The Works of Leo Tolstoi. One Volume Edition. Roslyn, NY: Black's
Readers Service Co., 1928, pages 4-18.
 CHAPTER IX: HER TALE
The woman, having begun talking, them the whole story.
"It is about six years since their parents died, both in one week;
their father was buried on the Tuesday, and their mother died on the Friday.
These orphans were born three days after their father's death, and their
mother did not live another day. My husband and I were neighbors of theirs,
our yard being next to theirs. Their father was a lonely man; a wood-cutter
in the forest. When felling trees one day, they let one fall on him. It
fell across his body and crushed his bowels out. They hardly got him home
before his soul went to God; and that same week his wife gave birth to
twins--these little girls. She was poor and alone; she had no one, young
or old, with her. Alone she gave them birth, and alone she met her death.
"The next morning I went to see her, but when I entered the hut, she,
poor thing, was already stark and cold. In dying she .had rolled on to
this child and crushed her leg. The village folk came to the hut, washed
the body, laid her out, made a coffin, and buried her. They were good folk.
The babies were left alone. What was to be done with them? I was the only
woman there  a baby at the time. I was nursing my first-born--eight
weeks old. them for a time. The peasants came together, and thought and
thought what to do with them; and at they said to me: 'For the present,
Mary, you had better keep the girls, later on we will arrange what to do
for them. So I nursed the sound one my breast, but at first did not feed
the crippled one. I did not suppose she would live. But then I thought
to myself, why should the poor innocent suffer? I pitied her, and began
to feed her. And so I fed my own boy and these two-the three of them--at
my breast. I was young and strong, and had good food, and God gave me much
milk that at times it even overflowed. I used sometimes to feed two a time,
while the third was waiting. When one had had enough I nursed the third.
And God so ordered it that these grew up, while my own was buried before
he was two years old. And I had no more children, though we prospered.
'Now my husband is working for the merchant at the mill. The pay is and
we are well off. But I have no children of my own, and how lonely should
be without these little girls! How can I help loving them! They are the
joy of my life!"
She pressed the lame little girl to her with one hand, while with the
other she wiped the tears from her cheeks.
And Matryona sighed, and said: "The proverb is true that says, 'One
may live without father or mother, but one cannot live without God.'"
So they talked together, when suddenly the whole hut was lighted up
as though by summer lightning from the corner where Michael sat. They all
looked towards him and saw him sitting, his hands folded on his knees,
gazing upwards and smiling.