Author: Elizabeth George Speare. 352 downloads 4036 Views 286KB Size Report. This content was uploaded by our users and we assume good faith they have the permission to share this book. If you own the copyright to this book and it is wrongfully on our website, we offer a simple DMCA procedure to remove your content from our. The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel.
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In the steaming dimness of his shop, Daniel labored to the limits of each day's strength. Unable to lift the hammer, he filled his time with light tasks, filing, smoothing and polishing, trying to ignore the pain in his shoulder. He cursed the pile of untouched work. He longed to beat a wall or furious sound against his own thoughts. At night, in the roof shelter he now shared with Joktan, he drew his cloak over his head and fell into an exhausted slumber. But always, during the long hours, he woke to the slashing of rain, and then the pain could not be ignored, and the thoughts were louder than ever.
In the darkness the same words echoed over and over. 'They who live by the sword will perish by the sword.' At first he could not recall where he had heard these words. They did not sound like Joel's scriptures. Then he remembered. Jesus had spoken them on a hot summer morning under a blue sky. Daniel had not questioned the words. To live by the sword was the best life he knew. To take the sword for his country's freedom and to perish by it—what better could a man hope for? But something he had not reckoned on had happened. He had taken the sword but Samson instead had perished by it, who had no freedom to gain, and Nathan, who had left behind a bride. Their deaths were on his head. And freedom was farther away than before.
Without the help of Joktan he could not have managed. The boy, who had come back to the village with him, could not do enough to prove his gratitude. Having never in all his memory had a house to live in, Joktan was not at all troubled that he could not enter Simon's house. He was content to eat his meals in the shop or on the doorstep where he could greet the passers-by. Far from missing the freedom of the mountain, he took naturally to village life. He went cheerfully every morning to the well for water, shrugging off the good-natured jibes of the girls. He delivered the work, making new friends everywhere with his jagged-toothed grin. Daniel's customers took the boy for a new apprentice and praised his willingness though they doubted that with his puny arms he could ever make a blacksmith.
Nine days had gone by since Joel and Thacia had returned to Capernaum, and no word had come from them. Day after day his friend's silence grew heavier to bear. Was Joel in danger? What were Joel's thoughts in the night? Did he regret now the vow he had taken? Had the feel of the Roman chains shaken his purpose?
Late one evening, as he was about to climb to the rooftop, there was a knock on the door of the shop. Lighting a second saucer of oil, Daniel went through the house door, and drew back the bolt. A stranger, heavily muffled in a dripping cloak, pushed in quickly, and shut the door behind him. With a rush of thankfulness Daniel saw that it was Joel. He could only clasp his friend's hand without speaking.
'Did you think I wouldn't come?' Joel asked with surprise. 'It seemed wiser to wait.'
'You are watched?'
'I'm afraid so. I've been out only once, on the Sabbath. Coming home from the synagogue with Father I met a steward of the centurion's. He recognized me, but I think he was not sure. So Father wouldn't let me go out again.'
'Your father knows?'
'I couldn't keep it from him any longer. I told him everything, about the passageway, and the meetings, and my part in Rosh's work. I owed Father that, Daniel. When I saw how he had grown older in those two days—'
Joel had grown older too. His face had a new purpose.
'How he must despise me!' Daniel said with shame.
'For saving me? He sent you a message. He says you are not to hide in the passageway again. You're to come to the house whenever you like. In a way I wish he hadn't tried so hard to forgive us. It would have been easier tonight.'
'I left without telling him. I'm not going back. If I can't stay here with you I'll go to the mountain and join Rosh.'
In a burst of relief and joy, Daniel forgot every doubt. I low could he have thought that Joel would forget his vow? Now, working together, they could accomplish anything. The band would go on again, stronger than before. But almost at once a new doubt clouded out his pleasure.
'Why did you leave home, Joel? The band has never asked that of anyone.'
'I can't stay at home. Father is terrified to let me go out the door. I knew he was making some plan. Then today he told me I was to go to Jerusalem—tomorrow morning—with a friend of his. He's arranged for me to study in a school there. So I had to get away quickly.'
