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The End of the World: A Love Story By Edward Eggleston Characters: 7774

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Jonas had waited for the coming of the quarterly meeting to carry his appeal to the presiding elder. The quarterly meeting for the circuit was held at the village of Brayvllle, and beds were made upon the floor for the guests who crowded the town. Every visiting Methodist had a right to entertainment, and every resident Methodist opened his doors very wide, for Western people are hospitable in a fashion and with a bountifulness unknown on the eastern side of the mountains. Who that has not known it, can ever understand the delightfulness of a quarterly meeting? The meeting of old friends--the social life--is all but heavenly. And then the singing of the old Methodist hymns, such as

"Oh! that will be joyful!

Joyful! joyful!

Oh! that will be joyful,

To meet to part no more."

And that other solemnly-sweet refrain:

"The reaping-time will surely come,

And angels shout the harvest home!"

And who shall describe the joy of a Christian mother, when her scapegrace son "laid down the arms of his rebellion" and was "soundly converted"? Let those sneer who will, but such moral miracles as are wrought in Methodist revivals are more wonderful than any healing of the blind or raising of the dead could be.

Jonas turned up, faithful to his promise, and called on the "elder" at the place where he was staying, and asked for a private interview. He found the old gentleman exercising his sweet voice in singing,

"Come, let us anew

Our journey pursue,

Roll round with the year.

And never stand still till the Master appear.

His adorable will

Let us gladly fulfill,

And our talents improve

By the patience of hope and the labor of love."

"When he concluded the verse he raised his half-closed eyes and saw Jonas standing in the door.

"Mr. Persidin' Elder," said Jonas, trying in vain to speak with some seriousness and veneration, "I come to ax your consent to marry one of your flock--the best lamb you've got in the whole fold."

"Bless you, Mr. Harrison," said Father Williams, the old elder, laughing, "bless you, I haven't any right to consent or forbid. Ask the lady herself!"

"Ax the lady!" said Jonas. "Didn't I though! And didn't Mr. Goshorn forbid the lady to marry me, under the pains and penalties pervided; and didn't Mr. Hall set his seal to the forbiddin' of Goshorn! An' I says to her, 'I won't take nothin' less than a elder or a bishop on this 'ere vital question.' When I want a sheep, I don't go to the underlin,' but to the boss; and so I brought this appeal up to you on a writ of habeas corpus, or whatever you may call it."

The presiding elder laughed again, and looked closely at Jonas. Then he stepped to the door and called in the circuit preacher, Mr. Hall, and the class leader, Mr. Goshorn, both of whom happened to be in the next room engaged in an excited discussion with a brother who was a little touched with Millerism.

"What's this Mr. Harrison tells me about your forbidding the banns in his case?"

"He's a New Light," said Brother Hall, showing his abhorrence in his face, "and it seemed to me that for a Methodist to marry a New Light was a sin--a being yoked together unequally with an unbeliever. You know, Father Williams, that New Lights are Arians."

The old man seemed more amused than ever. Turning to Jonas, he asked him if he was an Arian.

"Not as I knows on, my venerable friend. I may have caught the disease when I had the measles, or I may have been a Arian in infancy, or I may be a Arian on my mother's side, you know; but as I don't know who or what it may be, I a'n't in no way accountable fer it--no more'n Brother Goshorn is to blame fer his face bein' so humbly. But I take it Arian is one of them air pleasant names you and the New Light preachers uses in your Christian intercourse together to make one another mad. I'm one of them as goes to heaven s

traight--never stoppin' to throw no donicks at the Methodists, Presbyterians, nor no other misguided children of men. They may ride in the packet, or go by flat-boat or keel-boat, ef they chooses. I go by the swift-sailin' and palatial mail-boat New Light, and I don't run no opposition line, nor bust my bilers tryin' to beat my neighbors into the heavenly port."

Brother Goshorn looked vexed. Brother Hall was scandalized at the lightness of Jonas's conversation. But the old presiding elder, with keen common-sense and an equally keen sense of the ludicrous, could not look grave with all his effort to keep from laughing.


"Are you an unbeliever?" he asked.

"I don't know what you call onbeliever. I believe in God and Christ, and keep Sunday and the Fourth of July; but I don't believe in all of Brother Goshorn's nonsense about wearing veils and artificials."

"Well," said Brother Hall, "would you endeavor to induce your wife to dress in a manner unbecoming a Methodist?"


"I wouldn't fer the world. If I git the article I want, I don't keer what it's tied up in, calico or bombazine."

"Couldn't you join the Methodist Church yourself, and keep your wife company?" It was Brother Goshorn who spoke.

"Couldn't I? I suppose I could ef I didn't think no more of religion than some other folks. I could jine the Methodist Church, and have everybody say I jined to git my wife. That may be serving God; but I can't see how. And then how long would you keep me? The very fust time I fired off my blunderbuss in class-meetin', and you heerd the buckshot and the squirrel-shot and the slugs and all sorts of things a-rattlin' around, you'd say I was makin' fun of the Gospel. I 'low they a'n't no Methodist in me. I was cut out cur'us, you know, and made up crooked."

"Is there anything against Mr. Harrison, Brother Goshorn?" asked the elder.

"He's a New Light," said Mr. Goshorn, in a tone that signified his belief that to be a New Light was enough.

"Is he honest and steady?"

"Never heard anything against him as a moralist."

"Well, then, it's my opinion that any member of your class would do better to marry a good, faithful, honest New Light than to marry a hickory Methodist."

Jonas got up like one demented, and ran out of the door and across the street. In a moment he came back, bringing Cynthy Ann in triumph.

"Now, soy them words over again," he said to the presiding elder.

"Sister Cynthy Ann," said the presiding elder, "you really love Brother Harrison?"

"I--I don't know whether it's right to set our sinful hearts on the things of this perishin' world. But I think more of him, I'm afeard, than I had ort to. He's got as good a heart as I ever seed. But Brother Goshorn thought I hadn't orter marry him, seein' he is a onbeliever."

"But I a'n't," said Jonas; "I believe in the Bible, and in everything in it, and in Cynthy Ann and her good Methodist religion besides."

"I think you can give up all your scruples and marry Mr. Harrison, and love him and be happy," said the presiding elder. "Don't be afraid to be happy, my sister. You'll be happy in good company in heaven, and you'd just as well get used to it here."

"I told you I'd find a man that had salt enough to keep his religion sweet. And, Father Williams, you've got to marry us, whenever Cynthy Ann's ready," said Jonas with enthusiasm.

And for a moment the look of overstrained scrupulosity on Cynthy Ann's face relaxed and a strange look of happiness came into her eyes.

And the time was fixed then and there.

Brother Hall was astonished.

And Brother Goshorn drew down his face, and said that he didn't know what was to become of good, old-fashioned Methodism and the rules of the Discipline, if the presiding elders talked in that sort of a way. The church was going to the dogs.

* * *

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