A beautiful episode of intervening grace and its, er, fruit in Leo Tolstoy’s “Where Love Is, God Is”, found in the collection How Much Land Does a Man Need? and Other Stories and discussed in Paul Zahl’s presentation on Grace in Literature at our 2009 NYC Conference. An especially big hat-tip to GW for the incredibly heartwarming video at the end:

pic0903-tolstoy003_author….When
 she 
was
 gone Martin
 ate 
some 
soup,
 cleared
 the 
table 
and 
sat 
down 
to 
work. 
As 
he
 worked
 he
 kept
 watching
 that
 window
 and
 every
 time
 a
 shadow
 fell
 across
 it
 he
 would
 immediately
 look 
up 
to 
see 
who 
was
 passing.
 People 
he 
knew 
and 
strangers 
passed,
 but 
no
 one 
in 
particular.

And
 then
 an
 old
 market
 woman
 stopped
 right
 in
 front
 of
 his
 window.
 She
 was
 carrying
 an
 apple‐basket
 but
 appeared
 to
 have
 sold
 most
 of
 her
 wares,
 as
 it
 was
 almost
 empty.
 On
 one
 shoulder
 was
 a
 sack
 of
 wood‐shavings
 which
 she
 had
 most
 probably
 collected
 at
 some 
place 
where
 they 
were 
building 
and 
was 
on 
her 
way 
home. 
The 
sack 
was
 clearly
 very
 heavy
 and
 was
 hurting
 her,
 so
 to
 shift
 it
 to
 her
 other
 shoulder
 she
 put
 it
 down
 on
 the
 pavement,
 placed
 the
 apple‐basket
 on
 a
 post
 and
 gave
 the
 shavings
 a
 shake.
 Just
 as
 she 
was 
doing 
this 
a 
boy 
in 
a 
ragged 
cap 
suddenly
 ran 
up, 
grabbed 
an 
apple 
and 
tried 
to 
run
 off
 with
 it.
 But
 the
 old
 woman
 had
 stopped
 him,
 turned
 round
 and
 grabbed
 his
 sleeve.
 The
 boy
 tried
 to
 struggle
 free,
 but
 the
 woman
 seized
 him
 with
 both
 hands,
 knocked
 his
 cap
 off
 and
 caught
 hold
 of
 his
 hair.
 The
 boy
 screamed
 and
 the
 woman
 cursed.
 Martin
 did
 not
 wait
 to
 make
 fast
 his
 awl
 but
 threw
 it
 down,
 rushed
 through
 the
 door
 and
 stumbled
 up
 the
 stairs,
 dropping
 his
 spectacles
 on
 the
 way.
 Out
 in
 the
 street
 the
 woman
 was
 cursing
 away,
 and 
evidently
 intended on 
hauling 
the 
boy 
off 
to 
the 
police 
station.
 He 
struggled 
and 
protested
 his 
innocence.

‘I
 never
 took 
it!’ 
he 
said. 
‘What 
are
 you 
hitting 
me 
for? 
Let 
me 
go!’

Martin
 separated
 them,
 took
 the
 boy
 by
 the
 hand
 and
 said,
 ‘Let
 him
 go,
 Grandma.
 Forgive 
him, 
for 
Christ’s 
sake!’

‘I’ll
 forgive
 him,
 but
 not
 before
 he’s
 had
 a
 taste
 of
 some
 new
 birch
 twigs!
 I’m
 taking
 the
 little 
devil 
to 
the 
police 
station.’

Martin
 did 
his 
best 
to 
dissuade 
her. 
‘Please 
let 
him 
go, 
Grandma.
 He won’t 
ever
 do 
it
 again.
 For 
Christ’s
 sake,
 let 
him 
go.’

The 
old 
woman 
released 
the 
boy, 
who
 wanted 
to 
run 
off, 
but 
Martin 
stopped 
him.
 ‘You
 should
 ask
 the
 old
 woman
 to
 forgive
 you,’
 he
 said.
 ‘And
 don’t
 you
 ever
 do
 it
 again
–-
I
 saw 
you 
take 
it.’

