Dorothy L. Sayers: Apologist and Mystery Writer

“I always have a quotation for everything; it saves original thinking.” Dorothy Sayers.

Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) wore many hats, but it is the labeling her as “apologist and mystery writer” by one article which makes me smile, and I believe would amuse her as well.

Born at Oxford, the only child of the Rev. Henry Sayers, she won a scholarship to Somerville College (a college of Oxford, started specifically for women). She graduated in 1915 with first class honors in modern languages.

She wrote her first “Lord Peter Wimsey” mystery, Whose Body?, while working at a London advertising firm. She went on to write several novels and short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The books are still being published today and many of her readers are unaware of her many other accomplishments.

Sayers considered her best work her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Sayers was 51 when she first read the Divine Comedy, and she became consumed with it. “I bolted my meals, neglected my sleep, work, and correspondence, drove my friends crazy . . .” Deciding to make a fresh translation of his work, she learned the Italian necessary, and the translation remains in print.

Of all her writings, it is concerning a particular play–The Man Born to be King–I want to write about today. She wrote her first play, The Zeal of Thy House, for the Canterbury Festival. She then wrote six more plays including The Man Born to be King. I read this play over ten years ago, and have decided to reread it this year as part of my “Christmas reading.”

This play was originally written for the BBC for broadcasting in the children’s hour. Sayers’ depiction of Christ has him speaking in modern English (since her audience would hardly know Greek) which caused a great outcry of protests. Didn’t she know Jesus (and all those around him) spoke in King James English? One newspaper editor put it this way: “In quoting the Bible we must take the Authorized Version, and not the interpretation of scholars, however wise.” Sayers response: “Of this singular piece of idolatry I will only say that it imposes difficulties upon the English playwright from which the Greek tragic poets are free.” She further explains that as the Incarnation really happened–meaning God became a man and lived among common, ordinary people–he, consequently, spoke a common, ordinary language.

This speaks to me as a writer as I have been wrestling with criticism concerning some of my dialogue. Some say my dialogue sounds too modern, and I wonder if they’re expecting King James English (the Authorized Version) as well? I understand the characters shouldn’t sound like 21st century Americans, but I do not know the Hebrew language and do not believe my characters spoke in any superior sort of way. The whole point of writing about Biblical characters is to remind us that they were real people and not merely “characters.” The sons of King David, though sons of a king, were also shepherds and warriors. Yes, David was a poet and a song writer, but does anyone really think he went around speaking poetically to his sons? Or that Solomon spoke in proverbs in his every day life?

When Sayers wrote her play, she wanted her audience to remember also that these characters did not know what they were doing. “We are so much accustomed to viewing the whole story from a post-Resurrection, . . .point of view, that we are apt, without realising it, to attribute to all the New Testament characters the same kind of detailed theological awareness which we have ourselves. We judge their behavior as though all of them–disciples, Pharisees, Romans, and men-in-the-street–had known with Whom they were dealing . . . But they did not know it.”

Sayers goes on to explain that when we show how real the people were who “made vulgar jokes about Him, called Him filthy names, taunted Him, . . .”, we are shocked, and we should be. However, when we pretty up the language and think of it all as in a culture and people far removed from us, we are not quite as shocked and do not see ourselves as those very people (as we should). “It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear that story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.”

In the same way, I wish for people who read my stories to see themselves in these Bible characters. To understand that we are just as sinful, just as fallen, and just as in need of a Savior. If a reader does not relate to the characters as people like themselves, they will only view the stories as just that–stories.

I’m looking forward to rereading these plays with a new eye than when I read them before. If you want to join along, please comment and let me know!

“The only Christian work is good work, well done.” Dorothy L. Sayers

 

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My Name is Hadesh Part 8 (The End) by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 7, here is the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/25/my-name-is-hadesh-part-7-by-p-m-gilmer/

From part 7: I jumped up before he could change his mind or realize he had the wrong person. I started to follow him, then realized Jemima hadn’t moved.

