| Christmas in Legend and Story|
|by Elva S. Smith|
|An exceptional collection of Christmas stories, legends, and poems, that have distinct literary merit, a spirit of reverence, and an appeal for children. Chosen from a wide variety of sources by a pair of children's librarians, the stories represent the work of many writers. The selections are arranged chronologically, beginning with the birth of the Christ Child. Ages 8-12 |
WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO
Count Lyof N. Tolstoï
 IN a certain city dwelt Martin Avdyeeich,
the cobbler. He lived in a cellar, a wretched
little hole with a single window. The window
looked up towards the street, and through it
Martin could just see the passers-by. It is
true that he could see little more than their
boots, but Martin Avdyeeich could read a
man's character by his boots, so he needed no
more. Martin Avdyeeich had lived long in
that one place, and had many acquaintances.
Few indeed were the boots in that neighborhood
which had not passed through his hands
at some time or other. On some he would
fasten new soles, to others he would give side
pieces, others again he would stitch all round,
and even give them new uppers if need be.
And often he saw his own handiwork through
the window. There was always lots of work
for him, for Avdyeeich's hand was cunning
 and his leather good; nor did he overcharge,
and he always kept his word. He always engaged
to do a job by a fixed time if he could;
but if he could not, he said so at once, and
deceived no man. So every one knew Avdyeeich,
and he had no lack of work. Avdyeeich
had always been a pretty good man, but as he
grew old he began to think more about his soul,
and draw nearer to his God. While Martin
was still a journeyman his wife had died; but
his wife had left him a little boy—three years
old. Their other children had not lived. All
the eldest had died early. Martin wished at
first to send his little child into the country to
his sister, but afterwards he thought better of
it. "My Kapitoshka," thought he, "will feel
miserable in a strange household. He shall
stay here with me." And so Avdyeeich left his
master, and took to living in lodgings alone
with his little son. But God did not give
Avdyeeich happiness in his children. No
sooner had the little one begun to grow up and
be a help and a joy to his father's heart, than
a sickness fell upon Kapitoshka, the little one
took to his bed, lay there in a raging fever for
a week, and then died. Martin buried his son
 in despair—so desperate was he that he began
to murmur against God. Such disgust of
life overcame him that he more than once
begged God that he might die; and he reproached
God for taking not him, an old man,
but his darling, his only son, instead. And
after that Avdyeeich left off going to church.
And lo! one day, there came to Avdyeeich
from the Troitsa Monastery, an aged peasant-pilgrim—it
was already the eighth year of his
pilgrimage. Avdyeeich fell a-talking with him
and began to complain of his great sorrow.
"As for living any longer, thou man of God,"
said he, "I desire it not. Would only that I
might die! That is my sole prayer to God.
I am now a man who has no hope."
And the old man said to him: "Thy speech,
Martin, is not good. How shall we judge the
doings of God? God's judgments are not our
thoughts. God willed that thy son shouldst die,
but that thou shouldst live. Therefore 'twas
the best thing both for him and for thee.
because thou wouldst fain have lived for thy
own delight that thou dost now despair."
"But what then is a man to live for?"
 And the old man answered: "For God,
Martin! He gave thee life, and for Him
therefore must thou live. When thou dost
begin to live for Him, thou wilt grieve about
nothing more, and all things will come easy to
Martin was silent for a moment, and then he
said: "And how must one live for God? "
"Christ hath shown us the way. Thou
knowest thy letters. Buy the Gospels and
read; there thou wilt find out how to live for
God. There everything is explained."
These words made the heart of Avdyeeich
burn within him, and he went the same day
and bought for himself a New Testament
printed in very large type, and began to read.
Avdyeeich set out with the determination to
read it only on holidays; but as he read, it
did his heart so much good that he took to
reading it every day. And the second time he
read until all the kerosene in the lamp had
burnt itself out, and for all that he could not
tear himself away from the book. And so it
was every evening. And the more he read, the
more clearly he understood what God wanted
of him, and how it behooved him to live for
 God; and his heart grew lighter and lighter
continually. Formerly, whenever he lay down
to sleep he would only sigh and groan, and
think of nothing but Kapitoshka, but now he
would only say to himself: "Glory to Thee!
