Tolstoy for the Young : Part 2 : Where There Is Love, There Is God Also

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(1828 - 1910) ~ Father of Christian Anarchism : In 1861, during the second of his European tours, Tolstoy met with Proudhon, with whom he exchanged ideas. Inspired by the encounter, Tolstoy returned to Yasnaya Polyana to found thirteen schools that were the first attempt to implement a practical model of libertarian education. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "If, in former times, Governments were necessary to defend their people from other people's attacks, now, on the contrary, Governments artificially disturb the peace that exists between the nations, and provoke enmity among them." (From : "Patriotism and Government," by Leo Tolstoy, May 1....)
• "It is necessary that men should understand things as they are, should call them by their right names, and should know that an army is an instrument for killing, and that the enrollment and management of an army -- the very things which Kings, Emperors, and Presidents occupy themselves with so self-confidently -- is a preparation for murder." (From : "'Thou Shalt Not Kill'," by Leo Tolstoy, August 8,....)
• "The Government and all those of the upper classes near the Government who live by other people's work, need some means of dominating the workers, and find this means in the control of the army. Defense against foreign enemies is only an excuse. The German Government frightens its subjects about the Russians and the French; the French Government, frightens its people about the Germans; the Russian Government frightens its people about the French and the Germans; and that is the way with all Governments. But neither Germans nor Russians nor Frenchmen desire to fight their neighbors or other people; but, living in peace, they dread war more than anything else in the world." (From : "Letter to a Non-Commissioned Officer," by Leo Tol....)


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Part 2

In the town there was a shoemaker by the name of Martin, who lived in a basement with a tiny little window looking out into the street. Martin could see the people pass, and though he only got a glimpse of their feet, he still knew every one, for Martin could recognize people by their boots. Martin had lived in that basement for many a long year and had numbers of acquaintances. There were not many pairs of boots in the neighborhood that had not been through his hands at least once or twice—some for new soles, others for a patch or a stitch, or a second time for new tops, perhaps. Martin had plenty of work, for he always did it well; he gave good leather, did not overcharge, and kept true to his word. If he could do a piece of work for the time it was required, he took it; if not, he would not deceive his customers and told them so beforehand. And all knew Martin and he had no lack of work.

Martin had always been a good man, but as he grew older he began to think the more about his soul and to draw nearer to God. Martin’s wife had died when he had still worked for a master, and he was left with a boy of three years old. Their children never survived; the eldest were all dead. At first Martin wanted to send his little son to a sister in the country, but he felt sorry for the child, thinking, “It will be hard for the poor boy to grow up in a strange family; I will keep him with me.”

And Martin left his master and went into lodgings with his little son. But God had not ordained Martin to be happy in his children. The boy had no sooner grown up and become a help and a comfort to his father than he fell sick, tossed about with fever for a week and died. Martin buried his son and gave himself up to despair. His despair was so great that he even began to complain against God. Martin was so lonely that many were the times he prayed to God to let him die, reproaching Him for having spared an old man like himself and taken his only beloved son. Martin gave up going to church.

One day an old countryman came to visit him, who had been on a pilgrimage for eight years. Martin opened his heart to the old man and complained about his sorrow.

“I have no desire to live even,” he said; “I only want to die. That is all I pray to God about. I am a desperate man now.”

And the old man said to him, “It is not well what you say, Martin; we cannot judge the ways of God; they are beyond our understanding. He has judged it fitting to take away your son and to let you live, so it must be for the best. You despair because you want to live only for your own personal pleasure.”

“And what else should I live for?” Martin asked.

And the old man said, “You must live for God, Martin. He gave you life and you must live for Him. When you begin to live for Him and cease to worry about anything, then all will become easy for you.”

Martin was silent a while; then asked, “How can one live for God?”

And the old man said, “We must live for God as Christ taught us. You can read, can you not? Then buy the Gospels and read them and you will find out how to live for God. The Gospels tell us everything.”

Martin took these words to heart. That very day he bought a copy of the New Testament, printed in large type, and began to read it.

