Eugene Wood.

Folks back home online

. (page 3 of 17)
Online LibraryEugene WoodFolks back home → online text (page 3 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

against him in the boundary-line dispute.

One Sunday morning just as all the folk were
going to meeting, and Alanson was out in the field
as large as life hoeing potatoes, up came Mumma
and Billy Belt, the constable, who arrested him for
performing servile labor on the first day of the week,
commonly called Sunday. He was fined three dol
lars and costs. Next Sunday it was the same thing,
and so it continued. McKinnon determined to work
on Sunday and Mumma determined to have him ar
rested if he did. There was one good thing about
this: Nancy McKinnon no longer had to ring the
dinner bell, for Alanson hid his work and went to
it with all possible concealment. But the Mummas
didn t have " Injun blood " in them for nothing, and
one or another of them always found him out.

Thus it was evident to all that the McKinnons
were going away to get shut of all this. But why
come back to enter again the furnace of affliction?
This was what disturbed the inquiring minds of the
people of Minuca Center.

Alanson had discovered a way out. A door had
been opened for him in a quarter least expected. In
the early days of his adhesion to the sect of the Rev.
Jeremiah Bailey, he had been set upon by the ortho-


dox and badgered into argument. In giving a reason
for the faith that was in him, he had had so decidedly
the best of it that he tasted the fierce joys of con
troversy, and after that he went up and down seek
ing them, as in his younger and unregenerate days
he had looked for a fight. One day he made up his
mind to attack old Dr. Cooper. From a tactical point
of view, this was an error. All Alanson s previous
victories had been won by flinging texts of Scripture
at men that recognized them as weighty missiles and
behaved accordingly. But Dr. Cooper, like Gallio,
" cared for none of these things." He was an infidel
and a spiritualist. His wife wore calico trousers to
her shoe tops, and skirts to her knees, devised in an
age that knew not bicycles. Her hair was short and
her " medium controls " were " Cyrus the Great,"
and " Little Snowdrop," the disembodied spirit of
an Indian girl, that spoke partly in baby talk and
partly in something like an Englishman s notion of
negro dialect. When traveling mediums came to
Minuca Center they always stopped at the Coopers .
The fame of the mighty works they did was spread
far and wide, and children that had to go by the
house after nine o clock at night walked on the other
side of the street.

Dr. Cooper jumped at the chance for a debate.
He, too, was born in Arcadia. Blandly waving aside
all the familiar texts, he took his stand on natural


philosophy. He maintained that there couldn t be
one day in the week that should be kept holy, be
cause while it was Saturday here, it was Sunday on
the other side of the world. He explained that some
where in the Pacific there was an imaginary line
where the day began. If you sailed around the earth
keeping Sunday, when you got back to your starting
point you would find the folks keeping Sunday on
your Saturday, or your Monday, according to which
way you went; providing, of course, that you did not
follow the common practice of adding or dropping
a day to keep on good terms with the calendar.

Alanson sat so still that the doctor thought he
had made a convert. Never was man more mistaken.
It was all news to McKinnon, and he came and came
again, getting Dr. Cooper to go over the same ar
gument each time. One day he asked, for he was
not quick on the uptake: "You re sure that if a
man was to sail East around the world, a-keepin
the seventh day as the Sabbath and still a-stickin
to it, regardless of other folks a-munkin with the
days of the week, when he got back, he d still be
a-keepin the Sabbath and they d be a-keepin Sun
day? "

Dr. Cooper was so constituted as to be certain of
everything that he said, and able to disprove any
thing that anybody else said. He affirmed that his
statement was absolutely correct and could be


proved by the globe. Alanson rose with a smile on
his face and thereafter came no more. Next day the
old doctor was disturbed by an impression that he
wanted to see McKinnon about something. But he
was getting old and forgetful, and it passed out of
his mind.

Alanson had once heard the Sabbath called " the
Pearl of Days," and so that night, when at family
prayers, he lighted upon the parable of the merchant
that found the pearl of great price and sold all that
he had and went and bought it, the tears came, and
his voice quavered and broke. Without doubt what
he had been thinking of was a " leading." The
drowsing Garfield Lincoln opened his eyes with as
tonishment, but he widened them still more when
his father shut the book and told what was in his
heart to do. They were not done stretching with
amaze three weeks later, when the Eastern Emperor,
a British tramp steamer with a mixed cargo in its
hold for Hongkong and Manila, steamed past Sandy
Hook with Garfield Lincoln McKinnon on board,
articled as cabin boy, his mother as cook, and his
father rendering such assistance as a strong, active,
and willing man can who has never seen salt water

For many months Minuca Center had ceased to
excite itself about the McKinnons and their where-


abouts. War bulletins were its meat and drink now.
There was hardly anybody at the station when Alan-
son, his wife, and Garfy got off the 12.55 tra i n fr m
the West. They walked up Main Street, which was
all aflap with American flags and another kind that
looked like a piece of cranberry pie on blue-and-
white bed ticking. Across the street hung a banner
bearing this device:




Highest Prices Paid for Country Produce.

