“I mean it, Nan,” whispered the man.
Mrs. Kimper rummaged for a moment in the drawers of a dilapidated bureau, and finally folded a red handkerchief and tied it over her head.
“Good!” said the deacon, who had been watching the couple closely. “We’ll go around by the back way, so nobody’ll see either of you, if you don’t want them to. I’ll take Samuel along with me, and you can drop in wherever you think best, Mrs. Kimper. I’m not going back on any man who is going to turn over a new leaf. Come along.”
The church at which Deacon Quickset worshipped was not large, nor was it ever well filled when prayer and experience were the only attractions. When Sam Kimper entered, however, the place seemed so immense and the throng so great that nothing but the bulk of the deacon, which had been prudently placed in the rear of the new convert, kept him from turning about and escaping into the darkness. Even when placed in a seat the outer end of which was occupied by the deacon, the frightened man cast his eyes appealingly towards his keeper,—for such was the relation he felt the deacon bore towards him. Finally he slipped slowly along the seat and whispered,—
“Deacon, I can’t speak; I can’t think of a word to say. It’s a shame to have a fellow like me talkin’ to good church-members about what they know more about than him.”
“You’ll have to acknowledge Him before men, Samuel, if you expect Him to acknowledge you.”
“Well, I hain’t any objections to ownin’ up to ev’rybody I know. Didn’t I tell you an’ the judge? Didn’t I tell Nan and the children? I ain’t seen anybody else yet, or I’d told them too. But I can’t say nothin’ to a crowd like this; I don’t know how.”
“He’ll give you words, Samuel, if you’ve got the right heart in you.”
“Is that a dead-sure thing?”
Further argument and protest were ended by the formal opening of the meeting. It appeared to the deacon that the first hymn was sung with more sound and spirit than usual, and on looking around he saw the cause: it was literally a “packed house,”—the first one the church had ever known on a prayer-meeting night. The deacon immediately let his own voice out a little more, for he felt personally complimented by the large attendance. He had told a number of persons of Sam’s conversion and of his own intention to have the man “put himself on record” before a number of witnesses; evidently this word had gone about and caused the great gathering.
Prayers, hymns, and short speeches and confessions succeeded one another for a little while, and the deacon, glancing aside frequently, saw his charge look more and more uncomfortable, helpless, and insignificant as the exercises continued. This would not do; should the fellow become thoroughly frightened, he might not be able to say anything; this would be disappointing to the assemblage, and somewhat humiliating to him who had announced the special attraction of the evening. Sam’s opportunity must come at once; he, the deacon, did not doubt that his own long experience in introducing people to the public in his capacity of chairman of the local lecture committee would enable him to present Sam in a manner which would strengthen the weak knees and lift up the feeble heart.