Read THE LINT: CHAPTER XX of The Bishop of Cottontown A Story of the Southern Cotton Mills , free online book, by John Trotwood Moore, on ReadCentral.com.

A LIVE FUNERAL

The next Sunday was an interesting occasion voted so by all Cottontown when it was over. There was a large congregation out, caused by the announcement of the Bishop the week before.

Nex’ Sunday I intend to preach Uncle Dave Dickey’s funeral sermon. I’ve talked to Dave about it an’ he tells me he has got all kinds of heart disease with a fair sprinklin’ of liver an’ kidney trouble an’ that he is liable to drap off any day.

“I am one of them that believes that whatever bouquets we have for the dead will do ’em mo’ good if given while they can smell; an’ whatever pretty things we’ve got to say over a coffin had better be said whilst the deceased is up an’ kickin’ around an’ can hear an’ so Dave is pow’ful sot to it that I preach his fun’ral whilst he’s alive. An’ I do hope that next Sunday you’ll all come an’ hear it. An’ all the bouquets you expect to give him when he passes away, please fetch with you.”

To-day Uncle Dave was out, dressed in his long-tail jeans frock suit with high standing collar and big black stock. His face had been cleanly shaved, and his hair, coming down to his shoulders, was cut square away around his neck in the good old-fashioned way. He sat on the front bench and looked very solemn and deeply impressed. On one side of him sat Aunt Sally, and on the other, Tilly; and the coon dog, which followed them everywhere, sat on its tail, well to the front, looking the very essence of concentrated solemnity.

But the coon dog had several peculiar idiosyncrasies; one of them was that he was always very deeply affected by music especially any music which sounded anything like a dinner horn. As this was exactly the way Miss Patsy Butts’ organ music sounded, no sooner did she strike up the first notes than the coon dog joined in, with his long dismal howl much to the disgust of Uncle Dave and his family.

This brought things to a standstill, and all the Hillites to giggling, while Archie B. moved up and took his seat with the mourners immediately behind the dog.

Tilly looked reproachfully at Aunt Sally; Aunt Sally looked reproachfully at Uncle Dave, who passed the reproach on to the dog.

“There now,” said Uncle Dave “Sally an’ Tilly both said so! They both said I mustn’t let him come.”

He gave the dog a punch in the ribs with his huge foot. This hushed him at once.

“Be quiet Dave,” said the Bishop, sitting near “it strikes me you’re pow’ful lively for a corpse. It’s natural for a dog to howl at his master’s fun’ral.”

The coon dog had come out intending to enter fully into the solemnity of the occasion, and when the organ started again he promptly joined in.

“I’m sorry,” said the Bishop, “but I’ll have to rise an’ put the chief mourner out.”

It was unnecessary, for the chief mourner himself arose just then, and began running frantically around the pulpit with snaps, howls and sundry most painful barks.

Those who noticed closely observed that a clothes-pin had been snapped bitingly on the very tip end of his tail, and as he finally caught his bearing, and went down the aisle and out of the door with a farewell howl, they could hear him tearing toward home, quite satisfied that live funerals weren’t the place for him.

What he wanted was a dead one.

“Maw!” said Miss Patsy Butts “I wish you’d look after Archie B.”

Everybody looked at Archie B., who looked up from a New Testament in which he was deeply interested, surprised and grieved.

The organ started up again.

But it grew irksome to Miss Samantha Carewe seated on the third bench.

“Ma,” she whispered, “I’ve heard o’ fun’rals in Irelan’ where they passed around refreshments d’ye reckin this is goin’ to be that kind? I’m gittin’ pow’ful hungry.”

“Let us trust that the Lord will have it so,” said her mother devoutly.

Amid great solemnity the Bishop had gone into the pulpit and was preaching:

“It may be a little onusual,” he said, “to preach a man’s fun’ral whilst he’s alive, but it will certn’ly do him mo’ good than to preach it after he’s dead. If we’re goin’ to do any good to our feller man, let’s do it while he’s alive.

“Kind words to the livin’ are more than monuments to the dead.

“Come to think about it, but ain’t we foolish an’ hypocritical the way we go on over the dead that we have forgot an’ neglected whilst they lived?

“If we’d reverse the thing how many a po’ creature that had given up the fight, an’ shuffled off this mortal coil fur lack of a helpin’ han’ would be alive to-day!

“How many another that had laid down an’ quit in the back stretch of life would be up an’ fightin’! Why, the money spent for flowers an’ fun’rals an’ monuments for the pulseless dead of the world would mighty nigh feed the living dead that are always with us.

