Thursday, 22 May 2008
A Model Shepherdess
There was a man loved a woman as happens time out of mind. The woman didn't know. She grew up on a farm with dogs and sheep and goats and pigs and a cat. He worked on the farm helping out. When she was a teenager, she was a shepherdess taking the sheep out to the pasture and bringing them home in the evening. He would bid her farewell in the morning and greet her kindly in the evening. They ate together at her parents' table and exchanged pleasantries and all the time, she grew tall and willowy and beautiful. On it went like this, until, one morning she left a note to her parents and took off to the city.
Because she was tall, willowy and beautiful, she became a fashion model. She took off some more - all over the world and earning so much she could have bought her father's farm a hundred times over and had change for a brace of castles. Still the man stayed at her father's farm. He took the sheep out now and thought of her still; and loved her still. That's true love you see, distance cannot kill it, presence nor absence cannot kill it. It persists like lichen on stones, like salt in the sea, like insects in summer.
So Bonny - that was the woman's name for she was bonny - she lived in a grand house and had the best of everything. But it turned out that her accountant was not nearly as grateful for helping her to have the best of everything. He took all her money and went on a permanent South American holiday. So poor Bonny had nothing and being tall, willowy and beautiful but at least five years older than she had been, the fashion was not to use her as a model any more. She tried to do other things, but nothing worked and she ended by coming home to her father's farm. She felt as though she had failed utterly and had nobody to care if she lived or died.
When she arrived at the farm, her father's farmhand stood at the barn - also five years older and greeted her kindly as he always had when she came home. She mumbled something in return, her head bowed and rushed in to see her parents. The man perceived her sorrow and after supper he told her,
"There was once a little girl and she thought nobody loved her. But when she went into the barn, she discovered how wrong she was."
Then he placed his warm, rough hand against her smooth face and smiled gently. She gazed into his eyes and seemed to see the whole world there. He went out to put the pigs and the goats and the sheep to bed. Bonny took her shawl and went out to the barn and there she found, where the farmhand slept - an old box. On top of the box was a somewhat rusty old window shutter that had come from her room when she was little. Against the shutter, an illustration from a fashion magazine of a tall, willowy beauty. Beside it a horseshoe she had given him when she was nine to show that they were friends. Before all these were three carved stone sheep just like the ones she used to shepherd up to the pasture.
She sat before them and quietly wept for a while. Then she got up and went into the farmhouse. The farmhand put the pigs to bed and wished them goodnight. He put the goats to bed and bid them sleep well. He lingered a little over the sheep, remembering the young girl who took them out to the pasture and he sighed. He made the sheep comfortable, wished them sweet dreams and goodnight and went off to the barn.
He found Bonny waiting for him and smiled to see her lovely face. She put her arms about his neck and kissed him. He held her tenderly and felt as if all the best of the world were in his arms.
They were married the very next month and Bonny forgot her modelling and became a farmer, with a husband who loved her. Every morning she would take the sheep up to the pasture and he would kiss her farewell. Every evening she would bring them safely home and he would kiss her in greeting.