What Men Live By - Part IV
Matryona stopped and said: “If he were a good man he would not be naked. Why, he hasn’t even a shirt on him. If he were all right, you would say where you came across the fellow.”
“That’s just what I am trying to tell you,” said Simon. “As I came to the shrine I saw him sitting all naked and frozen. It isn’t quite the weather to sit about naked! God sent me to him, or he would have perished. What was I to do? How do we know what may have happened to him? So I took him, clothed him, and brought him along. Don’t be so angry, Matryona. It is a sin. Remember, we all must die one day.”
Angry words rose to Matryona’s lips, but she looked at the stranger and was silent. He sat on the edge of the bench, motionless, his hands folded on his knees, his head drooping on his breast, his eyes closed, and his brows knit as if in pain. Matryona was silent: and Simon said: “Matryona, have you no love of God?”
Matryona heard these words, and as she looked at the stranger, suddenly her heart softened towards him. She came back from the door, and going to the oven she got out the supper. Setting a cup on the table, she poured out some kvas. Then she brought out the last piece of bread, and set out a knife and spoons.
“Eat, if you want to,” said she.
Simon drew the stranger to the table.
“Take your place, young man,” said he.
Simon cut the bread, crumbled it into the broth, and they began to eat. Matryona sat at the corner of the table resting her head on her hand and looking at the stranger.
And Matryona was touched with pity for the stranger, and began to feel fond of him. And at once the stranger’s face lit up; his brows were no longer bent, he raised his eyes and smiled at Matryona.
When they had finished supper, the woman cleared away the things and began questioning the stranger. “Where are you from?” said she.
“I am not from these parts.”
“But how did you come to be on the road?”
“I may not tell.”
“Did some one rob you?”
“God punished me.”
“And you were lying there naked?”
“Yes, naked and freezing. Simon saw me and had pity on me. He took off his coat, put it on me and brought me here. And you have fed me, given me drink, and shown pity on me. God will reward you!”
Matryona rose, took from the window Simon’s old shirt she had been patching, and gave it to the stranger. She also brought out a pair of trousers for him.
“There,” said she, “I see you have no shirt. Put this on, and lie down where you please, in the loft or on the oven.”
The stranger took off the coat, put on the shirt, and lay down in the loft. Matryona put out the candle, took the coat, and climbed to where her husband lay.
Matryona drew the skirts of the coat over her and lay down, but could not sleep; she could not get the stranger out of her mind.
When she remembered that he had eaten their last piece of bread and that there was none for tomorrow, and thought of the shirt and trousers she had given away, she felt grieved; but when she remembered how he had smiled, her heart was glad.
Long did Matryona lie awake, and she noticed that Simon also was awake—he drew the coat towards him.
“You have had the last of the bread, and I have not put any to rise. I don’t know what we shall do tomorrow. Perhaps I can borrow some of neighbor Martha.”
“If we’re alive we shall find something to eat.”
The woman lay still awhile, and then said, “He seems a good man, but why does he not tell us who he is?”
“I suppose he has his reasons.”
“We give; but why does nobody give us anything?”
Simon did not know what to say; so he only said, “Let us stop talking,” and turned over and went to sleep.