A Christmas Story from the French of DeCoppet
Not long ago there lived in the city of Marseilles an old shoemaker, loved and honored by all his neighbors, who called him “Father Martin.” One Christmas eve Father Martin, who had been reading the story of the three wise men who brought their gifts to the infant Jesus, said to himself: “If only tomorrow were the first Christmas day and the Savior were coming to this world tonight how I would serve and adore him! I know very well what I would give him.”
He arose and took from a shelf two little shoes. “Here is what I would give him, my finest work. How pleased his mother would be! But what am I thinking of?” he continued, smiling. “Does the Savior need my poor shop and my shoes?” But that night Father Martin had a dream. He thought that the voice of Jesus himself said to him: “Martin, you have wished to see me. Watch the street tomorrow from morning until evening, for I shall pass your way.” “When he awoke the next morning, Father Martin, convinced that what he had dreamed would surely take place, hastened to put his shop in order, lighted his fire, drank his coffee and then seated himself at the window to watch the passersby.
The first person he saw was a poor street sweeper, who was trying to warm himself, for it was bitter cold. “Poor man” said Martin to himself. “He must be very cold. Suppose I offer him a cup of coffee.”? He tapped on the window and called to the man, who did not have to be urged to accept the steaming coffee.
After watching in vain for an hour Father Martin saw a young woman, miserably clothed, carrying a baby, She was so pale and thin that the heart of the poor cobbler was touched, and he called to her. “You don’t look very well,” he said.
“I am going to the hospital,” replied the woman. “I hope they will take me in with my child. My husband is at sea, I am sick and haven’t a cent,” “Poor thing!” said the old man. “You must eat some bread while you are getting warm. No? Well, take a cup of milk for the little one. Come, warm yourself and let me take the baby. Why! – “You haven’t put his shoes on.”
“He hasn’t any,” sighed the woman. “Wait a minute. I have a pair.” And the old man brought the shoes which he had looked at the evening before and put them on the child’s feet. They fitted perfectly.
Hour after hour went by, and although many people passed the window, the Master did not come. When it grew dark the old man sadly began to prepare his humble supper. “It was a dream,” he murmured. “Well, I did hope. But he has not come.” After
supper he fell asleep in his chair. Suddenly the room seemed full of the people whom he had aided daring the day, and each one asked of him In turn: “Have you not seen me?”
“But who are you?” cried the shoemaker to all these visions. Then the little child pointed to the Bible on the table, and his rosy finger showed the old man this passage: “Whosoever shall receive one of these little ones receiveth me.” “I was hungery and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in. . . . Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.”
From the Darlignton News & Press, December 11, 1919
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