Martin had intended to read only on holidays, but when he once began he grew so lighthearted that he read every day. Sometimes he got so absorbed in his reading that the oil in the lamp burnt low and still he could not tear himself away.

Martin read every evening, and the more he read the more clearly he understood what God required of him and how he was to live for God. And his heart grew lighter than ever. At one time when he went to bed he would sigh and moan and think of his boy; now he only said to himself, “Glory to Thee, glory to Thee, God! Thy will be done!”

And a change came into Martin’s life. On holidays he used to hang about the public-houses to drink a cup of tea and did not refuse vodka even when it came his way. He would drink, as it happened, with some acquaintance, and though not exactly drunk, would come out of the public-house in an excited mood and speak vain words, giving back rough word for rough word.

But now this had all left him. His life became a peaceful and happy one.

In the morning he would sit down to his work and keep on for the necessary time, then he would take the lamp off the wall, put it on the table, fetch the Bible from a shelf, open it, and sit down to read. And the more he read, the more he understood, and the serener and lighter grew his heart.

One day Martin sat reading until late into the night. He was reading Luke’s Gospel and had come to 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 also read the verses where our 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 show 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 Martin read these words a feeling of joy entered his heart. He took off his spectacles, laid them on the Bible, then resting his elbows on the table, he began to ponder over what he had read. He compared his own life to the light of these words. “Is my house built on a rock or on sand?” he thought. “If on a rock it is well. It seems so easy when one sits alone here, and one thinks one has done all that God commands, but no sooner does one cease to be on one’s guard than one falls into sin. I must persevere; it brings such happiness! Help me, oh God!”

With this thought in his mind, he was about to go to bed, but was loathe to leave his Bible, and went on reading the seventh chapter. He read about the centurion, the widow’s son, and the answer to John’s disciples, and he came to the passage where a rich Pharisee invited the Lord to his house; and about the woman who was a sinner and anointed His feet and washed them with her tears, and how the Lord comforted her. And he came to the forty-fourth verse and began to read the words, “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.”

Martin read these verses and thought, “He gave no water for His feet, and no kiss, and he did not anoint His head with oil.” Once more Martin took off his spectacles and laid them on the Bible.

“He must have been like me, that Pharisee. Like me he thought only of himself—how to get a cup of tea, how to live in warmth and comfort. He cared only for himself, with never a thought about his guest. And the Lord Himself was his guest! I wonder if I would act like that if He came to visit me?”

And Martin rested his elbows on the table and his head on his hands and fell into a doze.

“Martin!” Some one suddenly breathed into his ear.

Martin started. “Who is that?” he asked, half asleep.

He turned and looked at the door, but no one was there. He called again and this time he heard a voice say clearly, “Martin! Martin! Look out for me in the street to-morrow; I am coming to see you.”

Martin roused himself, got up from the chair and began to rub his eyes. He did not know whether he had heard the words in a dream or when awake. He turned out the lamp and went to bed.

At daybreak next morning Martin arose, lit the stove, prepared some soup and porridge, got the samovar ready, put on his apron and sat down at the window to his work. As he worked he thought of what had happened yesterday. Now it seemed to him that he had heard the voice in his dreams, now that he had really heard it when awake.

“Things like that have happened before,” he thought.

Martin sat at the window and did not work so much as peer out into the street, and when an unfamiliar pair of boots came along, he would stoop down and look up to catch a glimpse of the person to whom they belonged. A yard-porter passed in new felt boots and a water-carrier; then an old soldier of Nicholas’ reign came alongside the window, spade in hand. Martin recognized him by his felt boots. The old man was called Stepan and a merchant who lived near by kept him out of charity. His duties were to help the yard-porter. He stopped opposite Martin’s window to clear away the snow. Martin looked at him and again went on with his work.

“What a fool I am getting in my old age,” Martin thought, amused at his own fancies. “Stepan is shoveling away the snow and I thought it was Christ come to visit me. Old dotard that I am!”

