Sometimes week after week passes, month after month, and one hardly realizes where those days have gone. Thus it seemed to the Ondrasik family. It is true they had much work to do, yet at no previous year had they finished everything as easily as this year.
“Perhaps it may be,” thought Gazdina, “because we begin with the reading of the Word of God and prayer, and that we conclude the day the same way.”
Her health had improved so much that she could cook now: so Dorka did not have to stay away from the work in the fields. Only in the morning they brought everything for her—either Method, Andrew, or Dorka. Whether she needed wood or water, they supplied her with everything that they could, and when they worked nearby, one or the other ran in to see if she needed anything. It seemed to Mrs. Ondrasik that she never had it so easy in the world.
Her husband had often been of an ugly, hard disposition, but she also had a hard head. When he had been drinking, though he was not a drunkard, he made a fuss around the house, and she scolded. After that they sometimes did not talk together for a whole week.
Their daughters married, the sons-in-law did not want to obey, the farm did not prosper. Today the farmer’s wife felt that there had not been God’s blessing on the whole house. They had not prayed the whole year long, only when they went to the communion, only in the morning as each one arose and muttered something, without even thinking what he was saying.
Were they not all evil, completely fallen away from God? How could they expect Him to help them?
The woman realized that the first thing to do was to turn to God, and she turned with her whole heart. She felt that if anyone in the world needed a Savior, it was she. She opened her heart to the Son of God, and He accepted her.
Later in the evening, when she sat alone with her husband, she testified to him and asked his forgiveness, because she had not been as good a wife as she ought to have been. But now, since God had granted her a further lease on life, she wanted to live from now on, according to the will God, and be better towards those of her family.
Ondrasik felt ashamed; tears filled his eyes.
“Well, let us forgive each other,” he said. “You have been a better wife to me than I was a husband to you; but Method is correct, we cannot go thus till death, because what will be the result? We must begin to live differently.”
“Really, we have lived contrary to God.”
“I have not told anybody yet, but will tell you, every time I see that young fellow, how he lives, and think of how I have lived as a young fellow, and even to this day, I am ashamed. We had the Word of God, but did not read it the whole year long. We might as well admit that we lived worse than animals. They eat, sleep, and work, eat, sleep, and work, but at least they sin not. We also have been eating, sleeping, and working, but at the same time abusing each other and cursing God and man, and thus we raised our children. I don’t wonder now that they ran away into the world, since they had such an example at home.”
Thus talked the man with his wife.
It was that same day when Sammy Petrash and Dorka talked with each other in the orchard. He sat on the bench which Method had made for Gazdina, while she stood leaning on the old pear tree and listened to him telling the nice story about how the swallows came home. In telling her this, he confessed that he already was on that way Home, beginning and ending each day with prayer, and that he was careful not to trespass the commandments of God. At the same time he related to her that he was learning from old David to write better and to figure, and that his father would open a store for him. The addition they were building just now was to be his dwelling.
The girl rejoiced sincerely with him. From her childhood she pitied him, and later, often thought about what would become of him. Then, it was true he was not able to walk at all, but now he could already walk some, though very slowly, yet in spite of it he had grown to be a comely youth. Now he would no longer just uselessly sit in front of the house or in the orchard. Dorka knew long ago, having heard from his sisters, what they were building, but she pretended not to know, in order not to spoil his joy.
Andrew joined them just as Sammy was relating about the swallows; he had heard it from him once before. They started to discuss with each other what a beautiful and proper thing it would be if they would join together, just like the swallows, and also hold prayer meetings together.
“You know,” said Dorka, “that every day in our lives is just another bit of the way Home, and thus every day should be started that way. Those swallows prayed and sang together always before they flew farther.”
Later in the evening, the whole Ondrasik family came to supper, and when after supper Gazdina told Method to read the Bible, Dorka looked at Andrew, and he at her, and then she looked at the parents, and in her mind rose the thought, “I suppose that they also want to go with those swallows.”
In the meantime, while the world round about continued to sleep in theirs sins, the family of Ondrasik and their neighbors began to wake up. The Holy Spirit began to open their eyes also in understanding the Word. They began to seek God and to realize that they themselves were in their sins; but they also came to know Christ and started together with the swallows on their way Home—only, too bad, not all of them.
That fall there was a great harvest of prunes. So many hung on those beautiful trees till the branches were breaking under their weight.
“What do you think?” Petrash said one afternoon to his son. “I will ask the mayor for permission to distill liquor; from those prunes we will make liquor. I will buy from others, also. I will ask for a license and you can sell liquor; and when you give the people a sample to taste, they will come to the store.”
Those words cut the young fellow. He said nothing to his father, but when his father went to the barn, he started out to look for Method. He found him digging on his property. Not far away the Podhajskys were digging, also.
“Welcome, Sammy! What are you coming for?”
“Oh, just because; I have to tell you something.
The comrades shook hands and Sammy began to tell what his father had said.
Method grew sad. Angry, his eyes flashed fire. Sammy had never seen him thus before.
