The Light of Truth

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Chapter 26

CHAPTER 26

‘Old Simon’s’ home

The shop was closed, the house quiet when Malachi went to tell ‘Old Simon’ he had returned from Patara, and to deliver a message from his grandson.

“Master?” Malachi called as he entered through the house door.

Jonadab stood and watched forbiddingly. “You enter without knocking, through the main door, and you are… a servant.”

Stammering, Malachi replied, “The shop is closed… I did knock but… I came from Patara…”

Drawing himself up to his full height, Jonadab turned and stared down at ‘Old Simon’ seated on his couch before him, “Do not forget what I told you.”

“I will not forget,” ‘Old Simon’ responded, then looking at Malachi, said, “Show Hakham Jonadab to the main door, lad.”

“I need no guidance from this… person. I know where the door is, I will see myself out. Your cart and the lads will be returned well before sunset.” With that Jonadab left the pair.

It seemed that the shop was closed because the workers, and the cart, were doing some task for the rabbi, but Malachi dared not ask. He had never seen the master like this.

“Master, I came to tell you that I have just returned from Patara. I am sorry that I have been delayed, but I could not have completed the journey before the Sabbath. Your grandson sends you his love and greatly regrets what you have been through.”

“Have you been to your home?”

“Not yet, master. I thought I should tell you I have returned first.” Looking around, he was concerned; there was no sign of Elizabeth. The appalling thought struck him. Had Rachel died? Was that the reason for the rabbi’s assistant’s visit, for the mood the master was in? He was afraid to ask.

“Do not bother me with questions just now.”

He had not asked any questions.

“Go home. Go and see if my granddaughter is able to be moved.”

Malachi sighed. Rachel must still be alive. “Yes, master. Do you want me to come back and let you know, or shall I wait until I come to work tomorrow?” Then he wondered if there would be work tomorrow.

“Come back when you know. I expect you will want my donkey and cart if Rachel can be taken to her aunt and uncle’s home.”

“Master,” Malachi turned sadly, and went back to the house door. The shop was closed, ‘Old Simon’ showed no sign of trying to stand up, and Malachi was weary and thirsty. It had been a long and uncomfortable journey back with the camel train. They had not stopped for the noon break, the camel master wanting to complete his journey and claim a bonus for the fast delivery of the goods. ‘Old Simon’ was uncharacteristically inhospitable, but it was clear that the rabbi’s assistant had intimidated him.

John’s family home

“‘Old Simon’ is a very selfish old man,” Naomi protested to her husband, as she hastily put together a small meal and a drink for Malachi.

Samuel looked at Malachi standing by the bench in the kitchen, gulping down some cool, well-water, and wondered why his wife was being so vociferous in front of the lad.

“Malachi, here, has just returned from Patara. He had a four day journey there; had to deliver the note from his grandfather to Timon; wait until after the Sabbath. Then he had to wait to return with the only camel master who was coming to Ephesus – a three day, fast journey.” She paused for breath, then went on, “Malachi went to tell ‘Old Simon’ he was back and give him greetings from his grandson, and it sounds as though the old man was in a temper.” She stopped again, but her thoughts continued, ‘That is obviously where his son inherited it from.’ When she saw the way Samuel sent her a warning look, she was glad she had not spoken the words aloud. She did say, “He sent Malachi here to find out about Rachel, and did not even offer him some refreshment.”

“Did Elizabeth not offer you something, lad?” Samuel asked.

“She was not there,” Malachi responded, after swallowing a mouthful of bread.

“She left here a long time ago,” Samuel said. “I saw her going out the courtyard door.”

“She had to go to the market and buy some fresh produce,” Naomi told him.

“What is it that ‘Old Simon’ wants to know?” Samuel asked.

“If Rachel is able to be moved. The rabbi’s assistant was there when I arrived and ‘Old Simon’ looked very uncomfortable. I did not mean to say he was in a temper, just that he did not behave as he usually does. If anyone was in a temper, it was the rabbi’s assistant.”

“Pray for your enemies…” Samuel quoted. At Malachi’s perplexed look, Samuel explained. “Sadly, that man has shown himself to be the enemy of all followers of the ‘Way,’ but God knows the plans He has for the man, so we should pray for him.”

Lois came hurrying into the kitchen, “Rachel thought she heard Malachi’s voice, and asks if it is time?”

