The Light of Truth

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Chapter 21

CHAPTER 21

Old Simon’s Home/Shop

“Rachel, I need to go to see Ruth. There is only one dose of your Saba’s pain mixture left. Using that, together with Rhea’s liniment has meant that he is coping well with working in his shop.” Elizabeth realized her recent conversations with her daughter were strained, but she could not help it.

“I am happy for Saba, Aima,” Rachael said dolefully. It was true that she was pleased about him being better able to cope, but she yearned for the days when she had been in the shop helping him.

“While I am out, I would appreciate it if you start the evening meal.”

“Is it not a little early, Aima?”

“Yes, but your father will want his meal on time and I am going out.”

Rachel accepted the instructions as she was learning to accept everything else that had happened since the Feast of Tabernacles. Her younger sister had stayed at the farm. Her older brother had gone to take charge of a fleet of ships. She had been banned from working in her grandfather’s shop. Possibly worst of all, her father had been so different since he had eventually come home.

“I have chopped up the vegetables; it is all ready,” Elizabeth said. “Just add the liquid and put it on a small fire. I must go. Ruth is only back home for a short time. She is looking after her daughter who had the first grandchild in the family, a boy.”

“Oh Aima, I am happy for her,” Rachel said with a genuine smile. “Ruth has been our local healing woman for so long, and she has been here so many times because of Esther, it is almost like she is part of our family. Is the baby well?”

“Yes, it seems so.”

Studying her mother carefully, Rachel looked to see if there was any sign of bruising. Her mother was not her usual self, speaking so formally. She had been woken by raised voices from her parents’ chamber late last night. “Are you alright, Aima?”

“Yes, child, I am fine.” Then seeing her daughter’s penetrating gaze, she added, “Your father wants Esther to come home now.”

“Oh.”

Elizabeth could see the questions in her daughter’s eyes, and sighed deeply. She had wanted to avoid this. Added to everything else her daughter had lost, now she would find out that her father was arranging her marriage to Thomas, son of Jonas ben Asher.

“What is it, Aima?” Rachel asked urgently.

“Your father is talking to Jonas ben Asher today.”

“About me, or about Esther?”

Looking away, Elizabeth admitted, “About you, and he wants Esther home to help me, and to prepare for her own marriage.”

Rachel hid her face in her hands and muttered, “But I cannot... I am not...”

“He will not listen, child. We must just let it be, and see what happens.”

“I wish I could ask that old man to pray for me.”

“That you become a woman?”

“No, that my father will not force me into this. Thomas is... spiteful.”

“Perhaps… perhaps he will change his mind.”

“Who?”

“Your father.” Elizabeth knew that would not happen, but she wanted to offer a twig of hope.

“I do not think so,” Rachel said bitterly, “not if he is talking to Thomas’ father.”

“Well, let us just wait and see. When it comes out that you might be barren...”

Rachel gasped. She had never thought of the absence of signs in that light. What would her future hold if she was barren?

“I must go, child, will you finish the broth and put it on a small fire? Leave the door to the shop open, and listen to hear if your Saba needs anything. I will be back when I have seen Ruth.” Elizabeth also intended to talk to her about Rachel’s failure to mature as a girl her age should have done.

“Do you want me to make the bread for the meal?”

“If you would mix it please and leave it ready. It is better if it is cooked just before we need to use it.” Elizabeth started toward the main house door, “And thank you, child. Try not to worry.”

Rachel struggled to smile. She wished she could say that she would not worry, but that was not true.

“I may be a bit longer than usual. Ruth may have other people wanting to see her. She has been gone for more than a week,” Elizabeth called from the doorway.

“Then you had better hurry so you get there before there are too many people for her to see.”

When the door closed behind her mother, Rachel stood, motionless. How could she stop this? It was one of her worst fears. The other had been that her father would accept an offer from Asaph’s father, but in her mind he was little better in Thomas. She wished she believed like the old man, like his great-grandson, and could pray for help. But she did not. She did not think their God would hear her… sometimes she wished…Enough! These thoughts were dangerous.

