Chapter 10 - He Took Away My Fears
Thirteen-year-old Ariel was glad for a chance to be outside, away from the hustle and bustle inside her house. She felt so unlike her family. Most of them seemed to thrive on the noise and activity, but she didn’t like it at all. She tried to do most of her chores up on the roof, where it was quiet and she didn’t have to figure out what to say to anyone. Ariel dashed outside. Well, it would have been a dash, but for the large water jar she was balancing awkwardly on her hip. She hadn’t really been released from her normal chores; with the exciting possibility of abba and many others coming soon, her mother had sent her to the well. Usually when Ariel went to the well, she walked along slowly, absorbing every sight, sound, and smell. She loved to stop, to feel the wind on her face, smell the fish down by the lake. But today, today was different. Her mother had admonished her not to stop at all. She recalled her mother’s words. There is a large crowd gathering at synagogue today, and where there’s a crowd there are bound to be Roman soldiers. I don’t want you to be stopped by one, so get water and return quickly.
When she reached the square, she carefully surveyed it. There were a few women drawing water, and a vendor near the edge of the square. Two soldiers were standing next to their horses and conversing with one another in the far corner. Judging it safe, Ariel walked up to the well just as the other ladies finished drawing their water and left the square. She lowered the leather bucket into the deep, dark hole.
Suddenly she heard the sound of a horse approaching her from behind. “You there, at the well! Draw water for this horse—now.”
Ariel froze, her hands gripping the rope tightly. It’s here, she thought. The moment I have dreaded my entire life. She had never met a Roman soldier before and now she would have to face one by herself. She stood, paralyzed. She knew she needed to obey him, but in her fear, she could not get herself to move.
Suddenly an unfamiliar man approached the well. He wasn’t a soldier. He was dressed as any other Galilean man, but his clothes looked dusty and travel-worn.
“Daughter of Israel, may I help you?” he asked, and Ariel realized he was asking her. Still gripped by fear she turned her head to look at him. His hands were outstretched, and she got the idea that he was offering to draw the water for the soldier’s beast. As his hands grasped the leather bucket, she saw that they were calloused and work-worn. Trembling, Ariel moved from her spot at the well, and the kind stranger purposely moved between her and the soldier.
Ariel watched him with growing wonder as he quickly and confidently, with no sign of contempt, filled the bucket time after time until a water trough was filled. As he did so, he stroked the tired animal. “This horse is overheated,” he commented fearlessly to the soldier. “He shouldn’t drink too quickly.”
“What are you trying to do, educate me about my own horse?” the soldier blasted. “I am a Roman. You are nothing but a Galilean,” he spat with disgust. The soldier raised his hand and was about to slap the stranger when a higher officer stepped up leading a black horse with a white star on its nose.
He must be the new centurion Ezekiel told me about. Ariel stared. The legionary dropped his hand.
The centurion addressed the stranger. “You know horses well, it would seem.”
The man gave a small, knowing smile. “I’ve learned some about them,” was his reply.
“And you,” the centurion looked at his soldier, “you should not have let your horse fall into this condition. The man is right. Your horse is both overworked and overheated.” The centurion mounted his own well-kept steed. He nodded toward the stranger, turned, and rode out of the square. The soldier, shamed and irritated, mounted his own horse in a huff and followed the centurion.
Unknowingly, Ariel sighed with relief. She had watched the whole ordeal with wonder at the stranger’s calm through the entire situation, and she felt secure in his presence. He didn’t even flinch when the soldier nearly struck him, she thought.
“Now may I help you with your jar?” he asked.
Ariel just looked into his face, as though his words didn’t register. It was odd for a man, and one she did not know, to offer to draw water—a woman’s chore. She searched her memory, but knew she had never seen him before. She would have been wary, this being a complete stranger, but something welcoming in his gaze put her at ease. Then she noticed again his dusty clothes and she saw his weariness. He is a traveler. He is probably extremely thirsty.
“Um—well, yes—I mean, thank you,” she stammered, finding her voice. “I mean, may I draw some water for you?”
A grin spread across his face. “Thank you,” he said gratefully. He sat on the low wall of the well and stretched his tired feet for a moment. Ariel gave him the water from her partially filled clay jar.
Though many thoughts and questions filled her mind about this intriguing man, Ariel blurted out the only words she could find to express her gratitude, “You must come home with me. I know my mother will want to thank you for what you’ve done for me. We are expecting my abba home tonight, and guests as well. I’m sure you would be welcome, too,” Ariel pleaded.
“What a wonderful offer,” he replied. “But I have another place I’ll need to be.” He finished his drink, smiled at Ariel, and left.
Ariel walked away from the square, her mind overflowing with a hundred thoughts. That is the way I want to be. Confident, secure, and not one bit afraid. He knew just what to say. I’m not that peaceful even around my own family! But maybe I can change. Maybe one day I can be filled with peace that way, too.