Joseph Reveals Himself

His sons with all haste prepared for their journey. They loaded their asses with the presents their father had bidden them take with them—honey, spices, balm, almonds—the best they had in store. They took with them also double money—twice the amount they had taken on their first going down into Egypt, and the money also which had been concealed in their sacks.

When everything was ready, Benjamin came out to them from his father, and they set out together. He was young and fearless, and he had his mother’s beauty. And he was eager beyond measure to see the great lord of whom he had heard his brothers speak, and the cities and temples and tombs, and all the famed marvels of the land of Egypt, and the splendours of Pharaoh.

In due time they presented themselves before the steward of the granary. He sent word to Joseph that these Hebrews were come again, and that they had brought with them a lad who they said was their youngest brother. When Joseph heard this, his heart welled over with joy and happiness. He summoned his steward, the overseer of his household, as he himself had been under Potiphar: ‘Take these men to my house,’ he said, ‘and see that everything is done to put them at their ease and comfort, for they are to dine with me at noon.’

So his steward himself went to the granary as he was bidden. There he found the Hebrews still in custody. He led them away through the streets of the city, reeking with dust and heat, and loud and busy with traffic. On either side of the crowded alleys were the shops of the goldsmiths and the sandal-makers. There, too, the barbers, cook-shops and pastry-cooks, potters and beer-houses. A throng of wayfarers of a score of different races jostled them on every side. Benjamin gazed about him in astonishment—at the Egyptians themselves, painted and bewigged, with their folded cloaks and long walking-canes; at the women tattooed on chin and brow, their hair dyed blue, with their collars of beads and precious gems and their tinkling bracelets. The scene was past comparison beyond anything he had ever dreamed or imagined.

The steward brought them at last, where all was quiet, to a gateway of carved stone, in the shade of a dark green acacia tree. Through this they entered the courtyard of Joseph’s house. It was paved with stone, and from it terraces went down, set with pools and conduits of water, serene and glittering in the sun under the deep blue of the Egyptian skies. Lilies, the flower of the lotus, lay in bloom snowy and golden amid their flat green leaves in the water. Ducks of bright plumage floated upon it. It was screened with green trellises of vines.

Beyond, they looked out over Joseph’s orchards, apple and pomegranate, palm and fig, in the shade of whose leafy branches were many wild birds, sparrow and wagtail and dove. But for these, and the bell- clear sound of running water and the stir of the servants who came and went, all was still and tranquil, and the air was cool and sweet.

When Joseph’s brothers, who stood waiting beside their asses in the courtyard, knew that this was the palace of the great lord himself, they were abashed and filled with mistrust. They murmured one to another: ‘It is for no good of ours that we have been brought hither. It must be because of the money that was put back secretly into our sacks. It was a device to betray us. We are alone and defenceless. This great lord will accuse us falsely; his servants will fall upon us, and seize all that we have. We are doomed.’

While the others thus waited in grievous trouble of mind at what might come of it, two of them went to the entry of the house and asked if they might speak with the steward.

‘Sir,’ they said, when he came to them, ‘we entreat thee to think no evil of us. We are, as you know, from the land of Canaan, and strangers here, and we have merely journeyed down again into Egypt as we did before, and as we were bidden, to buy corn because of the famine. When we were sent away after our first coming here, we found when we unladed our asses that the money we had brought with us had been restored to us and hidden in our sacks—the money we had actually paid for the corn. Nor

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