34

The Bridegroom Comes

When Malchus arrived in the vineyards, Eli was speaking with a vinedresser about the quantity of grapes that had been picked during the week. Malchus asked to speak with him when he finished, and Eli quickly completed his conversation, sensing that something important was on Malchusís mind.

Once Eli heard that the wedding day was finally near, he wholeheartedly agreed to help Malchus steal Rachel away. Excited for Malchus, he put the shophar (ramís horn) he had recently bought up to his lips and gave it a good sounding. A few of the men picking grapes stopped and looked up as they wondered what the occasion was.

Malchus, understanding Eliís enthusiasm, proceeded to make arrangements to meet the next evening at the winery. He also asked him to bring along his shophar so that he could give it a good sounding at the right time.

Hurriedly, Malchus made his way back to his parent's new home to inform them of his plans. Brigitte excitedly made arrangements to go down to the shops with Claire to get the decorations for the garden. Justin prepared to run some last-minute errands, while Malchus spent the rest of the day making sure that everything in the new home was in perfect order.

The next evening just before the sun went down, Malchus headed over to the governor's stable to ask the stableman for the horse and carriage that the governor had so kindly arranged for him to use. The carriage was golden in color and reminded him of the sort of conveyance to be used by a king and queen. When he first rode in it, Malchus was a bit hesitant, but he soon grew accustomed to it and felt that it was actually quite a fine fit for the occasion. The ride over to the winery where Malchus had agreed to meet with Eli wasn't far. By the time Malchus arrived, Eli was already there waiting for him.

"I hope you know what you're doing," said Eli.

"Of course, I do," replied Malchus, "and when you find someone like Rachel, you'll know what you're doing, too."

"Rachel must know that something is up because she asked my sister Sarah to come to her house and help her fix her hair.

They both laughed as they moved down the cobblestone street to Rachel's house. When they arrived, Rachel was just lighting the oil lamp on the sill of her bedroom window. She was dressed in a white robe and had small white flowers laced throughout her upswept hair. As she turned to speak to someone in the room, the light of the lamp fell on her face and made her skin appear to have a golden glow.

"Are you ready, Eli?" asked Malchus.

"Yes, I think Iím ready," he answered.

"Then let her go."

Eli started with a shout, "The bridegroom cometh." Then he put the shophar to his lips and blew louder and harder than Malchus had ever heard before.

The front door opened. It was Ruth. "Malchus," she said as her eyes searched in the direction from which the sound of the shophar had come, "I've been waiting for you. Come on in. Everyone here is ready."

It was just the moment for which Malchus had been waiting. At Ruthís invitation, he stepped into the common room, then through the doorway leading into the bedroom. Startled by the rustling sound, Rachel let out a screech, "Malchus, how did you get in here?"

"Never mind that," he said as he lifted her into his arms, "I've come to steal you away to be my bride and my wife." As he started to carry her out of the room, she kicked and screamed a little bit, then beat on his chest, but he was stronger than all of her resistance and won out. Out the front door he went with Rachelís good friend Sarah close behind and Eli blowing the shophar.

Neighborsí lamps were lit, and people came to their doorways to see exactly what all of the commotion was about. Malchus felt stronger than he ever had before and found it easy to carry Rachel even though she continued to struggle. Soon they reached the carriage. Up went Rachel into the carriage, and then came Malchus joined by Sarah and Eli. All were laughing as they noisily wound through the streets leading up to the governor's mansion.

As they approached the front entrance, the carriage stopped. At the top of the stairs Claire and Flavius stood beckoning them.

"Come this way, Malchus," said Flavius, "your mother and father are awaiting your arrival."

"Follow me," said Claire as she took Rachel and Sarah by the arms. "We have a place ready for you to freshen up while the guests are getting seated."

"Thank you so much," said Rachel.

"Step right in here," said Claire as she pointed to a room just off of the hall leading to the garden. "I must check on the guests as I rather believe that the whole island has shown up!"

"What a beautiful room," said Rachel as she twirled around.

