I appreciated his kind offer and so forth and so forth,
he d have to excuse me because I didn t like him well
enough. But when I saw him standing there looking
so pleading and yet not meechin / either. He s
got awful pretty eyes. Did you ever notice them,
mother? Well, sir, I just couldn t. Now. And when
22 FOLKS BACK HOME
he got to talking and said it would ruin his life if
I wasn t a part of it, I felt like a sheep-killing dog
to think that was just what I meant to do. You know
what an influence for good a woman can be in a
man s life, and I wouldn t want to take the respon
sibility of completely spoiling his whole career. If
he d got soft or sickening, I d have turned against
him right then and there, but he didn t. And yet
for all he was dignified about it, I could see that
he was er . . ." The sentence faded out unfin
" You think he likes you reel well? "
" Yes. I m sure he does. Yes, I know he does.
He s very nice, * she sighed, softly.
" You think you like him? "
" Yes, I don t know but I do."
" As well as if it had been Dick Wambaugh? "
Clara shot a glance at her mother, but said noth
ing. She divined a certain feminine jealousy in her
that another woman, though her daughter, had
found favor in the sight of a man. There may have
been some of that left over from youth, but Mrs.
Smith was then experiencing the disappointment
that attends the success of one s plans. She had
wanted Clara to accept Mr. Burns, and now that he
was safely landed he seemed a poor thing. The
Widow Parker had said he was a regular old granny.
He looked as if he might be. He was " kind o dili-
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 23
cate," too. Mr. Smith had been so hearty. And he
was so precise about his speech. He said " knaife "
and " laife " so staccato, so neatly. She sighed.
" I hope you done wisely, Clara," she grieved.
" You think I haven t? " was Clara s quick retort.
" No, oh, no. Not at all. I wouldn t say that ex
actly. He s a very nice man in his way, no doubt, but
" But still what? "
" Well, of course, if the men won t ask you, w y,
you can t have em. If you think he ain t a-goin to
be consumpted, w y all right. I don t say but what
he s as good as you can do, all things considered.
Now, it s you that s got to be suited, not me, Clara.
" Well? " Clara was growing irritated.
" Well, if it was me, I think I d ruther have a man
that was more hearty-like, and (I s pose it s jist a
prejudice), but I ve always thought it wasn t a man s
place to teach school."
" Oh, now, mother! " Clara was on her high horse
in an instant. Her beloved profession was one worthy
of the highest capacities and endeavors.
Yes," said Mrs. Smith, when Clara had ended
her tirade. " Yes, I s pose that s all so, but I think
a man had orta be in better business."
"Look at you, mother!" stormed Clara. "You
were ding-donging at me night and day to take him,
24 FOLKS BACK HOME
and now that I have taken him you turn right around
and run him down."
" I didn t, either, run him down. I was only tellin
" Well, isn t what you said running him down? "
" No. I was thinkin , though "
" What were you thinking? Let s have it."
" I don t want you to talk to me in that sassy way,
Clara Smith. It ain t pretty of you. Your mother
knows what s best fer you. Now listen here. You
got to consider everything, and now s the time to
" Now? "
" Yes, now. S posin you d a said No to him
and he d a went away and you d a found out you
liked him, w y, you d V felt mighty flat, I guess, to
not git him. You re sure of him now, and s posin
you find out he isn t as nice as you think he is, and
somebody comes along at you like better, w y, you
can back out any time you want to, don t you see? "
"Why, Mother Smith! After I ve given him my
word, after I have promised him! "
" Oh, well, now, it don t do to be so particular
about your word especially in a case like this," was
Mrs. Smith s calm reply.
"Well, of all things! And you holding up my
father to me because he was a man of the strictest
honor in all his dealings. And I ve always been so
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 25
proud when people told me that Abner Smith s word
was as good as anybody s bond! "
" He was a man, Clara, and that s very different.
Come, now, you ve set up long enough. It s time
to go to bed."
Winter was loath to let go that year, and so,
though they had done some work in the unusually
mild January on the new trolley line that Abel Horn
had been instrumental in getting for Minuca Center,
the ground stayed so hard that it was not until the
first of April that the pick-and-shovel Italians made
their appearance. Even then there were many days
of wretched weather when they were compelled to
stay in the shanty on Mumma s lot, where they ate
and slept. The men that laid the rails and made the
connections were paid by the month, and took things
more philosophically than the pick-and-shovel men
that were paid only by day s work.
