The Light of Truth

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Chapter 22

CHAPTER 22

Help for Rachel

“She has been beaten you say?” Phillip asked the out-of-breath Malachi.

“Yes, sir. Her father beat her because she was in the shop.”

“Shop?”

“Where I work, sir. Her grandfather’s shop and her father said she was not to work there anymore.”

“It is probably not something we should be involved in, Malachi. The law allows a man to discipline his daughter.”

“Benjamin sent me to fetch you, or your son Abraham. He is taking the girl to his home for his mother to look after.”

Frowning, Phillip said, “Wait here,” and went to find his wife to tell her he was needed again. He was tired and disheartened from the long, unsuccessful struggle trying to save a mother from dying while giving birth.

“You would think he would have learned by now,” he muttered to Chloe, splashing his face with water.

“Who?”

“Benjamin, Samuel’s son.”

“What has he done?”

“Miriam’s son, young Malachi, has just come to ask me for help for a Jewish girl whose father has beaten her.”

“How badly?”

“I do not know. Malachi said that Benjamin is taking her to his mother. I thought he had outgrown his impulsiveness.”

“There must be more to it; Benjamin would not take a Jewish girl to his mother without a good reason. Where is Malachi?”

“Waiting in the foyer.”

Rushing past her husband, Chloe went to talk to the lad. “Does Naomi know that her son is bringing her an injured girl? Are they already there?”

“No, and I must go and tell her. The girl is unconscious, she looked as if she was dead...”

“How is Benjamin taking her there if she is unconscious?”

“My employer’s cart. We put her on a shelf and carried her to the cart.”

“You must help, Phillip,” Chloe said, turning to him as he came back. “I will arrange for a wet-nurse for the baby, and find someone to help the young father.”

“It is alright, Chloe, I am ready to leave,” he replied, realizing that with all the effort on Benjamin’s part, it must be more than impulsiveness that governed his behavior. “I have all that I need.” Heaving a heavy satchel onto his back, Phillip said, “Tell me all that you know as we go.”

Her curiosity would have to wait, Chloe thought, but she still wondered. Where had Benjamin been that he found a Jewish girl who had been beaten? Why had her father beaten her? Phillip was correct, fathers had the right under law to discipline their children... but unconscious? Looked as if she was dead? She turned her mind from her wonderings and prepared to leave. She would go and prepare the young mother for burial, find a wet-nurse among the neighbors, and organize some help for the grieving father. The woman Phillip had been called out to help was not of the fellowship, but it was not unusual for either her husband or her son to be called to the aid of non-believers.

John’s family home

Malachi and Phillip hurried in through the courtyard door, startling John, Samuel, and Alexander, who were sitting talking and discussing what still needed to be done to finish moving the writings to another location.

“Are they here yet?” Malachi asked urgently.

“Who?” Samuel asked, immediately thinking of the Roman soldiers.

“Benjamin and the girl,” Phillip replied.

“What are you talking about, Malachi?” John asked. “Benjamin went to ‘Old Simon’s’ shop to pay our account and buy more ink.”

Jason came down the outside stairs, “I have done as you asked, Saba. I moved the rest of your papers into the upper room. Now you will have more room to move in your chamber.”

John glanced over at the young man. He had forgotten that he had set him a task to keep him out of the way while the plans for moving the remaining copies of his writings were made. “Thank you, my boy,” he smiled.

Jason acknowledged the thanks then looked around, puzzled. “What is happening?” he asked.

“Benjamin is bringing an injured young woman here for his mother to care for.”

“Oh,” Jason said, looking around curiously. Since he had come to live here, she had looked after people who were ill, as she had cared for his mother, but she went to them, not have them brought to her. He moved to stand beside his brother and listened.

“Malachi, you tell them what you know, I shall talk to Naomi,” Phillip instructed and went toward the kitchen door.

Now that he had reached his destination, and the responsibility had been taken from him, Malachi started to tremble.

“Jason, would you please ask Lois for some watered wine for Malachi?” Alexander asked.

“Sit down, Malachi,” Samuel urged, standing to make room for him.