Yet after a dozen stitches or so Martin was again drawn to the window. He looked out and saw that Stepan had leaned his spade against the wall and was resting and trying to warm himself. The man was old and broken and had no strength even to clear away the snow. “Why not give him a cup of tea while the samovar is still on the boil?” Martin thought. And he put down his awl, rose, brought the samovar to the table, poured out a cup of tea and tapped on the window. Stepan turned and came up. Martin beckoned to him and went to open the door.

“Come in and get warm,” he said; “you must be quite frozen.”

“Christ save us! but my bones do ache,” Stepan said. Stepan came in, shook the snow off himself and began to wipe his boots so as not to dirty the floor, reeling as he did so.

“Don’t bother to wipe your feet,” Martin said; “I will wipe the floor afterwards; I am used to that. Come in and sit down. Here is a cup of tea.”

And Martin poured out two cups, gave one to his guest, poured some of his own into a saucer and began to blow on it in order to cool it.

Stepan finished his cup, turned it upside down in the saucer, put the remaining bit of sugar on top and began to thank Martin, who could see that the old man wanted some more.

“Have another cup,” Martin said and poured out more tea for his guest and for himself, and as he drank, he kept peering out of the window.

“Are you expecting some one?” Stepan asked.

“I? I hardly like to tell you whom I expect. But I wait and wait. A certain word took possession of my heart. Was it a dream or not, I cannot tell. It was like this, brother; I was reading the Gospels last night about Christ our Father and how He suffered on earth. You have heard tell of it, I daresay.”

“Yes,” Stepan said, “but we are ignorant folk and cannot read.”

“Well, I was reading how the Lord walked on earth, how He went to visit a Pharisee who did not receive Him well. And I wondered, as I read, how any man could receive the Lord without due honor. ‘Supposing such a thing were to happen to me,’ I thought, ‘what would I not do to receive Him? And the Pharisee did nothing!’ Thinking thus I fell asleep, and as I slept I heard a voice call to me. I rose; the voice seemed to whisper ‘Expect me; I am coming to-morrow.’ I heard it twice. Well, would you believe it? the idea took hold of my mind, and though I upbraid myself, I keep on expecting the Lord to come to me.”

Stepan shook his head, but made no remark. He finished his cup of tea and laid it down on its side in the saucer, but Martin took it up and filled it again.

“Have some more, bless you! I was thinking, too, that our Lord despised no one when He walked on earth; He was mostly with common folk. He went about with plain people and chose His disciples from men of our kind—simple workmen and sinners like ourselves. ‘He who raises himself,’ He said, ‘shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be raised. You call Me Lord,’ he said, ‘and I will wash your feet. He who would be first,’ He said, ‘let him be the servant of all, because,’ He said, ‘blessed are the poor, the humble, the meek, the merciful.’ ”

Stepan forgot his tea. He was an old man and easily moved to tears; and as he listened the tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Have some more,” Martin said, but Stepan crossed himself, thanked Martin, pushed away his cup and rose.

“Thank you Martin,” he said; “you have nourished my body and my soul.”

“You are welcome another time. I shall always be pleased to see you; come again.”

Stepan went out; Martin poured himself out a last cup of tea, drank it, cleared away the dishes and sat down again by the window to work, stitching the back seam of a boot. As he stitched he peered out of the window to see if Christ was coming, and he kept on thinking of Him and His doings and recalling His words.

Two soldiers passed; one in Government boots, the other in boots of his own; then the owner of the next house went by in clean goloshes, and a baker with a basket. All these passed on; then a woman came up in woolen stockings and coarse country shoes. She went by the window and stopped by the wall. Martin looked up and saw that she was a stranger, poorly clad, with a baby in her arms. She was standing with her back to the wind, trying to wrap up the baby, but there was nothing to wrap it in. Her garments were summer ones and ragged, too. Through the window Martin heard the baby crying; the woman tried to comfort it but could not.

Martin rose and going out at the door and up the steps, he called to her.

“Come this way, my dear!”

The woman turned to him.

“Don’t stand in the cold there with the baby; come inside in the warm; you can make him more comfortable here. Come along!”