Minuca Center, all of a twitter because of the trol
ley line which was to connect it with Mt. Victory
and Pharisburg and, after a while, with Columbus
itself, was thrilled to hear that there was a strike on.
The first impressions of the Italians had not been
very favorable. Uncle Billy Nicholson went about
portending dire calamities to the nation that ad-
26 FOLKS BACK HOME
mitted foreigners to take the jobs away from native-
born Americans. What avail was it to have a tariff
against the goods made by the pauper labor of
Europe when the pauper labor itself came right over
here, feet, feathers, and all? Yes, and they let em
vote after they had been here a while, though they
were Catholics and Democrats same thing and
wanted the Pope to get control of the govern
ment. The children mocked the " dagoes," as they
called them, and hallooed at them, " Matchicodatchi-
cobabble-a-ba-a-a-a! " sagging down the scale on the
final vowel in imitation of the descendants of Caesar s
" You stop that this instant! " their mothers cried.
" Don t you ever say that again. You don t know
what kind o naughtiness it might* be."
Fear followed hard after. People fastened their
front door when they went to bed and put a chair
against the kitchen door. They hid their wheel
barrows and gardening tools. They even took in
their washings nights, a thing unheard of before. For
Mrs. Perkypile had found one of the Italians tak
ing things off her line, right off the line\ And
she had to hit him with the clothes-prop before he
would go away. It was awful to see her bug her eyes
out when she told about it, and to hear her hoarse
reproduction of his, " Me-a .kill-a you!"
But when the strike came it was felt that there
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 27
was some good in them. Perhaps they might be men
and brethren, after all, for they had rebelled against
the oppression of a conscienceless corporation, and
had said they wouldn t do a tap of work unless they
too were paid by the month, so that they would not
lose money when it rained.
" Them dagoes had got the spirit o 76 in em
all right," declared Clarence Bowersox to his em
ployer, Otto Littell.
Yes," the grocer assented, a little gingerly,
thinking to himself that he paid the boy all he was
worth, anyhow. Then the American in him got the
upper hand of the employer. " I jox! " he said, " it
don t look right, now, does it, makin discrimina
tions that-a-way? Well, sir, I glory in their spunk. I
hope they ll win. Course, it keeps the streets all
mussed up, but they s no great loss without some
small gain. Cantrell, the foreman, he boards em, and
he buys quite a bill o goods o me. He says he d
put em out while they re strikin , only he s a-scared
to. He says they wouldn t think no more o stickin
a knife into him if he tried to put em out the shanty
than nothin at all. I jox! Ain t that turrable? "
"Aw, well, Cantrell!" sneered Clarence. "I got
my opinion o Cantrell. The chief ingineer s comin
"What s his name?"
" Danged if I know. Comes from Chicago.
28 FOLKS BACK HOME
Drawed all the plans and specifications. Come on to
see how things is a-gittin along."
" I jox! Wonder how he ll like it to find there s a
Clara Smith and Mr. Burns were out walking that
afternoon and strayed over by the lot where the Ital
ians were loafing and dozing in the sunshine waiting
for a decision of the strike. Mr. Burns was talking
about whether it would be better to have the clay
modeling class transferred to the afternoon session
or left as it was in the morning session. It was very
difficult for him to come to a decision in a matter so
complex. Clara tried to help him, but as soon as she
advanced an argument in support of his position he
shifted position with, " But, on the other hand, Miss
Smith." She felt vaguely discontented when her at
tention was drawn to a buggy that drove up to the
lot with two men in it. One leaped out and walked
over to the shanty with such a businesslike, master
ful stride that she stopped to look. Mr. Burns s aca
demic murmur was broken into by the stranger s
snappy: " Here! why aren t you men at work? Get
busy, get busy! Lavore!"
A big Italian lifted his eyebrow, took his pipe out
of his mouth, and said something she couldn t make
out. The brusque answer came: " You weren t hired
by the month but by the day. You understood that
before you took on. ... No. No. ... If you don t
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 29
like it, get to hell out of here. Jump now. . . . Rail
road fare? Not on your life. You walk back if you
break your contract. Now, either get to work or
get out. . . . Oh, sure. Talk it over with the others.
Give you five minutes." He looked at his watch,
snapped it shut, and strolled easily toward the
" Why, I know him," cried Clara. " That s Dick
His name alone carried the distance, and the
stranger quickly turned to see who had spoken it.
