Without God in the World

 •  1.5 hr. read  •  grade level: 6
Even old people scarcely remembered such a severe winter as was known in December of the year 18—, when, one evening a little before Christmas, several farmers from the village of Raschowo found the corpse of a frozen woman near the churchyard and brought it to the village mayor’s house.
Several neighbors were sitting just at that moment with the mayor’s wife, and now they were busy indeed. One loosened the clothing in which the frozen woman was wrapped, the second supported her head and the third held the lamp nearer. Suddenly they all exclaimed, “A child, a child!” With her stiff frozen arm the unhappy mother clasped a dear little boy, still living, close to her breast. At this sight the women began to cry; the child, now aroused, cried too, and even the eyes of the farmers were moist. Poor little thing!
The third day after this event the stranger was buried at the expense of the parish. Quite a large number followed her coffin, as if she were ever so rich a lady. But now what was to become of the baby boy? Neither the notary nor the mayor was able to discover the dead woman’s former home.
“The child will now be a burden on the parish,” growled some of the more miserly. But this did not happen; the mayor’s wife herself kept it. And even if she did not bring it up as if it had been one of her own children, still she took just enough care of it that it did not perish.
Martinko—for thus the women called the boy, since they did not know what name he might have received at his christening, wherever that might have been—crawled helplessly about the mayor’s house like a little dog. Most of the time no one looked after him, and yet he was brought up. The mayor’s wife found him to be very handy after he had left his babyhood years. He was willing to do any little thing, if it were only to bring in more wood for the fire, to look after the pigs a bit, or to chop up nettles for the goslings—nothing was too much for him. It was, after all, really not so bad for the boy; they saw that he had enough to eat, and clothed him too. As a baby, he slept in the chimney corner, just where the mayor’s wife had laid him that night when his mother lay dead in the room. But from his fifth year his sleeping quarters were changed to the stable.
Many a time a troop of rabbits sat around the boy, just as if they were holding a council about him. The big shaggy cow looked after him every time he clambered up into his little nest. Perhaps she thought it strange that he never prayed, while she—like all of her kind—before lying down, bent her knees first, and sent up a sigh to God. The old shaggy animal never knew that to do this, the people in the house ought to have taught him, but no one troubled about that nor asked if Martinko could pray.
The mayor’s wife never treated the boy harshly, and many of her neighbors praised her even for having done the act of mercy; but she did not send him to school. “What’s the use of sending such a little beggar boy to school? And besides that, we want him always at home,” she often argued with her friends. After Martinko had passed his eleventh year, she took him to the vicarage to be instructed with the candidates for confirmation; but as he could not read, and did not even know the Lord’s prayer, he was not accepted.
- - -
The following autumn the mayor’s wife died and the boy was then handed over to the parish shepherd to help him in his work.
“Old Ondrej”—as he was called by everyone, for he was known by no other name—was weak and ailing, and unable to see after the cattle as well as formerly, especially since the inhabitants of Raschowo, at the dividing of the country, had received their grazing common in an out-of-the-way spot not far from the forests. But as old Ondrej had served the parish for so many years, no one wanted to take his bread from him in his old age, and so it was decided to give him a helpmate; and they never had cause to regret it.
Martinko proved to be a born shepherd. He had learned to love dumb animals (the Slovaks say, “dumb face”), no doubt because he had been among them from his earliest years. When he went down to the village in the morning, blowing his horn, each animal in the various sheds raised its head; cows, calves and even some of the sheep ran after the sounding horn just like dogs. Bundasch, Ondrej’s old sheep dog, swept the dusty street with his wide, long, hairy tail. With ears erect and flashing eyes, he waited impatiently for the first crack of the whip, all the time lifting up first one foot and then another, until at last they set off with glee to the forest.
Martinko, with Bundasch, looked after the cattle so well, that after a year, when old Ondrej died, he was chosen to be the shepherd himself.
Outside the village, near the churchyard, stood a hut, which an old bachelor had left to the parish. Half of it had already fallen down, but there was still a little room and a kitchen left leaning against the hillside, covered with a roof. This hut had been old Ondrej’s home for sixteen years, and now Martinko was going to move into it. Old Ondrej had stopped up the little windows with straw, and thus they remained: the sun could not peep in during summer, and in winter the wind could not blow through. Whatever did old Ondrej want with light? Why, in winter he was never at home, going from house to house all the time, from one neighbor to another. And in summer when he came home tired—he just slept. I really can’t tell you what Martinko felt as he went into that hut for the first time, knowing that he had to live there.
The walls were crumbling away and covered with cobwebs, the floor was thick with the rubbish, straw and dust of years. Why, the cowshed at the mayor’s was better than this! Martinko pressed his hands to his head, and stood awhile so; then he just sat down on the doorstep and cried. For the first time in his life it came over him that he had no one in the world to care for him, that he was quite alone, just like the hut itself. As he sat and cried, all at once a little bird chirped over his head. He looked up and discovered a swallow’s nest in the eaves. The swallows had come from a far distant land, and were cleaning out their little house that they might live in it for the summer, until it was time to fly far away again.
Martinko felt ashamed. “I must not let my house remain so filthy either!” said he to himself and he began to work. The first thing he did was to pull the straw out of the windows; then he swept them out well with an old broom he had found. Each window had only one pane of glass left; the rest were broken long ago. Then he set about clearing the walls and the beams from cobwebs and almost choked with the dust.
Every day when he returned from the pastures, he did something further to his hut. He prepared clay, just as he had seen it done at the mayor’s, with yellow earth, knowing the place almost too well where it was to be found. And with this mixture he filled up the holes in the walls and in the mud floor. The sexton’s wife, in passing by, saw what he was doing, smiled, gave him a word of praise, and went on her way; but the next day, when Martinko came home from the field, he found his little room and kitchen yellow-washed and spattered with black and blue; and the floor done over evenly with fresh earth, and sprinkled with sand; that was a pleasure indeed! The poor boy didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry over it. The sexton’s wife boasted of her good deed to one of her neighbors. Then the women came together and white-washed the hut outside. The men too, not wishing to be behind them, came and repaired the roof. The parish had new windows put in for sixty kreuzer each. The sexton, who was quite a clever carpenter when sober, repaired the old table, the bench, and the still older bedstead, and the mayor put a truss of fresh straw in it.
“Look here, Martinko,” said the men, “you can marry soon now.”
Although Martinko now had a home at last, one like a paradise, and took care that it should be kept so, he still loved the forest better. There it was really almost too beautiful!
He would sit down on a gray rock and, as if he were a king governing his kingdom, he would look on his herds and govern them by shouts. On his left hand, up the sides of the steep mountains, spread mighty fir, beech and oak forests. When a gentle wind swept down the mountainsides, it brought with it the sweet scent of the pines, and when it was quiet, music seemed to sound in the woods. The trees rustled, the branches whispered and the leaves singing softly kissed one another. But, when autumn came and the seared foliage fell down, it seemed to him as if the pines chanted a funeral song. At the foot of the rock lay the pasture like a piece of green velvet embroidered with flowers, and through it rippled a little brook with many windings, just like a silver band. On his right there was a forest glade. In spring many of the bushes blossomed while others had only foliage. Beside all this, in summer and autumn cranberries and other wild berries peeped temptingly forth from under the leaves. Martinko knew all the plants, both good and poisonous; old Ondrej had taught him.
How glorious it was, too, when the sun bathed the whole landscape in gold! Martinko could at such times forget everything around him. If the cattle grazed quietly, he plaited with withes (slender willow branches) a variety of things; at first he managed a broom, then a hencoop, and at last he made little baskets for cheese. Every day he brought something home with him to the peasant women and they paid him in return. In this way he was able to save a little. “Who knows,” he used to say, “what it will come in handy for, since I have to take care of myself already.” Often when he sat busily plaiting and thinking, he would say to himself, “Has everything always been like it is now? And if not, who ever made it all? Perhaps God, of whom the mayor always spoke when he swore, and of whom the women said when anyone died, ‘The Lord God is good, that He has taken him to Himself!’ Where is God? And where does He take the people to? I wonder if He has also taken my mother there? If He has made everything that I can see, then He must be very clever and good. How beautifully everything is arranged; many plants grow for food, others are useful as medicine; some that need the shade God sows under the bushes, and others again stand in the sunshine. And when it rains, how everything in the forest is refreshed! And because too much rain is not good, He then sends wind, and lets the sun shine again. Yes, if it is He who has made everything so good, then He must surely be a great and wise Master.
“I wonder if the place where He takes the people is also such a beautiful world. When the mayor’s wife died they put a piece of money in her hand; for the journey, it was said. (What sort of journey? Perhaps a great sea lies between this and the next world? Who guides the people over?) After that, no work was done in the house for a week, in order that the soul might have rest; and then bread was baked; for they say that when the house is filled with the scent of newly baked bread, it brings peace to the soul. Why? Have the souls there no peace? Maybe it is not, after all, so beautiful with God, as here. Oh, it is sad that men must die!” Such thoughts were in the boy’s brain, and he would so gladly have had someone whom he could ask about all these matters, but he had no one.
