the stars. There was no wind, and all was still; and I counted the stars, and they were eleven. And as I looked and wondered, it seemed that not only these eleven stars, but the sun and the moon stooped and bowed in their places in heaven before me and made obeisance. Then I awoke.’

His brothers listened with louring faces, glancing covertly one at another, but Jacob his father rebuked him.

‘Cast such crazy fancies out of thy mind,’ he said. ‘And God forbid that it should be even so much as in thy dreams that I and thy mother and thy brethren should come to bow ourselves down before thee and be humbled before thee!’ None the less, the dream disquieted him, and there came a day when he remembered it again.

It chanced one evening after this, and when Joseph had passed his seventeenth birthday, that his father called him into his tent. He bade him set out on the morrow and go in search of his brothers, who had led their sheep to new pastures beyond the vale of Hebron, and not far distant from a town called Shechem.

‘Go thy way early and seek them out,’ he said, ‘for they are among strangers and enemies. Ask them how they fare, and see for thyself if it be well with them and with the flocks; and when you have rested, bring me word of them again. And may the Lord watch over you!’

Proud and happy in the trust his father put in him, Joseph rose up at daybreak next morning, kissed him, bade him good-bye, and set out at once. The day was calm and fair. It was springtime, the air was sweet with birds, and on the wayside and in the hollows of the hills hosts of wild flowers shone in their colours in the sun, crocus and anemone and narcissus. And as he went on his way, no omen chilled his heart of what was in store for him, and no foreboding that every step he took was towards a strange country from which in this life he would return home again no more.

He came at length to Shechem, an old walled and beautiful city of Samaria that with its gardens lay in a valley between two mountains, and rang with the music of more than a score of water springs. But his brothers were no longer there, and loth to return to his father without news of them, he pressed on into country unknown to him, and lost his way.

A stranger met him as he was wandering at random in the wild. He saw how young he was, and that in spite of being anxious and footsore he still held on his way, so he hailed him and inquired whom he was seeking.

‘It is my brothers,’ he said. ‘They are shepherds, but have gone on from Shechem where I looked to find them, and now I have lost my way. Tell me, I pray thee, what place is this and where it is likely they have gone?’

It chanced that this man had not only seen the shepherds but had overheard them in talk one with another, and he told Joseph they were now in all likelihood with their flocks near Dothan.

‘It lies,’ he said, ‘on a hillside above its vineyards where there is a plentiful well of water.’ And he told him how he would find it. He repeated what he had said, ‘Follow on as I have told thee, and thou canst not miss the way.’

He turned and watched until Joseph was out of sight. And Joseph hastened on eagerly, all weariness forgotten. Now on the northern side of Dothan there were hills, their slopes shagged with grey-green groves of olives, but on the side towards the south, it was flat country, so that his brothers, who were sitting there with their flocks and staring idly out across the grassy plain, spied out Joseph while he was still afar off. And they muttered morosely one to another: ‘Behold, the dreamer cometh!’

As they watched him making his way towards them in his coat of many colours, the hatred that had long smouldered in their hearts broke into flame, and some of them began devising together to murder him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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