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from Fables For Children, Stories For Children, Natural Science Stori - WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO





Shoemaker Martyn Avdyeich lived in the city. He lived in a basement, in
a room with one window. The window looked out on the street. Through it
the people could be seen as they passed by: though only the feet were
visible, Martyn Avdyeich could tell the men by their boots. He had lived
for a long time in one place and had many acquaintances. It was a rare
pair of boots in the neighbourhood that had not gone once or twice
through his hands. Some he had resoled; on others he had put patches, or
fixed the seams, or even put on new uppers. Frequently he saw his own
work through the window. He had much to do, for he did honest work, put
in strong material, took no more than was fair, and kept his word. If he
could get a piece of work done by a certain time he undertook to do it,
and if not, he would not cheat, but said so in advance. Everybody knew
Avdyeich, and his work never stopped.

Avdyeich had always been a good man, but in his old age he thought more
of his soul and came near unto God. Even while Martyn had been living
with a master, his wife had died, and he had been left with a boy three
years of age. Their children did not live long. All the elder children
had died before. At first Martyn had intended sending his son to his
sister in a village, but then he felt sorry for the little lad, and
thought: "It will be hard for my Kapitoshka to grow up in somebody
else's family, and so I will keep him."

Avdyeich left his master, and took up quarters with his son. But God did
not grant Avdyeich any luck with his children. No sooner had the boy
grown up so as to be a help to his father and a joy to him, than a
disease fell upon him and he lay down and had a fever for a week and
died. Martyn buried his son, and was in despair. He despaired so much
that he began to murmur against God. He was so downhearted that more
than once he asked God to let him die, and rebuked God for having taken
his beloved only son, and not him. He even stopped going to church.

One day an old man, a countryman of Avdyeich's, returning from
Troitsa,--he had been a pilgrim for eight years,--came to see him.
Avdyeich talked with him and began to complain of his sorrow:

"I have even no desire to live any longer, godly man. If I could only
die. That is all I am praying God for. I am a man without any hope."

And the old man said to him:

"You do not say well, Martyn. We cannot judge God's works. Not by our
reason, but by God's judgment do we live. God has determined that your
son should die, and you live. Evidently it is better so. The reason you
are in despair is that you want to live for your own enjoyment."

"What else shall we live for?" asked Martyn.

And the old man said:

"We must live for God, Martyn. He gives us life, and for Him must we
live. When you shall live for Him and shall not worry about anything,
life will be lighter for you."

Martyn was silent, and he said:

"How shall we live for God?"

And the old man said:

"Christ has shown us how to live for God. Do you know how to read? If
so, buy yourself a Gospel and read it, and you will learn from it how to
live for God. It tells all about it."

These words fell deep into Avdyeich's heart. And he went that very day
and bought himself a New Testament in large letters, and began to read.

Avdyeich had meant to read it on holidays only, but when he began to
read it, his heart was so rejoiced that he read it every day. Many a
time he buried himself so much in reading that all the kerosene would be
spent in the lamp, but he could not tear himself away from the book. And
Avdyeich read in it every evening, and the more he read, the clearer it
became to him what God wanted of him, and how he should live for God;
and his heart grew lighter and lighter. Formerly, when he lay down to
sleep, he used to groan and sob and think of his Kapitoshka, but now he
only muttered:

"Glory be to Thee, glory to Thee, O Lord! Thy will be done!"

Since then Avdyeich's life had been changed. Formerly, he used on a
holiday to frequent the tavern, to drink tea, and would not decline a
drink of vodka. He would drink a glass with an acquaintance and, though
he would not be drunk, he would come out of the tavern in a happier
mood, and then he would speak foolish things, and would scold, or
slander a man. Now all that passed away from him. His life came to be
calm and happy. In the morning he sat down to work, and when he got
through, he took the lamp from the hook, put it down on the table,
fetched the book from the shelf, opened it, and began to read it. And
the more he read, the better he understood it, and his mind was clearer
and his heart lighter.

One evening Martyn read late into the night. He had before him the
Gospel of St. Luke. He read the sixth chapter and the verses: "And unto
him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him
that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to
every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask
them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to
them likewise."

And he read also the other verses, where the Lord says: "And why call ye
me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to
me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he
is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and
laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat
vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded
upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that
without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the
stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of
that house was great."