He came to her instantly, his hat off, his hand out
" Clara Smith! " he said. " Or is it? " He glanced
at her companion.
" Yes/ she laughed nervously, flushing a little.
" Still Clara Smith. Mr. Wambaugh, let me present
Mr. Burns, the principal of the High School."
She did not add: " The gentleman I have engaged
myself to marry." Be sure that of the two men it
was not Dick Wambaugh that noted the omission.
"And what brings you here?" she asked, wish
ing that instead she might make as pointed a query
of him as he had made of her.
He explained, and they were in the full flood of
chatter when the Italian to whom he had spoken
approached. " Excuse me," said Dick, and went to
meet the man. Clara saw him lean over to catch the
30 FOLKS BACK HOME
man s first low words, and then his face darkened
and hardened as the workman, emboldened, poured
forth a torrent of words.
" What s that? Say that again. Oho! So that s the
milk within the cocoanut. . . . Yes. . . . Yes. . . .
He did, eh? Why didn t you? . . . Why didn t you
tell him? . . . Now, listen. You tell the men that
there won t be any more of that. The company
wouldn t have stood for it for a minute if it had
known. You go back to work, understand? What?
Cantrell takes his orders from me. I m in charge
now. Yes. Get to work. Pronto. Hustle now, and
you ll get a full day s pay for to-day."
Returning to Clara, he said: " Poor devils!
They ve been robbed right and left, and didn t know
how else to get redress. Well, how s all with you?
How s your mother? Has she ever forgiven me for
stealing those pumpkin pies she set out to cool?
Going to be home this evening? Tell your mother
I m coming up to see her. You, too. You ll excuse
me, won t you? I see the men are going to work.
See you to-night, Clara. Good-by, Mr. Mr. Burns,
yes. Pleased to meet you."
Clara walked away, the smile of parting still lin
gering on her face and warming her to the bone.
She came to herself to hear Mr. Burns say: "And
not only the matter of calling you by your first
name. I do not wish to seem exacting, Miss Smith,
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 31
but I do think you should have intimated to Mr.
Mister rah Mr. Wambaugh that you were my af
fianced, and ah so, not at liberty to receive gen
tlemen callers without in some sort receiving my
"Aw, fudge!" said Clara. "Dick Wambaugh
used to sit behind me in school and pull the ribbons
off my hair."
They had a famous time that evening, Dick and
Clara and her mother, gabbling away with, " Do you
remember? " and " Don t you mind? " and " What s
become of? " until Dick got to telling of his experi
ences trying to get a footing in Chicago; what hard
times he went through, and how once when he was
absolutely without a cent and hungry, he found a
quarter on the street and spent it in that restaurant
in West Madison Street that had the sign out:
They listened with lips parted and eyes that shone
as he told, what is the only story worth telling, the
32 FOLKS BACK HOME
story of struggle and unsatisfied ambition. Once or
twice the tears came into the women s eyes. It was
tragedy to them, but the man smiled to recall the
experience. At the end when they smiled at the
happy denouement he was saddened. Success? There
is no such thing. So much more remains to be
achieved. Their hearts burned within them as it be
came real before them, this active, energetic life
that accomplishes things for which Minuca Center
were too cramping a field.
Clara drew a long breath. She dared not look at
her mother, whose eyes continually awaited her.
All at once Dick spoke up brusquely: " How
about those pumpkin pies, Mrs. Smith? "
" Dick Wambaugh! If you ain t the beatin est boy
that ever was! How d you know I cut up my last
pumpkin for pies and baked this very day? "
" Oh, I mean those I stole? "
" Well, I mean those I jist baked. Now you set
still and I ll run and cut one."
When she had gone, " Clara," he said, fastening
his eyes upon her, " I owe you a letter. Do you know
" Why, yes, I believe you do," she said, as flut-
teringly as any schoolgirl.
" Do you know why I never wrote it? "
The words should never have made her blush and
look down. The tone did.
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 33
" It was because I had something to say to you
that I couldn t write. I know, because I tried a
thousand times and tore up all the letters. At first
I wasn t in a position financially, and, after that, I
didn t write letters, I dictated them. This was some
thing I couldn t dictate. Always I meant to come
to you and say it by word of mouth. I am ashamed
to own that I have been too busy. But there is some
thing more in life than business. Getting a living is
only half of life."
She looked up at him. He had thought, then, the
same thoughts that she had.
