The Saturday Evening Post

Prevarication Jones

Everybody who knew him — and that included all the settlers along the Monongahela and a fair number farther west on the Ohio — agreed that he was the biggest tarnation liar west of the Alleghenies. They made this remark judiciously, aware that there was a lot of territory west of the Alleghenies and that in the year 1784 this territory included some of the most beautiful liars ever produced by a young, vigorous, and imaginative nation. Even his name attested to his reputation, for he was called Prevarication Jones.

“The Prevarication part is true,” the boy’s father said. “But as to Jones — why, I reckon that must be a lie like everything else, and his true name is likely Robinson or Williams or something like that.” And then he gave a deep chuckle, a kind of hen’s clucking as it were, in amusement at a man so talented in lying that people couldn’t even bring themselves to believe that his name was what he said it was.

Prevarication Jones made three and sometimes four trips a year to the settlements along the Monongahela. His headquarters — or what he said was his headquarters — was Philadelphia. He was a packman, and on each trip, he brought with him, besides his own mount, two packhorses whose saddles were laden with the kind of goods the settlers liked to buy. For the men he had English axheads and tenpenny nails and hammerheads and belt buckles — mostly of horn, but one or two special ones of hard iron. Also lead and bullet molds and springs with which to repair the cocking mechanism of their rifles. Sometimes, on special order, he would bring a rifle with him. But mostly he carried an assortment of parts from an assortment of rifles that his customers would paw through, looking maybe for a pan or a hammer or a spring or some such thing that would fit their own weapons.

For the women, Prevarication Jones brought mostly soap. To be sure, the women of the settlement — five families, including the boy’s — could make soap of their own with fat and lye. It was good soap, but rough, and burned their hands if they got too much lye in it. But Prevarication Jones brought them special soap — Windsor soap, it was called. It was in nice little oval cakes and looked pretty, pink and yellow and white. And it was scented soap, smelling of roses or violets or some other flower.

All the women bought one or two cakes of the Windsor soap — “Made to the

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