them. Scanning their faces in the light of the lamp she carried, she admitted them, asked their business, and made them welcome. She set bread and wine before them and left them to refresh themselves.

But though they knew it not, the chief watchman at the gate had seen them enter the city, and mistrusting them for the spies they were, had had them followed to the woman’s house. When it was reported to the king of Jericho that two Hebrews were concealed in the city, he was greatly wroth. He commanded that they should be seized instantly and brought before him, and that his torturers should be in waiting.

There came anon, then, a guard of soldiers to Rahab’s house and beat upon the door. Spying out on them from a window, she guessed on what errand they were come. She ran in haste to the two spies where they sat supping together, and warned them of their danger. ‘Follow me now, at once,’ she bade them, ‘and with all caution, for there is not a moment to lose.’ And she herself ran on before them and led them up on to the flat roof of her house, which was built upon the city wall and overlooked the plain beyond it. There she hid them, heaping over them bundles of flax which had been laid out in order, to be dried in the sun for the weaving of linen. She bade them lie close until she came again, and not so much as stir or whisper.

Then she ran down and opened to the guard; and when they questioned and threatened her, she told them that the two men they were seeking had indeed come to the house and had entreated lodging for the night. But as she knew not whence they had come or who they were, she had denied them, and had herself watched and seen them go out of the city a little before dark, while there was yet time and the gates were not shut.

‘Whither they went then I cannot say,’ she said. ‘But they were spent and on foot and cannot have gone far. Pursue after them quickly and you will certainly overtake them.’

The soldiers left her, and set off as they thought in hot chase of the spies towards the fords of the Jordan, with intent to cut them off before they could cross over, though by now it was dark and the moon had set. And the gates of the city were shut after them.

When all sound of them was stilled, Rahab shut to her door and barred it and returned to the spies on the roof. She called to them softly and they crept out of their hiding-place. And she told them why she had given them shelter and had not betrayed them to their enemies. Even at first sight of them, she said, she had pierced through the disguise they wore, and knew them to be spies and Hebrews. For dwelling as she did near the gateway of the city, which was continually thronged with travellers and strangers, she had long since heard the rumour of the approach of the hosts of Israel. She had heard moreover how the Lord God they worshipped had driven back the waters of the Red Sea for their salvation, confounding the hosts of Pharaoh; and what fate had overtaken the kings of the Amorites, Og and Sihon, when they had set themselves in array against them.

‘Of a truth,’ she said, ‘as soon as we of the city heard these things our hearts melted within us. The king and all his captains are sick with apprehension. Why else should his soldiers have come knocking here to seize two helpless strangers unless it be for fear of him that sent you? I am myself a sinful woman and of little account, yet I assuredly know and believe that the Lord God who wrought these marvels is the true God that reigns in heaven above and over all things on the earth beneath it, and that the walls and towers of Jericho are less than nought against them that believe in him and do his will.’

She stayed, gazing into their faces in the thin sprinkled light of the stars that burned wildly in the skies above them, her eyes darkly luminous, her countenance pale and rapt with the eager motions of her mind and the ardour of her heart. ‘Wherefore then,’ she continued earnestly, ‘I beseech you to vow unto me by the living God that since I have showed you kindness, you also will show kindness to those whom I love, and will save the lives of my father and my mother, my brothers and sisters, in the day of evil, and deliver us from death. What power had I? What if the commander of the armies of Israel had sent out a thousand spies into the city and all had been taken and done to death—what would that have

  By PanEris using Melati.

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