" But all the time, busy or not, at the back of my
mind you stood. It was like the subconscious self
the psychologists talk about. Have I been in your
mind like that? "
A wave of blood drowned the pulse of her heart
and choked her voice. Her lips and breath formed:
" I love you, Clara," he said. " I want you to be
my wife. Will you? "
All else was forgot, all but the overtowering fact
that the man she had always loved and longed for
had told her that he loved and longed for her. She
looked up into his face. She could only wave her
head in solemn affirmation.
He kissed her.
" Well, Dick, here s your p Oh, excuse me!"
34 FOLKS BACK HOME
Mrs. Smith told Clara afterwards she thought she
should sink through the floor. She staggered to a
chair and sat down. When Dick had made an end of
speaking she stood the pie knife on the pie plate
and viewed its point judicially as she said: " Well,
Mr. Wambaugh, as far as I am concerned,
you know I think the world and all of you and
always did, and as far as Clara s concerned, I don t
know but what it ll be all right, but they s a gen
tleman that ah calls ah occasionally that
Dick looked at Clara.
" Mr. Burns/ she said, and went crimson. " I in
troduced him to you this afternoon."
" Oh, that? What s the Human Clothes-prop got
to say about it? "
" Why, you didn t ever write, you know," Clara
half wept, " and "
"And I don t know what he ll think about it,"
pursued Mrs. Smith. " He considers that him and
Clara is engaged."
"Well, I don t. Now!" declared Clara, defiantly.
" He wanted me to kiss him, but I wouldn t. Oh,
Dick! I ve always loved you, and I just felt awful
when you stopped writing, and I was going to write
to you anyhow, only I w r as afraid you d think I was
too bold, and I didn t know where to direct it be
cause you said you were going to move, and Oh,
THE SEAL OF THE COVENANT 35
what am I going to do about it? Mother, tell me
what to do."
" Well, Clara, you must decide for yourself."
" Well, if it comes to that Dick, as true as I
live, I never let him or anybody else ever kiss me!
Honest, I didn t! Only you."
" You regard the kiss as binding the bargain? "
he asked, quizzically.
" Well, kind o ."
" The Seal of the Covenant, eh? You witnessed me
kiss your daughter, ma am? "
Well ah "
" Oh, if there s any doubt about it " The doubt
was removed. "And once more. This time to bind
(That ought to express it, if type can.)
Some in Minuca Center thought poor Mr. Burns
had been treated shamefully. Others among them
Sarepta Downey said: " She done jist right. It s
different with a woman about keepin your word.
Specially in a case like that. He didn t lose no time,
The following dialogue explains itself:
" Dicky, mamma told you twice to let that alone.
This time I m going to give you a good smacking.
See if you can remember that."
36 FOLKS BACK HOME
" Now, Clara, now, now, that s no way to do.
Dicky didn t mean any harm, did you, Dicky? No,
o course not. You come upstairs with grandma and
see what she s got for you."
THE LOST DAY
I DECLARE, I feel right sorry for the pore
boy," said Sarepta Downey, as she held aside
her front-room window shade so that she
might look out upon the agony of Garfield Lincoln
McKinnon, doing such penance in the streets of
Minuca Center as made the sufferings of his mar
tyred namesakes seem no more than growing pains.
With Indian cruelty a lot of children had gath
ered about the boy as he minded the team out
side Galbraith s store while his parents did their
" trading." The malicious youngsters were gleefully
chanting to the traditional melody:
-j>,i.<_>nN y j J i J j j.i
<Stame! 5Hame! Ev- ty-bo*cfy* knows your name!
Passers-by turned to look and spoke to each other,
and the lad could see them say: " Oh, that s McKin-
non s boy, is it? "
It is surely enough misery merely to be looked at
when one has reached the age when his Adam s apple
38 FOLKS BACK HOME
sticks out in his throat and wabbles up and down as
his voice vacillates between treble and bass; when
one blushes at the indecent haste of his wrists to
grow out from under the cover of his sun-faded coat,
and the two clerks, with noses like a figure 6, loung
ing in the doorway of Morgenroth s New York One
Price Clothing House, make loud comments like,
" Geth onta da high-vater pence! " but to be jeered
at in the sight of all the town for what was not a
fault, and even if it were, was not his fault, seemed
to Garfield Lincoln McKinnon more than he ought
to be made to endure. Yet he must endure it. But
this was the last time. He was going away didn t
they wish they knew where? and when he came
back he would show them!
