Where Love Is, There God Is Also by Leo Tolstoy (an Excerpt)

Martin Avdeitch was a shoemaker who lived in a basement room with only one window. HTrough this window he could only see the legs of the passers-by, but he could tell who the passers-by were for all their shoes passed through his hands. His wife died, leaving behind her a little boy, who also died a short time later. Martin reproached God for taking away his beloved only son. He stopped going to church.
One day he met an ancient peasant pilgrim who convinced him to go back to God for "it is not for us to judge the acts of God" and to live for God alone for "it is He who gave you life, and therefore it is He for whom you should live," and "when you come to live for Him you will cease to grieve and your trials will become easy to bear." The pilgrim told Martin to study the Testament so he would learn how to live for God.
Martin did as told. The Testament changed his life completely. The more he read, the more he understood and the clearer and happier he became. Once, while he was reading, someone seemed to call him and tell him to look out into the street the following dy for He was coming to visit. Martin thought he had been dreaming for there was nobody there. Nevertheless, the following morning, he looked out of his window many times over. But he saw no one except an old soldier who was living on charity. The old man began to clear away the snow in front of Martin's window. Seeing that the old man seemed tired and cold, Martin invited him in for a cup of tea. The soldier drank his tea and had two more cups before he left.
So Stepanitch (the Old Soldier) departed, while Martin poured out the last of the tea and drank it. Then he cleared the crockery, and sat down again tohis work by the window
-- to the stitching of a back-piece. He stitched away, yet kept on looking through the window--looking for Christ, as it were--and ever thinking of Christ and His works. indeed, Christ's many sayings were never absent from Avdeitch's mind.
Two soldier's passed the window, the one in military boots and the other in civilian. Next, there came a neighboring house-holder in polished galoshes; then a baker with a basket. All of them passed on. Presently, a woman in woolen stockings and rough country shoes approached the window,and halted near the buttress outside it. Avdeitch peered up at her from under the lintel of his window, and could see that she was in plain-looking, poorly-dressed woman and had a child in her arms. It was in order to muffle the child up more closely -- little though she had to do it with! -- that she had stopped near the buttress and was now standing there with her back to the wind. Her clothing was ragged and fit only for summer, and even from behind his window -panes Avdeitch could hear the child crying miserably and its mother vainly trying to soothe it. Avdeitch rose, went to the door, climbed the steps, and cried out: "My good woman, my good woman!"
She heard him and turned around.
"Why need you stand there in the cold with your baby?" he went on. "Come into my room, where it is warm, and where you will be able to wrap the baby up more comfortably than you can do here. Yes, come in with me."
The woman was surprised to see an old man in a leather apron and with spectacles upon his nose, calling out to her, yet she followed him down the steps, and they entered his room. The old man led her to the bedstead.
"Sit you down here, my good woman," he said. "You will be near the stove, and can warm yourself and feed your baby."
"Ah, but I have no milk left in my breast," she replied. "I have had nothing to eat this morning." Nevertheloess she put the child to suck.
Avdeitch nodded his head approvingly, went to the table for some bread and a basin, and opened the stove door. From the stove he took and poured some soup into the basin, and drew out also a bowl of porridge. The latter, however, was not yet boiling, so he set oput only the soup, after first laying the table with a cloth.
"Sit down and eat, my good woman," he said, "while I hold your baby. I have had a little one of my own, and know how to nurse him."
The woman crossed herself and sat down, while Avdeitch seated himself upon the bedstead with the baby. He smacled his lips at it once or twice, but made a poor show of it, for he had no teeth left. Consequently the baby went on crying. Then he bethought him of his finger, which he wriggled to and fro towards the baby's mouth and back again--without, however, actually touching the little one's lips, since the finger was blackened withthe work and sticky with shoemaker's wax. The baby contemplated the finger and grew quiet--then actually smiled. Avdeitch was delighted. Meanwhile the woman had been eating her meal, and now she told him, unasked, who she was and where she was going.
