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   Chapter 18 THE ENCOUNTER.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 5636

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Just before August came out of the door of Julia's room he had heard Humphreys enter his room on the opposite side of the hall. Humphreys had lighted his cigar and was on his way to the porch to smoke off his discomfiture when he met August coming out of Julia's door on the opposite side of the hall. The candle in Humphreys's room threw its light full on August's face, there was no escape from recognition, and Wehle was too proud to retreat. He shut the door of Julia's room and stood with back against the wall staring at Humphreys, who did not forget to smile in his most aggravating way.

"Thief! thief!" called Humphreys.

In a moment Mrs. Anderson and Julia ran up the stairs, followed by Mr. Anderson, who hearing the outcry had left the matter of the Apocalypse unsettled, and by Jonas and Cynthy Ann, who had just arrived.

"I knew it," cried Mrs. Anderson, turning on the mortified Julia, "I never knew a Dutchman nor a foreigner of any sort that wouldn't steal. Now you see what you get by taking a fancy to a Dutchman. And now you see"--to her husband--"what you get by taking a Dutchman into your house. I always wanted you to hire white men and not Dutchmen nor thieves!"

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Anderson," said August, with very white lips, "I am not a thief."

"Not a thief, eh? What was he doing, Mr. Humphreys, when you first detected him?"

"Coming out of Miss Anderson's room," said Humphreys, smiling politely.

"Do you invite gentlemen to your room?" said the frantic woman to Julia, meaning by one blow to revenge herself and crush the stubbornness of her daughter forever. But Julia was too anxious about August to notice the shameless insult.

"Mrs. Anderson, this visit is without any invitation from Julia. I did wrong to enter your house in this way, but I only am responsible, and I meant to enter Jonas's room. I did not know that Julia occupied this room. I am to blame, she is not."

"And what did you break in for if you didn't mean to steal? It is all off between you and Jule, for I saw your letter. I shall have you arrested to-morrow for burglary. And I think you ought to be searched. Mr. Humphreys, won't you put him out?"

Humphreys stopped forward toward August, but he noticed that the latter had a hard look in his eyes, and had two stout German fists shut very tight. He turned back.

"These thieves are nearly always armed. I think I had best get a pistol out of my trunk."

"I have no arms, and you know it, coward," said August. "I will not be put out by anybody, but I will go out whenever the master of this house asks me to go out, and the rest of you open a free path."

"GOOD-BY!"

"Jonas, put him out!" screamed Mrs. Anderson.

"Couldn't do it," said Jonas, "couldn't do it ef I tried. They's too much bone and sinnoo in them arms

of his'n, and moreover he's a gentleman. I axed him to come and see me sometime, and he come. He come ruther late it's true, but I s'pose he thought that sence we got sech a dee-splay of watch-seals and straps we had all got so stuck up, we wouldn't receive calls afore fashionable hours. Any way, I 'low he didn't mean no harm, and he's my visitor, seein' he meant to come into my winder, knowin' the door was closed agin him. And he won't let no man put him out, 'thout he's a man with more'n half a dozen watch-seals onto him, to give him weight and influence."

"Samuel, will you see me insulted in this way? Will you put this burglar out of the house?"

The "head of the house," thus appealed to, tried to look important; he tried to swell up his size and his courage. But he did not dare touch August.

"Mr. Anderson, I beg your pardon. I had no right to come In as I did. I had no right so to enter a gentleman's house. If I had not known that this cowardly fop--I don't know what else he may be--was injuring me by his lies I should not have come in. If it is a crime to love a young lady, then I have committed a crime. You have only to exercise your authority as master of this house and ask me to go."

"I do ask you to go, Mr. Wehle."

It was the first time that Samuel Anderson had ever called him Mr. Wehle. It was an involuntary tribute to the dignity of the young man, as he stood at bay. "Mr. Wehle, indeed!" said Mrs. Anderson.

August had hoped Julia would say a word in his behalf. But she was too much, cowed by her mother's fierce passion. So like a criminal going to prison, like a man going to his own funeral, August Wehle went down the hall toward the stairs, which were at the back of it. Humphreys instinctively retreated into his room. Mrs. Anderson glared on the young man as he went by, but he did not turn his head even when he passed Julia. His heart and hope were all gone; in his mortification and defeat there seemed to him nothing left but his unbroken pride to sustain him. He had descended two or three steps, when Julia suddenly glided forward and said with a tremulous voice: "You aren't going without telling me good-by, August?"

"Jule Anderson! what do you mean?" cried her mother. But the hall was narrow by the stairway, and Jonas, by standing close to Cynthy Ann, in an unconscious sort of a way managed to keep Mrs. Anderson back; else she would have laid violent hands on her daughter.

When August lifted his eyes and saw her face full of tenderness and her hand reached over the balusters to him, he seemed to have been suddenly lifted from perdition to bliss. The tears ran unrestrained upon his cheeks, he reached up and took her hand.

"Good-by, Jule! God bless you!" he said huskily, and went out into the night, happy in spite of all.

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