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Joseph in Egypt

by Miss Sarah Cohen

(Continued from page 205)


Gently he replied, “ Dearest, rest assured naught of danger threatens us, nor aught more of evil menaces the land; I am <<255>> troubled by thoughts of my own native land, and feel disquieted; but, though to-night I may not reveal it even to thee, believe me thou shalt surely know all the cause of my sadness by the time of the starlight of to-morrow’s eve, and I may promise that by that hour my disquiet shall not trouble thee any more; but, dearest, I now would be alone; grant me this, I pray thee. I have much to consider of ere morning’s dawn, much to determine; leave me now, I pray thee, for even thy sweet presence would distract my thoughts; may the great God I taught thee to adore bless and protect thee, dearest.” She, with a look of fond affection, turned round, and calling to her two maidens, who were seated in the garden, to follow her, withdrew, leading out her children after they had received their accustomed parting kiss from their father.

When alone, he walked out on the terrace and down the marble steps into the garden, whereinto he strayed in profound meditation for a while under the shading palm trees, and the shadows darkened unperceived by him; for his mind was far away, and he was a youth again in his father’s house, the loved one of that ever dear father; but then there came a terrible day, and his life, yes his life, is in jeopardy, and this by brothers’ hands. No! they slay him not, they cannot imbrue their hands in a brother’s blood, and his life is spared; but he becomes an exile, a bond­man. The sweet song of the bird of evening broke upon his ear, disturbed his reverie, and he was surprised to see the bright stars blazing and glittering above, and the shining fire-flies flitting amongst the branches of the myrtles and lemon trees; he had not noted how night had fallen, but he recalled his wandering thoughts, and still walked up and down the fragrant path. At length his thoughts found words:

“So,” said he, “I have seen my dear brother, the child of the same one who gave me birth, my early lost, dearly loved mother. Oh! how often have I vainly wished to know how it fared with that dear brother I left a child in my father’s house. I have wondered if that brother still shared the protecting tenderness of our aged sire, or if the same envy and malice which made me an exile and slave had reached him also. But now it seems they love him, perchance they have repented of their former cruelty <<256>> to me, for surely it was grievous cruelty. It was hard, very hard, in my youth to be torn at once from a tender father’s home and sold as a bondman to the wandering sons of Ishmael; yes! sold by brothers into slavery, exiled from all I loved, from all that loved me or cared for me, regardless of all entreaties, of all my bitter supplications, of all my tears and earnest pleadings to spare me only for that dear father’s sake,—and they, unmoved, pursued their cruel purpose; and that dear father, too, how bore he the loss of his son, the child of his Rachael? and with what cunningly devised tale did they deceive him? I know not what tale they could frame, for they could not own their cruel deed, their inhumanity. Oh, it was a ruthless act thus to send me forth from my father’s house, an exile and a slave!” He paused, and tears ran down his cheek; he remained some time silent, then he again spoke.

