Joy filled Delilah’s heart to hear it. On the morrow she set out forthwith and carried this news to the lords of the Philistines, and, before evening, returned again to her house, bringing with her seven undried bow-strings.

A little before nightfall, and when Samson had promised to visit her again, there stole in to the back parts of her house a company of picked men, chosen by the lords of the Philistines for their strength and valour. These she concealed within, in an inner chamber, bidding them stay there and watch and wait. ‘Abide here,’ she said, ‘without so much as stirring foot or finger until I cry out, and call you in. Then come quickly, seize him, and begone!’

She had prepared dishes of fruit, and bread and wine against Samson’s coming. Flowers sweetened the house. All was still and in readiness. And presently after she heard his footfall and his knock upon the door. She rose and admitted him into the house and they sat and ate and drank together.

When he was content and at ease, she laughed and showed him the seven bow-strings. ‘See,’ she said, narrowing her eyes and half-whispering, ‘I have done as thou didst bid me. Now let me bind thee, merely in sport, and thou shalt be wholly at Delilah’s mercy; for we are utterly alone together, thou and I.’

Samson himself put out his hands, and she bound him with the seven bow-strings, knotting them one upon another, and making them fast. And Samson sat smiling at her, feigning that his strength was gone and that he was wholly in her power. So for a while they jested together, until suddenly, as if some hint of danger had reached her ears, she turned, sprang aside, and cried in warning: ‘Alas! Samson, beware! The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!’

Gazing swiftly about him like a lion brought to bay, Samson leapt to his feet, and with a twist of his wrist snapped the bow-strings that bound his arms as if they had been no more than a strand of tow touched off by fire. And at sound of the snapping of the bow-strings the Philistines in the inner room were seized with terror, slipped away into the darkness and were gone.

Delilah herself trembled at sight of him and was filled with rage and chagrin, but she pretended only to be vexed at his having deceived her. ‘Why didst thou deceive me?’ she asked him. ‘What have I done that thou shouldst have no trust in me? I bound thee in sport with the bow-strings just as thou toldst me to, and when but to test thee I called out that there was danger, they fell away from thee as if thine was the strength not of one man but of twenty. I have never seen the like before. But speak truly now and without mockery; are there no bonds strong enough to bind thee—none? So that even if thou wert in deadly peril thou couldst not escape?’

Samson laughed aloud and said: ‘What are bowstrings? Thou couldst have netted me in like a fish with them, yet still I should have broken free.’

She continued to press him for an answer, coaxing and flattering him, until at last and merely to get peace, he said: ‘I told thee but half the truth; but if I were bound fast with seven brand-new ropes, such as are used for harnessing oxen but have never been chafed or strained, I should become as weak as water; ay, with less strength in my bones, Delilah, than thou hast thyself.’

So Delilah made ready the ropes, the supplest and strongest that the lords of the Philistines could provide. And when she and Samson sat together once more, she rose up and stole to door and window as if to make certain that they were alone. Then she came and stooped and kissed him.

‘See now, Samson,’ she said, ‘here are the ropes. And now I am going to bind thee; and truly thou shalt be made to go down upon thy knees and plead for forgiveness before I set thee free.’ And she bound Samson with the ropes. When she had made them fast, and sported with him awhile, he heeded so little what she had done that he became drowsy, and all but fell asleep. Having assured herself that the liers-in-wait were at hand in their hiding-place, Delilah drew back of a sudden, leapt up and cried shrilly, as if in fear: ‘Samson, O Samson, the Philistines be upon thee!’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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