Already a year had gone by since Martinko had done the shepherding alone, and again springtime came over the land. Then the mayor died suddenly. He had given himself up to drink, and then he had had a stroke. Martinko thought about him every day. Where is he gone? Does he see God now? What is God like?
One day as the young shepherd sat on his rock, and plaited a little basket, he looked up to heaven and said: “My God, to think that I do not know anything at all about Thee! But since Thou canst do everything, please make it possible that I may learn something about Thee, and also about the land where Thou takest the people when they die. Are they all there together, the good and the bad alike?”
Martinko believed that God had heard him, and he plaited away contentedly at his basket. All at once he heard a pitiful bleating; racing with Bundasch to the place, he found that his favorite lamb, a white one with a black spot, had fallen down the precipice into the thicket. “Oh, you poor animal! How shall I ever get you up again? The stones are damp.” With much difficulty Martinko slid down, and with still greater difficulty he climbed back up carrying his lamb. Oh, what joy! He put it on his shoulder and stroked it, reproaching it all the while, till he brought it at last to the flock again. The saved lamb gave one glad spring, and then grazed on quietly with the others.
About dinner time, when the boy drove his sheep and cattle to drink, some women came along to look for mushrooms; he told them his adventure.
“Martinko,” said old Mrs. Hudetz, “that was just like it is to be found in the Holy Scriptures, about the shepherd who had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, and then left the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and went to seek the lost one.”
“And did he find it?”
“Yes, he found it. He took it on his shoulder and carried it home, and rejoiced so much over it that he called his neighbors together that they might rejoice with him too.”
This story pleased Martinko.
“And who was this shepherd, where did He live?”
“I do not know where he lived, but the Lord Jesus Christ told the story to His disciples.”
“And who was He?”
“Really, Martinko,” laughed the other woman, “you are too stupid!”
“Do not laugh at him,” said Mrs. Hudetz, defending him, “the poor boy has had no one who could tell him, and, besides that, he never went to school. Well, Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But it is time for us to go on farther.” The women left him.
The boy never thought about their having laughed at him; he was only glad that he had learned something at last about God and that God had a Son who was called Jesus Christ. “Jesus” pleased Martinko most. This Jesus was certainly also a shepherd; perhaps it was He Himself who had those one hundred sheep. Well, if there were meadows there, surely there would be forests as well, and, after all, it must be quite beautiful there too. On the way home Martinko often looked up to heaven.
“Maybe they drove their flocks also just at that time home from the pastures, perhaps even Jesus, the Son of God Himself. He speaks only of sheep and would accordingly lead nothing else but sheep to the pastures. I wonder if He sees me. I would not mind dying a bit, if I knew that He would take me on in His service as a shepherd boy. I could at least soon see then what it looks like up there.”
The next day Martinko awoke with extraordinary happiness. He washed, combed and dressed himself more tidily than usual, and when, last of all, the sexton’s white cow was driven out of the shed to him, he asked the woman all at once:
“Auntie, do please tell me, can God see everything we do?”
The woman frowned; she had just quarreled with her husband and he had given her a blow.
“Yes, He sees everything, my son, and when you do anything wrong, He will punish you for it,” she muttered disagreeably.
“I’ll never do anything bad, Auntie,” the boy assured her.
“S Panon Bohom!” (Adieu!)
“Chod’s Bohom!” (Go with God!)
“And Auntie,” asked Martinko, turning round again, “does His Son see us too?”
“Which Son?”
“The Lord Jesus Christ? Most certainly. But now be off at once!”
Martinko went, but the whole distance it seemed to him just as if they went together; Jesus, God’s Son, up above, and he, himself, underneath. From that day he never dared to swear at his cattle again as he had done formerly, because if Jesus could see him, of course He could hear him as well.
The whole week passed away for Martinko in happiness and contentment. One Saturday evening as he drove his herd home, the evening bell was being rung. Solemnly through the valley sounded the peal of the great bell. “Sunday is being rung in,” meditated Martinko, “and tomorrow the people will be going to church. I wonder whatever they do there?” He had never been to church in his life. When the mayor’s wife was buried, he had remained outside in the porch where the beggars usually stood. It was true, he had heard playing and singing inside, and that the clergyman said something to the people, but he was not able to understand what. Once in winter he had wished to go to church as well as other people (in summer it was out of the question as he could not leave his work); but his mistress had cut him short with, “What do you want to do there? You know you cannot read, and that you have not any clothes; such as you are only in the way there.”
“But,” he said to himself, “why do the people go? Do they speak with God there? Or are they only told about Him and about Jesus? That must be it, and I dare not go in.”
On that Saturday evening his supper did not taste a bit nice, and even Bundasch, who put his woolly head caressingly against him, failed to comfort him.
His heart was so sore that he would have liked to run back to the forest again, or, better still, to his mother. He went out to find her, at least her grave in the churchyard. He had often taken flowers there; often he had sat on her grave, wondering where his mother could have gone, and if she were happy there. Today he brought no flowers, but watered those already growing with bitter tears.
“My dear little mother, do they not let you go to church up there with God, because you are homeless, just as they will not let me go here on earth? Oh, my dear little mother!”
Not far off the sexton was digging a grave. He heard the boy’s wailing and, on seeing who it was, he stuck his spade into the ground and went to him.
“What are you crying for, Martinko? Is anything the matter with you?” he asked sympathetically.
The boy told him his trouble, but the sexton did not understand him; for, although he went every Sunday to church and had heard much about God and His dear Son, he still never thought anything about God.
“Do not cry,” he said. “It is certainly bad that they have left you so ignorant; but what you say is not true, for you are our parish shepherd and not a homeless stranger; you can go without hindrance up in the gallery with the young men and boys; no one would turn you out.”
“But, Uncle, if I have not any clothes?”
“Well, in summer you cannot go under any circumstances—you must stay with the cattle. But in the autumn the parish is going to buy you a new suit, and then you can go every Sunday.”
“And,” said he, “what shall I do there? Do please tell me, Uncle, what do they do in church?”
“We sing there, my boy; but you cannot do that because you do not know your way about a book; but you can hear what the parson prays aloud, you can pray after him, and hear what he preaches.”
“What is preaching?”
“You really are stupid! Well, the parson teaches us what we ought to do.”
“I thought he told you about God.”
“Well, that’s just what I mean; he tells us about Him, and about the Lord Jesus just as the season happens to be; at Christmas time, how the Lord Jesus was born; at Passion, how much He suffered for men, how the Jews bound Him, sentenced Him to death, and nailed Him to the cross where He died; at Easter, we hear how He rose on the third day and came out of the grave; and on Ascension-day, how He ascended to His Father in heaven. But now let me be in peace, or I shall never get my grave done!”
“Dear Uncle, I’ll help you ever so much if you’ll only tell me how the Jews nailed Him to the cross.”
“Lay yourself down on the ground and I will soon show you! Yes, like that—and now stretch your hands out as far as you can. Do you see now? They drove great nails through His feet, and here through His hands, and so nailed Him on it.”
Martinko jumped up.
“But that must have hurt Him ever so much! Why did they torture Him so; what had He done?”
“He had never done anything wicked, nor spoken a bad word: the people came from great distances to Him, the sick ones were brought to Him, and He made all of them well again. At the same time He taught them how they ought to live and serve God. They killed Him because they would not hear the truth that He brought them!”
“Oh, how wicked that was of them!”
“Yes, it was indeed wicked. He walked among them like a shepherd; just like you tend your herd, so He fed mankind with the Word of God—and they killed Him for it.”
The sexton did not want to speak any more about Christ. He was rather pricked in his own heart, just as if someone had been reminded of a dear friend, who had done him some great service, but had been a long time completely forgotten, and at last he acknowledges his base ingratitude. The Scriptures were not unknown to the sexton. He had once read right through the Bible that he had inherited from his father, he had learned all the Bible stories at school; he went to church too, and knew everything about Christ that a Christian is supposed to know; but he had never thought about Him. He had forgotten—forgotten His Saviour, and now Martinko reminded him.
When the grave was finished, they both went their respective ways.
That night Martinko could not sleep; he could not close his eyes. He had really heard something about Jesus; how good, yes, how very good He was. “As He was God’s Son, He came direct from God; for there were surely many people like me who knew nothing about God, and about that distant land, and these were, of course, taught by Him. And if He was such a celebrated doctor, He would be sure to have instructed them about the healing power of plants and roots. He knew best, of course, just what His Father had made each one for; and then, when He went away, the people would at least know the means they ought to use in their sicknesses. To think that they murdered Him—that they murdered Him and so cruelly too! But God is sure to kill all those someday who did that.
“And His Son He has taken home to Himself; I expect He now teaches the people who have died how they ought to behave themselves up there, for most likely the customs there are quite different from those here. Or perhaps He feeds them as a shepherd does his flock; He is, in fact, a shepherd, and as He does not feed lambs but men, perhaps He would be willing someday to take me on as shepherd for the sheep, that is, if I really come to Him, and then He would be sure to come to the woods at times to look after me, if He is so good to mankind.”
Sleep was at last stealing over Martinko, when it occurred to him, “But if God takes everyone who dies to Himself, then the men who killed Jesus must be also with Him?” The boy sat up in bed. “I could not endure them there,” he shook his head. “No, they are certainly not there, but where are they then? Oh, how I wish somebody could only tell me this too!”
