You see the way on't wuz: we had to do sumthin' to raise the minister's salary, which wuz most half a year behindhand, to say nothin' of the ensuin' year a-comin'. And as I have hinted at before but hain't gi'n petickulers, the men in the meetin' house had all gi'n out, and said they had gi'n every cent they could, and they couldn't and they wouldn't do any more, any way.
As I have said more formally, there wuz a hardness arozen amongst the male brethern.
Deacon Peedick thought he had gi'n more than his part in proportion, and come right out plain and said so.
And Deacon Bobbet said "he wuzn't the man to stand it to be told right to his face that he hadn't done his share," and he said "he wuzn't the man either, to be hinted at from the pulpit about things." I don't believe he wuz hinted at, and Sister Bobbet don't And she felt like death to have him so riz up in his mind, and act so. I know what the tex' wuz; it wuz these words:
"The Lord loveth a cheerful giver."
The minister didn't mean nothin' only pure gospel, when he preached about it. But it proved to be a tight-breasted, close-fittin' coat to several of the male brothers, and it fitted 'em so well it fairly pinched 'em.
But there it wuz, Deacon Bobbet wouldn't gi'n a cent towards raisin' the money. And there wuz them that said, and stuck to it, that he said "he wouldn't give a darn cent."
But I don't know as that is so. I wouldn't want to be the one that said that he had demeaned himself to that extent.
Wall, he wouldn't give a cent, and Peedick wouldn't give, and Deacon Henzy and Deacon Sypher wouldn't. They said that there wuz certain members of the meetin' house that had said to certain people suthin' slightin' about buzz saws.
I myself thought then, and think still, that the subject of buzz saws had a great deal to do in makin' 'em act so riz up and excited. I believe the subject rasped 'em, and made 'em nervous. But when these various hardnesses aroze amongst some of the brethern, the rest of the men kinder joined in with 'em, some on one side, and some on the other, and they all baulked right out of the harness. (Allegory.) And there the minister wuz, good old creeter, jest a-sufferin' for the necessities of life, and most half a year's salery due.
I tell you it looked dark. The men all said they couldn't see no way out of the trouble, and some of the wimmen felt about so. And old Miss Henn, one of our most able sisters, she had gi'n out, she wuz as mad as her own sirname about how her Metilda had been used.
The meetin' house had just hauled her up for levity. And I thought then, and think now, that the meetin' house wuz too hard on Metilda Henn.
She did titter right out in protracted meetin', Sister Henn don't deny it, and she felt dretful bad about it, and so did I. But Metilda said, and stuck to it, that she couldn't have helped laughin' if it had been to save her life. And though I realized the awfulness of it, still, when some of the brethern wuz goin' on dretful about it, I sez to 'em:
"The Bible sez there is a time to laugh, and I don't know when that is, unless it is when you can't help it."
What she wuz a-laughin' at wuz this:
There wuz a widder woman by the name of Nancy Lum that always come to evenin' meetin's.
She wuz very tall and humbly, and she had been on the look out (so it wuz s'pozed) for a 3d husband for some time.
She had always made a practice of saying one thing over and over to all the protracted and Conference meetin's, and she would always bust out a-cryin' before she got it all out.
She always said "she wanted to be found always at the foot of the Cross."
She would always begin this remark dretful kinder loud and hysterical, and then would dwindle down kinder low at the end on't, and bustin' out into tears somewhere through it from first to last.
But this evenin' suthin' had occurred to make her more hysterical and melted down than usial. Some say it wuz because Deacon Henshaw wuz present for the first time after his wive's death.
But any way, she riz up lookin' awful tall and humbly - she was most a head taller than any man there - and she sez out loud and strong:
"I want to be found - "
And then she busted right out a-cryin' hard. And she sobbed for some time. And then she begun agin,
"I want to be found - "
And then she busted out agin.
And so it went on for some time - she a-tellin' out ever and anon loud and firm, "that she wanted to be found - " and then bustin' into tears.
Till finally Deacon Henshaw (some mistrust that he is on the point of gettin' after her, and he always leads the singin' any way) he struck right out onto the him -
And Sister Lum sot down.
Wall, that wuz what made Metilda Henn titter. And that was what made me bring forward that verse of scripter. That the Bible said "'there wuz a time to laugh,' and I didn't know when it wuz unless it wuz when you couldn't help it - "
But I didn't say it to uphold Metilda - no, indeed. I only said it because they wuz so bitter on her, and laid the rules of the meetin' house down on her so heavy.