The 
boy 
burst 
into 
tears
 and
 begged
 her 
to 
forgive
 him.

‘That’s
 the 
way!
 Now,
 here’s
 an
 apple
 for
 you,’
 Martin
 said,
 taking
 an
 apple
 from
 the
 basket
 and 
handing 
it 
to 
the 
boy.
 ‘I’ll
 pay
 for
 it,
 Grandma,’ 
he
 added.

‘But
 you’ll
 only
 spoil
 little
 devils
 like
 him
 that
 way,’
 she
 said.
 ‘What
 he
 deserves
 is
 such
 a 
thrashing 
he
 won’t
 be
 able
 to
 sit
 down
 for 
a
 week.’

‘Oh,
 Grandma!’
 Martin
 retorted.
 ‘That
 may
 be
 our
 way,
 but
 it’s
 not
 God’s
 way.
 If
 the
 punishment
 for
 stealing
 just
 one
 apple
 is
 a
 thorough
 thrashing,
 then
 what
 should
 we
 deserve 
for 
our 
mortal
 sins?’

The 
old 
woman
 did 
not 
reply.

And
 Martin
 told
 her
 the
 parable
 of
 the
 master
 who
 excused
 one
 of
 his
 servants
 a
 great 
debt 
and
 how 
that
 servant 
went
 out
 and
 seized 
his
 own 
debtor 
by
 the
 throat. 
The 
old
 woman
 listened
 and
 so
 did
 the
 boy.

‘God
 has
 commanded
 us
 to
 forgive,
 otherwise
 He
 will
 not
 forgive
 us.
 We
 should
 forgive
 everyone
–
-not 
least 
thoughtless 
little 
boys!’

The
 old
 woman
 shook
 her
 head
 and
 sighed.
 ‘That’s
 all
 very
 well,
 but
 children
 are
 terribly
 spoilt
 these 
days.’

‘Then
 it’s
 up
 to 
us,
 their
 elders
 to
 teach
 them
w hat’s right,’
 Martin
 said.

‘Yes,
 I
 agree,’
 the
 old
 woman
 replied.
 ‘I
 had
 seven
 children
 once,
 but
 now
 I’ve
 only
 one
 daughter.’

And
 she
 told
 him
 how
 and
 where
 she
 and
 her
 daughter
 were
 living,
 and
 how
 many
 grandchildren
 she
 had.

‘As
 you
 can
 see,
 I’m
 not
 very
 strong,’
 she
 said,
 ‘but
 I
 still
 have
 to
 work
 myself
 to
 the
 bone.
 I
 feel
 so
 sorry
 for 
my 
grandchildren
–-
such 
lovely 
boys, 
all
 of
 them!
 No
one 
is 
as 
kind
 to
 me
 as
 they
 are.
 And
 my
 Aksyutka
 wouldn’t
 leave
 me
 for
 anyone.
 “Dear
 Mummy,”
 she
 says,
“you’re
 such 
a
d ear!”’
 And
 the
 old
 woman
 was 
quite
 overcome.

‘Well,
 I
 suppose
 it’s
 because
 he’s
 so
 young,’
 she
 added,
 looking
 at
 the
 boy.
 ‘May
 God
 be
 with 
him.’

She
 was
 about
 to
 lift
 her
 sack
 on
 to
 her
 shoulders
 when
 the
 boy
 immediately
 ran
 forward
 to 
help.
 ‘Let 
me 
carry 
that 
for 
you, 
Grandma,’
 he 
said, 
‘I’m 
going 
your 
way.’

The 
old 
woman
 accepted 
and 
put 
the 
sack 
on 
the 
boy’s 
back.

And
 off
 they
 went
 down
 the
 street.
 The
 old
 woman
 forgot
 to
 ask
 Martin
 to
 pay
 for
 the
 apple 
and 
Martin 
stood 
there, 
watching 
and 
listening 
to 
them as 
they 
went.