hummed an air he had not thought of in many a long
year, " Villikins and his Dinah." He used to sing
that when he was courting Hetty. Supposing just
supposing she should get a divorce from Chris, and
... ah, then he might see the lamps lighted against
his coming home. The tablecloth would gleam at
him through the window as he came along the nar
row walk by the side of the house; the warm and
savory air would gush forth upon him as he opened
the back door. She she would come to kiss him,
and say, " Well, Jimmy," and romping children
would fling themselves upon him, hers now, his very
own later. It was not too late. He was a young man
For a moment, that sadness which we all feel in
parting from the past, even the terrible past, came
THE DAYS OF HIS SEPARATION 275
over him. He went to get a newspaper wherein to
wrap up the thick braids of hair and put them away
for a keepsake. But the words came forth from the
chambers of his memory. "And he shall take the hair
of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire
which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings." He
lifted the stove lid and crammed the sizzling braids
in upon the coals.
Poking the frying steak with a fork in one hand,
he put the other up to feel of the jagged locks the
shears had left. He chuckled to think how he must
" Guess I ll have to take in the barber shop to
night/ he said to himself, " just like other people."
It pleased him, so he said it again. " Just like other
people." And took up the gay tune:
Whoa, there, coffeepot! Want to put the fire out,
boiling over that way?
The days of his separation were ended.
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER
MRS. HORNBAKER looked out of her
window and called to her daughter:
" Laury, there s Dr. Avery. Run out and
ask him how Mrs. Moots is. Don t go bareheaded.
You are the foolishest child. Here, take my old
After a little, Mrs. Hornbaker went quietly into
the front room and curled the edge of the window
shade just enough to let her see Laura still talking
to the young man in the buggy. He was carrying on
a lively conversation. Every time the little brown
mare that hated to stand still in the cold would start
to go, he would stop her. Laura had her shawl
pulled tight over her head, her shoulders hunched
up, and her hands tucked into her armpits. She
swayed her weight from one foot to the other. It
was cold in the parlor and once or twice Mrs. Horn-
baker started for the warm sitting room, but it was
only the little brown mare that was minded to end
the conversation. Finally the doctor seemed to come
to his senses and note that Laura was shivering. He
ordered her into the house and drove off, looking
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 277
back until he got around the corner of Chillicothe
Street. Laura ran up the front walk with a fine pre
tense of not watching anybody from the angle of her
eye, but she knew as well as Dr. Avery when Lear s
house came between her and the buggy.
Mrs. Hornbaker seemed not to have stirred, but
Laura knew well enough that her mother had been
watching, and her mother knew that she knew. Both
played out their little comedy. Laura spread her
hands to the stove and shuddered " Wooh! " before
she took off her shawl and threw it on the ma
chine. Then, as she drew a chair up to the stove
to warm her feet, Mrs. Hornbaker hitched her rock
ing chair over, too, merely to be near her while she
" He says Abel Horn s going to play the hero in
The Drummer Boy of Shiloh. "
"The which ?"
" Why, that war play the Company K boys are
getting up. He s to be Lide Burkhart s lover."
" Huh! " sneered the mother. " He won t have to
practice up much. How long s he be n goin with
her now? The idy o* him playin hero! He ll play
Whaley. The little runt! I s pose he ll wear a wig
to cover up his baldness/
" Oh, well, he s Abel Horn, you know," said
Laura philosophically. " It is his nature to. You
might know he d jam in to be first and foremost in
278 FOLKS BACK HOME
everything. I believe in my soul he d ask Gabriel on
the Resurrection Morning to lend him his trumpet
to blow on a while."
" He would. And he d get it, too. I don t know
what possesses the men to let him ride over em the
way he does unless it is that they are all as
gone gumps as he is."
" How d the doctor say Mrs. Moots was? "
" Why, he said she might live through the night."
" Mercy! Why, the poor thing! "
"Oh, I don t know!" answered the unfeeling
Laura, " as they s any call to pity her. She s going
where there ll be no Amzi Moots. I should think
she d say, Welcome death ! after living with that
old skinflint for eleven years."
" Now, Laury, you oughtn t to talk that way
about your neighbors."
" Well, ma, you know as well as I do that he s the
meanest man in Logan County. Dr. Avery says that
if he had been called sooner he might have saved her,
but he says she don t seem to have any vitality. I
told him she hadn t had enough to eat for eleven
years, and what could he expect? He says that
Moots tried to get him to agree that the whole
thing, medicines and all, shouldn t come to more
than fifteen dollars."