Already the morning bell was ringing; he must go to work.
“Others can go to church and hear about God and Jesus, while I must go to the forest and again hear nothing. Why ever am I in the world without God?”
The peasants’ wives saw that Martinko was sad and that he had been crying. They asked him, too, what was the matter with him, but he never told them; there was not one of them who could help him.
Today he did not drive his herd quite to the forest—he let them graze by the brook, where the path goes to Brezovka. He had scarcely eaten his chunk of bread, and divided the remainder between Bundasch and his pet lamb Beruschka, when he saw a stranger coming. He was still young, without a beard, and dressed like the townsfolk; over his shoulder hung a traveling bag, and in his hand he carried an umbrella.
“Good morning, little shepherd,” he called from a distance. “Will this footpath lead me to Raschowo?”
Martinko took his hat off and shouted, “Yes, my good friend, you can go along here, but you must not leave the brook or the willows, for a little farther the footpath goes off into three directions.”
The stranger smiled. The little shepherd with the handsome, sun-browned face and great dark eyes pleased him.
“But is it not sad for you to be so alone here?” he asked further in a friendly manner.
“Oh no, at other times, never—only today because it is Sunday; others can go to church, but I must stay with the cattle.”
“Don’t vex yourself about that. There are plenty of people who have no cattle to tend, and still do not go to church.”
“And where are you going?”
“Just now to Raschowo, and after that I must travel further around the world.”
“What do you go about so much for?”
“I am studying at college, you know, and there we need a good bit of money, so I have to go about getting subscriptions from good people.”
“Oh, you poor thing; and what do you learn there?”
The stranger laughed aloud, till the forest re-echoed his ringing voice.
“I really cannot tell you everything that we learn there, but I’ll tell you at least what we become when we have finished our studies.”
“And what will that be?”
“Some become doctors, some lawyers, some clergymen, and others again schoolmasters, or notaries.”
“And what will you be?”
“I shall be a clergyman.”
“Oh!” said Martinko joyfully, “to be able to preach to others! Of course they teach you much about God and Christ. You must know by this time all about Him?”
Again the stranger laughed.
“Oh, I know quite a bit already, and could preach today to you; very likely I shall take the clergyman’s place this afternoon.”
“Do please preach to me today; I’ve never heard a sermon, and I should be thankful to you till my dying day.”
“To you? Well, all right! But I shall want to know first how much you have already learned about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The boy told him what he had already heard from the women and the sexton. The stranger was astonished.
“But, my lad, you are altogether without God in the world, and without Christ—how can I preach to you when you know nothing at all!”
Martinko was just then obliged to run down quickly to the cows, the spotted one belonging to the field-keeper was pushing with her horns at the others and had to be driven off. When he came back again, the stranger was sitting on a rock, reading from a book which he held in his hand; Martinko sat down at his feet, and waited longingly.
“So, here you are again!” said the stranger. “Look, this Book in my hand has the title, The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In this Book many things are written that Christ the Lord did and taught; how He was born, and how He died, how He ascended into heaven, and that He will come again.”
“And is it also written in it about the land where God takes people when they die?”
“Yes, we find that at the end.”
“And are they all there together with Him, the bad and the good?”
“Oh dear, no! The good are up there in heaven, remember that; and the wicked, when they die, are cast into hell, and whoever goes there can never be let out again. Romans 3:2323For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23) says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”; but then Christ, the Son of God, came and allowed Himself to be nailed on the cross, and thus He has redeemed us from hell. God Himself did not wish that the people should go to hell: He wanted to have them up there in heaven. It says in John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16), “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” So you see God loved you too, and in order that you should not have to go into the torments of hell, He let His only begotten Son be tormented on the cross for you. If you believe in Him, you will go to Him when you die.”
“Oh, please teach me those words,” begged the lad. Soon he was able to say the whole verse by heart, and asked further, “Please read to me how Jesus died for me.”
The stranger read, and what he read in the quiet and peace of that Sunday morning seemed like something new even to himself. He read how the Lord Jesus wept and suffered in Gethsemane, how they came to take Him, how He was betrayed by Judas, bound and led away, how all His disciples forsook Him, how the wicked, faithless high priest stirred up the crowds to condemn Him to be guilty of death, how He was smitten and spit upon. They led Him then to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod who mocked Him, and back to Pilate who, although he knew that Jesus was innocent, had Him scourged and delivered Him to be crucified. The soldiers put upon Him in mockery a purple robe and pressed a crown of thorns on His head. And then they led Him to Calvary, and on His bruised shoulders He was compelled to carry the big cross. After that, they nailed Him through His hands and feet to the cross, and so He hung there between heaven and earth.
For three hours He hung in this agony. He prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross; He comforted His mother who was standing at His feet; and the thief who put his trust in Him on the cross was forgiven all his sins and received in grace.
Then there were three more hours of total darkness. No one could see the agonies He endured during that time, for it was then that God punished Him for sin—sins that were not His own. At the end He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:4646And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)). Then there was that final cry of triumph, when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:3030When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19:30)), and He commended His Spirit to His Father, bowed His head and gave up the Ghost.
The stranger read further how the earth began to quake and the sun became dark; how the rocks were rent and the graves opened; and how afterwards two rich men—Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus—buried the Son of God; and how they rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, which the Jews sealed that the dead might not come out of the grave.
Here he was obliged to stop reading, for Martinko threw himself down on the ground and wept—wept as if his heart would break because the Son of God was obliged to die like that for him, to save him from hell! And the stranger, as he saw the lad crying so bitterly, let the book drop and hung his head, and if he had not been ashamed he would have wept too—wept that he had known all about this for so long, but had never taken it to heart; had never wept over his own sins which brought the Son of God to the grave. But to comfort the boy, after a little while he read on further.
Who could have told Martinko early that morning where and what sort of sermon he would hear from the pure Word of God, and all that he would learn, on that day, about Jesus?
When his young preacher had gone on, sleep overcame him. He dreamed that he saw Jesus dying on the cross, and that He inclined His head and said, “I am dying for you, Martinko!” He dreamed further that he was with Mary at the grave, and that Jesus stood alive by him; and then he saw Jesus with His disciples on the highroad—then they all stood still, and Jesus bid them farewell and went on alone farther, higher and higher; it looked as if the sun bore Him up towards heaven till a cloud received Him out of their sight. Martinko also saw through the clouds, how God His Father opened the gate and welcomed His beloved Son.
When he awoke he could scarcely believe it had only been a dream. The three things Martinko remembered best were: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)), “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:2020Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)), and, “I [Jesus] will come again” (John 14:33And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:3)). The last pleased him most, and from that day he had a greater desire than ever to have a chance to learn to read, for the stranger had said to him, “If you could only read now, I would give you this book.” It was a little book, but thick, and it was God’s Word. What he had heard out of it was only a few pages. “If I only had such a book, and could read it too!” But he was already too big. In the school they would scarcely accept him in the winter, and reading must surely be a very difficult matter. Then came the thought into his mind, “If the Lord Jesus (he couldn’t call Him just ‘Jesus’ any more) always hears me, I will ask Him and He is sure to help me.” He knelt down, folded his hands and looked up where Jesus was gone, and prayed: “I am only an ignorant lad, Lord Jesus. Thou knowest that they never taught me to read, and they will never accept me in the school because I am already too big, so I ask Thee earnestly to send some good man along who could teach me to read, that I might get to know all about Thee.”
Martinko believed that the Son of God had heard his prayer and that He would grant him his request. In what way, he did not know; he just simply believed and was happy over it. He said, “I shall also be able someday to read the New Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ, yes, I shall be able.
- - -
On Thursday evening, as he came home from the mountains, he brought with him a hencoop for the wife of the field-keeper. With her were several women together, talking among themselves about the funeral of Anna Brezovan and saying that if none of the peasants’ wives were willing to take her poor, little, motherless Joschko to mind the geese or something of that sort, why, he would have to go begging.
Martinko had known the woman, also her boy; she had lived in a rented house and was always tidy. She had married, about ten years before, a bricklayer in Budapest, and when her husband was accidentally killed there, she had moved with her little boy back to her birthplace. She had earned her living by working in the fields, and, however hard it might have been to make both ends meet, she had sent her little boy regularly to school from his fifth year. Martinko’s heart was touched. “He is just such another as I am; now that he has not a mother any more, he will be sent out begging or they will put him to mind the geese, and then he will forget what he has learned at school and will become as ignorant as I am!”
Every day Martinko thought much about Joschko and the more he thought about him, the more sorry he became.
On Saturday evening he all at once dressed himself tidily and marched off to the house of the present mayor, whose wife happened to be in the yard.
“Martinko, it looks as if you have come to get engaged! Where are you going so dressed up?”
“Only to you, Auntie. Is Uncle at home?”
“What do you want with him? Juro, come here. Martinko wants to make a complaint about something.”
“You do not say so!” sounded from the kitchen. The late mayor had been lean of person, but the present one was as extensive as an old beech tree. He called Martinko to come into the kitchen.
