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" You sold yourself! You sold yourself! That s
what you did! " he cried. " Oh, you are just like the
rest of them. Lead a fellow on to think they re an
gels out of heaven and then sell out to the highest
bidder. And I was going to ask you to be Do
you know what you are? I know. I know what you
are. You re just as bad as Liz Donheimer. That s
all s he "

Mrs. Hornbaker flung the door open. " You
get!" she menaced. "You get right out of that
door! Right now! You dare to talk to my daughter
that way! You dare! Compare her to such a creature!
If you ever open your head to speak to Laura again,
I ll have your horsewhipped. Don t you talk to me!
You " She was so choked with rage she could say
no more, but advanced toward him, her forefinger
like a pistol. He backed out of the house and down
the front walk. Two or three people passing stopped
to listen and to look. " You ever speak to her again,
and I ll have you horsewhipped!" she shouted as
the humbled physician drove off.

" What s the matter, Mrs. Hornbaker? What did
he do? " asked Josh Riddle.



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 295

"Oh, go on about your business!" she snapped
and went into the house.

" Now you see," she said to Laura, " now you see
what kind of a man your doctor is. Don t you mind
saying to me that he was as big a fool as the rest,
if all was known? Well, now you know."

" But it s so, mother," sobbed Laura. " I I am
what he said I was."

" O Laura, Laura, you re enough to try the pa
tience of a saint."

Ill

That winter the Company K boys got up the can
tata of " Esther, the Beautiful Queen." It was not
able for many things, not the least being that for
once there was something going on that Abel Horn
was not head man in. Mordecai, the leading part, is
written for a tenor, and Abel sang bass. He finally
consented to play Haman, with the stipulation that
he might introduce " The Heart Bowed Down."
Charley Pope, who got the whole thing up and
played the piano, said, " All right." The first night
they gave it two nights to crowded houses, be
cause it was scriptural the first night, Abel cleared
his throat, swelled out his chest, and took the cen
ter of the stage, but Charley Pope never let on. He
went right ahead with the music cue for something
else, and the others had to go on and Abel was



296 FOLKS BACK HOME

crowded back. He glared at Charley all the time he
was on, but Charley never saw him. He waited for
Charley after the curtain came down, but that act
Charley did not go back. He sat on the piano stool,
chewing his jaws and occasionally smiling a very
dry smile. Everybody else in Melodeon Hall saw
Abel pull the curtain back and beckon to Charley.
Everybody else wondered what for. After the per
formance he declared to Abel that he had mislaid
the music for the introduced number.

" Aw, well, now, looky here," said Abel, " that s
too thin. You ve played that for me too many times
to need the notes. Anyhow, it s a simple thing, just
tum-ty-tum, TUM-ty-tum, tum-ty-tum, TUM-ty-
tum."

" That s all right," Charley told him. "I ain t
takin no chances in a reg lar opera. I got to have
the score before me."

" Well, I ll see at you have it to-morrow night.

I ll look out for that. It won t do to disappoint the

if

All right," said Charley, and clapped his hands.
"Ladies, attention, please! Miss Harmount, will you
to-morrow night Attention, please. To-morrow
night, won t you all please remember where it goes,
la-lull-la-lee/ that the altos have A flat against the
sopranos B flat? Some of you to-night I wish
you d go over it now. No, it s la-lull-la-lee. Once



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 297

again. That s all right. Remember that to-morrow
night. Oh, fine! Went fine! Yes, yes, Abel, run along
now. I heard you."

The next night Abel cleared his throat, swelled his
chest, took the center of the stage, and Charley
Pope went right on. The people wondered what
made all the Persians snicker so. Even the heart
broken Jews were on the broad grin. Abel glared
savagely at the musical director. After the per
formance he wanted to argue with Charley, who
brusquely said, "Aw, go to grass! Where s Josh
Riddle? Say, Josh, tell me that about Laura Horn-
baker."