"Why, Laura Hornbaker!"
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 279
"Ain t he the stingiest? Laws! I wouldn t marry
Amzi Moots if he was the last man on earth! "
" You like Dr. Avery pretty well, don t you?"
Laura could not have heard her, for she went right
on: " Moots won t even hire anybody to cook the
victuals or help wait on her and look after Luella.
The doctor says the house just looks like distrac
tion. Mrs. Lucius Lybrand was in yesterday a while,
he says. He wanted Moots to hire a trained nurse,
but he says the man looked like he was death-smit
at the idea of spending so much money."
" What else was you and the doctor talking about
so long? "
" Oh, he was telling me about his practice."
" I guess he hain t got much of a one."
" He says he d do right well if people was to pay
him what they owed. He says he d be all out of debt
and have consid able over. You know he borrowed
money to study on up to Cleveland. He says there s
more n three hundred dollars of his outstanding. He
says it seems like people wait till the last day in the
afternoon to pay the doctor."
" Your pa says it s awful hard to get folks to settle
up their grocery bills, too," sighed Mrs. Hornbaker,
who came to this topic with the vivid interest one
has in a chronic ailment. " I declare I don t know
what we re going to do. I don t see how your pa
can pay off that mortgage on the house. Your pa
2 8o FOLKS BACK HOME
was very good about it. He didn t urge me any. . . .
I did say that come what might, let go what must,
I d never put a mortgage on the house after I
bought it with that $3,400 that pap willed me. . . .
But when he was so pushed for money, and it looked
as if the grocery would have to go up, I just kind
of had to let him borrow that $2,200 and give the
mortgage as security. . . . Your pa was very good
about it, though. . . . And now it s as much as he
can do to meet the interest. . . . And if they was
to foreclose, I don t know what on earth we d do.
. . . And there s that note of Rosenthal s, that ll be
comin due before long "
" Well, I just get real provoked at pa sometimes,"
burst in Laura. " He won t let me do anything
" You mustn t talk that way about your pa," re
proved Mrs. Hornbaker. " You know he don t be
lieve in girls workin out. Yes, yes, I know it ain t
the same as goin* into somebody else s kitchen, but
he thinks it is. And I don t know what I d do with
out you, now that I m so poorly. We d have to keep
a girl, and her board and wages d come to more n
what you could make. And laws! I don t want any
of em round under foot. Lazy, triflin things!"
" It ain t that, ma," persisted Laura. " It s his not
applying for a pension when he might just as well s
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 281
" Well, Laury, you know how he is about that.
You know he says as long as he s able to work he
ain t goin to live off o charity."
" Tchk! " clicked Laura in despair. " I do think a
man is the biggest f-double-o-1. Every last one of
them has got some cranky notion or other in his
head. Why, looky here. Old man Frizzell, the presi
dent of the National Bank, that never had a day s
sickness in his life, and never went a step nearer to
the war than Camp Chase, drafted at that, and just
wallerin in money drawin a pension just the same.
And here s pa, that fought all through I declare I
just get heartsick sometimes when I see him down
at the store working so hard, getting up them bar
rels of sugar "
"Now, I told him to let Rote do that," inter
rupted her mother.
" Yes. Well. You get Eurotus Smith to do any
hard work if you can. He s another one of your men.
Laziest mortal that ever drew the breath of life!
I m just going to take charge of this pension busi
ness myself. I m going down to see Mr. Lovejoy
about it to-morrow morning, and when it comes
to having pa examined, I m going to get Dr. Avery
to do it and just keep at pa till he gives in."
" I don t know; your pa is very firm."
You mean, he can be mulish like all the men
when you corner em, and they know they re wrong
282 FOLKS BACK HOME
and won t give in. I ll get around him all right. You
see if I don t."
" I s pose you think your Dr. Avery is jist perfec
tion," sniffed Mrs. Hornbaker.
" Oh, hush up about Dr. Avery. He s as big a fool
as the rest of them, if all was known." Yet in her
heart but who knows what s in a woman s heart?
There was a silence, and then Mrs. Hornbaker,
who from thinking of Dr. Avery had gone on to
thinking of Lucy Moots, said: " I reckon we d ought
to go over there after we get the supper dishes
" Why, what are you talking about? " demanded
Laura, sharply turning on her mother. " We don t
know his people at all."
