By Leo Tolstoy

Simon is a shoemaker, who lives with his wife and children in a peasant's hut. Whatever he earns, which isn't much, he spends on food. They own one winter coat for his and his wife to share, and he wants to buy new sheep skins for it because it is getting raggedy. Simon has money saved, though he needs a little bit more, and heads off to collect money from people who owe him. The man in the first house is not home, and his wife tells Simon he will pay next week. The people who own the second house have no money, and would only pay twenty kopeks. Wanting these sheep skins, Simon tries to buy the skins on credit, but the dealer would not let him. With the 20 kopeks, Simon buy vodka, and becomes warm from the alcohol. On his way home, he sees a naked, white man. Afraid, Simon ignores the man at first, but then goes back and gives him his coat. Simon invites him to his home, and the strange man tells him that God is punishing him. When they arrive at the hut, Simon's wife, Matryona, if mad at her husband, for she thought he spent the money on alcohol instead of skins and for taking the man back to their house. Matryona calms down, and reluctantly gives them food, though they barely have any. The man smiles for the first time, and tells them that God will reward you. Matryona wonders why they get nothing for everything they give. We learn that the man's name is Michael, and Michael wants to learn how to work. Simon shows Michael how to make shoes, and Michael learns very quickly. Michael is great at what he does, and becomes well-known in the town. Everyone goes to Simon to repair and make their shoes, and Simon's family becomes rich. A big and burly man comes to Simon, ordering him to make boots. The leather the man gives Simon is expensive, and orders him not to mess it up. Michael takes on the job, as he is the best at making the boots. Michael smiles when the man is at their house, and no one knows why. Michael ends up making slippers, instead of boots, but it turns out that the man died on the way home, and needed slippers anyway for his funeral. Michael has lived with Simon's family for six years. A lady comes to the house with two little, one whom is crippled. The lady asks Simon to make boots for the little girls. The crippled girl's mother crushed her leg, making her the way she is. The lady adopted the two girls, and we learn that the lady's son died at a young age. The twin's parents died in the same week, and the lady and her husband were neighbors with them. When she heard that the dad died from a tree falling, and their mom dying while giving birth, she raised them as her own, and loves them as if she gave birth to them.When hearing this story, Michael smiles. After the lady and her two daughters leave, Michael says it is time for him to leave too. Michael admits that he was punished, but now, God forgives him. God sent him to earth to learn three truths, and Michael smiles every time he learns a truth. Michael was an angel, who disobeyed God by not taking the twin's mom's soul. The three truths Michael was to learn was what dwells in a man, what is not given to man, and what men live by. Michael learns that in man dwells love, and that man is not given knowledge for his own needs. He learned from the twin's mother that all men live not by care for themselves, but by love. Michael says God wants men to live united, and he goes up to heaven.