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   Chapter 16 JONAS EXPOUNDS THE SUBJECT.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 7082

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"I 'lowed I'd ketch you here, my venerable and reliable feller-citizen!" said Jonas as he entered the lower story of Andrew Anderson's castle and greeted August, sitting by Andrew's loom. It was the next evening after Julia's interview with Cynthy Ann. "When do you 'low to leave this terry-firmy and climb a ash-saplin'? To-night, hey? Goin' to the Queen City to take to steamboat life in hopes of havin' your sperrits raised by bein' blowed up? Take my advice and don't make haste in the downward road to destruction, nor the up-hill one nuther. A game a'n't never through tell it's played out, an' the American eagle's a chicken with steel spurs. That air sweet singer of Israel that is so hifalugeon he has to anchor hisself to his boots, knows all the tricks, and is intimately acquainted with the kyards, whether it's faro, poker, euchre, or French monte. But blamed ef Providence a'n't dealed you a better hand'n you think. Never desperandum, as the Congressmen say, fer while the lamp holds out to burn you may beat the blackleg all to flinders and sing and shout forever. Last night I went to bed thinkin' 'Umphreys had the stakes all in his pocket. This mornin' I found he was in a far way to be beat outen his boots ef you stood yer ground like a man and a gineological descendant of Plymouth Rock!"

Andrew stopped his loom, and, looking at August, said: "Our friend Jonas speaks somewhat periphrastically and euphuistically, and--he'll pardon me--but he speaks a little ambiguously."

"My love, I gin it up, as the fish-hawk said to the bald eagle one day. I kin rattle off odd sayings and big words picked up at Fourth-of-Julys and barbecues and big meetins, but when you begin to fire off your forty-pound bomb-shell book-words, I climb down as suddent as Davy Crockett's coon. Maybe I do speak unbiguously, as you say, but I was givin' you the biggest talkin' I had in the basket. And as fer my good news, a feller don't like to eat up all his country sugar to wunst, I 'low. But I says to our young and promisin' friend of German extraction, beloved, says I, hold onto that air limb a little longer and you're saved."

"But, Jonas," said August, spinning Andrew's winding-blade round and speaking slowly and bitterly, "a man don't like to be trifled with, if he is a Dutchman!"

"But sposin' a man hain't been trifled with, Dutchman or no Dutchman? Sposin' it's all a optical delusion of the yeers? There's a word fer you, Andrew, that a'n't nuther unbiguous nor peri-what-you-may-call-it."

"But," said August, "Betsey Malcolm--"

"Betsey Malcolm!" said Jonas. "Betsey Malcolm to thunder!" and then he whistled. "Set a dog to mind a basket of meat when his chops is a-waterin' fer it! Set a kingfisher to take keer of a fish-pond! Set a cat to raisin' your orphan chickens on the bottle! Set a spider to nuss a fly sick with dyspepsy from eatin' too much molasses! I'd ruther trust a hen-hawk with a flock of patridges than to trust Betsey Malcolm with your affairs. I ha'n't walked behind you from meetin' and seed her head a bobbin' like a bluebird's and her eyes a blazin an' all that, fer nothin'. Like as not, Betsey Malcolm's more nor half your trouble in that quarter."

"But she said--"

"It don't matter three quarters of a rotten rye-straw what she said, my inexper'enced friend. She don't keer what she says, so long as it's fur enough away from the truth to sarve her turn. An' she's told pay-tent double-back-action lies that worked both ways. What do you 'low Jule Anderson tho't when she hear

n tell of your courtin' Betsey, as Betsey told it, with all her nods an' little crowin'? Now looky here, Gus, I'm your friend, as the Irishman said to the bar that hugged him, an' I want to say about all that air that Betsey told you, spit on the slate an' wipe that all off. They's lie in her soap an.' right smart chance of saft-soap in her lie, I 'low."

These rough words of Jonas brought a strange intelligence into the mind of August. He saw so many things in a moment that had lain under his eyes unnoticed.

"There is much rough wisdom in your speech, Jonas," said Andrew.

"That's a fact. You and me used to go to school to old Benefield together when I was little and you was growed up. You allers beat everybody all holler in books and spellin'-matches, Andy. But I 'low I cut my eye-teeth 'bout as airly as some of you that's got more larnin' under your skelp. Now, I say to our young friend and feller-citizen, don't go 'way tell you've spoke a consolin' word to a girl as'll stick to you tell the hour and article of death, and then remains yours truly forever, amen."

JONAS.

"How do you know that, Jonas?" said August, smiling in spite of himself.

"How do I know it? Why, by the testimony of a uncorrupted and disinterested witness, gentlemen of the jury, if the honorable court pleases. What did that Jule Anderson do, poor thing, but spend some time making a most onseasonable visit to Cynthy Ann last night? And I 'low ef there's a ole gal in this sublunary spear as tells the truth in a bee-line and no nonsense, it's that there same, individooal, identical Cynthy Ann. She's most afeard to drink cold water or breathe fresh air fer fear she'll commit a unpard'nable sin. And that persecuted young pigeon that thought herself forsooken, jest skeeted into Cynthy Ann's budwoir afore daybreak this mornin' and told her all her sorrows, and how your letter and your goin' with that Betsey Malcolm"--here August winced--"had well nigh druv her to run off with the straps and watch-seals to get rid of you and Betsey and her precious and mighty affectionate ma."

"But she won't look at me in meeting, and she sent Humphreys to me with an insulting message."

"Which text divides itself into two parts, my brethren and feller-travelers to etarnity. To treat the last head first, beloved, I admonish you not to believe a blackleg, unless it's under sarcumstances when he's got onusual and airresistible temptations to tell the truth. I don't advise yer to spit on the slate and rub it out in this case. Break the slate and throw it away. To come to the second pertikeler, which is the first in the order of my text, my attentive congregation. She didn't look at you in meetin'. Now, I 'spose you don't know nothin' of her mother's heart-disease. Heart-disease is trumps with Abigail Anderson. She plays that every turn. Just think of a young gal who thinks that ef she looks at her beau when her mother's by, she might kill her invalooable parient of heart-disease. Fer my part, I don't take no stock in Mrs. Abby Anderson's dyin' of heart-disease, no ways. Might as well talk about a whale dyin' of footrot."

"Well, Jonas, what counsel do you give our young friend? Your sagacity is to be depended on."

"Why, I advise him to speak face to face with the angel of his life. Let him climb into my room to-night. Leave meetin' jest afore the benediction--he kin do without that wunst--and go double-quick acrost the fields, and git safe into my stoodio. Ferther pertikelers when the time arrives."

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