Daniel stood looking at his friend, his mind troubled. 'School in Jerusalem?' he asked soberly. 'Isn't that what you always wanted?'
Joel did not quite meet his eye. 'I used to,' he admitted. 'That was before we started the band.'
'Don't you still want it?'
'I want to work for the Victory. I've vowed to. If you can't have me—if it isn't safe—then I'll go to the mountain.'
'Rosh is no longer our leader,' said Daniel.
Joel hesitated, then said very earnestly. 'You must not break with Rosh because of me.'
'It would have happened anyway,' Daniel answered. 'I've had a lot of time to think these past days. Somehow we've been going in the wrong direction. The things we've been doing for Rosh weren't what we planned when we started the band. Attacking people on the road, especially our own people, isn't going to bring the day any closer. We haven't weakened Rome at all. We've only weakened ourselves instead. We have lost Nathan and Samson. We almost lost you.'
Joel was silent a moment. 'A new leader will come,' he said. 'We must go on making ready.'
'Yes,' said Daniel. Hearing Joel say it had given him back the hope he had almost lost. Now he was able to say the thing he knew he must say. 'But until he comes, Joel, you must go on studying. That's what you are suited for. When the day comes, we're going to need more than farmers and laborers. We'll need the priests and the scribes too, and you can win them over because you understand them.'
Joel had never been able to hide his thoughts. Now he could not conceal the hope that sprang into his eyes. 'That's what Thacia said,' he admitted. 'Are you sure you mean this, Daniel?'
'What will the others think?'
'They have chosen me leader.'
Joel thought for a moment. 'I'd like to do it for Father's sake too,' he admitted finally. 'He's a good man, Daniel. You can't know how good he is, because you've only seen his narrow side. I know that I have hurt him. He wanted to be proud of me. A son who died for Israel—even a Zealot—he could be proud of that. But that day on the road—with the chains on—I knew that I had left him nothing, nothing at all to be proud of. Now you—you and Samson and Nathan—have given me another chance. I'll never forget that. I'll do my best to make up for it.'
'Can you get back safely tonight?'
'I think so. But there are some things I must say first. For one thing, I brought a gift from Thacia to Leah. She won't be able to come here alone. Right now she's forbidden to leave the house at all.'
'Leah will be grateful,' Daniel managed, trying to hide his dismay.
Joel hesitated. 'Do you think Leah would let me give it to her myself?' he asked.
'You can try,' Daniel answered doubtfully. 'She has seen you often through the door.'
He opened the door to the house. Leah, sitting in the lamplight, raised her golden head. 'Joel has brought you a gift from Thacia,' he said. He waited. Behind him Joel stood quietly in the doorway. Leah seemed to shrink into a tight mold of fear. He could see her quiver, but she did not move, only watched with terrified blue eyes.
'Thacia sent her greetings,' Joel spoke very gently. 'She asks you not to forget her, and she will come to see you as soon as she can.' He reached out and softly laid a packet on the chest near the door. Then he backed into the shop and Daniel followed him.
'You realize,' Daniel said with wonder, 'that you're the only person who has been inside that door, ever, except for your sister?'
'Thacia told me to try. Leah is very lovely, Daniel. I wish—Thacia sent you a message too, by the way.'
Daniel felt his cheeks grow hot.
'Four days from today is the Day of Atonement.
First the fast, of course, and then the service at the synagogue. Why—I never thought—I'll see it at the Temple in Jerusalem! I can't believe it! But I'll miss the festival here in Capernaum. The girls will dance and sing in the vineyard. Will you come to town for it?'
'I wouldn't know how to behave,' Daniel protested.
'Think it over. It would please Thacia. Now, the other thing is about Leah. Thacia and I want you to know that you never need to be worried about leaving her, because we will take care of her. When the day comes, if you ever have to go away, Thacia will come—or even better, we would like to have Leah safe in our own house.'
He hurried on, while Daniel groped for words to thank him. 'Thacia is very fond of Leah. She'll miss her. Thace is going to be lonely, I'm afraid.'
