Him

He was stern, bearded, he was a patriarch and knew it. He had always been strict with the women and girls in the village. They could come and go, but were not allowed to go to lessons, while the boys had schooling, and of course the best food and clothes.

Nothing would change his mind, that was how things were and that was how it would always be.

His daughter, turning ten years old, looked up to him. But she was clever. Too bright for washing clothes till her hands went red, too clever for feeding the chickens or wringing their necks and plucking them when the time came. She could do everything girls five years older than her were capable of. She stitched and sewed, she span wool. She was useful and her father knew it.

‘father’ she would ask. ‘Why is the sky blue? How old is the world?’ Or ‘why are the clouds that shape?’ One day she even asked why the moon waxed and wained. Her father would just say ‘none of your nonsense my girl’ or ‘get back to your laundering’. The daughter turned round sadly and carried on with her chores.

For two years this carried on, until one day the father became ill, he took to his bed, and despite his wife’s care he only grew worse. His eyes were closed when his daughter bought his supper to him one evening. She spooned some broth into his mouth, he retched, but she persevered. Little by little he supped the food. Later she came to check on him and he seemed a little better.

A week later he was sitting up in bed. His daughter came into the room and he held her hand as she gave him more broth. ‘what’s in this food’ he asked ‘it tastes strange, bitter’ ‘just herbs’ she said.

When he had fully recovered the father asked his wife what she had used to make the broth, ‘it wasn’t me’ she said. ‘Daughter talked to the old women, she made the broth after speaking to them’.

Later he talked to his daughter ‘how did you know how to cure me?’ ‘I asked questions like I always do’ she said.

Finally his mind changed. ‘you will go to school my girl, if you can learn such things off old women, I want to know what you can learn in class’.

The daughter started school and after four years she was taken into college. Finally she was trained as an apothecary. From then on the father insisted all the children, girls as well as boys, should be taught.

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