21

Exiled to Patmos

The blue Mediterranean had been calm, and the favorable sea breeze enabled the Tarsus to pass the island of Cyprus on the starboard side of the ship on the third day. Captain Hiram had named his ship Tarsus after its home port. Although the captain seemed rather rough at times, beneath his facade of toughness was a compassionate man.

Malchus, still sick from being torn from Rachel against his will, had hardly eaten since they had left port. It was Hiram who first tried to talk some sense into him, "Son, you must eat something more. I know how you feel, but not eating isn't going to solve anything. Besides, we will be arriving at the port of Patmos later this week, and you will need your strength to carry out the duties that will be assigned to you. Now eat some of these fish. They couldn't be any more fresh." Hiram, in a kidding manner, lifted one of the fish and passed it under Malchus's nose.

Malchus still felt numb all over, but the captain spoke with a logic and humor that reminded him of his father. "What would Justin have done in this situation?" he thought as he stared down at the coiled rope laying next to him on the deck. "Maybe he would have been heartsick like me," he thought to himself, "but, because he was a part of the Roman legion, he would have continued to carry on through any adversity. If he can do it, then so can I," he said to himself as he lifted his head and gave the captain a nod in the affirmative for some of the fish.

After another five days had passed, the Tarsus headed in toward the island of Patmos. With eight days together with Malchus at sea, Hiram had become quite aware of Malchusí inquisitive nature. As they approached the small island, Malchus wanted to know more, and Hiram kindly obliged, "This Roman island is 160 miles northeast of Crete and forty miles southwest of Ephesus. Its coast line is indented with many bays, and itís about eight miles long and four miles wide."

"What kind of people live on Patmos?"

"Many are ones expelled by the Roman governors all around the Mediterranean," Hiram explained.

Looking a little puzzled, Malchus further inquired, "Then what is their livelihood?"

"Some are fishermen and others work in the vineyards. I have sailed here several times to deliver banished people. On one of my more recent visits, Flavius, the Roman governor, told me he needed a yeoman to manage the vineyards on the island. So I suppose that is where you will fit in."

"Oh," Malchus answered, a little disappointed that his future seemed to be so fixed.

Soon the anchor was dropped, and the sailors lowered the small boats in order to fill them with the cargo that needed to be delivered. Malchus joined Hiram on the first boat that was ready to leave the ship. Once they arrived at the dock, they secured the boat and began the eighth-of-a-mile hike from the dock to the governorís house.

When they arrived at the gate, Hiram spoke to the guard, "I'm Hiram, captain of the Tarsus, and I would like to speak with the governor. He has welcomed me on previous occasions, so I suppose he will do the same today."

As the guard turned to enter the house and let the governor know of their arrival, Hiram and Malchus stood silently at the gate, not yet certain that they would indeed receive an audience with the governor. It wasn't long after, however, that the guard summoned them to enter the courtyard and approach the doorway to the house. By the time they had reached the steps leading up to the porch, Flavius had reached the doorway and was dismissing his guard to return to the gate.

"Hiram, so good to see you," Flavius said as he gestured for them to enter the large hallway covered with crimson and royal blue tapestries. "I certainly hope that you can fill me in on the news about the parts of the world where you have been, as I havenít traveled much lately. We have been short-handed here, and it has been hard for me to get away."

"Well," Hiram said with a bit of a pause as they rounded the corner to enter Flavius's study, "since I have just come from Jerusalem, I'll begin there, but first, this is Malchus." Flavius motioned for Hiram and Malchus to take a chair, then took a seat behind a large table. Hiram continued, "The Jews are fairly peaceful these days; however, I will say that the day we left an itinerant preacher had been crucified along with two criminals."

"An itinerant preacher?" repeated Flavius. "What did he do? Get himself into trouble with old Caiaphas? Caiaphas isn't one of the most tolerant high priests we've ever had."

"You can say that again," added Hiram.

"And the rest of your travels?" inquired Flavius.

"Well, sir, from my point of view, there has been nothing that I have heard that seems newsworthy. How are things going for you here on Patmos?"

"I still have the same problem that I talked with you about last time. Individually my diverse workers are good, but collectively they aren't too efficient. I desperately need a yeoman to manage the whole operation."

"I remembered your dilemma and spoke with Caiaphas about it when I was in Jerusalem."

"What did he say?"

"Well, he thought about it for a moment then told me about his yeoman, Malchus, an indentured servant. Malchus has worked for Caiaphas for almost two years and has been quite successful in handling many of his affairs."

"If he has been so successful, then why was Caiaphas so willing to let him go?"

"Well, as I understand it, the high priest thought that his fifteen-year-old niece was interested in the yeoman, so he felt that the best thing to do would be to separate them. As a result he sent Malchus here with me."

"I see," said Flavius as he rolled his pen between his fingers. "So this is the nieceís friend?" he asked pointing the end of his pen at Malchus.

"Yes, this is he."

"Well, he doesn't look too devious. I suppose I could give him a try for a month or so. And if it doesn't work out, you can tell old Caiaphas that he will be hearing from me. Malchus, get some food and a good nightís rest, and weíll talk about your new responsibilities tomorrow."

To Malchus, the governor seemed more like a businessman than a governor, but he appeared to be a fair and just man who was apt at judging character, so Malchus didn't mind the thought of working for him. A deal was struck between Hiram and Flavius, and Malchus became the governor's yeoman. Hiram left the grounds, and another guard escorted Malchus to his living quarters.

The room was actually a little larger than the one he had at Caiaphas's compound, and the bed looked some better. Of course, the biggest difference was that Rachel wasn't here, and that made all the difference in the world. Nothing looked quite as good without her.

When he looked out the doorway of his room, Malchus could view the vineyards. The rows of green vines splotched with purple were contoured to the sides of hills so that all the rainfall was captured where the vines met the earth. It looked like the job would require long hours, since the vineyards were vast and the workers seemed to be few. He was hoping for long workdays so that he wouldn't have extra time to think about Rachel. He missed her so, and he knew that time and hard work were his only hope to anesthetize the pain and heal his broken heart.

Not feeling hungry, he ate very little dinner. Around sunset, he grew sleepy and threw himself across the straw-filled mattress trying to make sense of it all. Having no god of his own, he presumed to take his dilemma up with Rachel's God, the One she called Jehovah. "Jehovah," he cried, "if you can hear me, please be near Rachel and comfort her. Help her in her times of need and help me get on with living. And please, heal my broken heart because it hurts so much." With his last words trailing off, he fell asleep, not to be awakened until dawn.

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