Leaving the door to the courtyard open, she went to the outside cooking area. Adding water to the pot of vegetables her mother had chopped, she lit the fire and put the pot over it. Later she would move it to the more gentle heat on the other side of the fire. She had almost finished mixing the dough for the bread when she thought she heard a call. From the courtyard, it was hard to be sure.

Covering the dough with a cloth, Rachel hurried through the house to the door of the shop. “Saba? Did you call me? Are you alright?”

“No, I am not alright, and yes, I did call you. Come here.”

“But Abba said...”

“I need you. I don’t care what your father said. Come here!”

Nearby, Doran was hovering nervously. “He wants me to help him back to the house. He is in so much pain, he cannot walk alone.”

“Girl, you will have to go and help Malachi for now,” ‘Old Simon’ said, holding out his hands to Doran and Rachel. “Help me rise.”

Taking an arm each, they managed to pull ‘Old Simon’ to his feet.

Tottering, he groaned and almost fell over.

“Saba, I have not seen you as bad as this in a long time.”

“I have been walking about too much, trying to prove I can do more.”

Doran looked at Rachel and nodded. “He insisted on serving most of our customers himself.”

“I wish Timon was here.”

“Well, he is not,” ‘Old Simon’ snapped. “He has gone off to Patara to take charge of his father-in-law’s ships. Now are you going to leave me balancing here in agony, or will you let Doran take me into the house so I can take some pain medicine?”

“Aima has gone to the healing woman for more.”

“Is there any of the other left?”

“She said there was one dose. She left it out for me to give you if you needed it.”

“You cannot help me back to the house; you are not strong enough to support me. I need Doran to do that. You stay here till he comes back.”

“Saba, I dare not. You know what Abba said.”

“Stay in the storeroom, Malachi can serve any customers. As you know, there are few at this time of day.” He nudged Doran into motion and with obvious difficulty started to hobble, leaning heavily on young Doran.

Rachel watched for a few moments, and could see he had told the truth. She would not have been able to support him and lead him back to the house.

Malachi called, “Miss, you had better go to the storeroom, I will wait at your grandfather’s table.”

“I hope my father does not come home until after Doran comes back,” she muttered as she made her way to the storeroom.

“Find the pain medicine, quickly,” Old Simon said, slumping down on the nearest seat, in the home.

“Where is it kept?” Doran asked.

“Rachel!”

“Your grandfather is calling you,” Malachi said, going to the storeroom. “I was not sure if you would hear him.”

“No, I did not, thank you. Is there anyone in the shop?”

“No,” Malachi replied.

Going timidly into the shop, Rachel called, “What is wrong, Saba?”

“Where did your mother leave the medicine? Doran cannot see it.”

“She left it by your couch. Shall I come and give it to you?”

“No,” Old Simon said tersely.

Doran smiled and pounced on the medicine bottle, “I have it.”

Anticipating the relief, it would soon bring, ‘Old Simon’ said, “Thank you, Doran,”

When the youngster expertly measured the liquid into small pottery bowl, ‘Old Simon called out, “Are there any customers in the shop?”

“Are there any customers in the shop?” Doran called.

“No,” Malachi replied.

“I heard,” ‘Old Simon’ said. “Doran, stay and help me to my chamber.”

Calling through to the shop, he said, “Rachel! Are you still hearing me?”

“Yes, Saba.”

“I need Doran to help me. I am going to lie down until this medicine works. You are not strong enough to support me. Stay there for the time being.” ‘Old Simon’s’ staccato statements told Rachel how much pain her grandfather was in.

“Alright, Saba.” She would have liked to have said, ‘Send Doran back soon’ but it was clear that he needed his medicine and a rest, and the help of the young man to lean on.

