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The Light of Truth

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Elizabeth, a Jewish woman's niece's baby son is dying. On a mission to obtain help for him, she she discovers the Apostle John is preaching. Impulsively, she decides to hear him To be a Christian in 1st century Ephesus, under Roman rule, is dangerous. The arena awaits, a background threat… one that candidates for baptism are reminded of. The decision to make the commitment could cost them their lives. All it takes is the refusal to burn a pinch of incense and declare that Emperor Domitian is lord and god, and Roman ire declares they are subversive, rebels. Jews are exempt from this edict, but not the followers of the Way. Sometimes Jews will denounce these Christians. They have, after all, turned from the traditions of the fathers, to follow the sect established by an untrained country preacher. Elizabeth, wife of Meshua and daughter-in-law of ‘Old Simon’ is a woman living in the time of the Apostle John. A member of a traditional Jewish family, she knows that she would be disowned by her family for showing any interest in his teachings. She was warned in the past by her father-in-law. Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles with family, the desperate illness of the baby son of her niece and nephew calls for dramatic action. On a mission to obtain medicine for him, her path crosses with that of the Apostle John. In desperation, she approaches him.

Other / Drama
Susan Preston
Age Rating:


Wedding of Aminta and Chanan - January 92 AD – Village outside Ephesus

Trumpeting over the clear January night air, a shofar sounded in the distance and with it the faint sound of music and rejoicing. The bridegroom’s procession was leaving his family farm on the outskirts of Ephesus.

The night was crisp, and the stars twinkling overhead seemed so close that any of the young men could have reached up and touched them. The moon, a silver orb floating in the sky, caused long shadows, distorting the surroundings they all knew so well in daylight. Laughing, dancing to the sounds of the accompanying flutes and timbrels, the younger members of the groom’s escort cavorted around the more earnest friend of the groom, who was thinking about his responsibilities this week. Chanan, the bridegroom, was pondering this marriage, brought about by the deaths of his two older brothers. One had died in Rome, murdered by a group of bandits. There was some mystery about his death, but no one spoke of it. His other brother had been gored by an ox on the family farm. No longer did they have any oxen.

As the only surviving male member of his family, heirs were Chanan’s responsibility. Although he was only twenty years old, younger than men usually married in their Jewish community, his father had insisted that he do his duty.

“It is your responsibility to marry and provide heirs,” had been Levi ben Nathan’s stern words.

His mother had tried to soften the demand, “Aminta is a good girl. She is only thirteen, but suitable for marriage.”

He knew what that meant; she had shown signs of womanhood. What he didn’t know was if he was fit for the responsibility. He much preferred walking the hillsides with his flock of goats. Aminta was the stepdaughter of his aunt, but he had only met her at the betrothal ceremony. She was lovely, which made him feel all the more inadequate. His brother, Joash, had been handsome, confident and his father’s capable assistant, helping run the large grain farm.

Something in his father had changed when Joash died. The entire household had felt the loss, but Levi ben Nathan had withdrawn inside himself and worked even harder on his farm. The pressure for more heirs led to arguments between father and remaining son, until Chanan submitted to his father’s will, as the rabbi had counseled. Now he was on his way to claim his bride; someone, he thought, who should have a bridegroom eager to marry her.

All these thoughts, as well as some apprehension about the impending night, were on his mind as he walked with his group of groomsmen who were celebrating, unaware of Chanan’s ponderings.

They danced, while singing about the bridegroom coming to claim his bride and bring her to the home he had made ready for her, according to custom.

“Smile and look happy,” his ‘friend of the bridegroom’ urged. “You are going to claim an attractive young bride, not...” David realized what he was about to say, and the words, ‘a funeral’ died unspoken on his lips. “I am sorry, Chanan. So sorry.”

“I wish Joash had not died.” Chanan said softly, “But he did, and now I am going to collect a bride,” his thought continued unsaid… ‘A bride I am not ready to take.’ He had not even felt the inclination to enquire about the young woman, “David, I would rather be on the hillside, guarding my goats.”