The Company K boys had asked Laura to play
Esther because she looked the part and had such
a lovely voice. They had wanted Dr. Avery to be
Mordecai, but knowing what had happened, were
obliged to take Frank Hutsinpillar, who was even
more stupid than the run of tenors, if such a thing
can be. Even the indefatigable Charley Pope could
not hammer the music into his head, and as an actor
he promised to be awful. Just the week before the
production he got mad about something and backed
out. It looked as if the whole thing would have to
be given up unless it could be arranged for Dr.
Avery to sing the part. Charley Pope had gone over
it with him, and was sure he could do it if The
committee wanted Josh Riddle to negotiate the



298 FOLKS BACK HOME

transaction, but remembering how he had been told
to go on about his business, he enthusiastically de
clined. Then they put the job off on Charley Pope.
He assumed such a plunged-in-a-gulf-of-dark-de-
spair expression that Mrs. Hornbaker felt sorry for
the poor man, and consented to let Laura sing with
Dr. Avery after Charley had shown her in the Bible
that Mordecai was only Esther s uncle. Charley went
away radiant with hope and devising stage busi
ness for Mordecai that should be the limit of avun
cular affection, while Mrs. Hornbaker comfortably
reflected that Mr. Moots, from being Laura s at
tendant at the rehearsals, had graduated into the
chorus. He could keep an eye on things, and besides,
she was going to marry him in the month.

Laura never looked at the doctor during the re
hearsals, although they had to stand side by side
to sing their duets. Once she dropped her score, and
as he picked it up and gave it to her their hands
touched. Both of them lost their breath control for
a few bars.

The men hired their costumes from Columbus; the
girls made their own. Abel Horn being so short,
a deep tuck had to be taken all around in his robe.
The first dress rehearsal he had to go around hold
ing his gown up in front of him, so that he should
not step on it. When he let go of it to hold up both
hands to salute the king, it looked as if he were play-



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 299

ing " Ring-around a-rosy, squat upon a posy." Mr.
Moots had a long yellow robe with wide sleeves,
and a tall, peaked hat, with a turban wound round
it. It troubled Laura s conscience that she could not
look at him without wanting to laugh. He was to
be her husband in three weeks, and a wife ought to
respect her husband, but still

She and Mordecai had to act out their parts that
night. She had dreaded it, but when he came on in
his somber robes and flowing gray beard, carrying
his long staff and looking so majestic, he seemed
quite another person.

" Now you stroke her hair," said Charley Pope.
" Tum-ty-tum. Now you kiss her forehead." The
chorus giggled hysterically. Rat-tat-tat! went Char
ley s stick. " Ladies and gentlemen of the chorus
will please preserve order. A leetle a leetle more
so, doctor," said Charley. " Now again, please.
That s better. That s good. Now the look, Miss
Hornbaker. Ah, that s elegant. Now: * Go thou unto
the king. Your cue, doctor."

The chorus applauded the acting. They did not
sense the tempest that swept over the two. Mad
dened by the contact of her bare arms, Dr. Avery
forgot himself. The chorus could not hear him mut
ter: " I love you! I love you! O my God, how I
love you!" nor feel the thrill of passion that quiv
ered in his hand as it passed over her streaming



3 oo FOLKS BACK HOME

hair. But she did. For them the look she turned on
Mordecai was but simulation; for her, it was oh,
what ineffable longing!

Her conscience made her more than commonly
gracious to Mr. Moots as they walked home that
night. The red blood burned her face when she re
called the rehearsal. But she lingered over it in spite
of herself. Still, when she met Dr. Avery in the
street next day and bowed to him she could do
no less she passed on, though she could see that
he made as if to stop, and she felt in her back that
he had turned to look after her. She dreaded the
first performance, and yet she longed for it, longed
to thrill under the touch of his hand on her hair.
Would he say again but, no, no, she must not think
of that.

IV

Melodeon Hall was on the third floor. The tiny
dressing rooms off the wings were enough for only
a few of the principals. The others had to dress with
the chorus in the rooms on the second floor, ladies
in Judge Rodehaver s law office, men in Henry Mil
ler s. The hall between had a front stair on Columbus
Street and a back stair, leading up to the stage from
Mad River Street. The offices were locked up before
the performance so nobody could get in to steal the
street clothes.



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 301

Of the production of the Logan County Republican
said: " We predict a glowing future for Minuca Cen
ter s talented young cantatrice, Miss Laura Horn-
baker, who took the part of Esther. She was indeed
queenly in her every act and move and added to her
personal charms that of a loud and beautiful voice
which has been trained for three terms by our
esteemed fellow-townsman, Prof. Vincent Minetti,
the accomplished organist of St. Bridget s R. C.
Church."

The Examiner, which came out one day later, and
ought to have had the news feature of the produc
tion, but didn t, said: " Miss Laura Hornbaker, who
assumed the role of Queen Esther, sang the morceaux
allotted to her with sweetness and with power. Her
staccato passages were given with great purity and
clearness, and both the coloratura and the legato
movements were worthy of her excellent maestro, a
true exponent of the old Italian school of bel canto;
we refer to our genial fellow-townsman, Prof. Vin
cent Minetti, the accomplished organist of St. Brid
get s R. C. Church. Miss Hornbaker was especially
fine in the scenes with Mordecai, ably portrayed by
Dr. George P. Avery."

