Martin Luther

"Do you still have some bread left?" Martin looked at his friend John and shook his head. "I think we have to try to get some before it is dark," he said. "Shall we go together?" They closed their books and took their coats. They needed a coat, for the whole day a cold wind had been blowing from the north. Maybe there would be some snow tonight. They went downstairs from the attic and left the school building. It was not dark yet. Many people were still walking in the streets, hurrying to get home. At the corner of a busy street the two boys stopped and looked around. "Let us try," Martin said to his friend. "Together?" "Sure, let us first try together." They started to sing. The two voices of the boys rang out very clear between the two rows of houses, built of gray and red brick. Martin put his cap in front of them on the sidewalk. Maybe... Most of the people just walked on. They were used to hearing the singing of students, who tried to get some money or food for their living. Martin felt his stomach lurch. Ah, sometimes, when he had to go hungry for most of the week, it was such a pain there inside. Happily he had his books. When he studied hard he could forget that pain. A man in a long coat, who had to light the lanterns, came and started his work. The sun had already disappeared behind the houses a long time ago. Martin shivered. He took his cap to put it on again. They had a few pennies. Maybe they could buy some old bread in the bakery. That night again Martin had to go to bed with a rumbling stomach. No, a small dry bun is not enough for a strong boy! He should not think about food now, however, he should think about his lessons for tomorrow. Then he would forget his stomach. He knew his lessons very well, for he had studied hard. His father paid for his studies, that was already a big sacrifice. Many children did not even go to school. Martin had to provide himself for his daily food. That was the condition. No, his father did not spoil him. He thought it was a good way to teach his children to work hard. Sometimes Martin missed his parents. even though Father Hans Luther had been very strict. Often he had beaten Martin with a stick, when he did something wrong. Also Mother Margaret had punished him sometimes very badly. Martin remembered the times very well, when he had gone to sleep with a sore back. After such a beating he did not know how to lay in his bed. It was dark in the attic of the school building. Martin could only see some rays of the pale moon peeping through some cracks. He shivered under his blanket. He shivered even more when he thought about God. If his parents and teachers were so strict, how strict must the Lord then be’? Every Sunday he went to church. He loved to sing.

But... Who was God." His mother had taught him the Lord’s Prayer. He even could say the Ten Commandments when he did not even go to school. She also had told him there would be a terrible punishment if he would sin against these commandments. And, again, Martin shivered, not only from cold and hunger, but also from fear.

"Bye! See you soon again! Have a nice time!" Martin looked at his friends, who were ready to leave. They were going home for a week of vacation. Martin would stay in the school. It was too far for him to go, and he still wanted to do some studies and to read some books. After the friends had left, Martin right away went upstairs again to study. The whole day he was busy, till the black shadows out of the corners of the attic crept closer and closer. Finally he could not read anymore and suddenly he felt his stomach grumbling again. Now he had to go for food all by himself. That was not so nice, but he had to, otherwise he would not get anything. The streets of the little town of Eisenach were not empty yet. People were walking everywhere. Maybe, if he could find a good spot, he would get some money to buy food. Martin walked to a busy corner and started to sing. His voice was very clear, but it was drowned out by the many cars that rumbled by. No, this was not a good spot. He walked on and took a side street. Here he often had been with his friends. Nice, big houses stood in a long row next to each other. The people in these houses were nice, too. Often they had given them some leftover bread or some fruit.

He had to hurry. It was nearly dark already. Martin stood by an iron fence. This was a beautiful house. Inside, they had lighted the lamps already. Should he try it here once more? He could not go with an empty stomach to his bed tonight, could he? He started to sing. He knew many beautiful songs, which they always sang in the church. Suddenly the big front door opened and a lady came outside. Martin stopped. "I have heard you already several times and I also heard you sing in the church choir. Now you are all by yourself. Are your friends gone? Would you like to come inside and sing a few more songs for us? Then you also can stay for supper, if you want." Inside it was so neat and cozy. Martin sang a few more songs and then they had a nice meal together. Martin could eat as much as he wanted. He pinched his arm. Was he dreaming? No, it was not a dream. He was in the house of Conrad and Ursula Cotta and these two people were so glad they could do something for him. They even offered him a place to stay in their house. Again Martin pinched his arm. Was he dreaming? No, it was not a dream. He moved from the dark and dusty attic into the house of these two nice people. Now he had even more time to study, for he did not have to go out begging for food. He studied for hours and hours. He loved to read and to sing and to make some music, but was he happy now? Completely happy? What was that strange unrest then, deep down in his soul? He was so afraid of death; he was so afraid of God. He could tremble when he had to think about it. No, he could better take a book and try to forget it. "Good bye, I will never forget what you did for me." Martin had taken his cap off and looked at Ursula Cotta. Three years he had been allowed to stay in her house. She had been to him as a mother. He had eaten her lovingly prepared meals, at night they sat together near the fireplace to talk, or they played some beautiful music. Another friend in Eisenach had taught him to play the flute and the cither. Martin loved it. He would miss this friend too. It was John Braun, the priest at St. Mary’s Church. Martin always loved to make music. John Brown also was a very pious man. Martin had much respect for him. Now he was eighteen and he had to leave all these friends behind, for he had finished the school here in Eisenach. He had to leave. Oh, how he would miss this friendly home! "I hope you will have a good time at the university in Erfurt, Martin," Frau Cotta said very friendly. "I’m sure you will study hard and will finish it. It was a pleasure to have you here." Martin walked home. It was a long walk, but he did not mind it. There were so many things to see along the road.

The valleys were beautiful in their fresh summer green. Everywhere yellow, white and purple flowers made a lovely cover along the mountains. He walked along little streams with clear water, bubbling over rocks. Martin was going home.