A young boy makes a startling discovery.
| Wrapping my skinny arms around my knees, I huddled in the dark corner. I leaned my small body—a frame too small for my nine years—against the brick wall, its warmth lulling me to sleep. Dreading to hear the shrill voice that would wake me up and yell me back to work, I closed my eyes and wished myself anywhere else in the world. I was in the blacksmith’s shop. He didn’t know I slept here, but it was better to risk his wrath than sleep in a gutter.
He was working late again. For the last week he had been working all night. I opened my eyes to watch the glow of the metal as he heated it. With precise blows he molded the red metal into a horseshoe. Steam rose from the water bucket as he dunked the shaped shoe. His face was red from the work and heat, but the rest of his body blended into the dark background of the night. The furnace casted a glowing light onto the stack of bricks behind him. In the fire’s reflection of the brick wall, the metal gleamed gold. I imagined it was mound of gold that he was secretly coining into money. Perhaps he lived as a blacksmith by day, but as a rich man by night. Little did I know how close I came to the truth.
I woke up with a jerk. My neck was stiff. I had fallen asleep to the lullaby of the anvil as the red sparks flew up from the blacksmith’s work. As I rubbed my neck, I knew I did not want to go back to work. The mistress at the bowmaker’s shop treated me like a slave.
“Maj!” she called my name from her door step.
I was still concealed in the corner, but I trembled as if she had already found my hiding place.
The sound of squeaking wagon wheels made me draw my head up from where it was buried in my arms. A cart backed up into the shop. The blacksmith, still wearing his leather apron, carefully loaded his night’s work into the back of the wagon. When he was finished he covered it with a tarp.
I saw my chance when he went to check on his mule. Quickly, I scrambled to hide myself underneath the canvas. Had I been smarter I would have chosen the farmer’s cart in which to secrete myself. It was only a few miles down the road when I began to regret my choice. Every time the wagon jolted, a piece of metal hit me in some part of my body. My knees were bruised from my initial landing on the pile. Toward noon it began to get hot. My hair plastered to my face making it itch. The canvas smelled of tar and other unnamed substances that had spilled onto it during its long lifespan.
Suddenly, the wagon jerked to a stop. Peering out of a hole in the tarp, I watched a figure on a black horse ride up. He reminded me of a king with his mien and air of authority.
“Glar,” the rider addressed the blacksmith. “Is it all here?”
“It is, sire,” he answered. “I did just as you commanded me. I only worked at night, and I covered each of the gold horseshoes with iron.”
“There was no trouble at the gate?”
“None, sire,” was the ready answer.
“Glar, my friend, you have proven to be more worthy to serve me than my own lords. But I have beat them at their own game. Perhaps now they will think twice before attempting to steal the king’s gold.” The noble rider nodded his thanks to the blacksmith.
As I watched the black horse disappear into the dust, I considered all that had just been revealed unintentionally to me. Perhaps all that is gold does not glitter, I thought as I fingered one of the horseshoes beneath me.