“Have you brought good news? You are welcome; take a seat.”
“Thanks, I can stand quite as well.”
“Are you come to complain about the women because they do not look after you well enough? Or does your hut look like it’s tumbling down, or have you lost a cow?” joked the mayor, and amused himself at Martinko blushing up to the roots of his hair.
He, Martinko, complaining about the village women! It was true that many of them gave him more water than soup and slices of bread so thin that you could see the church steeple through them; but to his dying day he would not have said anything about that. Besides, others had pity on him and gave him so much that often he was able to put something aside for the next day.
“I have not come to complain,” was his sincere answer. “I have enough, praise God, that I can eat till I am satisfied.”
“Well! What then?”
“I have come to ask what the parish will do with Joschko Brezovan?”
“Well, of all the things he troubles himself about!” said the mayor astonished.
“We will give him to you,” he said laughing, “and you can show the parish how grateful you are that it has cared for you!”
Martinko became as red as a poppy.
“That is just it, Uncle, I am come purposely to ask you to give him to me. You are quite right, I ought to show myself grateful to the parish. Therefore, I ask you earnestly not to send him begging or to mind the geese, but to give him to me!”
“But, my lad, I was only joking, and you appear to mean it quite seriously! My dear sir, what will you feed him with, eh?”
His wife came up then, and on hearing what they were talking about, became angry.
“Oh, what a stupid fellow! You think that we shall keep two instead of one? that we shall supply you with a houseboy, my dear sir?”
“I do not think anything of the kind, Mistress,” replied Martinko, defending himself. “I have already saved a few kreuzer from the brooms I have made, and I shall get still more together. And God, who gives mankind and the cattle all they want, will not forsake us; He will surely give us all we need.”
The mayor and his wife tried in vain to turn the boy away from his plan. In vain they prophesied, “You will both know what it is to want!” It was to no avail. “You will starve, both of you!”
Martinko did not believe it; he only asked again and again. At last the mayor chased him off, telling him to sleep over the matter first.
Nearly all the women in the village were excited. Everyone wished him something bad. “Whatever has he gotten into his head!” They agreed among themselves to give him from that day forward a smaller piece of bread than usual. But that did not settle it; he went every day to the mayor and asked, till they at last gave Joschko into his charge.
What a day that was for Martinko, to be sure! In all his life he couldn’t remember such a joyful day. He borrowed from the sexton a little handcart and fetched Joschko’s belongings with it. A trunk full of linen, a big bedspread, a bench, a table and a straw-bottomed chair were sold by the parish to pay for the funeral expenses. Ten florins were left over which was kept by the parish for him. “It would be useful to him if he were apprenticed to something later on.”
The women assembled together outside Mrs. Hudetz’s house. Many of them almost choked with laughter when they saw Martinko with the handcart coming towards the house. Others remarked, “Poor little wretches! Birds of a feather flock together—they are companions in misfortune!”
The women put in the handcart a small box of Joschko’s clothes and underlinen, and they made a bundle of two pillows and a little rug. Then came all sorts of rags and some eatables—potatoes, carrots and onions that Anna Brezovan had left behind. The lads placed themselves before the handcart and pulled it quite pleased up through the village. “Look out that you obey your little father!” called the impertinent young women after Joschko.
The boys spoke not a single word to each other, and only as they at length reached the hut did they look at each other; then Joschko began to cry, and Martinko cried with him.
“Do not cry, Joschkie!” said Martinko, comforting him between his tears. “I am also an orphan like yourself; but I am no longer so lonely in the world since I now know that God loves me and that He let His Son be nailed on the cross, and that the Lord Jesus sees me always. You, too, must not be afraid. We shall get on together very well; we will love each other ever so much.”
Joschko stopped crying. The boys unloaded the handcart and carried the box and the other things into the hut. Then they took the handcart back to the sexton. The sexton, on the sly so that his wife should not see, cut a large piece of bread for them.
His wife also secretly put a little cheese into Joschko’s hand so that her husband should not know. So on their way home, they ate enough to make dinner unnecessary. When they got home Martinko put up the bed. He had never in his life slept on a feather bed. Generally he lay on the straw, covered with an old cloth mantle. Then they made the bed. Joschko opened his little box. The peasants’ wives had left him from his mother’s things a quilt and a tablecover. So they spread the one on the bed and the other on the table.
“We will lay the books here,” said Joschko.
“Over there in the corner books ought to stand, but I have not any, and what good would they be to me when I cannot read?” confessed Martinko sadly. “For that very reason,” he said further, “I have brought you here, because I do not want you to go to work where you would forget all that you have learned at school. I want you to be able still to attend school, that you may be able to read what is written about God in the books, and also how the Son of God died for us and is coming again.”
“I can read already,” boasted Joschko, wondering at the same time that a big boy like Martinko was not able to. “When my mother was ill, I was reading how the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. We have books enough.”
Joschko felt in the box, pulled out a bundle, and after undoing it began to spread the books out on the table. The first was an ABC book, then a reading book, the catechism, also Bible Stories, quite new, which had been his mother’s last present; after that the great Kancional (a Slovak hymnbook), The Wells of Life (a much-used prayer book), the old book of homilies inherited from his grandfather; and last of all, a book wrapped separately in a cloth.
“That is the Holy Scriptures, the Bible,” he explained to the astonished Martinko.
“And is it written also about God in there?”
“Everything; nothing else but about God, right from the beginning how He created the world in six days; but I have that also in my Bible Stories, and that has pictures.”
The boys began to look at the pictures and Joschko explained every one: how God created the world and mankind, how they had everything so beautiful in Paradise where they lived, how that Eve was tempted by the serpent and became disobedient and ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve led Adam astray and both of them sinned. God the Lord drove them out of Paradise. He narrated further how they had two sons, Cain and Abel; how that Abel was good and Cain wicked, and how Cain murdered Abel.
Martinko would not have found it wearisome to have listened till the evening. “And have they taught you all that at school?” he asked wonderingly.
“A good bit we learn at school, but my mother had told me much beforehand, and now I can read it for myself.”
Joschko began to read and though he was only eight years old, he read splendidly. Martinko’s eyes dimmed with tears. Now he saw clearly how unjust it was of those who had looked after him to not let him go to school. He would have been able to read like that, and could have read for himself out of the big Holy Book. How beautiful it was, though, that this Book had come into the house. He now had the Word of God and even someone who could read it to him.
It had always been his habit to keep his hat on indoors, but as soon as Joschko had read the title, The Holy Scriptures, he took it off. From that time he never sat in the room with his hat on. His old mistress had taught him to take his hat off before everyone, especially gentry; but it was surely doubly due to show the greatest respect before the Book that had its source in God and told of Him.
For the first four days that they lived together, Martinko had not really enough to eat, either of bread or of cooked food. The peasants’ wives had agreed among themselves to give their little shepherd even less than usual. But the boys took with them some potatoes and salt of their own. Martinko divided the food and bread into two portions, the smaller for himself and the larger for Joschko. Even Bundasch got plenty to eat.
While Martinko attended to the cattle, Joschko picked blackberries; but Martinko did not take any of them. “They will be good for him when we get home from the forest,” he thought. “He will be hungry by that time.”
The peasants’ wives, however, did not keep up their attempt to spite the little shepherd very long. When they saw how happy the boys were as they drove the cattle home from the pastures, each with a bundle of withes on his back, how lovingly they looked at each other and chatted together, it pleased even the women. So, with the exception of a few who were more miserly than the rest, each of them gave the boys more bread and more vegetables or soup.
“We shall be sure not to miss it,” said the field-keeper’s wife, “and we cannot surely allow the lads to go hungry, the poor things!” For so the boys were wrongly called by everyone. None knew that perhaps in the whole village there were no happier people than these.
Joyfully every morning Martinko awakened his comrade. They washed themselves in the brook nearby, combed their hair and made themselves generally tidy. Joschko prayed aloud “The Lord’s prayer” and Martinko prayed softly with him. They made into a little bundle the ABC book and Bible Stories together with their pocket knives and string for the withes. Martinko took the horn, Joschko let Bundasch loose, and hurrah! how cheerfully they went down to the village, and afterwards with the herd in the direction of the forest.
After Martinko had seen that the cattle were all right, the three of them would sit down and eat what the peasants’ wives had given them for breakfast. Joschko would then read a piece out of the Bible Stories and afterward would give Martinko a letter out of the ABC book to learn by heart. He himself would go to tend the cattle or to cut off the slender willow branches for baskets and brooms. When he came back, Martinko could always say his lesson, and understood already how to put the letters together. Joschko was often surprised how well it went. Martinko remarked often, “I always thought that reading must be a very difficult matter, but it is really only play. May God bless the clever people who made this ABC book. I would have found it hard to remember, but they have drawn a picture for every letter, so that a person must be very stupid if they cannot learn it. When I have looked at it three times, why I know it. It is all put together for reading and for writing. I believe I could at the same time learn to write, too.” Joschko had an old broken slate and a piece of pencil. So they took these with them too, and Martinko learned to write at the same time.