With a shaky voice and many pauses, Malachi managed to tell them what he knew, which, when questioned, was not much. “I know her father beat her and she is unconscious. She looked as though she was dead, but Benjamin saw that she still breathed. And she moaned a little when we put her on the shelf.”

John closed his eyes and prayed.

“Benjamin is bringing her here?” Samuel asked.

“Yes...”

“Samuel, Alexander... come and help,” Naomi called from the doorway.

Stepping out of the way, Jason took the small bowl of watered wine to Malachi.

“Thank you,” Malachi said, his voice still wavering.

“It sounds as though this girl will not be able to be taken upstairs,” Naomi explained. “I hope you do not mind, Saba, I am going to make her a bed in the small meeting room.”

“Do what needs to be done, child,” John replied.

Alexander went to the furniture storeroom and brought out a pallet.

“We will need to have her higher so that those who are caring for her can easily reach her,” Naomi instructed.

“A sleeping couch, that is what we need,” Samuel said, and he and Alexander moved things around in order to reach the couch, and then maneuvered it out of the door.

“The next part should be easier, we can carry it,” Alexander said.

“Until the doorway, then we should stand it upright again,” Samuel replied.

“We will need a chair in there. If she is badly hurt, someone will need to sit with her,” Naomi said, and Jason hurried forward to help.

While Naomi organized her helpers, telling them what was needed and where to put things, John sat and talked with Malachi. “Why did her father beat her? Do you know?”

“I heard some of it, but I was in the storeroom. When I looked out because of the shouting, Benjamin shook his head to say not to come out.”

“Who was shouting?” John asked.

“Her father.”

“Oh. Do you know why?”

“Something to do with her being in the shop when he had told her not to be there, and because she was talking to a ‘heretic.’ He was furious with her, then with Benjamin. I heard him put Benjamin out. He kept shouting ‘Out.’ Then I heard the door slam. Then the girl started crying and saying to stop. After a while, when the girl’s cries were growing quieter, I had to see what was happening, so I went out. It gave the man a fright, but he hit me with ‘Old Simon’s’ stool.”

“Are you alright?”

“He knocked me out. When I woke up, he was staring at her, lying on the floor. I rubbed my head where he hit me, stood up and looked at the girl. I thought she was dead, and told him I was going to fetch a Roman patrol. He hit me again and must have ran out.”

“What about her mother? Is she alright?” John asked, remembering the woman who had risked so much to attend his meeting, who had come to this home, whose other daughter and baby nephew had been healed. Had the man discovered that?

“She was out. She had gone to see the local healing woman. ‘Old Simon’ needed painkilling medicine.”

“And where was he?”

“He had been in the shop but had been trying to walk too much. He had Doran take him to the house. That is why the girl was in the shop.” Malachi rubbed his head gingerly.

“You must let Phillip check your head,” John said, remembering he had been injured.

“I am alright, just embarrassed. I should have gone out of the storeroom when I heard Benjamin being put out.”

“Malachi, if you had, you might have been also been hurt, and then who would have helped the girl?”

The courtyard gate opened and Benjamin rushed in, “I need help.”

“Tell Naomi and Phillip they are here,” John said to Malachi.

“Light a lamp, Jason. It will be dark already in the laneway.”

Naomi and Phillip hurried to the courtyard gate, Alexander rushing behind with a lamp.

The flurry of activity continued in the room as Lois, Jason and Samuel made sure there was clear access to the makeshift bed in the small meeting room.

Lois rushed out and came back with a clean cover she threw over the bed. “If she is bleeding, this will be cleaned more easily.”

Benjamin stood by the donkey’s head, soothing it as the others rushed out. If it shied, it would jerk the cart at the very least, perhaps worse.

“Has she regained consciousness?” Phillip asked the woman who was sitting in the cart with her.

“No,” Elizabeth whispered, her face drawn and fearful.

“Hold that lamp up, Alexander, I need to look at her before we try to move her,” Phillip said. The first thing he checked was that she was still alive. She was, but barely. Her breathing was shallow and he wondered if any ribs were broken. “Bring the lamp closer please, Alexander.” He saw at once that one arm was broken. One eye was severely discolored and it looked as though her cheekbone and eye socket might be broken. He would not even hazard a guess at what other injuries lay under her robe.