Hannigan wrote that himself. When he went
down with Professor Minetti to Slattery s between
the acts he was already at the stage where the Eng
lish language seemed to him utterly inadequate as



302 FOLKS BACK HOME

a means of expression. Minetti filled him up with
musical phrases and other things, and this may ex
plain how the news feature got nothing except this:
" But for the unfortunate contretemps on the con
cluding evening, the whole event reflected great
credit on the musical abilities of our home talent."

The morning after the first night Mr. and Mrs.
Hornbaker had meant to let Laura sleep late, but
when the postman brought the letter announcing
that at last the pension had been granted with back
pay amounting to $2,600, they had to waken her and
tell her the good news.

"O Laura! The house is saved! the house is
saved! " cried Mrs. Hornbaker, the tears running
down her face. " And your pa can pay off Rosen-
thai now. Oh! I am so happy!"

"The house is saved, anyhow, isn t it?" asked
Laura, still a little dull with sleep.

" I mean if anything should happen."

If anything should happen

Mr. Hornbaker could not speak. He was choked
with a throng of emotions. He sat on the bedside.
Suddenly he got up and walked the floor. Yes, he
was an old man now. He had always made a living
for himself and his family, and looked down on the
deadbeats that lived off charity. But he was one of
them himself now. A vague uneasiness came over
him, a feeling that he had not done right by Laura in



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 303

some way. He looked at her and saw how thoughtful
she had suddenly become, how little jubilant over
the success of her efforts.

" I expect we better let Laura rest, mother. She s
pretty well tuckered. We got lots of time to talk
this thing over."

Laura did not sleep. She lay staring at the ceiling.
If she had only waited then she needn t have sold
herself. Yes, that was what it was, just as George
said, regular bargain and sale to the highest bidder.
She had made the agreement and she supposed she
would have to keep her word. And yet

She recalled the performance of the night before.
As she kneeled at his feet with her hair let down, she
had thrilled at the touch of his hand; she had waited
to hear those passionate words, " I love you! O my
God! how I love you! " but Avery had himself bet
ter in hand, and all the people were looking. And
then she knew how her heart hungered to hear them.
If she could only see him to talk to him; to tell him
how she had always loved him, but he had not asked
her; tell him about the mortgage and how Mr.
Moots had put them under obligations Oh, if she
could only back out of it now Collections were
better now, her father said, and it might be so that
George could Suppose he did ask her, what should
she say? Her face burned at the thought.

All that day she was hardly herself. Her mother



3 o 4 FOLKS BACK HOME

said: " You better go out for a walk, Laura. You re
not looking very peart. I m glad to-night s the last
of this staying up late and singing so much." Laura
said " Yes," but she wished it might go on forever,
if only for the chance that once again she might
hear him whisper, " I love you! "

She could not help herself, it seemed as if she had
to walk through Center Street past the doctor s of
fice. She was ashamed that she should show she
cared so much for a man. What would people say
if they knew? What would Mr. Moots say? And poor
little Luella? Even now she was calling Laura " my
new mamma." Rebellion rose in her heart. She didn t
care! She couldn t be sacrificing herself to other
folks young ones when she might she turned
around quickly to see if anybody had overheard her
secret imaginings.

She tried not to seem to linger as she looked at
the gold letters on the black sign. It seemed to her
that Avery was the most beautiful name in the whole
world. She tried to herself how " Mrs. Laura Avery "
would sound. Then she tried " Mrs. Laura Moots."
Brrrr!

Eternity ended at last, and once more the time
was evening; the place, Melodeon Hall. Once more
the piano jingled on the yon side of the canvas wall,
which presently rose and disclosed the line of fire
and the misty faces beyond it. Once more Haman



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 305

strutted along with his retainers and hated Mordecai
sitting in the gate. Once more the Jews, blinking in
the bright light, bewailed Israel s low estate. Once
again she kneeled at Mordecai s feet, and he stroked
her hair and bade her go unto the king and make
supplication for her people, defying all convention
alities. Once again she protested the danger, and
still Mordecai insisted that it was her duty. The lines,
" I ll go unto the king, though not according to the
law, and if I perish, I perish/ took on a new signifi
cance, personal, present.

Between the acts the little stage hummed like a
hive with the laughter of the ancient Jews and Per
sians. Abel Horn was declaiming against the injus
tice of Charley Pope, Josh Riddle, the stage man
ager, was bossing the job of moving the throne, all
the boys and girls rattling away for the bare life. In
this Babel, Laura and George suddenly met face to
face. It was as if a solitude surrounded them. He
gazed at her fixedly. She opened her mouth to
speak. The words stuck in her throat till she drove
them out. She must tell him.

