Samantha here, wishing you the best in the year ahead. Here in Idaho, we've been enjoying snowy landscapes under blue skies, picture perfect days of reading before the fire. Digging into my German heritage, I've been learning about traditional celebrations of the new year. Das Bleigießen, the pouring of the lead to foretell the future, fascinated me and so our family gave it a try with candle wax replacing the lead. Interpreting the resulting shapes gave the inspiration for the following story.
The Whitcomb Springs Series was created this year as a collaborative author venture. As one of those authors I've enjoyed the opportunity to create a variety of characters living within a fictional town in southern Montana. Because these are short works of fiction, I've had readers request more information about the characters' lives. Healing Fire introduced Dominick Andris, a gentle man of great strength and compassion. The following short story is an epilogue to the blacksmith's story. It's my new year's gift to you.
Mesmerized, Matthew watched as the pebble of lead began to melt in the spoon Dominik held above the candle flame. The older man shifted the spoon over the bowl of cold water and slowly poured the liquid lead into it.
Dominik whispered, “Make a wish and watch how quickly it forms a shape.”
Peering into the bowl, the boy could only make out an unidentifiable lump settled at the bottom. He frowned and looked back at the blacksmith who was grinning at him.
“Well, it may take a little more imagination for you to see it.” Dominik squeezed his thick fingers into the bowl and pulled out the hardened lead. He placed it on his open palm where it remained a strangely contorted piece of metal.
“Hmm.” Dominik brought a hand to his face and stroked his beard. “What do you suppose the lead is telling us?” He glanced at Matthew. “I have heard of a practice of reading tea leaves. It is much like that, I think.”
Watching the man’s serious expression, Matthew reassessed his skepticism. The blacksmith was not given to pranks. Das Bleigießen is what he’d called it. He’d told him it was a New Year’s tradition in his homeland, a way to predict the future. Matthew leaned in. Maybe it could be something. Those could be wings.
“I think it is an angel, ja?” Dominik peered up at Matthew.
“Or maybe a bee.” Matthew poked a finger at the lead, turning it over. “It’s too fat for an angel.”
The man’s brow lowered. His mustache quivered as he pulled in a corner of his lower lip. “No, I think it is an angel.”
Matthew squinted at the winged creature before stepping back. “So, what does it mean?”
Dominik handed the lead to Matthew, grinning as he pronounced, “It is best thing. It means good will to come to you. You should carry it with you.”
“But you poured it. Isn’t it your fortune, then?”
The big man shrugged. “I was thinking of you. It is yours. If you don’t like it, we can try again. People do that.” He grinned and winked.
“No, this is good.” With one more quick look, Matthew slipped the misshaped angel into his pocket. His stomach rumbled as he did, reminding him of the dinner his mama had waiting at home.
Dominik pulled off his apron and called over his shoulder, “Let’s have some hot coffee before we make the cold trip back to your house through the snow. Come! Take off your apron and come upstairs to the warm kitchen.”
Matthew’s feet rested solidly on the floor beneath Dominik’s small kitchen table, a fact that pleased him, for eight months ago when he was only nine, they could not. Now that he was ten, well, his world had changed, and most of it for the better. He took a sip from the steaming mug of coffee, trying not to grimace at the bitterness that scalded his tongue.
“You are sure you would not like some sugar or cream, Matthew?” Dominik, looking at him with one eyebrow arched, held out the crock of sugar. “It’s the New Year. We can indulge ourselves on such a day, ja?”
Clutching the mug in two hands as he’d seen Dominik do so often, Matthew took another sip before answering. “No thank you, this is fine as it is, strong like I like it.”
Dominik shrugged his shoulders and scooped a spoonful of sugar into his own mug. He took a long draft before stepping back to lean against the doorframe. “We made good work this morning, like a team. You were a great help to me. Before next summer, if you keep growing as you have this year, I think you can begin work at the forge. You would like that, ja?”
Coffee splashed onto the table as Matthew sat down his mug. “Yes!” More than anything, he wanted to wield the hammer, shaping molten iron, being in every way like his friend, the town blacksmith. Far better than mending fences or mucking corrals at home for his mother, he wanted to spend his days here in the blacksmith's company.
The big man smiled at him and gave a satisfied grunt of approval. “Well, if we are now warmed on the inside, we can join your mother for that fine New Year’s dinner she promised to make for us. I think we’ve worked up the appetite for it after this morning’s work.”