Naomi’s tender heart was fighting with the healer in her, and she struggled to keep tears at bay. Taking a deep breath, she prayed for peace and moved around the cart to where Elizabeth was sitting. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes. I am sorry to be a trouble to you, but your son said...”

“Oh my dear,” Naomi said, reaching out to the woman, “you are no trouble. The one who did this, he is the trouble.”

Elizabeth turned tear-filled eyes to Naomi. “I wanted to take her to my sister’s servant, but your son said it was too far...”

“I know you,” Naomi said gently, “you are the woman who came to see Saba.”

“Yes. And now, here I am again, interrupting your day... your meal perhaps.”

“Be at peace, we always have time for those in need.”

“I think we can move her now,” Phillip said. “Call the others to help.”

“Aima, if you come and keep the donkey calm, I will help Alexander,” Benjamin said. “We can carry her.”

“I will do that, Benjamin, but first, the mother needs to come out of the cart,” Naomi replied, holding her hand to guide and steady Elizabeth.

“I can keep the donkey still,” Elizabeth said. “You go with my daughter.”

Naomi watched as Elizabeth moved stiffly to the front of the cart, and taking the reins, spoke soothingly to it.

Benjamin moved to the back of the cart. “Call Jason, Aima. Tell him to make sure there is nothing we might stumble over.”

“I will check, it will be quicker,” Naomi replied, “We must take that poor child indoors,” and she hurried away.

Benjamin explained to Alexander that Rachel had been placed on a wooden shelf so that they could move her.”

Phillip commented, “You probably saved her life by doing that. If you had tried to lift her and there is internal damage...”

Tears ran quietly down Elizabeth’s cheeks.

“I am glad I made the correct decision,” Benjamin said. Then addressing Alexander, he said, “If I hold the ends of the shelf, move backward and slide it toward me, you steady it and make sure she does not move. When we have almost removed the shelf from the cart, we will have to balance it till you can safely grasp the other end.”

Malachi hurried through the gate, “Can I help?”

“You can balance it as I bring it forward,” Benjamin said. “Remember how we put her into the cart.”

“Let me take the lamp, Alexander, you will not be able to hold it and carry one end of the shelf,” Phillip said.

Painstakingly, inch by inch, they slid the shelf with Rachel on it until it was almost free of the cart.

“Would you be able to make the donkey move forward a couple of steps?” Alexander asked Elizabeth.

“She might drop to the ground.”

“No, Malachi and Alexander are on each side of her, but it would be easier to move the shelf from the cart if it was moved forward a little,” Phillip explained.”

Elizabeth nodded, and with the tenderness she would have shown her daughter, she coaxed the donkey forward.

“We have her,” Alexander called. “Now would you move the donkey further up the lane so we can take your daughter through the gate?”

Malachi, no longer needed to steady the shelf, moved to stand beside Elizabeth. “I will do it if you want to go with your daughter.”

“Thank you,” she said gratefully.

Malachi moved the donkey and cart well clear of the gate, then tethered the donkey, and went into the courtyard.

“Malachi, would you find me a straight branch, please?” Phillip called over his shoulder as he followed Rachel as she was carried to the house.

“Lois, will you please finish making the meal and serve it to the men?” Naomi asked hurriedly.

“What about the girl? Do you need me to help?”

“I will call you if I need you, and besides, her mother is here now, and our family needs to eat,” she smiled.

“Naomi, will you fetch some of your painkilling medicine, please?” Phillip asked. “I know she seems to be unconscious, but I will set her arm first. It might rouse her.”

“Will she be able to swallow anything?” Elizabeth asked anxiously.

“No. The medicine I have asked Naomi to bring is powder that will go under her tongue. And I need to check her face, too. It looks as though that area is broken,” Phillip said, pointing to the eye socket and cheekbone. “It looks collapsed. I will also check that her nose is clear.”

“Clear?” Elizabeth asked.

“That it is not blocked with blood. The injury to her face looks very severe.”

