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Jonathan
by [?]

He was so ugly,–outside, I mean: long and lank, flat-chested, shrunken, round-shouldered, stooping when he walked; body like a plank, arms and legs like split rails, feet immense, hands like paddles, head set on a neck scrawny as a picked chicken’s, hair badly put on and in patches, some about his head, some around his jaws, some under his chin in a half moon,–a good deal on the back of his hands and on his chest. Nature had hewn him in the rough and had left him with every axe mark showing.

He wore big shoes tied with deer hide strings and nondescript breeches that wrinkled along his knotted legs like old gun covers. These were patched and repatched with various hues and textures,–parts of another pair,–bits of a coat and fragments of tailor’s cuttings. Sewed in their seat was half of a cobbler’s apron,–for greater safety in sliding over ledges and logs, he would tell you. Next came a leather belt polished with use, and then a woolen shirt,–any kind of a shirt,–cross-barred or striped,–whatever the store had cheapest, and over that a waistcoat with a cotton back and some kind of a front, looking like a state map, it had so many colored patches. There was never any coat,–none that I remember. When he wore a coat he was another kind of a Jonathan,–a store-dealing Jonathan, or a church-going Jonathan, or a town-meeting Jonathan,–not the “go-a-fishin’,” or “bee-huntin’,” or “deer-stalkin'” Jonathan whom I knew.

There was a wide straw hat, too, that crowned his head and canted with the wind and flopped about his neck, and would have sailed away down many a mountain brook but for a faithful leather strap that lay buried in the half-moon whiskers and held on for dear life. And from under the rim of this thatch, and half hidden in the matted masses of badly adjusted hair, was a thin, peaked nose, bridged by a pair of big spectacles, and somewhere below these, again, a pitfall of a mouth covered with twigs of hair and an underbrush of beard, while deep-set in the whole tangle, like still pools reflecting the blue and white of the sweet heavens above, lay his eyes,–eyes that won you, kindly, twinkling, merry, trustful, and trusting eyes. Beneath these pools of light, way down below, way down where his heart beat warm, lived Jonathan.

I know a fruit in Mexico, delicious in flavor, called Timburici, covered by a skin as rough and hairy as a cocoanut; and a flower that bristles with thorns before it blooms into waxen beauty; and there are agates encrusted with clay and pearls that lie hidden in oysters. All these things, somehow, remind me of Jonathan.

His cabin was the last bit of shingle and brick chimney on that side of the Franconia Notch. There were others, farther on in the forest, with bark slants for shelter, and forked sticks for swinging kettles; but civilization ended with Jonathan’s store-stove and the square of oil-cloth that covered his sitting-room floor. Upstairs, under the rafters, there was a guest-chamber smelling of pine boards and drying herbs, and sheltering a bed gridironed with bed-cord and softened by a thin layer of feathers encased in a ticking and covered with a cotton quilt. This bed always made a deep impression upon me mentally and bodily. Mentally, because I always slept so soundly in it whenever I visited Jonathan,–even with the rain pattering on the roof and the wind soughing through the big pine-trees; and bodily, because–well, because of the cords. Beside this bed was a chair for my candle, and on the floor a small square plank, laid loosely over the stovepipe hole which, in winter, held the pipe.

In summer mornings Jonathan made an alarm clock of this plank, flopping it about with the end of a fishing-rod poked up from below, never stopping until he saw my sleepy face peering down into his own. There was no bureau, only a nail or so in the scantling, and no washstand, of course; the tin basin at the well outside was better.