"I am a soldier's wife," she said, "but my husband was sent to a distant station eight months ago, and I have heard nothing of him since. At first, I got a place as a cook, but when the baby came, they said they could not do with it and have spent all my savings. I tried to get taken as a wet nurse, but no one would have me, for they said I was too thin. I have just been to see a tradesman's wife where our grandmother is in service. She had promised to take me on, and I quite thought that she would, but when I arrived today she told me to come again next week. She lives a long way from here, and I am quite worn out and have tired my baby for nothing. Thank Heaven, however,my landlady is good to me, and gives me shelter for Christ's sake. Otherwise I should not have known how to bear it all."
Avdeitch sighed and said:"But have you nothing warm to wear?"
"Ah, sir," replied the woman, "although it is time for warm clothes I had to pawn my last shawl yesterday for two grivenki."
Then the woman returned to the bedstead to take her baby, while Avdeitch rose and went to a cupboard. There he rummaged about, and presently returned with an old jacket.
"Here," he said. "It is a poor old thing, but it will serve to cover you."
The woman looked at the jacket, and then at the old man. then she took the jacket and burst into tears. Avdeitch turned away, and went creeping under the bedstead, whence he extracted a box pretended to rummage about in it for a few moments; after which he sat down again before the woman.
Then the woman said to him: "I thank you in Christ's name, good grandfather. Surely it was He Himself who sent me to your window. Otherwise I should have seen my baby perish with the cold. When I first came out the day was warm, but now it has begun to freeze. But He, Our Little Father, had placed you in your window, that you might see in my bitter plight and have compassion upon me."
Avdeitch smiled and said: "He did indeed place methere: yet, my poor woman, it was for a special purpose that I was looking out."
Then he told his guest, the soldier's wife, of his vision, and how he had heard a voice foretelling that today the Lord Himself would come to visit him.
"That may very well be," said the woman as she rose, took the jacket, and wrapped the baby in it. Then she saluted him once more and thanked him.
"Also, take this in Christ's name," said Avdeitch, and gave her a two grivenki piecewith which to buy herself a shawl. The woman crossed herself, and he likewise. Then he led her to the door and dismissed her.
When she had gone Avdeitch ate a little soup, washed up the crockery again and resumed his work. All the time, though, he kept his eyes upon the window, and as soon as ever a shadow fell across it he would look up to see who was passing. Acquaintances of his came past, and people whom he did not know, yet never anyone very particular.
Then suddenly he saw something. Opposite his window there stopped an old peddler-woman, with a basket of apples. Only a few of the apples, however, remained, so that it was clear that she almost sold out. Over her shoulder slung a sack of shavings, which she must have gathered near some new building as she was going home. Apparently, her shoulder had begun to ache under their weight, and she therefore wished to shift them to the other one. To do this, she balanced her basket of apples on the top of a post, lowered the sack to the pavement, and began shaking up its contents. As she was doing this, a boy in a ragged cap appeared from somewhere, seized an apple from the basket, and tried to make off. But the old woman who had been on her guard, managed to turn and seized the boy by the sleeves, and although he struggled and tried to break away, she clung to him with both hands, snatched his cap off, and finally grasped him by the hair. Thereupon the youngster began to shout and abuse his captor. Avdeitch did not stop to make fast his awl, but threw his work down upon the floor, run to the door, and went stumbling up the steps -- losing his spectacles as he did so. Out into the street he ran, where the old woman was still clutching the boy by the hair and threatening to take him to the police, while the boy was struggling in the endeavor to free himself.
"I never took it," he was saying. "What are you beating me for? Let me go."
Avdeitch tried to part them as hettok the boy by the hand and said: "Let him go, my good woman. Pardon him for Christ's sake."
"Yes, I will pardon him," she retorted, but not until he has tasted a new birch. I mean to take the young rascal to the police."
But Avdeicth still interceded for him.
"Let him go, my good woman," he said. "He will never do it again. Let him go for Christ's sake."
The old woman released the boy, who was making off at once had not Avdeitch stopped him.