She made her way back to the storeroom. She used to love being in here, now she felt as if she was hiding. She stopped herself from taking a deep appreciative breath of the smell of the ink and parchment a deep appreciative breath. There was no use rekindling her desire to be here again. Besides, now she was petrified that her father would catch her in the shop. Yes, he had been stern in the past, but there had been nothing like the tempers he had given way to since he came home. She was not sure that he would believe the reason she was in the shop was in response to her grandfather’s instruction.

It took a few laborious minutes for Doran to help ‘Old Simon’ to rise again, then start to make his way to his chamber.

“Does your medicine usually take long to work?” Doran asked.

“Depends on how much pain I am in, sometimes it does not work very well.”

“I noticed there was a tiny bit left in the bottle. Would you like me to bring you that when you are settled in your room?”

“Yes,” ’Old Simon’ said breathlessly. It was taking all his concentration and will-power to walk the remaining distance to his chamber.

The shop door opened and Benjamin walked in. “I have come to pay our account.” He looked around the shop, “Hello, Malachi. Where is Doran, the young Jewish lad?”

“He had to take the master back to the house.”

“No one suspects you are of the Way?”

“Shhh,” Malachi cautioned, his finger to his lips. He did not know if Rachel would hear from the storeroom.

“My apologies to the owner that I have been tardy with this payment. As you know, things are a bit hectic at home.”

“That is why my mother helped with some of the cooking, so the visitors you have had recently are looked after.”

“This Saturnalia festival has worked out well for us. Normally there would have been much anxiety about all the coming and going at my home.”

“I understand.”

“And I know that Aima appreciated your mother’s help. A girl who has helped in the past, Alexa, remarked there were a lot of men meeting in the house on the first day. That worried my mother. It was Lois’ idea to ask your mother, and that settled Aima’s panic. She has been a calming influence as well as a great help.”

Laughing, Malachi said, “With three boisterous boys, which she has had to manage alone, much of the time over the years… yes, she has learned to be calm.”

“You must be looking forward to your father’s return.”

“We all are.” In the short silence which followed, Malachi realized he should not be conversing as if he was at Benjamin’s home. He was in the shop. “Excuse me, I had better fetch your account and let you go back.” He realized the master’s son would not like Benjamin in the shop.

“Yes, Aima will be anxious if I am delayed. This last night of Saturnalia can be a wild time in the streets.”

“I will go and fetch the account then.” Going into the storeroom he saw that Rachel had a sheet of paper in her hand. “Is that the account?” he asked.

“Yes...”

“You heard us talking?”

“Yes. Make sure my father never finds out,” she said as she handed him the sheet. “Explain to...” she knew his name, but could not bring herself to be so personal. “Explain to the customer that this is different from the usual accounts. After his great-grandfather’s order was made up, there was enough stock to add extra, which my grandfather told me to do. He added it to the account. We made up the order at night, and the next day my mother and I had to make a long trip. This is the first time I have looked at the reckoning and I see that it is not as plain as the ones we usually make out.” Her words came out in a rush.

Malachi looked at the sheet and said, “You should come and explain.”

“I cannot. I should not even be in here.”

Malachi looked out into the shop. “There are only the three of us. No other customer is here, and Doran is still in the house.”

“What if my father returns?”

“Then hurry, bring the account and let this be finished, time is passing while we discuss it.”

Rachel looked at the young man. “Malachi, you make sense,” she said with a half-hearted smile. Taking the account from his hand she tentatively made her way from the storeroom to the shop.

“You!” Benjamin exclaimed involuntarily. Beaming he walked toward her, “I thought you said that you would not be working in here again.”

“I should not be, but grandfather called me to come in because he is in so much pain. Now, quickly, let me explain your account.”

“Malachi,” Benjamin addressed the young man, “I also need some ink. Lots of it.”

“I will fetch it while you pay your bill.”

“Do you want me to add the ink to this account, or to start another?” Rachel asked.

“Perhaps start another so that this can be completed, and you can go hide in the storeroom again,” Benjamin said with a cheeky grin.