“Look here, that is purely the Devil’s thought. Sammy, what would you say if your father would command you to take this pick and kill yonder neighbor Podhajsky?”
“But Method!” exclaimed the young fellow, “what are you talking about? My father would never command me to do such a thing. And I would never do a thing like that.”
“Oh, you will just open a dram shop; either a public or a secret one. You remember what a terrible drunkard Podhajsky used to be; how it ruined his body so that he was like an animal. Now the grace of God has changed him, so that he is among those swallows that are on the way Home. You may have noticed, that aside from coming to you and to us, he does not dare go anywhere, so that he will not be drawn to the dram shop again. He is still very weak against temptation. You know very well that as soon as you begin with that liquor, he will have it before his eyes in the nearest neighborhood, and when the stench fills his nose, do you suppose he will be able to resist? Let’s say that he will come to buy flour or salt; that he will have the best intentions not to let himself be tempted to sin. He will come just as the sheep comes to the slaughterhouse, and your father will drink his health, or you yourself will drink his health. From old friendship, he will just taste it, but it will arouse his old habit and awaken the desire in him. He will not be able to resist. First he may drink only one glass, but on the morrow two. But then, as if you had poured fire into him, he must drink again, and he will become a drunkard again, worse than before. He will become a beast. The light of God’s grace will die in him, the body will get sick, will be weakened, and he will perish somewhere like an animal. He will be like a swallow on the way home, but did not get there; perished, and whose fault will it be? Yours, Sammy, yours!”
“Stop, Method!” The young fellow clutched at his head. “I don’t want to be the cause, not I, not to him nor to anybody else; sooner let me be killed.”
Sammy went away. Method, very much saddened, continued his digging.
That day the Petrash home was a real hell. The farmer had it nicely figured out how they would sell liquor, and how his son would be getting ahead. If the Jews could get rich that way, why I could he not also, by selling the drink? And now the son did not want to hear about it. You could sooner move a mountain than him. He was so pale—like a whitened wall. His father’s raging made him tremble all over, but he could not yield a step.
His father called him all the terrible names he could think of. He threw it up at him that he was a beggar; what care he had spent on him all these years; that he would not keep him any longer, such a beggar, and if he did not want to obey, let him be gone quickly.
The words of the enraged father wounded the soul of the son unto death, as only human words can hurt.
The mother was also drawn into this dispute and tried to beg first the one, then the other. She might have moved her husband, but her son she could neither convince nor persuade; he just sat there like a rock, then she also got very angry at him.
His two sisters entered the room, also the bridegroom of the older one, who had come with his comrade to visit them; they were from the neighboring village. They began to confirm Petrash in his intention and put Sammy to scorn. “Since he does not want to,” said the future son-in-law, “You just get everything ready, Father, and I will gladly leave my trade. It doesn’t have to be exactly a store; just open a dram shop and sell mutton—this is not to be had here, anyway—and let me and my wife have it. I will gladly invest a few hundred in it, and the balance of the expense you can cover from the dowry you promised to give Eva. Thus we shall all nicely stay together, and Sammy can go again into the orchard and lie around as before.”
In the beginning this talk was started as a joke, the bridegroom just wanted to compel his future brother-in-law, but just as it happens sometimes, he finally took a fancy to the proposition. It appealed also to Eva that she would not have to leave her mother and go to her mother-in-law, since her husband would come to them. And what mother would not be glad when her daughter marries if she could still have her in the house? Thus the affair blinded even the mother.
It occurred to Petrash, also, that in this manner his property could remain intact and he would not have to give anything away with his daughter.
By evening the matter was all arranged.
“Well then,” the brother-in-law asked Sammy before leaving, though he did not mean it, “will you do what your father wants you to, or do I have to come?”
“You said that I am a beggar,” said the young man, his voice shaking with heartfelt pain. “That is true; I am lame in both feet; but I would sooner choose to be lame in both arms also and go about begging than to make my living in such a devilish business. But you are not here yet, and God is almighty and He will surely prevent it, so that you will not be able to carry out your will.”
“We shall see, our dear prophet,” said the young man, and left.
The following day, Petrash went to see Method. He was digging again, the Podhajskys also, and on the remaining grass and bushes, old David pastured his goats.
The anger of Petrash had passed, and now he was sorry he had done evil to his son without a cause, and wanted to take vengeance on the one whom he supposed to be the cause of Sammy’s obstinacy. He knew Method’s view about drinking, as he had persuaded not only Podhajsky, but also Ondrasik, his cow hand, and Sammy, and even had tried to get him also to leave off drinking intoxicating liquors. He insisted, not only that it is a loss, but also a shame and a sin.
That whole night Petrash could not sleep. He did not want to take back his word that he would drive Sammy out of the house if he did not obey his wishes—but to drive him away—his farmer’s pride rebelled against that. What would the people say, and what of his own heart? Yesterday in his anger he did not feel that he had one; today, however, it showed itself. “I could have been spared all of that,” he was thinking bitterly, “if it had not been for Ondrasik’s servant. But I will tell him a thing or two.”