"You're the beautiful one," said Sarah. "Now all you need are a few more flowers in your hair."

As Sarah was securing a flower in Rachel's hair, Ruth arrived. After giving Rachel a kiss on both cheeks, she stepped back to admire her daughter. "What happened to my little girl?" she inquired, "Why, she is all grown up. It seems like just yesterday that I carried you in my arms. Now I must let you go."

"Oh, Mother, it won't be so bad," said Rachel as she fastened another flower in place.

"That's easy for you to say," said Ruth as she tucked a wisp of Rachel's hair just above her ear, "I'm going to miss you."

"I'm going to miss you, too, Mother," said Rachel as she reached out to give her mother a hug.

"It's time," prompted Claire. "Are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," replied Rachel.

The guests were all seated in the garden. Torches lit the path leading down to the huppah (a canopy under which a Jewish wedding is performed) where Seth was standing holding the Holy Scroll. Malchus and his parents stood patiently in front of Seth as Ruth and Rachel took their places.

"Now that we have all gathered together," started Seth, "let us witness the joining together of this man and this woman in holy marriage in the sight of God and of man."

As Seth spoke, it seemed as though time nearly stood still for Malchus. He had waited so long for this moment, and now it was here. Rachel would be his bride, and he would be her husband. How beautiful it was that God would allow such a union to occur on this earth. How fortunate he was to have Rachel at his side for the rest of his days.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Seth's voice asking, "Do you, Rachel, daughter of Ruth, take Malchus, son of Justin and Brigitte, to be your husband?"

Rachel looked down at the flower she was holding then looked at Malchus and then at Seth and calmly said, "I do."

Then Seth turned to Malchus and asked him, "Do you, Malchus, son of Justin and Brigitte, take Rachel, daughter of Ruth, to be your wife?"

Without hesitation, Malchus answered with a firm, "I do."

Next, they turned to face those who had gathered to witness their commitment. Justin and Brigitte were the first to step forward with their gift for the couple. On top of a folded bedcover were two golden chalices and a blue glass vase. Malchus lifted up the chalices for all to see. Rachel lowered her head and clutched the vase to her chest. Next, Rachel handed the vase to Malchus and unfolded the bedcover. As Rachel studied the wool yarn, she counted seven shades of blending blues and green. She wondered, "How did Brigitte know that blue, green, and purple are my favorite colors?"

"Thank you," said Rachel as she reached out to give both Brigitte and Justin a hug and a kiss.

Next, Ruth placed on the bride and groom a golden necklace with a pendant of the Star of David. Malchus, knowing the sacrifice she had made to purchase them, hugged her and thanked her for the lovely gifts. After she stepped down, Flavius and Claire came, giving Malchus and Rachel two lamb figurines carved from ivory. Then came Sarah and the rest of the guests - each with something of significance for the newly wedded couple.

When Malchus and Rachel stepped out from under the huppah, the guests all clapped, and the music began. There was the usual kicking up of heels and dances to folk music with people circling like wheels within wheels. There was plenty of food for everyone, and the jars of wine never ran dry. Malchus and Rachel, empowered by the flame of their love, danced and visited with their guests on into the night.

Soon enough, the flames of the torches grew dim. Malchus, taking a cue from his father, swept up his young bride and carried her up the pathway to the carriage where Eli and Sarah awaited. Once inside the carriage, they waved good-bye to their guests and made their way down the cobblestone entryway.

Rachel laid her head on Malchusís shoulder as they rode towards the hillside. The moon, now fully unveiled, shone high in the sky, and the steady sound of the wheels against the cobblestone drew them closer and closer to their new home.

When they reached the front door, Eli pulled back on the reins, and the carriage came to a slow stop. Malchus was the first to step down from the carriage, and then he offered his hand to Rachel who gracefully accepted. As soon as her feet hit the ground, Malchus caught her up into his arms and carried her across the threshold of their home. As he glanced back to look at Eli, he could hear the hoofs of the horses traveling back down the hillside. The wedding chamber had been made ready, and the door closed behind the new husband and wife.

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