OLD TOM was just naturally hard to get along with. He had lived at the county poor farm for five years and he had no friends, or relatives. He did chores about the place when he chose, but mostly he sat glowering in the sun or beside the register in the living quarters, when it was cold.
He never told anything about himself except to brag about the wild days he had spent in the lumber woods as a young man. He would argue with the other men, most of them aged like him, and he made it a practice to complain about the food at each meal. All manner of ways had a wicked life behind him and no repentance and hope for the future.
Everything had been tried by the manager and his wife and the hired help to please Old Tom, but nothing succeeded.
As is the custom, ministers and singers from the various churches held services at the county house from time to time, but Old Tom only scoffed and would not sit in on these meetings at all.
He was a hard man with no concern for his soul and no desire to make friends.
He grew so aged and bent that it was necessary for him to use a heavy walking stick and some of the older folk were worried lest he die.
Easter time approached and the weather was ideal. Spring flowers filled the whole countryside and the birds were singing gaily in the shade trees about the place. Easter was late that year and the whole earth seemed to smile on Easter Sunday, all but Old Tom. He was sarcastic and mean when an Easter prayer was offered at breakfast.
It was almost noon when an automobile drove into the yard of the big brick county farm. From the car a young Sunday School teacher and half a dozen pupils stepped, laden with an armful of flowers and with pretty Easter cards which they had fashioned themselves. Old Tom was just passing through the front hall and he must see and hear the young teacher and the children.
Bertha had been chosen to present the cards and make a little speech to the inmates and the manager's wife. Bertha whose long golden curls and blue eyes made her look like an angel. Her pretty pale blue dress and white slippers looked dainty as a flower.
As Bertha stepped forward with a big sheaf of cut flowers and said in her childish voice: "We want you to have these flowers and these cards which we made for you because we thought about you and wanted you to know that Jesus loves you." Old Tom's eyes almost popped out of his head. He did not refuse the card handed to him written in a child's handwriting: "Jesus Died for Us and He Arose."
Mumbling an excuse Old Tom went up to his room and when the call for dinner came he did not come down. The manager went up to see why the old man, usually the first at the table, did not come and he found him sitting by the window. His face was wet with tears, which he made no move to wipe away.
"Yes, I'm sick myself. That little girl, she reminded me of my own little sister. I killed my sister when we were both kids. Oh, it was an accident. I pushed her off a rail fence and she fell on a rock. I can still see the blood from the cut on her head, staining her golden hair. I ran away from home and wandered all over the country, working in the woods, on the road, and in the fields. I even worked in the mines. I didn't want to talk to anybody, and I could always see my sister, Mary, lying there on the ground."
"I drank and gambled and did all the bad things I could do, trying to forget what I had done. My parents never knew what happened to me for the country was wild with forests and no means of communication, and I begged my way, stole some too, until I was out of the state. I was big for thirteen and I was able to be as tough as the next one."
"And now, after all these years that little girl walks into my life, just as if Mary had come back from the dead. And this card she gave me says that 'He Arose.' It says that Jesus died for me. And those flowers smell just like the flowers we used to grow at home in Mary's little posy garden. Sure feel bad about the way I have lived and I am ashamed to have that little girl look at me."
The manager was a kind-hearted man and his own eyes were wet with tears. "Tom," he said, "Let me send for the minister, that old man from the church outside the village. He is kind and he has lived many years, like you. He can tell you about Jesus Christ and how he can wash all of the old stains off your conscience and make you a new man."
Old Tom did not eat a bite of the Easter dinner until the manager had telephoned the kindly old minister and the good man had come out to the Farm. He went into Tom's room and stayed there for a long time and after Tom had asked forgiveness of the Lord and had received the blessing of sins washed away, the two men came downstairs. The manager's wife had prepared a special dinner for Tom, and the good minister sat down with him and helped him eat this first meal in peace with God.
Tom was a changed man. He walked to church when the weather was good enough and the manager allowed him to have a small radio in his room in order that he might hear the sermons when he could not get out.
But Tom did not live very long after this experience. When the first cold winds of autumn came blowing from the North, Old Tom was taken with a bad cold from which he did not recover.
When Tom's funeral was over, and the manager's wife went to set his room to rights, she found Tom's old silver watch and with it a note which read "For the little girl with golden hair. I know my Lord and Saviour is risen, and that He lives. How do I know? Because I, too, have come to Him and my life is new and clean. My days are filled with quietness and joy. And He who is love bid me speak this word to you. Jesus is coming soon!"