“Come on,” I hissed.

I thought she would turn and run, but, fortunately, Huppim was behind her, and he happily began to escort her into the king’s throne room.

Many times through the years when I have been telling this story, someone wants to know what I thought of the throne room and King Solomon’s throne. I remind them my visit took place early in King Solomon’s reign before he built his new palace, so the palace we saw was that of King David. However, a palace is a palace to me. The throne room alone was far larger than any house or shop I had ever been in. I tried not to gawk at my surroundings, and I’m sure if I hadn’t been so upset, scared, and extremely nervous, I would have just stood there and stared at everything. Not just the walls or the throne, but the king himself. I know he’s just a man, but seated there on that throne, I felt as though I had entered into the presence of God. Not trying to be blasphemous, and I hope I’m not, but that’s just how I felt. My knees grew weak as I could only stare at the king for several moments. Fortunately, Muppim kept a steady hand on my arm and moved me forward.

I fell on my face before the king. Jemima, still holding my baby, (though Huppim offered to take him), fell awkwardly to her knees. I suppose neither of us gave a very graceful performance as I heard several snickers among the king’s attendants.

Knowing I’d better speak up before Jemima did, I lifted my head and said, “O King, live forever! Thank you for hearing us, my lord king. I know you’re a a busy man, but our case is too important to leave to your officials. Begging your pardon, my lords,” I added hastily, looking at the group of men standing around the king. I had no idea who any of them were or if they would ever be involved in judgments, but I could not afford to offend anyone. The men only looked back at me without speaking. They mostly looked bored, though one seemed amused by my apology. Looking at him again, I realized he must have been one of the king’s brothers for they looked much alike. Before I could gawk any longer, Muppim cleared his throat behind me.

“Oh, yes–anyway, King Solomon, we have heard of your great wisdom and,” I was about to attempt some flowery compliments about the king and his kindness, judgment, etc., but I could sense he was growing impatient. “And we have come to ask you to judge between us. I am Hadesh, and this,” I waved my hand towards Jemima, “is Jemima, my, um, friend. Well, not really a friend, we work together, we . . .” Seeing the king’s eyebrows go up, I decided not to further explain. I’m sure he had already figured out what we did. “Anyway, we live in the same house, and I had a baby boy a few weeks ago, and Jemima had one three days later. Well, last night we were the only ones at our house, and Jemima’s baby died. I believe she rolled over him–accidentally, of course, though we tried to tell her it wasn’t good for her to keep the babe in the bed with her, but she did it all the time.”

Jemima was bouncing my baby up and down, cooing baby talk to him, but she suddenly stopped and pushed me aside. “No, my lord king! That is not the way of it!”

King Solomon waved a hand at Jemima. “Let her finish. You will have your turn next.”

I know Jemima wanted to argue, but Huppim held tightly to her arm, and she wisely stepped back.

I tried not to look smug, but being humble is not one of my better traits. “As I was saying, my lord king, her baby died–it must have been around midnight as I remember putting my babe to sleep just before then–and she put her baby” (I placed my hand on the sling holding Jemima’s babe) “in my bed with me, then took my own son from the basket where he sleeps. When I woke this morning, I was surprised to find my baby with me as I always put him in his basket after I nurse him, but I thought I had just fallen asleep. So, I tried to nurse him, but . . .” A sob rose in my throat and though some may think I was acting for the king’s benefit, they would be quite wrong. As I remembered trying to nurse that poor dead babe, even now knowing he wasn’t mine, great grief rose up in me.

“She is crazy!” Jemima couldn’t stay silent any longer. “She knows this is my babe, but she has gone mad with grief over the loss of her own. I am sorry for her loss, but I will not give up my baby to her!”