Glory to Thee, O Lord! Thy will be done!"
Henceforth the whole life of Avdyeeich was
changed. Formerly, whenever he had a holiday,
he would go to the tavern to drink tea,
nor would he say no to a drop of brandy now
and again. He would tipple with his comrades,
and though not actually drunk, would, for all
that, leave the inn a bit merry, babbling nonsense
and talking loudly and censoriously. He
had done with all that now. His life became
quiet and joyful. With the morning light he
sat down to his work, worked out his time, then
took down his lamp from the hook, placed it
on the table, took down his book from the
shelf, bent over it, and sat him down to read.
And the more he read the more he understood,
and his heart grew brighter and happier.
It happened once that Martin was up reading
till very late. He was reading St. Luke's
Gospel. He was reading the sixth chapter,
and as he read he came to the words: "And
 to him that smiteth thee on the one cheek,
offer also the other." This passage he read
several times, and presently he came to that
place where the Lord says: "And why call ye
me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which
I say? Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth
My sayings, and doeth them, I will show you
to whom he is like. He is like a man which
built an house, and dug deep, and laid the
foundations on a rock. And when the flood
arose, the storm beat vehemently upon that
house, and could not shake it, for it was
founded upon a rock. But he that heareth,
and doeth not, is like a man that without a
foundation built an house upon the earth,
against which the stream did beat vehemently,
and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that
house was great."
Avdyeeich read these words through and
through, and his heart was glad. He took off
his glasses, laid them on the book, rested his
elbow on the table, and fell a-thinking. And
he began to measure his own life by these
words. And he thought to himself, "Is my
house built on the rock or on the sand? How
good to be as on a rock! How easy it all seems
 to thee sitting alone here. It seems as if thou
wert doing God's will to the full, and so thou
takest no heed and fallest away again. And
yet thou wouldst go on striving, for so it is
good for thee. O Lord, help me!" Thus
thought he, and would have laid him down, but
it was a grief to tear himself away from the
book. And so he began reading the seventh
chapter. He read all about the Centurion, he
read all about the Widow's Son, he read all
about the answer to the disciples of St. John;
and so he came to that place where the rich
Pharisee invites our Lord to be his guest.
And he read all about how the woman who
was a sinner anointed His feet and washed
them with her tears, and how He justified her.
And so he came at last to the forty-fourth
verse, and there he read these words, "And
He turned to the woman and said to Simon,
Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine
house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet;
but she has washed My feet with tears and
wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou
gavest Me no kiss, but this woman, since the
time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss My feet.
Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint."
 And again Avdyeeich took off his glasses, and
laid them on the book, and fell a-thinking.
"So it is quite plain that I too have
something of the Pharisee about me. Am I not
always thinking of myself? Am I not always
thinking of drinking tea, and keeping myself
as warm and cozy as possible, without thinking
at all about the guest? Simon thought about
himself, but did not give the slightest thought
to his guest. But who was the guest? The
Lord Himself. And suppose He were to come
to me, should I treat Him as the Pharisee
And Avdyeeich leaned both his elbows on the
table and, without perceiving it, fell a-dozing.
"Martin!"—it was as though the voice of
some one close to his ear.
Martin started up from his nap. "Who's
He turned round, he gazed at the door, but
there was no one. Again he dozed off.
Suddenly he heard quite plainly,
I say! Look to-morrow into the street. I
Martin awoke, rose from his chair, and began
to rub his eyes. And he did not know
him-  self whether he had heard these words asleep
or awake. He turned down the lamp and laid
him down to rest.
At dawn next day, Avdyeeich arose, prayed
to God, lit his stove, got ready his gruel and
cabbage soup, filled his samovar, put on his
apron, and sat him down by his window to
work. There Avdyeeich sits and works, and
thinks of nothing but the things of yesternight.
