Thursday, November 20, 2014
Their home was miles from anywhere. When they moved there in the summer it didn’t seem like something to worry about. They could get just about anywhere simply by walking. It felt good to walk. His grandfather’s words came back to him: “It’s just a good stretch of the legs to get to town”. They were young and strong. Life here would be good, much better than the city life they’d led before. So crowded and dirty there. Here there was fresh air and sunshine. This is where they needed to be. A place to raise their family.
Now it was winter and Emily had just had their first baby. Town seemed much, much farther than his legs could carry him these days. The snow was deep and the wind often howled. That’s ok, we’ll make it, he thought.
The baby was wonderful. Never had he felt the way he did about his new daughter. She was the best thing he’d ever done; he and Emily made a beautiful baby. They had plenty of provisions set aside to get through this latest storm. He wasn’t worried, but the baby began to cry…a lot.
“Nathan, something’s wrong! She seems to be hungry all the time. What am I doing wrong?”
“Emily, don’t worry, you’re a wonderful mother. Maybe she just needs more milk. I could walk to the nearest farm and ask if they could give us some milk.”
“It’s too far and the storm is so fierce! Besides, we don’t have any money to pay for the milk.”
Nathan let it go but that night the baby’s howls grew louder as she grew weaker.
The next morning: “I’m going to walk to the next farm. The baby needs milk and I’m going to bring her some no matter what the cost”, said Nathan.
The young man set out walking in thigh-deep snow. His wife stood watching him at the window worrying that he wouldn’t return; hoping that he’d get back with milk for their daughter in time. It took him hours of difficult walking to reach the next farm. Half frozen and weak, he knocked on the door.
“My goodness young man, you’re a snow man! Quick, come inside.” The woman led him to a chair by the kitchen stove. She appeared to be about his mother’s age and had a kind face.
“Whatever brought you out on a day like this?” she asked.
“My daughter, she’s newborn and needs milk. I don’t think my wife is able to give her enough. Can you help?”
“Land sakes, of course we can help. George, come here!” Esther called to her husband. “This frozen young man needs some milk for his new baby. Would you go and fetch some for him to take home?”
“Heavens boy, you are a sight. Sit here with Esther while I get you some milk for your baby” said George.
“Thank you sir, but I need you both to know that I have no money to pay you.” Nathan was embarrassed but determined.
“Goodness, that’s not a problem. Let’s get that little girl some milk.” George put on his coat and headed out the door.
“Here, have a cup of coffee and I’ll get you some food” said Esther.
“You are too kind. Thank you.”
Nathan sat by the fire, drying out and warming up while Esther fussed over him. She fed him a warm meal and a huge slice of apple pie. By the time George returned from the barn with the milk, Nathan was beginning to feel better.
“Thank you both from the bottom of my heart. I will return after the storm subsides and repay you with labor. Any job you need done and I’m your man.” Nathan meant every word.
“Here boy, take these snow shoes to wear on your way home. They’ll make the journey much faster and easier” said George.
“I couldn’t! You’ve been too generous already.” Nathan was amazed by these people.
“Nonsense. You can return them when you come back with the milk jug. You need to get home to your family.”
Nathan set off with the snow shoes on his feet and the milk jug under his arm. The way made much easier due to the kindness of these strangers.
A few weeks later:
“George, remember the young man who came looking for milk for his baby? I’m surprised he never returned. I really thought he’d come back, at least to return the snow shoes. I guess you can’t always tell about a person.”
“Yup, I sure hope that storm kicking up didn’t give him any grief.”
That next Sunday afternoon, while they sat in the kitchen enjoying a piece of pie after church, there was a knock on the door.
“Hello” said the young woman. “I’m looking for the people who gave my husband some milk for our baby. Would that be you folks?”
“Why heavens yes, it is! Come in, come in” said Esther.
The woman came in carrying a pair of snow shoes.
“We were wondering about your young man. I hope the milk did the trick,” said George.
“I’m afraid the news isn’t good,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“Oh my, please sit down dear. Can I get you something to drink?” asked Esther.
“Something warm would be lovely, thank you.”
Esther made the girl a cup of tea and placed a piece of pie in front of her, which she pushed aside reaching for the tea instead. Esther and George waited patiently for the young woman to continue.
“Nathan told me of your kindness. He planned to return and work for you to pay for the milk but things didn’t go as planned.”
“The payment isn’t a concern, but your family is. I’m sorry that you lost the baby,” Esther said with tears in her eyes.
“Oh the baby is fine. She’s at home with relatives right now. The milk you provided probably saved her.” With hesitation she said, “It’s Nathan, he didn’t... The storm was... Nathan died soon after coming back home. He said that he would bring back milk for the baby no matter what the cost. I just never dreamed that he would be the payment.”