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resolution of the father giving way, he followed up the appeal from the sad, thin faces all around ; “ Send the lad with me and we will arise and
go; may live and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones;” offering also to be surety for him and to take on himself all the father's blame for ever, if he did not restore Benjamin to him.
Jacob yielded, and directed them to get ready for the journey. They were to take to the Prime Minister a present of such things as their destitute country could afford, "a little balm, and a little honey, spices, myrrh, nuts and almonds,” and also “double money” in their sacks,—that formerly returned, and also some for the present purchase.
“Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man; and God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may send away your other brother, and Benjamin ; if I be bereaved of my children, I am [indeed] bereaved.”
So they went down again into Egypt, taking very good care of this youngest brother on the way. Joseph was waiting, half-expectant and half-doubtful whether they would again appear: for it was questionable in his mind whether this brother still existed or not. When they appeared before him again, he scrutinized them keenly. Was this Benjamin? The youngest son was only about two years old when he had seen him last; the word of these men could not be fully trusted respecting him, for they had lied in the former interview about Joseph himself. Still the Governor, even amid doubts, felt his heart yearn toward the young man with an instinctive feeling, as if their account of him must be true. He made no demonstration, however, more than to order the ruler of his house to take them to his palatial residence, and there to make ready for an entertainment to them. They were greatly alarmed; for all the actions of the Governor respecting them were suspicious : the money returned, evidently through design, was a mystery; the demand for Benjamin, a mystery ; this present honor, a mystery; they looked at the grand halls of the palace and its splendid adornings, the abundance of submissive servants in every part, and the respectful regard paid to themselves, only with one feeling,-a creeping, paralyzing fear. They were helpless there, and thought they saw proof of designs upon them, and, as they concluded, for no good end. Connecting the new events with the return of the money in their sacks, as if these might be with some purpose of entanglement, they sought the steward of the house, and made to him explanations and assertions of their innocence respecting the silver. The man satisfied them about this; and their feelings were still more relieved by seeing Simeon, now released from prison, added to their group. Water was brought them for the necessary ablutions; they next prepared their presents, and when the Governor at last rejoined them, they offered these, making before him the customary obeisance. Again flashed on his mind that dream at home. There had been another dream including his father. He hastened now, after the customary salutations to themselves, to ask, in assumed calmness, yet nervously, about him :
“Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive ?"
“Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive,” they said, with another obeisance.
“Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me?—God be gracious unto thee, my son ;”—but he could say no more; for the look, the address to the young man, brought such a gush to his feelings that he could not remain without betraying himself. He went out into his private chamber, and there let his heart overflow in its tenderness and find relief in tears.
Having recovered himself and removed the marks of his weeping, he returned, and ordered the feast to be prepared. Caste among the Egyptians was very strict, and they never ate with people of another nation. Separate tables were therefore set for them in the banqueting-hall; another table for Joseph's brothers; one alone for him, the High Administrator over the kingdom. The brothers remarked with surprise the order in which they were seated at table; Reuben first, the youngest last, as if the age of the former was known. The Governor sent messes to them; Benjamin's five times as large as any of the others. They all had good appetites; for this meal was such a one as they had never seen before, and to which the recent deficiencies at home helped to give a new zest. Hope, too, had come into them, and a degree of confidence; and they drank, and, if only from respect to their host, tried to let a feeling of joyfulness have its way in their hearts.
The Governor's eye was quietly, and, as far as it could be without creating suspicion, carefully observing them all the while. He had reason for observation, and for quiet, unobserved inquiry in his mind respecting them. Was this Benjamin ? he was asking of himself. His heart had just filled as he looked upon the young man and addressed him, and was near overflowing merely at the thought of his being the son of that dear mother whom, with her strong love to himself, he remembered so well; and the features looked as if they might belong to such a son; but he knew these other brothers well, and their baseness and lying; and this might, after all, be only a counterfeit brought to him, because they had to bring some one with that name. Benjamin might be dead,—perhaps killed by them; or might be at home with the father; or the report that their father was yet alive might even itself be false. Doubts, when they once enter the mind, soon multiply; and from the character of these men, there was really much occasion for doubt.
Joseph concluded to have further proof. There could be no excuse given for detaining them longer; and he must in all reason let them go ; but before the final dismission, he directed the steward of his house to put his chief drinking cup of silver into the sack of the youngest, together with the money he had brought, concealing them there.
The eleven departed most joyfully. Simeon was with them again; their sacks were full of grain for their needy and expectant families; they felt that they had escaped safely from those strange mysteries at the Governor's palace; they had been well entertained and highly honored—curious truly it all was—but they were safe!
As they journeyed on just beyond the precincts of the great city, talking about the recent singular events, and all of them filled with gladness at the thought of getting safely home, they were overtaken by the Prime Minister's steward reaching them in great haste. They turned to greet him, and may have thought it was perhaps for some new honors to be conferred; some joyful message to carry to to their father; some rich present it might be. No! his words were scathing!
“Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby, indeed, he divineth ? Ye have done evil in so doing.” They answered with the honest expression in their faces of wronged men, but still with alarm; another mystery ! “ Wherefore saith
lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing; behold, the money which we found in our sacks' mouths, we brought again unto thee out of the land of Canaan; how then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold? With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bond-men.” The steward said,
“Now also let it be according unto your words; he with whom it is found shall be my servant; and ye shall be blameless.”
They all acted with the promptitude of men consciously innocent; and yet there was a cold fear creeping through
So much mystery in that palace! Some strange design doubtless now! And how easy for a man all-powerful as was this Governor, in this way to carry out a bad design! The sacks were all placed on the ground; the steward examined them, beginning with Reuben's and so going down to the sack of the youngest S
THE CUP WAS FOUND IN BENJAMIN'S SACK!
There was no word from them; only a mute horror and despair. They rent their clothes and laded their animals again, and returned to the city.-Along its crowded thoroughfares ;-among its wan, suffering people, on whom was the dull horror of a two years' famine in the land, with the expectation of five more yet to come ;—among all the sights of abjectness and misery with the sounds of gloom and despair ;-among all these, there was nothing to compare with the utter wretchedness of this company, who now in torn garments followed the steward toward the great lordly palace. They entered its courts and found the Prime Minister there, and they fell before him on the ground. His countenance showed profound emotion.
“What deed is this that ye have done ?” he said. “Wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine?” Judah answered,
“What shall we say unto my lord ? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are my lord's servants, both we and he also with whom the cup is found.” He replied,
“God forbid that I should do so; but the man in whose hand the cup is found, he shall be my servant; and as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.” Judah came near to him ;-all formality and distance of respect broken through in the intense distress.