When Avdyeich read these words, there was joy in his heart. He took off
his glasses, put them on the book, leaned his arms on the table, and
fell to musing. And he began to apply these words to his life, and he
thought:

"Is my house on a rock, or on the sand? It is well if it is founded on a
rock: it is so easy to sit alone,--it seems to me that I am doing
everything which God has commanded; but if I dissipate, I shall sin
again. I will just proceed as at present. It is so nice! Help me, God!"

This he thought, and he wanted to go to sleep, but he was loath to tear
himself away from the book. And he began to read the seventh chapter. He
read about the centurion, about the widow's son, about the answer to
John's disciples, and he reached the passage where the rich Pharisee
invited the Lord to be his guest, and where the sinning woman anointed
His feet and washed them with her tears, and he justified her. And he
reached the 44th verse, and read: "And he turned to the woman, and said
unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou
gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears,
and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but
this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My
head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my
feet with ointment."

When he had read these verses, he thought:

"He gave no water for His feet; he gave no kiss; he did not anoint His
head with oil."

And again Avdyeich took off his glasses and placed them on the book, and
fell to musing.

"Evidently he was just such a Pharisee as I am. He, no doubt, thought
only of himself: how to drink tea, and be warm, and in comfort, but he
did not think of the guest. About himself he thought, but no care did he
have for the guest. And who was the guest?--The Lord Himself. Would I
have done so, if He had come to me?"

And Avdyeich leaned his head on both his arms and did not notice how he
fell asleep.

"Martyn!" suddenly something seemed to breathe over his very ear.

Martyn shuddered in his sleep: "Who is that?"

He turned around and looked at the door, but there was nobody there. He
bent down again, to go to sleep. Suddenly he heard distinctly:

"Martyn, oh, Martyn, remember, to-morrow I will come to the street."

Martyn awoke, rose from his chair, and began to rub his eyes. He did
not know himself whether he had heard these words in his dream or in
waking. He put out the light and went to sleep.

Avdyeich got up in the morning before daybreak, said his prayers, made a
fire, put the beet soup and porridge on the stove, started the samovar,
tied on his apron, and sat down at the window to work. And, as he sat
there at work, he kept thinking of what had happened the night before.
His thoughts were divided: now he thought that it had only seemed so to
him, and now again he thought he had actually heard the voice.

"Well," he thought, "such things happen."

Martyn was sitting at the window and not so much working as looking out
into the street, and if somebody passed in unfamiliar boots, he bent
over to look out of the window, in order to see not merely the boots,
but also the face. A janitor passed by in new felt boots; then a
water-carrier went past; then an old soldier of the days of Nicholas, in
patched old felt boots, holding a shovel in his hands, came in a line
with the window. Avdyeich recognized him by his felt boots. The old
man's name was Stepanych, and he was living with a neighbouring merchant
for charity's sake. It was his duty to help the janitor. Stepanych began
to clear away the snow opposite Avdyeich's window. Avdyeich cast a
glance at him and went back to his work.

"Evidently I am losing my senses in my old age," Avdyeich laughed to
himself. "Stepanych is clearing away the snow, and I thought that Christ
was coming to see me. I, old fool, am losing my senses." But before he
had made a dozen stitches, something drew him again toward the window.
He looked out, and there he saw Stepanych leaning his shovel against the
wall and either warming or resting himself.

He was an old, broken-down man, and evidently shovelling snow was above
his strength. Avdyeich thought: "I ought to give him some tea;
fortunately the samovar is just boiling." He stuck the awl into the
wood, got up, placed the samovar on the table, put some tea in the
teapot, and tapped with his finger at the window. Stepanych turned
around and walked over to the window. Avdyeich beckoned to him and went
to open the door.

"Come in and get warmed up!" he said. "I suppose you are feeling cold."

"Christ save you! I have a breaking in my bones," said Stepanych.

He came in, shook off the snow and wiped his boots so as not to track
the floor, but he was tottering all the time.

"Don't take the trouble to rub your boots. I will clean up,--that is my
business. Come and sit down!" said Avdyeich. "Here, drink a glass of
tea!"

Avdyeich filled two glasses and moved one of them up to his guest, and
himself poured his glass into the saucer and began to blow at it.