Glancing at his friend, David said, “I know you were rather pushed into this, but you would have had to marry eventually, and Aminta is a lovely young woman.”

“You know her better than I do.”

“Which is my role as the friend of the bridegroom.” He listed off his duties. “Make sure she is pure. See the family and ensure the preparations are made correctly. Warn the family that you will come to claim her in the next few days so the attendants can be summoned, and any other arrangements made.”

Barely absorbing what his friend said, Chanan looked down at himself, and mumbled, “I feel a fool in this wedding finery.”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself and think of your bride for a moment. I am sure you do not know what she will be going through. Your only sister is not yet married, not even betrothed. My friend, you can have no understanding of what will be happening in the bride’s home. Consider for a moment. Do you think she might be nervous? As you said, she only met you that one time, and she is very young. You talk about feeling a fool in your wedding finery, I know something of the disarray all the preparations that are made by the bride and her family cause. Both my sisters are married.” He rolled his eyes.

Chanan did not see the expression, but heard his friend’s tone.

Becoming aware the other young men were beginning to reflect his somber mood, Chanan said with forced brightness, “You are correct David, thank you.” Straightening his back, Chanan smiled at his friend and strode out, encouraging his young men to dance and sing the traditional songs.

Eli, a young servant posted on the road within hearing distance of the groom’s farm, was near to dozing on this third night of waiting. When he heard the sound of the shofar, he burst awake, jumped up and raced off to the bride’s family home. Breathless, he rushed in through the garden gate and gasped out the news that the call had been heard, stirring the family and their servants into action.

Suddenly the long-made plans arranged by Sara, the bride’s mother, went efficiently into action. Servants were roused and sent on their various predetermined tasks. The house, which had been settling down for the night, awoke to life and activity, with everyone’s excitement mounting.

Tucking a stray strand of graying hair behind her ear, Sara rushed eagerly to her daughter’s bedchamber followed by the servants carrying jugs of perfumed water for Aminta to wash. “The shofar has been heard, your bridegroom comes. Time to make ready,” Sara said eagerly.

“Thank you, Aima,” Aminta whispered nervously as she thought about her life in this home, the life she was leaving behind. Aima, the only woman she had known as mother, and Abba, her adored father. All her life she had looked to them for protection and instruction. Now she was on the brink of a new life, a life as a wife and daughter-in-law. In spite of all the training she had received in running a home, suddenly she felt very young and unprepared for what lay ahead.

“Now don’t sit dreaming,” fussed her mother, urging Aminta to the washstand. “Hurry yourself child, this is what all our months of preparations have been about.”

“I know Aima; I will be ready in time.”

Assured, Sara continued, “I need to go and check that everything is being done properly and make sure the servants do not overlook anything.” She bustled over to the window and looking out, saw that her husband was supervising the placing of lamps in the garden where their daughter would sit and wait for her groom. Sara watched as a couple of servants carried out the chair Aminta would sit in, and the girls hired to decorate it followed and started their task.

Closing the window and fastening the shutter, Sara sighed. For the past three days, since the friend of the groom had sent word that all was ready, the preparations had dominated all else. Aminta had her ritual bath in the mikveh prior to her marriage. Her parents’ usually ordered home had been thrown into feverish activity, and extra servants had been hired. The bride’s attendants had come eagerly and had shared chambers in Sara and Micah’s home, as they all waited for the groom to come to claim his betrothed.

Sara ordered the new young servant girl, “Emet, go and assemble the attendants and help them put on their wedding robes.”

Addressing the middle-aged, Greek servant who had been with Aminta since birth, Sara said, “Rhea. I will leave you and Tirzah to attend to Aminta.” Beckoning the other servant girl to follow her, she left her daughter under Rhea’s capable supervision.

Pouring the perfumed water into the washbowl Rhea went to help Tirzah prepare the many layers of the luxurious wedding clothing, leaving the apprehensive Aminta to wash.