“Yes, it will be,” Naomi replied, and turned to explain. “Phillip said that Rachel would be able to travel after the Sabbath…”

“The camel train did not leave until two days after the Sabbath, and the camel-master drove them as fast as they could be driven,” Malachi said.

“That must have been a very uncomfortable journey for you,” Samuel sympathized.

“It was, and we did not stop for the rest stop, he said we were near enough to the city to keep going.”

“Did the other travelers not object?” Naomi asked.

“There were none. I came with a camel master who was transporting light goods that were needed urgently.”

“What shall I tell Rachel?” Lois, who had been waiting patiently, asked.

“Tell her that I will send a message to Phillip,” Naomi replied. “It is near another Sabbath. He will decide if they travel tomorrow or not.”

“But ‘Old Simon’s’ cart is not back…”

“It would have been too late to start out now,” Samuel said. “What does ‘Old Simon’ want you to do?”

“He said to go back and tell him if Rachel was well enough to be moved. It seems the cart will not be back until before sunset, though.”

“Have you been home? Does your mother know you are back?” Naomi asked.

“No, I went first to the shop, then I came here.”

“Then go home and see her. If the cart is not being returned until later, there is no point in hurrying back to the shop. See your mother, rest a little, then go back and bring the cart here as we planned before. I will send a message to Phillip to let him know that you are back and Rachel can be moved.”

“Thank you, Naomi, Samuel,” Malachi said and turned to leave.

Naomi watched him leave, sadly. “Although she has been only here for two weeks, and our home has been in disarray… Rachel in our meeting room, Phillip coming her to see to her, Elizabeth visiting… so much disruption to our normal routine.”

Samuel looked at her, wondering what her conclusion would be. She had not said anything about Saba, and all the copying.

“And yet, I shall miss that poor child. She has been so brave, so determined…I wonder what will come of it all,” Naomi said thoughtfully.

‘Old Simon’s’ home

Elizabeth wondered the same thing as she stood, trembling, in front of ‘Old Simon.’

“Jonadab made it plain, Elizabeth. You were seen going to that heretic’s house, the one who calls himself an apostle.”

“Father-in-law, I told you that is where Rachel was taken.”

“For all this time! You did not say that she was still there.”

“You did not see her injuries. According to Phillip, the doctor, it is a miracle she survived.”

“You are free with the names of heretics. Is what Jonadab suggests correct? You are becoming one of them.”

Elizabeth blanched. She knew what that would mean. She would have to leave this home. “No, father-in-law, I have not become one of them, nor am I becoming one. I go there to see my daughter, for a short while.”

In truth, ‘Old Simon’ was nervous himself. His livelihood could be lost by this. “When it happened, I told the rabbi about her care… that she was taken to a hospitium. He was not pleased because he knows it is heretics who run most of the hospitiums, the ones that are clean. Now he finds out that my granddaughter has been nursed in a heretic’s home!”

“She is able to be moved now. I worried too, that the rabbi would find out.”

“Which he did. You could not expect to go there every day for all this time and not be seen.”

“I wanted to see my daughter and make sure she was recovering.”

‘Old Simon’ looked at her through narrowed eyes, “Will she be staying with your sister or another of those heretics?”

“She will be cared for by my sister’s former servant. She and a widow are sharing a home,” Elizabeth replied, hoping he would ask no more. The rabbi’s assistant must have made some threat that frightened her father-in-law. He had never been concerned about the faith of others before. “You have some good customers that are heretics; it has not worried you before.”

“They do not live under my roof.”

“What about Rachel? Will you allow her back under your roof?”

“If she has taken on their beliefs, no, I cannot risk being ostracized from the community.”

“Oh, so that was the threat,” Elizabeth said, becoming angry. “Those people, the ‘heretics’ you call them, do not care what a person’s beliefs are. Look how they have tended and cared for your granddaughter, a Jewish girl. Not once has any one of them tried to make me see things their way. Phillip himself will take Rachel to Rhea’s home so she can finish recovering. He will take her all that way, in spite of the fact he is a doctor, as is his son. They are called to mend the bones and bodies of the citizens of Ephesus… be they of their faith, Jew or pagan. Yet the rabbi’s assistant comes to you complaining that my daughter is being treated in one of their homes. Is this the love of God?”

“We are God’s chosen people,” ‘Old Simon’ replied. He agreed with most of what Elizabeth had said, but he was too old and too weary to cope with being shunned.