Indeed they did wish they knew. Every man,
woman, and child in Minuca Center was gnawed
with anxiety to learn where Alanson McKinnon, his
wife, and son were going, and when they were com
ing back. That they were coming back was certain.
All could guess pretty well why they were going.
It was to escape the persecution of John Mumma.
But why were they coming back? John Mumma
would be eager to renew his harassing the very next
Sunday after McKinnon s return, and if not John,
then some other one of the Mumma tribe, just as
keen to take up the old feud.
They had all tried to wheedle it out of Alanson
THE LOST DAY 39
McKinnon, but he had bluntly bade them mind their
own business, if they had any. Mrs. McKinnon had
bridled and smiled, and dropped her eyelids, and
doddered her head while she answered that " she
didn t know as she had orta say; they better ask Mr.
Mac." And when this very Sarepta Downey had lav
ished her autumnal blandishments upon Garfy, he
hung his head and scratched one foot with the other
and gulped his Adam s apple up and down and said
not a word. " Acted like a perfect fool," she said,
with asperity, afterwards.
The limelight of publicity had shone on the Mc-
Kinnons for a long time, and that made the mystery
all the more irritating to the people of the Center.
Alanson McKinnon had interested them much. He
was a church all by himself, the last remaining frag
ment of the sect of the Baileyites, or " Searchers,"
as they preferred to be called after their favorite text :
" Search the Scriptures." The founder, the Rev.
Jeremiah Bailey, had been put out of the Mt. Vic
tory Presbytery for refusing to hold meeting on
Sunday. He said it was nothing less than rank idol
atry, thus to honor the Sun by keeping his day holy,
and also defiance of the Almighty whose express
command was to observe the seventh. Starting out
for himself on this line, the Rev. Jeremiah Bailey had
gathered together a congregation, to whose mem
bership he was heartily welcome, as far as the other
40 FOLKS BACK HOME
pastors were concerned. There was Marinus Moran
who wanted to boss every church he had ever joined,
and who could make more trouble than three choirs.
There was " Tepe " Armstrong, who proved every
thing by quotations from the works of his illustrious
namesake, Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian;
Uncle Billy Roebuck, who said he saw visions; Zimri
Hollabaugh, who spoke by the hour in " tongues "
that nobody could understand, and who would not
be shut off for any sake; Aunt Betty Moore, who
could out-talk him and had been led out of more than
one church, and not always quietly. There were four
or five more of the same sort, and last of all came
Alanson McKinnon. He was chiefly noted for being
more " sot in his ways " than any other man in
It was a queer congregation and a queerer pastor,
for toward the last he became convinced that he was
the seventh angel with the seventh trumpet, and
went around climbing up on barns and smoke-houses
to blow a long tin horn, until the constable came and
took him to the county house.
After that the " Searchers " were scattered abroad
as sheep having no shepherd, all except Alanson Mc
Kinnon, who was really the only convert of the Rev.
Jeremiah Bailey s making. He held fast to the name
and the one doctrine that he had managed to get
clearly into his head, that the seventh day was the
THE LOST DAY 41
Sabbath. He and his never set foot inside other
churches, but Alanson conducted a sort of service
in their front room, and passed a dull Saturday in
the strictest Sabbatical observance. At the first he
gloried in his oddity, and he and Garfy used to work
in the fields as close to the big road as they could
get on a Sunday when the neighbors were going to
meeting. It mortified Garfy to death to be seen
working in his old duds when the other boys were
all dressed up in store clothes; but the greatest cross
of all was laid upon his mother. Alanson made her
ring the bell for dinner just the same as if it was
a common day. Every time she went out to the pole
set in the ground close to the well and pulled the
bell rope, she got red in the face. It seemed to her
that she could see the whole countryside stop and
hearken, and that she could hear them say to one an
other: "That s Nancy McKinnon callin her man in
from work on Sunday."
If anybody said to Alanson, " I s pose it s all right
to keep Saddy for Sabbath if you want to, but why
can t you keep Sunday, too, luck the rest of us? "
he had an answer ready: " I got Scripter for it. Six
days shelt thou labor/ the book says."
" But it s agin the law of the land."
" Tain t agin the law of the Lord," said Alanson,
and after that the man would generally drive on.
But being a living epistle, known and read of all
42 FOLKS BACK HOME
men, lost its attractiveness when John Mumma dis
covered that he had at last an opportunity to get
revenge for the land lost when the referees went