Matthew’s mouth watered as he recalled the aroma of roasting pork that had greeted him this morning before heading out to start his barn chores. By now, he imagined the sweet pastries were filling her kitchen with buttery aromas. He grinned at Dominik. “We didn’t celebrate like this last year.” He watched Dominik’s face as he added, “I think she wants to impress you.”
Color rose to the cheeks of the man and his eyes widened. He cleared his throat and strode to the sink. For a moment he remained there, his back to Matthew as he stared out the window. It was a view that took in the field, stretching north of town all the way to the edge of the widow’s farm, Matthew’s farm.
“You have grown up in ways beyond the length of your legs and the reach of your arms, I think.” Dominik turned to meet Matthew’s gaze.
Matthew shrugged, another gesture Dominik often employed rather than give a direct answer. The boy studied the man who had stepped into the empty space of his childhood, taking the role of mentor when he most needed one. As much as he had come to respect the man, he had also come to love him, more even than the father who had abandoned him.
One of Dominik’s greatest traits was his thoughtful dependability. It was also the very source of agitation for the impatient youth. More specifically, it was the slow, thoughtful nature of the man that irritated Matthew. Dominik had been a part of their lives for nearly a year now and he had yet to ask Matthew’s mother to marry.
Matthew had dropped hints at every opportunity, especially as Christmas had approached. He had thought the man might be waiting for a special occasion to ask her, but Christmas had come and gone and Dominik disappointed Matthew again. He couldn’t imagine what Dominik was waiting to happen, unless he was hoping his mother would propose to him first.
The boy took another long drink of coffee, hoping his own courage would be fortified by the strength of the grounds. “Mr. Andris . . .” Matthew rose to his feet and swallowed hard. Words he’d rehearsed wouldn’t land on his tongue. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Mr. Andris, when are you going to ask Mama to marry you?”
Dominik’s mouth fell open, reminding Matthew of a fish he’d caught this summer. He hadn’t liked it then, and he didn’t like it now. He shoved his hands into his pockets, fingering the lead, remembering the fortune it claimed. He hoped there might be some truth in it.
Why couldn’t Mr. Andris see how much his mother cared for him? The man was so wise in every other way. Why not in love? If he, as a boy of ten, could see it, Mr. Andris should too.
The weight of the blacksmith’s hand fell on Matthew’s shoulder. “I care very much for your mother but I’m older and not as educated as she is. I've not much to offer such a lady as your mother.”
Matthew burst out before Dominik could continue. “She loves you! Can’t you see it? I’ve never seen her as happy as she’s been since we met you last spring.”
The man sat heavily in the chair, his eyes glistening. “If I could believe that . . .”
“But you can!” The rough lead pressed against his fingers suddenly sharpening his thoughts. He pulled out his hand and opened his palm. “This is your fortune, Mr. Andris. You poured it. You said it means that good will come to you. Couldn’t my mama be that good that will come to you?”
For a long moment, Matthew feared he’d gone too far, said too much. He held his breath waiting for the man to answer.
Dominik’s mustache twitched at the corners, a smile pulling his lips upward. “You are a clever boy, Matthew, a good boy with a big heart.”
Matthew pulled his eyes from Dominik’s and focused on the lead in his hand, the fat body, the wings extended. It still looked like a bee and maybe that was why the fortune wasn’t good. “It isn’t an angel, is it?”
Looking up, Matthew saw the man’s mouth open wider, sliding from a grin to a smile. “No, my son. I think that you were right the first time. It is most definitely a bee.”
Matthew frowned at Dominik. Why did that make the man so happy?
Dominik lifted the leaden bee with two fingers and placed it on his own palm. Still smiling broadly, he said, “It was my fortune, I think.”
“But what does a bee mean?”
The big man let out a laugh in that rich baritone voice that Matthew had come to love so much, the laugh that rumbled up from his chest. “In my country. . . in my country the biene, the bee is a symbol for the prospect of marriage.”
Moments passed as Matthew stared at the bee in the blacksmith’s hand, now bouncing with the laughter of the man who held his fortune there.
As Matthew saw the meaning, the fortune to be, the hope fulfilled for all of them, the boy lost all pretense of his manly ten years and fell into the blacksmith’s open arms, feeling the man’s laughter vibrate against his own small chest.
It wasn’t just Dominik’s fortune foretold in a drop of lead. It was a fortune for all of them, the family for which he’d wished, the father he’d come to love.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Dominik's future. If you'd like to read more about Nora, Dominik and Matthew, follow the link to the Whitcomb Springs short story, Healing Fire. Available now on Amazon.
Genre: Historical Romance/western
Heat Level: 1
Language Level: 1
Violence Level: 1
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