A Good Father
Once upon a time in a small coastal village nestled in a remote corner of the world there lived a very quiet, devout person, who everyone knew as Hans Yohn. He had arrived in the village some years back with his few possessions tucked into a bundle under his arm. With the small amount of cash he brought with him he bought an abandoned wreck of a farm and proceeded to set up home there. With no friends or relatives he lived out his days in his humble dwelling and spent most of his days planting and tending his roots and vegetables on his small plot of land. At nights he would read the scriptures and pray. No one knew much about him but they respected him none the less as he was always above board, kind, sincere and always ready to lend a helping hand.
His closest neighbour was a store owner that lived with his wife and a beautiful daughter. They made a rather good living selling much needed supplies to the local crofters and fisherman. One day, to the utter consternation of the parents, they discovered that their teenage daughter was with child. Fuming, the father pestered his daughter till he obtained her unwilling confession of the culprit‘s identity.
Though a great shock, they took her at her word and confronted Hans with his supposed wrongdoing. The father was itching to beat Hans to a pulp, but the quiet farmer gave him no cause to unleash his full fury. Hans had simply listened patiently to his irate neighbour’s long and fiery tirade without showing the least emotion, then at the end of it he simply shrugged and in a muted tone agreed, “Whatever you say.”
The father returned home indignant and still fuming.
In the subsequent months as she became visibly pregnant, the unavoidable gossip spread like wildfire throughout the village engendering great animosity toward Hans Yohn. But once more he endured it all with his usual quiet disposition. Even the rowdy children who lay in ambush to pelt him with rocks eventually got tired of their campaign once they saw they could not anger him.
After the child was born, the indignant parents, ignoring their daughter’s pleas and protestations, delivered the healthy baby boy to Hans Yohn’s doorstep in a bassinette. Hans accepted the infant without any apparent emotion and from that day forth proceeded to taking a very good care of the baby. He saw to it that the baby was safe and comfortable then went outside to fetch some goat’s milk, which would have to suffice as he could not pay for a wet nurse. Nor did he question the quirks of fate, as he too in his infancy, had been abandoned at the doorstep of a recluse. He was fortunate in that the stranger was a good person and had done right by him. He will reciprocate that kindness now.
The mother of the infant kept her silence, not wanting to jeopardize her nascent hopes. Then one day when a particular ship with its sparse crew had once more docked in the village’s puny port her heart leapt for joy. All this time she had harboured the wish that her young man would keep his promise, return to ask her hand in marriage and make things right by her. The young sailor, as expected, again secretly sought her attentions but upon being told of the child, his unexpected icy demeanour, the subsequent denial and rebuke had irrevocably broken her heart. After that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and told him a blatant lie, robbing him of any possible future claim to the child.
On this day as she’d watched a distant ship’s departure, she reflected about Hans and recalled with tightness in her chest all that the young farmer had endured on her account. In the subsequent months the girl’s conscience persisted in troubling her. Then one evening over dinner she simply broke down and tearfully confessed the truth about the baby’s paternity to her parents. Pleading for forgiveness, she declared that Hans Yohn had nothing to do with it and that he was entirely innocent. When the commotion died down, both parents along with their daughter showed up at Hans’ door to ask humbly and at length for his forgiveness and to retrieve the burdensome bundle they had left in his care.
He listened again without the least expression to the father’s explanations, the ensuing regrets and profound apologies. He rose with only a murmur passing his lips, “Whatever you say.” Then with a solemn expression, fetched the peacefully sleeping child and delivered him into their hands.
As they were leaving, the girl turned her head to look apologetically at him once more and saw a single tear glistening on his cheek as he turned and disappeared back inside his hut.