Hello, are you going into town?
St Joseph by William Dyce (1806–1864)
Ok, I’ll see you at the inn later, after I’ve taken care of a bit of business.
Hello again. I’m done now so I can have a goblet of wine before I go home, I reckon I’ve earned it. Grab a seat. (raises voice) Innkeeper, two goblets of wine here please.
I suppose you’ve heard about the census by now, It’s not so bad for you, you were born here in Nazareth but I’ve got to go up to Bethlehem. I’m not looking forward to the journey with that stubborn old donkey of mine and it won’t be easy for Mary in her state. Maybe I should get a younger one for her to ride, especially since she must be due to have the baby soon.
You wouldn’t believe the trouble we’ve had since she fell for the babe; word got round so fast that I’m not the Dad. It’s right of course but come on; in these modern times why does everyone need to make such a big fuss about it. It’s not like she’s a single mum living off charity.
Mind you, the story she told me about how she got pregnant does take some believing. Apparently, this weird stranger in white robe showed up. Just (snaps fingers) and there he is standing right in front of her, next to her cooking fire. She said he was so close to the fire, she didn’t know how his robe didn’t catch alight. Said he didn’t seem to notice the fire, or the heat at all, even though he was right next to it. Anyway this was one evening back in spring, just as it was beginning to get dark.
Actually, just between you and me, I’ve a sneaking suspicion she might have fancied the guy a bit.
I met him too you know, months later though, at least I think I did, although he never actually did tell me his name. Mary told me later he’s called Gabriel but he’d said for her to just call him Gabe. He’s some kind of Holy courier it seems, travelling all over the place delivering messages for his governor. He’s got some quite novel delivery techniques, so you tend not to forget what he tells you.
At supper, on the night Mary met him, not that I knew about it then, she did seem a bit distracted and her eyes were a bit red and puffy. I didn’t say anything because I think she was hoping I wouldn’t notice.
Anyway, soon after Mary met this Gabe character, she goes gallivanting off to visit her relative Elisabeth, up Judea way, and her husband Zechariah. They’ve been childless for years but Mary says she got news that Lizzy and Zec. are going to beget a little addition soon. Says she can go and help, so they don’t need to stump up for a midwife.
Well now, of course, I’m back to cooking for myself again. Still, it wasn’t all bad, no one to nag me when I’m a bit late coming home from making a delivery, and, maybe, dropping into the inn on the way home. And I managed to finish off all sorts of jobs that had been hanging around for a while. Got them all delivered and tucked away and made a nice tidy sum.
She was gone for months you know, visiting with Lizzy & Zec. She didn’t tell me how far Lizzy was along but I’d assumed she must be close, for Mary to traipse up there like that. I only found out when Mary came home that Lizzy was only six months when Mary went to see her.
I said earlier I thought I’d met this Gabe character, well it was a very weird experience. It was in a dream one night; just a few nights after Mary came home. It was only when she came home from Lizzy’s I found out she had a bun in the oven, I was mad enough at her without her giving me some story that she was faithful and having the child of God, through the Holy Spirit. I stormed out and came here to the inn. After I’d calmed down a bit I went home again but I still hardly talked to her for days. Maybe it would have been easier if she’d told me about it sooner, instead of just coming home pregnant.
Anyway, this dream was so real. I can remember the whole thing, as clearly as I see you now. What an ear bashing he gave me, telling me to look after Mary, don’t chuck her out, everything’s going to be ok. Didn’t he go on at me, with that and a whole lot of other stuff too.
I usually give as good as I get when someone takes that attitude, but this time all I could do was stand there gaping. My jaw hit the floor at the first thing he says, because he knows Mary’s going to have a child that not mine and that he told her about it months ago.
Well that might have been a dream but I woke up as soon as he’d gone and hardly slept for the rest of the night. By next morning I had a headache like you wouldn’t believe, without having a hangover either. I went down to the workshop like usual but I couldn’t concentrate on carpentry, so in the end I just went out for a walk. I must’ve gone for miles that day, most of the time without really paying much attention to where I was going.
When it got too hot, with the sun overhead, I managed to find a shady spot to rest in for a while and then I fell asleep. By the time I woke the sun was going down and my headache had gone. Although I wasn’t really in any hurry to get home, I still wanted to see where I was going before it got dark.
By the time I got back it was night and although I couldn’t see much in the gloom, there was no lamplight at home, I knew the house wasn’t empty, Mary was there. I lit a lamp but she was asleep when I went in so I didn’t wake her.
I sat there for ages in the dim, flickering lamplight and as I watcher her sleep my head finally began to sort things out. As I looked at Mary I knew I couldn’t just abandon her, or throw her out like just about everyone would probably say I should; she needed me. And when I realised that, I realised something else too; something the guy in the white robe had been trying to tell me; something I hadn’t seen myself until that moment. I needed Mary too. As much as she needed me, so did I need her.
After that little episode things have got easier, although she still has a hard time when she comes into town. Maybe this census is really a good thing for us, giving us an excuse to get away for a while.…..Oh, look at the time, I’d better get back or she’ll kill me, are you coming this way?