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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XLVI WHOM THE LADY MIRIAM SENT

The Yoke by Elizabeth Miller

CHAPTER XLVI WHOM THE LADY MIRIAM SENT

Of the ensuing day, Kenkenes had no very distinct memory. Very fair and beautiful, one recollection remained -- a recollection of another figure on the eminence, and by the flash of white upthrown arms, and the blowing of a somber cloud of hair, this time it was a woman. How the morning sun glittered on the shaken timbrel; how the spotless draperies went wild in the wind; how the group of lissome maidens on the sand below wound in and out, in a mazy dance; how the multitude was swept into transports of beatification; how the men became prophets and the women, psalmists; how the vast wilderness reverberated with a great chant of exultation -- all this he remembered as a sublime dream.

Thereafter, Israel moved inland and down the coast some distance, for the sea began to surrender its dead. Of the stir and method of the removal he did not remember, but of the encampment and the reassembling of the tribes he recalled several incidents. He was numb and sleep-heavy beyond words, and while leaning, in a semi-conscious condition, against some household goods, he was discovered by the owner, who was none other than the friendly son of Judah, his assistant in his search for Rachel in Pa-Ramesu. The man's honest joy over Kenkenes' safety was good to look upon. A few words of explanation concerning his very apparent exhaustion were fruitful of some comfort to the young Egyptian. The Hebrew's wife had a motherly heart, and the weary face of the comely youth touched it. Therefore, she brought him bread and wine and made him a place in the shadow of her tent-furnishings where he might sleep till what time the family shelter could be raised.

But Kenkenes did not rest. He fell asleep only to dream of Rachel, and awoke asking himself why he had abandoned the search for her; why he had left Egypt without her; and why he had not gone to Moses at once for aid to further his seeking through Israel.

He arose from his place, sick with all the old suspense and heartache. He would begin now to look for Rachel and cease not till he found her or died of his weariness.

He stepped forth directly in the path of a party of women. He moved aside to give them room, and glancing at the foremost, recognized her immediately as the Lady Miriam. She stopped and looked at him.

|Thou art he who found Jehovah in Egypt?| she asked.

He bowed in assent.

|Thy faith is entire,| she commented. |Also, have I cause to remember thee. Thou didst display a courteous spirit in Tape, a year agone.|

|Thou hast repaid me with the flattery of thy remembrance, Lady Miriam,| he replied.

|Thy speech publishes thee as noble,| she went on calmly. |Thy name?|

|Kenkenes, the son of Mentu, the murket.|

Her lips parted suddenly and her eyes gleamed.

|See yonder tent,| she said, indicating a pavilion of new cloth, reared not far from the quarters of Moses. |Repair thither and await till I send to thee.|

Without pausing for an answer she swept on, her maidens following, damp of brow and bright of eye.

Kenkenes turned toward the tent. A Hebrew at the entrance lifted the side without a word and signed him to enter.

The interior was not yet fully furnished. A rug of Memphian weave covered the sand and a taboret was placed in the center.

Presently the serving-man entered with a laver of sea-water, and an Israelitish robe, fringed and bound at the selvage with blue. With the despatch and adroitness of one long used to personal service, he attended the young Egyptian, and dressed him in the stately garments of his own people. When his service was complete, he took up the bowl and cast-off dress and went forth.

After a time he brought in a couch-like divan, dressed it with fringed linen and strewed it with cushions; next, he suspended a cluster of lamps from the center-pole; set a tiny inlaid table close to the couch, and on the table put a bottle of wine and a beaker; and brought last a heap of fine rugs and coverings which he laid in one corner. The tent was furnished and nobly. The man bowed before Kenkenes, awaiting the Egyptian's further pleasure, but at a sign from the young man, bowed again and retired.

Kenkenes went over to the divan and sat down on it, to wait.

Presently some one entered behind him. He arose and turned. Before him was the most welcome picture his bereaved eyes could have looked upon. His visitor was all in shimmering white and wore no ornament except a collar of golden rings. What need of further adornment when she was mantled and crowned with a glory of golden hair? Except that the face was marble white and the eyes dark and large with quiet sorrow, it was the same divinely beautiful Rachel!

