DAY 30: A Bucket of Water – Part II

The boy was despondent, and ran to the woods, sitting down beside a brook and weeping bitterly. The susurrant murmur of the stream at his feet comforted him a little bit, but, in considering the extent of his sorrow, availed him not a whit. Hot tears streamed down his doleful little face as he gazed hopelessly about him in that little clearing, wondering if someone would come to alleviate his distress.

Indeed, his desire was sated, for a girl, not ten years of age, came out of nowhere from the far edge of the wood adjacent to the clearing. She approached him solemnly, with ponderous steps, and upon sitting next to him, said, “You are sad. Why?”

But the boy could only manage, “Who are you?”

“Who I am is not important. I’m only here to help. Why are you sad?” she repeated.

The boy wiped his face, as if ashamed of the tears that had stained his visage red, and turned his flushed countenance towards the girl to say, “I have done a terrible thing. I gave my water bucket to a drunkard because I did not want to work. Now the drunkard has burned that very bucket, and I have nothing left to carry water with. The blacksmith has always wanted me to bring water down to him, so that his thirst might be quenched, and his weapons cooled, and, as a display of gratitude, he gives my father weapons free of charge. But when I did not bring the water to him today, he grew angry, and told my father that he would not give him any more weapons. Now my father is as mad at me as the blacksmith, and I cannot be in either’s presence without being reprimanded.”

“It sounds terrible,” the girl responded, sympathy in her little glittering eyes. “Do you know who this drunkard was?”

“Does it matter?”

“If it’s who I think it is, it might,” the girl said.

“No, I don’t know him by name, but he was tall, had a scar across the front of his face, and an unkempt beard.”

The girl remained quiet for a moment, then said hesitantly, “He’s my father.”

“Your father?” the boy replied in disbelief.

“Yes. And he did not burn the bucket. He took it home with him, so that he might give it to me to draw water.”

The boy was bemused. “To what purpose?”

“So that he won’t beat me.”

“Beat you?” He was taken aback. How could a man beat such a mellifluous, innocent little girl?

“Yes. He told me that if I drew water for him everyday, and brought it to him to drink, he would spare me the bludgeon.” A tear crept down her face.

The boy felt empathy for the girl. He knew what it was like to love someone, and not be requited, for that was the situation with his father. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and said, “What shall we do, then?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps we could share the bucket?” she suggested, sniffing after having sobbed for a time.

“The brook is too far, as is the well whence I draw my water. It would take too long, and the blacksmith, as well as your father, would grow impatient.”

“What else can be done, then?”

“Nothing. You may keep the bucket. You need it more than I do. I will only incur the contempt of my father. You, if the bucket escapes your grasp, will suffer the abuse of your father’s hand. I would rather be tormented with words than have you be tormented with the fist.”

She kissed him lightly on the cheek in that innocent, childlike way and said, “Thank you.”

So the girl, after embracing her newfound friend, took up the bucket, which she had hidden on the edge of the wood, drew water from the brook, bid the boy farewell, and departed. The boy, pleased he could help, but anxious about the meeting he would soon have with his father, returned to the village. He had reached the edge of the forest a while later, in view of the village, but was frightened, and did not wish to enter. So he laid down and fell asleep.

The next morning, he heard cries in the village, and saw several men disperse in many directions. He heard his name repeated, over and over, and for a brief moment he wanted to return. But the thought of his father, and the resentment with which he would be welcomed home, weighed heavily on his spirit, and he ran back to the brook, hoping to see the girl there again.

But she was not there, and did not come. The boy ran his hands through his hair, pacing back and forth along the bank of the brook, his face etched with sorrow and concern. Lines were drawn there in his countenance that made him look like a grown man, for despondency can have that effect on even the youngest of people.

At last, the bitterness of his circumstances clutched his heart, and he fell like a stone to the ground, tearing at the grass and sobbing uncontrollably. A rain began to fall. He felt himself to be a detestable animal, worthy of being beaten and mocked; he groveled in the mud, wishing that he had not given that bucket to the drunkard – desiring that he had not – imagining what his life would be like if he hadn’t. He had caused so much anger, and he felt terrible for it. He had let those he loved down.

Then, the girl came. She was sopping, her hair clinging to her shoulders and back, her little face streaming with rivulets of water, and her dress bogging her down as if she had stepped into a quagmire. She said, “Follow me!”

“To where?” the boy replied. “Not back to the village, I pray!”

“Yes, back there. Everyone is looking for you! You’re making such a fuss over nothing!”

“My father hates me, now that I have failed him!”

“No he doesn’t; he’s been looking for you, and been pining ever since you left. Come back with me.”

“How can I trust that he won’t be mad at me?”

“Why would I lie to you?”

The boy paused and looked soberly at the girl, brushing as wisp of hair out of his eyes and considering the whole situation for a moment. What if she was wrong? What if his father still hated him? What if he would have to endure the opprobrium of being the child in the village that his father hated? What if everyone hated him when he came back?

But then again, what if she was telling the truth, and he was writhing in the mud out here for nothing? What if he was exacerbating the situation by his own actions? What if returning would fix everything…

“Alright,” he said at last, and walking to her side, continued, “I’ll trust.”

So they walked through the rain drenched forest for a long while until reaching the village, which was now illuminated with dim torches and filled with more raucuous shouts than ever before. The boy walked timidly with the girl into the village, and, upon sight of him, the townsfolk ran to him and began to encapsulate him in multiple embraces, thanking the Lord that he was well, and that no ill had come to him. The boy was, to be sure, surprised at this greeting – doubly so when he saw his father run towards him and hug him. The man, clinging tightly to his son, said, “I shouldn’t have been angry with you, boy. I was a fool. I beg for your forgiveness!”

“You have it,” the boy replied, and when he was released from his father’s grasp, inquired, “But why the change of heart? And why is everyone greeting me so joyously?”

“Because they know what you did for me,” the girl answerd him. “They know that you sacrificed the bucket for me, when you could have taken it for your own purposes. Everyone appreciates that, including me. When they heard that you had vanished because you felt terrible, they began searching for you. We praise God, knowing that you are alright now!”

The boy smiled.

THE END.

In Christ,

Ryan

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