He sat still over his primer and his filled slate, and thought what it would be like in the winter when he would be able to learn much more, until he could even read for himself in the Holy Scriptures. Then he looked up to heaven and said, “I have not asked Thee in vain, Lord Jesus, to send me someone who could teach me to read. Thou hast sent me this lad, who is so clever, and I thank Thee ever so much.”
When Joschko had cut enough withes (and he liked doing that very much) he brought them to Martinko, and they cleaned them and did them up into bundles. At the same time Martinko taught his comrade to distinguish between the good and hurtful plants. “Mark well,” he said, “which plants are hurtful to men and animals; some day you will tend the cattle yourself, and it will be useful to you.”
One day Joschko came back quite breathless. He had found so many blackberries, that the patch was quite black with them. He did not stop bothering Martinko till he allowed him to take a basket from home the next day and to pick enough blackberries to fill it and carry it to the forester’s house. They had known his mother well, and asked him where he lived now. He was paid well for the berries, and they put several useful things into the empty basket for the boys. Joschko was also commissioned to bring their meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and each time he was to get three kreuzer. Gleefully the boys went home again.
From that time Joschko did many little errands for the forester’s people in the village. Martinko sent him often to the post office to see if there were any letters for the forester. Martinko had once heard the women complaining that they had to wait such a long time for a letter: one from her husband, another from her son. These letters lay perhaps for a week at the post office or at the postman’s home. The forester praised the boys for thinking of this, and when the neighbors heard about it, they got Joschko to do little errands for them, too. Martinko did not need to give him any more of his bread. He was even able to put aside money and food for the winter. One housewife gave him eggs, another potatoes or turnips, others carrots. The best was that that summer in the mountains the apple and pear trees were loaded with fruit and the owners allowed the boys to pick up off the ground as many as they could carry. They both knew how to appreciate these gifts and got altogether ready for the winter. Martinko knew that in winter, when nothing is to be found in the fields, you can often go hungry.
- - -
It did not please Joschko at all that Martinko would not take him to the forest on Sundays. He liked best to be with him, but Martinko would say, “You can read and understand it all, and yet do not want to go to church! Now go and pay attention, that you may be able to tell me afterwards what the preacher has said.”
But Joschko did not pay much attention to the sermons; however, if a hymn was sung that he knew he would sing it afterwards to Martinko, who got Joschko to repeat it so often until at last he could sing it with him. All the hymns pleased him, but one especially, and this he always sang to himself when alone:
“Where dwellest Thou, oh Saviour dear? Thy perfect rest, where can I find it here?”
All the verses seemed to give him great delight, for he constantly sang or repeated them.
“Whoever wrote that,” thought Martinko, “must at one time have known just as little about Thee, my Lord Jesus, as I do myself.”
When the boys came home from the pastures they would light the little lamp (which was one of the things left to Joschko by his mother, and for which they every Saturday bought oil), and then Joschko had to read aloud out of the Bible how the Lord Jesus suffered and died. Many a time he wanted to read something else, but Martinko would not allow it. “In the winter we will read right through the New Testament, and also some parts of the Old; but first we must read how He let Himself be tortured for us until we know it by heart, in order that we may never forget it, but hold it fast in our hearts.”
But Joschko would have to read the story of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus many a time before it was impressed on his heart. There are so many children, and also older people, who never think about what the Lord Jesus endured for them. Joschko liked reading simply because Martinko praised him and wondered at his cleverness. Martinko, on the other hand, wherever he was thought about what had been read, his thoughts busied themselves with it, especially when he was alone.
One Sunday he returned home somewhat later from the forest. It was already dark and the moon had commenced to shine as he drove his flock out of the glade. All at once it seemed to Martinko that he saw a man lying on the ground with his hands clasped together over his head. He thought he heard him groaning pitifully, like one in great pain. At first he was afraid, then he went nearer and saw that it was only a log of wood that lay there; the moon shone and the forest groaned. Martinko stood by the log awhile and thought, “The Son of God lay thus under the trees, and sighed and wept and prayed till His sweat, as it were great drops of blood, rolled down for me.” Oh, such a heart-sorrow came over Martinko as he thought about it that he wept all the way home and wished to himself, “If I could only go soon to God, to be able to see the Lord Jesus, oh, how I would fall down on my knees before Him and thank Him for everything!”
On that as well as other evenings, the women saw how quiet and earnest Martinko was. They teased him over it: “He imagines himself somebody; thinking he is the father of such a great boy!” But to such speeches he answered nothing. “The Son of God did not open His mouth when they mocked Him; He did not defend Himself even when they smote Him,” he said to himself. So he did not laugh any more at the rude jokes he so often heard, or when the peasants swore by their soul or by the name of God. If he could, he ran away from hearing such things. “God and the Lord Jesus must, of course, hear them, for if God is everywhere, and sees everything, then He hears everything too,” thought Martinko. “It is only right that we should walk before Him quietly and meekly, like His own dear Son did.” Martinko felt that the people had forgotten God and that they lived as if there were no God.
- - -
At last the autumn came to an end. The peasants’ wives shut the cattle in their sheds. And now they gave their young shepherd new clothes, and when he dressed himself in the brand new coat, trousers, shirt and vest, as well as the new cloth mantle, they jokingly told him again that he could marry now.
And he? What a chattering and laughing there was in the village as not only Joschko but also Martinko went along with the very little ones to school! The schoolmaster would not hear of entering Martinko’s name in the register at first; he thought the other children would only laugh at him. But when he examined him and saw how much he could already read and write, he allowed him to come. Later on he said that he had never had such a scholar. Martinko did not trouble himself a bit that the impudent young folk really did make fun of him, and called after him in the street, “Stupid! Stupid!” or that they snowballed him when it had been snowing. He just went on his way as if he had heard or felt nothing. Dressed in an old, worn-out suit he sat quietly in the lowest place. Then the schoolmaster put him up higher; and by the time winter was over, he was among those who had learned the catechism, hymns and Bible history by heart.
“If only all of you were scholars like Martinko, it would be a pleasure to be your teacher,” said the schoolmaster often. “He learns his lessons while you are quarreling and disputing.” He liked him, too, because of his cleanliness and willingness to be of use. Martinko and Joschko were always the first at school.
If the choirboys had not swept the schoolroom, he did it, aired it also, and picked up all the scraps of paper lying about, tidied, the master’s desk, and filled the jug with water. Then he learned his lesson and helped the little ones, too, if any of them asked him to do so. They loved him, and liked listening when he told them about the Lord Jesus and how He died for them, or about any Bible story that he himself had just learned. In this way he kept them quiet till lessons began so that they should not jump on the school benches. He had overheard the master one day saying, “Children, the dust that you make before I come will choke me one of these days!” Sometimes the children would not listen when he told them a Bible story. So, in order to keep them quiet, he told them the different sorts of nests the birds make in the forests, how the squirrels jump from branch to branch, what large snakes he had seen, or how Bundasch had chased a hare about the woods. Often when the master came into the school, the children stood around Martinko as still as mice, or laughing, till it was quite a pleasure to see them. Truly, such a scholar, who rewarded the pains he took with such gratitude, the schoolmaster of Raschowo had never had before.
It was for Martinko no light matter to go to school and at the same time to provide for two people. The peasants’ wives only gave him a small dinner now, because he did not do any odd jobs for them as in the winter before. It did not matter so long as the boys still had some of the provisions that Joschko had gotten together and the savings that Martinko had put aside from the sale of the baskets and brooms—but what would happen after that was gone?
Martinko often had cracked fingers on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He had worked them through with plaiting, or he and Joschko together had sawed and chopped wood for the people. God cared for the two lads and they did not suffer hunger. Martinko boasted even, “I have never been so comfortably warm as this winter. At school it is heated in the mornings. We carry home the dry wood that the forester has given us and need only to throw it into the stove, and we have enough to last till spring.”
Martinko was not so very glad that year over the spring, which came earlier than usual, partly because of school and partly because he could not go any more to church. When he went to church for the first time in the autumn, he did not know what to make of it. It happened to be the anniversary, as well as the harvest-thanksgiving. It was a day of great rejoicing among the people whose hearts were filled with praise. The clergyman said in his sermon that there had been a time when the people were not allowed to assemble to worship God and to hear His Word read; but then they got permission to build that house. Actually, it was their duty to be thankful for it; for although God is everywhere, and sees and hears the people anywhere, still it was good to have a house in common where no one disturbed them. Here they could tell the Lord Jesus everything; were able to thank Him, and to pray and hear all about God. Then the preacher reminded the people how richly God had blessed them in their fields and orchards that year. Martinko wished he could have joined in out loud. When the collection was made, he felt he must offer something out of gratitude to God, and so shook out all the kreuzers from his purse into the plate, although he had intended to buy several things with them.
After that he never missed a Sunday. But with the boys and young men in the gallery he did not wish to be. He had seen with horror how they nudged one another and quarreled and whispered. He preferred sitting with Joschko in the beggar’s pew, just under the gallery stairs, where no one disturbed them. They could listen attentively to what the clergyman preached, they could pray, and when a hymn they knew was sung they could join in, too, from memory, and later on from Joschko’s book.
