Timeless Truths Free Online Library | books, sheet music, midi, and more
Skip over navigation
Only a Servant | Kristina Roy

The New Servant

“The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”* (Matthew 20:28)

Just when farmer Ondrasik needed help most and had no idea where to find someone, there came to his house a man, uninvited and unexpected.

It was on a Sunday evening in the middle of the harvest. Ondrasik sat under the fruit tree in front of the house, resting his head, heavy with care, in the palms of his hands. Suddenly, in the yard the dog, Fidel began barking, and there before the careworn husbandman stood a young, healthy man, decently clothed. After an exchange of greeting, he said that he was looking for work.

Ondrasik was not one of those who would take just anyone at once to work for him; but this young man somehow appealed to him, and he needed a laborer urgently. His wife was sick in bed. His sons-in-law had left him—one last year, the other in the spring—to go to America, and their wives followed them; thus only the youngest daughter, about sixteen years old, remained with him at home. He had a cow hand, Andrew, but he had been badly beaten up in a fight with some other fellows, and was lying ill at his mother’s home, and a laborer was nowhere to be found. Therefore Ondrasik accepted this young fellow. “Anyway,” he thought, “it will not cost me anything to try him; I will take him at least until Andrew gets well.” The daily pay that he was to get during the threshing season was agreed upon.

Ondrasik slept better that night than he had for a long time; and his wife, though she could not sleep, at least did not have to worry about how her husband would manage with all the work.

The Ondrasiks were quite satisfied with the new laborer, except for his curious name. He was called Methodius Ruzansky. It was the name of the former apostle to the Slovaks, who used to live in Nitra, where he preached the Word of God to the people. The farmers did not usually give their sons such names. Occasionally one of the Catholics did, but Ondrasik was an Evangelical.

But people will get used to most anything; thus, they became accustomed to the name Methodius in that vicinity. He was the only one of that name. The general consensus among the people was, as they were gathering the grain from the fields: “Ondrasik got hold of a good laborer!”

And how good a one, Ondrasik knew better than anyone else. This one did not drink; therefore, he would not be fighting with the other fellows. He did not smoke; therefore, there was no danger of setting fire to the barn. During the week he worked from morning till night, while Sundays he spent reading. He did not use bad language and was always good humored. When Dorka, the daughter, spoiled some food and her father was angry, he excused her and praised it.

All this pleased the Ondrasiks very much, and therefore, they arranged with him to take him as a full-time servant, starting in November.

“Very well,” agreed Methodius, “I will stay with you and serve you, if you will take me for a term of two years, and permit me to fix myself a room above the workshop.” The farmer wondered what kind of a living room that would be.

“You will agree with me that it will be good. And whatever I shall spend on it, if it pleases you, and you can make use of it, when I shall leave you can repay me my cost. If it does not suit you, I shall take it apart and sell the materials.”

Ondrasik agreed readily, and as soon as the rainy days came, Methodius brought in some boards and spent only two days, besides doing the regular chores, to build up his room. When it was finished, he brought in the farmer and his daughter to see it. Ondrasik laughed.

“Just look what a fine room he will have, better than ours! And how will you manage in the wintertime?”

“I can sleep just as well in a cold room, and during the day you will surely allow me to warm myself.”

From the remaining boards Methodius made himself a small table, a cupboard in the corner, and a clothes closet. The bed and chair he bought ready made. The room was surprisingly cozy; especially when later he built in dormer windows, which gave him a beautiful view of the fields and meadows round about, the woods beyond, and the sometimes beautiful sky, now often obscured with the fog and clouds of the fall.

The Petrash family were the nearest neighbors to the Ondrasiks. They had a son twenty years old, a good looking and decent young man, but he was lame. Therefore, though they were a fairly well-to-do family, he could neither read nor write. He moved slowly about the house, attending here and there to a little matter, but was not able to go farther about.

Mrs. Petrash loved her Sammy above all her children. His father was not very good to him; he was displeased that such a big son was of no use in the house and that he would always be a burden.

If it had not been for the mother’s love, the young fellow would have fared rather badly in his parental home. A dreary future lay before him. And, as usual, in such a case, those who are not able to move freely want to achieve great things in this world. Thus he also had great plans.