The woman was surprised to see an old man in an apron and spectacles on his nose inviting her to his room, but she followed him. They descended the stairs and entered the room. Martin led her to the bed.

“Come and sit here, my dear,” he said. “It is nearer to the stove; you can warm yourself and feed the baby.”

“I haven’t any milk; I have eaten nothing myself since morning,” the woman said, yet putting the child to the breast.

Martin shook his head. He got some bread and a cup, opened the oven door and filled the cup with soup. He then took the porridge-pot out of the oven, but the porridge was not quite done. He spread a cloth and put the soup and bread on the table.

“Sit down and have something to eat, my dear. I’ll look after the baby. I have had children of my own and know how to nurse them.”

The woman crossed herself, sat down by the table and began to eat, and Martin sat on the bed with the baby. He clucked and clucked, but having no teeth he could not do it well, and the baby would not stop its crying. And Martin tried to amuse him with his finger. He poked the finger straight at the baby’s mouth, then drew it back again. He would not let the child take the finger in its mouth because it was black with cobbler’s wax. The child looked at the finger, stopped crying and began to laugh. Martin was pleased.

As the woman ate she told him about herself, saying who she was and where she was going.

“I am a soldier’s wife,” she said. “It is now eight months that my husband has been taken away and I haven’t heard a word from him. I had a place as a cook when the child was born, but they would not keep me after that. I’ve been without a place for three months now and eaten everything I possessed. I wanted to go as a wet-nurse, but no one would have me because they said I was too thin. I went to a merchant’s wife with whom our grandmother is in service and she promised to take me. I thought she meant at once, but she told me to come next week, and she lives a long way. I’m quite worn out, and the baby is half-starved. If our landlady did not take pity on us, I don’t know how we should live.”

Martin sighed and said, “Have you no warm clothes?”

“How can I have warm clothes! I pawned my last shawl yesterday for sixpence!”

The woman went up to the bed and took the child. Martin rummaged about among the things hanging on the wall and brought out an old coat.

“Though it isn’t much of a thing, it will do to wrap up in,” he said.

The woman looked at the coat; then at the old man. She took the coat and burst into tears. Martin turned away, crawled under the bed and pulled out a box. He rummaged about in it and once more sat down facing the woman.

And the woman said, “Christ save you, Grandfather. It must have been He who sent me to your window, otherwise the child and I would have been starved to death. It was mild when I started, but it’s very cold now. The dear Lord made you look out of the window and caused you to pity me.”

Martin smiled and said, “He did make me, indeed! I was not gazing idly out of the window, my dear.”

And Martin told the woman his dream and how he had heard a voice and how the voice had promised him that the Lord should come and visit him this day.

“All things are possible,” the woman said, and she rose, put on the coat, wrapped the child in it and began to take her leave, thanking Martin.

“Take this in Christ’s name,” Martin said, thrusting a sixpence into her hand. “It will do to take out your shawl.”

The woman crossed herself, Martin did likewise, then accompanied her to the door.

When she had gone Martin ate some soup, cleared the table, and again sat down to work. But he did not forget the window. As soon as a shadow fell across it, he looked up to see who it was. Acquaintances passed and strangers, and nothing particular happened. Suddenly Martin saw an old apple-woman stop by his window. She was carrying a basket of apples. She must have sold nearly all, for only a few remained. Over her shoulders was a bag of chips and shavings, she had collected no doubt in half-finished houses, and was taking home. The bag made her shoulder ache it seemed and she wanted to change it over to the other shoulder. She let it down on the pavement, placed her basket of apples on a post and shook the bag. As she was doing so a boy in a ragged cap appeared from somewhere, snatched an apple out of the basket and was about to slip away when the old woman saw him and caught him by the sleeve. The boy struggled to get away, but the old woman held him fast with both hands. She had knocked off his cap and clutched him by the hair. The boy screamed, the woman cursed. Martin did not wait to put the awl in its place, but dropped it on the floor and rushed out at the door and stumbled up the stairs, dropping his spectacles on the way. He ran out into the street. The old woman was pulling the boy by the hair, cursing and threatening to take him to the policeman; the boy struggled and resisted her. “Why do you strike me?” he was saying. “I didn’t take anything!”

