The Foxes in the Wheat

Midway on his journey back to Zorah he sat down to rest awhile in the shade of a tree that arched its boughs over the gorge through which his path lay homewards. Absent in mind, for it was fixed on one thought only, he fondled the kid that still lay within his arm; and he turned his eyes and looked out from his eyrie across the shallow downlands of Philistia. The sun was setting, and as far as sight could reach, stretched to the white sands of the sea the fenceless ripening wheat-fields of his enemies, interwoven here and there with dark-green vineyards and silvery groves of olive.

And as he sat, brooding and motionless, his gaze fixed on the scene stretched out beneath him as if in the peace and unreality of a dream, the wild creatures he had disturbed began to return to their haunts again as if no human creature were by. Jackal yelled to jackal; and almost at his feet from its lair in the ravine a fox presently stole out, and couching itself down on the warm rock began to preen its coat, taking its pleasure, and basking in the heat of the sun.

Samson turned his eyes and watched it without stirring. And suddenly, as though a secret voice had spoken, a wild fancy leaped into his mind. He threw back his head and laughed. The kid awoke, bleating; the fox leapt into the air and was gone. The sound of Samson’s mocking laughter pealed on through the ravine, and the sunbeams caught the glint of his bright hair.

The days that followed were spent in frenzied labour to carry out the stratagem he had devised. First he fenced in a natural hollow at the foot of the mountains from which a rocky channel or dried-up watercourse, steep on either side, dropped down towards the plain. This done, he set to work digging pits and setting gins and snares wheresoever he knew was the resort of the wild foxes and jackals. He lay in wait by day in the clefts of the mountain gorges, and at night in the moonlit vineyards, and chased down and caught with his own hands these wild, fleet-footed and timid creatures.

As he caught them, he carried them off and caged them up in the pen he had prepared for them. From this they could neither leap out nor in any wise escape. There he left them to their own devices until the hour when he should need them. He toiled on without rest, urged on by one sole furious desire—to teach these accursed Philistines a lesson they would never forget. His strong-boned face and limbs scorched by the sun, his blue eyes gleaming, he was taut and tense in every sinew, yet supple as a serpent; and when he had captured as many of these creatures as he wanted for his purpose, he spent tedious hours in preparing bundles of little torches or fire-brands of kindling-wood which he smeared over with pitch and left to dry. And at last his work was done.

When then all was in readiness, he rose up one night in the small hours and went down to his pen or hollow in the rocks. It was the season of harvest full moon, and her bleaching rays streamed down on every motionless tree and rock. He straddled over into his pen and into the midst of the host of snarling beasts and by her light he caught them as he wanted them, one in one hand and one in another. They struggled, yelped and snapped at him, but were powerless to resist. He dragged them tail to tail, then bound up one of his little torches or firebrands in the middle between each two tails.

When all this was to his liking, he rested. The moon sank low, her bright face paling as the hues of dawn began to well into the dark crystal of the east. Moment by moment the light grew stronger, until the whole firmament was dyed with the colours of sunrise. At length the burning orb of the sun itself gilded the mountain-tops and from the rock where he sat in watch, above the scurrying and infuriated animals in the pen, Samson could survey the countless acres of the Philistines’ corn-lands, now showing like a vast sea of milk, for they were swathed in a pearl-pale low-lying mist.

Little by little in the heat of the morning the mist began to lift and waver and vanish away, until the wide unrippled miles of wheat-fields, dry as tinder and white as lint, lay fully exposed, shimmering in the faint airs that stirred under the vault of the blue sky. For by far the greater part of their corn was as yet unreaped, though here and there on rough patches of stubble it stood in stooks or sheaves—and all sweltering in the ardour of the sun.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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