The Ironsmith

The Ironsmith by Nicholas Guild

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Authors: Nicholas Guild
only pity.
    â€œHow have you come to this?” he asked.
    The youth paused for a moment, staring out at nothing as, apparently, he gathered his thoughts.
    â€œMy father lost his land,” he said finally. “The last few years have been hard, and he had to borrow. A week ago the moneylender came with writing that said he owned the land now. He told my father he could stay and work for wages. He took my sister for a kitchen servant. He had no work for me, so I had to leave. It was either starve or steal, so I thought I would head north and join the bandits.”
    â€œIf you join them, all you can expect is to be caught in a few years and crucified.”
    â€œBetter a bad death a few years hence than a bad death now.”
    Noah seemed to consider this and then nodded. The logic was unassailable.
    â€œBut the bandits won’t take you.”
    â€œWhy not?”
    â€œBecause you have nothing to offer them.” Noah shrugged, seeming to imply that the point was obvious. “Look at you. You don’t have a horse, you don’t have a weapon. Why should they trouble to supply you with either when every day ruined farmers make the trek into the mountains, hoping to join them. Probably, they will cut your throat.”
    â€œThen what am I to do?”
    â€œThat is the question, isn’t it.”
    They sat together for a time without speaking. The wine was gone, which Noah chided himself for resenting. After all, in three hours he would be in Capernaum, where he could drink all the wine he wanted. This poor soul might never taste wine again.
    Then a thought occurred to him.
    â€œI have a friend in Ptolemais,” he said. “He is a merchant, and I have done business with him for years. He owns warehouses and a couple of ships. His name is Kreon. He is a Greek but a good sort of man. Just ask for him along the wharves. If you tell him that Noah the metalsmith from Sepphoris sent you, he will give you work.”
    â€œWhere is Ptolemais?”
    â€œIt is on the coast of the Great Sea. If you walk west, keeping Mount Carmel on your left, and then turn north when you reach the sea, you will find it. You will be there tomorrow.”
    â€œTomorrow.”
    Perhaps the same thought was in both their minds: How was this wretched, spent man to walk to Ptolemais, in one day or even five?
    Noah fetched his purse from under his belt and counted out five silver shekels and then, after a moment’s reflection on God’s hatred of avarice, another five. To these he added a scattering of copper coins.
    The man glanced at the money resting in Noah’s palm and raised his hand as if to fend it off.
    â€œKeep it,” he said in an offended tone.
    â€œI see. It would have been more honorable to have killed me with your pruning hook and then stolen my purse. I commend your scruples.”
    This was received with a cold silence.
    â€œListen, my friend. By assisting you I find favor with God, so in refusing out of pride you do that which injures us both. Besides, the day may come when you will be able to render me an even greater service.”
    He took the man’s hand and poured the coins into it.
    â€œTake these,” he said. “Rest in the first village you find. The copper will be enough for a bed and food for a few days. Do not show anyone the silver. In Ptolemais, bathe and buy clean clothes so that you do not come to Kreon as a beggar.”
    â€œMy name is Samson,” the man said. It seemed to be his way of offering thanks.
    â€œThen be careful in the city, lest they cut your hair.”

 
    7
    When Noah arrived in Capernaum, he found he was more tired from the journey than he had expected, and he was hungry. In the market he discovered a wineshop where he could also buy a dinner of fish and millet, so by sundown he was feeling better.
    â€œCome a long way, have you?” asked the proprietor as he cleared away the dishes and poured Noah a second cup of the

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