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Only a Servant | Kristina Roy

The Devil’s Soup

Winter came, and also the carnival. In the home of Petrash there were great preparations in progress for a grand wedding. The mother had her hands full of work; the father, his head full of troubles; Eva, her heart full of joy and hope.

Since autumn, nobody spoke to Sammy, just as if he were not there. They barely responded to his greeting. Only the youngest sister spoke to him once in a while, secretly.

She had her own individual sorrow. The one she cared for asked for her, but her parents were not pleased with him. He had gone and taken another. The girl felt forsaken, so it drew her to her brother who had been kicked aside. She often went to him in his little room where he spent most of his time now.

From Ondrasik he had learned to make wooden implements, and thus he kept busy whittling. What he earned, he gave to his mother to pay for salt and light.

He still continued to go to old David. “Just you keep on learning,” he said to him. “You will have a store yet, and then it will of some use to you.” Every evening he was at Ondrasik’s, and there he was able to forget that he was all alone in the world. It seemed to him like paradise to be in that house.

There they understood the Word of God better and better. Now they appreciated with what joy her heart burned, when Mary sang, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”* (Luke 1:46-47) In their hearts, also, Christ was born. This was the first time in their lives they celebrated Christmas, the birth of the Savior.

That winter the wife of Podhajsky came back to him. He had asked her in a letter. She came; yes, she came! He was so glad he hardly knew what to do to please her in everything. She just cried and could hardly grasp it, that such happiness could exist for a wife on this earth.

She found her husband orderly, more so than he had ever been before, because he was already a drunkard when she married him. The mother-in-law was very kind, the children darling, healthy, the house clean, the pantry filled for the winter.

The Podhajskys had earned their bread. She brought a nice sum of money from her earnings. She gladly paid the few small debts they still owed. She bought some clothing for her mother-in-law, her husband and the children; for herself she had plenty. For the kitchen she bought some utensils. How cozy home was now!

And the main thing was that she came with a hungry heart. If anyone did, it was she who loved to hear the Word of God. She caught up with some and even exceeded others in her zeal to know the Word. Oh, how easy it was for her to believe God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who brought about such a change in her life. And once she had tasted the grace of God in her heart, she could not keep silent about it. She was concerned about her family, former friends, and cousins. Each Sunday their small room was full, and Method had to read to them. They began to call the young man into other homes also.

“Method, it seems to me that the swallows begin to gather!” said Sammy once. “Yonder in the grove, you said that the whole village should come together for a prayer meeting and that we should begin. I hope it will come to that yet.”

“Hardly, Sammy—‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’* (Matthew 7:14) At least we will show people the way; and if none of them will follow the Lord Jesus, we will follow Him, for He said, ‘Follow thou me.’* (John 21:22)

“Yes, Method, follow Him, Him alone!”

During the winter, the Ondrasiks hauled lumber for the house of Method. They wanted to start on the building in the spring. All that was possible was prepared now, so as to be able to finish it in a short time.

The hillock was all leveled off. A sufficient supply of bricks was ready, also rocks for the foundation. In spare time they brought in slate also for the roof, and stacked them at Ondrasik’s. From the forest they brought some wood, and when he had time, he made posts out of it; because he wanted to fence the whole property.

Suddenly, sad news came to the Ondrasiks’. Their daughter, Anna, wrote that her husband had sore eyes and the doctor told them he had better return home if he did not want to go blind. Therefore, they would start on the journey as soon as he returned from the hospital. That was sad news. Formerly it would have crushed them: today, they knew how to pray, and only said, “The will of the Lord be done: we have to bear what He has laid upon us.”

Just that week the Petrashes were getting the wedding ready, and for the sake of appearance, they invited the Ondrasiks also, but that very week the sick son-in-law returned, and the daughter was so ill from the journey. Thus Dorka was unable to be Eva’s bridesmaid; they had plenty of work at home. If it had not been for Method and his help and advice, they could not have managed to get along.

Daughter Anna wondered who it was that so faithfully helped her parents. Dorka and her mother, even the father, did not get tired of telling what a servant God had sent into their house. She was very much surprised about it, and her husband, Joseph, also said, “His voice seems to be familiar to me, as if I had heard it somewhere.”