But Josiah said, "What would become of the meetin' house if it didn't punish its unruly members?"
And I sez to Josiah, "Do you remember the case of Deacon Widrig over in Loontown. He wuz rich and influential, and when he wuz complained of, and the meetin' house sot on him, they sot light, and you know it, Josiah Allen. And he was kep in the church, the meen old creeter. And Miss Henn is a widder and poor."
"Yes," sez Josiah, calmly, "she hain't been able to help the meetin' house much, and Brother Widrig contributes largely."
Sez I, in a fearful meanin' axent, "I hearn he did at the time he wuz up - I hearn he contributed lots to the male brethren who was a-judgin' him - but," sez I, "do you spoze, Josiah Allen, that if wimmen wuz allowed their way in the matter, that that man would be allowed to stay in the meetin' house, and keep on a-makin' and a-sellin' the poisen that is sendin' men to ruin all round him -
"Makin' his hard cider by the barell and hogset and fixin' it some way so it will make a far worse drunk than whiskey, and then supplyin' every low saloon fur and near with it, and peddlin' it out to every man and boy that wants it.
"And boys think they can drink cider without doin' any harm - so he jest entices 'em down into the road to ruin - doin' as much agin harm as a whiskey seller.
"And mothers have to set still and see it go on. It is men that are always appinted to deal with sinners, male or female. Men are judged by their peers, but wimmen never are.
"I wonder if that is just? I wonder how Deacon Widrig would have liked it to have had Miss Henn set on him? He wuz dretful excited, so I hearn, about Metilda's case - thought it wuz highly incumbient on the meetin' house to have her made a example of, so's to try to abolish such wicked doin's as snickerin' out in meetin'.
[Illustration: "SUPPLYIN' EVERY LOW SALOON FUR AND NEAR."]
"I wonder how he would have liked it to have had Charley Lanfear's mother set on him? She is a Sister in the meetin' house and Charley is a ruined boy - and Deacon Widrig is jest as much the cause of his ruin - jest as guilty of murderin' all that wuz sweet and lovely in him es if he had fed arsenic to him with a teaspoon."
Sez I, "In that very meetin' house to Loontown, there are mothers who have to set and take the bread and wine tokens of the blood and body of their crucified Redeemer from a man's hands that they know are red with the blood of their own sons. Fur redder than human blood and deeper-stained with the ruin of their immortal souls.
"What thoughts does these mothers keep on a-thinkin' as they set there and see a man guilty of worse than murder set up as a example to other young souls? What thoughts do they keep on a-thinkin' of the young hearts that wuz pure before this man laid holt of 'em. Young eyes that wuz true and tender till this man made 'em look on his accursed drink. Young lips that smiled on their mothers till he gin 'em that that changed the smiles to curses?
"Would a delegation of wimmen keep such a man in the meetin' house if he paved the hull floor with fine gold? No, you know they wouldn't. Let a jury of mothers set on such a man, and see if he could get up agin very easy.
"They are the ones who have suffered by him, who have agonized, who went down into deeper than the Valley of Death led by his hand. They went down into that depth where they lose their boy. Lose him eternally.
"Death, jest death, would give 'em a chance to meet their child again. But what hope does a mother have when down in the darkness that has no mornin', her boy tears his hand from her weak grasp and plunges downward?
"How does such a mother feel as she sets there in a still meetin' house, and the man who has done all this passes her the emblems of a deathless love, a divine purity?"
Josiah sat demute and, didn't say nuthin', and I went on, for I wuz very roze up in my mind, and by the side of myself with emotions.
And sez I, "Take the case of Simeon Lathers. Why wuz it that Sister Irene Filkins wuz turned out of the meetin' house and the man who wuz the first cause of her goin' astray kep in - the handsome, smooth-faced hypocrite? - it wuz because he wuz rich as a Jew, and jest plastered over the consciences of them that tried him with his fine speeches and his money."
[Illustration: "JOSIAH LOOKED UP AND SEZ, 'HOW A STEEPLE WOULD LOOK A-PINTIN' DOWN'"]
"Fixed over the meetin' house there in Zoar, built a new steeple, a towerin' one. If wimmen had had their way, that steeple would have pinted the other way."
Josiah looked up from Ayers' Almanac, which he wuz calmly perusin', and sez he,
"How a steeple would look a-pintin' down!"