Naomi came back in time to see Elizabeth sway. Taking her arm, Naomi gently led her across the room to the chair that had been put in. “Sit there. It has been a shock for you.”

Phillip looked across at Naomi. She understood what his long look meant. It was better that the woman did not see the extent of the injuries. Both were sure there were many under her robe.

John appeared in the doorway. “I would like to pray for her first.”

Naomi and Phillip stood back from the sleeping couch and John approached. He stood gazing down at her, wondering if it was safe to touch her anywhere

“That hand, I think,” Naomi pointed.

John took the girl’s hand in both of his. “Dear, loving, heavenly Father, You know how severely damaged this child is, and You know Your purpose for her. Please have mercy on her and grant her life...”

Elizabeth sobbed, unable to control herself.

John continued his prayer silently. Then he gently released her hand, took Naomi and Phillip’s hands and prayed for God to guide them. Quietly he left the room.

Alexander spoke from the door, “Here is the straight branch you asked Malachi for earlier,” and passed it to Naomi.

As Phillip and Naomi bent over the girl, working to splint her arm, Phillip whispered, “Is there some way her mother can be persuaded to leave? What we need to do will cause the woman distress.”

Signaling her agreement, Naomi went over to Elizabeth and talked to her while Phillip checked Rachel’s nose.

Trying to put her at ease in what was a difficult situation, Naomi said, “We have seen each other, but never been introduced.” Naomi remembered the woman’s nervousness when she had come to see John and continued, gently, “My name is Naomi. Saba, the Apostle John, is my grandfather, and Benjamin is my son. You might also have seen my husband, Samuel. He is the older man... not as old as Saba, but older than the young ones.”

“My name is Elizabeth. I am Rachel’s mother...”

“Is this your daughter Rachel? I know you have two girls.”

“Yes, this is Rachel. Her sister, who was healed, is Esther; she is still at my sister’s farm.” A combination of relief that she was not here, to be in danger, and a need for the comfort of her younger daughter warred. Then a new thought arose. What if Meshua went to the farm to take Esther? He had wanted her brought home. She shook her head, trying to drive the fears out.

“Elizabeth, come and meet Lois. She will look after you and serve you a meal.”

“I could not eat while my poor daughter is lying there like that.”

“There is nothing you can do for her at the moment, and I promise I will call you if she wakes...”

“I am not hungry...”

“Then would you please help Lois serve the meal to the others?”

“I wouldn’t know how.”

“You can use a ladle and serve a broth?”

“Of course I can.”

“Then please, will you help? If you can serve the food into the bowls, Lois will take it to the table. I normally do it, but I am needed here.”

Elizabeth stood wearily and walked over to look down on her daughter lying there, bruised, unconscious – so damaged. Naomi was correct; there was nothing she could do. “Will she recover?” she asked Phillip.

“We are going to do all we can to make sure she does,” he replied.

“Lois,” Naomi called, from the door of the small meeting room, temporarily converted to care for Rachel.

“Yes?” Lois said, hurrying toward her.

“This is Elizabeth, the mother of Rachel... the girl in here. Would you please take Elizabeth to the kitchen? I have asked her to help serve up the meal, and you will take it to the men.”

Lois recognized immediately what Naomi was doing and nodded. “Come with me, Elizabeth,” she said gently. “What about you and Phillip?” she asked before she led the distraught woman away.

“We will eat later. This is more urgent.” Glancing at Elizabeth’s bowed back as she waited, Naomi said, “When you have a moment, another covering for the girl.”

“Yes, of course.”

After they had left, Phillip said, “Her nasal passages seem clear. Until she is conscious, we will not know if there is any brain damage. But now, I need to know what injuries she has on her body,” he paused, “if there are internal injuries...”

“Then let’s check.”

“I will have to cut her robe open. We cannot move her around trying to remove it.”

“Just cut it open, Phillip.”

He took a blade from his medical supplies and expertly slit open the robe from neck to hem.

Naomi gasped. The girl’s abdomen was black and blue.

“She has been kicked,” Phillip muttered. “And it looks like the person who kicked her...”

