“I suppose it’s safe to admit that much.”
“Well, sir, I’m tryin’ to foller Him an’ learn of Him. I’m believin’ in Him just like I believe in old Andrew Jackson.”
“Is that all?”
“That’s enough,—as far as I’ve got. You’re a good deal smarter than I be, sir: won’t you tell me how to go further?”
The lawyer shook his head and departed. The cobbler fell on his knees and buried his face in his hands. The lawyer, chancing to look in the window, saw the movement; then he drew his hat down over his eyes and sauntered off.
The genuineness of the change which had come over Sam Kimper slowly became the subject of general conversation in Bruceton. Judge Prency frequently spoke of it; so did his wife; and, as the Prencys were leaders of village society, whatever interested them became the fashion. People with shoes which needed repairing visited the new cobbler in great numbers, each prompted as much by curiosity as by business, for they seldom haggled about prices.
Sam’s family, too, began to receive some attention. Mrs. Prency, having first secured a promise from Sam that the children should go to Sunday-school if they could be decently clad, interested several ladies to the extent of bestowing some old clothing, which she hired a sewing woman to make over into becoming garments for Billy and Mary. Mrs. Kimper, too, was enabled to dress well enough to appear in church, though she stipulated that she should go only to evening services.
“I don’t ’mount to much, Mrs. Prency,” said she to the family’s benefactor; “there ain’t much left of me as I once was, but I ain’t goin’ to have people look at me the way they do, any more than I can help.”
“The feeling does you credit, Mrs. Kimper,” said the lady, “but you won’t long be troubled that way. The oftener you let people see you, the less curious they’ll be.”
Sam’s new way of life, too, began to be discussed where men most congregated. Loungers at stores, the railway station, and the post-office talked of the town’s only ex-convict who had not yet gone back to his old ways. Most of the men who talked of him did it in about the manner of spectators of the gladiatorial combats in ancient Rome: they admired the endurance and courage of the man, but seldom did it occur to them to stretch out a hand to help him. There were exceptions to this rule, however. An old farmer who had brought a load of wheat to the station listened to the tale, asked a great many questions about the case, and said, finally,—
“I s’pose you’re all doin’ all you can to help him along?”