of honey. He was hot and hungry, and with the palms of his hands he scraped out a fragment of the oozing comb and refreshed himself with its honey as he went on his way. When he reached home he gave some of the honey to his father and mother, but he uttered no word concerning his encounter with the lion, or that he had found the honey in its dried-up carcase.

Convinced at last that they would never consent to his marriage with the young Philistine woman, he himself went down alone and persuaded her crafty father that she should be given to him for wife. This done, he prepared for his wedding feast, which was to be held, not, as was the custom in Israel, in his own house, but in the house of the Philistine. Many guests from among her kinsfolk and friends were invited, but none of his own people; and of the Philistines some had long been known to him, and one of them was his bosom friend. Apart from the women, thirty young men in all, perfumed and anointed, sat down with him at the feast, which continued, as was the way with the Philistines, for seven days.

The mornings were spent in singing and dancing, and in contests of strength and skill. At night they feasted. Contests of wit, also, for they asked riddles one of another, eating and drinking and rejoicing together. Samson listened to them, as he sat in his bright-coloured wedding clothes, his fair hair braided in seven plaits behind his head. And while he watched them he grew ever more ill at ease, for though they flattered him to his face, there were many among them who mocked at him behind his back and were hostile to the marriage of one of their kinswomen to a man of an alien and hated race. The thought irked him and he pined to outwit and humble these braggarts. He sat brooding, then, of a sudden smiling within himself, he stood up and challenged them.

‘Hearken, now, all of you, and I myself will ask you a riddle. And if any man among you can give me the right answer to it within the seven days of the feast, then will I pay for forfeit not only to him but to each and every one of you a change of finest linen and a robe as splendid as any now upon your backs. But beware of it, for it must be a wager between us. And if you fail to find the answer, then shall you yourselves pay me thirty changes of fine linen and thirty robes as good as mine—one of both from each of you!’

He turned and glanced at his bride who sat beside him in her place. She smiled at him with glittering eyes, and he laughed.

Merry with wine, the young Philistines took up his challenge. ‘Tell us your riddle,’ they shouted, ‘and thou shalt have the answer to it far sooner than we the forfeit!’

Then Samson said: ‘This is my riddle—

Out of the eater came wherewith to eat,
And out of the strong the sweet.

Answer me that!’

For the next day or two the Philistines racked their wits to find an answer to it, but found none. They were enraged at the thought of this Hebrew triumphing over them, and some of them sought out Samson’s young wife and threatened her.

‘Did you entice down this boasting young Danite and choose him for a husband merely in order to beggar us all? Who is he that we should load him with robes and fine linen? Look well now, if thou canst not coax out of thy husband the meaning of this riddle of his so that we can give him his answer before the seven days of the feast are over, it is thou thyself shall pay the forfeit, for of a surety we will burn down thy father’s house and thee inside of it.’

At this threat Samson’s wife was so sore afraid that with all the cunning she could she set about persuading Samson to tell her the answer. But at first without avail. When they were alone again together she began to weep.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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