Time went by, and as, while he was young and ardent and impetuous, after but one glance into her face, he had come to love the beautiful young daughter of the Philistine of Timnath, so again, when he was a man of full age, he came to love another Philistine woman. Her name was Delilah; she lived in the valley of Sorek and not far distant from the village of Zorah, green then with trees among the hills, where Samson himself was born.

His mother and father were now dead, and he lived alone, going down day by day to visit Delilah in the valley of vineyards beneath. When word of this was brought to the ears of the five princes or lords of the Philistines, they came to the house of Delilah and communed with her in secret.

‘This man Samson,’ they said, ‘as thou knowest well, is the enemy of us all. From the days of his youth even until now he has been the pest and bane of thy people and the sworn adversary of their gods. Yet year by year he grows in power and authority, puffing up these Hebrews with such pride and trust in him that they have come to think of him as half-god and half-man and invincible. But think not it is thee thyself we blame for that. Far from it, since it has been put into thy power to win from him the secret of his strength and valour. So strange and unnatural a thing cannot lie in his own bodily force alone, but must depend upon some magic or mystery connected with the God he worships. Do thy utmost then to entice and to persuade him to confide in thee this secret. It may be that he wears some charm or amulet which thou canst steal away.’

While they thus talked with her, and reasoned with her, though at first she resisted them, Delilah’s mind was wavering between her love for Samson and her fear of the vengeance these tyrants would wreak against her if she refused to do as they bade her.

Seeing this, they tempted her at last with a bribe. ‘It is not in our minds,’ they said, ‘that thou shouldst stain thy hands with his blood, but only that thou shouldst entice his secret out of him and so deliver him helpless into our hands. We swear unto thee that though he shall be repaid in full for all his insolence and bloodshed and evil, his life shall be spared. But thou shalt indeed have worked a marvel, and thy name will be famous for all time among the women of Philistia. Moreover, we will each one of us pay over to thee in reward eleven hundred pieces of silver.’ They watched her closely. But in greed of this great reward Delilah hesitated no more and consented to betray Samson into their hands.

When next he came to visit her, and they were sitting together in the cool of the evening, she began to question him of the days when he was young and when his father and mother were yet alive. She asked him of his bringing up and of the sports and pastimes of his youth, and when he had first come to know how much fleeter of foot and more supple of body he was than any boy of his own age.

‘I have heard tell,’ she said, ‘that even in thy childhood fear was utterly unknown to thee, and that there was none to compare with thee in craft and daring. Tell me,’ she said at last, and as if the thought had at that moment come harmlessly into her mind, ‘tell me, what is the secret of thy marvellous strength? What charm or talisman hast thou that fills thee with such frenzy, and makes thee invincible against thy foes? I burn with pride in thee, Samson; for I know that only by making thee utterly helpless could they ever hope to subdue thee into their power.’

Samson told her freely of his early days in Zorah, but no further. When she persisted in her questions, he rose, stretched out his arms, and stood gazing out of window towards the vineyards on the hillside already darkened in the shades of night, and from which the last wrack of twilight would soon be faded away.

He smiled within himself and turned back to her. ‘Why,’ said he, ‘if I were bound fast with seven raw bow-strings—bow-strings, I mean, that have never been dried, so that the knots would not slip—then my strength would ebb clean out of me, and I should be empty, defenceless, weak as any other man.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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