Daniel looked down at his hands.
'Father regrets now that he's allowed her so much freedom to go about with me. Thace is spoiled. She isn't used to staying at home the way most girls do.'
It will be like caging a wild bird from the mountain, Daniel thought.
Joel looked away then, into a far corner of the shop. 'Father wants to arrange a marriage for her,' he said.
Daniel was not even aware that his hands reached out or that his knuckles whitened around a hammer handle.
'There is an old friend of the family,' Joel went on. 'But Thacia won't hear of it. It puts Father in a hard position, because, no matter how he regrets it, he is bound by his own promise. You see, it's different with our family. When our mother was only eight years old she was betrothed. But when she was fifteen my father, who was a poor student, came to do some work in her father's library, and they fell in love. It caused a terrible uproar. Her father was furious. He had to get divorce papers from the boy she had never even laid eyes on. She and Father promised each other then that they would never arrange marriages for their children against their will. that they would let us choose for ourselves.'
Daniel did not dare to look at his friend.
'The trouble is,' Joel said. 'Thacia is sixteen years old, and she refuses to choose.'
Still Daniel could not look up. He knew that Joel had spoken straight from his heart, with the impulsive frankness that would always be Joel's way. But he knew too that his friend's loyalty had always blinded him to the truth.
'She must choose,' he burst out now, too harshly. 'Someone of her own kind. Your father is right. And you will have to choose too, before long.'
'And you?' Joel asked quietly.
'I have no choice. How can a man who is sworn to vengeance and death take a wife?'
The angry words echoed in a silence that neither of them could seem to break.
'One more thing,' Joel said finally, with an effort. 'It is Jesus. Somehow he must be warned. He has enemies everywhere.'
'You mean Herod's men?' asked Daniel, relieved that Joel had turned to a safe subject.
'He knows about those. I mean the elders of the synagogue. The rabbis and the scribes. They can't understand him. They're furious at the things he says and does. He is too free with the Law. They say he is trying to destroy all the authority of the Temple. Some of them even say he is in league with the devil.'
'Does it matter what they say? Jesus pays no attention.'
'He must pay attention now. Some of them hate him so much—I think they would kill him if they could. Will you try to warn him?'
'Simon says he has been warned, time and time again.'
'Go to see him, Daniel. I wish—but it's too late for me now. Perhaps we made a mistake. Maybe Jesus is really the leader we're waiting for.'
Then he straightened his shoulders and held out his hand. 'Don't forget the festival, anyway,' he said. 'Thace will be looking for you.'
The two clasped hands. 'For God's Victory,' They said. Then Joel drew his cloak about his face and went out into the darkness.
It is the end of everything, Daniel thought, looking at the closed door. The end of everything we worked for. For the first time he despaired that the day would ever come.
IT WAS GOOD of you to come, Daniel. But do you think Jesus does not know all this?'
Annoyed, Daniel looked back at Simon. He had walked all the way from the village at the end of a long day's work. Twice a slanting rush of rain had drenched him to the skin, and the night air, heavy with fog, had only chilled him and not dried the clothing that clung to his body. He had fought his way through the tattered crowd in the garden, and now that he had reached the door they refused to let him approach Jesus. The teacher, they explained, was conferring with important men who had come all the way from Jerusalem to question him. Now Simon brushed off Joel's urgent warning with no more than a shrug.
'Forgive me, Daniel,' Simon said now, seeing that he had offended his young friend. 'We are worried too. These priests from Judea—they haven't given him a moment's peace for three days. They pretend to be so respectful, and they're only trying to trap him into saying something they can prove is blasphemy. It keeps us all on edge.'
'Why does he stay here if he knows he is in danger? Why doesn't he hide till he's strong enough?'
'The people need him. Come another time, Daniel. I cannot talk tonight.'
With the door shut against him, Daniel stood in the crowded garden. He wanted desperately to see Jesus. He knew now that the warning had been only an excuse. If he could have one word, one sign from Jesus, he might find the strength to go on working.