One Sunday afternoon, as he was sitting all alone in the orchard, all the others having gone away—some to dance, some to the dram shop or to the meadows. And as he was sitting thus, lost in thought, his head resting on the palms of his hands, suddenly the servant of his neighbor stopped before him, holding some kind of a book.

A mingled feeling of sadness and jealousy gripped the young fellow. “He is only a servant and knows how to read, and I am so ignorant.” He barely responded to the friendly greeting.

“Since you are sitting here all alone, surely the time must be very long for you,” spoke Methodius. “Therefore, I brought you a book.”

Sammy blushed deeply. “What good is a book to me, not knowing a single letter?” he frowned.

“Forgive me, I did not know,” kindly answered the servant. “It being thus, if you please, I will stay with you and we shall read together.”

Thus began the acquaintance of the new neighbors.

Leaning on the fence of the Petrash property was the hut of the Jew, David. Now he lived there all alone. He had two goats and spent the whole day taking care of them; and when he had no work with the goats, he was sorting old rags and bones and whatever else the housewives brought to him. He traded them for threads and needles. In his younger days he followed this business in all the surrounding territory, but now went only as far as was necessary for the care of the goats.

No one remembers ever having seen old David smile; otherwise, he was a kind, gentle man. Many were the wrongs he had to suffer, but he bore them all quietly.

It was commonly known that he had a wife in his youth, before he came to the village Hradova, and that somebody took her away from him. Who knows whether it was true or not?

The neighbor on the upper side of the Ondrasik property was a shoemaker, by the name of Martin Podhajsky. This neighbor caused a great deal of annoyance, because he was such a drunkard, that everybody preferred to keep out of his way. Only his mother lived with him; his wife, when she could stand it no longer, preferred to work as a servant for strangers and was sending clothing and shoes for the children, because otherwise they would have to freeze in winter. She also sent something to her mother-in-law for taking care of the children, and in the beginning, also some shirts to her husband at times. Since he wasted all, she was disgusted and stopped sending them.

If it happened that Ondrasik met Podhajsky on the way and he was drunk—he was never sober—he turned aside, so as not to meet him. Methodius once found him lying in a mud puddle dead drunk, just about to suffocate. His mouth, nose and ears were full of mud, and it was a hard job to pull him out. Just then a Gypsy passed by, and Methodius asked him to help.

They carried the wretched drunkard into the workshop of Ondrasik and laid him on the straw. Methodius warmed some water and washed him thoroughly—excuse the comparison—like a pig when it is already in the trough. In the beginning the drunkard tried to resist, but by and by he sobered up and stopped cursing; and when Methodius also cut his hair, shaved him, and cut his long fingernails, he appreciated it.

From that time on, the servant of Ondrasik had a great influence over the unfortunate drunkard and could do with him what he wanted. He gave him an order for a pair of shoes, and Podhajsky had to promise that he would not drink before he finished that pair of shoes, and he kept his promise. To help him pass the long evenings, Methodius visited him and read to him from the books of his mother, the Bible and the song book, and out of newspapers which he brought with him. Since it was now November, the farmers did not have much to do in the evenings. Thus Methodius read out of these newspapers at home, also, to the landlady, the “Gazdina,” and her daughter. Even Andrew loved to listen. Ondrasik was very glad that his servant took a newspaper: he never thought of such a thing in his life, and yet it was a good thing. It was a very good newspaper; it gave lessons about the Scriptures, as well as information about things happening in the world.

The sick landlady praised the servant, “He takes care of me like a son, and he is a wise man. He persuaded my husband to let him put up a stove in the kitchen. Since Dorka is cooking there, it is much easier for me, because the steam plagued very much. In order that my husband would not be angry because we would burn too much wood, he brought two wagonloads of fuel from the forest. Others barely do what they are told to; this one does the needed things without being told.”

One evening just as they were reading, Podhajsky brought the boots. He was not drunk. They invited him to sit down. Since that time Methodius did not go to Podhajsky to read, but he came to the Ondrasiks’, and they were all benefited by it. In the twilight before supper, Methodius used to go to the neighbor, Petrash. It soon was known among the women that he was teaching Sammy to read. Once he asked if he could bring Sammy to their house.

