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   Chapter 1 IN LOVE WITH A DUTCHMAN.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 11860

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"I don't believe that you'd care a cent if she did marry a Dutchman! She might as well as to marry some white folks I know."

Samuel Anderson made no reply. It would be of no use to reply. Shrews are tamed only by silence. Anderson had long since learned that the little shred of influence which remained to him in his own house would disappear whenever his teeth were no longer able to shut his tongue securely in. So now, when his wife poured out this hot lava of argumentum ad hominem, he closed the teeth down in a dead-lock way over the tongue, and compressed the lips tightly over the teeth, and shut his finger-nails into his work-hardened palms. And then, distrusting all these precautions, fearing lest he should be unable to hold on to his temper even with this grip, the little man strode out of the house with his wife's shrill voice in his ears.

Mrs. Anderson had good reason to fear that her daughter was in love with a "Dutchman," as she phrased it in her contempt. The few Germans who had penetrated to the West at that time were looked upon with hardly more favor than the Californians feel for the almond-eyed Chinaman. They were foreigners, who would talk gibberish instead of the plain English which everybody could understand, and they were not yet civilized enough to like the yellow saleratus-biscuit and the "salt-rising" bread of which their neighbors were so fond. Reason enough to hate them!

Only half an hour before this outburst of Mrs. Anderson's, she had set a trap for her daughter Julia, and had fairly caught her.

"Jule! Jule! O Jul-y-e-ee!" she had called.

And Julia, who was down in the garden hoeing a bed in which she meant to plant some "Johnny-Jump-ups," came quickly toward the house, though she know it would be of no use to come quickly. Let her come quickly, or let her come slowly, the rebuke was sure to greet her all the name.

"Why don't you come when you're called, I'd like to know! You're never in reach when you're wanted, and you're good for nothing when you are here!"

Julia Anderson's earliest lesson from her mother's lips had been that she was good for nothing. And every day and almost every hour since had brought her repeated assurances that she was good for nothing. If she had not been good for a great deal, she would long since have been good for nothing as the result of such teaching. But though this was not the first, nor the thousandth, nor the ten thousandth time that she had been told that she was good for nothing, the accustomed insult seemed to sting her now more than ever. Was it that, being almost eighteen, she was beginning to feel the woman blossoming in her nature? Or, was it that the tender words of August Wehle had made her sure that she was good for something, that now her heart felt her mother's insult to be a stale, selfish, ill-natured lie?

"Take this cup of tea over to Mrs. Malcolm's, and tell her that it a'n't quite as good as what I borried of her last week. And tell her that they'll be a new-fangled preacher at the school-house a Sunday, a Millerite or somethin', a preachin' about the end of the world."

Julia did not say "Yes, ma'am," in her usually meek style. She smarted a little yet from the harsh words, and so went away in silence.

Why did she walk fast? Had she noticed that August Wehle, who was "breaking up" her father's north field, was just plowing down the west side of his land? If she hastened, she might reach the cross-fence as he came round to it, and while he was yet hidden from the sight of the house by the turn of the hill. And would not a few words from August Wehle be pleasant to her ears after her mother's sharp depreciation? It is at least safe to conjecture that some such feeling made her hurry through the long, waving timothy of the meadow, and made her cross the log that spanned the brook without ever so much as stopping to look at the minnows glancing about in the water flecked with the sunlight that struggled through the boughs of the water-willows. For, in her thorough loneliness, Julia Anderson had come to love the birds, the squirrels, and the fishes as companions, and in all her life she had never before crossed the meadow brook without stooping to look at the minnows.

All this haste Mrs. Anderson noticed. Having often scolded

TAKING AN OBSERVATION.

Julia for "talking to the fishes like a fool," she noticed the omission. And now she only waited until Julia was over the hill to take the path round the fence under shelter of the blackberry thicket until she came to the clump of alders, from the midst of which she could plainly see if any conversation should take place between her Julia and the comely young Dutchman.

In fact, Julia need not have hurried so much. For August Wehle had kept one eye on his horses and the other on the house all that day. It was the quick look of intelligence between the two at dinner that had aroused the mother's suspicions. And Wehle had noticed the work on the garden-bed, the call to the house, and the starting of Julia on the path toward Mrs. Malcolm's. His face had grown hot, and his hand had trembled. For once he had failed to see the stone in his way, until the plow was thrown clean from the furrow. And when he came to the shade of the butternut-tree by which she must pass, it had seemed to him imperative that the horses should rest. Besides, the hames-string wanted tightening on the bay, and old Dick's throat-latch must need a little fixing. He was not sure that the clevis-pin had not been loosened by the collision with the stone just now. And so, upon one pretext and another, he managed to delay starting his plow until Julia came by, and then, though his heart had counted all her steps from the door-stone to the tree, then he looked up surprised. Nothing could be so astonishing to him as to see her there! For love is needlessly crafty, it has always an instinct of concealme

nt, of indirection about it. The boy, and especially the girl, who will tell the truth frankly in regard to a love affair is a miracle of veracity. But there are such, and they are to be reverenced--with the reverence paid to martyrs.

