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   Chapter 23 SOMETHIN' LUDIKEROUS.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 11306

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


There was an egg-supper in the country store at Brayville. Mr. Mandluff, the tall and raw-boned Hoosier who kept the store, was not unwilling to have the boys get up an egg supper now and then in his store after he had closed the front-door at night. For you must know that an egg-supper is a peculiar Western institution. Sometimes it is a most enjoyable institution--when it has its place in a store where there is no Kentucky whisky to be had. But in Brayville, in the rather miscellaneous establishment of the not very handsome and not very graceful Mr. Mandluff, an egg-supper was not a great moral institution. It was otherwise, and profanely called by its votaries a camp-meeting; it would be hard to tell why, unless it was that some of the insiders grew very happy before it was over. For an egg-supper at Mandluff's store was to Brayville what an oyster-supper at Delmonico's is to New York. It was one tenth hard eggs and nine tenths that beverage which bears the name of an old royal house of France.

How were the eggs cooked? I knew somebody would ask that impertinent question. Well, they were not fried, they were not boiled, they were not poached, they were not scrambled, they were not omeletted, they were not roasted on the half-shell, they were not stuffed with garlic and served with cranberries, they were not boiled and served with anchovy sauce, they were not "en salmi." I think I had better stop there, lest I betray my knowledge of cookery. It is sufficient to say that they were not cooked in any of the above-named fashions, nor in any other way mentioned in Catharine Beecher's or Marion Harland's cookbooks. They were baked à la mode backwoods. It is hardly proper for me to give a recipe in this place, that belongs more properly to the "Household Departments" of the newspapers. But to satisfy curiosity, and to tell something about cooking, which Prof. Blot does not know, I may say that they were broken and dropped on a piece of brown paper laid on the top of the old box-stove. By the time the egg was cooked hard the paper was burned to ashes, but the egg came off clean and nice from the stove, and made as palatable and indigestible an article for a late supper as one could wish. It only wanted the addition of Mandluff's peculiar whisky to make it dissipation of the choicest kind. For the more a dissipation costs in life and health, the more fascinating it is.

There was an egg-supper, as I said, at Mandluff's store. There was to be a "camp-meeting" in honor of Norman Anderson's successful return to his liberty and his cronies. It gave Norman, the greatest pleasure to return to a society where it was rather to his credit than otherwise that he had gone on a big old time, got caught, and been sent adrift by the old hunk that had tried to make him study Latin.

The eggs were baked in the true "camp-meeting" style, the whisky was drunk, and--so was the company. Bill Day's rather red eyes grew redder, and his nose shone with delight as he shuffled the greasy pack of "kyerds." The maudlin smile crossed the habitually melancholy lines of his face in a way that split and splintered his visage into a curious contradiction of emotions.

"H--a--oo--p!" He shouted, throwing away the cards over the heads of his companions. "Ha--oop! boys, thish is big--hoo! hoo! ha--oop! I say is big. Let's do somethin'!"

Here there was a confused cry that "it was big, and that they had better do somethin' or 'nother."

"Let's blow up the ole school-house," said Bill Day, who was not friendly to education.

"I tell you what," said Bob Short, who was dealing the cards in another set--"I tell you what," and Bob winked his eyes vigorously, and looked more solemn and wise than he could have looked if it had not been for the hard eggs and the whisky--"I tell you what," said Bob a third time, and halted, for his mind's activity was a little choked by the fervor of his emotions--"I tell you what, boys--"

"Wal," piped Jim West in a cracked voice, "you've told us what four times, I 'low; now s'pose you tell us somethin' else."

"I tell you what, boys," said Bob Short, suddenly remembering his sentence, "don't let's do nothin' that'll git us into no trouble arterwards. Ef we blow up the school-house we'll be 'rested fer bigamy or--or--what d'ye call it?"

"For larson," said Bill Day, hardly able to restrain another whoop.

"No, 'taint larson," said Bob Short, looking wiser than a chief-justice, "it's arsony. Now I say, don't let's go to penitentiary for no--no larson--no arsony, I mean."

"Ha--oop!" said Bill. "Let's do somethin' ludikerous. Hurrah for arsony and larson! Dog-on the penitentiary! Ha--oop!"

SOMETHIN' LUDIKEROUS.

"Let's go fer the Dutchman," said Norman Anderson, just drunk enough to be good-naturedly murderous and to speak in dialect. "Gus is turned out to committin' larson by breakin' into people's houses an' has run off. Now let's tar and feather the ole one. Of course, he's a thief. Dutchmen always is, I 'low. Clark township don't want none of 'em, I'll be dog-oned if it do," and Norman got up and struck his fist on the counter.

"An' they won't nobody hurt you; you see, he's on'y a Dutchman," said Bob Short "Larson on a Dutchman don't hold."

"I say, let's hang him," said Bill Day. "Ha--oop! Let's hang him, or do somethin' else ludikerous!"

"I wouldn't mind," grinned Norman Anderson, delighted at the turn things had taken. "I'd just like to see him hung."

"So would I," said Bill Day, leaning over to Norman. "Ef a Dutchman wash to court my sishter, I'd--"

"He'd be a fool ef he did," piped Jim West. For Bill Day's sister

was a "maid not vendible," as Shakespeare has it.