“Who knows whether you have met somewhere. None of us here knows from what place he comes. He never tells anything concerning himself, but from all that he talks about, he must have seen a good bit of the world.”

Again it was Sunday. Old David sat by his warm tile oven, lost in thought. In spite of the closed doors and windows, the music and shouting at neighbor Petrash’s could be heard. They celebrated the wedding. They had it on Sunday because the Gypsy was hired by so many that they could not secure music for Tuesday. They succeeded in getting his music band for this day and the next.

Suddenly, silently, the door was opened and Method entering, sat down beside the Jew.

“Welcome to you,” joyfully said the old man. “Are you coming nevertheless? Well how is it at your house?”

“Praise God, it is getting better. The doctor said the young farmer may recover by spring, and his wife has been up since this morning, but she is weak yet.”

“Listen, Method, while I have been sitting here without anything to do, I could not but think about what will become of you. Since Ondrasik has his children at home, and they will get well, he will no longer need both a servant and a cow hand.”

“That’s true, the three of them will be able to do the work,” responded the youth. “I shall be there only until the spring. Really they could spare me now; I could leave at once, if it were not for that house that I started and one more thing.”

It was as if a knife had been plunged into the old man’s heart.

“To go away, where to?” he asked sadly. “What shall we do here without you? Well, the others, but old David! What could he do without you?”

“Do you love me?” The youth drew the old man into his embrace, just the same way as that day when he had related to him about his misfortune.

“Don’t ask me. If you were of my own blood, my heart could not love you more!”

Silence reigned in the room.

“Do you remember what I promised you once in the fall?”

“That you would tell me something? Oh, yes, I remember!” nodded the aged man.

“Well, I want to tell you why I love you.”

“Me?” exclaimed the Jew surprised. “I thought that you loved me as you love all the people, since Christ commands you to do so.”

“Yes, because the Lord Jesus tells me so—He that said, “Salvation is of the Jews.”* (John 4:22) However, I love you not only as a man, but also as a Jew. Especially as a Jew, because it was a Jew to whom I owe most on this earth.”

“What, you don’t say!” said the old man amazed. “Well, then, say on!”

“For long years I lived without God, without Christ in the world. I did not know that I had an undying soul, nor where I would go after death. I lived just as you all here do, and it was a Jew who was the first to point the Truth out to me, to show me Christ. He taught me to love the Son of God; He lived on the earth just like Enoch, always walking with God, and today He is not seen any more with the people, because God took Him.

“Once you wondered how I came to know the Yiddish language. I will tell you. He taught me.”

“You say,” said the aged man raising his bowed head, “that it was a Jew who taught you to know and love Christ?”

“Yes, he was a Jew of the Jews, he was a Jewish missionary. He lived only to proclaim to his people that the Messiah had come and redeemed His people from their sins, that He lived, died, and rose again, and that He will come again.”

“Then he was not a Jew,” frowned the old man; “then he was a Christian.”

“He was a very happy man; he had only one sorrow, only one desire which he was not able to see fulfilled. It was hard for him to die because of that sorrow, and I was so happy to relieve him of it. I took upon myself a certain message and promised him that what he wanted to do, but was not able, having been stopped by death, I would try to fulfill, even though it would cost me my life. He believed me, and praise the Lord, I have not disappointed him, neither shall I.”

“And what kind of a message was it?” the aged man asked with profound interest, looking surprised at his young friend. Why, he was talking today as he never did before, as if he were not just the servant of Ondrasik, raised among the ignorant farmers and being one of them.

“ ‘What kind of a message was it,’ you ask me? He had someone very dear to him whom he loved very much, though he had never seen him, and to whom he wanted, but could not, bring the message of salvation, because he could not find him.”

“And you have found him?”

“Yes, I found him, and—”

At that moment a strange light flashed through the room, and a terrifying sound of a wild cry reached them. Both men jumped up.

“Something happened there,” said the Jew, pointing to the other house.

“Yes, it is burning inside; goodbye, I have to hurry.”

“Where to—in that fire?”

“Yes, surely they are all drunk. Perhaps they threw over a lamp, and Sammy is there.”