It may have been that he was beyond the recuperative influence of sudden joy, or that the unexpected restoration of his love might have swept away his forces had he been in full strength; but whatever the cause, Kenkenes sank to his knees and forward into the eager arms flung out to receive him. Her cry of great joy seemed to come to him from afar.

|Kenkenes! O my love! Not dead; not dead!|

Then it was he learned that she had despaired, grieving beyond any comfort, for she had counted him with the first-born of Egypt. And even though thoughts came to him but slowly now, he said to himself:

|Praise God, I did not think of it, or I had gone distracted with her trouble.|

How rich woman-love is in solicitude and ministering resource! It made Rachel strong enough to raise him, and having led him back to the divan, gently to lay him down among the cushions. The wine was at her hand, and she filled the beaker, and held it while he drank. Then she kissed him and, hiding her face in his breast, wept soft tears. And though he held her very close and had in his heart a great longing to soothe her, he could not speak.

After a little she spoke.

|I had not dreamed that there was such artifice in Miriam. She told me of a nobleman that had served God and Israel, and was in need of comfort in his tent. But she bridled her tongue and governed her expression so cunningly, that I did not dream the hero was mine -- mine!|

Then on a sudden she disengaged herself from his arms and gaining her feet, cried out with her hands over her blushing face:

|And now, I know why she and Hur -- O I know why they came with me, and brought me to the tent!|

|Nay, now; may I not guess, also?| Kenkenes laughed, though a little puzzled over her evident confusion. |They had a mind to peep and spy upon our love-making. Perchance they are without this instant; come hither and let us not disappoint them.|

She dropped her hands and looked at him with flaming cheeks and smiling eyes. There was more in her look than he could fathom, but he did not puzzle longer when she came back to her place and hid her face away from him.

It is the love of riper years, that makes the lips of lovers silent. But Kenkenes and Rachel were very young and wholly demonstrative, and they had need of many words to supplement the testimony of caresses. They had much to tell and they left no avowal unmade.

But at last Kenkenes' voice wearied and Rachel noted it. So in her pretty authoritative way, she stroked his lashes down and bade him sleep. When she removed her hands and clasped them above his head, his eyes did not open.

As she bent over him, she noted with a great sweep of tenderness how young he was. In all her relations with Kenkenes she had seen him in the manliest roles. She had depended upon him, looked up to him, and had felt secure in his protection. Now she contemplated a face from which content had erased the mature lines that care had drawn. The curve of his lips, the length of the drooping lashes, the roundness of cheek, and the softness of throat, were youthful -- boyish. With this enlightenment her love for him experienced a transfiguration. She seemed to grow older than he; the maternal element leaped to the fore; their positions were instantly reversed. It was hers to care for him!

After a long time, his arms relaxed about her, and she undid them and disposed them in easy position. Lifting the fillet from his brow, she smoothed out the mark it had made and settled the cushions more softly under his head. From the heap of coverings she took the amplest and the softest and spread it over him. Remembering that the wind from the sea blew shrewdly at night, she laid rugs about the edges of the tent which fluttered in the breeze and returned again to his side.

After another space of rapt contemplation of his unconscious face she went forth and drew the entrance together behind her.

The next daybreak was the happiest Israel had known in a hundred years. Egypt, overthrown and humbled, was behind them; God was with them, and Canaan was just ahead -- perhaps only beyond the horizon. Few but would have laughed at the glory of Babylonia, Assyria and the great powers.

For had it not been promised that out of Israel nations should be made, and kings should come?

The march was to be taken up immediately, and in the cool of the morning the host was ready to advance.

Rachel had not permitted herself to be seen until the tent of Miriam was struck. She knew that Kenkenes was without, waiting for her, and with the delightful inconsistency of maidenhood, she dreaded while she longed to meet her beloved again. And when the moment arrived she slipped across the open space to the camel that was to bear her into Canaan, but in the shadow of the faithful creature, Kenkenes overtook her and folded her in his arms.

|A blessing on thee, my sweet! And I am blest in having thee once more.|

|Didst thou sleep well?| she asked.