Stepanych drank his glass; then he turned it upside down, put the lump
of sugar on top of it, and began to express his thanks; but it was
evident that he wanted another glass.

"Have some more," said Avdyeich; and he poured out a glass for his guest
and one for himself. Avdyeich drank his tea, but something kept drawing
his attention to the window.

"Are you waiting for anybody?" asked the guest.

"Am I waiting for anybody? It is really a shame to say for whom I am
waiting: no, I am not exactly waiting, but a certain word has fallen
deep into my heart: I do not know myself whether it is a vision, or
what. You see, my friend, I read the Gospel yesterday about Father
Christ and how He suffered and walked the earth. I suppose you have
heard of it?"

"Yes, I have," replied Stepanych, "but we are ignorant people,--we do
not know how to read."

"Well, so I read about how He walked the earth. I read, you know, about
how He came to the Pharisee, and the Pharisee did not give Him a good
reception. Well, my friend, as I was reading last night about that very
thing, I wondered how he could have failed to honour Father Christ. If
He should have happened to come to me, for example, I should have done
everything to receive Him. But he did not receive Him well. As I was
thinking of it, I fell asleep. And as I dozed off I heard some one
calling me by name: I got up and it was as though somebody were
whispering to me: 'Wait,' he said: 'I will come to-morrow.' This he
repeated twice. Would you believe it,--it has been running through my
head,--I blame myself for it,--and I am, as it were, waiting for Father
Christ."

Stepanych shook his head and said nothing. He finished his glass and put
it sidewise, but Avdyeich took it again and filled it with tea.

"Drink, and may it do you good! I suppose when He, the Father, walked
the earth, He did not neglect anybody, and kept the company mostly of
simple folk. He visited mostly simple folk, and chose His disciples
mostly from people of our class, labouring men, like ourselves the
sinners. He who raises himself up, He said, shall be humbled, and he who
humbles himself shall be raised. You call me Lord, He said, but I will
wash your feet. He who wants to be the first, He said, let him be
everybody's servant; because, He said, blessed are the poor, the meek
the humble, and the merciful."

Stepanych forgot his tea. He was an old man and easily moved to tears.
He sat there and listened, and tears flowed down his cheeks.

"Take another glass!" said Avdyeich.

But Stepanych made the sign of the cross, thanked him for the tea,
pushed the glass away from him, and got up.

"Thank you, Martyn Avdyeich," he said. "You were hospitable to me, and
have given food to my body and my soul."

"You are welcome. Come in again,--I shall be glad to see you," said
Avdyeich.

Stepanych went away. Martyn poured out the last tea, finished another
glass, put away the dishes, and again sat down at the window to
work,--to tap a boot. And as he worked, he kept looking out of the
window,--waiting for Christ and thinking of Him and His works. And all
kinds of Christ's speeches ran through his head.

There passed by two soldiers, one in Crown boots, the other in boots of
his own; then the proprietor of a neighbouring house came by in clean
galoshes, and then a baker with a basket. All of these went past the
window, and then a woman in woollen stockings and peasant shoes came in
line with the window. She went by the window and stopped near a wall.
Avdyeich looked at her through the window, and saw that she was a
strange, poorly dressed woman, with a child: she had stopped with her
back to the wind and was trying to wrap the child, though she did not
have anything to wrap it in. The woman's clothes were for the summer,
and scanty at that. Avdyeich could hear the child cry in the street, and
her vain attempt to quiet it. Avdyeich got up and went out of his room
and up to the staircase, and called out:

"Clever Woman! Clever woman!"

The woman heard him and turned around.

"Why are you standing there in the cold with the child? Come in here! It
will be easier for you to wrap the child in a warm room. Here, this
way!"

The woman was surprised. She saw an old man in an apron, with glasses
over his nose, calling to her. She followed him in.

They went down the stairs and entered the room, and Martyn took the
woman up to the bed.

"Sit down here, clever woman, nearer to the stove, and get warm and feed
the child."

"There is no milk in my breasts,--I have not had anything to eat since
morning," said the woman, but still she took the child to her breast.

Avdyeich shook his head, went to the table, fetched some bread and a
bowl, opened a door in the stove, filled the bowl with beet soup, and
took out the pot of porridge, but it was not done yet. He put the soup
on the table, put down the bread, and took off a rag from a hook and put
it down on the table.

