loved him, didn t she? Yes. Well. And what was life
without love? Harley made a most eloquent address.
He was even moving Tom Hutchins a little when
the bell rang. Starched skirts rustled away from
the library door, and presently Nanno announced:
" Misther Hannigan, of th Examiner, have called
for oo, son"
When Mr. Hutchins returned from a rather ex
citing interview, he found the two demurely seated
on opposite sides of the room. Harley laid aside
M REE HUTCHINS HUSBAND 119
"The Royal Path of Life" and looked up inquir
ingly at Mr. Hutchins as he entered.
" Well, you re in for it now," said Mr. Hutchins
surlily. " Since you were so keen to get married in
a hurry and without any flubdub, that s the way it ll
be. To-morrow evening, in the house here, seven-
thirty, by Mr. Courtney. Take the nine o clock train
to Niagara Falls and back here in a week. After
that " he drew his hand over his eyes thoughtfully
" well, we ll see."
Harley shook his hand in a transport of delight,
and M ree kissed her father, who was more moved
thereat than she was.
Mrs. Hutchins lamented that there was to be no
grand public function and no chance to prepare
M ree s trousseau, but for the second time in his life
Tom Hutchins was inexorable. Only two or three
girl friends of M ree s, Aunt Hannah and Uncle
George, Judge and Mrs. Rodehaver, and Mr. Court
ney and his wife. (She always went along to fix his
surplice for him.) M ree could wear that mousseline
de sole of hers. It might be a little longer and not
hurt any, but it would have to do. She could wear
her confirmation veil. Mr. Hutchins would see about
getting the license and telling the rector.
It occurred to M ree the next day, while she was
packing her trunk, that to slip off and get married in
a hurry was one thing, and to be made to get mar-
120 FOLKS BACK HOME
ried in a hurry by her pa was quite another thing.
Harley was the ideal romantic lover, but those awful
boys down at Marysville! And there right before her
in the bureau drawer was Ed Coffinberry s ring, that
she had forgotten to send back to him!
With her eyes still wet and her chest still jumping
convulsively from her hard crying spell, she sat down
and wrote a note to Ed, returning the ring. She
could not keep it, as she was to be married to Harley
Rodehaver that night. Swimming in a wave of re
curring tears, she added : " Forgive me. Good-by,
forever! " and I am not sure but a drop or two fell
on the paper. It seemed to her a very solemn and
responsible thing, and she was quite sharp with Sam
when he whined about carrying the note, protesting
that he had been running " urnts " for her all morn
ing, and he was just sick and tired of being her " nig
ger." But he went, and in an astonishingly short
space of time was back, breathlessly informing her
that Ed had given him a dollar to run all the way
home with an answer. " Did, too. Every step or
prett near every step. Is he comin* to your wed-
The answer entreated, adjured, pleaded, implored
that MVee should come down to the bank at once.
Only he and Jerry, the messenger, were there; all
the others were gone to lunch; so he couldn t leave,
and he couldn t wait till the bank closed to see her,
M REE HUTCHINS HUSBAND 121
to beg her pardon for the way he had acted two
weeks ago Sunday night. He never thought she
would take it so to heart. Oh, he had been a brute
to act so! But would she not come and say one last
word of forgiveness? It was the last time. (All the
tender pathos that is in that phrase, " the last time,"
overflowed her soul as she read.) The awful tidings
had fallen upon him like a thunderbolt. Oh, forgive
him! Oh, please, please come at once!
" Poor man! " she sighed, and put her thumb un
der her chin and her forefinger tip against her teeth.
Then she roused herself and got her hat.
" I m just going down to Galbraith s for some
thing, ma," she called out, at the foot of the stairs.
" I won t be but a minute."
" Well, hurry right back. You know you ve got
lots to do, and Sallie and Nanno have all they can
tend to. And / can t do anything. O me! I wish
your pa had put it off for a month. So many things
to look after! " But the door had shut, and Mrs.
Hutchins returned to her novel with a sigh.
Ed took her into the directors room. She meant
to say only a few words, but before she knew it all
the details of that horrid Marysville trip were out.
She was so thankful that Ed didn t see anything to
laugh at in it. If there had been one twinkle in those
grave, reproachful eyes when she sobbed out how
the boys had piled up brickbats to peep in at them,
122 FOLKS BACK HOME
she would have just hated him. Ed might not be so
romantic as Harley, but he would never do anything
ridiculous. There was something so protecting in
Ed, and then he looked at her so, and the next thing
was, Jerry was off to Judge Rodehaver s office with
a note for Harley, saying that it was all a terrible
mistake. She could never marry him. And for him
please not to call.
