Theron had never seen any considerable number of his fellow-citizens engaged in drinking lager beer before. His surprise at the facility of those behind the bar began to yield, upon observation, to a profound amazement at the thirst of those before it. The same people seemed to be always in front, emptying the glasses faster than the busy men inside could replenish them, and clamoring tirelessly for more. Newcomers had to force their way to the bar by violent efforts, and once there they stayed until pushed bodily aside. There were actually women to be seen here and there in the throng, elbowing and shoving like the rest for a place at the front. Some of the more gallant young men fought their way outward, from time to time, carrying for safety above their heads glasses of beer which they gave to young and pretty girls standing on the fringe of the crowd, among the trees.
Everywhere a remarkable good-humor prevailed. Once a sharp fight broke out, just at the end of the bar nearest Theron, and one young man was knocked down. A rush of the onlookers confused everything before the minister’s eyes for a minute, and then he saw the aggrieved combatant up on his legs again, consenting under the kindly pressure of the crowd to shake hands with his antagonist, and join him in more beer. The incident caught his fancy. There was something very pleasingly human, he thought, in this primitive readiness to resort to fisticuffs, and this frank and genial reconciliation.
Perhaps there was something contagious in this wholesale display of thirst, for the Rev. Mr. Ware became conscious of a notion that he should like to try a glass of beer. He recalled having heard that lager was really a most harmless beverage. Of course it was out of the question that he should show himself at the bar. Perhaps some one would bring him out a glass, as if he were a pretty girl. He looked about for a possible messenger. Turning, he found himself face to face with two smiling people, into whose eyes he stared for an instant in dumfounded blankness. Then his countenance flashed with joy, and he held out both hands in greeting. It was Father Forbes and Celia.
“We stole down upon you unawares,” said the priest, in his cheeriest manner. He wore a brown straw hat, and loose clothes hardly at all clerical in form, and had Miss Madden’s arm drawn lightly within his own. “We could barely believe our eyes—that it could be you whom we saw, here among the sinners!”
“I am in love with your sinners,” responded Theron, as he shook hands with Celia, and trusted himself to look fully into her eyes. “I’ve had five days of the saints, over in another part of the woods, and they’ve bored the head off me.”
At the command of Father Forbes, a lad who was loitering near them went down through the throng to the bar, and returned with three glasses of beer. It pleased the Rev. Mr. Ware that the priest should have taken it for granted that he would do as the others did. He knocked his glass against theirs in compliance with a custom strange to him, but which they seemed to understand very well. The beer itself was not so agreeable to the taste as he had expected, but it was cold and refreshing.