" Why, what are you talking about? " retorted her
mother. " I ve knowed Lucy Edwards ever since she
was a little girl."
" Oh," said Laura. " All right."
Laura Hornbaker and her mother were so close
akin mentally that often after a long silence one
would say something which was just what the other
was thinking of. But it wasn t so this time.
Two months after Mrs. Moots funeral, Minuca
Center was still talking about the way Almeda Ed-
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 283
wards, who married Jim Hetherington after she
couldn t get Amzi Moots, was acting. Word had
been sent to her at six in the morning that she must
come right away if she wanted to see her sister alive.
She got to the house at half past ten; she said she
didn t get her housework done before. She was so
sorry she had not seen Lucy alive, and wanted to
know if she was resigned to go, and if she had said
anything about that cameo pin that used to belong
to their mother. (Everybody said she was the one
that ought to have got Moots; then there would
have been a pair of them.) Moots wanted her to take
little Luella to raise, but when she found out that
Lucy hadn t left her the cameo pin, she wouldn t. So
Moots got an old woman from the county house to
look after the child and take care of the house. All
she cost him was her board and keep. She was what
they called, " kind of be-addled," harmless enough,
though when anybody knocked at the door she
would always grab up the poker and greet the vis
itor with, " You let me alone and I ll let you alone."
It made Laura feel so sorry for poor little Luella
that she had the child come over to her house when
there was no school. Luella had never had a doll,
and when Laura gave her the one she had kept from
her own girlhood days Mrs. Hornbaker cried to see
the look that came into the little thing s eyes as she
took it into her arms and went to play " keep house "
284 FOLKS BACK HOME
out in the grape arbor with a few broken pieces of
Mr. Moots always came after her and asked every
time, " Has she been a bother to you?" and Laura
always told him she was more of a comfort than a
bother, for a quieter and more affectionate child
never lived than Luella Moots. She would twine her
arms around Laura s neck and say, " I love you jist
e same as if you was my own ma. I woosht you
was my own ma, don t you? Oh, looky, Aunty Horn-
baker! How red Wally s gettin round her ne.ck!
Yes, and on her face, too. What makes you get so
People talked about it, and that made Laura and
her mother feel a little uneasy, but what could they
do? They couldn t tell Luella she mustn t come any
more, could they? It would break her heart, and be
sides, they liked to have her. Mr. Hornbaker almost
always had a stick of candy in his pocket for her,
and would hold her by the hour and tell her stories
about a little curly dog named Pino he had when
he was a little boy. If Luella came, then her father
would have to call for her. Mrs. Hornbaker simply
would not have old Jane Ann about the place. Once
she came, and when Mrs. Hornbaker went to the
back door, old Jane Ann grabbed up the hatchet
they chopped kindlings with and muttered, " You
let me alone and I ll let you alone. I come for
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 285
Luella." Mrs. Hornbaker didn t get over it all that
evening, but shook like she had a hard chill. So
Amzi Moots had to call for Luella, and folks might
talk if it did them any good.
One day Mr. Hornbaker came home to dinner
with, " Who do you s pose I seen a-prancin down
Main Street, as large as life, all diked out in a new
suit and a plug hat and a red necktie, steppin as
high as a blind horse? "
" Laws, I do know," said his wife. " Who? "
"Good land! Oh, pa, you re foolin ! " doubted
" Amzi Moots, I tell you. Head up and tail over
the dashboard. He s beginnin to take notice."
" He better let his poor wife get good and cold
first," observed Laura, somewhat sourly.
" I kind o mistrust he has his eye on you, Wally,"
teased Mr. Hornbaker, using the nickname little
Luella had given her.
"Huh! He better not."
" Well, now, Laura, if he was to come a-castin
sheep s eyes at you "
" And tellin you how much he loved you, and
would you take the place of his dear compan
" Quee-yut, pa!"
286 FOLKS BACK HOME
" And be a mother to little Luella and for you
to not pay no attention to that young whiffet of a
Doc Avery "
"QUEE-YUT-TA! Ma, can t you make him
" Better to be an old man s darling than a young
man s sla " In the playful scuffle that followed Mr.
Hornbaker got a crumb crosswise and began cough
ing so hard that they all sobered down in a moment,
fearful that his old wound might break out. Dr.
Avery had told mother and daughter, after the ex
amination, that Mr. Hornbaker would have to be
very careful of himself.
"O dear me!" he sighed, after he had got his
breath back, " if they don t hurry up with that there
pension o yours, Laura, I m afraid your poor old
pappy won t get much good of it."