Some few of the populace rushed upon them with
outstretched hands and remarked how well they were
looking. Alanson seemed strangely diffident.

" W y whur y all be n f r so long?" asked Henry

" Traveling" said Alanson shortly, and made as
if to move on.

"That so? Whur to?"

" Oh, all round," which was strictly true, but
hardly informative.

As they passed on, who should meet them but old
Dr. Cooper. McKinnon apparently did not see him,
but the doctor called out:


"Alanson! Look here a minute. I must have
missed you every time you come to town here
lately. I been a-meanin to tell you that I was
wrong about sailin around the world from East
to West "

" Yes," said Alanson, not giving him a chance to
finish the sentence, " I have sence found out you
was," and passed on with so chill an air that the old
man did not know what to make of it.

Garfy was a changed boy from what he was when
last the Center saw him. He who had been so pain
fully bashful, now looked at the girls with a con
quering eye. The misses, that aforetime had tittered
at his embarrassment when they teased him, felt a
flutter under their organdie waists as his gaze fol
lowed them from under Campbell s awning where
he was being quizzed by the boys.

" Whur all you be n, Garfy? "

" Oh, jist around the world," says Garfy, non
chalantly putting out the tip of his tongue and
squinting up his eyes as if to look at something far

" Jeeminently ! " chorused the others, their eyes
sticking out in amaze.

Then doubt arose.

"Yes, you have. Like hen!"

" Oh, all right. Whurj s pose I got these? " He
pulled out a handful of curiously carved nuts.


* These I bought in Hongkong and these here is
from Manila."

" Oh, was you to Manila? "

" Well, I guess yes."

All were silent, stunned by the presence of a great
truth. Then spoke up "Turkey-egg" McLaughlin:

" Whadge go fur? "

Garfy spat a very small drop and brushed an imag
inary shading of dust from his leg before he an

" Pap s idy," he said. " He was jist bound and
determined to keep Saddy for Sabbath and work
Sunday. Doc Cooper told him if he d sail round the
world to the east ard he d git back here still
a-keepin Saddy whilst you was a-keepin Sunday.
So he done it. Mumma persecuted him so."

" Mumma s dead," piped in little " Bunt " Rogers.
" Be n dead bout a month now. Horse kicked

" Well, he orta die," replied the unfeeling Garfy.
" Anybody act the way he did. Well s I was goin
to tell you, we d jist got into Manila Bay one night
and was anchored out waitin for mornin . The skip-
per "

"The what?"

" The skipper. The old man."

" Oh, your daddy."

" Naw. The captain. Cap un Prunk his name was.


Look here, if you country jakes is a-goin to put in
your oar all the time, I won t tell you a doggone

The boys exchanged a frightened and awed look.
Was this really Garfy?

" We was a-layin there and Cap n Prunk come
and shook me. Tumble out, boy/ he says, all ex
cited. Tumble out and go run and tell your daddy
to come aft/ he says. Got somepin to show him.
Pap come and the old man give him his spyglass.
1 There, you Yankee/ he says, tell me if that ain t
nice/ Pap started to say, I ain t no Yankee/ and
all of a sudden he began to holler. He got shoutin
happy. Glory! he says, it s our ships and they re
a-goin to pitch right into them Spanishers over
yan/ he says.

" Right you are/ says the skipper, and they
ain t a-goin to wait till Monday, either. Pap looked
at him kind o funny and says, Monday?

" Yes/ says the skipper. To-day s Sunday. We
gotta drop a day, you know/ he says. You d a
thought it was pap that dropped, he looked so flab
bergasted. But pretty soon we seen somepin white
squirt out of the side of one o our ships and then
I heard somepin go Bump! like you was kickin
on the door of an empty room, and then, Ar-r-r-r!
like a coffee mill, and then, Ker-boong! Shell
a-bustin ."