“Her father,” Naomi interrupted.

“It looks like he was wearing those Roman caligae.”

“I hate those Roman sandals!”

“It is not the sandals that do harm, Naomi. It was whoever was wearing them. Now, come and help.”

As he tried to examine her injuries, he noticed she reacted. “Naomi, put a little more of your powder under her tongue. She seems to sense pain.”

“Is that good or bad?” Naomi asked as she hurried to do as she was asked.

“I honestly do not know. But it means she is still alive. I would like her to remain that way, and I do not want to hurt her any more than she has been already.”

“What is happening?” Jason asked his brother.

“I am not sure. The girl is severely injured, I think. Naomi and Phillip are with her. The girl’s mother is with Lois in the kitchen, I think.”

“Why is Benjamin walking up and down the path?”

“I suppose he is worried about her.”

“I thought he trusted God.”

Alexander smiled down at his younger brother, “He does Jason. But God does not always do things just because we want Him to. ‘His ways are not our ways,’” he told Jason gently.

“Oh, like our Aima.”

“A little like that.”

John came down the outside stairs from the prayer room, and Samuel came out of the house where he had been checking that Lois was coping with Elizabeth in the kitchen. “Time to wash before our meal,” he announced.

“I do not feel like eating,” Benjamin said, as he walked back from the gate.

“Nevertheless, you should eat. You may be needed,” his father said sternly.

“Did Malachi go home?” John asked.

“Yes, I told him to go,” Samuel replied.

“What about the cart?” John asked. “That belongs to ‘Old Simon’?”

“He said he would come back and take it to him. He thought her mother might want to go back home and he was going to take her in it.”

“If her daughter survives, she will not be able to be moved, and I do not think that her mother will want to leave her,” John pointed out.

“Then I will go for Malachi and ask him to take it back,” Benjamin offered.

“No!” Samuel said firmly. “This is the last night of Saturnalia. Even if he is safe taking the cart there, he would have to walk home. No. It would not be right.”

“I had forgotten what day it was,” Benjamin admitted.

“Come and wash,” his father instructed, “our meal will be served soon.”

“Elizabeth, will you eat with us?” Lois asked as they finished putting the food into serving bowls.

“I saw that fancy room you eat in,” Elizabeth said nervously. “We do not eat like that.”

“This is a Roman house, that’s all. I am sure Saba said that the table and couches were in the triclinium when they bought it, and it is not ‘fancy’ like some of the other homes,” Lois said gently.

“Do you think I might be able to go to the room where my daughter is?”

“I do not believe so. Naomi will come for you when you can go back there.”

“Is food being sent in for her and the doctor?” Elizabeth asked, intending to offer to take it in.

“No. They will look after your daughter first, then later they will eat.”

“Then do you mind if I have a small bowl of the broth and some bread in here?”

“I understand. These are not the right circumstances to be meeting a group of people, mainly men, whom you have never met before. I will eat in here with you.”

“Thank you.” Elizabeth sighed. “Although I have to admit that I do not feel like eating. But yes, I know that I need to be well enough to care for Rachel.”

Lois smiled. “I know it is difficult. There have been some frightening times in this home. Naomi nearly died from a fever. Saba has been arrested and ill-treated by the Roman soldiers more than once. But...” she paused. What could she say about their faith that a Jewish woman would understand? Instead, she asked, “Will you help me carry these through to the triclinium, please?”

“You only want them put on the table?”

“Yes. If you put what you are carrying down on the table, I will place them correctly, then when it is ready, I will call the men.”

“I will follow you then,” Elizabeth agreed, picking up a bowl of broth that was much the same as she made at home. “Oh!” she exclaimed suddenly.

“What?” Lois asked, startled and almost dropping the goblets she was carrying.

“There will be nothing for my father-in-law to eat.”

“First, let us put these on the table, then you can tell me,” Lois urged.

After the women had left the meal for the men and gone back to the kitchen, the men took their usual places in the triclinium. “Benjamin, now we are settled, tell us what happened,” Samuel said.

“I went to ‘Old Simon’s’ shop, as I have done for years, but he was not there. Malachi told me that the other lad who works there had taken him into the house, his pain was so bad.”