I clenched my fists and only kept myself from attacking Jemima because of my baby she was holding, who now began to cry. As he cried, so did I. “Don’t you think I would know my baby’s cry? My baby’s face? As soon as the sun gave me light, I could see the babe I held was not mine. You are the one who is crazy–swapping babies like they are melons at the market. I am sorry you rolled your fat self on your baby and killed him, but I will not let you take mine from me!”

Jemima stepped back from me as Seled began to wail louder. “No!” she screeched over the howls of my son. “This baby is mine! Your baby died!”

By now, every person in King Solomon’s court stood watching us with rapt attention. A part of me realized this exhibition Jemima and I were putting on would probably not help my cause, but I could not seem to help myself. I would not leave here without the king’s judgment, and if he ruled in favor of Jemima, it mattered not to me if he had me taken away and thrown out of the city as a mad woman.

Breathing heavily, Jemima stared at me, then turned to the king. “Please, my lord king. You can see how this woman has lost her mind. Just let me leave now with my baby, and I promise I will trouble you no longer.” She tried to shush Seled who was surely hungry and scared. Huppim reached over to pat my baby, crooning softly to him.

I fell back to my knees. “Please, my lord king. You must believe me. I would not try to take a baby that was not mine, but I cannot live knowing he has been stolen from me.”

Before Jemima could further dispute my claim, the king stood up. I could hardly breathe, looking up at him and wondering what he would say. Without looking at either of us, he raised a hand and called to one of his guards standing by the door. “Japhlet! Bring me a sword!”

The guard came forward, holding a sword in his hand. I stood to my feet and glanced at Jemima who looked as bewildered and scared as I felt. Would he just kill us both for causing such a ruckus in his throne room?

The king did not take the sword, but looked around the room at all who waited to hear his judgment. No one made a sound and all eyes were on him.

“You have heard the testimonies of these two women and the spirit in which they were given. Both claim the living child is theirs and the dead child the other’s. Since they cannot come to an agreement on their own, but have brought this problem to the throne, I must step in and resolve it. Japhlet, take the living baby and cut him in half. Give each woman half of the baby.”

Japhlet moved to take the baby from Jemima, and I fell to my knees again, this time in horror.

“No, my lord!” I wailed, my terror rising now as Jemima handed over my baby with what seemed like glee. “Please! I beg you! Give her the living baby, but don’t kill him!”

Japhlet took my baby, cradling him against his chest. Jemima smirked at me. “Now, he shall be neither mine nor yours! Divide him then!”

Japhlet laid the baby at the king’s feet and raised his sword. Gasps echoed around the room, and I could no longer breathe. The king held up his arm.

“Stop!” He looked around at all of us. “You have seen the reactions of these two women. The first, Hadesh, cares and fears for the child while the other, Jemima, only cares to have a ruling in her favor. Do not hurt the child, but give her to Hadesh because she is obviously the true mother.”

I thought I would faint with relief as the crowd laughed and cheered. Japhlet picked my baby back up and brought him over to me. Still crying, but now with joy and relief, I took my baby and covered him with kisses. I looked back up at the king. “Thank you, my lord. Oh, thank you! Truly what is said is true–God has gifted you with great wisdom. May your reign be long and prosperous.”

Soli Deo Gloria

My Name is Hadesh Part 7 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed Part 6, here is the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/21/my-name-is-hadesh-part-6-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 6I let him lead me away from Jemima, while Muppim kept watch over her and the baby. I took a deep breath, knowing it would not help my cause to be fighting like an alley cat when the king saw us. I would need to keep my emotions under control.

We waited for almost two hours. A man would open the doors every fifteen to twenty minutes and usher someone in to see the king. I was not sure how he decided who would go in. There seemed to be no clear system to his choosing, so I decided we needed to make ourselves heard and known the next time he came out. I waited a bit too late.

When next he came out, he said in a loud voice, “The king has other commitments he must attend to now. You may seek out another judge to hear your complaints if you do not want to wait for the next king’s day.”

The disappointed people turned and began to leave, but I was not ready to give up. I had too much to lose.