Laying the account on the table, Rachel started to explain how her grandfather had made the calculations. She didn’t know what it was about him, but the way he spoke to her always made her feel different. He never said anything to cause her anxiety, but when he spoke to her, she felt that she was a person. She smiled up at him.

Bending over the page to look at what she was explaining, their heads were close. He could smell whatever it was that she had used to rinse her hair.

“How dare you disobey me! You bring shame on my house!”

Rachel jumped at her father’s voice. “Abba! I did not hear you come in,” she said, her voice tremulous.

“That is obvious! And you!” he said looking at Benjamin, “Out of this shop! Hakham Jonadab was correct.”

Malachi stood anxiously in the storeroom. He assumed that it was the girl’s father who was yelling in the shop, but he did not know what to do for the best.

“Abba, I am showing him his account,” she said, lifting the sheet of paper written by her grandfather.

Malachi, peeped out, trying to work out whether to show himself or not.

Benjamin noticed him and shook his head.

Retreating to the back of the storeroom, the young man tried to stop shaking. He had never heard anyone as angry in his life.

“You are not supposed to be in here!” Meshua said, pushing her towards the door to the house.

“Saba is not well, he told me to come in here.”

“I do not believe you. You said he was the one who made up the order for this heretic’s great-grandfather, now you expect me to believe that he told you to disobey my order to stay out of the shop.” He pushed her again, hard.

Rachel tripped over the hem of her robe and fell to the floor.

Benjamin rushed forward and offered his hand to help her up, which only enraged the irate man more.

“I only offered her my hand to help her rise.”

Meshua pushed him away. “Keep your heretic hands off her! Or have they already been on her?”

Rachel lay on the floor and sobbed quietly. Where was her mother? Did her grandfather not hear? Doran would be of no help, he was a young and timid lad, but what about Malachi? Then, remembering what she had heard, she thought he would stay out of the way.

“You! I told you to leave!” Meshua said, turning angrily to Benjamin. “There is nothing for you here.”

“I only want to pay the account.”

“A likely story. How many times do you come here on some excuse? Well, she’s not for you. Out!”

Tall as Benjamin was, he was no match for Meshua in a rage. With a strength that belied his appearance, Meshua pushed Benjamin all the way toward the shop door. Pinning him against a wall with one strong arm, he opened the door with the other. With a mighty heave, he pushed Benjamin so hard he fell over.

“In the dirt. That’s where you and all of your kind should be!” With that, Meshua slammed and locked the door.

Picking himself up, Benjamin waited outside. Surely her mother would intervene. But no, there was only the sound of more yelling.

As her father turned back into the room, Rachel started to rise.

“Oh no, you don’t!” Her father rushed at her and grabbed her hair which had fallen loose. “You look like a fallen woman!”

“Abba... Abba, please. I was working in the house until Saba called me...”

Meshua swung a fist at her. “Stop your lies!”

Dazed by the blow which had hit her in the eye, Rachel fell back to the floor.

“I will teach you to shame me!” he said as his first kick landed.

“Abba! Please!”

Now he had started he could not stop, and he kicked her again and again. All his pent-up anger, against her, about the fact she was not yet marriageable despite her age, and about his father’s reminder that he was not the firstborn son. Every kick was born from his frustration with his life.

Rachel’s cries grew weaker as the pain overwhelmed her, and she started to lose consciousness.

Malachi had no idea what was going on, but he had heard enough. He rushed out of the storeroom taking Meshua by surprise.

“Where did you come from?” Meshua asked, instinctively bending to defend himself from what he perceived as an attack. Picking up the stool his father usually sat on in the shop, he swung it at Malachi, striking him on the head and knocking him unconscious.

Doran, finally able to leave ‘Old Simon,’ who was dozing, made his way through the main room. Hearing the commotion, he looked carefully, through the door between the house and shop, thinking he would see revelers from the Roman festival. Instead, he saw the master’s son kicking the girl lying on the floor. Peering more closely he noticed Malachi lying on the floor.