|Most industriously, since I made up what I lost and overlapped a little. And yet I was abroad at dawn prowling about thy tent lest thou shouldst flee me once again. Rachel -- | his voice sobered and his face grew serious -- |Rachel, wilt thou wed me this day?|

|If it were only 'aye' or 'nay' to be said, I should have said it long ago,| she answered with averted eyes, |but there are many things that thou shouldst know, Kenkenes, before thou demandest the answer from me.|

|Name them, Rachel,| he said submissively; |but let me say this first. Mine eyes are not mystic but most truthfully can I tell this moment, which of us twain will rule over my tent.|

|And thou art ready for the tent and shepherd life of Israel?| she asked gravely, but before he could answer she went on.

|Hear me first. So tender hast thou been of me; so much hast thou sacrificed for my sake that it were unkind to bind thee to me in the life-long sacrifice and life-long hardships that I may know. Thine enemy and mine is dead, and Egypt rid of him. There is much in Egypt to prosper thee; there, thy state is high; there, thou hast opportunity and wealth. Israel can offer thee God and me. Even the faith thou couldst keep in Egypt, so thou wert watchful. And further, thou art the murket's son, and building takes the place of carving for thee, now. But, here, O Kenkenes, thou must lay thy chisel down for ever, for the faith of the multitude, so newly weaned from idolatry, is too feeble to be tried with the sight of images.|

Kenkenes heard her with a passive countenance. She gave him news, indeed -- facts of a troublous nature, but he held his peace and let her proceed.

|And this, yet further. Once in that time when I was a slave and thou my master and loved me not -- |

His dark eyes reproached her.

|Didst love me, then, of a truth? But it matters not -- and yet| -- coming closer to him, |it matters much! In that time ere thou hadst told me so, we talked of Canaan, thou and I. I boasted of it, being but newly filled with it and freshly come from Caleb who taught us. Then, Israel was enslaved and not yet so vastly helped by Jehovah. But alas! I have seen Israel freed, and attended by its God, and by the tokens of its conduct, Israel is far, far from Canaan. I am of Israel and whosoever weds with me, will be of Israel likewise. It may not be that I shall escape my people's sorrows. Shall I bring them upon thy head, also, my Kenkenes?|

After a little he answered, sighing.

|Thou dost not love me, Rachel.|

|Kenkenes!|

|Aye, I have said. Thou wouldst send me away from thee, back into Egypt.|

|O, seest thou not? I would have thee know thy heart; I would not have thee choose blindly; I do but sacrifice myself,| she cried, panic-stricken.

|And yet, thou wouldst deny me that same delight of sacrifice. Can I not surrender for thee as well?|

She drooped her head and did not answer.

|Ah! thou speakest of the benefits of Egypt,| he continued. |What were Egypt without thee, save a great darkness haunted and vacant? Besides, there is no Egypt beyond this sea. She hath risen and crossed with Israel -- all her beauty and her glory and her beneficence. For thou art Egypt and shalt be to me all that I loved in Egypt.|

He took her hands.

|Why may I not as justly doubt thy knowledge of thy heart?| he asked softly.

Seeing that she surrendered, he persisted no further in his protest.

|When wilt thou wed me, my love?|

She drew back from him a little, though she willingly left her hands where they were, and Kenkenes, noting the flush on her cheeks, the pretty gravity of her brow, and the well-known air she assumed when she discoursed, smiled and said fondly to himself:

|By the signs, I am to be taught something more.|

|Thou knowest, my Kenkenes,| she began, |the Hebrews are married simply. There is feasting and dancing and the bride is taken to the house of her father-in-law. Thereafter there is still much feasting, but the wedding ceremony is done at the home-bringing of the bride.|

|I hear,| said Kenkenes when she paused.

|I am without kindred; thou art here without house. There can be no wedding feast for us, nor dancing nor singing, for Israel is on the march.|

|Of a truth,| Kenkenes assented.

|So there is only the essential portion of the ceremony left to us -- the home-bringing of the bride.|

|It is enough,| said Kenkenes.

|Hur and Miriam brought me to thy tent last night.|

With his face lighting, Kenkenes drew her to him and put his arm about her.

|So if thou wilt, we shall say -- that -- from -- that moment -- |

Her voice grew lower, her words more unready and failed altogether.

|From that moment,| he said eagerly, reassuring her. |From that moment -- |

|From that moment, I have been thy wife!|

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