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“Nay, my lord, but to buy food are thy servants come. We are all one man's sons; we are true men; thy servants are no spies.”
He wished to drive them into disclosures about home, while they were here in his power; and he knew, at the same time, bow treacherous their answers might be. He repeated,
“Nay, but to see the nakedness of the land ye are come.” They replied,
“Thy servants are twelve brethren, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and, behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is not."
“That is it that I spake unto you, saying, Ye are spies. Hereby ye shall be proved; by the life of Pharaoh ye shall not go hence except your youngest brother come hither. Send one of you, and let him fetch your brother, and ye shall be kept in prison that your words may be proved, whether there be any truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely ye are spies.”
They were put into confinement, and kept there for three days; and a time it was to them of very bitter reflection, and of many harrowing reminiscences of the past. This land into which they had sold their brother into slavery had become their place of punishment; they felt the retribution to be just. For twenty-two years they had kept up a lie before their father; his long and deep sorrowing for their brother, in which he had refused to be comforted, not having moved them to a disclosure. Heaven, they must believe, had marked it all. Joseph's fate they could not tell; they only knew that in the land into which he was sold, slavery was a hard and unpitied existence. Perhaps he had perished under it by slow degrees. It was their act. And here, now, in this land, they felt that God was bringing on them punishment for their dark crime toward him, and for the long-sustained deception toward their father in his overwhelming grief. On the third day they were sent for by the Governor, who then addressed them:
“ This do and live; for I fear God. If ye be true men, let one of your brethren be bound in the house of your prison; go ye, carry corn for the famine of your houses ; but bring your youngest brother unto me; so shall your words be verified, and ye shall not die.”
They listened to him with countenances in which deep trouble was showing itself; there was a present partial relief; but perplexities, with great additional grief and reproach from their father, had yet to be encountered. The power of conscience which had been at work in the prison, now took words, and they sadly murmured to each other,
“We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us." Reuben, who, it will be remembered had formed a plan for delivering him at Dothan, but which was of course unknown to the lad, added now,
“Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear ? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.”
Joseph had been conversing with them through an interpreter, and they had no suspicion that he understood what they were saying. Their words opened the deep, long-closed fountains of his heart, and he could scarcely keep from giving his feelings .vent before all the company, He went out and wept.
On returning, while still retaining his incognito, he took Simeon (next to the oldest), and had him bound before them, and then he dismissed them for their homes. Previous to their departure he had directed his steward not only to fill their sacks with grain, but to put at the mouth of each one the bag of silver brought for payment. He may have wished to test their honesty in this, or, if they should con
sider the money as a gift, to afford them means for sending again without embarrassment to those at home.
In that long time in Egypt he had, except in a small portion of his prison-life, been always so intently occupied, that new feelings had, in a measure, crowded out those for the family in Canaan. There was little, indeed, to make him cultivate such remembrances; for the very affection of his father, so ill-judged in its manifestations, had been the chief means of his misfortunes there, and had very nearly caused him to be murdered by his brothers. The reminiscences were so painful that in selecting a name for his oldest son, he chose that of Manasseh ; " for God,” he said, “hath made me forget all my toil and all my father's house." We are not in this justifying such forgetfulness, but merely showing how easily it could come to one constantly so full of occupation in his new home.
But the affections were only slumbering, not destroyed. The sight of his brothers and one kind word from them, roused up all the old tenderness for them, and still more for the father; and as soon as he could do so, he gave every manifestation of his returned fulness of love.
At the close of this first interview, provender for the beasts on the return journey had also been supplied ; and on the way, one of the brothers, opening his sack for such supply, was surprised to find his money there. On his hastening to mention the fact to the others they became greatly alarmed. “What,” they said in their fear, “is this that God hath done unto us?” Trouble was leading them toward God.
Jacob in his tent near Hebron was waiting anxiously. He had not reason to be confident in those sons; and by and by there seemed to be an unnecessary delay about their return. Moveover, before their departure for Egypt, want had begun to be felt in all the families at this encampment; and it was now beginning to be severe. They came at last, --not all, for one was missing. Simeon had become the father of six children; all the encampment hurried around the returned nine to listen to their history of the journey ; and on its being given there was universal alarm, but especially in Jacob's and Simeon's tents. There was something mysterious to the apprehension of all in the conduct of the Egyptian governor. One thing was plain,—that one of their number was still in his power, as a pledge for the appearance there of Benjamin; and the old man, they feared, would not ever be induced to part with this, the youngest of his sons, and, since the loss of Joseph, the favorite one. The mystery in the Governor's conduct was further increased in their eyes, when, as they now opened all their sacks, each was found to contain the owner's bag of money at its mouth. It appeared plain to them that somehow or other, there was a design against them all. The aged father's alarm immediately took chiefly the direction of the youngest; he was borne down by the fearful accumulations.
“Me have ye bereaved of my children ; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me.” Reuben answered,
“Slay my two sons if I bring him not to thee; deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again." The answer was,
“My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead and he is left alone; if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.”
THE FULL RECOGNITION. M IME passed on. The drought still continued in Canaan,
1 and by degrees the grain brought from Egypt to these families was all consumed. The food was most carefully economized; for every one knew how desperate must be any effort to move the aged man from his resolution not to allow Benjamin to go, and how useless and, indeed, how dangerous it would be for them to present themselves without him before the Prime Minister of Egypt. To come thus, they thought, would be verifying in his eyes the charge that they were spies. But they all waited for the father to bė the first to speak, knowing that he must speak in the end; for the want must, at last, become unendurable to every one. Indeed, as they saw the faces of all in the encampment grow wan and thin, and heard the cries of the children for food becoming more frequent and also weaker; and saw the old man's sympathies becoming wider and stronger, they felt that his obstinacy must soon appear to himself to be selfish and wicked, and would give way. He said at last, briefly, as if distrusting himself, fearful of the result:
“Go again, buy us a little food.” Judah answered,
“The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you. If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food; but if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down; for the man said unto us, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.”
Jacob made complaint of their informing the Governor that they had a brother; to which Judah replied, explaining again the closeness of his inquiries; and now, seeing the