But Samuel never complained. He loved his master. Master Joseph had a gentle manner and soft voice. Samuel heard other masters speak roughly to their animals, beating them with sticks and kicking them when they would not obey, but never his master.
One hot and dusty day, while Samuel was hauling a load of timber with his master from outside the city walls, he noticed a change in his master’s demeanor. He was always quiet, for certain, but today he seemed distracted and troubled. They stopped in the scraggly shade of an olive tree, and his master kindly let Samuel drink from a skein of water and rest for a moment.
Master Joseph sat on a rock and looked off in the distance, scratching his chin and combing the dark hair growing on his face.
Softly he uttered in a choked up voice, “Oh, my sweet Mary, what shall we do?” Then he lowered his head into his hands and began to weep.
Samuel was very concerned. He had never seen his master in such a state. He moved closer to him, nudging his shoulder with his soft brown nose, and snorted a few times to show his concern.
He briefly touched Samuel on the white spot over his nose, a gesture which Samuel loved, then pulled himself up.
“Come, Samuel,” his master said. “Let us return home.”
Samuel worried over his master all that evening. He consulted with the sheep over what could be troubling their master so, but they could only speak of their recently shorn coats, complaining loudly over losing what was essentially a piece of them. He approached the goats with his concern, but they could not be torn away from their dinner, and kept nudging each other out of the way for better access to the generous portion of grain his master had left for them. He considered asking the chickens of their thoughts, but changed his mind, as they never gave Samuel more than a testy cluck, sometimes even pecking at his ankles, until he would kick at them gently with his hoof, sending them squawking and scurrying around the stable.
The next morning was the start to an even more curious day. His master came to the stable earlier than usual, laying grain and straw in the feeding manger in a rushed manner, tripping over the chickens and laughing all the while.
Master Joseph paused for a moment by Samuel’s side and stroked his nose.
“This day brings good news, my friend,” he spoke softly next to Samuel’s long ear. “I have seen a messenger from God. You will meet your new lady soon, and she will bring with her a Master of all.” He then gave a final pat on Samuel’s neck and left the stable.
Samuel did not know what he was speaking of. What new master was he referring to? He did not want any other master than Master Joseph, whom he loved.
Samuel met his new lady later that day. She was small and young, with soft eyes and an equally soft voice. Samuel loved her instantly.
“You and I shall be fast friends,” she murmured in his ear, as she stroked his neck and his nose. Samuel snorted in happy agreement.
Samuel worked very hard for Master Joseph over the next several months. They made more trips outside the city walls for timber, and his master spent a lot of time in his shop next to the stable. Master Joseph worked long days with the wood that Samuel would carry in for him, building furniture and tools. Samuel had never seen him work so much. He stayed late every evening until the new lady would come carrying a jug of water in her hands.
“Come and rest, Joseph,” the new lady would say. “It is not good to work as hard as you do. You must take care of yourself.”
“But I must be able to care for you and the child,” Master Joseph would say.
The new lady would touch her growing belly and smile. “We shall be fine,” she would say. “The Lord will provide. Now come and eat with us. Your family will not wait long for you.”
Samuel watched as, over the months, his new lady’s belly grew and grew, and she began to move slower and slower. Sometimes she would take him to fetch water with her, as it was becoming more difficult for her to manage the task on her own. As they walked, she would hum softly to herself and rub small circles over her tummy. Samuel loved to hear her sing, so he would snort his approval, causing her to laugh and pat him on the white spot over his nose, just as Master Joseph did.
One day Master Joseph came to the stable with his arms full of burlap sacks and bundles. After laying a woolen blanket over Samuel, he began to drape the bundles across his back. They were going on a journey.