"See yer," said Bill, trying in vain to draw his coat. "Looky yer, Jeems; ef you say anythin' agin Ann Marier, I'll commit the wust larson on you you ever seed."

"I didn't say nothin' agin Ann Marier," squeaked Jim. "I was talkin' agin the Dutch."

"Well, that'sh all right Ha--oop! Boys, let's do somethin', larson or arsony or--somethin'."

A bucket of tar and some feathers were bought, for which young Anderson was made to pay, and Bill Day insisted on buying fifteen feet of rope. "Bekase," as he said, "arter you git the feathers on the bird, you may--you may want to help him to go to roosht you know, on a hickory limb. Ha--oop! Come along, boys; I say let's do somethin' ludikerous, ef it's nothin' but a little larson."

And so they went galloping down the road, nine drunken fools. For it is one of the beauties of lynch law, that, however justifiable it may seem in some instances, it always opens the way to villainous outrages. Some of my readers will protest that a man was never lynched for the crime of being a Dutchman. Which only shows how little they know of the intense prejudice and lawless violence of the early West. Some day people will not believe that men have been killed in California for being Chinamen.

Of the nine who started, one, the drunkest, fell off and broke his arm; the rest rode up in front of the cabin of Gottlieb Wehle. I do not want to tell how they alarmed the mother at her late sewing and dragged Gottlieb out of his bed. I shudder now when I recall one such outrage to which I was an unwilling witness. Norman threw the rope round Gottlieb's neck and declared for hanging. Bill Day agreed. It would be so ludikerous, you know!

"Vot hash I tun? Hey? Vot vor you dries doo hanks me already, hey?" cried the honest German, who was willing enough to have the end of the world come, but who did not like the idea of ascending alone, and in this fashion.

Mrs. Wehle pushed her way into the mob and threw the rope off her husband's neck, and began to talk with vehemence in German. For a moment the drunken fellows hung back out of respect for a woman. Then Bill Day was suddenly impressed with the fact that the duty of persuading Mrs. Wehle to consent to her husband's execution devolved upon him.

"Take keer, boys; let me talk to the ole woman. I'll argy the case."

"You can't speak Dutch no more nor a hoss can," squeaked Jeems West.

"Blam'd ef I can't, though. Hyer, ole woman, firshta Dutch?"

"Ya."

"Now," said Bill, turning to the others in triumph, "what did I tell you? Well, you see, your boy August is a thief."

"He's not a teef!" said the old man.

"Shet up your jaw. I say he is. Now, your ole man's got to be hung."

"Vot vor?" broke in Gottlieb.

"Bekase it's all your own fault. You hadn't orter be a Dutchman."

Here the crowd fell into a wrangle. It was not so easy to hang a man when such a woman stood there pleading for him. Besides, Bob Short insisted that hanging was arsony in the first degree, and they better not do it. To this Bill Day assented. He said he 'sposed tar and feathers was only larson in the second degree. And then it would be rale ludikerous. And now confused cries of "Bring on the tar!" "Where's the feathers?" "Take off his clothes!" began to be raised. Norman stood out for hanging. Drink always intensified his meanness. But the tar couldn't be found. The man whom they had left lying by the roadside with a broken arm had carried the tar, and had been well coated with it himself in his fall.

"Ha-oop!" shouted Bill Day. "Let's do somethin'. Dog-on the arsony! Let's hang him as high as Dan'el."

And with that the rope was thrown over Gottlieb's, neck and he was hurried off to the nearest tree. The rope was then put over a limb, and a drunken half-dozen got ready to pull, while Norman Anderson adjusted the noose and valiant Bill Day undertook to keep off Mrs. Wehle.

"All ready! Pull up! Ha-oop!" shouted Bill Day, and the crowd pulled, but Mrs. Wehle had slipped off the noose again, and the volunteer executioners fell over one another in such a way as to excite the derisive laughter of Bill Day, who thought it perfectly ludikerous. But before the laugh had finished, the indignant Gottlieb had knocked Bill Day over and sent Norman after him. The blow sobered them a little, and suddenly destroyed Bill's ambition to commit "arsony," or do anything else ludikerous. But Norman was furious, and under his lead Wehle's arms were now bound with the rope and a consultation was held, during which little Wilhelmina pleaded for her father effectively, and more by her tears and cries and the wringing of her chubby hands than by any words. Bill Day said he be blamed of that little Dutch gal's takin' on so didn't kinder make him foul sorter scrimpshous you know. But the mob could not quit without doing something. So it was resolved to give Gottlieb a good ducking in the river and send him into Kentucky with a warning not to come back. They went down the ravine past Andrew's castle to the river. Mrs. Wehle followed, believing that her husband would be drowned, and little Wilhelmina ran and pulled the alarm and awakened the Backwoods Philosopher, who soon threw himself among them, but too late to dissuade them from their purpose, for Andrew's own skiff, the "Grisilde" by name, with three of the soberest of the party, had already set out to convey Wehle, after one hasty immersion, to the other shore, while the rest stood round hallooing like madmen to prevent any alarm that Wehle might raise attracting attention on the other side.

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