On her part, Julia Anderson had walked on as though she meant to pass the young plowman by, until he spoke, and then she started, and blushed, and stopped, and nervously broke off the top of a last year's iron-weed and began to break it into bits while he talked, looking down most of the time, but lifting her eyes to his now and then. And to the sun-browned but delicate-faced young German it seemed, a vision of Paradise--every glimpse of that fresh girl's face in the deep shade of the sun-bonnet. For girls' faces can never look so sweet in this generation as they did to the boys who caught sight of them, hidden away, precious things, in the obscurity of a tunnel of pasteboard and calico!

This was not their first love-talk. Were they engaged? Yes, and no. By all the speech their eyes were capable of in school, and of late by words, they were engaged in loving one another, and in telling one another of it. But they were young, and separated by circumstances, and they had hardly begun to think of marriage yet. It was enough for the present to love and be loved. The most delightful stage of a love affair is that in which the present is sufficient and there is no past or future. And so August hung his elbow around the top of the bay horse's hames, and talked to Julia.

It is the highest praise of the German heart that it loves flowers and little children; and like a German and like a lover that he was, August began to speak of the anemones and the violets that were already blooming in the corners of the fence. Girls in love are not apt to say any thing very fresh. And Julia only said she thought the flowers seemed happy in the sunlight In answer to this speech, which seemed to the lover a bit of inspiration, he quoted from Schiller the lines:

"Yet weep, soft children of the Spring;

The feelings Love alone can bring

Have been denied to you!"

With the quick and crafty modesty of her sex, Julia evaded this very pleasant shaft by saying: "How much you know, August! How do you learn it?"

A TALK WITH A PLOWMAN.

And August was pleased, partly because of the compliment, but chiefly because in saying it Julia had brought the sun-bonnet in such a range that he could see the bright eyes and blushing face at the bottom of this camera-oscura. He did not hasten to reply. While the vision lasted he enjoyed the vision. Not until the sun-bonnet dropped did he take up the answer to her question.

"I don't know much, but what I do know I have learned out of your Uncle Andrew's books."

"Do you know my Uncle Andrew? What a strange man he is! He never comes here, and we never go there, and my mother never speaks to him, and my father doesn't often have anything to say to him. And so you have been at his house. They say he has all up-stairs full of books, and ever so many cats and dogs and birds and squirrels about. But I thought he never let anybody go up-stairs."

"He lets me," said August, when she had ended her speech and dropped her sun-bonnet again out of the range of his eyes, which, in truth, were too steadfast in their gaze. "I spend many evenings up-stairs." August had just a trace of German in his idiom.

"What makes Uncle Andrew so curious, I wonder?"

"I don't exactly know. Some say he was treated not just right by a woman when he was a young man. I don't know. He seems happy. I don't wonder a man should be curious though when a woman that he loves treats him not just right. Any way, if he loves her with all his heart, as I love Jule Anderson!"

These last words came with an effort. And Julia just then remembered her errand, and said, "I must hurry," and, with a country girl's agility, she climbed over the fence before August could help her, and gave him another look through her bonnet-telescope from the other Hide, and then hastened on to return the tea, und to tell Mrs. Malcolm that there was to be a Millerite preacher at the school-house on Sunday night. And August found that his horses were quite cool, while he was quite hot. He cleaned his mold board, and swung his plow round, and then, with a "Whoa! haw!" and a pull upon the single line which Western plowmen use to guide their horses, he drew the team into their place, and set himself to watching the turning of the rich, fragrant black earth. And even as he set his plowshare, so he set his purpose to overcome all obstacles, and to marry Julia Anderson. With the same steady, irresistible, onward course would he overcome all that lay between him and the soul that shone out of the face that dwelt in the bottom of the sun-bonnet.

From her covert in the elder-bushes Mrs. Anderson had seen the parley, and her cheeks had also grown hot, but from a very different emotion. She had not heard the words. She had seen the loitering girl and the loitering plowboy, and she went back to the house vowing that she'd "teach Jule Anderson how to spend her time talking to a Dutchman." And yet the more she thought of it, the more she was satisfied that it wasn't best to "make a fuss" just yet. She might hasten what she wanted to prevent. For though Julia was obedient and mild in word, she was none the less a little stubborn, and in a matter of this sort might take the bit in her teeth.

And so Mrs. Anderson had recourse, as usual, to her husband. She knew she could browbeat him. She demanded that August Wehle should be paid off and discharged. And when Anderson had hesitated, because he feared he could not get another so good a hand, and for other reasons, she burst out into the declaration:

"I don't believe that you'd care a cent if she did marry a Dutchman! She might as well as to marry some white folks I know."

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