Jason passed the platter of bread to John, who took some and handed it back. “Malachi told me that he did not know all that happened because he was in the storeroom,” John prompted.

“Saba sent the money to pay the account for the last parchment, and we also needed more ink because of the copies we are making now. But ‘Old Simon’ had made out the account, and he had added extra parchment afterwards so Malachi could not explain it. He called Rachel who was in the storeroom. She came to clarify it, Malachi went to fetch the ink and Rachel’s father must have come in the street door, and he started shouting at us.”

“What was his reason? What were you doing, son?” Samuel asked.

“Trying to pay our account. The father was angry his daughter was in the shop. He said he had forbidden her to work there.”

“There’s more?” asked John.

“He was in a rage. He called me a heretic and told me to leave. He pushed Rachel, she fell over or tripped. I went to help her up, and he went into a worse rage and pushed me out of the shop.”

John raised his eyebrows, thinking. Benjamin was a fit, strong young man. Meshua must have been in a fury to have been able to put Benjamin out.

“Where was Malachi?” Samuel asked.

“I had indicated to him to stay in the storeroom.”

“It seems that no one knows the whole story,” John observed. “Malachi was quite shaken with what he experienced. And he was hit on the head with a stool. I had told him to have Phillip check it, but he is tending the girl, and Malachi went home.”

“He would have returned and taken the cart back. But I told him not to. Not on this night! There will be wild parties, and drunken revelers.” Samuel looked briefly at Benjamin, who nodded, and agreed.

“It worked to our advantage on our way here. They must have been still in the taverns.”

After they had eaten, Samuel asked, “Alexander, would you and Jason loose the donkey from the cart, give it some water and let it graze on the wasteland?” Adding, “There is plenty of coarse grass there. The cart will have to stay in the lane.”

“I think out here we are too far from the city for revelers,” Alexander smiled. “The donkey should be safe, but we will tether it to a post.”

“The mother will have to stay here, too,” John said.

Naomi came out of the small meeting room at the same time the men left the triclinium.

“What news? Is she alright?” several voices asked.

“I am going to make up an ointment for her bruises. I cannot talk now.”

“But is she still...

“She is still breathing,” Naomi replied, and hurried to the private storeroom where she kept her herbs and medicines.

John went to the kitchen in search of Elizabeth.

Seeing him, Lois said, “Saba, I have to fetch another covering for Naomi,” and signaled with her eyes to indicate to keep Elizabeth from following.

“I am feeling quite lost,” Elizabeth found herself telling John. “My daughter is in a room nearby, but I cannot go to her...”

“It will be difficult for you, but all you can do is wait. Naomi and Phillip are doing all they can to make her more comfortable.”

“More comfortable!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “She looked as though she was dying when we brought her here… I should be with her.”

“If she wakes, you will be called,” John assured her gently. “For the moment there would be nothing you can do.”

“I am sorry, it is just not knowing what is going on, how she is, if she is still alive.”

“You would be told if she died.”

Elizabeth started shaking.

“Have you eaten, child?” John asked.

“Yes, I had some broth.”

“Good. Now will you come with me and sit with me?”

“I do not think I could face all those men...”

“And I would not ask it of you. Come and sit with me in the small alcove. There will just be the two of us.” He reached out and taking her arm, pulled her gently.

Lois tapped quietly on the door of the small meeting room, “Naomi, it is me.”

“Come in,” Naomi replied.

“Sorry I have taken so long...” her words stopped as she saw the bruising on the young woman lying there. Memories rushed back, overwhelming her.

“Lois,” Naomi spoke, reaching through the haze memories. “Lois, you are safe.”

“I am sorry,” Lois said, trying to control her tears. “Poor child. Will she survive?”

“We are doing all we can to make sure she does.”

“I brought the covering you asked for earlier. In fact, I brought two just in case,” Lois said quietly, her eyes fixed on the girl. “I was beaten, but never like that,” she whispered.

“Lois. I need you to be strong.” Naomi urged.