"Sit down, clever woman, and eat, and I will sit with the babe,--I used
to have children of my own, and so I know how to take care of them."

The woman made the sign of the cross, sat down at the table, and began
to eat, while Avdyeich seated himself on the bed with the child. He
smacked his lips at it, but could not smack well, for he had no teeth.
The babe kept crying all the time. Avdyeich tried to frighten it with
his finger: he quickly carried his finger down toward the babe's mouth
and pulled it away again. He did not put his finger into the child's
mouth, because it was black,--all smeared with pitch. But the child took
a fancy for his finger and grew quiet, and then began even to smile.
Avdyeich, too, was happy. The woman was eating in the meantime and
telling him who she was and whither she was going.

"I am a soldier's wife," she said. "My husband was driven somewhere far
away eight months ago, and I do not know where he is. I had been working
as a cook when the baby was born; they would not keep me with the child.
This is the third month that I have been without a place. I have spent
all I had saved. I wanted to hire out as a wet-nurse, but they will not
take me: they say that I am too thin. I went to a merchant woman, where
our granny lives, and she promised she would take me. I thought she
wanted me to come at once, but she told me she wanted me next week. She
lives a distance away. I am all worn out and have worn out the dear
child, too. Luckily our landlady pities us for the sake of Christ, or
else I do not know how we should have lived until now."

Avdyeich heaved a sigh, and said:

"And have you no warm clothes?"

"Indeed, it is time now to have warm clothing, dear man! But yesterday I
pawned my last kerchief for twenty kopeks."

The woman went up to the bed and took her child, but Avdyeich got up,
went to the wall, rummaged there awhile, and brought her an old
sleeveless cloak.

"Take this!" he said. "It is an old piece, but you may use it to wrap
yourself in."

The woman looked at the cloak and at the old man, and took the cloak,
and burst out weeping. Avdyeich turned his face away; he crawled under
the bed, pulled out a box, rummaged through it, and again sat down
opposite the woman.

And the woman said:

"May Christ save you, grandfather! Evidently He sent me to your window.
My child would have frozen to death. When I went out it was warm, but
now it has turned dreadfully cold. It was He, our Father, who taught you
to look through the window and have pity on me, sorrowful woman."

Avdyeich smiled, and said:

"It is He who has instructed me: clever woman, there was good reason why
I looked through the window."

Martyn told the soldier woman about his dream, and how he had heard a
voice promising him that the Lord would come to see him on that day.

"Everything is possible," said the woman. She got up, threw the cloak
over her, wrapped the child in it, and began to bow to Avdyeich and to
thank him.

"Accept this, for the sake of Christ," said Avdyeich, giving her twenty
kopeks, with which to redeem her kerchief.

The woman made the sign of the cross, and so did Avdyeich, and he saw
the woman out.

She went away. Avdyeich ate some soup, put the things away, and sat down
once more to work. He was working, but at the same time thinking of the
window: whenever it grew dark there, he looked up to see who was
passing. There went by acquaintances and strangers, and there was
nothing peculiar.

Suddenly Avdyeich saw an old woman, a huckstress, stop opposite the very
window. She was carrying a basket with apples. There were but few of
them left,--evidently she had sold all, and over her shoulder she
carried a bag with chips. No doubt, she had picked them up at some new
building, and was on her way home. The bag was evidently pulling hard on
her shoulder; she wanted to shift it to her other shoulder, so she let
the bag down on the flagstones, set the apple-basket on a post, and
began to shake down the chips. While she was doing that, a boy in a torn
cap leaped out from somewhere, grasped any apple from the basket, and
wanted to skip out, but the old woman saw him in time and turned around
and grabbed the boy by the sleeve. The boy yanked and tried to get away,
but the old woman held on to him with both her hands, knocked down his
cap, and took hold of his hair. The boy cried, and the old woman
scolded. Avdyeich did not have time to put away the awl. He threw it on
the floor, jumped out of the room, stumbled on the staircase, and
dropped his glasses. He ran out into the street. The old woman was
pulling the boy's hair and scolding him. She wanted to take him to a
policeman; the little fellow struggled and tried to deny what he had
done:

"I did not take any, so why do you beat me? Let me go!"