“Don’t go!” groaned the Jew, but in vain, for the young fellow, having torn his hand from the old man’s grasp, disappeared in the darkness.

Something terrible happened in the house of Petrash. One of the best men, who had been doing all kinds of foolishness, and cooked the liquor with sugar, had carried a large bowl full of burning liquor; he wanted to set it before the newlyweds on the table, but his feet slipped. He stumbled and poured out the burning contents over the table, and also over the bridegroom. In a moment the clothing of the unfortunate one burned like a torch and the tablecloth burned all over. The guests jumped about; a terrible cry arose. Some ran to the door; others jumped out of the window. The bridegroom, wild with pain, jumped desperately on the table and down again, rolled over on the ground, hoping to put out the fire enveloping him. The bridesmaids could barely hold back the young bride, who wanted to throw herself upon him and put out the fire with her hands. Some began to pour water on the table to put out the fire, and one of the drunken guests, supposing it was water, poured out half a bottle of liquor, and then the fire broke out worse than ever with a real explosion. It was at that moment that Method broke through the door, in his hand he carried an old wet cloth, with which he threw himself upon the poor burning fellow. He wrapped him up completely and thus put out that terrible fire. By that time flames spread everywhere, causing the people to run, crying. Stifling smoke and stench made breathing difficult. Barely all succeeded in getting away.

Some carried out the bride, who fainted, while Method carried out the groom. Outside he turned him over to the men. He himself went once more into the midst of that destruction. He jumped to the windows and closed them, pulled down the curtains and stamping on them, quenched the fire that was shooting up all around him and set him on fire, too. In spite of all, he succeeded in grabbing two large demijohns full of liquor and a third one half full, from the table and jumped out and slammed the door behind him.

“Where do you want to go with that water?” he shouted to Petrash and some older men, who carried water in buckets and tubs. “Water will not put out that fire. While the liquor burns you will have to let it burn out and then you can extinguish the rest. You laughed that you will bathe in liquor, and now you can warm yourself by it also. If God had not permitted me to carry these out and the fire had exploded these demijohns, it is horrible to imagine what would have happened!”

Oh, that was a terrible wedding and a horrible time! Hardly a single one of the guests got home free from injury. Almost everyone had his clothing torn and ruined. And the groom! The poor groom! He was burned so that it was terrible to look at him. It was fortunate that the flames could not break out.

Though all that was in the room was either burned or ruined, the house at least was saved. It would not have been saved—all agreed to that—and even the groom would have burned to death, had it not been for the servant of Ondrasik. A long time they had been preparing for that wedding, but it will be remembered still longer.

The previous week Mrs. Petrash had said to the neighbors, “The Ondrasiks are so holy, yet they have the house full of sickness. Why is God permitting all this to come upon them?” Now they had the house full of sickness and could not say that God had sent it on them. They had invited the Devil, they had drunken guests; they cooked the Devil’s kind of soup, and it was hot.

Oh, through what torment the young groom had to pass. On account of the great pain, he cried day and night. They did most everything for him that the doctor ordered, and also what he did not command. Thus the good that the doctor tried to do was ruined by the advice of the old women.

“I beg of you, ‘Gazda,’ ” said Method to his master the third day, “let me go for a few days. I was at the Petrash home; the young fellow will surely die if they do not treat him differently, or he will go crazy. I’ll go to take care of him.”

“Go, yes, go, you will surely take better care of him. It is a pity to let such a young life perish.”

Methodius went. The whole Petrash family was glad when he said why he was coming. The doctor, whom he just found there, rejoiced above all. He realized that here was a sensible and practical young man. He forbade the family to do anything except what Method Ruzansky would let them do. From that hour on, all went better.

Even the sick one realized that some other hands were touching him now, and not only sought to relieve him, but also succeeded in doing so.

The few days that Method intended to stay at the Petrash home became weeks. Mrs. Petrash, herself, went to Ondrasiks to beg, for God’s sake, that they might let them have their servant a longer time, and that they would gladly pay for someone to take his place for that time.

Well, they let them have him without a substitute. They knew that Method, out of pure love, was taking care of the sick one day and night, and they wanted to have a share in this work of love. Besides, the son-in-law of Ondrasik did not have to be in bed any longer. His eyes were getting better, and the headaches ceased. He was glad to be able to do something.