His thoughts were divided. He thought at one
time that he must have gone off dozing, and
then again he thought he really must have
heard that voice. It might have been so,
Martin sits at the window and looks as much
at his window as at his work, and whenever
a strange pair of boots passes by he bends
forward and looks out of the window, so as
to see the face as well as the feet of the
passers-by. The house porter passed by in
new felt boots, the water-carrier passed by,
and after that there passed close to the window
an old soldier, one of Nicholas's veterans,
in tattered old boots, with n shovel in his
hands. Avdyeeich knew him by his boots.
The old fellow was called Stepanuich, and
 lived with the neighboring shopkeeper, who
harbored him of his charity. His duty was to
help the porter. Stepanuich stopped before
Avdyeeich's window to sweep away the snow.
Avdyeeich cast a glance at him, and then went
on working as before.
"I'm not growing sager as I grow older,"
thought Avdyeeich, with some self-contempt.
"I make up my mind that Christ is coming to
me, and lo! 'tis only Stepanuich clearing away
the snow. Thou simpleton, thou! thou art
wool-gathering!" Then Avdyeeich made ten
more stitches, and then he stretched his head
once more towards the window. He looked
through the window again, and there he saw
that Stepanuich had placed the shovel against
the wall, and was warming himself and taking
breath a bit.
"The old man is very much broken,"
thought Avdyeeich to himself. "It is quite
plain that he has scarcely strength enough to
scrape away the snow. Suppose I make him
drink a little tea! the samovar, too, is just on
the boil." Avdyeeich put down his awl, got
up, placed the samovar on the table, put some
tea in it, and tapped on the window with his
 fingers. Stepanuich turned round and came to
the window. Avdyeeich beckoned to him, and
then went and opened the door.
"Come in and warm yourself a bit," cried
he. "You're a bit chilled, eh?"
"Christ requite you! Yes, and all my bones
ache too," said Stepanuich. Stepanuich came
in, shook off the snow, and began to wipe his
feet so as not to soil the floor, but he tottered
"Don't trouble about wiping your feet. I'll
rub it off myself. It's all in the day's work.
Come in and sit down," said Avdyeeich.
"Here, take a cup of tea."
And Avdyeeich filled two cups, and gave one
to his guest, and he poured his own tea out into
the saucer and began to blow it.
Stepanuich drank his cup, turned it upside
down, put a gnawed crust on the top of it, and
said, "Thank you." But it was quite plain
that he wanted to be asked to have some more.
"Have a drop more. Do!" said Avdyeeich,
and poured out fresh cups for his guest and
himself, and as Avdyeeich drank his cup, he
could not help glancing at the window from
time to time.
 "Dost thou expect any one?" asked his
"Do I expect any one? Well, honestly, I
hardly know. I am expecting and I am not
expecting, and there's a word which has burnt
itself right into my heart. Whether it was a
vision or no, I know not. Look now, my
brother! I was reading yesterday about our
little Father Christ, how He suffered, how He
came on earth. Hast thou heard of Him, eh?"
"I have heard, I have heard," replied
Stepanuich, "but we poor ignorant ones know
not our letters."
"Anyhow, I was reading about this very
thing—how He came down upon earth. I was
reading how He went to the Pharisee, and how
the Pharisee did not meet Him half-way. That
was what I was reading about yesternight,
little brother mine. I read that very thing,
and bethought me how the Honorable did not
receive our little Father Christ honorably.
But suppose, I thought, if He came to one like
me—would I receive Him? Simon at any
rate did not receive Him at all. Thus I
thought, and so thinking, fell asleep. I fell
asleep, I say, little brother mine, and I heard
 my name called. I started up. A voice was
whispering at my very ear. 'Look out to-morrow!'
it said, 'I am coming.' And so it
befell twice. Now look! wouldst thou believe
it? the idea stuck to me—I scold myself for
my folly, and yet I look for Him, our little
Stepanuich shook his head and said nothing,
but he drank his cup dry and put it aside.
Then Avdyeeich took up the cup and filled it
"Drink some more. 'Twill do thee good.
