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The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 8591

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Jonas had been all his life, as he expressed it in his mixed rhetoric, "a wanderin' sand-hill crane, makin' many crooked paths, and, like the cards in French monte, a-turnin' up suddently in mighty on-expected places." He had been in every queer place from Halifax to Texas, and then had come back to his home again. Naturally cautious, and especially suspicious of the female sex, it is not strange that he had not married. Only when he "tied up to the same w'arf-boat alongside of Cynthy Ann, he thought he'd found somebody as was to be depended on in a fog or a harricane." This he told to Cynthy Ann as a reason why she should accept his offer of marriage.

"Jonas," said Cynthy Ann, "don't flatter. My heart is dreadful weak, and prone to the vanities of this world. It makes me abhor myself in dust and sackcloth fer you to say such things about poor unworthy me."

"Ef I think 'em, why shouldn't I say 'em? I don't know no law agin tellin' the truth ef you git into a place where you can't no ways help it. I don't call you angel, fer you a'n't; you ha'nt got no wings nor feathers. I don't say as how as you're pertikeler knock-down handsome. I don't pertend that you're a spring chicken. I don't lie nor flatter. I a'n't goin' it blind, like young men in love. But I do say, with my eyes open and in my right senses, and feelin' solemn, like a man a-makin' his last will and testament, that they a'n't no sech another woman to be found outside the leds of the Bible betwixt the Bay of Fundy and the Rio Grande. I've 'sought round this burdened airth,' as the hymn says, and they a'n't but jest one. Ef that one'll jest make me happy, I'll fold my weary pinions and settle down in a rustic log-cabin and raise corn and potaters till death do us part."

Cynthy trembled. Cynthy was a saint, a martyr to religious feeling, a medieval nun in her ascetic eschewing of the pleasures of life. But Cynthy Ann was also a woman. And a woman whose spring-time had paused. When love buds out thus late, when the opportunity for the woman's nature to blossom comes unexpectedly upon one at her age, the temptation is not easily resisted. Cynthy trembled, but did not quite yield up her Christian constancy.

"Jonas, I don't know whether I'd orto or not. I don't deny--I think I'd better ax brother Goshorn, you know, sence what would it profit ef I gained you or any joy in this world, and then come short by settin' you up fer a idol in my heart? I don't know whether a New Light is a onbeliever or not, and whether I'd be onequally yoked or not. I must ax them as knows better nor I do."

"Well, ef I'm a onbeliever, they's nobody as could teach me to believe quicker'n you could. I never did believe much in women folks till I believed in you."

"But that's the sin of it, Jonas. I'd believe in you, and you'd believe in me, and we'd be puttin' our trust in the creatur instid of the Creator, and the Creator is mighty jealous of our idols, and He would take us away fer idolatry."

"No, but I wouldn't worship you, though I'd rather worship you than anybody else ef I was goin' into the worshipin' business. But you see I a'n't, honey. I wouldn't sacrifice to you no lambs nor sheep, I wouldn't pray to you, nor I wouldn't kiss your shoes, like people does the Pope's. An' I know you wouldn't make no idol of me like them Greek gods that Andrew's got picters of. I a'n't handsome enough by a long shot fer a Jupiter or a 'Pollo. An' I tell you, Cynthy, 'tain't no sin to love. Love is the fullfilling of the law."

But Cynthy Ann persisted that she must consult Brother Goshorn, the antiquated class-leader at the cross-roads. Brother Goshorn was a good man, but Jonas had a great contempt for him. He was a strainer out of gnats, though I do not think he swallowed camels. He always stood at the door of the love-feast and kept out every woman with jewelry, every girl who had an "artificial" in her bonnet, every one who wore curls, every man whose hair was beyond what he considered the regulation length of Scripture, and every woman who wore a veil. In support of this last prohibition he quoted Isaiah iii, 23: "The glasses and the fine linen and the hoods and the veils."

To him Cynthy Ann presented the case with much trepidation. All her hopes for this world hung upon

it. But this consideration did not greatly affect Brother Goshorn. Hopes and joys were as nothing to him where the strictness of discipline was involved. The Discipline meant more to a mind of his cast than the Decalogue or the Beatitudes. He shook his head. He did not know. He must consult Brother Hall. Now, Brother Hall was the young preacher traveling his second year, very young and very callow. Ten years of the sharp attritions of a Methodist itinerant's life would take his unworldliness out of him and develop his practical sense as no other school in the world could develop it. But as yet Brother Hall had not rubbed off any of his sanctimoniousness, had not lost any of his belief that the universe should be governed on high general principles with no exceptions.

So when Brother Goshorn informed him that one of his members, Sister Cynthy Ann Dyke, wished to marry, and to marry a man that was a New Light, and had asked his opinion, and that he did not certainly know whether New Lights were believers or not, Brother Hall did not stop to inquire what Jonas might be personally. He looked and felt very solemn, and said that it was a pity for a Christian to marry a New Light. It was clearly a sin, for a New Light was an Arian. And an Arian was just as good as an infidel. An Arian robbed Christ of His supreme deity, and since he did not worship the Trinity in the orthodox sense he must worship a false god. He was an idolater therefore, and it was a sin to be yoked together with such an one.

Many men more learned than the callow but pious and sincere Brother Hall have left us in print just such deductions.

When this decision was communicated to the scrupulous Cynthy Ann, she folded her hopes as one lays away the garment of a dead friend; she west to her little room and prayed; she offered a sacrifice to God not less costly than Abraham's, and in a like sublime spirit. She watered the plant In the old cracked blue-and-white tea-pot, she noticed that it was just about to bloom, and then she dropped one tear upon it, and because it suggested Jonas in some way, she threw it away, resolved not to have any idols in her heart. And, doubtless, God received the sacrifice, mistaken and needless as it was, a token of the faithfulness of her heart to her duty as she understood it.


Cynthy Ann explained it all to Jonas in a severe and irrevocable way. Jonas looked at her a moment, stunned.

"Did Brother Goshorn venture to send me any of his wisdom, in the way of advice, layin' round loose, like counterfeit small change, cheap as dirt?"

"Well, yes," said Cynthy Ann, hesitating.

"I'll bet the heft of my fortin', to be paid on receipt of the amount, that I kin tell to a T what the good Christian wanted me to do."

"Don't be oncharitable, Jonas. Brother Goshorn is a mighty sincere man."

"So he is, but his bein' sincere don't do me no good. He wanted you to advise me to jine the Methodist class as a way of gittin' out of the difficulty. And you was too good a Christian to ask me to change fer any sech reason, knowin' I wouldn't be fit for you ef I did."

Cynthy Ann was silent. She would have liked to have Jonas join the church with her, but if he had done it now she herself would have doubted his sincerity.

"Now, looky here, Cynthy, ef you'll say you don't love me, and never can, I'll leave you to wunst, and fly away and mourn like a turtle-dove. But so long as it's nobody but Goshorn, I'm goin' to stay and litigate the question till the Millerite millennium comes. I appeal to C?esar or somebody else. Neither Brother Goshorn nor Brother Hall knows enough to settle this question. I'm agoin' to the persidin' elder. And you can't try a man and hang him and then send him to the penitentiary fer the rest of his born days without givin' him one chance to speak fer hisself agin the world and everybody else. I'm goin' to see the persidin' elder myself and plead my own cause, and ef he goes agin me, I'll carry it up to the bishop or the archbishop or the nex' highest man in the heap, till I git plum to the top, and ef they all go agin me, I'll begin over agin at the bottom with Brother Goshorn, and keep on till I find a man that's got common-sense enough to salt his religion with."

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