“Now jest you listen at me, Tom-Jeff; you ain’t goin’ to make out to find no better hawss ‘n that this side o’ the Blue Grass. Sound as a dollar in lung and leg, highstepper—my Land! jest look at the way he holds his head—rides like a baby’s cradle; why, that hawss is a perfect gentleman, Tom-Jeff.”
Since her return from Europe Miss Ardea Dabney had taken to horseback riding, a five-mile canter before breakfast in the fine brisk air of the autumn mornings; and Tom had discovered that he needed a saddle animal. Wherefore Brother Japheth was parading a handsome bay up and down before the door of the small office building of the new foundry, descanting glowingly on its merits, while Tom lounged on the step and pretended to make difficulties.
“You think he’s a pretty good horse, do you, Japhe—worth the money?” he queried, with the air of one who is about to surrender, not to the fact, but to the presentation of it.
“If you cayn’t stable him this winter and then get your money back on him in ary hawss market this side o’ the Ohio River, I’ll eat hawss for the rest o’ my bawn days. Now that’s fair, ain’t it?”
“It’s more than fair; it’s generous. But let me ask you: is this protracted-meeting talk you’re giving me, or just plain, every-day horse lies?”
Brother Japheth halted the parade and there was aggrieved reproachfulness in every line of his long, lantern-jawed face.
“Now lookee here; I didn’t ‘low to find you a-sittin’ in the seat of the scornful, Tom-Jeff; I shore didn’t. Ain’t the good cause precious to your soul no mo’ sence you to’d loose f’om your mammy’s apron-string?”
Tom’s shrewd overlooking of the horse-trader spoke eloquently of the spiritual landmarks past and left behind.
“I don’t know about you, Japhe. A fair half of the time you have me cornered; and the other half I’m wondering if you are just ordinary, canting hypocrite, like the majority of ‘the brethren.’”
“Now see here, Tom-Jeff, you know a heap better’n that! First and fo’most, the majority ain’t the majority, not by three sights and a horn-blow. Hit don’t take more’n one good, perseverin’ hypocrite in the chu’ch to spile the name o’ chu’ch-member as fur as ye can holler it. You been on a railroad train and seen the con-duc-tor havin’ a furss with the feller ’at pays for one seat and tries to hog four, and you’ve set back and said, ‘My gosh! what a lot o’ swine the human race is when hit gits away f’om home!’ And right at that ve’y minute, mebbe, ther’ was forty-five ‘r fifty other people in that cyar goin’ erlong, mindin’ their own business, and not hoggin’ any more ’n they paid for.”
Tom smiled. “And you think that’s the way it is in the church, do you?”
“I don’t think nare’ thing about hit; I know sufferin’ well that’s the how of it. Lord forgive me! didn’t I let one scribe-an’-Pharisee keep me out o’ the Isra’l o’ God for nigh on to twenty year?”