Now it seems to me that when our little Father
went about on earth, he despised no one, but
sought unto the simple folk most of all. He
was always among the simple folk. Those disciples
of His too, He chose most of them from
amongst our brother-laborers, sinners like unto
us. He that exalteth himself, He says, shall
be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall
be exalted. Ye, says He, call me Lord, and I,
says He, wash your feet. He who would be the
first among you, He says, let him become the
servant of all. And therefore it is that He
says, Blessed are the lowly, the peacemakers,
the humble, and the long-suffering."
 Stepanuich forgot his tea. He was an old
man, soft-hearted, and tearful. He sat and
listened, and the tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Come, drink a little more," said Avdyeeich.
But Stepanuich crossed himself, expressed
his thanks, pushed away his cup, and
"I thank thee, Martin Avdyeeich. I have
fared well at thy hands, and thou hast refreshed
me both in body and soul."
"Thou wilt show me a kindness by coming
again. I am so glad to have a guest," said
Avdyeeich. Stepanuich departed, and Martin
poured out the last drop of tea, drank it,
washed up, and again sat down by the window
to work—he had some back-stitching to do.
He stitched and stitched, and now and then cast
glances at the window—he was looking for
Christ, and could think of nothing but Him
and His works. And the divers sayings of
Christ were in his head all the time.
Two soldiers passed by, one in regimental
boots, the other in boots of his own making;
after that, the owner of the next house passed
by in nicely brushed goloshes. A baker with
a basket also passed by. All these passed by
 in turn, and then there came alongside the window
a woman in worsted stockings and rustic
shoes, and as she was passing by she stopped
short in front of the partition wall. Avdyeeich
looked up at her from his window, and he saw
that the woman was a stranger and poorly clad,
and that she had a little child with her. She
was leaning up against the wall with her back
to the wind, and tried to wrap the child up, but
she had nothing to wrap it up with. The
woman wore summer clothes, and thin enough
they were. And from out of his corner Avdyeeich
heard the child crying and the woman trying
to comfort it, but she could not. Then
Avdyeeich got up, went out of the door and on
to the steps, and cried, "My good woman! My
The woman heard him and turned round.
"Why dost thou stand out in the cold there
with the child? Come inside! In the warm
room thou wilt be better able to tend him. This
The woman was amazed. What she saw was
an old fellow in an apron and with glasses on
his nose calling to her. She came towards him.
They went down the steps together—they
 went into the room. The old man led the
woman to the bed. "There," said he, "sit
down, gossip, nearer to the stove, and warm
and feed thy little one. . . ."
He went to the table, got some bread and a
dish, opened the oven door, put some cabbage
soup into the dish, took out a pot of gruel, but
it was not quite ready, so he put some cabbage
soup only into the dish, and placed it
on the table. Then he fetched bread, took
down the cloth from the hook, and spread it
on the table.
"Sit down and have something to eat, gossip,"
said he, "and I will sit down a little
with the youngster. I have had children of my
own, and know how to manage them."
The woman crossed herself, sat down at the
table, and began to eat, and Avdyeeich sat
down on the bed with the child. Avdyeeich
smacked his lips at him again and again, but
his lack of teeth made it a clumsy joke at best.
And all the time the child never left off shrieking.
Then Avdyeeich hit upon the idea of
shaking his finger at him, so he snapped his
fingers up and down, backwards and forwards,
right in front of the child's mouth. He did not
 put his finger into its mouth, because his finger
was black and sticky with cobbler's wax. And
the child stared at the finger and was silent,
and presently it began to laugh. And Avdyeeich
was delighted. But the woman went on
eating, and told him who she was and whence
"I am a soldier's wife," she said: "my
eight months' husband they drove right away
from me, and nothing has been heard of him
since. I took a cook's place till I became a
mother. They could not keep me and the child.
It is now three months since I have been drifting
about without any fixed resting-place. I
have eaten away my all. I wanted to be a wet-nurse,
but people wouldn't have me: 'Thou
art too thin,' they said. I have just been to
the merchant's wife where our grandmother
lives, and there they promised to take me in.