“I a slave!” said he, “yon stately structure forms a fitting habitation, these robes a suiting attire for a bondman; I speak rashly, unthinkingly, and ungratefully, to the great God who has snatched me from the horrors of slavery; for has not his mercy been continually extended to me, from the time I first trod this strange land, until now? the bonds of slavery have long been broken, and the one who first held me as his purchased servant, is now my subordinate; he waits my bidding; yes! deems it honour to obey my commands, and even that man, while still his bondman, did he not love me, and entrust his all to me? for the great and glorious God did so direct it, that I found favour with him. Was I not the ruler of his house, the companion of his hours of leisure, the adviser in all his affairs, director in all his undertakings, until, deceived by the well-arranged falsehood of a cunning wanton, he consigned his faithful servant to a dungeon? And there I still found the hand of my God extended to me in kindness; and though my fate was hard, yet his protecting care shielded me from much of anguish and sorrow. And now, what am I but an exile from my own land, and a stranger in this? Yet has not the monarch of this fair country loaded me with honours, such as none, save of kingly race, has ever borne before? in rank he has placed me as second to him alone; I hold the power of <<257>> life, or death, over thousands; with me it rests to give or withhold, the very bread they eat; do not the people love me too? do they not pay me the self-same homage that they do to royalty, and am I not in all, save the name, the king of Egypt? Yet not vauntingly, or in pride, do I say this; for no power, no merit, no wisdom of my own, has thus elevated me; but it is the hand of the God of Abraham, my God, and my father’s God, which has placed me here. What was I? a mourning tenant of a prison-house, when suddenly, I found myself endowed with the power to read the mystic meaning of an apparently fantastic vision; next, ungratefully neglected, and forgotten, by the one who had promised to plead my case before the king, and after a long imprisonment, I am suddenly sought for, though a slave, to appear before the monarch, and by the same wondrous power explain his dream, and stand before him a bondman no longer, but raised by him to power, even as high as his own, a king in all, save a name, to a rank more exalted, than any of those proud nobles who surround his throne. And now, the great ones of this land bend before the exiled, purchased, bondman, and the high and mighty, and the poor and lowly, all look to me, as their preserver. Oh my God! Thou almighty and merciful One! I thank Thee, that Thou hast turned the evil intended me, into happiness, that Thou hast endowed me with knowledge, hast given me the power, thus to sustain nations through the famine; to Thee, most merciful One, how can I render sufficient praise and thanks, that at last Thou hast blessed me, with a sight of my own dear mother’s child, and that I again may hope to behold my aged father’s face.” He remained long in fervent devotion, and then entered the house, and after remaining awhile in profound meditation, retired to his couch, though it proved to him that night a sleepless one; for the anxiety of filial affection, robbed him of rest.

The morn dawned fair and cloudless, and the ruler of the land of Egypt was arisen, long before the meanest of his slaves had thought it time to leave their humble beds; he stood long in fervent adoration before the great God of his fathers; and when his prayer was ended, he walked to the bed of his children, and kissed them as they slept, and then turning to their mother, who <<258>> had just entered the apartment, roused from her slumbers by his footsteps, “Wonder not dearest,” said he, “at this unusual restlessness; ere night all will be clear to thee, but ask not now;” and after fondly embracing her, he left the room, and speaking to an attendant, gave orders that the chariot should be prepared, and his servants be in attendance. The command was soon obeyed. Then turning to the steward of his household, “Now,” said he, “ follow after that company of men, who left this city at dawn, and do as I directed thee; doubtless my command seems most strange, and capricious; yet I charge thee delay not in doing my errand.”

Quickly and wonderingly did the officer turn on his way, attended by many of the inferior servants of the house, and as he rode on, he communed in his own mind on the object of his strange errand. “ It was surprising,” said he to himself, “ why my lord should have, both times, caused the price these men had paid for their grain, to be placed in the sacks which contained it; but this command is far stranger: first, I am ordered to place this vessel in the burthen of one particular animal, belonging to one certain man; I must then send away these travellers in haste on their way; and next am ordered, after a certain time has passed to hasten and overtake them, when they have departed, quite unconscious of its being there, and bring them back charged with the ignominous crime of theft; truly it is a strange command; but I may not question it, or argue aught against it; I must obey.” Thus speaking, he kept on his journey, and his well-fed and vigorous horses soon overtook the travellers with their heavy-laden asses. When they first perceived him coming towards them they respectfully stood still, waiting for the message which they expected he would deliver; but they little dreamed to hear words of such meaning as fell from his lips. What they should be charged with theft! With indignation was the charge denied, and eagerly did they allege, as proof of their innocence, the circumstance of their bringing back to Egypt the money which they had found in the mouths of their sacks, when they reached home; and earnestly did they all desire to be searched, willing to become themselves servants, in case the cup of the ruler should <<259>> be found, and he to die, who should be proved of having violated the law of hospitality. With feigned reluctance, the steward refused to accept the condition they proposed; but the man with whom the cup should be found, was alone to become a bondsman. And they all consented to submit to the proffered test, and one after the other passed through the humiliating trial triumphantly. Each confident in his own innocence, says to himself, “Will this tire­some delay never be over? how long will it be before we can proceed?” But ah! what sudden horror seizes them all! what dismay fills each strong heart! what agony is depicted on each’ astonished countenance! when at the end of the search, the richly-wrought goblet is found in the sack of one, who appears to be the youngest of the train.

(To be continued.)