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The Case Of Mr. Woolen Post by :torts Category :Essays Author :Robert Cortes Holliday Date :November 2011 Read :2366

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The Case Of Mr. Woolen

They stopped at a bright little house with a neat little grass plot before it, fronting on the railroad. A border of very white, white-washed stones led up each side of the little path to the little porch before the door. On the porch, in the shade of the neat, screening vines, sat an old fellow, a stranger to them. "Is Mrs. Woolen at home?" one of the two inquired politely, as he thought. But this manner of putting the matter, it appeared, was not happy, for it was taken by the old fellow as implying that Mrs. Woolen was thought to be the one there superior in authority. He eyed the couple before him a moment as if in doubt whether to pay any attention to them; then, tapping himself on the chest, "I am Mrs. Woolen," he said sternly. As this was unmistakenly a manner of saying, "You may state your business here if you have any," one come for the washing humbly put the case in words as well chosen as possible. The old fellow was mollified; he had merely desired recognition, that was all. Mrs. Woolen was not at home; "the woman," he said, had gone "to Quarterly Meetin' over at the Quaker Church." But it was "all right," he said, which was understood to mean that the washing was ready here.

"You'll find that washing first-class," said Mr. Woolen. "There's nothing crooked about her; she's a good, honest woman."

Asked concerning when Mrs. Woolen would be likely to return, Mr. Woolen replied in a very business-like manner, "Six o'clock, six o'clock sharp this evening."

"Not till six o'clock?" He was asked when she had departed.

"Eight o'clock, eight o'clock this morning," he said. He then furnished the information that Quarterly Meeting lasted several days, and that Mrs. Woolen was on deck, to put it so, throughout.

From this point Mr. Woolen drifted into personal reminiscence of the surrender at Appomattox, in proof of his having been present at which, without his assertion having been questioned, he rather defiantly offered to exhibit "the papers," as he called them, which he said were "right there framed in the parlor." Though Mr. Woolen had been on the conquering side at the historic surrender, he rather suggested the idea of his having surrendered, in a more personal and figurative sense, at about that time also; that is to say, he did not impress one as having, for an able-bodied man, put up a very good fight since.

He was recalled to the matter of the washing, and, rising, led the way into the house to procure it. But directly the party had entered, Mr. Woolen fell back, obviously in amazement, upon the toes of those following him. He cried that it was "gone!"

"It was right there on that chair," he said, "in the corner. There's where she left it this morning. There's where she left it. Done up it was in newspaper. She said to me, 'There it is; now don't you let that go out of the house until you get your money for it.' That's what she said."

He was prevailed on to make a search through the house, though he contended obstinately that it was right there in the corner, and no other place, that that which they were seeking had been "left." He almost offered the presence there of the chair as evidence. A search of the house, however, was not exhausting nor impracticable, as there were but two rooms to it, these very snug, no closets, and an economy of furniture behind which the bundle might be.

Mr. Woolen's perturbation was too genuine for suspicion of his having made away with the package. But this very honesty of emotion, in conjunction with the circumstance of the absence of the washing, and divers indications in breath and manner, noticeable from the first, aided in making out a case against him. A jury would reasonably have inferred that Mr. Woolen had a frailty, known and provided against by his wife, that, specifically, he had a weakness which, though not uncommonly associated with the most amiable characters, is not compatible with being left to receive money for washing.

Mr. Woolen was decidedly provoked at the situation. "I can do a man's work," he said, stumbling restlessly about the room, "but not a woman's. I can lay brick, lay brick; that's my work, that's what I do, but I can't keep the house in order." It was not to be expected of him. Coming, in his movements, plump upon the door of the kitchen, he disappeared through it, and could be heard going about out of view, ostensibly still at the search, testily kicking the furniture and mumbling concerning "her being away with a lot of her cronies."


(The end)
Robert Cortes Holliday's essay: Case Of Mr. Woolen

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