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But that wasn't all. The father came home, right in the midst of it; the child was just buried, and he was beside himself. And -- he went on the track of his wife, and he found her, and he shot her dead; it was in all the papers at the time; then he disappeared. Nothing had been seen of him since. Mrs. Dennison said that she thought he had either made way with himself or got out of the country, nobody knew, but they did know there was something wrong with the house.

The extract is from "Lost Ghost" by Mary E.W. Freeman. (1893)

Is this a misspelling of "made away with", which means "steal or kill" in the dictionary?

In the story, the husband shot the wife, who had left their daughter to starve to death, so 'to take one's life' would be more natural to the flow of story, but there is no such meaning in 'make way with' in any dictionary.

Please advise me how to understand this usage of the expression.

  • I think he "succeeded" and "moved on". idioms.thefreedictionary.com/make+way – NVZ Aug 13 '16 at 3:45
  • BTW, the story's only a 10-minute read, and well worth it if you're into late 19th century U.S. vernacular. – Chappo Aug 13 '16 at 14:47
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To make way with oneself is an archaic phrasing meaning "to commit suicide". From The Folk and Their Word-lore: An Essay on Popular Etymologies (1904) by A S Palmer:

Somewhat similarly our American cousins sometimes say that a thief "makes way" with his booty, and that a suicide has "made way" with himself....

Today we'd say that a thief gets away with someone else's property and that a suicide does away with himself.

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