Dr. Avery had gone away, and Mrs. Hutchins
was resting easier. M ree had locked herself up in
her room. The storm of Mr. Hutchins anger had
spent itself, and he sat by his wife s bedside rocking
and reading over and over again the account in the
Evening Examiner from the pen of the gifted Han-
nigan, telling how " the hand of the beautiful and
accomplished Miss Marie Hutchins, the acknowl
edged belle of Minuca Center, had been won by one
of the most talented young limbs of the law, Mr.
Harley Rodehaver, who has recently come into our
midst." The Marysville trip was there, tricked out
in all the tawdry splendor of Laura Jean Libbey and
Bartlett s " Familiar Quotations." At the end was
the announcement that " the nuptial ceremonies
were to be consummated this evening by Reverend
Courtney, rector of St. John s P. E. Church, at the
palatial residence of the bride s father, on South Mad
River Street, Colonel Thomas P. Hutchins." All that
M REE HUTCHINS HUSBAND 123
was bad enough, but now He groaned and looked
at his wife, who was quietly sleeping. Sulphonal had
brought surcease of sorrow for her. Everybody
would read that and crow over it, and the next day
they would find out what M ree had done, and they
would crow more than ever. He would be ashamed
to look people in the face. And then he remembered
with a jerk that Hannigan was the Enquirer cor
respondent and would just spread himself. It wasn t
often he got such a chance. The red and sullen flush
of shame mantled his face and met upon his neck
as he thought how not only his own townsmen but
all that knew him commercially and politically in
Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, would read the flam
ing story. He was able to see, clairvoyantly, low,
lecherous sots bandying his daughter s name in bar
rooms and cackling the falsetto laugh that men use
at certain times. His fists clinched. She was a good
girl, kind to her mother and all that. Nobody could
say a word against her character. Not a word. And
that she should have brought this humiliation upon
his name! He had been so proud of her. What pos
sessed the girl to go and act that way?
And now he had to get up some kind of a lie
to tell the folks when they came. He wasn t much
used to lying, and a cold sickness assailed the pit
of his stomach as he thought of himself standing be
fore those prying, doubting eyes, eager to put the
i2 4 FOLKS BACK HOME
worst construction on everything. He knew they
would not believe him then; he knew they would
find him out when the Enquirer came up on No. i
and everybody bought it. But he couldn t tell them
the truth now. He couldn t face them and say what
a fool his daughter had made of herself and of
He heard Uncle George and Aunt Hannah come
in, Uncle George with his loud, boisterous voice, and
Aunt Hannah telling Sallie she had brought her
apron so she could help with the things. He heard
Minnie De Wees explain to Nanno that she had
come early so as to run over the wedding march on
their piano, and a stray note or two floated up the
stairs as she fingered the keys with the soft pedal
on. He tried to think what he should say, to learn
it by heart. He had just thought it might do to
tell them that, on account of her ma s delicate
health, M ree had decided not to leave her for the
present, when he heard the shrill chirrup of girls
voices and the ponderous orotund of Mr. Courtney s
Anglo-Buckeye accent in all its " powurrrrr and
commaundment," choiring antiphonally their mu
tual surprise at meeting at the gate. Then Nanno
called up: " Misther Hootchins! Oo re wanted,
A cold sweat broke out on him. He nerved himself
and went down the stairs as one goes to the gallows.
M REE HUTCHINS HUSBAND 125
" How do I look, John? " asked Mrs. Rodehaver,
when the judge came home. " Do you think this old
black silk will do to go in? They re such bigbugs.
I got kind of a cold piece ready. I thought it
wouldn t do to go there ravenous hungry. Set up,
now, and then hurry and get yourself ready. W y,
what s the matter? What makes you look at me so
"Didn t Harley tell you?"
"W y, no! Tell me what? He come in and went
right up to his room. O John, is anything wrong?
Has he been doin anything? O John, if he has, I ll
never git over it. He s been like my own son to me."
" Harley s all right. It s her."
" Why, what do you mean? "
" She s backed out."
" Yes, sir. Says it s all a turrable mistake, and she
don t want to see him no more. Harley showed it
"Well, I m jist glad of it. Now! She d a never
done for him. Never."
" Dad-blamed little hussy! I d like to smack her! "
" Oh, well, now, John, mebby it s all for the best.
