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"What can he have more but the Kingdom?"
            -- I Samuel 18:8
      There are many who say that David loved me because I resembled my brother Jonathan.  That is not true; David loved no woman, though he lay with many.  Women loved him.

      Even I loved him once.  When I was young, my very bones melted for love of David.

      Although I was a king's daughter, I did not think he would ever look at me.  David was a hero.  A hero should receive great beauty as his prize, and I was not beautiful.  When I was young I was thin and dun-colored, like the summer hills.

      But I looked at him.  When he and my brother Jonathan came riding their chariots through the streets in the pride of their triumphs, I was one of those who waved palms and threw flowers and cried his name.  I had no eyes for my brother, it was all for David -- David, who glowed hot as the sun, and was as far from my reach.

      All the world knows David's story now -- he always had a master's way with words, and always could tell a tale so that men repeated it to his credit.  When I was a child I would sit at my brother Jonathan's knee and listen while David sang his songs.  My favorite was the tale of the death of the Philistine champion Goliath.  David had to be coaxed to sing that, but he would always laugh and give in, in the end.  "What, that old tune again?  Oh, very well -- to please you, Michal."

      "Five smooth stones," he would sing then, smiling down at me.  "Five smooth stones did Yahweh put into my hand...."

      He always gave the credit to Yahweh, but I knew better.  In those days, the god I worshipped was David.

"Let David, I pray thee, stand before me...."
-- I Samuel 16:22

      My father Saul was not born to be a king.  He was a farmer, as his father had been before him.  He was a good man, too -- so men said then.

      We were Yahweh's people, and Yahweh's people were not like other nations; we had judges and prophets, not kings, to rule over us.  This had always been enough.  The priests and prophets said it would always be enough.

      But our borders were now hard-pressed by the armies of kings, and our warriors, answerable to no one, scattered before them.

      At last our people tired of losses and cried out for a king to lead them.  First the people called for a king, and then the judges too thought a king would make us stronger.  At last only the prophets spoke against it.  And the prophet who spoke loudest was Samuel.

      Samuel was the greatest prophet in all the land, and heard Yahweh's voice most clearly.  Samuel told the people that a king would bind them and command them, tax them and work them, take their sons for his army and their daughters for his house.  But in the end even Samuel saw it was useless.  A king the people would have.

      And so Samuel agreed to choose a king for them.  Who else but Yahweh's most favored prophet should choose Yahweh's king?

      Samuel was a tall man, and thin, with eyes that glowed with power -- and, I think now, with shrewdness and cunning.  Samuel's eyes were fearsome things the day he came to tell my father that Yahweh had chosen him -- Saul, son of Kish -- to be king over the people.

      My father was sitting in the kitchen-garden, bouncing me on his knee, when the prophet came to him.  I was barely three, but I still remember clearly the heat of the day, and Samuel's eyes, and how my father laughed, holding me tight against his chest so that the noise boomed under my ear.

      "Me, king of Israel!" he cried, when he had done laughing.  "Samuel, old man, you have been fasting in the desert too long.  Come, let me have a place spread for you -- fruit and wine, and in the shade.  Michal, my little dove, run and get your mother, that we may do honor to the prophet Samuel."  He set me down, but to go I would have to run past Samuel, and after I had looked far up at his eyes, I clung to my father's knee and refused to move.

      Samuel lifted his heavy wooden staff and set it down with a loud thump.  "Do not mock Yahweh or me, Saul son of Kish.  You are to be king.  Yahweh wills it so."

      "Well and well," my father said.  "Mind, Samuel, I think a king a good thing, and so I said when the judges asked us all.  There must be one man to make the decisions in the field, or the Philistines will be supping in our houses in another year.  But it was to be drawn by lot -- or so my women tell me they are saying at the well."  He patted my head absently.  "And now you say Yahweh has chosen me."

      Samuel nodded.

      "Well and well," my father said again.  "But I am only the son of a humble man, and a Benjaminite -- from the smallest house of the smallest tribe in all Israel.  Why me, Samuel?  Because I was once lucky with my spear?"  My father Saul was the only man who had won a great victory since the days of the great judges.  He had taken up sword and spear and saved the city of Jabesh-Gilead from the Ammonites in the same year that I was born.

