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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

You hain't never heared o' the Dunkards


She

paused half-way down, and turning, called up: "Coonrod! Coonrod! You bring my shawl down with you."

Her daughter Mela called out to her, "Now, mother, Christine 'll give it to you for not sending Mike."

"Well, I don't know where he is, Mely, child," the mother answered back. "He ain't never around when he's wanted, and when he ain't, it seems like a body couldn't git shet of him, nohow."

"Well, you ought to ring for him!" cried Miss Mela, enjoying the joke.

Her mother came in with a slow step; her head shook slightly as she looked about the room, perhaps from nervousness, perhaps from a touch of palsy. In either case the fact had a pathos which Mrs. March confessed in the affection with which she took her hard, dry, large, old hand when she was introduced to her, and in the sincerity which she put into the hope that she was well.

"I'm just middlin'," Mrs. Dryfoos replied. "I ain't never so well, nowadays. I tell fawther I don't believe it agrees with me very well here, but he says I'll git used to it. He's away now, out at Moffitt," she said to March, and wavered on foot a moment before she sank into a chair. She was a tall woman, who had been a beautiful girl, and her gray hair had a memory of blondeness in it like Lindau's, March noticed. She wore a simple silk gown, of a Quakerly gray, and she held a handkerchief

folded square, as it had come from the laundress. Something like the Sabbath quiet of a little wooden meeting-house in thick Western woods expressed itself to him from her presence.

"Laws, mother!" said Miss Mela; "what you got that old thing on for? If I'd 'a' known you'd 'a' come down in that!"

"Coonrod said it was all right, Mely," said her mother.

Miss Mela explained to the Marches: "Mother was raised among the Dunkards, and she thinks it's wicked to wear anything but a gray silk even for dress-up."

"You hain't never heared o' the Dunkards, I reckon," the old woman said to Mrs. March. "Some folks calls 'em the Beardy Men, because they don't never shave; and they wash feet like they do in the Testament. My uncle was one. He raised me."

"I guess pretty much everybody's a Beardy Man nowadays, if he ain't a Dunkard!"

Miss Mela looked round for applause of her sally, but March was saying to his wife: "It's a Pennsylvania German sect, I believe--something like the Quakers. I used to see them when I was a boy."

"Aren't they something like the Mennists?" asked Mrs. Mandel.

"They're good people," said the old woman, "and the world 'd be a heap better off if there was more like 'em."

Her son came in and laid a soft shawl over her shoulders before he shook hands with the visitors. "I am glad you found your way here," he said to them.

Christine, who had been bending forward over her fan, now lifted herself up with a sigh and leaned back in her chair.


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