[Installment two of a Christmas tale by Ruben Saillens. Original title: le Père Martin. Translated from French.]
Long before daylight the little lamp of the shoemaker was lit. He put more coal into his stove, where the fire had not yet gone out and busied himself preparing his coffee. Then he hurried to make his bed, then placed himself in front of the window to catch the first glimmers of daylight and the first passers-by.
Little by little the light appeared, and Martin soon saw a street sweeper, the earliest of all workers. He hardly noticed him, really, he had more important things to do than watch a street sweeper!
Nevertheless it appeared to be cold outside, fog kept appearing on the window and the sweeper, after a few vigorous sweeps of his broom, felt a need for more vigorous exercise to warm himself by slapping his arms with all his strength and stamping the ground, first with one foot, then the other.
“The good man,” Martin said to himself, “he’s cold out there. It’s a holiday today, but not for him. Why don’t I offer him a coffee?” And he tapped the window.
The sweeper turned his head, saw Papa Martin in the window and came closer.
The shoemaker opened his door, “Come in,” he said, “come and warm yourself.”
“I won’t refuse, thank you. What miserable weather, you would think we were in Russia.”
“Will you accept a cup of coffee?”
“Oh, such a good man you are. With pleasure. Better to celebrate Christmas Eve late than not at all.”
The shoemaker quickly served his guest, then returned to the window to look up and down the street to see if anyone was passing.
“What are you looking for outside?” asked the sweeper.
“I’m waiting for my Master.”
“Your Master? You are working for a chain then? It’s too early to be out checking on his workers. Besides, it’s a holiday for you today.”
“I was speaking of another Master,” replied the shoemaker.
“A Master who might come at any time and who promised to come today. You must know his name; it’s Jesus.”
“I have heard tell of him, but I don’t know him. Where does he live?”
Papa Martin then began to tell the sweeper the account he had read the past evening, adding a few details, turning toward the window as he spoke.
“And that is who you are waiting for?” said the sweeper when he understood. “I don’t think you will see him in the way you expect. But no matter, you have helped me to see Him. Could you lend me your book, Mister . . .”
“Martin,” said the shoemaker.
“Mister Martin, I guarantee that you have not wasted your time this morning, even if it is hardly day. Thank you and good-bye.”
The street sweeper went on his way and Papa Martin again placed himself in front of the window.