The Verse Martin
Read by Mary E.
Martin put his bare feet down through the thick dust of the country
road. It was warm summer, and he was used to going barefoot, even to
Sunday-school, from which he was now returning. Over the hot, dry
grass of the fields there swayed at frequent intervals the heads of
California wild oats. One such stem grew near the road, and Martin,
with a quick sweep of his hand, pulled off the wild oat heads and
went on through the dusty road, scattering the oats as he walked.
Martin was thinking.
"Teacher doesn't know how 'tis," he said. "I have to carry 'round
milk mornings and nights, and I have to go down to the barn to hunt
eggs, and I have to help pa about the stage horses, and sometimes I
have to ride the horses back to be shod, and I have to walk a mile to
day-school and back, and learn my lessons, and I'd like to know how
teacher thinks I've got much time to read the Bible some every day.
There's lots of days I don't believe pa reads any in the Bible. He's
too busy driving the stage and 'tending to the horses. And ma doesn't
read it, because she has to cook for the teamster boarders. It's a
real pretty book teacher's given me, though."
Martin felt inside his jacket, and brought out a little New
Testament. It was only a ten-cent Testament, for Miss Bruce, his
Sunday-school teacher, did not have money enough to buy Bibles for
her class of thirteen boys. She had felt that she must do something,
however, for the boys were destitute of Bibles of their own.
The best she could do was to buy small Testaments with red covers,
and she had cut a piece of bright red, inch-wide ribbon into thirteen
lengths, had raveled out the ends so as to make fringe, and had put a
piece of this fringed ribbon into each boy's New Testament for a
book-mark. The boys thought a great deal of the pieces of ribbon, they
were so bright and pretty. Miss Bruce had written some special little
message to each boy in the front of his Testament. The general purport
of each message was that the book was given with the teacher's prayer
that the boy might learn to love the Bible and might become a real
Christian. Some of the boys let the others read what was written in
the Testaments, and some boys did not.
Miss Bruce had given them the Testaments to-day, and had said that
she hoped each boy would read a little, daily, in his Testament, even
if it were only two or three verses.
"I wonder if teacher'll ask me next Sunday whether I've read any?"
Martin questioned himself now, as he admiringly eyed his piece of red
ribbon. "It'll be a shame if I have to tell her, the first Sunday,
that I've forgot it! I'd better read one verse now, so I can say I
read that, anyway, if I forget the rest of the week."
Martin sat down beside the road. He was not a very good reader.
This was the first piece of the Bible Martin had ever owned. There was
an old, unused family Bible at home. A red Testament, was much more
attractive to Martin.
"Where'll I read?" Martin asked himself now. "I want an easy verse.
Some of them look too hard."
He began and dropped several verses, because of their difficulty.
Finally he settled on one, because of its shortness. He read its
seven words haltingly but carefully.
" 'L-e-s-t'--I don't know that word--'c-o-m-i-n-g'--coming--'s-u-d-
d-e-n-l-y--he find you s-l-e-e-p-i-n-g.' 'Lest coming suddenly, he
find you sleeping.' "
Of the connection of the verse, and its spiritual significance,
Martin knew nothing. The word "l-e-s-t" puzzled him. He would ask
somebody about it.
When he helped his father with the horses at the barn that evening,
Martin questioned his father about the word "l-e-s-t."
"Haven't you spelled it wrong?" asked his father. "I guess it's 'l-
"It's in my new red book," answered Martin, perching on the
watering trough. "I'll find the place."
Martin did not know much about New Testament books or chapters, but
he knew that verse was on the eighty-second page. Martin had noted
the little numbers at the bottom of the pages.
"Here 'tis!" triumphantly exclaimed Martin.
His father took the book. Martin's eager finger pointed to the
"Lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping."
The words faced the stage-driver. Well did he know their meaning.
Years ago in his mother's home he had been taught from the Bible. His
eyes now ran over the preceding_verses. He caught parts of them. "The
Son of man is as a man taking a far journey." "Watch ye therefore."
"Ye know not when the master of the house cometh." "Lest coming
suddenly, he find you sleeping."
"Don't you know what 'l-e-s-t' means?" asked Martin, eager for the
"Oh--why, yes," responded his father. "It means 'For fear' he
should come suddenly."
"Who?" asked Martin.
"The Lord," returned his father gravely.
"Why shouldn't they be sleeping?" asked Martin.
"Who?" said his father, turning to attend to the horses.
"I don't know," said Martin. "I mean my verse."
"Martin," stated the stage-driver, "I'm no hand at explaining.
Don't ask any more questions."
Every Sunday after this Miss Bruce persisted in asking whether the
boys read in their Testaments.
"It's mean the way some of the boys don't read any, after her
giving us all nice red Testaments," Martin told his father. "I don't
read much, but I ought to read some, after her fringing that red
ribbon! Most verses I read are short, like 'Lest coming suddenly, he
find you sleeping.' "
The stage-driver moved uneasily at the words.
"He hasn't forgot that verse after all these weeks?" thought the
"I know what that verse means now," went on Martin. "Miss Bruce
told me. She says some folks forget they've got to die, and they ought
to be ready for that. A good many folks don't become Christians, and
Miss Bruce says she's afraid they'll be like that verse, 'Lest coming
suddenly, he find you sleeping.' You and I won't be that way, will we,
father? I'm going to try to be ready. Ain't you? Miss Bruce says folks
ought to always be."
His father's eyes were on the harness he was buckling.
"I hope you'll be ready, Martin," answered the father, "even if I
The place where Martin lived was a small settlement distant from
town. Martin's father, Mr. Colver, not only three days in the week
drove the stage, but other days acted as a sort of expressman,
bringing freight in a large wagon over the miles from town. One night
about nine o'clock, Mr. Colver was on the long, lonely road coming
toward home. He had a very heavy load on his wagon. The wheels scraped
on the wagon bottom, and the team went with a heavy, dragging sound.
As the heavy wagon came opposite a clump of white blossoming
buckeye trees, one of the fore wheels of the dragging wagon suddenly
gave way and fell off. Mr. Colver was thrown violently from the
wagon's high seat into the road, among the tumbling heavy boxes and
barrels. The sharp corner of one box struck Mr. Colver's head near the
The weary horses waited to be urged forward again. They did not
know that their driver lay insensible in the road.
It was early gray morning before one of the teamsters who boarded
at the Colvers' found Mr. Colver lying still insensible, and brought
him home. The blow on the head had been a very dangerous one. Martin
gazed awestruck at his father's shut eyes and unconscious face.
"I wonder if pa's going to die?" the boy anxiously thought. "I
wonder if pa's ready?"
The sorrowful hours came and went. Mr. Colver regained
consciousness, but for weeks he felt the effects of the blow that
might have smitten him never to rise.
One night when Martin was going to his room, his father called
weakly to the boy.
Martin turned back. He found his mother sitting beside his father.
"Martin," said his father with grave earnestness, "your mother's
been reading to me from your Testament. We've been talking about
Bible things that we haven't paid much attention to. We were both
brought up better, Martin. The Lord's had mercy upon me. He might
have taken me suddenly that night, but he knew I wasn't ready, and he
had mercy on me. And now, lad, your mother and I thought we would just
kneel right down here to-night, and ask the Lord to take each of us,
and make us his own. You want to, don't you, my son?"
Martin nodded, and for the first time the stage-driver's family
knelt together. They whose souls had been sleeping were awake.