“I’m ready,” Aminta called when she had dried herself on the soft towel and pulled on her under shift.

While the servants were preparing her and bringing her bride clothes, Aminta thought of the many hours over the months of her betrothal that she had woven, sewn and embroidered these garments. Then, this wedding had seemed far away. Now it was here, and while she automatically obeyed the servants’ prodding as they dressed her, her mind wandered to her bridegroom. What did she know of him? Not much at all. Her father had told her it was a good match. Chanan, son of Levi ben Nathan was young, as her father had assured her. The marriage would help her father’s business as a grain wholesaler as well as ensure her father-in-law, Levi, always had a good market for his grain. It would benefit both families. Levi ben Nathan’s farm was large; the home not far from the village. These things she had been told. But what about his son, her bridegroom? She dimly remembered being told that he was responsible for the herd of goats his father also owned. The milk was sold; the skins were sold, but did Chanan go with the herd, taking them to pasture? If so, would he be rough like a shepherd, like the husband of one of her friends?

“Lift your arms,” ordered Rhea, interrupting her thoughts. As Aminta obediently raised her arms, Rhea pulled the warm woolen outer robe over Aminta’s head then fastened the richly embroidered vest over it. “Now stand up straight and tall so we can smooth your robe down and make sure it hangs correctly.” Tirzah helped the older servant smooth, twitch, and adjust the lovely woolen garment, and then satisfied, Rhea instructed, “Now sit, child, so Tirzah can dress your hair.”

As Tirzah picked up the garland for her young mistress’s hair, Aminta turned to Rhea. “You have been my servant all my life; I will miss you, miss all of you,” she added, turning to Tirzah as a tear threatened to spill out of her dark brown eyes.

“Now child, no tears on your wedding robes,” scolded Rhea, picking up a scrap of cloth and passing it to her so she could wipe her eyes. “Besides, has your mother not told you? I am to go with you and remain your servant for as long as it takes you to settle in your new home.”

“No, she has not told me. And I will be grateful to have one familiar face, but Rhea, I don’t know anything about him. We only met at the betrothal when I drank from his cup and bound myself to be his wife.” Looking desperately at her devoted servant she declared, “But I don’t know how to be a wife!”

Since, legally, Aminta was already considered a wife; Rhea knew the girl meant a wife in the full sense of the word. Wishing her charge had voiced all this when her mother had been present, Rhea soothed, “Hush, child, you are letting nerves talk. He will love you, and you will have a good life with many sons and a lovely home.”

Aminta stared at her trusted servant for a long moment before easing the concerned woman’s alarm with her reply, “You’re right Rhea. It is nerves, and I am glad you are coming with me.” Looking down at her wedding robes, a small smile curved her lips, “I was happy when my father arranged such a good match for me, and pleased that he is young, not old. He is not handsome but he is good-looking, and he seemed kind at our betrothal.”

Rhea sighed, her wrinkled face showing her relief.

Conscious of the passing time, Tirzah was also relieved. She moved forward with an encouraging smile, “Come, let me dress your hair for your bridegroom.”

Aminta sat obediently while the young maid smoothed her hair down her back like a thick, dark curtain. This would be the last time Aminta would wear her hair loose in public.

Carefully, Tirzah settled the garland firmly on Aminta’s head so it would support the bridal veil on the long walk to her new home.

“You look beautiful, child, beautiful,” breathed Rhea softly.

“Thank you,” Aminta replied, a tense sigh betraying her uneasiness.

“Tirzah, go and see if the mistress wants you to help the attendants to dress. I will help Aminta with her bracelets and earrings, and then bring her down.”

Tirzah almost reverently picked up the richly embroidered veil and passed it to Rhea before leaving the room.

“You did beautiful work on this,” Rhea said before setting it down carefully, and saying “Your mother will veil you in the courtyard when you are seated.” She then fetched the small casket containing Aminta’s jewelry and helped her choose what she would wear.

