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   Chapter 38 SCARING A HAWK.

The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 6004

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Jonas was thoroughly alarmed. He exaggerated the harm that Humphreys might do to August, now that he knew where he was. August, on his part, felt sure that Humphreys would not do anything against him; certainly not in the way of legal proceedings. And as for the sale of Samuel Anderson's farms, that did not disturb him. Like almost everybody else at that time, August Wehle was strongly impressed by the assertions of the Millerites, and if the world should be finished in the next month, the farms were of no consequence. And if Millerism proved a delusion, the loss of Samuel Anderson's property would only leave Julia on his level, so far as worldly goods went. The happiness this last thought brought him made him ashamed. Why should he rejoice in Mr. Anderson's misfortune? Why should he wish to pull Julia down to him? But still the thought remained a pleasant one.

Jonas would not have it so. He had his plan. He went home from the Adventist meeting that very night with Cynthy Ann, and then stood talking to her at the corner of the porch, feeling very sure that Humphreys would listen from above. He heard his stealthy tread, after a while, disturb a loose board on the upper porch. Then he began to talk to Cynthy Ann in this strain:

"You see, I can't tell no secrets, Cynthy Ann, even to your Royal Goodness, as I might say, seein' as how as you a'n't my wife, and a'n't likely to be, if Brother Goshorn can have his way. But you're the Queen of Hearts, anyhow. But s'pose I was to hint a secret?"

"Sh--sh--h-h-h!" said Cynthy Ann, partly because she felt a sinful pleasure in the flattery, and partly because she felt sure that Humphreys was above. But Jonas paid no attention to the caution.

"I'll give you a hint as strong as a Irishman's, which they do say'll knock you down. Let's s'pose a case. They a'n't no harm in s'posin' a case, you know. I've knowed boys who'd throw a rock at a fence-rail and hit a stump, and then say, 'S'posin' they was a woodpecker on that air stump, wouldn't I a keeled him over?' You can s'pose a case and make a woodpecker wherever you want to. Well, s'posin' they was a inquisition or somethin' of the kind from the guv'nor of the State of ole Kaintuck to the guv'nor of the State of Injeanny? And s'posin' that the dokyment got lodged in this 'ere identical county? And s'posin' it called fer the body of one Thomas A. Parkins, alias J.W. 'Umphreys? And s'posin' it speecified as to sartain and sundry crimes committed in Paduky and all along the shore, fer all I know? Now, s'posin' all of them air things, what would Clark township do to console itself when that toonful v'ice and them air blazin' watch-seals had set in ignominy for ever and ever? Selah! Good-night, and don't you breathe a word to a livin' soul, nur a dead one, 'bout what I been a-sayin'. You'll know more by daylight to-morry 'n you know now."

And the last part of the speech was true, for by midnight the Hawk had fled. And the sale of the Anderson farm to Humph

reys was never completed. For three days the end of the world was forgotten in the interest which Clark township felt in the flight of its favorite. And by degrees the story of Norman's encounter with the gamblers and of August's recovery of the money became spread abroad through the confidential hints of Jonas. And by degrees another story became known; it could not long be concealed. It was the story of Betsey Malcolm, who averred that she had been privately married to Humphreys on the occasion of a certain trip they had made to Kentucky together, to attend a "big meeting." The story was probably true, but uncharitable gossips shook their heads.

It was only a few evenings after the flight of Humphreys that Jonas had another talk with Cynthy Ann, in which he confessed that all his supposed case about a requisition from the governor of Kentucky for Humphreys's arrest was pure fiction.

"But, Jonas, is--is that air right? I'm afeard it a'n't right to tell an ontruth."

"So 'ta'n't; but I only s'posed a case, you know."

"But Brother Hall said last Sunday two weeks, that anything that gin a false impression was--was lying. Now, I don't think you meant it, but then I thought I orto speak to you about it."

"Well, maybe you're right. I see you last summer a-puttin' up a skeercrow to keep the poor, hungry little birds of the air from gittin' the peas that they needed to sustain life. An' I said, What a pity that the best woman I ever seed should tell lies to the poor little birds that can't defend theirselves from her wicked wiles! But I see that same day a skeercrow, a mean, holler, high-percritical purtense of a ole hat and coat, a-hanging in Brother Goshorn's garden down to the cross-roads. An' I wondered ef it was your Methodis' trainin' that taught you sech-like cheatin' of the little sparrys and blackbirds."

"Yes; but Jonas--" said Cynthy, bewildered.

"And I see a few days arterwards a Englishman with a humbug-fly onto his line, a foolin' the poor, simple-hearted little fishes into swallerln' a book that hadn't nary sign of a ginowine bait onto it. An' I says, says I, What a deceitful thing the human heart is!"

"Why, Jonas, you'd make a preacher!" said Cynthy Ann, touched with the fervor of his utterance, and inly resolved never to set up another scarecrow.

"Not much, my dear. But then, you see, I make distinctions. Ef I was to see a wolf a-goin' to eat a lamb, what would I do? Why, I'd skeer or fool him with the very fust thing I could find. Wouldn' you, honey?"

"In course," said Cynthy Ann.

"And so, when I seed a wolf or a tiger or a painter, like that air 'Umphreys, about to gobble up fortins, and to do some harm to Gus, maybe, I jest rigged up a skeercrow of words, like a ole hat and coat stuck onto a stick, and run him off. Any harm done, my dear?"

"Well, no, Jonas; I ruther 'low not."

Whether Jonas's defense was good or not, I can not say, for I do not know. But he is entitled to the benefit of it.

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