The women often looked around at Martinko. He had a voice like a bell, like the music in the woods, so beautiful and clear. He sang to God with all his heart. It was a pleasure to see the boys as they came to church together so clean and tidy; and took their seats in the pew so quietly, as was fitting in a place where God was worshipped. They will be missed when they do not come any more!
- - -
Spring came and Martinko’s delightful time was at an end. But with the spring there came a traveling stranger into the village, seeking to sell the Holy Scriptures and other books. In going from house to house in the village, he came at last to the shepherd’s hut. He saw that the boys were living there alone, and so stayed a little while with them. They offered him some of the bread which the sexton’s wife had given them the day before. At the same time he showed the lads all his books and various beautiful pictures. When he saw how Martinko longed to possess a New Testament that he could take with him to the pastures, and that he had no money to buy it with, he gave him one, and each of them a little picture. On Martinko’s picture was the sky and a white dove with a note in its beak, on which were the words in golden letters, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:1717I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. (Proverbs 8:17)). Joschko’s picture was a wreath of wild flowers, in which were the words, “My son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:2626My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. (Proverbs 23:26)). Martinko could not look at the beautiful pictures enough, or read the beautiful words often enough.
“Does it not mean,” he said to the colporteur, “that the Lord Jesus loves me, and if I seek Him earnestly, He will let me find Him, and He requires of us that we give Him our hearts?”
For a long time the colporteur spoke with the lad. He could scarcely answer all the questions which Martinko asked him. Martinko learned much about the Lord Jesus, heaven and eternal life.
The colporteur remained three days in the village, and each evening he visited the boys. When he went away (it was on a Saturday evening), Martinko carried his big bag for him to the town. Even if his shoulder did bend under the burden, he would have given half the world rather than have lost the opportunity of carrying for once the Holy Scriptures. He did not think it too heavy. “Journey with God, the Lord, dear friend!” was his farewell to the colporteur. “May the Lord Jesus help you to sell all you have. May many people buy the holy books in order to read in them, and so not any longer to live without God in the world.”
“May the Lord grant it, my son! Only follow the Lord Jesus faithfully till He comes again, that we may be able to clasp one another’s hands again in His presence. One thing more, Martinko, if it should at any time go ever so badly for you in this world, always comfort yourself with what the Lord Jesus said, ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’” (John 14:2-32In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2‑3)). Martinko promised to remember that. But when the colporteur afterwards wished to pay him for his help on the way, he almost began to cry.
“You have taught me so many good things, and you gave us that holy book and the pictures. Cannot I be allowed to do you some little service in return?”
The colporteur patted his cheeks, drew him into his arms, and gazed deeply into those beautiful dark eyes. Then he kissed him like a good father his dear child. Thus they parted from one another.
For a long time Martinko sat on a heap of stones on the roadside, and looked after him. He thought that his heavenly Father would someday draw him to His breast, like this good man had done. Now he knew what it would be like up there.
The peasants rejoiced that the cattle could at last be driven to the pastures; for their store of feed in the sheds and barns grew less, and the hay stacks were now small. Martinko comforted himself with the thought that he would be able to see his beloved woods again; but he had one great care.
What ought he to do with Joschko? He did not wish to take him from school before the examination, but who would give him food if he did not go with him to tend the cattle?
On Monday the flocks and herds were to be driven out for the first time. Sunday afternoon he stood before his door and meditated: “I wonder what the Lord God has done with all the ice and snow! Only a little while ago there were mountains of snow before our hut, and now we see the green grass growing there. Down below in the meadows only a few weeks ago the boys had made themselves a long slide, and now I can hear from this place the noise they make playing with their balls, and the girls at tag.”
As Martinko stood so deep in thought, he did not notice that the mayor’s wife was approaching, until she spoke to him. “I am going to the sexton’s wife,” she said in the course of the conversation. “Well, I must say, Martinko, that you deserve much praise for having cared for Joschko so finely all through the winter; his mother can bless you for it. And because she was just as anxious about proper schooling as you are, we women have decided among ourselves to give Joschko his food that he may be able to go to school till the examination. One week he can have his meals with us, another at the miller’s at the top of the village, and then with Mrs. Hudetz.”
Martinko did not know how to express his thanks to the woman.
“God reward you, Auntie, a thousand times.”
And thus, all at once, his care was gone. You could not have found in the whole village a happier young man on that Monday than Martinko. Joschko helped him drive the cattle out almost as far as the forest; and Martinko then looked after him as he ran off to school. After dinner he ran back just as if he had been shot out of a pistol. Martinko had put aside for him some bread and vegetables from the midday meal. Joschko did not need asking twice to partake of it.
The peasants’ wives kept their word. They fed Joschko until the examination. None of them were any the poorer for it; for when one does good, God sees that one gets a rich blessing.
“Do not you find it lonely, Martinko, to be without Joschko in the woods?” asked the women in turn. But Martinko had no time to think about loneliness. By the time he had settled his herd and separated the quarrelsome ones, that they should not push each other, quite a long while had passed. Then he drew out his little Testament and read. Often he did not get beyond two verses, for it was with him different from what it was with Joschko; he thought over what he read at his work, and every day he found something new. Once he read that for the Lord Jesus at His birth there was no room anywhere, except in a shed. He was so sorry that the Son of God was obliged to lie on straw in a manger among the cattle, as he had had to do at the mayor’s.
But it pleased Martinko when he found it described how the Lord Jesus, when He was twelve years old, took a long pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus waited there when the others went home. They did not know for awhile that He was not with them, because there were so many people, but then they came back to Jerusalem to look for Him. They looked for three days and asked everyone if they had seen Him. Already Martinko began to tremble and to fear that He would not be found at all; but what joy when they found Him at last in the temple! Why ever did not they seek Him there first? They ought to have known He would not be anywhere else.
Martinko used to think very often about that pilgrimage of Jesus. If He came from so distant a place, surely He would pick flowers on the way, and if they had to go through the forests, they would, of course, sometimes rest awhile in the shadow of the trees. He imagined it as if the Lord went through the neighborhood known to him, through Brezovka and Raschowo, and from Raschowo farther, farther away.
In this way Martinko always had plenty to think about; and when he felt inclined he sang, so that the forest rang again.
Once, as he sang, “Where dwellest Thou, oh, Saviour dear? Thy perfect rest, oh, can I find it here?” the mountains appeared to take up the strain; it seemed as if one forest passed it on to the next, in order that Jesus (for whom Martinko had such a longing), might hear it. It occurred to him how helpful the forests were. He ceased singing, and spoke. “I know already where Thou art, my Lord Jesus, but if only I could see Thee soon! I know, too, that Thou art coming again, but when will that be—in the evening or in the morning?” “The morning,” answered the woods solemnly, and once again, “the morning.”
“Thou art surely coming?” said Martinko, smiling; and the woods replied softly, “Coming.”
This year Martinko did not make any baskets on Sundays. “I must tend the cattle, because the people have given it to me to do, and also on account of the animals themselves,” he said to Joschko. “But if I plait baskets, I should only do that of my own accord, and should grieve God. If I am unable to go to church, I can at least keep the day in the forest; the Lord Jesus can hear and see there just as well.”
When the peasants’ wives saw him so tidily dressed they reproached him, saying he would spoil his good clothes.
“Auntie, it is also Sunday in the forest,” he said to the sexton’s wife.
“Of course, but out there not a single person will see you!”
“God sees me, Auntie, and since I have known that He has commanded that we should keep the day holy, I cannot dishonor Him by wearing dirty clothes.”
The sexton’s wife perceived that the boy was right; his words often occurred to her, and if she were about to put on a dirty apron on Sunday, all at once she would remember and change it for a clean one.
At the upper end of the village, the miller’s old mother had died, and she left Martinko a woollen scarf. It was not so new as it had been, but the boy was greatly pleased, because on it were bunches of roses and other flowers. Martinko took this with him to the forests, spread it on the rock and laid his little Testament on top of it. It looked like a little altar. There he prayed, sang and read. Thus he kept the Sunday; the morning alone, and the afternoon with Joschko.
When at last the school examination was over, the boys began to live again as they had done the previous year. They cut withes together, Martinko plaited baskets, and Joschko, when his attention was not needed by the herds, went seeking strawberries, mushrooms, raspberries or blackberries, whatever happened at the time to be ripe, and carried them away to sell. For nearly a fortnight he carried a handbag for a gentleman who had some part of the forests to survey. During that time he lived as well as any gentleman, and to crown it all, afterwards received two new gulden.
The boys put this with what they had saved from the sale of mushrooms and raspberries, and at their request the sexton’s wife bought a new suit for Joschko and had his boots mended in the bargain. It is quite out of the question to try to describe to you the lads’ joy at it all. And everyone, whoever he might be, rejoiced with them, too. Bundasch, after he had sniffed him all around, looked as if he were saying he must first get used to him in this new outfit. But even without that Joschko was a nice-looking lad.
As Martinko took the little Testament in his hand one Sunday, it seemed to open of itself towards the end. He read the title, chapter 21, and under that, “And I [John] saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:11And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 21:1)). He became quite red with joy. At last it was here, what he had looked for for so long and desired so much. Yes; that stranger who had taught him the text, “For God so loved the world,” had said the new earth was described at the end of the New Testament. This time Martinko did not stop till he had read the chapter right through, and more than half of the next.