Garfy made a rhetorical pause in order to let his
weighty words sink in.

" Bunty " Rogers seized the opportunity. " I was
to Clumbus on the Fourth," he shrilled, " an I
heard em shoot off a cannon. Oo-oh, wasn t it loud?
A real cannon it was, like they use to the war."

"Huh!" sneered Garfy, "one o these here little
footy fieldpieces. I ve seen em. What I m a-talkin
about is these here great guns, long s from here
acrost the road. They don t shoot no cannon balls.
They ve got great, big, long steel things that they
shoot out of em. Tail s you are and shaped like a
cigar. The Spaniards was layin over by Cavite.
S posin this was Cavite." Garfy laid out his war map
on the gravel walk. " They come right back at old
Dewey, and I jis tell you things was a-poppin
around there. Look luck pap he had the dumps for
a spell, but twa n t long fore he was a-whoopin an*
a-hollerin luck a crazy man. One o these here little
torpedo boats come a-scootin out to blow up our
ships an pap yelled: l Head her off!

" They did. Twa n t but a minute fore she broke
for the shore an run aground. Pap was jist a-dancin .
Old Dewey, he knocked off for breakfast an all that
time them Spanish ships was a-burnin an a blowin
up worse n any old Fourth o July you ever see.
When they s rendered, pap he was jist so tickled he
clean fergot all his own trouble."


"Why, what was his trouble?" asked "Turkey-
egg " McLaughlin.

" Why, dad blame it!" snapped the impatient
Garfy. " Didn t I jist tell you we went around the
world a-purpose to gain a day? An here we went
an lost one. We come acrost to Frisco an home
by the cars, an now pap he ll have to keep Friday
for Sabbath, r else do jist luck the rest o folks. I
d know which he s a-goin to do. He ain t said."

" Look luck you had your trip for nothin ," com
mented " Turkey-egg."

" Well," said Garfy, " that was some of a disap
pointment. We lost a day, but we seen Dewey win
one. The way I look at it, that kind o evens things


WELL, now, if I was you, S repty, I
wouldn t bother my head about it one
second," declared Mrs. Parker. " It s all
right. He s a very nice man, this Mr. Frizzell "

" Frazee," corrected Sarepta.

" Frazee, then. I m the poorest hand for names.
I jist can t keep em in my head. Very nice and quiet.
I put him at that little table over there in the cor
ner by the window and you don t hardly hear a word
out of him. At first I thought him and me wasn t
goin to get along at all. He couldn t drink this here
ten-cent coffee that comes already browned. Went
all around town lookin for good coffee. Otho Littell
was tellin me how he showed Mr. Fusee "

" Frazee."

" Frazee. I know. Ain t it ridiculous I can t remem
ber it? The very best they was in town Otho showed
him and he jist run his hands through it and smelled
of it and says: Huh! jist like that, and turned on his
heel and walked out. Well, I says to myself, if
that s the way And then he sent off and got a bag
o* some kind of coffee he told me the name of it, too



ker-boom or ker-slam I don t know. Anyhow he
wanted me to brown it for him. Well, now, I says
to myself, my days o brownin coffee in a pan in the
oven is past and gone too long ago to talk about.
But he was so nice and said he d pay me for my
trouble that I jist couldn t say no to him. It s awful
nice flavored, the way he has me make it for him,
but la me! if I was to drink it as strong as Mr. Frazer
drinks it "

" Frazee."

" As Mr. Frazee drinks it I jist can not keep
names in my head why, I couldn t sleep a wink.
Why, it s as black as tar. Yes, sir. I don t believe it s
good for the health to drink it as strong as all that."

" But don t you think "

" But that s the only thing, and as far as your
givin yourself one minute s uneasiness for fear
folks ll talk about you because you got this Mr.
What-you-may-call- im for a roomer and you all by
yourself, why I wouldn t think of it. Why, do you
s pose if I thought they was anything wrong about
it, I d ha sent him over to your house to get a room
when I was all full up? Why, no. And wasn t it provi
dential now that he come along jist when he did, and
you worried out o your life and soul with that old
Jerusalem cricket, Sister Sister-rah Oh, what s
her name now? "

" Sister Pennypiece."


" I do know whatever possessed you to go and
invite her to stay with you a few days after camp
meetin when you might a knowed she was jist one
o them deadbeats and lookin for somebody that
she could sponge off of and stay the whole fall and
winter. And thinks I: There s a good chance o
helpin her out and me, too, so I says to this Mr.