Sammy used to long for the opportunity of having Method at their house in order that they also might begin the day like the swallows, with a united prayer. Now he had that desire fulfilled. Method stayed with them, and they began each day like the swallows, but at what a price!

The winter had passed, the spring came, but it was like some beautiful bird; it flies and sings, making the heart happy, yet before you realize it, it’s gone. The pleasant spring had to make place for a hot summer, just like the one two years ago, when Methodius Ruzansky came the first time to the house of the Ondrasiks. One afternoon, young Ondrasik (for thus he was called by the family name of his wife, though his name was Rasho,) stood looking around in front of their house.

He was getting well. He directed his gaze in the direction where, before his going to America, was an ugly hillock. That was gone, and instead, in the midst of a young beautiful orchard stood a house, not very big, but so comely and good-looking that there was none like it in the whole village. It had large, fine windows, to the rear a yard and gate, and toward the village a great door, like the door of a store.

“Who would have thought of something like that?” said the young man. “There that hillock was, lying in front of us, but we did not buy it. It stood there so uselessly, and he obtained a fine house so cheaply. Nobody in the whole village has a house so thoroughly and cheaply built. If I could just remember of whom he reminds me, not so much his face, but his voice. I must have seen that fellow somewhere, but where?”

Young Rasho was not the only one who admired the house; everybody in the village did.

The spring had but begun when they started building. Method hired the bricklayers from the village, but he directed the building himself, like an experienced builder. Every bit of the space had to be well used. The timbers for the roof he had cut altogether different from that to which they were accustomed. In this way he made rooms in the attic, and there was plenty of room below. Though the building was erected from sun-dried bricks, it was as firm as if it had been of burnt bricks. Daily the people stopped, looking on, and many a one nodding his head said, “Verily, I will have mine also done that way.”

All that time Method was staying with the Ondrasiks, but did not serve anymore, rather paid for his board. But the bricklayers and other workman he hired Mrs. Podhajsky to cook for, because he did not want to add this work to the Ondrasik women, since they had a big household anyway.

Mr. Petrash did not open a dram shop, nor will he open one, nor a store. For one reason, that terrible wedding cost them too much, then the very long illness of the son-in-law required much, and the front room had to be renewed completely. They were glad to have that money which they intended to use in the dram shop. In the room they had to put in new doors, windows, and floor. Then the neighbors found out that the Petrashes had made arrangement with Method to make a store and dwelling in his house for Sammy. This he did, and for two weeks they had been arranging the store that was to be opened next week.

It was as if old David was rejuvenated. He arranged and advised about everything; even for his own son he could not have done better. The people wondered also, because the Jew was completely changed. Formerly, except for a greeting, a “yes” or “no,” one could not get a word out of him, and he was frowning continually. Now he was even willing to enter into conversation, and had such a friendly face, just as if he had grown young, though his head was completely white.

The women attributed much of the change to the fact that now he had a clean shirt and clothing, whereas formerly he went about ragged and dirty. They could not understand how Mrs. Podhajsky would take the trouble to wash for a Jew, and how she did everything for him. A while ago she whitewashed his room and renovated his featherbed. He bought new covers. Now his room was quite nice. Thus the women gossiped and wondered! “Everyone who has aught to do with the servant of Ondrasik is being changed, only he remains his old self. Let us watch and see how he will turn out when he lives in his new house. Perhaps the Ondrasiks will even give him their daughter since they think so much of him.”

“Oh, yes, even Petrash would be glad to give him one, but he does not seem to care for any of them.”

But young Mrs. Rasho let the cat out of the bag, saying that Method had spoken to Ondrasik on behalf of Sammy Petrash to give him Dorka. “Though he is lame, he is otherwise sound; and when he starts in business, with the help of God he will be able to take care of a wife. They both,” said he, “love God and will walk together on the pathway that leads to eternal glory.” Thus far, spoke Method, Sammy said the balance himself, and with Dorka he surely was already of one mind. Dorka had not dreamt as she was helping to dig on that hillock, that some day she herself would be living there.

“Strange things happen in this world,” the woman said, surprised. And truly, thus it really is!