Then Samson strode down to the neck of the pen where the wall of rock so narrowed that there was only passage-room for two or three foxes abreast. He took fire and the torches he had made, and with one blow of his foot broke down the hurdle which lay across this outlet, and seizing the couple of foxes that were nearest, he kindled the torch between their tails and set them free on the very outskirts of the fields. And so he continued.

Instantly after, now here, now there, and in the twinkling of an eye, and to and fro, as the frenzied creatures ranged—quarrelling, fighting, scurrying this way and that—rose up and ran jets and spurts of flame, scarcely visible at first in the blaze of day. But they spread like wildfire, billowing on in ever-widening eddies across the plain, like ripples of water on a pool, but soon surging together and circling on and on, until wide stretches of the mounded plain roared together like fire in a furnace, and in the wind raised by their own heat.

When, his last captives set free, Samson climbed up on high upon a rock and once more surveyed the country of his foes, it was no longer a sea of mist or of ripe grain his eyes beheld, but of fire; and a prodigious column of smoke, black as a storm cloud, towered up into the heavens, visible for leagues, and to ships far out to sea. He looked and laughed.

The fire raged on, past human hope of its being quenched or beaten out. So fervent was the heat and so dense the smoke that the Philistines could only watch it from a distance, helpless to draw near; until at last not only the standing corn and what was reaped and in sheaves, but many of their vineyards and olive-yards were no more than a smoking and smouldering waste of ashes. They were beside themselves with fury and dismay. It seemed beyond the wit of man to have wreaked such widespread destruction in but a few hours.

‘Who is it that hath done this? What enemy hath done this?’ they cried one to another. ‘Away, away with him!’ Indeed it was the law of the land that if by mere mischance even one of their own people set fire to so much as an acre of their fields at harvest-tide, he paid for it with his life.

When they were told that this was the work of Samson—the Hebrew son-in-law of the Timnite—and that he had done it to avenge himself against them because his wife had been taken away from him and given to a friend, their rage turned to consternation. Mortally afraid to meet such an enemy until they were prepared, a band of these Philistines that night went up by stealth at dead of dark and encircling the house of the father of the beautiful young Philistine woman, they set it on fire and burnt it to the ground. And he himself and his daughter whom Samson loved and his whole household perished. Thus they thought to wound one whom for the time being they feared to strike.

When Samson heard of it, tears gushed out of his eyes. He forgot the woman’s faithlessness and deceit and remembered only that he loved her. A furious and bitter hatred filled his heart. ‘So be it,’ he said; ‘if this is their way of it, I will avenge myself against them seven times over.’

He armed himself and went down in his fury, and not one of them escaped with his life. Then aware that he had now raised all Philistia against him like a nest of hornets, he turned east and fled away until he came to a desolate precipitous steep of rock called Etam. This he scaled and there concealed himself in a cave or fissure in the face of the rock, where wild goats and ravens were his only company.

Spies carried news of where he lay, and the Philistines dispatched a troop of soldiers in pursuit of him, with orders that they were to take him alive and bring him down. They marched north, crossed the border, and raiding the country of Judah, encamped that night in a rocky valley named Lehi, not far distant from Samson’s lair. On hearing this the men of Judah took hasty counsel and sent an envoy to the captain of the troop of the Philistines to demand what cause they had for invading their country when they were in treaty with them, and had done them no mischief.

The envoy returned with the message that while the Philistines agreed that they had no quarrel with the tribesmen of Judah, they were come up to capture Samson of Zorah, the chieftain of the Danites, who

  By PanEris using Melati.

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