“Wait!” I cried out. “We have come a long way to see the king and have been waiting all morning with a baby. Can he not hear one more case?”

The official frowned, but before he could speak, Jemima walked over to me and swatted me on the arm. “Don’t be so disrespectful. I have tried to tell you the king wouldn’t have time for the likes of us, and now we have wasted a whole day waiting here. Adar here is getting tired and restless. Think of him if you can.”

I can tell you I do not like to be touched anyway, so when Jemima slapped my arm like that, I was more than ready for a fight. Of course, I had been ready for one for some hours and only my babe in her arms had kept me from it.

I grabbed at her hair and pulled her towards me. “I am thinking of nothing but him! My Seled–whom you have stolen from me! Do not think you are going to get away with this. Maybe the king won’t hear us, but I will make sure that all of Jerusalem does!”

She screeched and tried to claw at my eyes with her one free hand. Muppim quickly came between us, grabbing hold of Jemima while Huppim grabbed me from behind. The people who had started to leave, now stopped to watch. Several of them seemed to choose sides and began to cheer us on. The king’s official watched us all in alarm for a few moments, then went back inside to the king.

“Now, ladies,” said Muppim, “you know this isn’t going to solve anything. I’m sorry the king won’t see you. I thought he could help you, but now let’s just go before we cause any more trouble.”

“More trouble? What could be more trouble than losing my son?” I knew the king could easily have me put away somewhere–whatever he did with unruly citizens, but I was beyond caring. If I could not get my baby back, my life would not be worth living. And to watch that cow, Jemima, nursing him and raising him? I would throw myself into a well or . . . something. “I am not leaving until I see the king,” I said, and sat myself down on the floor, shocking everyone including myself.

Before anyone could argue with me, the official came back out with two guards. The guards began moving everyone out, but I stayed where I was, half expecting a sword to take my head off. But, to my surprise, the official came over to me and said quietly, “The king will see you now. If you will follow me.”

I jumped up before he could change his mind or realize he had the wrong person. I started to follow him, then realized Jemima hadn’t moved.

“Come on,” I hissed.

I thought she would turn and run, but, fortunately, Huppim was behind her, and he happily began to escort her into the king’s throne room.

The final installment, part 8, will be posted on Tuesday, 11/28/17.

 

My Name is Hadesh Part 6 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 5, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/18/my-name-is-hadesh-part-5-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 5: Both relieved and happy, we followed Benaiah as he led us up the steps into the palace. I was tempted to turn around and stick out my tongue at the guards, but I had never walked up such steps, so thought it better to pay attention. Huppim practically skipped up these stone steps while the rest of us carefully put one foot in front of the other. But, if we thought our troubles were over, we would soon be disappointed.

My disappointment was not with the palace itself. I wanted to stop and gape at the walls, which were painted with scenes from stories I felt I should know if I could just stop and think for a minute. I even wanted to stare at the floor and ceiling (having never seen such), but we had to keep up with Benaiah who walked briskly down a hall, past servants and other soldiers. Once we reached a crowd of people standing outside two large doors, he stopped.

“I’m afraid this is as far as I can take you,” he said, waving a hand towards the crowd. “As you can see, there are many who want to see the king, so you just have to wait your turn.”

We stared at the people who stared back. “But, we could be here all day,” I said in dismay.

Benaiah shrugged. “True. And even then, I can’t say if the king will see you. He obviously can’t spend all his time listening to petty complaints.”

“Our complaint isn’t petty!” I protested, before I had a chance to think better of it, but Benaiah did not seem offended.

“Didn’t say it was, but I’m sure there are many which are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to see the king myself.”

And with that, he made his way through the crowd which parted for him, somewhat grudgingly. I thought of trying to follow him, but the glares from those already waiting made me step back.

I looked at my companions feeling a bit hopeless. Had this just been a fool’s errand after all?

