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The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 7549

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

How Julia spent two hours of blessed sadness at the castle; how August slept peacefully for five minutes at a time with his hand in hers, and then awoke and looked at her, and then slumbered again; how she moistened his parched lips for him, and gave him wine; how at last she had to bid him a painful farewell; how the mother gave her a benediction in German and a kiss; how Wilhelmina clung to her with tears; how Jonas called her a turtle-dove angel; how Brother Hall, the preacher who had been sent for at the mother's request, to converse with the dying man, spoke a few consoling words to her; how Gottlieb confided to Jonas his intention never to "sprach nodin 'pout Yangee kirls no more;" and how at last Uncle Andrew walked home with her, I have not time to tell. When the Philosopher bade her adieu, he called her names which she did not understand. But she turned back to him, and after a minute's hesitation, spoke huskily. "Uncle Andrew if he--if he should get worse--I want--"

"I know, my daughter; you want him to die your husband?"

"Yes, if he wishes it. Send for me day or night, and I'll come in spite of everybody."

"God bless you, my daughter!" said Andrew. And he watched until she got safely into the house without discovery, and then he went back satisfied and proud.

Of course August died, and Julia devoted herself to philanthropic labors. It is the fashion now for novels to end thus sadly, and you would not have me be out of the fashion.

But August did not die. Joy is a better stimulant than wine. Love is the best tonic in the pharmacopeia. And from the hour in which August Wehle looked into the eyes of Julia, the tide of life set back again. Not perceptibly at first. For two days he was neither better nor worse. But this was a gain. Then slowly he came back to life. But at Andrew's instance he kept indoors while Humphreys staid.

Humphreys, on his part, like Ananias, pretended to have disposed of all his property, paid his debts, reserved enough to live on until the approaching day of doom, and given the rest to the poor of the household of faith, and there were several others who were sincere enough to do what he only pretended.

Among the leading Adventists was "Dr." Ketchup, who still dealt out corn-sweats and ginseng-tea, but who refused to sell his property. He excused himself by quoting the injunction, "Occupy till I come." But others sold their estates for trifles, and gave themselves up to proclaiming the millennium.

Mrs. Abigail Anderson was a woman who did nothing by halves. She was vixenish, she was selfish, she was dishonest and grasping; but she was religious. If any man think this paradox impossible, he has observed character superficially. There are criminals in State's-prison who have been very devout all their lives. Religious questions took hold of Mrs. Anderson's whole nature. She was superstitious, narrow, and intense. She was as sure that the day of judgment would be proclaimed on the eleventh of August, 1843, as she was of her life. No consideration in opposition to any belief of hers weighed a feather with her. Her will mastered her judgment and conscience.

And so she determined that Samuel must sell his property for a trifle. How far she was influenced in this by a sincere desire to square all outstanding debts before the final settlement, how far by a longing to be considered the foremost and most pious of all, and how far by business shrewdness based on that feeling which still lurks in the most protestant people, that such sacrifices do improve their state in a future world, I can not tell. Doubtless fanaticism, hypocrisy, and a self-interest that looked sordidly even at heaven, mingled in bringing about the decision. At any rate, the property was t

o be sold for a few hundred dollars.

Getting wind of this decision, Andrew promptly appeared at his brother's house and offered to buy it. But Mrs. Abigail couldn't think of it. Andrew had always been her enemy, and though she forgave him, she would not on any account sell him an inch of the land. It would not be right. He had claimed that part of it belonged to him, and to let him have it would be to admit his claim.

"Andrew," she said, "you do not believe in the millennium, and people say that you are a skeptic. You want to cheat us out of what you think a valuable piece of property. And you'll find yourself at the last judgment with the weight of this sin on your heart. You will, indeed!"

"How clearly you reason about other people's duty!" said the Philosopher. "If you had seen your own duty half so clearly, some of us would have been better off, and your account would have been straighter."

Here Mrs. Anderson grew very angry, and vented her spleen in a solemn exhortation to Andrew to get ready for the coming of the Master, not three weeks off at the farthest, and she warned him that the archangel might blow his trumpet at any moment. Then where would he be? she asked in exultation. Human meanness is never so pitiful as when it tries to seize on God's judgments as weapons with which to gratify its own spites. I trust this remark will not be considered as applying only to Mrs. Anderson.

But Mrs. Anderson fired off all the heavenly small-shot she could find in the teeth and eyes of Andrew, and then, to prevent a rejoinder, she told him it was time for her to go to secret prayer, and she only stopped upon the threshold to send back one Parthian arrow in the shape of a warning to "watch and be ready."

I wonder if a certain class of religious people have ever thought how much their exclusiveness and Pharisaism have to do with the unhappy fruitlessness of all their appeals! Had Mrs. Anderson been as blameless as an angel, such exhortations would have driven a weaker than Andrew to hate the name of religion.

But I must not moralize, for Mr. Humphreys has already divulged his plan of disposing of the property. He has a friend, one Thomas A. Parkins, who has money, and who will buy the farm at two hundred dollars. He could procure the money in advance any day by going to the village of Bethany, the county-seat, and drawing on Mr. Parkins, and cashing the draft. It was a matter of indifference to him, he said, only that he would like to oblige so good a friend.

This arrangement, by which the Anderson farm was to be sold for a song to some distant stranger, pleased Mrs. Abigail. She could not bear that one of her unbelieving neighbors should even for a fortnight rejoice in a supposed good bargain at her expense. To sell to Mr. Humphreys's friend in Louisville was just the thing. When pressed by some of her neighbors who had not received the Adventist gospel, to tell on what principle she could justify her sale of the farm at all, she answered that if the farm would not be of any account after the end of the world, neither would the money.

Mr. Humphreys went down to the town of Bethany and came back, affecting to have cashed a draft on his friend for two hundred dollars. The deeds were drawn, and a justice of the peace was to come the next morning and take the acknowledgment of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.

This was what Jonas learned as he sat in the kitchen talking to Cynthy Ann. He had come to bring some message from the convalescent August, and had been detained by the attraction of adhesion.

"I told you it was fox-and-geese. Didn't I? And so Thomas A. Parkins is his name. Gus Wehle said he'd bet the two was one. Well, I must drive this varmint off afore he gits his chickens."

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