Sara opened the dressing chamber door to a scene of disorder. Her daughter’s attendants had quickly discarded the clothing they had worn while waiting for the call and were fidgeting impatiently while they waited for help to put on their wedding robes. Ruth, the oldest attendant and friend of the bride, had roused the youngest girl, Aminta’s twelve-year-old cousin Rachel, who had been dozing. Kyla, the sister of the groom, although a little older than Aminta, was over-excited and making little progress. The others, being somewhat older, were slightly more organized than the young ones.

The first thing Sara noticed was that young Emet was a little overwhelmed, dashing between one and the other without achieving much. “Talia,” she said addressing the maid she had brought with her, “help young Emet,” then she clapped her hands for attention and started giving instructions. In a few moments order reigned with the girls helping each other and the servants passing them what they needed. Soon the attendants were organized.

When Tirzah arrived and murmured that Aminta was almost ready, Sara set her to fix the beaded and embroidered circlets into the attendants’ hair, then she checked their appearance carefully.

Satisfied that all was under control and her daughter’s attendants, including her niece, were ready, Sara rushed off, calling, “Come with me, Tirzah, and help me arrange my hair.

Fortunately she and her husband had been dressed these last three evenings ‘in case’, so she had been able to check all the other arrangements without concern for their own clothing. Breathing a sigh of relief she raised her eyes heavenward and thanked the blessed God that He had seen fit to bestow Micah with only one daughter. Followed closely by Tirzah, she entered her chamber where the girl quickly and efficiently arranged her mistress’ hair, and fixed the veil she wore outdoors, in the tradition of married women.

As the girls waited for the bride, nervous laughter erupted from the younger pair as they looked at each other. They had waited for this moment, longing for it to come, and now it was here they were anxious. Would they be able to do their parts as taught?

“How will they keep those headpieces in place all the way to the farm?” wondered young Emet, addressing Talia in an undertone.

Rachel was moving around the room, practicing walking in the clothes and headpiece, apprehensive, but thrilled with her finery.

“Tirzah bound them through their hair,” Talia whispered back. Then noticing Rachel, she nodded in her direction and said with a smile, “Besides if the youngest one can do it, so will the others.”

“Why pick this time of year to have a wedding?” was Emet’s next question as she shivered in her thin robe.

“It’s probably to fit with the planting on the farm...” Rachel murmured as she passed by, having heard a discussion at home on the same subject.

Feeling guilty and embarrassed that one of the guests had overheard, Talia drew Emet aside, “Keep your questions to yourself.” Then looking at the young maid, she asked, “Besides, why are you wearing such a thin robe? I know our mistress provides us with suitable clothing for all seasons. You would have been given a warm robe when the mistress hired you a few months ago.

Ashamed, the young lass admitted, “I was sleeping when the call came. I didn’t stop to put my working robe on.”

“Well, you cannot go to fetch it now. Just hope the mistress doesn’t notice.”

Kyla, the bridegroom’s sister, moved over to the window, opened the shutter, and peered out. “It’s a clear, cold night out there,” she remarked gloomily, closing the shutter quietly. “It is going to be a chilly walk to the farm.”

“A long, cold walk,” agreed another.

“It will be a long walk,” grumbled the weary Lila.

The grumbling was infectious, and soon half of the girls were mumbling their objections.

“Hush your complaining. You should have thought about it before you agreed to be Aminta’s attendants,” scolded Ruth.

“Just the same, it’s true. It will be a long, chilly walk,” insisted young Kyla.

The door opened and Sara, with her hair decently covered, entered accompanied by Tirzah and a couple of the temporary servants. “Girls, girls!” she called to draw their attention.

“Here, a gift for each of you,” she gestured to the servants carrying fine woolen cloaks for each of the attendants. “Put these on and be ready to go out with Aminta.”

Complaints forgotten, they gasped in surprise and delight, and all accepted the cloaks joyfully. They stroked the soft, warm wool, before wrapping the garments around themselves, accepting the help of the servants to twitch the folds, so they hung neatly.