Jemima noticed my despair and smiled. “I tried to tell you the king wouldn’t see the likes of us. Are you ready to go home now? Your babe is dead, and we should be making arrangements for him; not dragging his poor body through Jerusalem. Besides, we’ve wasted enough of these kind gentlemen’s time.”

“No!” I spoke louder than I intended.  Realizing everyone was watching and listening to us, I thought to be quieter and not draw more attention to ourselves, but then changed my mind. Perhaps it would be better to have some witnesses.

“No,” I said again, somewhat quieter but still firm.  “You want to leave because you’re afraid the king will see the lie in you and realize the baby you’re holding is mine. We will not leave until we see the king, and I will not let you out of my sight until we see him.”

She snarled at me; then, she, too, became more conscious of our audience. She looked at them apologetically. “Sorry if we’re disturbing you all. As you can see, my friend here is highly distraught. She rolled over on her baby last night, smothering the poor thing, and now she’s trying to claim my baby as her own. We’re hoping the king will see the truth of it and set her poor mind at rest. We know she didn’t mean to hurt her child, but there it is. These things happen, and I’m certainly not going to give her my baby just to pacify her.”

Oh, how I wanted to snatch her by the hair and yank it out by the roots. I took a step towards her, and she took one back. The crowd murmured a bit, but no one wanted to get involved.

Huppim patted my arm. “Now, now,” he said. “We will wait with you to see the king if it does take all day. He will set things right. You’ll see.”

I let him lead me away from Jemima, while Muppim kept watch over her and the baby. I took a deep breath, knowing it would not help my cause to be fighting like an alley cat when the king saw us. I would need to keep my emotions under control.

Part 7 coming on Saturday, 11/25. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

My Name is Hadesh Part 5 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part four, here is the link: https://wordpress.com/post/pmgilmer.com/1517

From part 4: Huppim nodded eagerly. “Certainly! We wouldn’t want you ladies wandering through the streets of Jerusalem alone. And, I’ve never been inside the palace! Do you think they would let us in, too?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But we need to go now before the day grows any later. We may have to wait a long time to see the king, so let us make haste.”

We made the men wait outside while we readied ourselves to leave. Jemima seemed inclined to argue some more, but I ignored her and so did the other women. The idea of two of their own going to see the king made the other women forget any qualms they may have over us leaving. Instead, they all became excited at the thought. Jemima had no choice but to agree though she refused to release my baby, saying she would bring him with her.

“The king will be able to tell he’s mine just by looking at him and by the way my baby is holding onto me.”

I snorted and wanted to grab my baby away from her but didn’t want to hurt him. I wrapped up the poor dead babe of Jemima’s and prepared a sling to carry him in. I could only hope and pray that the good King Solomon would rule with the wisdom people claimed he possessed.

Finally ready, we went outside to meet Muppim and Huppim who were waiting anxiously and seemed to have gathered a crowd, in spite of the early hour and the weather. The rainy season had begun and a slight drizzle was falling–not enough to deter me. The other women followed us, walking down our street and telling everyone they saw that we were going to see the king to ask him to settle an issue between us. I would rather not had such fanfare on our way to the palace. Everyone made it seem like a cause for a celebration, but my heart was heavy and full of fear.

Jemima seemed way too confident for a liar and a deceiver. And was she even grieving for her little one who was definitely dead? Had she truly rolled over on the poor babe in her sleep? Did she not feel guilt and sorrow for being the cause of his death? She only looked smug to me as she cuddled my babe and talked softly to him, every now and then glancing at me to make sure I saw her–as if I could see or hear anything else.

Once we reached the end of our street, the other women stopped and waved us on. “Good-bye! Farewell! May the good king grant you the truth and make a sound judgment!”

Jemima and I both waved back at them, and I tried to look certain in my belief the king would truly recognize the truth in me and the lie in Jemima. We walked in between Muppim and Huppim who escorted us proudly through the streets as if they escorted prostitutes to the king’s palace every day of their lives. People just beginning to stir from their homes and shops looked at us curiously, but without much interest. I’m sure they saw people going to and from the palace every day and did not deem it quite the significance we did.

