Elsa hauled a wooden bucket of dirty water out of the tavern. She carried it downhill and poured into a coarse gully leading to the bay. She planned to next retrieve a clean bucketful from the well and finish her cleaning, when she saw a man walking up toward her. Not many men came around the tavern in the middle of the day—they were out hunting.
The man was tall and unshaven, gaunt like he hadn’t eaten in a while, with dark hair and eyes, and tattered clothing smelling of seawater. He stumbled like he’d been wounded in his right leg, while burns plainly showed themselves on his rugged face.
“Young man, are you all right?”
He turned toward her and grimaced. “I’ve been better.”
She walked to him and put her shoulder under his arm. “I’m not that bad off,” he said, but he allowed her to help. She took him to the well sat him on its edge and hauled up water for him to drink.
“Thanks, old lady.”
“I’d do it for anyone. What’s your name, young man?”
“Ernsto…last name doesn’t matter.”
“Of course,” she answered, offering him an understanding smile. Many of the new hunters had pasts they didn’t want to talk about.
“Say, old lady, you remind me of my grandma. Can you help me with something?”
“I’ll do whatever I can.”
He reached inside his left front pants pocket and pulled free a dark sack. It clicked with movement and she could make out shapes of round hard objects. As if it were filled with coins. “Could you take these for me? They’re gettin’ awful heavy. You wouldn’t believe what I went through to bring them this far.”
“All of them? Surely you don’t mean it!”
“Surely I do.”
“May I…look at them?”
“Why don’ you wait ‘till I leave, Grandma.”
Elsa waited but she was overjoyed. It was a huge cache of copper coins, maybe fifty or more. These by themselves might be enough to pay for trip to the orphanage, especially if there were a silver or two hidden among them. In her mind she praised God and she hummed a happy hymn as she washed Ernsto’s wounds.
He rested with her a half an hour or so, but then arose and started walking inland. “I’m goin’ huntin’, Elsa. You take care.”
“God bless you, young man. And thank you,” she added, rattling the coin bag.
She didn’t open it right away. Some part of her had begun to fear there must be something wrong—perhaps the metal pieces were cheap tin slugs instead of money…though the bag seemed too heavy for that.
In the evening, after finishing the tavern floor, in the isolation of the privy, she emptied out the coins. At first it seemed her fears had come true, the coins were very light colored, like tin. But then she realized what they really were. Platinum.
She almost squealed but stopped herself in time. It wouldn’t do to let everyone know what she had. People got killed for far less.
But this would change everything. She could now afford new hunting gear. She could return home with her grandchildren and teach them what they needed to know to survive—her family could live on. In freedom. In peace. And most importantly, together.
Her heart poured out into silent song, Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below…