Martin tried to part them; he took the boy by the hand and said, “Let him go, Granny. Forgive him for Christ’s sake.”

“I’ll forgive him so that he won’t forget it for a long time! I’ll take the rascal to the police-station!”

Martin began to plead with her.

“Let him go, Granny; he won’t do it again. Let him go for Christ’s sake!”

The old woman released the boy, who was about to run away when Martin stopped him.

“Ask Granny to forgive you and don’t do it again in future; I saw you take the apple.”

The boy burst into tears and begged the old woman to forgive him.

“There now, here’s an apple for you,” and Martin took an apple from the basket and gave it to the boy. “I’ll pay for it, Granny,” he said.

“You shouldn’t spoil the rascal,” the old woman said. “You ought to give him something he wouldn’t forget in a week.”

“Ah, Granny, Granny!” Martin said; “that is how we judge, but God does not judge like that. If the boy is to be whipped for an apple what do you suppose we deserve for our sins?”

The old woman was silent.

And Martin told her the parable of the Lord who forgave his servant a large debt and how the servant then seized his own debtor by the throat. The old woman listened; the boy, too, stood and listened.

“God bade us forgive,” Martin said, “that we may be forgiven. Forgive every one, even a thoughtless boy.”

The old woman shook her head with a sigh.

“It’s true enough,” she said, “but boys get very spoiled nowadays.”

“Then we old folk must teach them better,” Martin said.

“That’s just what I said,” the old woman replied. “I had seven of my own, but now I’ve only a daughter left.” And the old woman began to tell him where and how she lived with her daughter and how many grandchildren she had. “You see,” she said, “I’m old now, yet still I work, for the sake of the grandchildren. And nice children they are, too. No one is so kind to me as they. The youngest won’t leave me for any one. It’s nothing but Granny dear, Granny darling all the time.”

The old woman had quite softened by now.

“Children will be children,” she said to Martin in reference to the boy. “The Lord bless them.”

She was about to raise her bag on to her shoulder when the boy rushed up and said, “Let me carry it, Granny; I’m going your way.”

The old woman shook her head and put the bag on the boy’s shoulder. And they walked down the street side by side. The old woman had forgotten to ask Martin to pay for the apple. Martin stood and watched them, listening to their voices as they talked together.

When they were out of sight he turned in, found his spectacles on the stairs quite whole, took up his awl and sat down to his work once more. After a while he could not see to pass the thread through the holes and he noticed the lamplighter lighting the street lamps. “I must light up,” he thought. And he trimmed the lamp, hung it up and went on with his work. He finished the boot he was doing and turned it over to examine it. He then put away his tools, cleared up the bits of leather and thread and awls, took down the lamp, put it on the table and took the Bible down from the shelf. He wanted to open it at the place he had marked with a piece of morocco, but it opened at another place. And as he opened the Gospels Martin recalled his dream of last night. And no sooner had he thought of it than he seemed to hear some one move behind him, as though some one were coming towards him. He turned, and it seemed to him that people were standing in the dark corner, but he could not make out who they were. And a voice whispered into his ear, “Martin, Martin, don’t you know me?”

“Who is it?” Martin asked.

“It is I,” the voice said.

And Stepan stepped out of the dark corner, smiling, and vanished like a cloud, and he was no more.

“It is I,” the voice said again, and from out the dark corner stepped the woman with the baby, and she smiled and the child smiled, and they too vanished.

“It is I,” said the voice once more, and out stepped the old woman and boy with an apple in his hand, and both smiled and also vanished.

And a feeling of gladness entered Martin’s soul. He crossed himself, put on his spectacles and began to read the Gospel just where it had opened. At the top of the page were the words, “For 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 brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

And Martin understood that his dream had come true and that his Savior had really come to him that day, and that he had welcomed Him.

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November 30, 1915 :
Part 2 -- Publication.

June 08, 2021 17:40:48 :
Part 2 -- Added to


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