“What fools we mortals be! Why, we’re not a bit better than the heathen Chinee that we love to send missionaries to and call all kinds of hard names. The Chinee put sweet cakes an’ wine an’ sech on the graves of their departed, an’ once one of our missionaries asked his servant, Ching Lu, who had just lost his brother an’ had put all them things on his grave, when he thought the corpse ‘ud rise up an’ eat them; an’ Ching Lu told him he thought the Chinee corpse ’ud rise up an’ eat his sweetmeats about the same time that the Melican man’s corpse ‘ud rise up an’ smell all the bouquets of sweet flowers spread over him.

“An’ there we are, right on the same footin’ as the heathen an’ don’t know it.

“David Dickey, the subject of this here fun’ral discourse, was born on the fourth day of July, 1810, of pious, godly parents. Dave as a child was always a good boy, who loved his parents, worked diligently and never needed a lickin’ in his life”

“Hold on, Bishop,” said Uncle Davy, rising and protesting earnestly “this is my fun’ral an’ I ain’t a-goin’ to have nothin’ told but the exact facts: Jes’ alter that by sayin’ I was a tollerbul good boy, tollerbul diligent, with a big sprinklin’ o’ meanness an’ laziness in me, an’ that my old daddy, God bless his memory for it in them days cleared up mighty nigh a ten acre lot of guv’ment land cuttin’ off the underbrush for my triflin’ hide.”

Uncle Dave sat down. The Bishop was confused a moment, but quickly said: “Now bretherin, there’s another good p’int about preachin’ a man’s fun’ral whilst he’s alive. It gives the corpse a chance to correct any errors. Why, who’d ever have thought that good old Uncle Dave Dickey was that triflin’ when he was young? Much obliged, Dave, much obliged, I’ll try to tell the exact facts hereafter.”

Then he began again:

“In manner Uncle Dave was approachable an’ with a kind heart for all mankind, an’ a kind word an’ a helpin’ han’ for the needy. He was tollerbul truthful” went on the Bishop with a look at Uncle Davy as if he had profited by previous interruptions.

“Tell it as it was, Hillard,” nodded Uncle Dave, from the front bench “jes’ as it was no lies at my fun’ral.”

Tollerbul truthful,” went on the Bishop, “on all subjects he wanted to tell the truth about. An’ I’m proud to say, bretherin, that after fifty odd years of intermate acquantance with our soon-to-be-deceased brother, you cu’d rely on him tellin’ the truth in all things except”

“Tell it as it was, Hillard no filigree work at my fun’ral ” said Uncle Dave.

“Except,” went on the Bishop, “returnin’ any little change he happen’d to borry from you, or swoppin’ horses, or tellin’ the size of the fish he happened to ketch. On them p’ints, my bretherin, the lamented corpse was pow’ful weak; an’ I’m sorry to have to tell it, but I’ve been warned, as you all kno’, to speak the exact facts.”

“Hillard Watts,” said Uncle Dave rising hotly “that’s a lie an’ you know it!”

“Sit down, Dave,” said the Bishop calmly, “I’ve been preachin’ fun’rals fur fifty years an’ that is the fus’ time I ever was sassed by a corpse. You know it’s so an’ besides I left out one thing. You’re always tellin’ what kinder weather it’s gwinter be to-morrow an’ missin’ it. You burnt my socks off forty years ago on the only hoss-trade I ever had with you. You owe me five dollars you borrowed ten years ago, an’ you never caught a half pound perch in yo’ life that you didn’t tell us the nex’ day it was a fo’ pound trout. So set down. Oh, I’m tellin’ the truth without any filigree, Dave.”

Aunt Sally and Tilly pulled Uncle Dave down while they conversed with him earnestly. Then he arose and said:

“Hillard, I beg yo’ pardon. You’ve spoken the truth Sally and Tilly both say so. I tell yo’, bretherin,” he said turning to the congregation “it’d be a good thing if we c’ud all have our fun’ral sermon now and then correctly told. There would be so many points brought out as seen by our neighbors that we never saw ourselves.”

“The subject of this sermon” went on the Bishop “the lamented corpse-to-be, was never married but once to his present loving widow-to-be, and he never had any love affair with any other woman she bein’ his fust an’ only love ”

“Hillard,” said Uncle Dave rising, “I hate to ”

“Set down, David Dickey,” whispered Aunt Sally, hotly, as she hastily jerked him back in his seat with a snap that rattled the teeth in his head:

“If you get up at this time of life to make any post-mortem an’ dyin’ declaration on that subject in my presence, ye’ll be takin’ out a corpse sho’ ’nuff!”

Uncle Dave very promptly subsided.

“An’ the only child he’s had is the present beautiful daughter that sits beside him.”