Swallowing a sob, Lois said, “I will be. Just let me stay here a moment. If I go back to the kitchen and Elizabeth sees me upset, she will think the worst.” She moved to the other side of the room, closed her eyes and prayed for the girl.

Seated in the alcove with John, Elizabeth saw Lois as she made her way to the kitchen. “I am here, Lois. Did you see how Rachel is?”

“She is still unconscious, but she is alive. Naomi and Phillip are treating her injuries.”

“Are they dangerous? Her face is...”

“I will not lie to you, Elizabeth. She has been severely beaten.”

“Lois, I am sure Elizabeth will want to stay with her daughter tonight,” John said. “Would you please organize what she needs... a pallet, some bed coverings, and a clean robe to sleep in.”

Elizabeth looked down and noticed for the first time that her robe had some bloodstains.

Lois nodded and hurried away.

“Will you pray with me, Elizabeth?” John asked.

Elizabeth was shocked. Men did not ask women to pray with them, not in her faith anyway. Then she remembered he had prayed with her before... for her nephew. That was different, it was for healing… She stopped. And what was this!

He took her hands and knelt, urging her to do the same. His prayer was gentle, comforting, yet imploring God for his merciful intervention and healing for Rachel. “And please grant her mother peace.” She had been persuaded to add her voice to his pleas. Surprisingly it had not been as bad as she had thought it would be.

“Is there anything else that is worrying you?” he asked, when she finished her tentative prayer.

“My other daughter. I fear that Meshua will go to the farm for her.”

“We can pray about that also, but it is unlikely he would go all that way in the dark, and if he did, no gatekeeper would admit him.” He smiled. “I know of your sister’s husband, Levi ben Nathan. Samuel, Alexander, and even Benjamin were involved in the preparations for his son’s wedding. I think you can leave that safely in God’s hands.”

“Thank you,” Elizabeth sighed, unsure about all this talking of God looking after things.

“There is something else troubling you?”

“Yes, my father-in-law will not have a meal tonight,” she explained. “Doran, who works for my father-in-law, said he was in so much pain that was why he left the shop. I had gone to the healing woman for more pain medicine for him. Rachel was to put the meal on, and she must have done so. Seemingly your great-grandson smelt it burning and pushed it off the stove. I did not even think about food when I came home and discovered what had happened to Rachel.”

“Then if ‘Old Simon’ has taken some pain medicine, perhaps he would be well enough to make something simple for himself.”

“He would not cook. He is too unsteady. It would be dangerous.”

“I know ‘Old Simon,' I have been his customer for years. He is not helpless. Even though he is in pain, he will be able to look after himself.”

“There are always some hard millet and grain biscuits in our home.”

“Then let us pray he is fed tonight, and that he is safe.”

Waiting for news, John kept Elizabeth company. As the evening passed they occasionally talked, but she was tense with fear. Every time there was the sound of footsteps nearby, they looked up, but it was only some of the men retiring for the night.

Benjamin came to the alcove, “I shall be staying up until we know what is happening. Alexander brought out a pallet for you to sleep on, and Lois has left out the linens,” he explained to Elizabeth.

“I am glad you came to speak,” Elizabeth said. “Thank you so much for trying to save Rachel.”

“I blame myself. I should have paid the account quickly and left.”

“Her father would still have been angry that she was in the shop.”

“But he was furious with me. He was in such a rage he was too strong for me, and pushed me out of the shop and locked the door.”

“Then how were you able to see to her?”

Benjamin explained how he had waited, and after he had seen Doran leaving, had gone into the home.

John listened as Benjamin related what had happened from then. “Elizabeth, you took a great risk bringing her here.”

“I wanted to take her to my sister’s former servant, Rhea. She said that she and a widow named Mary have what she called a fellowship house. In the village where you had the meeting Rachel and I came to.”

“In Bartholomew’s district. I know of their work. But they are members of our fellowship, not Jewish.”

“I know. But she has some healing skills, and she had told me the purpose of the house when we went for the mixture for Jacob.” Tears trickled down her face. She wiped them away and continued, “I wanted Rachel looked after, and away from her father.”

“I told her that Rachel would not survive such a long journey in the back of a cart,” Benjamin said.