Once we reached the palace, we all stopped and stared. None of us knew what to do next. Jemima and I looked to our escorts who looked as bewildered and at a loss as we did.

“Do we just go on in?” asked Huppim.

“I don’t know,” answered Muppim. “This was your idea, remember. Do you suppose they have a special entrance for those who are wanting judgment from the king?”

“There are some guards there,” I said a bit impatiently. “Why don’t you just ask them?”

Both men looked at me as if I had hurt their feelings. I refrained from rolling my eyes, but noticed Jemima didn’t try to hide her smirk.

I sighed. “I mean, kind sirs, perhaps you could go over there and ask one of the guards?”

They looked like that was the last thing they wanted to do, but finally, Muppim nodded, adjusted his belt and tunic, then strode over to one of the guards. The two guards who had looked bored before, now seemed amused as the broad-shouldered, but slightly overweight, Muppim approached them.

“Excuse me, my lords, but these ladies have a grievance to bring before the king. Could you point us in the right direction?”

“Ladies?” drawled one. “I don’t see any ladies, do you, Tobias?”

Tobias shook his head. “Unless you count this mountain standing before us? This your first time in the city, farm boy? I hate to tell you this, but . . .” He leaned over closer to Muppim and spoke in an overly loud whisper. “But those two women there aren’t ladies. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Maybe you ought to take them back home and let them show you what they really are.”

The first guard snickered, then straightened both his posture and his face. Noticing this, Tobias looked over the first guard’s shoulder. Then, he, too, straightened up.

“Josiah, Tobias. Is there a problem here?” The man speaking was older and seemed to be a soldier of many years. Yet, his length of years did not make him seem weaker in any way, but rather much more formidable.

“No, Benaiah,” they both said. Benaiah looked at us, then back at his guards.

Josiah cleared his throat. “These, um, people have a complaint they wish to bring before the king.”

“And? Why are you keeping them standing here? Do they seem dangerous to you?”

“Oh, no, my lord,” Tobias said. “We just weren’t too sure of their, uh, credentials.”

Benaiah lifted an eyebrow and looked us over. Muppim was shifting about nervously, while Huppim beamed at the respected soldier in front of him. I’m sure he saw a war hero of some sort, and maybe that was the truth of it. Jemima and I both tried to look respectable, but the two guards had already made it plain that we only looked like what we were. Fortunately, my Seled was sleeping by now, making not a sound.

“Are you all Israelites?” Benaiah asked us.

We all nodded fervently. Oh, yes, we were Israelites.

“And you recognize King Solomon as your king? And what he says is what you obey?”

Again, we nodded mutely. Benaiah looked back at the guards. “I really see no problem here. Unless King Solomon has given you special instructions that I am unaware of?”

The two guards shook their heads; reluctantly, I felt. I’m sure they wished they had a reason to keep us out.

“Then let me lead you all to the king’s throne room,” Benaiah said, motioning for us to follow him. “And we will leave these fine guards to continue with their guarding. As they seem useless for much else.”

Both relieved and happy, we followed Benaiah as he led us up the steps into the palace. I was tempted to turn around and stick my tongue out at the guards, but I had never walked up such steps, so thought it better to pay attention. Huppim practically skipped up these stone steps while the rest of us carefully put one foot in front of the other. But, if we thought our troubles were over, we would soon be disappointed.

Part 6 coming Tuesday (11/21/17)

 

 

 

My Name is Hadesh Part 4 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 3, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/14/my-name-is-hadesh-part-3-by-p-m-gilmer/

From part 3: The other women stood watching us closely, but made no comments. Unusual for these women not to have any opinions. I looked to them for help. “Look at this baby. Can’t you see he is Jemima’s and not mine? Would I not recognize my own child?”