“And why could you not?” agreed the landlady. “The time will pass better for the poor fellow.”

In this manner, during the long winter evenings, the time passed very beautifully. They stripped a lot of feathers for featherbeds. Andrew, the cow hand, did not run around with the other fellows any more; Ondrasik also stopped going to the dram shop, and instead whittled wooden implements, and taught Sammy also.

Once, while they were thus sitting, Dorka mentioned that old David was ill and that it must be cold in his hut. Who knew if he had anything with which to make a fire? That evening Methodius just finished reading a book, told them “good night,” and went away.

“Just watch and see—he will go to that Jew,” said Andrew.

“Sure he goes there,” said Sammy; “more than once I saw him bring in water.”

“Just go, Andrew, and look through the window, if he’s there,” advised Dorka, “and see what he is doing there.” Andrew went, and it was quite a while before he returned.

“Have you seen him?” asked Sammy.

“Yes, I saw him. The Jew was lying on the bed, and first he cooked some kind of tea for him, and now he reads to him out of a book.”

“But how does he read to him? David understands only German and Jewish; he told me once when I asked him.”

“What language he reads to him I do not know, only it is not Slovak. But the old man listens very attentively and does not take his eyes from him.”

“He is a strange kind of a fellow. Nobody is too repulsive for him to help,” sighed Podhajsky, who was also present.

“Strange fellow indeed; but it is good that he came,” nodded Gazdina. “Since he has been with us, we know how our children in America fare; before we had not heard for months. None of us like to write: however, he writes everything just as I tell him. The children are very happy that they hear so much from us, and they write to us also. Only when I told him to write about himself, he did not want to. ‘I will not speak about myself,’ he told me.”

Thus the spring came before the people realized it.

One Sunday Ondrasik and his servant were standing at the end of the orchard. In front of them lay swamp and beyond a hill, sparsely overgrown with grass and a few bushes.

“Listen, boss,” said Methodius, “this is a disgrace to your whole prosperity. Why don’t you buy this hill from the community?”

“I? What good would it be to me?” The farmer wondered that his sensible servant could think and say something like that.

“Well, that hill could be leveled. Out of the clay you could make good bricks and with the balance fill in this swamp.”

“I don’t need any bricks and I also have sufficient land. What would I do with that hillock?”

“I’ll tell you what to do: you buy it for me, but in your name, and I will then buy it from you. I like it very much here. I have a few hundred dollars in cash, and in the two years I will gradually build me a hut and will be your neighbor.”

Ondrasik smiled at what he thought was a joke. But it was no joke; Methodius gave him no peace until his master was favorably inclined. Thus Ondrasik bought and sold to his servant the hillock and the swamp. They made an agreement—as long as there would not be much hard work he could use three hours, and when the work started he could use two hours a day to work his own land.

Well, when the planting was finished, Methodius said, “Listen, master, for two or three weeks we shall not have much work to do: let Andrew and me work these weeks on my property, and I will work for you only a quarter of a year only for my food. Will you agree to that?”

“Well, I don’t care; I will even help you myself, because I would like to see just what you will achieve. But if you have some ready money, you should buy a hut for yourself somewhere.”

“But that would be only a hut, and I shall have a house!” laughed the young fellow. “You will see that my God, in whom I trust, will help me.”

Even the neighbors used to come to see what Ondrasik’s servant was doing. He hired Podhajsky and his mother. Besides these, he and Andrew, and off and on, Dorka, and even the master himself, helped to dig on the hillock and fill in the swamp. They dug down so much soil that the swamp was not only filled, but even raised above the level of the road and leveled off like a garden.

Methodius bought some dwarf fruit trees in a nursery and planted three nice rows, and to the wonder of all, when the summer came, it was seen that all took root. Afterwards they began to make bricks, and when the urgent work called the others away, Podhajsky stayed and continued until the time of harvest.

“Who could have told that Ondrasik’s servant would give us such an opportunity to earn something!” said Mother Podhajsky, blessing the young fellow and saying, “God Himself sent him to us. Martin does not drink any more. It seems as if he is not the same old fellow—he is so quiet. He regrets his evil life and prays God to forgive his sins.”