Tilly blushed.

“David, I am very sorry to say, had some very serious personal faults. He always slept with his mouth open. I’ve knowed him to snore so loud after dinner that the folks on the adjoining farm thought it was the dinner horn.”

“Now Hillard,” said Uncle Dave, rising “do you think it necessary to bring in all that?”

“A man’s fun’ral,” said the Bishop, “ain’t intended to do him any good it’s fur the coming generation. Boys and girls, beware of sleepin’ with yo’ mouth open an’ eatin’ with yo’ fingers an’ drinkin’ yo’ coffee out of the saucer, an’ sayin’ them molasses an’ I wouldn’t choose any when you’re axed to have somethin’ at the table.

“Dave Dickey done all that.

“Brother Dave Dickey had his faults as we all have. He was a sprinklin’ of good an’ evil, a mixture of diligence an’ laziness, a brave man mostly with a few yaller crosses in him, truthful nearly always, an’ lyin’ mostly fur fun an’ from habit; good at times an’ bad at others, spiritual at times when it looked like he cu’d see right into heaven’s gate, an’ then again racked with great passions of the flesh that swept over him in waves of hot desires, until it seemed that God had forgotten to make him anything but an animal.

“Come to think of it, an’ that’s about the way with the rest of us?

“But he aimed to do right, an’ he strove constantly to do right, an’ he prayed constantly fur help to do right, an’ that’s the main thing. If he fell he riz agin, fur he had a Hand outstretched in his faith that cu’d lift him up, an’ knew that he could go to a Father that always forgave an’ that’s the main thing. Let us remember, when we see the faults and vices of others that we see only what they’ve done as Bobby Burns says, we don’t kno’ what they have resisted. Give ’em credit for that maybe it over-balances. Balancín’ ah, my bretherin, that’s a gran’ thing. It’s the thing on which the whole Universe hangs the law of balance. The pendulum every whar swings as fur back as it did furra’d, an’ the very earth hangs in space by this same law. An’ it holds in the moral worl’ as well as the t’other one only man is sech a liar an’ so bigoted he can’t see it. But here comes into the worl’ a man or woman filled so full of passion of every sort, passions they didn’t make themselves either regular thunder clouds in the sky of life. Big with the rain, the snow, the hail the lightning of passion. A spark, a touch, a strong wind an’ they explode, they fall from grace, so to speak. But what have they done that we ain’t never heard of? All we’ve noticed is the explosion, the fall, the blight. They have stirred the sky, whilst the little white pale-livered untempted clouds floated on the zéphyrs they’ve brought rain that made the earth glad, they’ve cleared the air in the very fall of their lightnin’. The lightnin’ came the fall but give ’em credit fur the other. The little namby-pamby, white livered, zephyr clouds that is so divine an’ useless, might float forever an’ not even make a shadow to hide men from the sun.

“So credit the fallen man or woman, big with life an’ passion, with the good they’ve done when you debit ’em with the evil. Many a ’oman so ugly that she wasn’t any temptation even for Sin to mate with her, has done more harm with her slanderin’ tongue an’ hypocrisy than a fallen ’oman has with her whole body.

“We’re mortals an’ we can’t he’p it animals, an’ God made us so. But we’ll never fall to rise no mo’ ’less we fail to reach up fur he’p.

“What then is our little sins of the flesh to the big goodness of the faith that is in us?

“For forty years Uncle Dave has been a consistent member of the church some church it don’t matter which. For forty years he has trod the narrer path, stumpin’ his toe now an’ then, but allers gettin’ up agin, for forty years he has he’ped others all he cu’d, been charitable an’ forgivin’, as hones’ as the temptation would permit, an’ only a natural lie now an’ then as to the weather or the size of a fish, trustin’ in God to make it all right.

“An’ now, in the twilight of life, when his sun is ‘most set an’ the dews of kindness come with old age, right gladly will he wake up some mornin’ in a better lan’, the scrub in him all bred out, the yaller streak gone, the sins of the flesh left behind. An’ that’s about the way with the most of us, no better an’ maybe wuss Amen!”

Uncle Dave was weeping:

“Oh, Hillard Hillard,” he said, “say all that over agin about the clouds an’ the thunder of passion say all the last part over agin it sounds so good!”

The congregation thronged around him and shook his hand. They gave him the flowers they had brought; they told him how much they thought of him, how sorry they would be to see him dead, how they had always intended to come to see him, but had been so busy, and to cheer up that he wasn’t dead yet.

“No” said Uncle Dave, weeping “no, an’ now since I see how much you all keer fur me I don’t b’lieve I I wanter die at all.”