Shoshana and her sisters had thought Mother and Grandmother kept them busy before. There was always a lot of food to prepare, and cleaning to do. But now, with the inn full and an unconscious man in the corner of the kitchen, all hands were kept busy constantly. Shoshana was glad when Grandmother went to rest and asked her to bathe the man’s hot forehead. At least she could sit down. She prayed silently, as she had seen Grandmother do. Perhaps God would have mercy on this man.
Secretly, she wondered who he might be. He was young and handsome, with curling black hair. And he must be rich, because the robbers had taken his clothes as well as any jewels or money he’d had. So they must have been fine clothes. She wondered if he was married or betrothed. If Mother knew the daydreams that went through Shoshana’s head while she rhythmically wiped his face, wrung out the cloth in fresh water, and wiped again, she would never be allowed to help with the man’s care again, but Shoshana figured her dreams were her own, as long as no one knew. Anyway, even if the man lived, which Grandmother wasn’t sure he would, he would never look at an innkeeper’s daughter.
Papa and Grandmother had argued again about keeping the man, but Grandmother had won as always. She seldom challenged her eldest son’s right to rule the house, but when she decided something was right, she could not be swayed.
Rachel, the youngest sister, sat down beside her. “Did you hear Papa? The robbers who beat this poor man up are staying out in the courtyard! If he wakes up and sees them, they might kill us all!” She shivered delightedly, secure in her certainty that Papa would never allow anything terrible to happen.
From her place by the cooking pots, their middle sister snorted indelicately. “The robbers will be gone before this man even wakes up. And when he’s well, we’ll send him home with a pack train we know.” Joanna was only thirteen, but as practical as an old woman.
“Maybe the Samaritan will take him when he comes back,” Shoshana pointed out.
“If he comes back!” said Joanna.
Shoshana squeaked and dropped her cloth in her patient’s face.
“What?” asked both the others.
“He’s awake!” Red-faced, Shoshana retrieved her cloth. “How are you, sir?” She couldn’t look at him. How embarrassing! She had imagined so many times what charming things she would say when he awoke and gazed gratefully into her face.
“Where—what—?” mumbled the man.
“Mother! Grandmother!” cried Rachel. “He’s awake!”
Hiram rubbed his hands worriedly. Why were those men staying so long? This was their third day. Nobody ever stayed more than a night on the Jerusalem-Jericho road. His clientele were mostly traders, with occasional travelers who didn’t have family or friends nearby. Disreputable men like those in the courtyard usually came only to drink and carouse until they had spent their no doubt ill-gotten gains.
Judith called him, and Hiram went back to the kitchen.
“He’s awake, Papa!” called Micah, who had appeared from the stables, his favorite place to spend his time.
“Sir!” The young man’s voice was faint, but determined. “I understand you are responsible for saving my life!”
“Not I,” said Hiram. “It was a Samaritan.”
“A Samaritan!” gasped the man.
“He found you on the road, ministered to you, and brought you here.”
“A Samaritan,” whispered the man. “Well, He would say…” His mind seemed to wander. Then he recollected himself and said, “Still, I owe you—all of you—my life!” His gaze took in all their faces. Hiram frowned suddenly when the gaze seemed to linger on Shoshana. Was it his imagination, or did she blush before turning hastily away?
Old Jemima bustled in and put her hand on the man’s forehead. “Praise be to Adonai! What is your name, son?”
“Jonathan Bar-Jacob. I was on my way to Jericho. If I have been here three days, my family must be worried!”
“Why haven’t they come after you? When you didn’t show up, they must have suspected something happened to you on this road,” said Hiram.
The man moved his head fretfully. “They can’t. There is only my old aunt and my sisters. I must go to them.”
“Well, you won’t be going any time soon,” said Jemima firmly. “You are a very long way from being well. The Samaritan who brought you said he would return. Perhaps by then he will be able to escort you. You really should not travel alone, you know.”
“But you don’t understand. I must tell them—I met Someone—a Man!” Jonathan shut his eyes and turned his head restlessly. “Although now…I don’t know…”
“He’s out again,” said Judith.
Shoshana stared. What on earth was he trying to say? He’d met a man? It couldn’t be—she’d always been curious…She turned back to her work. He was still feverish. He had probably been babbling. As she worked, her dreams took off again, but in a different direction this time.