John looked at Benjamin. He was very free with the girl’s name. Sighing, John decided all he could do was pray about it.

“Elizabeth. You may go to your daughter now,” Naomi, exhausted, came looking for the distraught mother.

“Is she alright?” Elizabeth asked as she stood up.

“She is sleeping. I had to give her powder more than once so Phillip could tend to her wounds. Besides, it is better she sleeps.” Turning to her son she asked, “Benjamin, will you please move the pallet for her mother into the small meeting room?”

Benjamin nodded and went to fetch the pallet from the door into the courtyard where Alexander had left it.

As Naomi took Elizabeth along the passage to the small meeting room, she said, “I had thought you would want to stay with her, so Benjamin is bringing a pallet into the room for you. However, I will be sitting with her.”

“I could sit with her,” Elizabeth protested.

“I know, but I might need to give her some medicine, or tend to her during the night. Phillip has told me what is needed, and he will be back early in the morning.” She did not want to tell Elizabeth how dangerously ill the girl was, or the mother would definitely not sleep. Phillip had wrapped her upper chest tightly fearing that if Rachel woke to the pain she would be in, and moved suddenly, a rib he was sure was broken might pierce one of her lungs. She also needed to be watched that she did not cough up blood and choke on it. Naomi had a bowl ready under the sleeping couch Rachel was on, and Phillip had told her how to safely raise the girl so she could cough the blood into the bowl.

“I will not be able to sleep anyway.”

“Then perhaps you should have some of my sleeping herbs,” Naomi smiled. “Your daughter will need a lot of care for some time yet, and you need to be well.”

“I am also concerned about my father-in-law, he is on his own.”

“Will he be safe if your husband goes back home and finds you and Rachel gone?”

“He seems to be able to calm my husband. They had an argument when Meshua came back, his father said something that made him change is behavior... till now. But finding Rachel in the shop would have enraged him, so I really do not know.”

Naomi picked up the linens that had been left on a small table, and she and Elizabeth made their way into the room where Rachel was.

Elizabeth hurried over to where her daughter lay and looked down at her. “Will her face ever heal?” she asked through her tears.

“The bruising will fade,” Naomi said nothing about a possible fracture of her cheek or damage to her brain.

Benjamin called from the doorway, “I have the pallet, may I enter?”

“Come in, son. Put the pallet over at this side so that Elizabeth is able to rest without being disturbed if I move about.”

He did as he was told, but when Elizabeth and his mother went to put the linens on, he stood briefly and stared at Rachel. “Oh Father, please heal her,” he whispered.

He knew then that he loved her. It was not the same way he had felt for Deborah. What he felt for Rachel was a deeper, stronger feeling. He said in his mind, ‘Please recover, and somehow we will be together,’ then he remembered his mistake before when he had ‘claimed’ Deborah. He added, ‘According to Your will Father.’

Naomi turned around and saw her son standing there. The look on his face laid his feelings bare. “Benjamin,” she said, afraid Elizabeth would see it.

Coming back to the present, he smiled. “Goodnight, Aima. Good night, mother of Rachel.”

“Goodnight,” they both responded.

Naomi walked over and stood looking down at Rachel. Her breathing seemed a little steadier. “Elizabeth, would you sit with her till I go to the kitchen and have my meal. If she moves or cries out, call me immediately.”

“May I touch her?”

“Only that hand, I am afraid. There is much damage to her body.”

“And the other arm is broken, I see,” Elizabeth’s voice caught on a sob.

“Would you prefer...?”

“No. Go and eat. Lois and I left some food ready for you and the doctor.”

“He went to check that Malachi is alright after his injury, then he was going home.”

“Where is Lois?”

“Sent to bed. She will come here during the night, and sit with your daughter. We will try not to disturb you. While I am out to eat my meal, you should change into the clean robe Lois left for you.”

Sitting down in the chair by her daughter’s bed, she carefully took her daughter’s hand, and as Naomi left, started talking to her. She tried to remember what she had heard John say when he prayed for her, but could not. Tentatively she said, “May the God of these people heal you, my precious child.”

*****

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