Joreth stepped outside of the farm house to put out the lantern. He figured it was late enough that any travelers who were seeking lodging had already done so for the night, probably closer to the beaten path. He was just about to blow out the wick in the glass enclosure when he heard his old mare start fussing and stamping her hooves. Part of being so far off the beaten path was that you weren’t supposed to have to deal with hooligans he thought to himself. He ducked back inside and grabbed his cudgel from its place beside the door, whoever was attempting to steal the old mare would be in for quite a surprise.
Mabel was already in bed, and there was no use worrying her, so Joreth slipped back out the front door and made his way around the house toward the stable where the mare was kept. He thought he could see a shadowy figure rummaging around inside one of the stalls. Brandishing his cudgel, he approached the stable cautiously.
“Oi, you in there! Stop messing with my horse!” he called out.
After no response he inched closer to the stall next to the mare’s. Raising his cudgel he prepared to bring it down on the offenders head, stopping just short of braining the small boy who sat in the hay of the stall.
“What are you doing here, boy?” he asked as he lowered his cudgel.
The young child looked up at him imploringly and asked, “Papa?”
“I’m not your father, boy.”
At this the boy reached down into the hay and lifted up a small cloth pouch.
“For you, Papa.”
Expecting, nothing more than some small bits of food that the youngster had packed before he had run away from home. Joreth took the pouch from the boy and opened it. The light from his lantern reflected back from the gold that the pouch held and Joreth’s eyes opened in shock. This was more money then he would normally see in a life time, all in this boy’s possession.
“Who did you steal this from boy?” he demanded, his voice rising with his sudden anxiety.
“No steal. Mine,” the child responded.
Shaking his head, Joreth cinched the coin purse and set it down next to his cudgel. He took the boy by the hand and began leading him back to the house. If anyone was looking for the little thief, then they would certainly swing by on the morrow. He figured the scamp could stay with Mabel and himself for one night at least.
Inside the house, he left the child in the front room and stepped into the bedroom where his wife slept peacefully. He gathered up some blankets that sat atop a chest at the foot of the bed and carried them back out to the main room of the house. He quickly formed a makeshift bed in front of the fire. Then he picked up the boy and set him down in it.
“You can sleep here tonight, boy. We’ll figure out what to do with you in the morn.”
“G’night Papa” the boy said as he nestled into the pile of blankets.
Joreth had one more thing to before he could turn in to the comfort of his own bed with his wife. He took the lantern and headed back out to the stables where he had left the gold. He kept a cautious eye for anyone approaching who might happen to be missing a nice sum of money. Glancing over his shoulder constantly, he finally felt comfortable to begin his work.
He grabbed a shovel he normally used to scoop the mare’s dung out and began to dig a small hole in the abandoned stall. Once it was of a size to his liking, he stopped and cautiously looked out in all directions before dropping the pouch into the hole and covering it up with dirt. He stamped down on it several times to eliminate the look of recently disturbed earth and then scattered a generous amount of hay on top of it for good measure. For all anyone who came to collect the boy needed to know, the child had lost the money at some point between where he had come from and Joreth’s humble home. With the gold safely hidden, Joreth returned to his home and slept restlessly through the night.
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