, I says to him: You can get a room, like

enough, at S repty Downey s, I says, and he looked
at me so funny. And he went right over and you
rented the room to him. I thought that was too
killin . I bet she jist raved and caved when she come
back and found out."

"Well, no. She didn t, but Aunt Betty Mooney
that was with her "

" There s a pair of em for you."

" Aunt Betty about raised the roof. She talked
awful to me. Said it was easy to see what I was up

"She didn t!"

" Oh, yes, she did. She told me I was one of them
that thinks it ain t ever too late to get a beau "

"Oh, good land! You!"

" I felt awful, and if he hadn t paid me in advance
I don t know but I d have "

" Now, don t you go and be foolish. Why, my
grief! Here you ve lived here all your life till you re
gray headed and not a word against you in any


shape, manner, or form, and people thinks the world
and all of you. Don t you s pose folks has got some

" Yes, but you know what Aunt Betty and Sister
Pennypiece are to talk."

"And don t everybody know that? And this Mr.
Fusell "

" Mr. Frazee."

" Yes. He s an old man, too, ain t he? "

" Well, I don t know as you d call him old."

" He s about your age, ain t he? "

" Yes, I suppose so, but you don t think I m old,
do you? "

" Well, you re no spring chicken, S repty; but I
will say that for a woman o your age, you re mighty
trim and well preserved. It s a pity you ever got
that notion into your head about bein engaged to
Sam Coulter. You might a got married a dozen
times over and not be left alone the way you was
when your pa died. I expect that was more n half
the reason you had that old Jerusalem cricket come
up and stay with you, bein so lonesome. I blame
your pa for breakin it off with Sam in the first

" No, now that was my fault. I oughtn t to have
quarreled with him about Sallie Mumma. Then he
wouldn t have enlisted."

" Well, we won t talk about that now. Anybody


that knows how you could have had your pick o the
men when you was young ain t goin to believe
you re after em now. He don t bother you none,
does he? Comin in and settin , I mean."

"Who? Mr. Frazee?"

" Urn."

" Oh, no. Not at all."

"Well, then, why should you fret?"

" I don t know as I do fret. But here lately every
Wednesday evening when I come out of prayer
meeting, he s waiting to see me home. He said it
didn t look right to him to see a lady alone on the
street at night and "

" Urn," assented Mrs. Parker. " I say so, too."

" And if I didn t have any other company and
didn t object he had just as lives come by for me
as not. I told him I was used to it. Pa never would
go with me, you know. But he said it wasn t any
bother and he would unless I objected, and I couldn t
very well say I objected, but "

" But what? "

" Well, I didn t want people to think he was going
with me."

" And wouldn t it be terrible if they did! Wouldn t
it be just terrible! Now look here, S repty, if you
want to know, I think it s all foolishness for you to
think you dassen t look at a man just because Sam
Coulter never come back from the war. I d put on

mournin for him and be done with it and not punish
myself the way you do."

Sarepta shook her head.

" If people should say that I was going with Mr.
Frazee I d have to tell him to go. I couldn t stand
it. I d hate awful to tell him to go, but that s just
what I d have to do if people said that."

" Now don t you worry. They won t nobody talk
about you unless it is old Aunt Betty and the Jeru
salem cricket, and if they do, why people won t pay
one bit of attention. They ll jist consider the source."

And this was exactly what people did.

The romantic story of Sarepta Downey was one
of the traditions of Minuca Center. The little old
maid with the glow in her cheeks, like the Indian
summer of a girl s blush, would have been dear to
all because of her devotion to the memory of her
old sweetheart even if she hadn t been the good soul
she was.

Old Aaron Downey was a quarrelsome old man.
In war time he was a Vallandigham Democrat, as
much to be contrary as anything, and when Sarepta
became engaged to Sam Coulter, the boy old Adam
Coulter took to raise, who lived out on the Pharis-
burg road next to Mumma s and was a black Aboli
tionist, he fairly pawed up the ground. Old man
Coulter didn t like it either. He wanted Sam to have
Sallie Mumma, and when Sam, to please him, took


Sallie to a couple of places, old Aaron taunted Sa-
repta so that in a passion of jealousy she quarreled
with Sam. She had no idea he would take it to heart,
but he did, and the next thing was, he had enlisted
and gone to Camp Chase.

