29

Veranda Breezes

After the combined families arrived at Malchusí cottage, everyone settled down on the veranda since it was more breezy than inside. The sun made beautiful patterns as it filtered through the leaves of the surrounding trees. Over lunch, Malchus asked Seth, "Tell me how you happened to accompany Ruth and Rachel to Patmos?"

"When I heard that Caiaphas had turned them out, I began a search for Ruth and Rachel. I was pleased when I found them comfortable in the inn, because as a priest to the poor of Jerusalem I had no place for them to live."

Ruth interrupted, "When Justin and Brigitte returned and I told Seth we were going to Patmos, he insisted on accompanying us as is required by Jewish tradition."

Seth continued, "I plan to find quarters at the synagogue and stay awhile to see how things work out for Ruth and Rachel before I return to my people in Jerusalem."

Malchus said, "Seth, when you are ready, Iíll take you by Eliís. He is one of my assistants and my good friend. Eli, his sister Sarah, and their parents are Jews who came from the grape country of Judea. Eli can take you to the synagogue. Rachel, you can go with us and meet Sarah, who is about your age. I think youíll like her.

Malchus then turned to Ruth, "How did it happen that you left Caiaphasís compound?"

"On Rachelís sixteenth birthday, Caiaphas called me to his quarters to tell me that he had arranged for Rachel to marry the son of a Pharisee. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would honor Rachelís feelings about her marriage choice. When he told me that he would put Rachel out on the street if she didnít marry his friendís son, I turned and walked out."

Rachel interjected, "So, we packed our belongings and left just before sunrise the next morning. We walked across the city searching for a place to stay without success. I began to wonder if Motherís strong faith was going to work this time as it had in the past. Just as I was questioning our decision, a kind woman in the marketplace suggested we try finding something in nearby Bethany."

Leaning forward into the circle, Ruth said, "In Bethany I stopped to ask a young woman tending some flowers in her yard about a place to stay. She asked us to come inside and talk with her sister Martha. As soon as Martha heard our plight, she insisted that we stay with them until she could help us find something more permanent."

Rachel interrupted excitedly, "You would all love Martha and Mary. They are so cordial and loving. In a few days Martha talked to the proprietor of the inn where Justin and Brigitte found us, and he gave us jobs and a room."

Then Ruth looked at Justin to say, "Enough about us. On the ship you mentioned building a home on Patmos; tell us about your plans."

Justin described in detail the location on the hillside overlooking the ocean and the layout of the structure that he envisioned. As everyone finished their lunch, the parents, tired from the trip, decided to take an afternoon nap. Malchus said, "Seth, if you would like, Rachel and I will take you by Eliís."

Eliís family had just finished lunch. They warmly greeted the three visitors. After Malchus had explained who Seth was and of his plan to stay at the synagogue, Eli offered to take him there. Sarah and Rachel stood aside talking about things that girls talk about. After a few minutes, Malchus said, "We need to be going along now."

Eli and Seth left for the synagogue. Malchus led Rachel into the vineyard, saying, "I want to show you the variety of grapes grown here."

Rachel took Malchusí hand and said, "I enjoyed talking with Sarah. I would like to be her friend."

"Watching the two of you talking, I think Sarah would like to be your friend too."

Letís walk up the hillside where Iíll show you one type of grape, and later weíll go down towards the sea to look at a different variety. You can see here how we terrace the slopes to capture every drop of rain that falls. We till the soil in the fall to be ready to absorb the winter rains. Then the land is left undisturbed during the warm dry months to keep the moisture sealed in the ground.

As they walked hand-in-hand, Malchus asked, "Did you have any trouble convincing your mother to bring you to Patmos?"

"No, she too cares a great deal for you. She said, ¬ĎWe can have a new beginning for our lives on the island close by the family of our dearest friend.í"

Rachel, wanting to hear more about what had happened with Malchus during his absence, asked, "What about you, Malchus? Tell me what happened to you while we were apart."

"Well," Malchus began, "where should I start?"

"Maybe you should start with the last day that I saw you," suggested Rachel.

"Thatís a good place," Malchus said as he squeezed Rachelís hand. "As you know, I went out to the Mount of Olives with the Roman guard to capture the so-called criminal, Jesus. I saw you at the gate, but I guess somebody else saw us too. So, whoever it was reported it to Caiaphas. Caiaphas had me work the busiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement, then at the end of the day, he dismissed me from my duties. He told me that Captain Hiram would find a place a great distance away, where my yeoman services could be used by another.

"I wanted to defend myself somehow, but I decided to leave peacefully, because I was afraid of what Caiaphas might do to you or your mother. When I arrived on Patmos, the shipís captain convinced the governor to buy my unused indenture from Caiaphas and to assign me as a yeoman. I decided not to tell him about my Roman citizenship, because I was sure that no governor would believe that a fair-complected, blue-eyed boy was a Roman.

"Since Iíve arrived, Iíve been working hard. The grape crop has nearly doubled, and I have been working from daylight to dusk. I think my example has motivated the rest of the crew to work harder. At first, I thought the long hours were because I enjoyed the challenge, but in reality, I think that I was working so hard because I was trying not to think so much about you. I had really missed you, Rachel."

"Really, Malchus?" chided Rachel with that mischievous smile on her face.

"Yes, really, Rachel," he said with even more resoluteness. "Now," he said with a more business-like tone in his voice, "tell me, whatever happened to Hans?"

"It was the day after Caiaphas sent you away that Hans asked to speak with me," started Rachel. "When I saw him at the tool shed, he wasnít his usual jovial self and had a concerned look on his face. It seems that the night that began in the olive grove just across the Kidron Ravine and continued with the harsh treatment of Jesus was quite upsetting to Hans. Besides that, when he found that you had mysteriously disappeared with no explanation, he decided that it was time that he gather his things and return to Gaul. He told me to tell you, Clement, and Elmo that he hoped he hadnít let you down, but that he just couldnít stick around."

"I hope he made it home safely. As a matter of fact, I must admit that I had grown to care very much for Hans and his fun-loving ways."

It was nearing dinnertime as they headed back to the cottage. Workers in the vineyard were packing their tools and heading home. They greeted Malchus as they passed Rachel and him on the road. When Malchus and Rachel arrived at his cottage, they found that Brigitte and Ruth had prepared a dinner that tasted as good as it looked and smelled. No one tarried after eating, because they still had to gather their belongings and head over to the guesthouse that the governor had prepared for Justin, Brigitte, Ruth, and Rachel. Flavius selected a guesthouse with several rooms so both families would have their privacy.

The coolness from the earth rose up from beneath their feet as they loaded, then unloaded, the belongings that they had brought along with them. There was a lot to unpack and get situated, but Brigitte was looking forward to it, as this would be the beginning of a whole new phase of her and Justinís life together. Additionally, in the short time that she had come to know Rachel and Ruth, she had grown to love them as family.

The night settled slowly on the sleepy village as Malchus traveled back to his cottage alone. It had been a long but exciting day, and he was already looking forward to tomorrow, when he could again see Rachel and be able to spend some more time with her. He was now feeling an urgency to talk to Seth about his niece.

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