“That did mean you, deacon!” exclaimed Tom; “but I claim it myself now, so—so I won’t drink it.”
The remainder of the crowd clashed glasses, while Tom and his father-in-law bowed profoundly. Then the whole crowd went out to steal horses for the two men, and had them on the trail within an hour. As they rode off, Stumpy Flukes remarked:
“There’s a splendid shot ruined for life.”
“Yes,” said Boston Ben, with a deep sigh struggling out of his manly bosom, “an’ a bully rassler, too. The Church has got a good deal to answer fur, fur sp’ilin’ that man’s chances.”
Of the several pillars of the Church at Pawkin Centre, Deacon Barker was by all odds the strongest. His orthodoxy was the admiration of the entire congregation, and the terror of all the ministers within easy driving distance of the Deacon’s native village. He it was who had argued the late pastor of the Pawkin Centre Church into that state of disquietude which had carried him, through a few days of delirious fever, into the Church triumphant; and it was also Deacon Barker whose questions at the examination of seekers for the ex-pastor’s shoes had cast such consternation into divinity-schools, far and near, that soon it was very hard to find a candidate for ministerial honors at Pawkin Centre.
Nor was his faith made manifest by words alone. Be the weather what it might, the Deacon was always in his pew, both morning and evening, in time to join in the first hymn, and on every Thursday night, at a quarter past seven in winter, and a quarter before eight in summer, the good Deacon’s cane and shoes could be heard coming solemnly down the aisle, bringing to the prayer-meeting the champion of orthodoxy. Nor did the holy air of the prayer-meeting even one single evening fail to vibrate to the voice of the Deacon, as he made, in scriptural language, humble confessions and tearful pleadings before the throne, or—still strictly scriptural in expression—he warned and exhorted the impenitent. The contribution-box always received his sixpence as long as specie payment lasted, and the smallest fractional currency note thereafter; and to each of the regular annual offerings to the missionary cause, the Bible cause, and kindred Christian enterprises, the Deacon regularly contributed his dollar and his prayers.
The Deacon could quote scripture in a manner which put Biblical professors to the blush, and every principle of his creed so bristled with texts, confirmatory, sustentive and aggressive, that doubters were rebuked and free-thinkers were speedily reduced to speechless humility or rage. But the unregenerate, and even some who professed righteousness, declared that more fondly than to any other scriptural passage did the good Deacon cling to the injunction, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness.” Meekly insisting that he was only a steward of the Lord, he put out his Lord’s money that he might receive it again with usury, and so successful had he been that almost all mortgages held on property near Pawkin Centre were in the hands of the good Deacon, and few were the foreclosure sales in which he was not the seller.