" I don t think you ought to tease me about old
Moots that way."
" He s not old, Laura," corrected her mother.
" He told me he had all his own teeth, and he s not
a day over fifty-three. I m sure you might do worse n
to marry a steady man like Mr. Moots. Well off he
" M-yes," admitted her father. " Means to stay so,
" And little Luella just loves the ground you walk
on," persisted her mother.
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 287
" Good land, ma! Do you think I d marry that old
" Tut-tut, Laura! What kind of talk is that about
your neighbors? It ain t pretty a bit. If he comes to
see you, I want you to treat him like a lady."
" He s no lady; he ain t hardly a "
" You know what I mean. Now I want you to
That very evening who should appear but Mr.
Moots in all the splendor described by Mr. Horn-
baker, leading little Luella by the hand and inquir
ing if Miss Hornbaker would not be pleased to step
down to Plotner s with them and partake of some
ice cream? Mr. Hornbaker s jaw dropped, and his
nose glasses fell off, but Mrs. Hornbaker was as cool
as a cucumber and made answer: " Why, yes. Laury,
go get your things on," before that young woman
could say aye, yes, or no. She gave one rebellious
look at her mother and then consented for the sake
of little Luella.
Mr. Hornbaker waited till he heard the gate latch
click behind them, and then he said, " Well, if that
don t beat the Dutch!"
" I don t see anything strange in Laury s being
asked out," replied Mrs. Hornbaker primly. *
" Why, of course not, but Amzi Moots buyin ice
cream! G for jerks! And yit they talk about the age
o miracles a-bein past ! "
288 FOLKS BACK HOME
Laura met Dr. Avery just outside Plotner s, and,
as she told her mother afterwards, she thought she
would sink through the sidewalk. Her mother said
she didn t see why. Dr. Avery was abashed, too; it
hadn t occurred to him that Moots might be in the
running. He hadn t recovered his self-respect when
he went into Josh Riddle s a little later to buy a
cigar. Josh said: "Aha! I see old Moots is cuttin
you out, Doc."
" Cuttin me out with who? " Dr. Avery asked,
with apparent indifference.
" Why, Laura Hornbaker. I seen Moots takin
her and his little girl into Plotner s a while ago to
treat em to ice cream. I reckon they had one dish
an three spoons."
The physician said, " Huh! " and walked out with
much dignity. He did not choose to continue the
conversation. Josh winked at the two Longenecker
boys, who had stopped playing the mandolin when
Josh went behind the counter. It was all over Mi-
nuca Center the next day about Moots cutting Doc
Avery out. Emerson may be correct about all the
world loving the lover, but at the Center it was the
best " rig " you could get on a fellow to find out
that he was in love.
Mr. Moots, having made a beginning, saw no
need of making an ending just yet. He took her to
" East Lynne " and the Mrs. H. M. Smith concert
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 289
company. He told her he thought she sang full as
well as Mrs. Smith. Laura had taken three terms of
Professor Minetti, and was the only paid member of
Center Street M. E. choir. She got $50 a year, and
a dollar for every funeral. Mr. Moots appreciated
good music. Almost his only weakness was for " The
Bluebells of Scotland." Once he cried when she sang
it. It put him so in mind of his mother. It was such
a favorite of hers. To tell the truth, the worst thing
about Moots was his appalling stinginess, and he
seemed to have laid that aside as one puts off a
garment. When Dr. Avery tried to outstay him, it
was always Mr. Moots that asked if the doctor
would not favor the company with a little music. He
told Laura he thought the doctor had a right nice
tenor voice, light, of course, but, my! how sweet!
Sometimes you d think it was a lady singing. Mr.
Moots sang bass himself.
He was not obtrusive in his courtship, only per
sistent. He was thoroughly dependable. From being
resigned to his coming, Laura grew to expect it
and to look forward to a day when a question should
be asked of her by him.
" What shall I do? What shall I do? " she asked
of her mother.
" Why, Laury, child," her mother answered, " I
don t see as there s any call for you to do anything.
Has he said anything yet?"
290 FOLKS BACK HOME
" Well, no; nothing in particular. He kind o hints
about getting his house repainted and papered, and
what color had he better have it, and how lonesome
it is for Luella with nobody to take care of her but
old Jane Ann, and how fond Luella is of me and
and all like that."
" Nothin more n hintin , I s pose? "
" No, but it s pretty plain hinting."