Turning he ran back to ‘Old Simon’s’ bedchamber. “Master, master,” Doran said trying to rouse the man. “A man is kicking your granddaughter, I think it is your son, and Malachi is lying on the floor. He might be dead, I do not know.”

Rousing from the haze of the extra painkilling medicine, ‘Old Simon’ said, “Quickly. Go fetch her mother. She is with the healing woman, Ruth.” He tried to stand up, but it was too soon after the pain mixture, and the room spun. He sat back heavily on his sleeping couch.

“Oh God above, why give me such a son?” he asked as he struggled to free his mind of the fog the drug had created. “What signs were there of his behavior turning so bad? What should I have done? Was there anything I could have done?”

Benjamin, who was still waiting outside the shop door, saw Doran run from the house door. “Wait. What is happening?” he asked.

Frightened, Doran told the stranger, “Malachi might be dead, the girl is being kicked... I cannot wait, I have to fetch the mother.” He turned and ran off.

In his panic, Doran had left the door open and Benjamin entered the house carefully. He did not want to meet Meshua again, but he wanted to know if ‘Old Simon’ was still alive.

A smell of burning food came from the courtyard. Following the smell, Benjamin found the dinner that Rachel had put on earlier, had burned in the pot. He knocked it off the flame.

“Doran, are you back? Elizabeth, is that you?” ‘Old Simon’ called when he heard the noise.

Locating the room where the voice had come from, Benjamin found ‘Old Simon’ swaying on the couch as he tried to clear his head.

“Oh dear God, what else are you punishing me with? Why are you here?” Addressing Benjamin, he said, “If that is my son in there, and he finds you here...”

“It is your son. I was trying to pay my account and buy some ink. He went into a fury when he saw your granddaughter explaining the account.”

“Oh, oh what have I done? I should have listened to Rachel. I should not have asked her to go in there. I should have closed the shop.”

Fury spent, Meshua stood and looked at the bruised and bloodied mess on the floor that had been his bright and lovely daughter.

Malachi sat up, rubbing his head and looked around. Bemused, he said, “Oh dear Father in heaven, he has killed her.” Struggling to his feet he ran at Meshua. “You have killed her and she was only doing what her grandfather asked her to do. I shall fetch the Roman patrol.”

Meshua hit him again, and turned and ran for the door. Unlocking it and slamming it behind him, he ran.

Staggering, Malachi started towards the door to the house, pausing to look at the girl lying on the floor. She looked dead. He continued toward the door.

“Rachel! Rachel! Where are you?” Elizabeth called as she ran into the house.

Malachi hurried through the doorway to intercept her. “Where is Doran?”

“I told him to go home,” she replied. “No need for him to know what is happening. Where is my daughter?”

“Yes, good question,” ‘Old Simon’ said as he hobbled into the main room supported by Benjamin. “Where is Rachel? What did her father do to her?”

“You! What are you doing here?” Elizabeth asked.

“I came to pay my account…”

Coming fully into the room and closing the door to the shop behind him, Malachi exchanged a fearful look with Benjamin.

“Sit down here,” Benjamin said to ‘Old Simon,' “you will make your feet sore if you keep standing.”

‘Old Simon’ allowed himself to be lowered to the couch. “Did you bring the mixture?” he asked Elizabeth, fearing that if the news was so bad he needed to be seated, she might drop the pottery flask.

Benjamin stepped forward, took the flask of painkilling drug and put it on the high shelf that ran along the main wall.

“My daughter? Where is she?” Turning to her father-in-law she said, “You asked what her father had done to her. What is wrong?” Elizabeth pleaded.

“It is my fault,” ‘Old Simon’ admitted. “I was in so much pain I had Doran bring me in here and give me the last of the medicine.”

“What does that have to do with where Rachel is?” There was fear in Elizabeth’s voice.

“I told her she must stay in the shop.”

“What! After all that her father said!” Elizabeth slumped into a chair that her father-in-law sometimes used.

Malachi whispered to Benjamin, “I think he killed her.”

“Where is he now?”

