Joe handed Sam the paper, and it was to the teamster the strongest evidence of Christianity he had ever seen in Bungfield. He had known of some hard cases turning from the saloon and joining the church, but none of these things were so wonderful as this action of Joe Gatter’s. Sam told the story, in strict confidence, to each of his friends, and the good seed was thus sown in soil that it had never reached before.
It would be pleasant to relate that Joe forthwith ceased shaving notes and selling antiquated grease for butter, and that he devoted the rest of his days and money to good deeds, but it wouldn’t be true. Those of our readers who have always consistently acted according to their own light and knowledge are, of course, entitled to throw stones at Joe Gatter; but most of us know to our sorrow why he didn’t always act according to the good promptings he received. Our only remaining duty is to say that when, thereafter, Joe’s dividends came seldom, he knew who to blame.
Loud and long rang the single church-bell at Backley, but its industry was entirely unnecessary, for the single church at Backley was already full from the altar to the doors, and the window-sills and altar-steps were crowded with children. The Backleyites had been before to the regular yearly temperance meetings, and knew too well the relative merits of sitting and standing to wait until called by the bell. Of course no one could afford to be absent, for entertainments were entirely infrequent at Backley; the populace was too small to support a course of lectures, and too moral to give any encouragement to circuses and minstrel troupes, but a temperance meeting was both moral and cheap, and the children might all be taken without extra cost.
For months all the young men and maidens at Backley had been practising the choruses of the songs which the Temperance Glee Club at a neighboring town was to sing at the meeting. For weeks had large posters, printed in the reddest of ink, announced to the surrounding country that the parent society would send to Backley, for this especial occasion, one of its most brilliant orators, and although the pastor made the statement (in the smallest possible type) that at the close of the entertainment a collection would be taken to defray expenses of the lecturer, the sorrowing ones took comfort in the fact that certain fractional currency represented but a small amount of money. The bell ceased ringing, and the crowd at the door attempted to squeeze into the aisles; the Backley Cornet Quartette played a stirring air; Squire Breet called the meeting to order, and was himself elected permanent Chairman; the Reverend Mr. Genial prayed earnestly that intemperance might cease to reign; the Glee Club sang several songs, with rousing choruses; a pretended drunkard and a cold water advocate (both pupils of the Backley High School), delivered a dialogue in which the pretended drunkard was handled severely; a tableau of “The Drunkard’s Home” was given; and then the parent society’s brilliant orator took the platform.