“She has lost her mind,” Jemima interjected before anyone else could speak. “Did she not just wake up with that baby in her bed, and I wake up with this one? Did they get up in the middle of the night and switch places? Or perhaps a demon came in and switched them?”

The women gasped at this possibility, and I noticed a couple of them make a sign as if to ward off evil. If this hadn’t been such a serious affair, I would have rolled my eyes at Jemima’s absurd conjectures. I knew she was only trying to shift the attention from herself and her baby-switching ways. Then the truth of what must have happened occurred to me, and I involuntarily gasped.

“You! You rolled over on your baby and smothered him. Then you switched him with my own who was sleeping in his basket. I remember now I put him in his basket before midnight. You took my baby, then put your own dead babe in my arms.”

The women began to twitter at these allegations, and Jemima’s face became scarlet. I thought she might have an apoplexy right then. I could only wish she would. Instead she said, “You are mad, and making wild accusations will not bring your poor dead child back to life. You need to wrap your baby properly, and let us go and make arrangements for him.”

My Seled began to cry just then or I might have hurled myself at Jemima’s throat. Before I could decide how to respond or what to do to prove I was right, two men entered our house.

“What is going on in here?” the first one asked. “You women are making a lot of racket for so early in the morning. Didn’t know you started your day so early. If you don’t keep it down, someone is going to be calling for the guards. Has someone hurt you? Or left without paying?”

The man questioning us, Muppim, was well known to us all as was his twin brother, Huppim. The two frequented our establishment on an irregular basis. They came into Jerusalem to sell their produce–everything from grapes to honey–and often brought us what they didn’t sell. Considering how many people treated us like dirt or acted like they didn’t even know us (when they knew us quite well), the brothers were kind, if a bit odd.

I pointed my finger at Jemima. “She killed her baby, then stole mine.”

Jemima shrieked. “She’s crazy! You should call the guards and have her taken away. She is trying to take my baby by saying he is hers when her poor babe is lying there dead.” She pointed to where her baby still lay on my bed.

The men looked at Jemima’s baby, then at me, then at everyone else. “Zebidah?” Muppim asked. “What do you know of this?”

Zebidah looked at me, then Jemima, then shrugged. “They both had a baby boy just a few days apart. This morning one of those poor babies is dead. These two,” she jerked her head towards myself and Jemima, “are both hysterical and one of them is lying. Which one? How should I know? Am I as wise as our good King Solomon?”

A bit of nervous laughter came from all the women except Jemima and myself. Then Huppim said, “That’s a good idea.”

Everyone looked at him and waited for him to explain, but he only grinned, looking quite pleased with himself.

“What’s a good idea, Huppim?” Muppim finally asked.

“Asking good King Solomon. That’s what people do when they can’t decide on something, isn’t it? Go and ask the king to judge who is telling the truth.” He beamed as if he had come up with the most original and amazing plan.

I frowned, wondering if the king would see women such as us. Would we even be allowed anywhere near the palace?

“That’s a foolish idea,” Jemima said. “The king wouldn’t have time for the likes of us.”

And even though (or perhaps because) she had just voiced my own thoughts, I disagreed. “He’s the king of all of us, isn’t he? God granted him the wisdom to rule over each and every Israelite, so why wouldn’t he hear us?”

The other women began to murmur, but whether in agreement or disagreement, I wasn’t sure. Huppim continued to look proud of himself, and Muppim scratched his balding head.

“Well,” said Muppim, “if you think that’s the only way to solve this, we would be glad to escort you two ladies.”

Huppim nodded eagerly. “Certainly! We wouldn’t want you ladies wandering through the streets of Jerusalem alone. And, I’ve never been inside the palace! Do you think they would let us in, too?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But we need to go now before the grows any later. We may have to wait a long time to see the king, so let us make haste.”