" He s never asked you right out if you d be a
mother to Luella, has he? "
" Not right out."
" Guess you better wait till he does. Doctor said
" No m; nothing in particular. He kind o* hints,
too. Says how lonesome he is."
" Why, he s got a mother and a sister."
"Yes; but he says that s different."
" Does, eh? Ain t asked you if you d be his com
panion? No; I s pose not."
" Not yet." There was a long silence. " He says
collections are so bad."
This was like speaking of indigestion to a dys
peptic. " Laws! I don t know what will become of
us. There s that mortgage and that note of Rosen-
thal s, the wholesale man. Mr. Lovejoy say why the
pension didn t come?"
" He says there is always more or less delay about
such things. So much red tape, he says."
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 291
" Don t you like Mr. Moots? "
" Oh, yes, kind o ."
" Your pa says he guesses Dr. Avery was pretty
gay when he was up to Cleveland studying medi
A long pause.
" Well, ma, I tell you what. If I marry that old
skeezicks, I m going to have ten dollars a week to
run the house on. That s got to be in black and
white. Now. He ain t going to starve me to death."
Though she knew the question was coming, when
it did come, she was speechless. At four-and-twenty
it is hard to let the head rule the heart. Maybe, after
all, the heart has the more wisdom at that age. Mr.
Moots was very nice about it. He said she might
want to think it over. As she still sat silent, he went
on to tell her that he had happened into the bank
the other day and had learned about the mortgage.
While he knew that nothing could make up for the
loss of such a daughter though it wouldn t be los
ing her, because she would be only four squares
away from them still, it would be a comfort to her
pa and ma to know that their home was safe and
that their daughter had saved it for them. And then,
as a man who has looked too long over a precipice
casts himself headlong, she said " Yes," and he
After he had gone she said to her mother: " I hope
2 9 2 FOLKS BACK HOME
you re satisfied now/ and ran up to her room. Her
mother followed and found her crying. She stroked
the girl s hair and tried to tell her how well she had
done; the doctor hadn t asked her, anyway. Maybe
he hadn t meant to; from all she could learn he was
pretty wild, and Mr. Moots was a good, steady man,
"Oh, hush up!" snapped Laura. "You don t
think I m going to back out of it now. I want to be
"What s the matter with Wally? " asked Mr.
Hornbaker when his wife came downstairs.
" Mr. Moots has asked her and she told him * Yes.
She s kind of unstrung, I guess."
Mr. Hornbaker looked troubled. " I thought her
and the doctor was all so thick."
" Oh, the doctor! I guess she d find when it come
to payin the meat man the doctor wouldn t be much
account. He s head over heels in debt now, and
his mother and sister to keep. Love s a nice thing
in the story books, but what s wanted is a good pro
" Amzi Moots ain t noways celebrated for bein
that," Mr. Hornbaker observed.
" He ll find Laura s no Lucy Edwards, weak as
water. She ll spunk up to him. She can manage him.
I don t think much o young doctors anyways. They
know too much about people s insides, and I don t
THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 293
think it s very nice. Rob graves and cut folks up is
all they like to do. Then George never goes to
church. And you said yourself he was pretty gay
when he was up to Cleveland."
" Oh, get out! I didn t, either. No more n what
any fellow is. They ain t a speck of onriness in
George Avery. Why look how nice he is to his
mother and his sister, and how hard he has worked
to get himself ahead. Why, he was the honor man
of his class, and he s the best doctor in Minuca
Center, young as he is. Why, he s the pick o the
"Huh!" doubted Mrs. Hornbaker. "Mr. Moots
has bought the mortgage and is going to give it to
Laury for a wedding present."
Mr. Hornbaker was dumb.
The next evening after that, Laura came in from
the side porch all excited. " Mother! " she gasped.
" There s George in the buggy, and I do believe
he s coming to take me out riding! "
" Well, honey," said her mother placidly, " you ll
just have to ask him to excuse you."
" But what ll I tell him if he asks me why not? "
" Why, tell him you re engaged to be married to
" O mother! I can t, I can t."
" Well, Laury, you ll have to. It s so, and it ll have
to be known some time. Might as well be now as
294 FOLKS BACK HOME
any other time. Tell him now, don t get to cryin
and go in there with your eyes as red as Pharaoh s."
Being in the sitting room, which was next to the
parlor, Mrs. Hornbaker could not help hearing Dr.
Avery when he got to talking loud and excited.