Pa Downey strictly forbade her to write the
scratch of a pen to any " Lincoln hireling," and if
Sam ever wrote to her she never got the letter. No
body would have put it past Aaron Downey to have
kept the letters from her, but if Sarepta thought so
she never accused her father of it. She blamed her
self for it all. She knew Sam liked her and was en
gaged to her, as witness the little set ring he had
given her, which she had worn to paper thinness.
She knew he didn t care for Sallie Mumma. When
he came back she was going to take all the blame
on herself. But he didn t come back. She had not
even the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that he
was dead. Among her scanty treasures, an old da
guerreotype of Sam in a square case lined with red
velvet, a dried flower he had picked for her, and
a basket he had whittled out of a peach stone,
there was a frayed and yellow clipping from
the Weekly Examiner giving the list of casualties
among the Logan County boys in one of the skir
mishes before Richmond. One item was: " Private
Samuel Coulter, missing." That was all. The rest
was silence.


But though Sam never came back, she still con
sidered herself engaged to him. Fellows would start
in to keep company with her, well-off fellows, too,
but she gave them to understand that she considered
herself engaged to Sam Coulter, and after a while
they would stop going with her.

" You act like a fool, S repty," her father would
snarl at her, " a regular, cussed fool. Who was he,
anyhow, to make so much fuss about? Old Ad. Coul
ter s bound boy. Lord knows what kind o low trash
he come from."

But with the obstinacy of the timid she held her
course. It was no more than right that she should
do as she did after the way she had treated Sam.
Almost the last thing her father had said to her
was that she had been a " cussed fool " to stay single
when she had so many chances to marry and do well.
He was going to die and she d be all alone in the
world, and whose fault was it? Why, hers, because
she had been such a " cussed fool."

But she tended him lovingly and mourned him
sincerely and even missed him when he was gone.
Even his rasping voice was good to hear. It was the
voice of a man, and man is the fountain of authority.
Though he was old and feeble, she did not know
what it was to be afraid when she padlocked the cel
lar door at night and shut the shutters and locked
up the house.


This Sister Pennypiece that had fastened herself
on Sarepta at the Urbana camp meeting and had
proved such a bore that she was glad to get her out,
was almost worse than nobody at all. For she used
to sit and tell the most awful tales of people living
alone and being found in the morning with their
throats cut, and then she would grab Sarepta and
whisper: " Sh! Did you hear that? " After a long and
breathless pause she would whisper: " It sounded
like somebody walkin around upstairs."

Since this Mr. Frazee had come to take Sister
Pennypiece s room she had not felt afraid at all. If
burglars got in there was a man in the house, some
body that could attend to their case. But if people
were going to talk about it, she would have to tell
him to go.

Now there is no denying that Aunt Betty Mooney
did go around town declaring that it was scandalous,
simply scandalous, for Sarepta Downey, a member
of Center Street M. E., to be living alone in the
house with a man and that man beauing her around.
It ought to be brought up before the officiary and
she ought to be rebuked. And that man Frazee, pub
lic opinion ought to attend to him. Who was he,
anyhow? Where d he come from? What was he
after? Why didn t he go to work or do something,
like he d ought to? Wasn t there anybody had spunk
enough to up and ask him?


" I jox I d know, Aunt Betty," said Otho Littell.
" Seems not. Why don t you? "

" Yes, and have him tell me to go long about my
business. I see myself talkin to that man. The looks
of him is enough for me."

" Aw, now, Aunt Betty, he s a very nice-lookin
man, with that big beard o his, tall and not too
fleshy, and straight as a candle. Tain t often you
see a man like that when he s gittin gray."

" Struttin along the street, as if he owned it, and
puffin his filthy tobacco smoke in people s faces.
Well, mebby not right in their faces, but poisonin
the very air they breathe. Nobody can be a pure man
and use tobacco. Now that s so, Brother Littell.
You know what the Scripture says about layin aside
all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. Tobacco
wasn t invented in them days, I know, but if that
ain t it to a t-y, ty, then I don t want a cent and
you needn t think I don t see you tryin to hide that
there quid o tobacco in your cheek, Brother Lit
tell, because I do, and the Lord sees it too, and,
come Judgment Day, you ll hear from Him, now,
sure s you re a foot high."

" All right, Aunt Betty. Now what else was it you
wanted to-day? Tea, sugar, coffee, canned peaches
we got some nice canned corn."

" Well, you might send me up a can o corn and
about three pounds o sugar and a quarter of a


pound o tea, and if the officiary don t do nothin
about S repty and that man Frazee How would

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryEugene WoodFolks back home → online text (page 3 of 17)