"You must beg the old woman's pardon," he said, "and never do such a thing again. I saw you take the apple."
The boy burst out crying, and begged the old woman's pardon as Avdeitch commanded.
"There,there," said Avdeitch. "Now I will give you one. Here you are," --and he took an apple from the basket and handed it to the boy. "I will pay you for it, my good woman," he added.
"Yes, but you spoil the young rascal by doing that," she objected. "He ought to have received a reward that would have made him glad to stand for a week."
"Ah, my good dame, my good dame," exclaimed Avdeitch. "That may be our way of rewarding, but it is not God's. If this boy ought to have been whipped for taking the apple, ought not we also receive something for our sins?"
The old woman was silent. Then Avdeitch related to her the parable of the master who absolved his servant from the great debt which owed him, whereupon the servant departed and took his own debtor by the throat. The old woman listened, and also the boy.
"God has commanded us to pardon one another," went on Avdeitch, "or He will not pardon us. We ought to pardon all men, and especially the thoughtless."
The old woman shook her head and sighed.
"Yes, that may be so," she said, but these young rascals are so spoilt already."
"Then it is for us, their elders, to teach them better," he replied.
"That is what I say myself at times," rejoined the old woman. "I had seven of them at home, but only have one daughter now." And she went on to tell Avdeitch where she and her daughter lived, and how they lived, and how many grandchildren she had.
"I have only such strength as you see," she said, "yet I worked hard, for my heart goes out to my grandchildren-- the bonny little things that they are! No children could run to meet me as they do. Aksintka, for instance, will go to no one else. 'Grandmother,' she cries, 'dear grandmother, you are tired," --and the old woman became throughly softened. "Everyone knows what boys are," she added presently, reffering to the culprit. "May God go with him!"
She was raising the sack to her shoulders again when the boy darted forward and said:
"Nay, let me carry it, grandmother. It will be all on my way home."
The old woman nodded assent, gave up the sack to the boy, and went away with him down the street. She had quite forgotten to ask Avdeitch for the money for the apple. He stood looking after them, and observing how they were talking together as they went.
Having seen them go, he returned to his room, finding his psectacles--unbroken--on the steps as he desceneded them. Once more he took up his awl and fell to work, but had done little before he found it difficult to distinguish the stitches, and the lamplighter had passed on his rounds. "I, too, must light up," he thought himself. So he trimmed the lamp, hung it up, and resumed his work. He finished on boot completely, and then turned it over to look at it. It was all good work. Then he laid aside his tools, swept up the cuttings, rounded off the stitches and loose ends, and cleaned his awl. next he lifted the lamp down, placed it on the table, and took his Testament from the shelf. he had intended opening the book at the place which he had marked last night with a strip of leather, but it opened itself at another instead. The instant it did so, his vision of last night came back to his memory, and, as instantly, he thought he heard movement behind him as of someone moving towards him. He looked around and saw in the shadow of a dark corner what appeared to be figures--figures of persons standing there, yet could not distinguish them clearly. Then the voice whispered in his ear:
"Martin, Martin, dost thou not know Me?"
"Who art thou?" said Avdeitch.
"Even I!" Whispered the voice again. "Lo, it is I!"-- and there stepped from the dark corner Stepanitch. He smiled, and then, like the fading of a little cloud, was gone.
"It is I!" whispered the voice again--and there stepped from the same corner the woman with her baby. She smiled, and the baby smiled, and they were gone.
"And it is I!" whispered the voice again-- and there stepped forth the old woman and the boy with the apple. they smiled and were gone.
Joy filled the soul of Martin Avdeitch as he crossed himself, put on his spectacles, and set himself to read the Testament at the place where it had opened. At the top of the page he read:
"For I was in hunger, and ye gave Me meat: I was stranger, and ye took Me in."
And further down the page he read:
"In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren ye have done it unto Me.
Then Avdeitch understood that the vision had come true, and that his Saviour had in very truth visited him that day, and that he had received Him.

No comments:

earn online!