I been asked to come and tell you my story. Well not my story but what I know. Or think I know, I guess, was quite a while ago …
I didn’t expect quite so many people …
Well I better say who I am first. I’m Joe. I runs the pub – the Shepherd’s Arms.
Behind the market. Took it over from my da when he died couple of years back. Not the best pub in town, I knows that. We certainly aren’t the King David, the posh one fronting on the market place with the prices to match, and we ain’t the Lion of Judah, the boutique one by the temple, either, come to that.
My PR manager says we’re budget. We been called worse, I’ll go with budget.
So anyway the story. It was when I were a lad and my da were in charge. I were just coming up twelve. It were the year of the big count, wha did they call it? – the Cen-sus. Roman thing. Only so’s they could get more taxes, my da said. Romans always pushing people about, I hate em, they done nothing for us. I’d tell you what I think of em only your man says you’re well brought up so’s I better not, and there’s kiddies too.
Anyway the Census, that were a nightmare. Everyone all over the country. Good for us mind never been so busy, people have to stay somewhere, even the King David got full. We didn’t have to go nowhere on account of we’d never moved nowhere but the people coming into town you wouldn’t believe, well I guess everyone says they’re King David’s line don’t they, how many wives he have? and I guess I must be too you just have to go back a ways. Point is, it were chaos. You couldn’t get in anywhere, people were staying with relatives, sharing rooms, we put someone in my room and I slept behind the bar three nights.
But the sorriest were this couple came round late at night, I know I’m getting there, this is who your man wanted me to say about. They’d been on the road for days man and girl. Yes, girl, she could only be bout fifteen and he were only a few years on me too. They’d walked all the way from wherever it was, he couldn’t even afford to hire a donkey for her and in her condition too and they were both done in, particularly her, he were half carrying her. Said they was betrothed but I dunno anyway. I think no-one would take em in and you couldn’t wonder really I think the family would have been too ‘shamed to ask anyone. We kept it quiet.
So they came to the door any road and me da weren’t sure either but me ma said we oughta you couldn’t let her go any further, she were nearly ready, and ma sent for a woman in fact. Well we had just nowhere so we put em in the barn and it were my job to look after em well da were too busy so he give it me my job, I know a barn, I were a bit embarrassed but there were nowhere else honest, least they was out of the cold.
Actually ma kept me out of the way after that, cos the girl had her baby right there in the barn. Believe that? Still I gather he were healthy enough, I snuck a quick peek once, looked all right, what did I know then though.
Well anyway there in’t much more to say, they stayed a few days, in the barn, and then hopped it back to wherever. I did hear them saying summat to ma about going back another way, dunno why – but - hang on - there were something happened, funny I never connected the two till now.
It were months later.
The soldiers came. Herod’s men, not the Romans. Middle of the night. Looking for new boy babies. They took our youngest, Reuben, he were eighteen months. Near killed my ma and it broke da up. Weren’t just us. Everyone they could find. Well the crowds had all gone and we were only a small village again, but there must have been two three dozen they found. None came back. We have a little service every year to remember.
Do you think they were looking for our couple?
I don’t understand.
I never heard any more about any of the three, just went on with life, that’s what you do, I keeps myself to myself.
Was this baby – you know - important?
Do you think they found him?