“It’s a cold clear night but blessed be God, this is not one of the rainy nights this month,” added Tirzah.

“Come, Tirzah, there is one last matter to check,” Sara remembered. “We need to make sure that Aminta’s chair is suitably decorated,” and both of them hurried off.

Warmly robed, the complaining girls had no more grumbles about the cold walk, much to the relief of the others.

Ruth had moved to the open doorway to watch for Aminta. Seeing her friend approach, escorted by her maid, she alerted the others. ‘Here she comes.” Smoothly, they moved out of the chamber into the passage, assembling behind Ruth and moving to stand with the bride.

“You look beautiful,” Ruth whispered to her friend as she reached out to take her hand and give it an encouraging squeeze.

“It’s the clothes, not me,” Aminta confided tautly, squeezing Ruth’s hand back, grateful for the reassurance.

Aminta’s father, Micah, looked into the passage where the girls were waiting. “Fetch your lamps!” he told the attendants, and went back outside.

The girls did as they were urged, then hurried back to wait in their positions.

Nodding her thanks to Rhea, who had stepped aside, Aminta took her place at the head of the group. As calmly as she could, she walked with them to wait in the courtyard as Sara had instructed them.

Sara moved forward to lead her daughter to the decorated chair. Glancing at young Rachel she saw the girl rub her eyes, and wondered if she had been foolish in allowing her daughter to give in to Rachel’s entreaties to be one of her attendants? Catching Ruth’s eye, she sent an unspoken message to her to watch over the young girl.

“I’ll look after her,” Ruth mouthed in return.

Rhea moved forward and handed Sara her daughter’s veil to fix in place, the last service she would do for her as an unmarried woman.

“Wait,” said the strong, gentle voice of Aminta’s father, “I want a glimpse of my beautiful daughter before she becomes a wife.”

“Abba,” Aminta whispered, searching his face, seeking reassurance, “will I do?”

“Will you do? You are beautiful child!” exclaimed Micah. Hearing the sound of the procession coming closer, he kissed his daughter. Stepping aside he nodded to his wife to come and fix Aminta’s veil, then he slipped off to take his place ready to receive the bridegroom.

Sara gently shook out the veil her daughter had made, and the magnificence of Aminta’s embroidery was displayed. All those nearby saw it and smiled in admiration. Leaning over to fix the veil in place, she smiled down at her daughter. “I am proud of you, my child,” she said in a low voice.

Aminta’s heart was beating like a drum now the time drew near. She wondered what Chanan would think of her when he removed her veil in the bridal chamber. Apprehension welled up as she considered what would happen after that. Momentarily unnerved, she couldn’t suppress a shudder.

Her mother touched her arm gently. “Try to be calm, my child. All brides feel nervous,” she said quietly. Then with a rare touch of humor, she added, “None of them have ever died of their nerves, or of what will happen tonight.”

Blushing under her veil, as Sara slipped away to take her place, Aminta concentrated on breathing slowly and deeply while straining her ears to hear the bridegroom's procession. They were close now. She sat as quietly as she could, stilling her nerves and waiting.

As the attendants lit their lamps, Ruth whispered, “Remember what you were told Rachel, be careful with your lamp, we don’t want our garments set alight.”

“I will be careful, Ruth,” Rachel whispered, “I’m awake now.” Holding her lamp carefully, she looked around the waiting group. Like her, they all stood waiting, straining to hear the sounds from beyond the courtyard gate and gauge the approach of the bridegroom’s procession. She could sense the growing excitement.

“Girls, be ready to light the path,” came the instruction.

Everyone’s concentration increased when they heard the traditional call, “Behold the bridegroom comes, go out and meet him”. With the others, Rachel ran out to light the path from her uncle’s gateway.

Her cousin’s groom and his friends were dressed so gaily, Rachel almost embarrassed herself by staring dumbstruck at them. Recovering in time, she forced herself to concentrate on following the other bridal attendants, trying to contain her excitement at the light, noise and festivities.

