“Set down, young man”; and the young man sat. The Doc had a way of talking that didn’t need a gun to back it up.
The old man conducted the services right through, just as he always did, except that when he’d remembered in his prayer every one in America and had worked around through Europe to Asia Minor, he lingered a trifle longer over the Turks than usual, and the list of things which he seemed to think they needed brought the Armenian back into the fold right then and there.
[Illustration: “We’ll make the young people’s society ride this rooster out of town on a rail”]
By the time the Doc got around to preaching, Deacon Wiggleford was looking like a fellow who’d bought a gold brick, and the Higher Lifer like the brick. Everybody else felt and looked as if they were attending the Doc’s funeral, and, as usual, the only really calm and composed member of the party was the corpse.
“You will find the words of my text,” Doc began, “in the revised version of the works of William Shakespeare, in the book—I mean play—of Romeo and Juliet, Act Two, Scene Two: ’Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say good-night till it be morrow,’” and while the audience was pulling itself together he laid out that text in four heads, each with six subheads. Began on partings, and went on a still hunt through history and religion for them. Made the audience part with Julius Caesar with regret, and had ’em sniffling at saying good-by to Napoleon and Jeff Davis. Made ’em feel that they’d lost their friends and their money, and then foreclosed the mortgage on the old homestead in a this-is-very-sad-but-I-need-the-money tone. In fact, when he had finished with Parting and was ready to begin on Sweet Sorrow, he had not only exhausted the subject, but left considerable of a deficit in it.
They say that the hour he spent on Sweet Sorrow laid over anything that the town had ever seen for sadness. Put ’em through every stage of grief from the snuffles to the snorts. Doc always was a pretty noisy preacher, but he began work on that head with soft-pedal-tremolo-stop preaching and wound up with a peroration like a steamboat explosion. Started with his illustrations dying of consumption and other peaceful diseases, and finished up with railroad wrecks. He’d been at it two hours when he got through burying the victims of his last illustration, and he was just ready to tackle his third head with six subheads. But before he took the plunge he looked at his watch and glanced up sort of surprised:
“I find,” he said, “that we have consumed more time with these introductory remarks than I had intended. We would all, I know, like to say good-by till to-morrow, did our dear young brother’s plans permit, but alas! he leaves us on the 2:17. Such is life; to-day we are here, to-morrow we are in St. Louis, to which our young friend must return. Usually, I don’t approve of traveling on the Sabbath, but in a case like this, where the reasons are very pressing, I will lay aside my scruples, and with a committee of deacons which I have appointed see our pastor emeritus safely off.”