Oh, what a glory there was in this new earth! He had not thought in vain all along that up there, where God dwells and where He takes men, it must be more beautiful than this world. He read about a big city in that land, built only of precious stones. This city had twelve gates, each one made out of a great pearl. The street was paved with gold. In the midst of this city a river was flowing, and a tree grew on either side of it that bore fruit twelve times a year. And there was no church in the city, for God Himself was there with the people. And the Lord Jesus has His golden throne there. Those whom He takes to Himself walk about up there and serve Him and see Him. And He will dwell with them, and they with Him forever. Oh, that is glorious!
Martinko looked heavenward; over the Brezovka Mountains clouds were rising; the sun in shining upon them caused them to glitter like a golden gate to the new earth, to the glorious city. He had found in his New Testament that only those whose names were written in the book of life were allowed in this city. A great fear crept over him. “Who knows if I am also there?” Down on his knees he fell, and prayed, “Lord Jesus, Thou hast said that Thou givest us all things that we pray for, therefore I ask Thee to look at once in Thy book and see if Thou hast written my name there; and if not, please write my name ‘Martin’ in it and also what my father’s name was, for Thou knowest it surely; so that when Thou dost come to call the people there may be no mistake. There are so many Martins in Raschowo, I should not know when I ought to answer. And I do wish to come to Thee and serve Thee forever, because Thou hast loved me and hast died for me! Amen.”
The forest answered solemnly, “Amen.” And Martinko believed assuredly that his name was now written in the book, and that he had the citizenship of, and would most certainly go to, the city with the gates of pearl and street of gold. From that time he thought every day how the Lord Jesus went to and fro by the stream, under the blossoming tree, and that through the gates came people from the whole world to serve Him.
“Oh, what will it be like,” rejoiced Martinko, “when I at last enter there! I wonder if He will see me at once and know me? I know I shall recognize Him at once, for He will be the fairest among them all and will wear a crown.”
“Don’t be afraid!” said Martinko to Joschko, who was very frightened as one day without warning the wall of their kitchen began to fall in.
“We have not in any case to live long here. The Lord Jesus has gone Himself to prepare a place for us in His beautiful city.”
- - -
When the wall fell in altogether the boys happened to be in the woods. They could scarcely squeeze themselves through into their little room. The people feared that the whole place would crumble down on them and advised them to sleep outside. They followed this advice and slept in the shed with Bundasch by them. That summer was very wet and so Martinko had a lot more work in tending the animals. He was obliged to see that they did not eat too much of the saturated grass, and at the same time they could not be driven home hungry. Besides this, he had more sheep than usual, and these would not stay together. It was good that Joschko was able to count them so quickly, otherwise they would often have left one or more behind.
One evening Joschko was kept longer than usual at the forester’s house, and then he was sent with a letter to the village. Martinko was obliged to drive his flock home alone. Two or three times he had counted the sheep to see if they were all there. He thought on the way how very impatient the cattle had been that day; he had had to plague himself so much that he had only been able to read two verses. One of these he could not understand: “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1010For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)). “What did the Lord Jesus come to seek? People? If so, why did He seek them? I wish someone could explain that to me.” Lost in thought he reached the village at last with his flock. Each peasant woman sought out her own animal. One sheep was missing, belonging to the miller’s wife.
“You bad rascal!” said the enraged woman, calling him every bad name she could think of. “That is your gratitude to me for feeding your boy all along! Who knows what pranks you have been up to, and I am to have to bear the loss!” She stormed very dreadfully.
Martinko stood awhile quite still, as if he had been paralyzed. He was very sorry that he had made the miller’s wife so angry, but he was more sorry that he had lost the sheep. Whatever would the poor thing do alone, quite alone!
Martinko turned around and ran back again to the forest. The full moon rose suddenly as large as a plate; it seemed as if she said, “Comfort yourself, Martinko; I will help you; only seek, I will light the way!”
The excitement had lent him strength. He flew along as if he were mad, never stopping till he reached the forest glade, bathed in perspiration. Then he stopped awhile, lying on the ground to quiet the hard beating of his heart. After that he began seeking, calling out, “Come, little one, come, come, come!” He called a long time in vain—all was still! He called anxiously, he called with tears. At last he heard in the distance a piteous “ma-a-!”
“My little sheep, my little sheep!” he shouted joyously, and away he flew through bramble bushes and undergrowth, over ditches, rocks, brooks, fallen trunks of trees and roots. He fell, his bare feet became pierced, he was hurt, but didn’t notice any of this. He sought and called still, till he found it; but where? The moon shone upon the spot, deep, deep between rocks and undergrowth; there lay the poor sheep, its wool entangled in the brambles. It could not even get up, much less climb up again. If he did not fetch it, it must perish there.
Martinko stood still, and an inward voice seemed to say, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Oh, now he understood the verse. Just as this sheep would never be able to get up alone, so wicked, sinful people could never climb up to heaven. The brambles held the sheep tight; and sin, the devil and death held men back. Therefore the Lord Jesus came and called, and whoever answered His call was sought, found and carried home. “He has found me like that also, and bears me upward; yes, me!” Martinko felt sure he understood the verse now.
He let himself carefully down the rocks toward the sheep. But, alas! A stone suddenly broke away under his feet, and in order not to kill the sheep, he just held on with his hands only; but the stone he had held onto with his right hand began to crumble away.
“If the rock under my left hand gives way too, it will certainly kill my poor little sheep,” he thought, and in his anxiety for the poor little animal, he let go with that hand too. Then there was a roaring in his ears, everything was black before his eyes, and it sounded to him like a far off peal of bells; then—all was still. How long, Martinko did not know.
All at once he felt something warm against his face, he heard a strange whining tone and noticed that Bundasch howled. He heard another sound too, and tried to open his eyes.
“Where am I?”
Right over his body stood Bundasch; by his side in the bramble lay the sheep, peacefully chewing the cud. In the sky one star after another ceased shining, the day was beginning to dawn, and up above knelt Joschko on the rock, crying. Martinko remembered now what had happened. “I tumbled down,” he thought, “and if I had been killed, that would have been like it was with the Lord Jesus. He sought too, and found, and lost His life in doing it. He was obliged to die for His sheep. And like I am awakening now, so He arose on the third day, and since then He can take His sheep up to Himself, and deliver them from destruction, like I do this little sheep.” If Joschko up above had not wept, Martinko would have gone to sleep again, such a drowsiness crept over him. But he pulled himself together, and with great trouble and difficulty he carried the sheep up the rocks.
Joschko then told him how he could not get to sleep, and how he and Bundasch sought and found him; neither of the two could keep quiet for joy.
Wearily Martinko went down to the village; for he had not had anything to eat since yesterday at dinner, and added to that there was his wild chase, getting wet through with perspiration, then his fall, and lying there till the morning with the dew gathering on him.
And for all that he would not have given the whole world for the joy of being able to give the sheep, alive and well, back to the miller’s wife. “How glad she will be!” But instead of thanking him, she scolded him again thoroughly; and the other women grumbled at him for coming so late to fetch their animals, and cautioned him never to let anything like that occur again. The poor lad took it all to heart more than he had ever done anything before in his life.
He had found the way from the forest hard enough; but it appeared to him a hundred times harder going back again. There he let Joschko tend the cattle, with Bundasch, and laid himself down on the rock. Oh! if the miller’s wife could only see now his pained face, she would repent that she had reproached him, among many other things, about his father and mother, saying he did not belong there at all, and only caused them loss.
Joschko tried everything in vain; he could not succeed in making Martinko happy again. He did not even care for singing, and if Joschko read aloud, he just listened, but did not say anything about what was being read as he generally did. So passed the second and also the third day.
On Sunday, he let Joschko go with him to the pastures. When they were about to read, the book opened of itself where the Jews sought to stone Jesus because He had made a man whole on the Sabbath day. Martinko sighed, “They wanted even to kill Thee, because Thou didst heal a man. I have only been stormed at, although I did bring the sheep back again; and I cannot even stand that! But I forgive the miller’s wife, as Thou dost also forgive.”
Martinko began to weep bitterly, and when he had had his cry out, he became his old self again. He looked after the cattle better than ever, and to Joschko he was goodness itself. He saluted the people in a friendly manner and smiled at them as he had always done. But one thing was different: Martinko could not climb a tree again, and could only with great difficulty get up on the rock, and when he drove his flock to the woods, he had to rest three times on the way. He ate almost nothing, but was always needing water; his face looked as if the sun didn’t shine upon it any more, and his eyes glowed like a couple of stars.
That year they were obliged to leave the pastures earlier than usual; little Joschko was delighted.
“We will go to school again together, and the schoolmaster will put us both on the same bench, for you can learn just anything now.”
When they were in the forest for the last time, Martinko let Joschko drive the various animals together. He stood by himself on the bridge upon which he had so often sat in days gone by, wondering if everything had always been so. And if not, who had made it? Where did God live? Where does He take men when they die?