Encouraged by his ‘friend of the bridegroom,’ Chanan carried out what was required of him as he claimed his bride from her parents.

Outside the gate, people from the village were thronging around, waiting. A cheer went up when Chanan brought his bride out. People called out good wishes as, to the accompaniment of singing and cheering, the now larger procession started out for the groom’s family farm.

Ruth, true to her word, kept a watchful eye on young Rachel, now noticeably wide awake. Her blue eyes were sparkling, and she was glowing with exhilaration. Flute players preceded the group, alerting everyone the bridal party was coming. The six daughters of Gibeon danced alongside the bridal party playing tambourines and singing songs of joy and blessing.

Astonished, Rachel looked about her as they walked past homes on the edge of the village. Families who for various reasons were not going to the bridegroom’s home this night, stood on the flat rooves of their homes cheering, clapping, and calling out good wishes. Some of the young children, awakened to see the procession, waved. Others, scared by the noise, cried and reached for their mothers to comfort and assure them all was well. It had been a long time since the village had celebrated a wedding between prominent families with everyone invited. Many of them would join in the celebrations after work each day of the wedding week. But tonight, all who could, were either following the procession, waiting at the bridegroom’s home, lining the path, or cheering and waving from their rooftops.

Soon the procession left the village, and the light-bearers were needed as the light from the moon became patchy. Clouds were drifting across the night sky, building in the east where they came together, signaling there would surely be rain by the morning.

Although it was a long walk for a tired, excited twelve-year-old girl, exhilaration carried Rachel along. After all, soon she herself could be a bride… something she had been telling her parents, her cousin and her aunt, for months, in an effort to persuade them to allow her to be an attendant.

Suddenly there were more lights, more music, more joyful shouts, heralding they were nearing the bridegroom’s home. The crowd parted to allow the wedding group to pass through the gateway, and then closed in behind them, following them into the large central courtyard.

Rachel looked around, astounded. It was so light, brighter than the usual courtyard illumination.

“You can douse your lamp now,” Ruth told Rachel, “and be careful. It will be hot.” Then, as arranged, Ruth followed the wedding group into the family home. Rachel, Kyla and the other attendants waited for their return, while servants passed among the well-wishers with bowls of warm broth.

Elizabeth, Rachel’s mother, appeared at her side, accepted a bowl of broth for her daughter, and carefully took the lamp. Handing Rachel the bowl and passing the lamp to a nearby servant, she said, “You did well child, your father and I were very pleased with you.”

“Where’s Esther? Did she see me?”

“Your young sister has been settled for the night in the room where all you young girls will be sleeping. A servant is watching over them.”

“Didn’t she see any of the procession?” asked Rachel, disappointed.

Elizabeth smiled at her older daughter, “Yes, she saw you, and so did your brother.”

“Timon! He’s back from his journey to Uncle Simon in Egypt?”

“Yes. Now hush and eat the broth,” Elizabeth instructed, trying to follow the proceedings. “Your cousin and her husband are just going to their chamber; now we wait,” she said, having glimpsed the wedding party move to the extension the groom had built on to the family home.

Wide-eyed, Rachel looked around at the crush of people. She couldn’t see either her father or her brother. There were so many people here - waiting, talking and laughing - it would be hard to see them.

Her mother voiced the same thought. “It will be hard to find them here; you will see them in the morning.”

Rachel nodded, then asked, “How have they managed to make this courtyard so light?”

“I didn’t think you had noticed,” smiled Elizabeth, well aware the whole experience was overawing her daughter. She had only agreed to let Rachel stay up rather than rush her off to bed because she knew the girl would be too excited to sleep and might disturb the other girls.

“Aima, why is it so light here?” Rachel asked again.

“Your aunt Joanna told me that Levi planned this a long time ago. Chanan is now their only son.”