“He hit me again and ran off when I said that I was going for the Roman patrol because he had killed her.”

Elizabeth heard the last part and cried out.

“Keep her here,” Benjamin said to Malachi, and quietly opened the door and went into the shop. Tears came to his eyes when he looked at the bruised and crumpled figure on the floor.

Elizabeth rushed through the door, “Where is she? Where is my Rachel?” At the sight of her daughter’s dead body, for the first time in her life, Elizabeth fainted.

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Benjamin moved closer to Rachel’s body. She breathed! It was faint and shallow, but she breathed.

‘Old Simon’ hobbled into the shop.

“She is not dead, but close to it,” Benjamin told them. “Where is the donkey and cart that you use for your business?”

“Malachi knows,” ‘Old Simon’ said.

“Malachi, go and hitch it up. We must take her to my mother.”

“There is a back way into the shop,” ‘Old Simon’ said. “Meshua never uses it. Take the donkey and cart there.”

“I know it,” Malachi said as he hurried off, heading for the back door.

Elizabeth sat up groggily. “Oh, that I should outlive my daughter!”

“She is not dead,” Benjamin assured her, “Close to it perhaps, but not dead. I am taking her to my mother who has some skill with healing.”

“How will you take her there?”

“Malachi is hitching up the donkey and cart.”

“Carts can be exceedingly bumpy. I traveled in the back of one recently,” Elizabeth said.

“Do you have a spare bed pallet, or can we use hers?” Benjamin asked.

“I will go fetch one,” Elizabeth said as she rose and went to the house.

Righting the stool that ‘Old Simon’ normally sat on, Benjamin helped the old man to sit down.

“Thank you. I doubt I could have stood longer.”

Benjamin nodded, then went and stood looking at Rachel. He tried to see her, not as the girl he knew, but as someone who was severely injured and needed to be moved... without killing her. When he was working in the vineyard, a man had been seriously injured in a fight. He dug back into his memory trying to remember how the man had been moved.

Malachi came in through the rear access door, “I have the donkey and cart ready.”

Elizabeth staggered through the door, weighed down with the pallet, and her fear.

“Malachi,” Benjamin called, as he hurried to her rescue. “Help me spread this pallet in the cart.”

“Hurry. What if Meshua comes back?” Elizabeth worried.

“You cannot just pick her up,” ‘Old Simon’ said when they returned.

“I know,” Benjamin responded. “I remember now… I saw a badly injured man moved. They put him on a firm surface and carried him.”

“What kind of firm surface?” Elizabeth asked.

‘Old Simon’ ordered, “Clear a shelf in the storeroom and break it from the supports. Will that do to carry her on?” he asked.

The two younger men rushed into the storeroom, looked at the shelves, and called back, “Yes. This will work.”

It did not take them long to remove the shelf and bring it into the shop.

“Lay it on the floor beside her,” Benjamin said.

With Elizabeth hovering anxiously near them, the two young men stood and tried to figure out how to move her on to the plank of wood.

“You do not know the extent of her injuries,” ‘Old Simon’ said, leaning on his table and standing back on his feet.

“Careful,” warned Malachi as the old man moved slowly towards them.

“It looks as if her arm is broken,” ‘Old Simon’ observed.

“Benjamin, if you and I and her mother move her onto the plank...” Malachi started.

“Roll her onto the side where her arm looks alright, then we can slide the plank as far as possible under her body.” Benjamin interrupted. “Then lower her back down. This should be the least hurtful for her.”

“It looks as though she is beyond feeling hurt,” ‘Old Simon’ observed.

“But I would prefer to avoid causing further damage,” Elizabeth said quietly. “I think the great-grandson’s suggestion is best.” Elizabeth did not recall having heard his name. If she had, it was lost in the terror she felt.

“Alright, do it,” ‘Old Simon’ said, his wavering voice showing a concern they were all feeling. Meshua might come back.

Rachel moaned slightly when they moved her.

“That’s a good sign, I think,” Benjamin said hopefully.