For a long time he waited, lost in his own misery. Finally Andrew came to the door of the house and looked out. 'No use to wait,' he called to the wretched crowd. 'The master is very weary. He can see no one else tonight.'
A wailing filled the garden. Then gradually the sick and the lame, convinced that the man had meant what he said, began to hobble back toward the road. A few simply settled themselves on the damp ground, having no other place to spend the night. Presently the door opened again, and Simon and Andrew and jesus came out into the garden. They moved slowly and Jesus spoke kindly to those who obstructed the way, touching them sometimes with a pitying hand. Firmly, the two disciples pushed a way for their master to the outside staircase that led to the upper room. They stood watching till Jesus, carrying a small night light ascended the stairs, went into the shelter, and closed the door behind him.
It was dark in the garden. When the disciples had gone back into the house, Daniel moved forward and stood at the foot of the staircase. He could not bear to go away.
He was sure he had not made any sound, but over his head the door opened. 'Who is there?' Jesus spoke. He raised the lamp.
Daniel did not dare to speak, but almost without thought he moved into the small circle cast by the lamp and raised his head till the light fell upon his face.
'Come up, my friend,' said Jesus softly.
The upper chamber was completely bare and clean. On the floor was unrolled the thin mattress on which Jesus was to sleep.
'Sit down,' said Jesus, and he himself sat, opposite Daniel, on the floor of rolled earth. 'Why are you troubled?' he asked.
'I came to warn you,' Daniel hurried into his errand. 'Joel says you are in danger. He says they have turned against you in the synagogue. He's afraid they will try to kill you.'
'Thank you,' said Jesus gravely. 'It is kind of you and Joel. Now, tell me, why are you troubled?'
Shamed, aware that he should not disturb the master's rest, Daniel sat struggling with his conscience. Then his misery spilled over. 'Because I don't know where to turn. Everything has failed. Everything I hoped and lived for.'
'What did you live for?'
'Just one thing. Freedom for my people. And vengeance for my father's death.'
'Two things,' said Jesus. 'Not one.'
'They are the same. I will strike for both at once.'
'Are you sure?' Jesus asked.
The familiar tightness pulled at Daniel's mouth. He had come for help, not questions.
'All I wanted was a chance!' he went on. 'I thought it had come at last, an
d I worked and planned for it. Then it all went wrong somehow. All I have is another debt to pay—Samson.'
Jesus was silent for a moment. 'This Samson,' he asked, 'he was your friend?'
The question surprised Daniel. He had thought of Samson as a burden, as a symbol of his own weakness. He had never thought of Samson as a friend, but now he saw that it was true.
'He died for me. He didn't understand about Israel or the kingdom. He just died, without any idea what we were fighting about.' Then, heedless of the master's weariness, forgetting everything but the guilt that had tormented him every moment since the day of the rescue, he poured out the story of Rosh, of the betrayal on the mountain, of Nathan's death, and the debt that Samson's sacrifice had laid upon him.
'Yes,' said Jesus slowly. 'An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. It is so written. We must repay in kind. But Samson has given you all that he had. In what kind can you repay him?'
'He did not give you vengeance. He gave you love. There is no greater love than that, that a man should lay down his life for his friend. Think, Daniel, can you repay such love with hate?'
'It's too late to love Samson. He is probably dead.' Then, as Jesus waited, 'Should I love the Romans who killed him?' he asked with bitterness.
Jesus smiled. 'You think that is impossible, don't you? Can't you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy? Not men. Hate does not die with killing. It only springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love.'
The boy lowered his head, scowling at the floor. This was not what he had come to find. With terror, he pushed away the words that struck treacherously into his own weakness. When he looked up again, Jesus sat with his head bowed, one hand across his eyes. Every line of his body showed his urgent need to rest. Daniel felt a stab of conscience. But his own need was too great. He had to speak.
'I don't understand,' he pleaded. 'But I know that you could save us all if you would. Master! Why will you not lead us? There are so many—hundreds—thousands—in Galilee, who only wait for a word. How long must we wait?'