ONE MORE TIME: Chapter 44B - Hamath is Home
Dorcas sat back on her chair. Her Hamath, weeping. Amazing.
His shoulders shook for a time. His shoulders remained slumped, but at last he raised his head. “We found an inn in Jerusalem to stay in while we searched for Bildad. Two days later, we found him. I told him I wanted to buy Paul back from him. When I told him who I was, he became angry. He ordered his men to grab me, saying Paul had died and that I’d take his place. Enoch tried to defend me and was killed. They took me captive. I’m sorry, Dorcas—I did try to find Paul. I so regret that he died. That really wasn’t in my shortsighted plan. Why are you smiling?” He didn’t wait for her to respond before he continued, his words nearly tripping over themselves.
“Bildad said it was only fitting I should take Paulos’s place. They put me in shackles. They fed me on weak broth and gruel and beat me when I didn’t do things exactly to their pleasure. A few days ago, I don’t know how many, he set me free, even offered to pay me for the loss of my servant. I took the 30 pieces of silver he offered, and started to make my way home. I had no horse. He didn’t offer me even an old broken-down horse to replace my fine horses he took, the thief.”
“We have other horses. Although I wish Enoch hadn’t died, it will gratify his mother to know how valiant he was. I will go to her tomorrow.” Dorcas nodded and motioned for him to continue.
“Bildad said something about the horses weren’t part of the bargain with the ghost, whatever that meant. But I was free. I didn’t want to protest too much, because he might change his mind. I set off to Jerusalem to buy a horse, and but thieves stole my money while I slept. Since then I’ve been walking, dependent on the charity of others for food, when I could find any. I was so hungry even ate locusts and grubs that I found.”
He ran his hands through his hair. “Yesterday I passed out. I’m don’t know whether it was from hunger or if I fell—at least I think it was yesterday, except that I don’t remember passing Ptolemais. When I woke up it was dawn, and somebody had covered me with this cloak—it isn’t mine. I saw the walls of Tyre, and I knew I was almost home. But I didn’t know if you’d accept me back, because I don’t have Paulos with me. I have failed you, my love, this time and so many others over the years.” His eyes filled with tears again, and he dropped to his knees in front of her.
Dorcas wept, too, tears falling unashamed down her cheeks. “Oh Hamath, I’ve wished so often I could take those words back. Yes, you’re home, and God willing, you’re home to stay. But before you take your bath, come with me.”
She helped him to his feet and led him to the children’s play room, where Paul sat with his back to them on the floor, giving lessons to the children. Darius, Gideon, and Orphah jumped up, shouting “Papa!” and ran to Hamath.
Paul turned his head toward Dorcas and Hamath.
Hamath gasped. “Paulos?”
“Who… Oh , uh, hello Hamath,” Paul said, standing. “Bildad freed you, then. Good.”
Hamath’s eyes widened. “You’re not dead! And you’re here. And your leg…”
“Yes, sir. I’m alive and I’m well.”
“But Bildad said you were dead! How is it that you live? But I’m so glad you are alive!” He grasped Paul’s shoulder with his good hand.
“So am I, and it’s just as well Bildad keeps thinking I’m dead. I appeared to him as a “ghost” a little over a month ago and ordered him to free all the people he wrongfully enslaved. Your name was on that list. We thought you’d be home much before now. Dorcas worried about you. I’m thankful you were freed and are home.”
Dorcas nodded, her happiness like a bubbling spring inside her.
“So that’s what happened. Mine is a long story, Paulos, and it appears yours must also be. Perhaps tomorrow we should talk about it. Meanwhile, a bath has been drawn for me, and then I think I’ll sleep for a long time.”
“As you wish, sir,” Paulos said.
Hamath left for his bath, and Dorcas sent for Benoni. Perhaps we have a need for him after all. When Benoni arrived, she asked, “Would you like to be Hamath’s personal servant? That means you’d be responsible for helping him bathe, seeing that his clothes are clean and ready for him, and following any orders he may give you. If necessary, you must be willing to lay your life down for him if he should be in danger.”
“Oh, yes, madam, I’d be happy to be his servant, and I promise to protect him with my last breath, should that ever be needed. Thank you.” He knelt and bowed his head to her feet.
“Good. Your first job is to go get one of our servants or slaves, any of them, they all know the way, to go get Nicolas the physician. Anyone but Sarah, that is. Then, you will go to Hamath’s quarters to help him bathe.”
“Yes, Madam, it shall be as you wish,” he said. He stood, turned on his heels, and ran toward the servants’ quarters.
She smiled. Well, that’s a good start. There doesn’t appear to be anything slothful about this young man. Dorcas made her way to their quarters where Hamath had submerged himself in the warm water.