Part 5 coming Saturday

My Name is Hadesh Part 3 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part 2, here’s the link: https://pmgilmer.com/2017/11/11/my-name-is-hadesh-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/

From Part 2: I continued to hug my Seled so close that he began to squirm. I made myself relax my grip before he began crying. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the midwife’s offer, but it scared me somehow. I knew people would think we had no business raising children–but this was my baby, and no one could take him from me.

 

Life went on fine for several weeks. Jemima and I both nursed our boys and began to regain our strength. The other women were accommodating, but we would soon need to be taking customers again. My Seled was sleeping well in his little basket, but Jemima continued to keep her Adar in bed with her as they fell asleep. We tried to tell her that wasn’t good for her or the babe, but she refused to listen. She wanted to cuddle her son as much as she could before going back to work, and I couldn’t really blame her.

The little world we had built soon came crashing in on us, though I probably should have known things couldn’t stay sweet for long. I woke one morning, while it was still dark, startled to find my babe in my arms. I realized I must have fallen asleep while nursing him and had failed to put him back in his basket. I needed to get up and stir up the embers in our fire pit, start some water boiling, and all those things that needed to be done to start one’s day. Feeling a bit cramped, I wanted to just get up and put Seled in his basket, but I felt sure if I did that without feeding him first, he would not sleep long, if at all. So, I nudged him a bit, so I could nurse him again before putting him in his basket.

He didn’t even stir, and my first thought was on how well he was sleeping and what a shame to wake him. Maybe I could carefully put him in his basket after all.

I tried to ease myself quietly up off my pallet, so I didn’t wake either him or Jemima and her baby. I knew both Zebidah and Hoglah had gone out for the night and were unlikely to be back yet. Holding my baby against my chest, I suddenly felt something was wrong. My babe felt cold, and I couldn’t hear his soft breathing as I usually did. My heart pounded as I sat back down, carefully laid him on my bed, and gently put my hand on his face. It was stone cold.

My heart seemed to stop, and I felt dizzy. No! My beautiful, healthy baby could not be gone. Just like that! He had been fine last night. I tried to remember nursing him and wondered again how I could have fallen asleep. But, then I remembered putting him in his basket. I did! I did put him in his basket! Did he awaken again, and had I sleepily gotten up and brought him back to bed with me? Sometimes the nights and the feedings did seem to run together.

I placed my hand on his face again, the tears running down my own. I sat, stroking his face, still in disbelief as light slowly began to illuminate our small room. Zebidah and Hoglah came into the house just as dawn was breaking.

“What is it, Hadesh?” Zebidah asked upon seeing my tears. “Is the babe sick?”

I threw back my head and let out a long, low wail. The sorrow poured out of me as if my grief could be unleashed and set free. Zebidah and Hoglah, as well as a few of our neighbors quickly gathered around me.

“Hadesh! What is it?” Then I heard gasps and more crying (besides my own).

“He was fine last night,” I moaned, finally opening my eyes to look at him, now that daylight was here. I started to stroke his face again, then jerked my hand back as if I had seen a snake.

“This isn’t my baby!” I cried out. I looked over at Jemimah who was huddled on her pallet, holding her baby close to her chest and crooning to him. Except . . . that couldn’t be her baby because her baby was lying here on my bed. Dead. And if this was her baby . . .

“Jemimah!” She finally looked over at me, but her eyes were hard and her mouth was set. “This is your baby! You must have mine. Give me back my son!”

Jemima held the baby to her chest, and he began to cry. “You are crazy! Grief has maddened you. Of course, this is my baby. I’m sorry your babe is gone, but that is no cause to try and claim mine. You must have rolled over in the night and suffocated the poor babe.”

I stared at her in horror. Rolled over on my baby? But, no, this wasn’t my baby, and I always put him in his basket. I never went to sleep with him. Did I?

The other women stood watching us closely, but making no comments. Unusual for these women not to have any opinions. I looked to them for help. “Look at this baby. Can’t you see he is Jemima’s and not mine? Would I not recognize my own child?”

Part 4 coming Thursday.