" George," she said and stopped, scared at herself.
What if he should not extend to her the golden
scepter? He took both her hands in his.

" It was true, what you said I was "

" O my darling, I was crazy I I but I did
love you so, I do love you so! "



3 o6 FOLKS BACK HOME

She drew in a long, quivering breath. " I want to
say," she persisted as if it were a task she had
set herself, " I want to say that it sounds so bold,
but I must say it. If I perish, I perish/ " she quoted
with a little smile. " It wasn t because I didn t
didn t like you. I always but we were so worried
about the house, and Mr. Moots bought the mort
gage, but we ve got the pension now, and if you ll

forgive me "

"O Laura!"

" Wait." She eluded the arm that sought to em
brace her. " And you never asked me "

" I ask you now. Will you marry me? "
She inclined her head. " Don t, George," she whis
pered the second after. " They ll see you." Much he
cared.

" When shall it be? To-night? "
" Oh, no, oh, no! I couldn t get ready."
"Just excuse me for a moment." With masculine
masterfulness, he left her and whispered to an an
cient Persian: " Billy! Jump into your street clothes
and run over to Tom Moran s, the county clerk, and
get a marriage license. Who for? For me and Miss
Hornbaker. I m twenty-eight and she s twenty-four.
Here s a dollar. And say. See if Elder Brown s at
home. Keep still about it. Skip now. O Laura! you
make me the happiest man on earth."

"All down for the third act!" cried Josh Riddle,



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 307
and they could only clasp hands and murmur, " After
the show."

Billy Reinhart meant to keep still as he was bid,
and he only told one man in the strictest confidence,
but presently the whole company buzzed with the
news except two. Moots for obvious reasons was not
told, and Abel Horn was notorious for not keeping
a secret. The others hushed when he came near, but
he finally cornered one man and said: " Look here,
there s a hen on. What is it? Something about Doc
Avery and Laura Hornbaker, isn t it? Coin to run
off and get married, ain t they? Gosh! Won t that
s prise old Moots! Where to? Canton, eh?" Any
kind of a yarn would do to tell Abel. " On the ten-
thirty. Well, how s that? Sa-ay! Won t old Moots
be crazy? Oh, sure not. Oh, I wouldn t let on for the
world. Ain t it great, though! "

Everybody said it was the greatest possible mis
take to let Abel Horn get even a hint of it. The
secret gnawed him like a consuming fire. He could
not keep away from Moots, who had begun to no
tice that people were either watching him closely or
conspicuously avoiding him. What was this grin
ning ape of an Abel Horn tagging him about
for? What was up? Where was Laura? Where was
Doc

" Oh, they ve skipped, they ve skipped ! " crowed
Abel Horn, who could not hold in any longer, being



3 o8 FOLKS BACK HOME

a small cup and soon filled. "They flew the coop!
Off for Canton on the ten-thirty! Tra-la-loo!"
and he waggled his hand as if " shaking a day-
clay."

After him buying that mortgage for her sake! He
had ten minutes to get to the B. & I. depot. He
might catch the fugitives yet. As he clattered down
the back stairs to the men s dressing room for his
street clothes only to find the door locked, Billy
Reinhart, who was on the lookout, whispered,
" Chur-roo! Here he comes! "

They fled down the front stair. There was Char
ley Wells coupe across the road. Why wait till after
the show?

"To Elder Drown s!" commanded George.
"Drive like hell!"

Queen Esther never blanched at the bad word. As
they rattled up Columbus Street to the minister s,
Amzi Moots was holding up his yellow skirts and
making for the ten-thirty as hard as he could pelt.

Over and over again Charley Pope played the
curtain cue of the fifth act and wondered what was
the matter. The audience began to stamp. Josh Rid
dle appeared before the curtain and in the sudden
hush was heard with painful distinctness. " Ladies
and gentlemen," he said, " owing to an to an
Aw, be still, can t you? It ain t either an accident,"



THAT ABOUT LAURA HORNBAKER 309

he muttered to some one behind the curtain trying
to prompt him, Abel Horn, of course, " owing to
an "

" Ufforshnit cong-tong! " shouted Hannigan from
the fourth row back. " Ufforshnit cong-tong. Ai
that it? Huh? Thass whash mean, ain it? Huh?"

"Oh, dry up!" the people next him said. "We
want to hear."