She never would V done for him. I seen that from
" Don t I know that? It s the best thing could V
happened. But "
126 FOLKS BACK HOME
" I thought he looked turrable downhearted when
he come in, but, thinks I "
" Vine, I want you should go talk to him. I was
goin to, but it ain t no jury case, and I d git it all
hindside before. You better do it." He began to
walk the floor with his hands behind him. " Viney,"
he said, " it s the turnin -point in his life, if he only
can see it. He was a boy yesterday; he s a man to
day. He s ben a-dreamin ; he s awake now. He thinks
his heart is broke because she won t have him.
Well, now, that ain t it at all. No, sir. He s ben actin
the gilly, with all this calf love, and now he sees it,
and jist because he s got the real, high-strung na
ture in him, he s mortified to death. Ah! These here
men that never act the fool and never do anything
to be ashamed of, I got no use for em. I wouldn t
give a damn for em! "
" No, sir, I wouldn t. Viney, do you know, I was
afraid he wouldn t git into a scrape like this till it
was too late! It s like the measles goes hard with
you if you ketch it when you re growed up. W y,
Viney, I never see anybody with such a head for the
law business as that boy has. Wonderful! I knowed
he d do well enough when it come to office practice,
but I wanted him to be strong before a jury. Now
he kin be. He s suffered. I ackshilly worried about
him for fear he d git to be thirty-five or forty and
M REE HUTCHINS HUSBAND 127
then git struck after some fool girl like this one.
Oh, it s the best thing could V happened! Bless the
Lord! I m damn glad of it!"
" W y, John! I don t know what s come over you,
talkin like that!"
" You tell him, jist as easy as you kin, Vine, at
he don t want no pretty poppet for a wife. He wants
a woman." He drew her withered bosom to his and
kissed her wrinkled forehead. " He wants a woman
that s got good sense and a faithful, lovin heart;
that ll be to him what you ve ben to me all these
" Oh, I "
" What u d a ever become o me, only for you? "
he asked. His chin trembled. The lovelight of by
gone years relumed his eyes. " Lord! " he said chok
ingly, and stroked her thin locks.
" Do you mind how we looked up your verse,
Viney? You know you was born on the eleventh of
the month. She shall do him good and not evil all
the days of her life. Well, you have, you have. I d
kind o like Harley to git a wife like that." He stood
silent awhile, and then said, as steadily as he could:
" Don t he ever make you think o Johnnie, or what
he d a ben if we d a raised him? He does me."
" O pap ! " she cried, and trembled all over.
" Had you noticed it, too? "
" Well, mother," he said, when he had drawn a
128 FOLKS BACK HOME
long, quivering breath they had not used those
names to each other for many a year " well, moth
er, I expect you better go up and talk to him. Kind
o kind o go easy with him, I would. Jist the same
as if he was Johnnie."
He heard her climb the stairs, slow and clumsy
with age. She entered the room where the young
man sat at the table in the gloom, with his cheek dis
torted by the pressure of the hand he leaned against.
The judge heard the fluty notes of her old voice, and,
after a long talk, a plangent word or two in the deep,
vibrant notes of the youth. His answers came more
frequently as the soft voice went on. Then there was
the bell-like tone of the pitcher striking the wash
bowl, and the plash of water. The old judge smiled.
" I put the teakittle on for you, mother/ he said,
when they came downstairs. " I see the s preme
court has reversed the ruling of the lower court in
the Lohmeyer case. I thought twould be about that
way. You see" and he went on, as if the Lohmeyer
case was the only thing on earth,
But at bedtime he put out his hand to Harley and
said: " Your career s all before you now. By George!
I woosh twas me. S posin you d a got her, what
Vd you a ben? Nothin in the world but M ree
I hear she has been engaged to four or five since
she broke off with Ed Coffinberry the last time.
WELL, I don t know," said Almeda Carey,
as she bit off the end of the thread and
twisted it into a point for the eye of her
needle; " they s a good many things at we can t ac
count for, but I don t know. I ain t one o them that
says that when you re dead that s the last of you,
but I believe that if a body s gone to the Good
Place, look like to me they wouldn t want to come
back, and if they re gone to the Bad Place, why,
they couldn t git back. How was you thinkin o
havin it made? "
"Why, I don t know. How would you? I b lieve
I ll have the front of it shirred. I seen old lady
Parker with her new waist that way, and I thought
it looked right becomin . I priced that black-and-
white taffety down to Galbraith s a week ago yes
terday when I was gettin the wrapper I sent to
Molly. A dollar a yard it was. Twould take about
five yards, I s pose."
" No," responded Almeda, " not now no more. I
should think about four yards would do you. Four
130 FOLKS BACK HOME
and a quarter would be full as much as you d need.