The farmer grew more and more bitter as he went on his way, and when he came to the parcel of ground and beheld the one whom he blamed as being the cause of the hellish disturbance in his home, joyfully digging on the hillock, his anger was fully aroused.
“What did you put into the head of my son?” he began when they had barely exchanged greetings. “You come here and who knows what kind of a tramp you are or where you came from, and you start to make a quarrel and disturbance in the house. Is it any of your business if I want to have a dram shop in my house? Why do you incite my son to be disobedient?”
The Jew heard the yelling, looked around, rose, drew nearer, and watched the young Christian. He was anxious to see how this one would react when somebody wronged him. Now was his chance.
The aged Jew knew best of all what kindness this young fellow had shown to the man. He taught his son to read and write and all else that he knew. He even persuaded old David to teach him how to figure and do business. As a neighbor, he did him all the good he could, now he was getting “hot” pay for his trouble. One hard word after another poured out of the mouth of the farmer.
With amazement the Jew watched the face of the bitterly censured one. He stood calmly, leisurely resting on his spade, looking on the ground as if these words did not concern him at all.
The anger of the old Jew was being aroused. He would like to have jumped on that farmer and given him a good calling down; he would have shown him “where to get off,” but it was not his place to speak.
Finally, Petrash started at Method, their eyes met, and the farmer ceased.
“Well, then; have you told me all that the Devil commanded you to?” kindly, almost joyfully, spoke the young man. “He was owing me this in this valley. I already wondered that he had left me in peace so long. I almost feared that I was not serving my Lord Jesus Christ well. But now, all is well again. Now, when you have told me all that the Devil told you to, neighbor Petrash, speak for yourself. What kind of injustice has been done to you, or what evil have I ever done to your son?”
Joyfully the Jew rubbed his hands, and in his soul he blessed the young man. Podhajsky also had dropped his pick and stood nearby, stunned and surprised, not knowing what to think of this man, Petrash.
“Well, then, what do you really have against me?”
The farmer was taken back by the frank, yet kind question; nevertheless he did not want to give up. But the cruel words stuck in his throat and the explanation as to why he had to be angry, was given more mildly.
Finally, turning to the Jew, the farmer ended saying, “Sammy does not want to yield, just because yonder Podhajsky also might be coming to us, and might go back again to his old ways; as if a fellow would have to fill himself right away and could not drink with moderation. But Podhajsky must not come to us, I will not let him!”
The last words the farmer pronounced with a strong disdain. This aroused Podhajsky, who had been standing there as in a daze.
“You do not have to fear, Petrash,” he said, stepping nearer, “I shall not enter your house when you make a Devil’s trap out of it, in which you will catch the people, to strip them naked and kill them. You do not need to forbid me to come there; I shall not cross your threshold, even if you beg me. But ever, ever remember, that I shall not forget that your son had so much mercy towards me that he wanted to save me from eternal damnation. I will bless his every step wherever he walks.”
The words choked in his throat as he threw himself on the ground, crying bitterly. It was a heart-breaking cry, realizing how despised he was; anyone could close the doors before him, or give him a kick. Petrash stood there looking at the crying one, and he felt as if scalding water had been poured over him.
“Well then, neighbor, is it such a great injustice to you,” began Mrs. Podhajsky, “that you have such a good child? And is it an injustice to you that Method instructed him not to look indifferently on a perishing human being? I had only one son; he was a good son to me until he began to go about in the dram shops. You know what trouble I had with him after that. Many times you yourself have hid me and defended me, also his wife. Today, when the good God had mercy and sent us a good man here to save him, you are cursing that man and giving him ‘a calling down’? Look here at my son, hear him lament, and if you have a heart of stone, just go and open your dram shop; and when Sammy does not want to kill the people, chase your good child away. But remember the words of a mother, whose son the dram sellers ruined; remember what the Word of God says, ‘Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!’ (Habakkuk 2:15) The curse of God will surely come upon you.
“Don’t cry, my son,” continued Mrs. Podhajsky, going to him, “God will help you. You are still young, and all is not lost yet, as you are no longer under the displeasure of God. Don’t cry: let us go back to our work!”
The son obeyed and rose: they took up their picks and continued digging. Method also dug his spade deep into the ground.
What else could Petrash do, but leave? He knew well that what he had done now was not good, and these people had put him to shame, but he would not admit it.
He went to the mayor’s office for the permission to make liquor, but did not get it. “I don’t care,” he said to himself, “I will arrange it with somebody else, and we will make it together.”
He soon found a comrade, and they started making liquor. Thousands of the beautiful plums, created for good, were put into the boilers to make poison to be the curse of the people.
If one needs a bit of poison to kill the mice that ruin everything in the house, he has to secure the prescription from a doctor, a certificate from a notary public, a mission of the police; but anyone mean enough to poison the people, needs but to pay for the license, and everything is permitted—some physician will be glad to get more patients. Thus it goes in this world.