Elizabeth’s anger left. She saw her father-in-law for what he was; an old, sick man. A man who had recently disowned his son… a son who had almost killed his own daughter in an angry rage, and ‘Old Simon’ had not been able to visit the granddaughter he loved. “I will go prepare our dinner,” she said softly. “I brought some fresh vegetables from the market.”

“Doran’s mother is making our meal.”

“What? Why?”

“You were out so long at the market, and Jonadab was here. He wondered if you were off having lessons from them.”

“I was so long at the market because I was choosing the freshest vegetables I could find. While I have been visiting Rachel, not taking lessons, my visits to the market have been hurried, and today I wanted to make a good broth for you.”

“I was not to know that,” ‘Old Simon’ protested feebly.

“So what arrangement has been made with Doran’s mother?”

“Nothing firm.”

“Are you planning other changes?”

“Store those vegetable away, and come sit down and we will talk.”

Elizabeth gave him a long, guarded look. Whatever Jonadab had said, had plainly raised enough concern in her father-in-law to make him cautious about his associations. Whether it would continue, only time would tell.

As she washed and dried the vegetables before storing them, Elizabeth’s mind was working furiously. She wanted to bring Esther home, but at the moment she was not sure if any of them had a home. She understood now why Rachel disliked the rabbi’s assistant so much.

“Father-in-law, I have finished putting the vegetables away, what do you want to talk to me about?”

“You know that my grandson from Egypt is coming here to learn the business.”

“Yes, and I am happy for you. What you have experienced has been difficult.”

“I need to make some changes to the house, make more living accommodation. He will stay here, and if he decides he wants to make his home in Ephesus, there will need to be space for a wife and family.”

“Are you saying that you want me to leave and that there will be no home for my girls?”

There was a pause while ‘Old Simon’ thought about his reply.

“You want us to leave.”

“No, Elizabeth. You have been a kind, hard-working daughter-in-law...”

“But?”

“I have to consider the future. If Judah wants to make his home here…”

She could see he had hopes that he would. Meshua was gone, Timon had left his grandfather’s trade to become a ship-owner.

‘Old Simon’ continued speaking, “And no, I do not wish you to leave... but if you change your beliefs, you will have to go. I remember telling you that when Esther was... healed, and you wondered why that old man’s prayer was heard, but not the many prayers of our rabbis.”

“Father-in-law, you saw the same as I did, and you must also have wondered.”

“I cannot allow myself such wonderings, you should not either.”

“I do not,” she protested, but realized she did. “What other changes will you be making? Are you going to serve only Jewish customers?” She wondered if Malachi would be told to leave, but not wanting to remind ‘Old Simon’ that he was ‘one of those,’ she chose not to ask.

“In the weeks ahead, there will be some workmen coming in to build another room, a smaller one of course as there is not much free space. You might like it.”

“You want me to move from the bedroom I have always used since I came here as a bride?”

‘Old Simon’ stared at the floor.

“Are my girls still to have their room?”

“Elizabeth, you are a sensible woman,” ‘Old Simon’ said. “You do not need the large bedchamber. You no longer have a husband, and if you were to marry again, which is not likely at your age, then you would move to another home.”

Bewildered, Elizabeth did not know whether to laugh or cry. It was clear things were changing, how far-reaching they would be, who could tell. “It is not a large home, but it has been enough for our needs. You have your own chamber, father-in-law, which is quite large, you need the space. I will move into the new room when it is completed.”

“I said you were a sensible woman.”

“To whom? Jonadab? Is it his idea? Was it he who suggested you have someone else cook for you?”

“Doran’s mother offered. She knows how worried you have been about Rachel.” At Elizabeth’s sudden glance, he added, “She does not know where the girl has been. How could she, I did not know.”

“Doran has never asked?”

“At first, but I told him she was being cared for by family. His mother is not one of those busybodies, so Doran is not either. I admit he was curious at the start, but he accepted what Malachi told him. He is just pleased to have regular work.”

“Then I will go and prepare the washing for the woman tomorrow,” Elizabeth said and left to go out into the courtyard.

The sound of the cart wheels rumbled up the lane behind the shop. “Elizabeth!” ‘Old Simon’ shouted.

“I hear,” she replied. “I will see to them.”

“They do not need ‘seeing to.’ Hurry out there and tell them to leave the cart hitched to the donkey. Malachi will be back to collect it.”

