Then the old lady gave a long sigh.
“Oh, Joel!” she said, in a trembling voice, “how the sight of him startled me. I can shut my eyes, and think time has taken me back to our first year of wedded life. Yes, I am overjoyed at making the acquaintance of such a robust little fellow. And, Hugh, forgive me for not speaking to you before. I have heard much about you, and am pleased to know you. But, above all things, let me thank you for bringing this child out here to open the hearts of two lonely old people who live only in the past as their sun goes down toward the darkness of the night.”
“I’ll run along now, and take my regular bath after my work,” said Deacon Winslow, trying to speak cheerily, though Hugh knew very well he had been more or less affected by what his wife had just said.
Left alone with the old lady, while the servant bustled in and out, laying the cloth, and setting the table, Hugh commenced an interesting conversation. She asked him a multitude of questions covering all sorts of subjects, even to that of athletic sports.
“You see, the Deacon is fond of boys to an extent that it has become his one hobby,” she explained, in order to let Hugh know why she felt an interest in such matters. “He spends all his spare time doing things to make growing lads happier, and more contented in their homes. People will never know one-tenth of what he’s done to save boys who were going the pace. His latest protege in that line you happen to know, a hulking fellow named Nick Lang, who, I understand, has been the terror of Scranton for years. I’ve met him, and must say I have my doubts whether he can ever be tamed, and molded into a respectable member of society; but Joel seems to believe no boy is so bad but what he has a soft streak in him somewhere, if only you can find it.”
“Well, since he hasn’t told you about the inspiration that came to me,” Hugh felt constrained to say, though averse to speaking of his own successes, “I want to say that right now Nick Lang is on the road to making good.”
“Please tell me all about it then, Hugh?” she urged him.
Accordingly, Hugh started to relate the story from the very beginning; and he had a deeply interested auditor; for Mrs. Winslow sat there in her wheel-chair, with little Joey cuddled in her arms, and one of his soft, chubby hands patting her face.
AT THE DEACON’S FIRESIDE
“Hugh, I do believe you will succeed in your undertaking, and that Nick Lang is already firmly planted on the right path!” exclaimed the old lady, with considerable warmth, when the story had been brought up to date, bringing in an account of Hugh’s most recent talk with the former terror of the town.
“It looks encouraging, anyhow,” he merely replied; though, of course; he felt a flush of boyish pride at the warm look she gave him when saying what she did.