I thought it was all right, but she told me to
come again in a week. But she lives a long
way off. I am chilled to death, and he is quite
tired out. But God be praised! our landlady
has compassion on us, and gives us shelter for
Christ's sake. But for that I don't know how
we could live through it all."
 Avdyeeich sighed, and said, "And have
you no warm clothes?"
"Ah, kind friend! this is indeed warm-clothes
time, but yesterday I pawned away my
last shawl for two grivenki."
The woman went to the bed and took up the
child, but Avdyeeich stood up, went to the wall
cupboard, rummaged about a bit, and then
brought back with him an old jacket.
"Look!" said he, " 'tis a shabby thing,
'tis true, but it will do to wrap up in."
The woman looked at the old jacket, then
she gazed at the old man, and, taking the
jacket, fell a-weeping. Avdyeeich also turned
away, crept under the bed, drew out a
trunk and seemed to be very busy about it,
whereupon he again sat down opposite the
Then the woman said: "Christ requite thee,
dear little father! It is plain that it was He
who sent me by thy window. When I first came
out it was warm, and now it has turned very
cold. And He it was, little father, who made
thee look out of the window and have compassion
on wretched me."
Avdyeeich smiled slightly, and said: "Yes,
 He must have done it, for I looked not out of
the window in vain, dear gossip!"
And Avdyeeich told his dream to the soldier's
wife also, and how he had heard a voice
promising that the Lord should come to him
"All things are possible," said the woman.
Then she rose up, put on the jacket, wrapped
it round her little one, and then began to curtsey
and thank Avdyeeich once more.
"Take this for Christ's sake," said Avdyeeich,
giving her a two-grivenka piece, "and
redeem your shawl." The woman crossed herself,
Avdyeeich crossed himself, and then he
led the woman to the door.
The woman went away. Avdyeeich ate up
the remainder of the cabbage soup, washed up,
and again sat down to work. He worked on
and on, but he did not forget the window, and
whenever the window was darkened he immediately
looked up to see who was passing.
Acquaintances passed, strangers passed, but
there was no one in particular.
But now Avdyeeich sees how, right in front
of his window, an old woman, a huckster, has
taken her stand. She carries a basket of
 apples. Not many now remained; she had evidently
sold them nearly all. Across her
shoulder she carried a sack full of shavings.
She must have picked them up near some new
building, and was taking them home with her.
It was plain that the sack was straining her
shoulder. She wanted to shift it on to the
other shoulder, so she rested the sack on the
pavement, placed the apple-basket on a small
post, and set about shaking down the shavings
in the sack. Now while she was shaking down
the sack, an urchin in a ragged cap suddenly
turned up, goodness knows from whence,
grabbed at one of the apples in the basket, and
would have made off with it, but the wary old
woman turned quickly round and gripped the
youth by the sleeve. The lad fought and tried
to tear himself loose, but the old woman seized
him with both hands, knocked his hat off, and
lugged hard at his hair. The lad howled, and
the old woman reviled him. Avdyeeich did not
stop to put away his awl, but pitched it on the
floor, rushed into the courtyard, and in his
haste stumbled on the steps and dropped his
glasses. Avdyeeich ran out into the street.
The old woman was tugging at the lad's hair
 and wanted to drag him off to the police, while
the boy fought and kicked.
"I didn't take it," said he. "What are you
whacking me for! Let me go!"
Avdyeeich came up and tried to part them.
He seized the lad by the arm and said: "Let
him go, little mother! Forgive him for
"I'll forgive him so that he shan't forget
the taste of fresh birch-rods. I mean to take
the rascal to the police station."
Avdyeeich began to entreat with the old
"Let him go, little mother; he will not do
so any more. Let him go for Christ's sake."
The old woman let him go. The lad would
have bolted, but Avdyeeich held him fast.
"Beg the little mother's pardon," said he,
"and don't do such things any more. I saw
thee take them."
Then the lad began to cry and beg pardon.