“Malachi? Has he returned?”

“Yes, and I expect him back to collect the cart. Now hurry, or they will have unhitched the donkey and stabled it. Tell them to leave it for Malachi.”

“Is that wise? I thought you did not want anyone to know about Rachel,” Elizabeth said as she came back.

“It will not matter now. The rabbi knows. In fact, it might be good for them to hear that Rachel is being moved to safety with your sister and brother-in-law… a good Jewish family.”

Elizabeth shrugged as she went to tell the lads. If ‘Old Simon’ wanted to believe that, it was his right. She had told him several times that it was her sister’s former servant who would be looking after Rachel.

She hurried through the shop, and out the exit to the lane. “My father-in-law says you are to leave the donkey and cart hitched. Malachi is coming to collect them.”

“Is Malachi back?” Doran asked.

Elizabeth nodded.

Seth said, “The donkey has worked hard today. He should be unhitched, rubbed down, fed and watered before having to go out again.”

Doran agreed, “He is speaking the truth, mistress Elizabeth. The donkey has worked hard.”

“I will tell my father-in-law.”

“He said the shop would be open tomorrow,” Doran said, “and he told Seth to come too.”

“Then do as he told you,” Elizabeth replied, and left them to take the donkey to the stable.

As she made her way back, wondering how he would react, Elizabeth shook her head. Sometimes it was obvious where her husband had learnt to use people as he did. Malachi had been sent to Patara with the task of delivering a note, and no doubt, explaining what Meshua had done to Rachel. He also had to explain that Meshua had been officially ‘cast-off’ and declared dead in the community. Now, Malachi had just returned it seemed, and he was to take the cart to John’s home so that Rachel could be moved to Rhea’s home.

“You look very thoughtful, did you tell the lads what I want done?” ‘Old Simon’ said, his tone a little more kindly.

“They said the donkey need to be unhitched, rubbed-down, watered and fed before working again today,” Elizabeth replied.

“They have a point,” ‘Old Simon’ agreed, to her surprise. “Now, before Doran’s mother brings our meal, would you rub my feet?”

Elizabeth gathered the liniment, some cloths, and a bowl then sat at the old man’s feet.

“You have become very quiet,” ‘Old Simon’ remarked.

“I will miss being able to visit my daughter,” Elizabeth said. “I know she must move, and it has caused problems for you… but they saved her life, and I will miss being able to visit her.”

‘Old Simon’ grunted. He missed his granddaughter too, but she was living with heretics, and Jonadab, in particular, was out-spoken about the consequences if she stayed there. He supposed that in the absence of a father to rule the girl, as her grandfather, he was expected to take authority over her.

“Is that better, father-in-law?” Elizabeth asked when she finished.

“Yes, thank you. Have we much of the liniment left?”

“Enough for a while.”

“Mmm. I wonder if the local healing woman can make the same thing,” ‘Old Simon’ mused.

“I asked her a long time ago. She checked how it smelt and said there were herbs in there that she did not know about.”

There was a long silence.

Elizabeth gathered up what she had used, and then, because he had given her an opportunity, said, “Father-in-law, I intend to go out to the village where my sister lives and visit Rachel. I asked the doctor before and he said if I left it for a week or two while she settled in and recovered some more, I would be able to visit.”

“Then you could have this servant make me some more liniment,” ‘Old Simon’ said.

“Yes. I am sure she will do that.” Standing up, Elizabeth said, “While I am there, I will go the extra distance and visit my other sister, and tell her it is time Esther returned to us. I have to tell them about Meshua, and Rachel being injured.”

“That will take more than one day,” ‘Old Simon’ remarked.

“Yes. It will probably take a week, perhaps two. My sisters will want me to stay with each of them a little while.” Elizabeth reached for his hand, “So it might work out well that Doran’s mother will care for you. Do you think she could manage your medicine, and putting the liniment on your feet?”

“If she is willing, she can cook for me, and do the cleaning, but my feet, no. I will not have a strange woman touching my feet.”

“Then I do not know what to suggest. The woman who comes now to do the washing for us, would not be acceptable to you either.”

“No. But I agree that you should to bring Esther home. It was something Jonadab wondered about.”

Elizabeth sighed. Jonadab. Was there no part of their lives that he did not have an opinion on? She did not trust herself to speak, so she took the bowl and the cloths outside. While she worked, she was busy thinking. With the mood her father-in-law had been in earlier, she was pleased at his reaction to being told she intended to visit Rachel.

