Why, Brother Darling," explained Hyams.
" You don t suppose a saved man like Brother
Hooker would put out a medicine that was rank
poison, do you? Why, certainly not. Certainly not."

The second dose was even more beneficial than
the first, and Jimmy returned the bottle to its place
with an easy mind, and showed Brother Hyams
where he was to sleep.

Solitary living is likely to be plain, not to say
skimpy living, and on his way home from the car
riage factory the next evening, Jimmy stopped in
at the butcher s and the grocer s. If Brother Hyams
was to be made a useful member of society once
more, his system must be built up by nourishing food
as well as a regular course of Chil-e-na. Mingled
with the joy over one sinner that repenteth was the
anticipation of having somebody to welcome him
with lighted lamps, the fires going, and the tea
kettle on.

As he neared his corner, quite appropriately he
heard the tune of "Throw Out the Life Line."
Could it be possible? It was even so. Brother Hyams



268 FOLKS BACK HOME

was singing that gospel hymn, rather too boister
ously, rather too slowly, not quite in tune, but sing
ing, " Throw Out the Life Line." Whose was that
other jarring voice?

There were people gathered about his gate. Was
anything wrong? He heard some one say, " Here s
Mr. Darling now."

"Well, I think it s about timel " he heard the
voice of Mrs. Pritchard scold.

"The lives scared plumb out of us. It s just per
fectly awful! I would of went in myself, only I have
such a time with my heart, and thinks I "

Jimmy flung open the sitting-room door.

"Cheese it! Cheese it!" a voice muttered in the
gloom.

" Some one is sinking tooooo-dayeeeee. For that
sinking feeling take Dr. Hook Why, hello, Jim
my, old boy! How are you? What s the best word? "
Thus Mr. Hyams, as his eyes flickered at Jimmy s
flaring match. The other man got up awkwardly as
Jimmy lighted the lamp. Frowzy old Very Dirty
Smith stood revealed, rightly nicknamed.

" Why, what are you doing in my house? "

"That s all right, Ji Brother Darling, I should
say. Friend o mine. Shake hands with Brother
Smith, Brother Darling. Singing and making mel
ody in our hearts, Brother Darling, singing and
making mel Twas this way. I got kind o lone-



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 269

some. So I seen Brother Smith a-goin past. So I
hollered at him. So "

" You re intoxicated."

"Who? Me? Why, Brother Darling, how you
talk!"

" Bringing liquor into my house "

" Who brought liquor into your house? Not me.
Brother Smith, did you bring liquor into this gentle
man s house? Says he didn t bring no liquor in."

" After your solemn promise last night never to
touch another drop "

" Yes, I said that. I meant it too! " cried Hyams
with tense and sudden earnestness. " An who set
me a-goin ag in? Hay? Who put it to my lips? Hay?
Who was it?"

"Cheese it! Cheese it!" huskily counseled Very
Dirty Smith out of one corner of his mouth, as
Hyams thrust his chin almost in Jimmy s face, who
drew back stammering. " Why why "

" You\ you hypocrite! You did. Where d I git
my liquor? Out o your cellar. In the case over by
the puttaters. That s where I got it. Where you keep
it so s you can soak it all by yourself. You ain t got
the manhood to stand up to the bar, like a ge l man
should. You gotta sneak it."

" I never had a drop of liquor in my house! " cried
Jimmy hotly. " I do not know what liquor tastes
like."



270 FOLKS BACK HOME

" Oh, you don t, hay? You don t, hay? Well, any
body asts you what liquor tastes like, you tell em
it tastes like Dr. Hooker s Celebrated Chil-e-na,
on y more so."

The room gave a sudden dip and swung dizzily.
Jimmy caught a chair back to steady himself.
" You want to know where I got mul load? "
For answer, Hyams made a gesture toward the
table, where stood some dozen bottles once full of
the great vegetable compound, now empty.
You drank all that!" gasped Jimmy.
" Me an Brother Smith here, between us."
" Why, it will kill you! It s a powerful drug!"
" You kin git it in any s loon twicet as powerful
for half the money. Dollar a bottle! Gee! They
soaked you for fair. Th-n-n-n! " snickered Hyams.
Then he rolled up His eyes, and began to mimic Jim
my. " ( Help our dear brother to overcome this ter
rible temptation, says you, an the very first crack
out of the box you hand me out a snifter of the oh-
be-joyful. You re a Hickey. You are, for a fact."

" I didn t know I didn t dream "

"Come off! COME OFF!"

