General Fiction posted July 17, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
A wise man who understood his sheep

He was a shepherd

by Cass Carlton

His name was Isaac. He was my twice times great grandfather.
He had a reputation for understanding the weather and was never known to be wrong.
If Isaac said it was going to rain it rained. If he predicted snow, the local people waited with certainty for the first flakes to fall.
His Grace the Duke of Norwich heard of the remarkable accuracy of Isaac's weather predictions and decided to employ him.
He sent a note informing him to be at the Fox and Goose Inn at 10am sharp.
Isaac glanced at it, put it in his pocket and forgot all about it.
When the Duke arrived in his coach, Isaac was five paddocks away watching a small cluster of orphaned lambs playing in the fitful sunshine.
Isaac had sensed the weather was about to change and wanted to make sure they got as much sun as they could. The church bell chimed for noon when Isaac finally rounded up his little charges and settled them in a fold under a roof made of boughs and branches.
Then, he remembered. The note. The Duke. Oh dear, What would Alice say? Alice was Isaac's wife.
She was an invalid, having been struck down with Rheumatoid Arthritis as a young girl of thirteen and confined to a wheelchair ever since.
It didn't stop her from keeping their small cottage spotlessly clean, their seven children neat and tidy and the cupboard holding jams and preserves filled to overflowing.

Alice had encouraged Isaac to keep the appointment with the Duke and he had promised to be there. Now it was two hours later. The bird would have flown.
"Alice, oh Alice, I'm sorry my love. 'Twasn't for lack of care or sichlike. Just the orphans."
He strode into the front yard of the Fox and Goose and nearly bumped into the imposing coach belonging to his Grace the Duke of Norwich.
Still here??? From within came the sounds of music and voices and Isaac felt a sense of hope as he washed his hands at the pump.
As he entered the front door, the scent of roasted meat met him and he recalled he hadn't eaten since a crust of bread with a morsel of cheese had passed his lips some time before sunrise that morning.
There was a sudden silence as Isaac came through the door to the main dining room.
The Duke of Norwich sat at the head of the table, elegant in a plum velvet coat, and as handsome as his portraits showed.
The men sitting with him were shepherds. All of them close friends of Isaac's.
All of them somewhat subdued by the Duke's presence and his largesse with "drinks for everyone".
The innkeeper brought Isaac a mug of foaming ale, gesturing to the Duke as he did so. Isaac lifted his tankard in salute to his Grace and sank half of it down his dry, thirsty throat.
"Ah! that be a drink most welcome Your Grace. Thank 'ee right kindly." He smacked his lips appreciatively and finished the tankard off.
"Your Grace 'tis surprised I am to find ye here still.I was over in John Coleby's paddocks with a clutch of orphaned lambs and I ---" The Duke held up a beringed hand and smiled up at Isaac.
"You don't need to explain anything to me. Your work is governed by the seasons. These men here have
explained how you've been instrumental in preserving their flocks with your advice on the weather. Far be it for me to dictate to you where you should be at any given time." He leaned across and shook Isaac's hand warmly.
"However," he went on, "I do have a proposition to lay before you. If you've a mind to hear me out of course."

Just then Mine Host interrupted the meeting with an invitation to partake of lunch.
As they were about to eat the Duke arose from his seat and said "Gentlemen, we'll say Grace if you please."
Every head was bared, every man stood while the Duke intoned a Latin Grace and then sat down again.
Mine Host's wife was overcome with tears at the sight of the tall, handsome Duke of Norwich with his head bowed in prayer and said she'd love him forever for it.

The proposition the Duke had for Isaac involved a lucrative change of status.
He was offered the position of head shepherd with a substantial increase in wages.
With this position came also a roomy cottage. All firewood and rainwater free, with milk, cream and butter from the Duke's own dairy.
One less task for Alice.
They moved in a couple of weeks later, delighting in the wide windows and the extra bedrooms.
Susannah the youngest daughter, was thrilled to have a bed all to herself at last.

An Ancestor Story contest entry

This is about Isaac Scott my great grandfather's father. Isaac was the head shepherd for one of the Dukes of England. I'm not sure which Duke it was. For the sake of the story, I've created a dukedom in Norwich, but there may not be one at all. This story was related to me by a third cousin who has since passed away. I had remarked to her how Robert Scott ( Isaac's youngest son) had so little to live on at first
when he came out to Australia from England.He fathered twelve children (living) and the second born was Ruth my grandmother.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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