"Well, that's all right! And now, there's
an apple for thee." And Avdyeeich took one
out of the basket and gave it to the boy. "I'll
pay thee for it, little mother," he said to the
 "Thou wilt ruin them that way, the black-guards,"
said the old woman. "If I had the
rewarding of him, he should not be able to sit
down for a week."
"Oh, little mother, little mother!" cried
Avdyeeich; "that is our way of looking at
things, but it is not God's way. If we ought to
be whipped so for the sake of one apple, what
do we deserve for our sins?"
The old woman was silent.
And Avdyeeich told the old woman about the
parable of the master who forgave his servant
a very great debt, and how that servant immediately
went out and caught his fellow-servant
by the throat because he was his debtor. The
old woman listened to the end, and the lad
"God bade us forgive," said Avdyeeich,
"otherwise He will not forgive us. We must
forgive every one, especially the thoughtless."
The old woman shook her head and sighed.
"That's all very well," she said, "but they
are spoiled enough already."
"Then it is for us old people to teach them
better," said Avdyeeich.
" So say I," replied the old woman. "I
 had seven of them at one time, and now I have
but a single daughter left." And the old
woman began telling him where and how she
lived with her daughter, and how many grandchildren
she had. "I'm not what I was," she
said, "but I work all I can. I am sorry for my
grandchildren, and good children they are, too.
No one is so glad to see me as they are. Little
Aksyutka will go to none but me. 'Grandma
dear! darling grandma!' " and the old
woman was melted to tears. "As for him,"
she added, pointing to the lad, "boys will be
boys, I suppose. Well, God be with him!"
Now just as the old woman was about to
hoist the sack on to her shoulder, the lad
rushed forward and said:
"Give it here, and I'll carry it for thee,
granny! It is all in my way."
The old woman shook her head, but she did
put the sack on the lad's shoulder.
And so they trudged down the street together
side by side. And the old woman forgot
to ask Avdyeeich for the money for the
apple. Avdyeeich kept standing and looking
after them, and heard how they talked to each
other, as they went, about all sorts of things.
 Avdyeeich followed them with his eyes till
they were out of sight, then he turned homewards
and found his glasses on the steps (they
were not broken), picked up his awl, and sat
down to work again. He worked away for a
little while, but soon he was scarcely able to
distinguish the stitches, and he saw the lamplighter
going round to light the lamps. "I
see it is time to light up," thought he, so he
trimmed his little lamp, lighted it, and again
sat down to work. He finished one boot completely,
turned it round and inspected it.
"Good!" he cried. He put away his tools,
swept up the cuttings, removed the brushes
and tips, put away the awl, took down the lamp,
placed it on the table, and took down the Gospels
from the shelf. He wanted to find the
passage where he had last evening placed a
strip of morocco leather by way of a marker,
but he lit upon another place. And just as
Avdyeeich opened the Gospel, he recollected
his dream of yesterday evening. And no
sooner did he call it to mind than it seemed to
him as if some persons were moving about and
shuffling with their feet behind him. Avdyeeich
glanced round and saw that somebody
 was indeed standing in the dark corner—yes,
some one was really there, but who, he could not
exactly make out. Then a voice whispered in
"Martin! Martin! dost thou not know
"Who art thou?" cried Avdyeeich.
" 'Tis I," cried the voice, "lo, 'tis I!"
And forth from the dark corner stepped Stepanuich.
He smiled, and it was as though a
little cloud were breaking, and he was gone.
"It is I!" cried the voice, and forth from
the corner stepped a woman with a little child;
and the woman smiled and the child laughed,
and they also disappeared.
"And it is I!" cried the voice, and the old
woman and the lad with the apple stepped
forth, and both of them smiled, and they also
And the heart of Avdyeeich was glad. He
crossed himself, put on his glasses, and began
to read the Gospels at the place where he had
opened them. And at the top of the page he
read these words: "And I was an hungered
and thirsty, and ye gave Me to drink. I was
a stranger and ye took Me in."
 And at the bottom of the page he read this:
"Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of
these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
And Avdyeeich understood that his dream
had not deceived him, and that the Saviour had
really come to him that day, and he had really
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