Stripe or check? "
" Check," said Mrs. Coulter, pausing in her medi
tative rocking to look around. " Your fashion paper
come yet? I thought mebby if it had you could show
me about how you d make it; but never mind. You
know bout what I want something kind o stylish
and yet not too flirty. Pa he alwus wants me to dress
real gay, but I tell him anybody that s a grand
mother, or as good as one "
" How is Molly? "
" I got a letter from her yesterday, and she said
she was real well, but very anxious for me to get
down to Columbus so as to be there in good season.
And I thought if you could get the waist done in
time I d wear it down there. I feel awful worried for
the poor child. Night before last I had a ringin in
my ear, and you know they used to say that was a
sign they d be a death in the family before long,
and I just wondered if that was for Molly. Wouldn t
it be terrible if she was to be taken away right now?
I believe it would just about kill Jim. He thinks the
world an all o her."
"Aw, pshaw! Elnora, you ain t at yourself!" re
proved the dressmaker, hitching her chair closer to
the window. " The days is gittin lots shorter, ain t
" Yes," sighed Mrs. Coulter. " I alwus dread to
THE WARNING 131
have fall come. It s so gloomy. Dark days this time
o year gives me the blues the worst way. Look like
the sky kind o glowers at you, much as to say:
Whutch you doin hyer, anyways? Whut right a
you got to look up? I feel kind o like hunchin up
my shoulders to dodge the lick."
" Aw, well, now, I wouldn t give way that way,
Elnora," said Almeda soothingly. " I wouldn t borry
no troubles, i I was you. We re all in the hands of
the Good Man and He knows what s best fer each
an all of us. Molly s a strong, healthy girl and she ll
be all right. If I was you I wouldn t worry one speck.
Don t you think that s a pretty tol able high price
for that taffety? I seen some black-and-white check
in to Rosenthal s fer eighty-nine cents."
"Yes, I looked at that, but it s so kind o slazy;
and, anyways, if I go down to Columbus I want to
go lookin nice and feelin nice feelin as if it was
good goods I was wearin ."
" Well," said Almeda Carey, and bit off another
length of thread, " we ve all got to go when our
time comes, warnin or no warnin . I ve heard a
heap about folks appearin to their friends fur away
just as they was leavin the body, and to hear old
Mis Doctor Cooper talk you d think it was an
everyday occurrence for them that s gone before to
come back; but I take notice they hain t none of em
come back for me. I woosh t they had. I d just give
i 3 2 FOLKS BACK HOME
anything if he could V come back and told me what
ever became of him, whether he was killed on the
field of battle or died in one o them prisons, or what.
Seems like, for a while there, I jist couldn t hardly
stand it to be kept in suspense with nothin to do
but wait and wait and wait, not knowin anything
about him but jist what the Republican said Miss-
in . I used to beg and pray the Good Man to let
him come back to me, if it was only for a minute.
But he never did. Seems like it wasn t to be/
The withered old mantuamaker leaned back in
her chair and looked out into the gray November
landscape. Its shadows darkened fast, but she looked
back to youth, where it is always sunny, and beheld
again that morning in the spring of 62 with its
light winking and glittering on the bayonets of the
Ninety-seventh Ohio, swinging to the tune of " The
girl I left behind me," on its way down to the old
B. & I. depot, and one bright, smiling face with shin
ing brown hair curling out from under a jaunty cap.
She had an old daguerreotype of him in his soldier
clothes and a lock of that curling hair, three letters,
and a clipping containing the words, " George D.
Batchelder, missing " and that was all, all except
the memory of a great grief.
" And the night before old Squire Nicholls died,"
she wakened to hear Elnora saying, " you know Mis
Nicholls telegraphed to the two boys to come, and
THE WARNING 133
Jennie come up from Dresden, and the old squire he
was so provoked at them fer comin and spendin all
that money on railroad fares. He said he was all
right, only a little under the weather, and ackshilly
got up and out o bed and smoked a cigar with Hen
to show how well he was. And after they went to
bed and Mis Nicholls was settin up with him, long
about twelve o clock there come three raps
sounded like it was on the foot of the bed and she
says, Pap, did you hear that? And he was kind
o dozin , but he opened his eyes and says: Yes,
he says, I did, Lizzie. They ve come for me. Call
the children. And long about four o clock he died.
And Emerson s dog howled all night long right un
der their window. They say it was terrible."
