"I didn't take it," said he. "What are you whacking me for? Let me go!"
Avdyeeich came up and tried to part them. He seized the lad by the arm and said: "Let him go, little mother! Forgive him for Christ's sake!"
"I'll forgive him so that he shan't forget the taste of fresh birch-rods. I mean to take the rascal to the police station." Avdyeeich began to entreat with the old woman.
"Let him go, little mother; he will not do so any more. Let him go for Christ's sake."
The old woman let him go. The lad would have bolted, but Avdyeeich held him fast.
"Beg the little mother's pardon," said he, "and don't do such things any more. I saw thee take them."
Then the lad began to cry and beg pardon.
"Well, that's all right! And now, there's an apple for thee." And Avdyeeich took one out of the basket and gave it to the boy. "I'll pay thee for it, little mother," he said to the old woman.
"Thou wilt ruin them that way, the blackguards," said the old woman. "If I had the rewarding of him, he should not be able to sit down for a week."
"Oh, little mother, little mother!" cried Avdyeeich, "that is our way of looking at things, but it is not God's way. If we ought to be whipped so for the sake of one apple, what do we deserve for our sins!"
The old woman was silent.
And Avdyeeich told the old woman about the parable of the master who forgave his servant a very great debt, and how that servant immediately went out and caught his fellow-servant by the throat because he was his debtor. The old woman listened to the end, and the lad listened too.
"God bade us forgive," said Avdyeeich, "otherwise He will not forgive us. We must forgive every one, especially the thoughtless."
The old woman shook her head and sighed.
"That's all very well," she said, "but they are spoiled enough already."
"Then it is for us old people to teach them better," said Avdyeeich.
"So say I," replied the old woman. "I had seven of them at one time, and now I have but a single daughter left." And the old woman began telling him where and how she lived with her daughter, and how many grandchildren she had. "I'm not what I was," she said, "but I work all I can. I am sorry for my grandchildren, and good children they are, too. No one is so glad to see me as they are. Little Aksyutka will go to none but me. 'Grandma dear! darling grandma!'" and the old woman was melted to tears. "As for him," she added, pointing to the lad, "boys will be boys, I suppose. Well, God be with him!"
Now just as the old woman was about to hoist the sack on to her shoulder, the lad rushed forward and said:
"Give it here, and I'll carry it for thee, granny! It is all in my way."
The old woman shook her head, but she did put the sack on the lad's shoulder.
And so they trudged down the street together side by side. And the old woman forgot to ask Avdyeeich for the money for the apple. Avdyeeich kept standing and looking after them, and heard how they talked to each other, as they went, about all sorts of things. Avdyeeich followed them with his eyes till they were out of sight, then he turned homewards and found his glasses on the steps (they were not broken), picked up his awl, and sat down to work again. He worked away for a little while, but soon he was scarcely able to distinguish the stitches, and he saw the lamplighter going round to light the lamps. "I see it is time to light up," thought he, so he trimmed his little lamp, lighted it, and again sat down to work. He finished one boot completely, turned it round and inspected it. "Good!" he cried. He put away his tools, swept up the cuttings, removed the brushes and tips, put away the awl, took down the lamp, placed it on the table, and took down the Gospels from the shelf. He wanted to find the passage where he had last evening placed a strip of morocco leather by way of a marker, but he lit upon another place. And just as Avdyeeich opened the Gospel, he recollected his dream of yesterday evening. And no sooner did he call it to mind than it seemed to him as if some persons were moving about and shuffling with their feet behind him. Avdyeeich glanced round and saw that somebody was indeed standing in the dark corner—yes, some one was really there, but who, he could not exactly make out. Then a voice whispered in his ear:
"Martin! Martin! dost thou not know me?"
"Who art thou!" cried Avdyeeich.
"'Tis I," cried the voice, "lo, 'tis I!" And forth from the dark corner stepped Stepanuich. He smiled, and it was as though a little cloud were breaking, and he was gone.
"It is I!" cried the voice, and forth from the corner stepped a woman with a little child; and the woman smiled and the child laughed, and they also disappeared.
"And it is I!" cried the voice, and the old woman and the lad with the apple stepped forth, and both of them smiled, and they also disappeared.
And the heart of Avdyeeich was glad. He crossed himself, put on his glasses, and began to read the Gospels at the place where he had opened them. And at the top of the page He read these words: "And I was an hungered and thirsty, and ye gave Me to drink. I was a stranger and ye took Me in."
And at the bottom of the page he read this: "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
And Avdyeeich understood that his dream had not deceived him, and that the Saviour had really come to him that day, and he had really received Him.
Edited by ELVA S. SMITH
Cataloguer of Children's Books, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
GOOD OLD STORIES for Boys and Girls
MYSTERY TALES for Boys and Girls
PEACE AND PATRIOTISM
HEROINES OF HISTORY AND LEGEND
MORE MYSTERY TALES for Boys and Girls
A BOOK OF LULLABIES
Edited by ELVA S. SMITH and
ALICE I. HAZELTINE
St. Louis Public Library
CHRISTMAS IN LEGEND AND STORY