" Ufforshnit cong-tong, ain t it, Josh? I leave it
to you, Josh. Ain it? " half rising from his seat.
"Huh? Eh, Josh? Say! sa-ay! Them clothes o
yourn "

"Down in front! Down in front! Shish!" came
from all parts of the hall, and Professor Minetti took
hold of the coat tails of the gifted Hannigan and
pulled him down.

" Well, I don t know, Mr. Hannigan, whether it s
that there whatyoumaycallum or not," laughed Josh.
(Nothing ever feazed that man. Poor fellow! He s
dead now.) " But it ain t exactly unfortunate. Ladies
and gentlemen, we shall be obliged to ask your kind
indulgence for the last act of the cantata, and Pro
fessor Pope will kindly omit the solo numbers of
Mordecai and Esther, for the reason, ladies and gen
tlemen for the reason get out of the way, Abel "
he was arranging the curtain for a quick exit
"that they have RUN AWAY TO GET MAR
RIED! Let her go, professor." He bowed himself



3 io FOLKS BACK HOME

off in a storm of applause that drowned Charley
Pope s loudest tinkle on the old piano.

" Ufforshnit cong-tong, jis same," suspired Han-
nigan, his chin sunk in his shirt front.

Just as Elder Drown shut the book and leaned
over to kiss the bride, a wild hooting arose from
outside. Through the window they beheld Constable
Halloran struggling with something in a yellow robe
and a tall peaked hat that clung to the elder s gate
post. A mob of boys from across the tracks squealed
like a hog-killing, but through it all could be heard
Constable Halloran s bellow: " Ye ll do nahthing of
the kind. Ye ll go wit me paceably to the callyboose
or I ll break the face of ye, ye yallow lunatic!"

George laughed gleefully, but Mrs. Avery Mrs.
Avery sighed and said: "Poor little Luella!"
George looked at her as if he did not understand.



STARS IN HIS CROWN

WE had put down our name for Elder Brey-
fogle and his wife as our guests for the
annual conference, and right glad we
were when the bus drove up in front of the door
and the elder got out in his linen duster, his thick
stogy boots, wrinkled around the ankles, up which
his trousers made undiscouraged efforts to climb,
his rusty " plug " hat, and his Brussels carpet grip
sack, bloated with clean shirts and collars and things.
He wouldn t hear to my paying Charley Wells
for bringing him up, but laboriously unstrapped a
leather pocketbook, clicking his porcelain " store
teeth " together while his horny forefinger chased
a smooth quarter into a corner whence it could flee
no farther. That pocketbook! Never very plethoric,
it was sure to go back home after conference re
duced to incredible limpness by appeals for foreign
and home missions, church extension, Freedmen s
Aid Society, brethren in distress, and all the heart-
stirring and heartrending pleas poured upon the fa
vored that sit " within the pale of the conference."
" No. Sister Breyfogle felt as if she wouldn t be

3"



3 i2 FOLKS BACK HOME

able to attend this conference," he sighed, as I took
the gripsack from his hand and we went up the front
walk and into the house. " No. She ain t sick jest
now, although she has be n porely all this last win
ter and part of the spring. The plumb facts of the
matter is, Brother Billy, it has be n borne in on me
that I had orta take the superannuated relation, and
while I m resigned to the Lord s will, I d know she
is. Not that she s any ways rebellious, but I kind
o sispicion she thinks I m tollable young to be
givin up the active exercise of my ministry, espe
cially as they are others older n me still a-continuin
on. And furthermore m-well, I says to her, Moth
er/ I says, it seems to me you be n a Methodist
minister s wife long enough, I says to her, to not
expect riches. We have always got along/ I told her,
by the Lord s help, and I have faith to believe His
arm ain t shortened the least little mite/ I says to
her. Well/ siss she, Jeremiah/ siss she, I think
I ll stay at home and pray over it/ siss she. I don t
believe but what I could kind of bear up under it
better. It was under your preachin in Hanks s
schoolhouse/ siss she, that I first made up my mind
to give my heart to God and my hand to the church,
and your sermons have be n a means of grace to me
all these years/ she says, an it jest seems to me I
can t stand it to think o you a not preachin any
more, but jest only exhortin / and with that she



STARS IN HIS CROWN 313

began to cry, and I Well, how air ye all, any
how? " he broke off, with well-feigned cheerfulness.

" Sister Jackson, you re renewing your youth like
the eagle. Laws, nol This ain t Jinny? W y the last
time I seen you, you wa n t knee-high to a duck, and
here you air a great big lady. Got ny beaux yet?


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