“Dad converted!” muttered Tom. “Dad converted! d’ye hear that?” said he, hitting his brother to attract attention. “I must go down to the hotel an’ tell Jane; she’ll steal me a glass of beer for it. Converted! I’ll be ashamed to look the boys in the face.”
The Kimper family thinned out, numerically, as soon as the frugal evening meal was despatched. Tom and Billy disappeared separately without remark; Mary put on a small felt hat which added a rakish air to her precocious face, and said she was going to the hotel to see if sister Jane had any news. Half an hour later, the cook, all the chamber-maids, waiters, bar-keepers, and stable-boys at the hostelry were laughing and jeering, in which they were led by Jane, as Mary told of her father’s announcement that he had been converted and would have no more stealing done in the interest of the family larder. The fun became so fast and furious that it was obliged to end in sheer exhaustion; so when Tom came in an hour later, he was unable to revive it sufficiently to secure the stolen glass of beer which he had coveted.
Sam Kimper did not seem to notice the disappearance of the more active portion of the family. Taking the baby in his arms, he sat with closed eyes while his wife cleared the table. Finally he said,—
“Nan, ain’t you got nothin’ else to do?”
“Nothin’, that I know of,” said the wife.
“Come an’ set down alongside o’ me, then, an’ let me tell you about somethin’ that come about while I was in the penitentiary. Nan, a man that used to come there Sundays found me a-cryin’ in my cell one Sunday; I couldn’t help it, I felt so forlorn an’ kind o’ gone like. I’d felt that way lots o’ times before, when I was out an’ around, but then I could get over it by takin’ a drink. There’s always ways of gettin’ a drink,—sweepin’ out a saloon, or cuttin’ wood agin’ winter, when the saloon’ll need it. But there wasn’t no chance to get a drink in jail, an’ I was feelin’ as if the under-pinnin’ of me was gone.
“Well, the man said he knowed a friend that would stand by me an’ cheer me up. His name was Jesus. I told him I’d heerd of Him before, ’cause I’d been to revival meetin’s an’ been preached to lots by one man an’ another. He said that wasn’t exactly the way he wanted me to think about Him,—said Jesus used to be alive and go around bein’ sorry for folks that was in trouble, an’ He once comforted a thief that was bein’ killed in a most uncomfortable way, though Jesus was havin’ a hard time of it Himself about that time.
“That hit me where I lived, for I—well, you know what I was sent up for. He said Jesus was God, but he came here to show men how to live, an’ he wanted me to think about Him only as a man, while I was in trouble. He said the worse off a man was, the more sorry Jesus was for him: so I said,—
“‘I wish He was here now, then.’