Today he did not need to ask any more, he knew all about it; also that there was a time once in which there was nothing on the earth, even that the earth itself had not existed at all, only God alone; and that God had created everything that we see, heaven and earth, in six days. He lives in heaven, and the earth He has given to men; these were so wicked and disobedient that they fell away from Him; and God loved them so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)). And this beloved Son of His came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. He died on the cross for His sheep, and thus He redeemed them from hell. Then He arose from the dead and went back to the Father. He had a city built there that has no equal on earth. And then, when the place for each one is ready, when all His sheep are entered by name in the book of life, then He will come again and take them all to Himself, that where He is, they may be also and worship Him there eternally. Martinko knew it was true, as stated in the hymn,
“If you wish to be with Him, You must be His, here!”
Whoever will serve Him in heaven must begin here, upon earth. Martinko thanked God that He had let him learn all this, and that no man needs to live in a Christian land without God, since he can learn all about Him if he will. Whoever will has only to ask God, and He will soon let him know what he wishes and show him the right way, either through fellow men or by means of the Scriptures.
Afterwards he looked around upon the forest and the beautiful world. The valley lay in mist, like a gentle bride half hidden in her marriage veil. The sun shone upon the woods and kissed Martinko on the cheeks, and looked upon him that day in autumn for the last time in the forest. Yellow, reddish, black and golden leaves fell rustling down to the ground; and through the woods stole that melancholy music as if a great lord were being borne to his last resting place. Yes, every leaflet seemed to call, “Martinko, good night; we shall never see you more!”
And at the parting a strange sadness suddenly came over him, as never before. He spread out his arms, as if to embrace the beloved, beautiful world, and tears rolled silently down his cheeks.
“May God protect you! Farewell!”
Then he went down to the herd; and as he drove it away from the woods, he gazed continually back again, as long as the bushes in the forest glade were visible.
They reached home, but Martinko did not want to eat any supper, although the mayor’s wife had given them two fine slices of meat. He would much rather that Joschko should read once again what they had read together in the forest, where the Lord Jesus said, “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (John 6:3535And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)). “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:4040And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)).
After that, they prayed together and laid themselves down to sleep. Martinko only dozed. It was a very cold night. Wherever a flower happened still to blossom it would certainly be frozen. The moon shone into the shed, onto the two boys; the stars twinkled around her like big teardrops; yes, it was very cold!
Martinko awakened suddenly. He felt the cold. They lay together covered with Joschko’s bedspread, and Joschko coughed in his sleep.
“It is cold for him,” thought Martinko. “The bedspread is too small to keep both of us warm; he had better have it for himself; I can manage very well for the night.”
Martinko covered his comrade with it, and curled himself up under the old felt mantle; but it was just as if he had nothing on. He began to shake with the cold, it caused his teeth to chatter together, it began to pierce him in his whole body, in the chest, in his side, in his back to such an extent that he did not know what he should do.
“Joschko,” he cried with all his might, but he could not make his voice heard. “Please, cover me up with the rug; I am so ill.”
Joschko never heard him; he slept, and slept.
“He is sleeping, Lord Jesus, just like Thy disciples slept in Gethsemane, when Thou wast in the deepest need of them;” thus he spoke to the Lord. He had done Joschko so much good, and often gone hungry instead of him, and now he slept and did not hear, however much he might be called.
“Lord Jesus, I am so ill, and I have not anyone to cover me up, and I am not able to move myself any more. Do not leave me, my Lord Jesus; help me!”
Scarcely were Martinko’s thoughts so far, when all at once his limbs became warm, and he got into a regular perspiration, just as if he had been dipped in water. He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
It was already eleven o’clock; the sexton had sounded that out with the night watch horn, and was going home to get a little sleep until one o’clock. Something seemed to draw him to go in and see how it fared with the boys; he often used to look in at the lads as they slept. Often Martinko had his arms entwined around Joschko’s neck; thus they lay together, happily smiling, like princes in a silken bed; it was really a pleasure to look at them.
The sexton went in. The moon shone into the shed onto the two boys. Joschko lay covered up to the ears with the bedspread, as if some good mother had tucked him in. Martinko lay huddled together, a little on one side, only on the straw, covered with the old felt mantle; his forehead and cheeks like fire, his eyes gleaming like the stars in heaven.
“Martinko, aren’t you asleep? What are you lying like that for? Joschko has the whole of the bedspread, and you nothing.”
But the boy gave no answer; he only looked and smiled. Till his dying day the sexton never forgot that sweet smile. He took his own felt mantle and covered the boy with it.
“Martinko, what is the matter with you? Why don’t you speak to me? Don’t you know me?”
The boy shook his head, and said, “He will come soon now; I am waiting for Him.”
“For whom?”
“The Son of God! He is coming to fetch me; already I am going through the deep waters that reach to the thighs, yes, and now to the heart. But I am not afraid.”
“Martinko, wake up; you don’t know what you are saying.”
The sexton was shedding tears—Martinko spoke with someone else.
“Art Thou come already? I am so glad! Thou art holding me; how good Thou art! I cannot keep hold of Thee any longer; it hurts me so all over. The little sheep fell down, and I let myself tumble for its sake, and got wounded. And yet they stormed at me! But I am not angry, they were good to me, very good, although I do not belong here at all.
“May the Lord God reward them; they have brought me up, and they gave me Joschko also, and cared for him, too. We had a happy time together, because we loved one another, but now I’d rather go with Thee. I know that Thou standest by me; and there I shall really see Thee, shan’t I, Lord Jesus? My dear Lord Jesus!”
Martinko smiled, and closed his eyes.
The sexton hurriedly fetched his wife, and she carried the boy into her room. In spite of its being night several other women also came together. He had knocked at their windows: “Come! Come at once. Something has happened to Martinko.”
But the boy didn’t know any of them, not even Joschko, who stood by him crying, as he did on the rocks; and the women could only get him away from the bed by force, so as to get at Martinko himself.
They tried different things.
“If he is not better by the morning, we will call the doctor,” said the miller’s wife.
They boiled various sorts of herbs; and then the sick boy came to himself and looked around at the women.
“I thank you very much for everything, but”—he spoke with trembling voice—“I was living in the world without God—and you knew all about Him—and not one of you told me anything about it—and,” he continued sadly, “you, yourselves live as if there were no God, and as if you believed it were not true. When I die, do not give me any money for the journey, the Lord Jesus will guide me through for nothing; and do not be afraid that I shall return and haunt you—I shall never come back again—it is a long way off, I should not be able to find the way at all.”
The women listened to him. “He talks just like the Holy Scriptures.”
“Don’t be afraid,” said the sexton, “you won’t die yet; that will go again like it has come, and you will tend our flock a long time still.”
“And we’ll make you such a fine new suit,” the women promised, “and you can take Joschko too, as shepherd boy; we’ll clothe him too, and keep both of you.”
“Through the winter you can live with me,” said the miller’s wife, “that you may not get buried alive here, and in the spring, we’ll repair your hut, or build you a new one.”
“There is already one built for me—but I thank you for all your goodness. Please raise me a bit higher.”
The women raised the boy, and made his head comfortable.
“Sleep is creeping over him,” said the sexton’s wife, “he will be falling asleep.”
He opened his eyes wearily; little Joschko threw himself on him, and wept.
“Don’t cry,” comforted Martinko, and laid one hot hand on his comrade’s head (the other Bundasch was licking), “don’t cry! ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’—and you too!”
In vain the women waited to see if he would say anything more; he breathed deeply and fell asleep.
“Let him alone,” advised the sexton. “It is good that he is sleeping; he’ll get better so.”
Just then the morning began to dawn. The sexton’s wife looked at the boy.
“Auntie,” she cried to Mrs. Hudetz, “he has stopped breathing!”
Ah! yes; it was so, as the forest had foretold; the Lord Jesus took Martinko to Himself in the morning. The sun had not taken farewell from him the day before in vain; it will never see him again.
Fifteen years before, when Martinko’s mother was buried, many people attended, almost as if she had been a rich woman; but such a beautiful funeral as Martinko’s, the inhabitants of Raschowo could not remember. All the young women adorned themselves with wreaths, all the young men wanted to carry him. The schoolmaster allowed all the schoolchildren to go. Since Martinko had held the school in such high honor, they would honor him with all that was his due. On the coffin, a wreath entirely of rosemary was laid; and another very beautiful one with ribbons. Poor Joschko followed behind with bare head. Martinko was buried by the side of his mother. When the sexton had filled up the grave, tears welled into his eyes as never before.
“May the soil rest lightly on you, Martinko!”
- - -
Spring will return; the meadows will be decked with flowers; the forests will become green; they will wait for Martinko, for him to drive the herd from Raschowo, but in vain. He will not come. He has gone away to that heavenly land to be with the Lord Jesus forever, to see Him face to face. He will walk with Him in white; there the tree bears fruit every month; there is no more death in that heavenly land, neither sorrow nor crying; no more pain, but everlasting joy; there is music there, more beautiful than any ever heard in this world; nothing that defiles will ever enter there; sin is unknown there, but only joy, joy, joy forever.
The inhabitants of the village of Raschowo buried Martinko and mourned for him; for they never again had such a shepherd—who so loved God, honored his fellow men and cared for the cattle.
The Lord God has taken care of Joschko.