Rachel nodded. She remembered the shock they had all felt when Joash had been gored.

Elizabeth continued, “The oil-seller, who supplies the farm with the good quality oil they use, was consulted some months ago about safely lighting this large courtyard for the wedding. Levi arranged with him to order specially-made lamps that they could mount around the courtyard out of harm’s way, and supply the oil. It is much safer than torches or lampstands around the courtyard and seems to give off more light.”

“If we had this amount of light at home we could...”

“Don’t even think of it Rachel. We all need to go to bed at the correct time so we can be up by daylight for work.”

“Yes Aima,” she smiled, and then her shining eyes sparkling in the reflected light, she looked around again in another attempt to see her older brother. He had been gone for months, and she wanted him to see how grown-up she looked in all this finery.

Just then, she saw a stranger. His auburn beard was trimmed, not like the full-bearded Jews, although his hair was short like their hair. She studied him, fascinated. He was tall and lean. The way he stood and moved held her attention, and she watched him edge his way around the courtyard, looking up at the lamps.

Elizabeth noticed her daughter’s preoccupation and asked “What has captured your attention now? Have you seen your father and brother?”

“No, Aima, it's that man over there. He’s not like our people.”

Her mother followed her daughter’s gaze and saw who she meant. As she was about to say that she supposed it was a friend of the groom’s family, the young man moved. Then she could see he was talking to an older man, who also had a trimmed beard. Now as interested as her daughter, she watched them as they made their way around looking at the lamps fixed to the walls around the square formed by the house and farm buildings. By the way they pointed at the lamps and talked to each other, she guessed that it was the oil-seller and an assistant.

“He must be helping the oil-seller,” she replied.

Before Rachel could ask any more questions, a shout sounded from inside that the marriage had been consummated.

The friend of the bridegroom appeared displaying a length of cloth so all could see, and then making his way to the main house, he handed the cloth to Aminta’s parents who folded it up.

A cheer went up from the waiting crowd.

“What....?” started Rachel.

“Now Rachel, it is time for you to go to bed. It is very late. You are too young to stay up for the celebration. You’ve also had a lot of excitement, as well as a long walk. Come with me, and I’ll show you where you are sleeping.”

Urging her daughter to hasten, Elizabeth picked up a small lamp, lit it, then led Rachel from the courtyard, through the passageway between one of the storerooms and the guesthouse.

A little disappointed, Rachel hung her head but obediently followed her mother. She would be sharing a bedchamber with her young sister and the other young girls whose parents had come to celebrate with the bridal couple.

Elizabeth spoke quietly to Zipporah, the elderly servant watching over the sleeping girls. In the dim light, the old lady carefully unfastened the circlet from Rachel’s hair, handed it to Elizabeth, then showed them the sleeping space next to Esther.

Her mother helped Rachel unroll her pallet and handed her a small bundle of everyday clothing. Rachel undressed quietly, put on her night shift, and reverently gave her mother the wedding clothes.

“Aima, please may I keep the hairpiece?” she pleaded.

“You may keep it, but I will look after it for now,” she smiled. “Now settle down. The girls here are all much younger than you, please don’t wake them.”

“I’ll be quiet,” Rachel promised.

When her mother left the room, Rachel laid down and tried, unsuccessfully, to switch off her thoughts. Like a flock of birds when seed was sown, all the sensations of this evening came whirring back into her mind.

“Rachel,” whispered Esther sleepily.

“Shhh, go back to sleep.”

“I just wanted to say you looked beautiful tonight. I told the others you were my sister.”

Rachel smiled and reached for Esther’s hand “Thank you, now please, go to sleep. I will be in trouble if we talk and wake the others up.”

Esther squeezed her hand, sighed, and as she drifted back to sleep she let go of her sister’s hand.

Hearing the distant sounds of the celebration, Rachel smiled, just a little proud of the fact she had done her part. She yawned, and realized that she was too tired to be disappointed that she had not been allowed to stay up.

Contented, she finally fell asleep.

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