Elizabeth ran to hold the door to the back lane open. “This might be difficult. The door is low, you men are tall, and the opening is not very wide.”

“We will manage, and we will not drop her,” Malachi reassured the woman.

“Be careful with her,” she called as they made it through the door.

“I am going with her,” Elizabeth told her father-in-law.

“I understand.”

Benjamin and Malachi came back. “We left her on the piece of shelving,” Malachi told ‘Old Simon.'

“As if that matters!” he responded.

“The meal!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “I asked Rachel to put it on to cook.”

“The meal burned,” Benjamin said, “I smelled it as I came looking for ‘Old Simon,’ so I pushed the pot off the flame.”

“Rachel is on the cart,” Malachi interrupted, reminding them they had better start.

“I am going with my daughter,” Elizabeth told the young men.

“You can sit beside her in the back and help keep her steady,” Benjamin said, then turning to Malachi, said, “Do what I asked you. Fetch Phillip. If he is out, then tell Abraham. We will need one of them urgently.”

Elizabeth looked at them quizzically. “I thought you were taking her to your mother.”

“I am, but Phillip and Abraham are doctors. My mother is skilled in healing but perhaps not skilled enough for your daughter’s injuries.” Looking back at Malachi, he said, “Her mother and I will go out this door, lock it behind us. Make sure the shop door is locked, and see ‘Old Simon’ safely back into the house. Then hurry as fast as you can and find one of those two, then go and tell my mother what has happened. Our journey will be slow. I need to make the journey as smooth as possible, so you will be there before we are.”

Malachi did as he was asked, and made sure that his employer was comfortable in the main room. ‘Old Simon’ had not wanted to go to his chamber. He wanted to be in the main room if or when his son came home.

“I will leave you now if you are alright. I must fetch a doctor and tell Mistress Naomi...”

“Yes, yes. Go! And if you pray, then please pray that my granddaughter survives.”

“Yes, Master.”

Soon after Malachi left, Doran came to the house door, calling, “Master, may I come in?”

“Come in Doran,” ‘Old Simon’ said, recognizing the voice.

“My mother sent you this,” the lad said, putting a bowl down on the small table next to where ‘Old Simon’ sat. “And also this,” he added as he took some disks of bread from inside his tunic.

“Thank you. That was thoughtful. Now, tell me. What do you know? What made you go and ask your mother for food for me?”

“The mistress told me to go home, but I was worried with all the shouting... and I looked into the shop and saw your granddaughter on the floor being kicked. And I remembered how much pain you were in and that you would not be able to help.”

“So you came back?”

“Yes, master. I did. I saw the man run away, and later the girl being taken away, and the mother. So I ran home and asked for some food for you. Is your pain better?”

“The pain in my feet is much better, thank you, Doran.” The pain in his heart would never go away.

“Doran.”

“Yes?”

“How much did you tell your mother?”

“I told her that you were in a lot of pain; that your granddaughter was sick, and her mother had been too busy to make you a meal. There is enough there for both of you.” He found a couple of bowls, brought them to ‘Old Simon’ and watched while he divided the meal between the two bowls.

Handing Doran his family’s bowl back, ‘Old Simon’ said, “I would like it if you told her no more.”

“She will ask about your granddaughter.”

“Then you may tell her that she is very ill and has been taken to... to family who will be able to nurse her.”

“I will, master. Is it alright if I leave now? I have not eaten.”

“Go... and thank you.”

“Will you need me tomorrow?”

“Come as you normally do.”

“Thank you, master. And eat the meal while it is still warm.”

“I will eat it now,” ‘Old Simon’ assured him.

Doran ran out to go home, and strangely ‘Old Simon’ found the smell did make him feel hungry. Taking some of the bread, he sat and ate, then waited. He did not think Elizabeth would feel like eating, but he left her meal for her.

As he settled himself as comfortably as he could, he realized that he was not waiting for his daughter-in-law... no, he was waiting for his son to return, and he was sure that he would.

*****

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