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   Chapter 21 THE HAWK IN A NEW PART.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 5548

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Humphreys was now in the last weeks of his singing-school. He had become a devout Millerite, and was paying attentions to the not unwilling Betsey Malcolm, though pretending at Anderson's to be absolutely heart-broken at the conduct of Julia in jilting him after she had given him every assurance of affection. And then to be jilted for a Dutchman, you know! In this last regard his feeling was not all affectation. In his soul, cupidity, vanity, and vindictiveness divided the narrow territory between them. He inwardly swore that he'd get satisfaction somehow. Debts which were due to his pride should be collected by his revenge.

Did you ever reflect on the uselessness of a landscape when one has no eyes to see it with, or, what is worse, no soul to look through one's eyes? Humphreys was going down to the castle to call on the Philosopher, and "Shady Hollow," as Andrew called it, had surely never been more glorious than on the morning which he chose for his walk. The black-haw bushes hung over the roadside, the maples lifted up their great trunk-pillars toward the sky, and the grape-vines, some of them four and even six inches in diameter, reached up to the high boughs, fifty or a hundred feet, without touching the trunk. They had been carried up by the growth of the tree, tree and vine having always lived in each other's embrace. Out through the opening in the hollow, Humphreys saw the green sea of six-feet-high Indian corn in the fertile bottoms, the two rows of sycamores on the sandy edges of the river, and the hazy hills on the Kentucky side. But not one touch of sentiment, not a perception of beauty, entered the soul of the singing-master as he daintily-chose his steps so as to avoid soiling his glossy boots, and as he knocked the leaves off the low-hanging beech boughs with his delicate cane. He had his purpose in visiting Andrew, and his mind was bent on his game.

Charon, the guardian of the castle, bayed his great hoarse bark at the Hawk, and with that keen insight into human nature for which dogs are so remarkable, he absolutely forbade the dandy's entrance, until Andrew appeared at the door and called the dog away.

"I am delighted at having the opportunity of meeting a great light in literature like yourself, Mr. Anderson. Here you sit weaving, earning your bread with a manly simplicity that is truly admirable. You are like Cincinnatus at his plow. I also am a literary man."

He really was a college graduate, though doubtless he was as much of a humbug in recitations and examinations as he had always been since. Andrew's only reply to his assertion that he was a literary man was a rather severe and prolonged scrutiny of his oily locks, his dainty mustache, his breast-pin, his watch-seals, and finally his stra

ps and his boots. For Andrew firmly believed that neglected hair, Byron collars, and unblackened boots were the first signs of literary taste.

"You think I dress too well," said Humphreys with his ghastly smirk. "You think that I care too much for appearances. I do. It is a weakness of mine which comes from a residence abroad."

These words touched the Philosopher a little. To have been abroad was the next best thing to having been a foreigner ab origine. But still he felt a little suspicious. He was superior to the popular prejudice against the mustache, but he could not endure hair-oil. "Nature," he maintained, "made the whole beard to be worn, and Nature provides an oil for the hair. Let Nature have her way." He was suspicious of Humphreys, not because he wore a mustache, but because he shaved the rest of his face and greased his hair. He had, besides, a little intuitive perception of the fact that a smile which breaks against the rock-bound coast of cold cheek-bones and immovable eyes is a mask. And so he determined to test the literary man. I have heard that Masonic lodges have been deceived by impostors. I have never heard that a literary man was made to believe in the genuineness of the attainments of a charlatan.

And yet Humphreys held his own well. He could talk glibly and superficially about books; he simulated considerable enthusiasm for the books which Andrew admired. His mistake and his consequent overthrow came, as always in such cases, from a desire to overdo. It was after half an hour of talking without tripping that Andrew suddenly asked: "Do you like the ever-to-be-admired Xenophanes?"

It certainly is no disgrace to any literary man not to know anything of so remote a philosopher as Xenophanes. The first characteristic of a genuine literary man is the frankness with which he confesses his ignorance. But Humphreys did not really know but that Xenophanes was part of the daily reading of a man of letters.

"Oh! yes," said he. "I have his works in turkey morocco."

"What do you think of his opinion that God is a sphere?" asked the Philosopher, smiling.

"Oh! yes--ahem; let me see--which God is it that he speaks of, Jupiter or--well, you know he was a Greek."

"But he only believed in one God," said Andrew sternly.

"Oh! ah! I forgot that he was a Christian."

So from blunder to blunder Andrew pushed him, Humphreys stumbling more and more in his blind attempts to right himself, and leaving, at last, with much internal confusion but with an unruffled smile. He dared not broach his errand by asking the address of August. For Andrew did not conceal his disgust, having resumed work at his loom, suffering the bowing impostor to find his own way out without so much as a courteous adieu.

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