Hyams leered at Jimmy, but something in those
honest eyes made him shrug his shoulders and say:
" In that case, Dr. Hooker is the greatest discov
erer of the age. Why so? says you. Well, I tell
you. He discovered a way so s a prohibitionist can



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 271
git his toddy regular, an nobody find it out, not even
himself \ Well, now that you know, suppose you join
me an muf friend here in a social glass to the health
of Isaiah Hooker, D.D. and M.D., the greatest dis
coverer of the age." He leaned over and lifted a
bottle that was still nearly half full.

"No!" cried Jimmy, fiercely striking the flask,
and sending it hurtling across the room, where it
gurgled itself empty.

"Ah! What did you go an do that for?" snarled
Hyams. "That s the last they is in the house!"

" That s the last there ever will be in this house! "

" M-hm. M-hm. I hear you say so. I ve said the
same thing musself, many s the time. Mebby you ll
find it ain t so easy to quit it after all these years
of steady soakin . Mebby you ll find you re jist like
me, and Brother Smith here, an a lot more round
town we know. You gotta have it. If it ain t Rum
open an above board, it s patent medicine, or mor
phine, or some other kind of dope for that sinkin
feelin . Some folks don t need it. Others has to have
it, one way or another, the folks that ain t quite
right, the no-goods, the botch jobs of men, like you
an me, an Brother Very Dirty Smith here."

Jimmy s flesh crawled at the thought of such com
panionship.

" You folks thinks you re a whole lot, don t ye? "
sneered Hyams. " You think you re smarter n God-



272 FOLKS BACK HOME

dlemighty. You ll show Him how to do. A-ah! You
can t learn Him nothin . He knows His little book.
Don t you reckon I know Rum s makin a mock o
me? It s made me lose my job; it s lost me the love
of my wife, an made my young ones so s they re
afraid o me. An I can t quit it. Why not? Why
can t I? He won t let me! He s got it in for me!"
He shook his fist at heaven and cursed his Maker.

Jimmy drew in a horror-stricken breath. Smith
fidgeted.

" He s got it in for me. He wants to kill me, an
He wants to fix it so s no girl but a fool girl that
He wants to kill too will ever marry a drunkard.
He s got it in for you too, Jimmy Darling, let me
tell you that."

" Come on, Chris," muttered Smith. " We better
be movin ."

" In a minute. Be right with you. I wonder where
I left my hat at. Summers round here. Oh, here- it
is. Yes, sir. He s got it in for you too. He don t want
none o your get. You re cracked, that s what you
are. An He knows it. An when He seen at you an
Het was goin together, He took an put it in your
head for to let your hair grow long. She wouldn t
have you. No other girl would have you. He fixed
you all right. All the no-goods He gives the notion
that they re different. That s His way of fixin them.
What He wants is folks that s like other people. An



THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 273

we ain t. You, an* me, an Brother Very Dirty
Smith."

The clock ticked loudly.

" Well/* he said, and crammed his hat upon his
head, and started for the door. With the handle in
his hand, he turned. " Brother Darling, I m obliged
to you for your kind hospitality, but seein s the
liquor has kind o gin out, why "

" Where are you going? " cried Jimmy, remem
bering that the man was homeless, penniless, and
without work.

"To hell! Where else?"

He slammed the door behind him. Jimmy heard
the two shuffle down the walk and out the gate. He
stood dazed. The whole fabric of his life had been
dissolved in ruins.

He a Nazarite? For years he had been tippling
steadily. That he had not known that he was tippling
might excuse his guilt; it could not ablate the fact.
It could not loose him from the habit. A low moan
crowded its way through his clinched teeth. No! He
could not yield to it though every pang that flesh
could know should torture him. And yet, what harm
had it done him? He had said it did him good, had
proclaimed it to the world. Like enough that testi
monial of his was even now making secret drunk
ards. He would warn the people. But who would
publish the warning?



274 FOLKS BACK HOME

At any rate he would no longer bear the mark of
those whom God would destroy, and in whose veins
He injects the germs of sterility; eccentrics, trees
whose fruit withereth, without fruit. He would no
longer wear the badge of the barren fig tree cum
bering the ground. His braids seared his scalp, as
if each hair had been a white-hot wire. He tore them
down, and as the shears crunched through them, a
wild elation filled his soul.

It was done now! It could not be undone.

He stepped about in getting his supper as if his
feet were as light as his head felt. He whistled and


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17

Online LibraryEugene WoodFolks back home → online text (page 14 of 17)