Avdyeich tried to separate them. He took the boy's arm, and said:

"Let him go, granny, forgive him for Christ's sake!"

"I will forgive him in such a way that he will not forget until the new
bath brooms are ripe. I will take the rascal to the police station!"

Avdyeich began to beg the old woman:

"Let him go, granny, he will not do it again. Let him go, for Christ's
sake!"

The woman let go of him. The boy wanted to run, but Avdyeich held on to
him.

"Beg the grandmother's forgiveness," he said. "Don't do that again,--I
saw you take the apple."

The boy began to cry, and he asked her forgiveness.

"That's right. And now, take this apple!" Avdyeich took an apple from
the basket and gave it to the boy. "I will pay for it, granny," he said
to the old woman.

"You are spoiling these ragamuffins," said the old woman. "He ought to
be rewarded in such a way that he should remember it for a week."

"Oh, granny, granny!" said Avdyeich. "That is according to our ways, but
how is that according to God's ways? If he is to be whipped for an
apple, what ought to be done with us for our sins?"

The old woman grew silent.

And Avdyeich told the old woman the parable of the lord who forgave his
servant his whole large debt, after which the servant went and took his
fellow servant who was his debtor by the throat. The old woman listened
to him, and the boy stood and listened, too.

"God has commanded that we should forgive," said Avdyeich, "or else we,
too, shall not be forgiven. All are to be forgiven, but most of all an
unthinking person."

The old woman shook her head and sighed.

"That is so," said the old woman, "but they are very much spoiled
nowadays."

"Then we old people ought to teach them," said Avdyeich.

"That is what I say," said the old woman. "I myself had seven of
them,--but only one daughter is left now." And the old woman began to
tell where and how she was living with her daughter, and how many
grandchildren she had. "My strength is waning," she said, "but still I
work. I am sorry for my grandchildren, and they are such nice
children,--nobody else meets me the way they do. Aksyutka will not go to
anybody from me. 'Granny, granny dear, darling!'" And the old woman
melted with tenderness.

"Of course, he is but a child,--God be with him!" the old woman said
about the boy.

She wanted to lift the bag on her shoulders, when the boy jumped up to
her, and said:

"Let me carry it, granny! I am going that way."

The old woman shook her head and threw the bag on the boy's shoulders.
They walked together down the street. The old woman had forgotten to ask
Avdyeich to pay her for the apple. Avdyeich stood awhile, looking at
them and hearing them talk as they walked along.

When they disappeared from sight, he returned to his room. He found his
glasses on the staircase,--they were not broken,--and he picked up his
awl and again sat down to work. He worked for awhile; he could not find
the holes with the bristle, when he looked up and saw the lampman
lighting the lamps.

"It is evidently time to strike a light," he thought, and he got up and
fixed the lamp and hung it on the hook, and sat down again to work. He
finished a boot: he turned it around and looked at it, and he saw that
it was well done. He put down his tool, swept up the clippings, put away
the bristles and the remnants and the awls, took the lamp and put it on
the table, and fetched the Gospel from the shelf. He wanted to open the
book where he had marked it the day before with a morocco clipping, but
he opened it in another place. And just as he went to open the Gospel,
he thought of his dream of the night before. And just as he thought of
it, it appeared to him as though something were moving and stepping
behind him. He looked around, and, indeed, it looked as though people
were standing in the dark corner, but he could not make out who they
were. And a voice whispered to him:

"Martyn, oh, Martyn, have you not recognized me?"

"Whom?" asked Avdyeich.

"Me," said the voice. "It is I."

And out of the dark corner came Stepanych, and he smiled and vanished
like a cloud and was no more.

"And it is I," said a voice.

And out of the dark corner came the woman with the babe, and the woman
smiled and the child laughed, and they, too, disappeared.

"And it is I," said a voice.

And out came the old woman and the boy with the apple, and both smiled
and vanished.

And joy fell on Avdyeich's heart, and he made the sign of the cross, put
on his glasses, and began to read the Gospel, there where he had opened
it. And at the top of the page he read:

"I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me
drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in."

And at the bottom of the page he read:

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me." (Matt. xxv.)

And Avdyeich understood that his dream had not deceived him, that the
Saviour had really come to him on that day, and that he had received
Him.





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