“Would you let a young man touch your feet?” Elizabeth asked when she went back indoors.

“Why?”

“I wondered if Doran had ever seen to your feet.”

“No, but I would let him if you are not here.”

“Then I shall make plans to travel to my sisters.”

“You would need the donkey and cart, to travel that distance, and to bring Esther home.”

“Yes, father-in-law, the farm is a long way from here.”

“Malachi could drive you to Rachel, then you could go to your sister, Sara. She and her husband would provide someone to take you to Joanna’s farm.”

“You have given this some thought, haven’t you?”

“About bringing Esther home, yes, I have. Since Jonadab spoke about Esther. He said her cousin should have recovered now, and Esther should come home. Then when you said you intend to visit Rachel and see your sisters... it seemed a good solution. And the workmen can start work on the extra room while you are away. That will avoid disrupting you.”

Her father-in-law might look infirm, but his mind was far from feeble. “That sounds sensible, father-in-law.”

‘Old Simon’ nodded, satisfied.

“You said Malachi would drive me, at least to where Rachel is,” Elizabeth said, a question in her voice.

“Yes, I did.”

“I will not go for another two weeks. I thought I told you that was how long I was told to wait, to let her heal better. Will you not need him in the shop?”

“It is very quiet during this period. Doran and I can manage. And Seth seems to be fitting in quite well. With his father being unable to work, the regular work helps the whole family. It is also a good deed for me, they are a poor Jewish family.”

“Do you no longer intend to employ Malachi?”

“He can train Doran while he is here in the next weeks, and I will pay his wages while he takes you to your sisters. He can wait for you, and bring you and Esther home. I am sure one of his people will ensure he has somewhere to stay while he waits.”

Elizabeth could see he was being evasive and asked, “And after he brings us home?”

“That I will have to think about while he is gone.”

After another awkward silence, ‘Old Simon’ said, “You do not approve, Elizabeth?”

His tone suggested that if she didn’t, she would have to leave also.

“It is not my place to approve or disapprove of how you manage your business, father-in-law.”

“Good, then we can continue with our plans.”

After a brief tap at the main door, Doran’s mother hurried in, “Are you ready for me to bring your meal?” she asked.

“Yes,” ‘Old Simon’ said.

“Do you need some help?” Elizabeth asked.

“No, Doran will help me carry it here.”

“Then he may as well stay and eat with us,” ‘Old Simon’ said.

John’s family home

“Malachi brought the cart and donkey,” Naomi said as the family gathered for their meal.

“So, if Phillip is able to take her, early in the morning our ‘guest’ will be leaving,” John said.

“He should be able to take her there, see her settled, explain to Bartholomew, and be back on the next day before the Sabbath.”

“None of us, not even ‘Old Simon’, I think, realized that at this time of year, finding a caravan for Malachi to travel with would not be so easy,” Naomi observed.

“With the ports closed, there is less work for them,” Samuel replied.

“The good that can be taken from the delay is that Rachel has had a bit longer to recover before making the journey,” Naomi said.

John smiled, pleased that his granddaughter was seeing that all things did ‘work together for good’.

“I will miss her,” Lois admitted. “She has borne this ‘illness’ well.”

“The effects of a beating that almost killed her, you mean,” Benjamin said bitterly.

Samuel frowned at his son.

“I know, I apologize, Abba, but it makes me angry. Not only did the man almost kill his daughter, but you have seen the size and strength of the man, and she is so frail-looking.”

“She is not frail in the least,” John said, “In that slender body is a strong and determined spirit.”

“I have always admired how capable she was in ‘Old Simon’s’ shop. I heard her placate the most impatient of customers the day before it closed for the Feast of Tabernacles. She will make an excellent wife,” Benjamin said thoughtfully.

Naomi came into the room, and hearing the end of her son’s comment, exchanged an anxious glance with her husband.

“She is a Jewish girl, Benjamin,” his father pointed out.

“I know, Abba,” Benjamin sighed, and took his place on his couch.

Samuel and Naomi exchanged a satisfied look. No arguments from their son. Perhaps he was finally growing up.

“The meal is ready. Lois, do you want to eat with Rachel, or shall I?” Naomi asked.

“I will,” Lois replied. “I have just been saying that I will miss her.”

*****

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