The white eyeballs of Marilla Andrews, Miss
Carey s apprentice, shone in the gloom. In the
silence that followed the two women could hear the
girl fetch a long breath and let it go in a trembling
" Marilla, I woosh t you d light the light," said
Almeda, " and whilst you re up you might go out to
the coal house and bring in a bucket o coal. The fire
is gittin low. Take the kitchen lamp with you; I
After the girl had gone out Almeda said to Mrs.
Coulter: " She s the scariest thing I ever saw in my
born days. She s plumb afraid of the dark as any
134 FOLKS BACK HOME
little young one. Course I had to have somebody
with me, livin all alone this way, but, lawsadaisy!
come good and dark she s all on strings. Might as
well have nobody at all. You didn t want a high col
lar to that waist, did you, Elnora? "
" Land! How d I look with one on? Never did
have any neck to speak of, and now t I m gittin
My Lord! Mede, what s that?"
The outer door of the sitting room in which they
were opened slowly and swung inward. Mrs. Coulter
sank back in her chair with an " Oh! " Almeda got
up and shut the door.
" Plague the thing!" she said. " Jist here lately
it s taken to actin up. Least little jar it flies open.
Every time I think I ll shorely have that ketch fixed
and I keep forgittin it. Shirring you said you wanted
across the front, didn t you? Why, what s the mat
ter, Elnora? Ain t you feelin well?"
" I had a kind of distress right here," answered
Mrs. Coulter, putting her hand to her heart and
leaning back with her eyes closed.
" Don t you want I should get you something? I
got some real good whisky in the house. Mebbe if
you was to take a little sup you d feel better."
" No. No. No, thank you. No, I ll be over it in
a minute. It never lasts but a little while. There. It s
gone now. Well really I must be gettin along. It s
most supper time now and pa ll be home, and that
THE WARNING 135
hired girl o mine ain t worth her salt. You know
that china sugar bowl o mine that Aunt Emmeline
gimme? Oh, yes, you do too; the one with the gilt
flowers on it. Well, sir, she broke it all to flinders and
I wouldn t have had it happen for a pretty. Oh, yes,
I m lots better."
The two friends moved to the front door and lin
gered there chatting for a while, the poor little old
dressmaker and Silas Coulter s wife, she that was
Elnora Potter. From some trivial thing, Mrs. Coul
ter broke off to say: " Almeda, you an me has been
thicker n Cherry an Brindle ever since we was little
girls and played keep house together. Of course
I got Silas, but he s a man, and now, since Molly s
married and gone to live at Columbus, seems like
they ain t nobody so near to me as what you are.
Le s make it up that whichever one of us is called
first shall come and tell the other."
" Why, what made you think of that, Elnora? "
" I don t know. It just kind of come into my head.
Will you? I will, if you will."
" I will if I can," promised Almeda, and gave her
hand upon it.
" Well, then, it s a bargain," said Mrs. Coulter,
and, moved by a sudden impulse, she pulled the
mantuamaker to her and kissed her.
"Why, Elnora! Look out what you re doing!
Now, what if you should ha knocked that lamp out
i 3 6 FOLKS BACK HOME
o my hand! We might both of us Marilla ll
think I got a beau. When did you want the waist
" Lemme see. This is Thursday. If I should bring
you the goods to-morrow d you s pose you could get
it made up in a week? "
" In a week," mused Almeda. " There s that suit
of Mrs. Avery s I promised for Thursday, and that
dress o but that can wait. Yes, I guess so. A week
from to-day. All right. Can you see the steps? Well,
She held up the lamp so that Mrs. Coulter could
see to get down the ten steps to the street level, and
then shut and locked the parlor door. As she came
out into the sitting room the side door slowly swung
" Plague take that door! " she said peevishly, as
she slammed and bolted it. " Marilla, remind me of
it to have that ketch fixed. It gives me the all-overs
flyin open that way. I think sure it s somebody corn-
in* in. Well, what ll we have for supper? "
Next afternoon Mrs. Coulter brought the taffeta
and Almeda cut out the lining, basted it together,
and fitted it.
" Now I can have it ready to try on you Mon
day," she said. " When you goin to Columbus? "
" I wrote I d be down Friday morning, no pre
venting Providence. I sent her a piece of the goods.
THE WARNING 137
Now I don t want you should overwork on my ac
count, but if you could get it done so s I could wear
it Friday, why Looks right nice, don t it? "
" Well, you be in on Monday to try on. How you
" Why, I m well enough."
But when Monday came, Lide Strayer, and her
mother from DeGraff, called and stayed to tea, and
Mrs. Coulter could not leave. Almeda was going to