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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Abigail, Part IV

After David left, Abigail and her servants turned around and returned to camp.
They could hear the party before they could see it. Someone was beating the tambourine; shrieks and laughter echoed through the valley.

When they arrived back among the tents, Abigail went to find Nabal. Her eyes narrowed when she finally spotted him. He was sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of the fire, holding a wine-skin up in the air with one hand to pour the last dregs out of it. Only half the wine ended up in his mouth; the rest splashed over his face and garments. His face flushed from the heat of the fire and the wine, he beat along to the rhythm of the tambourine with his other hand, slurring his words as he talked, his eyes bloodshot and watery from too much alcohol. As he put down the wineskin, he stuffed a piece of bread in his mouth, and Abigail saw the crumbs flying as he laughed uproariously at a joke the man next to him had made.

With a sigh, she turned away - no use talking to the man right now. He wouldn't remember a word she said in his present condition anyways. No, better to wait till morning.


The next morning, Abigail rose early and set about getting yesterday's mess cleaned away. By ten, the remainders of the excesses of the evening before were for the most part gone. She directed the servants as to the last tasks that still needed to be completed, washed her hands, and walked back to Nabal's tent, carrying a bowl of clean water. The state he had been in last night, she would need it.

When she entered, he was lying on the bed-mat, groaning and holding his head.
As the morning light fell through the lifted entrance flap and hit his face, he winced piteously as he closed his eyes and turned his face away. "Shut that thing, will you? Oh, my head..."

"Lie down." She pushed him back onto the bed mat, and dipped a cloth into the cold water. "Here, wash your face." He had fallen into bed in the same clothes that he had worn the night before, and the sour smell of unwashed body and stale wine wafted through the air of the chamber.

Abigail walked over to a cedar chest along the wall, and pulled out a fresh tunic and undergarment. "You should put this on."

Nabal had sunk back and placed the wet folded-up cloth over his eyes. "I don't feel so good," he whispered.

"Well, be glad you can feel anything at all," Abigail said in a hard voice.

Nabal took the cloth off his eyes and looked at her, perplexed. "What do you mean?"

"Yesterday, David and his army came within an hour of us, and from what I could make out, it seems he was quite set on wiping out the entire camp," she said matter-of-factly, her lips closing into a tight line. "That's all."

Nabal sat up in bed, holding a hand to his forehead. "David? Kill us?"

"Well, what did you expect?" she asked as she sat back on her heels. "After the way you treated him?"

"The way I...? What...? How come he didn't...?" Nabal sputtered, trying to make sense of the story.

"I went out and gave him all the food and drink I could gather on short notice, and groveled in the dirt for forgiveness. Luckily he decided to show us leniency, or we would all be dead by now."

Nabal's face was turning alarmingly red again, and his chest was rising in quick, angry breaths. "HOW DARE YOU? How dare you go behind my back like that? I am Nabal - everyone knows me. The richest man in the area. That presumptuous young upstart, acting like the world owes him a living - he wouldn't have had the guts to attack us. You away my belongings...of all the..."

Suddenly, Nabal's face turned chalky white, and his hand went to his chest as he drew a shuddering breath. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead as Abigail watched in alarm. A strangled moan escaped him before he fell over limply.


He never woke up. For ten days, Abigail cared for him, but he never regained consciousness, and on the tenth day in the evening, he drew a last rattling breath and then his heart stopped for good.

It's odd, she thought as she looked at his lifeless body. I never loved him. I didn't even like him. And yet, I have taken care of him for so long - it seems strange to think that he is gone...

What, she wondered, would become of her? She had no son to inherit his father's wealth. There would be a battle among his relatives, Nabal's possessions split up and distributed. Would anyone remember to provide for her? Nabal had no brother who would feel obligated to marry her. Maybe another relative? Well, there were worse things than returning home to her father's house, she supposed...

It felt strange and disloyal that at that moment the image of David rose in front of her eyes. She chased it away in irritation. No use to daydream. The mourners and neighbors would arrive soon, and there was so much to do. For the next week, she would not have a minute to herself.

She got up, tired from the long wake by his sickbed, feeling worn out and tired and teary. What would become of her?


It didn't take long for word to get around. After all, everyone knew Nabal, the richest man in the area.

David heard, too. "So Nabal got his just desserts," he said quietly to himself. He chuckled ruefully. "God did fight that battle for me, didn't he? Just like Abigail said. And to think I almost defiled myself with innocent blood over that old Fool's insults."

It was Abigail who had stopped him. Not one of his men had spoken up and dared to tell him that the direction he was headed in would lead to anguish and blood-guilt. Not even his closest advisors had let him know that he was wrong. It had fallen to her, a woman, the wife of his enemy, to speak truth to him - truth dressed up to go down easy, but truth none the less.
In his mind's eye, he saw Abigail's face, and he smiled. Where would he find another woman like that - beautiful, courageous, and bright? And he knew what he would do.
When the customary waiting period for a widow was over, David sent for his servants. "Go back to Carmel. Do you remember her who was the wife of Nabal? Find her. Tell her I want her for my wife."


Abigail was sitting at the loom, sending the shuttle back and forth across the warp with easy, practiced rhythm. She rose and bowed as the strange men entered the room.
"Are you Abigail, the widow of Nabal?"

"Yes," she answered, a puzzled look on her face. "I am?"

"We have come with a message for you. Our master is David, the son of Jesse. He asked us to tell you that he remembers the day he met you fondly and with gratitude. It is his desire to marry you. We are to take you back to him to become his wife, if you are willing."

For a moment, Abigail stopped breathing. Could this be true? It didn't seem like it could be real...

Then she bowed down, her face to the ground, hiding the smile that she couldn't hold back. "I am willing. I will go anywhere you want me to. I am willing to serve you, any which way I can."

They bade her rise, and she wasted no time. She gathered a few of her belongings and her most trusted servants and got on her donkey. There was nothing to hold her in Carmel. She turned around once and looked back, right before the settlement disappeared behind the ridge of the hill. Her old life, gone now. She would not miss it. Resolutely, she turned around and urged her donkey forward.

Her heart started beating loudly as they drew near David's encampment. The nightmare of the previous year at last was over. She smiled as she pictured David: handsome, strong, a man of God. Soon now, she would see him. Her husband to be. She, the wife of a fool, would be the wife of the next king of Israel. The smile grew bigger. Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

This was the final installment of the Abigail series - hope you enjoyed it!

posted by Birgit
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