      "Yahweh's ways are not for us to dispute, Saul."

      "I don't dispute them, man -- but if the oil's to be on my head there are plenty of men who will!"

      A pause.  "Send the child away," Samuel said.

      My father laughed again and picked me up.  I buried my face in his chest, for Samuel was looking at me.  "What?  My little Michal?  Oh, very well.  Down you go, my dove, and off to your mother."  There was that in his voice that meant no argument, so I ran, to get past the prophet safely.

      It meant I heard no more, but I did not care.  That summer I was only three, and the word 'king' meant little to me.  It meant more to my brother Jonathan, though.  I was playing with him when our father came up to the housetop later that morning and told him what had been said.

      Jonathan was not our father's oldest son, but he was, I think, his favorite.  He was some ten years older than I, broad and brown and solid as Saul was.  Jonathan was not quick, or clever, but he was kind and gentle, and we all loved him well.

      Now he looked long at Saul.  When he finished thinking, he picked me up, and held me close, his cheek against mine.  Then he said, "I thought it was to be lots."

      "It is to be lots, boy.  But who rules the lots, eh?  Yahweh."

      Jonathan thought again.  "You mean Samuel, Father?"

      "Now, now, did I say so?  But it's only sense for Yahweh to choose a man who's good with a sword, and who knows more of tactics than herding sheep.  Sheep won't drive off the Philistines or the Ammonites, eh?"

      Jonathan frowned.  "But, Father -- "

      Saul swooped me out of Jonathan's arms and swung me high.  "King, by heaven!  Now there'll be something done about that miserable excuse for an army -- army they call it!  And Michal here will be a princess with gold to glisten in her hair.  Will you like that, my little dove?"

      "No!"  I did not know what a princess was, but I had learned that 'no' was a safer answer than 'yes', for then I might be agreeing to all sorts of unpleasantnesses, such as baths and braidings.

      My father laughed again, long and loud, and thrust me back at Jonathan.  "No, is it?  You'll sing another tune when you're older, won't she, Jonathan?"

      "There's never been a king in Israel before," was all my brother said as he took me into his arms.

      My father did not like this.  "Well, by Yahweh, there's to be one now!" he bellowed, and stomped off.

      Jonathan stared after him so long I became restless, and wriggled and demanded to be put down.  I was sorry afterwards, for Jonathan took me off and left me to the care of the maid who was watching my older sister Merab.  He didn't even finish making my leaf-and-flower doll for me, and when I complained of this the maid slapped me and bade me hush.  The other two serving-maids had just come back from the marketplace and could chatter of nothing but the search for a king, and so no one had time for me.  Even Merab, who was six, wished to listen, although it could have meant little to her either.

      So I sat under one of the beds and sulked, and no one paid me any heed.  A king, it seemed to me, was nothing but trouble for Michal.

      And so the lots were cast, and Saul was king of Israel.  My life was little changed, save that I saw my father and my brothers less.  I still lived in my father's house in Gibeah; his two wives and his concubine Rizpah still wove and spun, and taught Merab and me to do the same.  But I was called 'Princess Michal' now, which made me think myself of great importance.

      For my brothers all was altered.  Saul had seven strong sons, and he took them all to live with the army and fight our enemies.  I thought it a fine thing to have brothers who were princes and heroes.  I was proud of them, and twice proud of my father.

      Everyone was proud of King Saul then -- King Saul, who called the men of Israel and Judah to his banner and led them to victory after victory.  All men praised the name of Saul in those days.  All men save the prophet Samuel.  But it did not seem to matter what one sour prophet said -- not while King Saul held Yahweh's favor -- and the borders.

      Jonathan tried to explain matters to me once, when he had come home to visit us.  That was when Jonathan told me that he believed Samuel had chosen the best warrior to be king, and now regretted his choice.  I could not see why; my father had forged the chaotic hordes of Israel into a true army.  When Saul's army fought, it won.  Saul had defeated the Philistines, and pushed the Ammonites back and held the borders against them.

      Jonathan thought long before he answered, as was his habit.  "Because, little sister, our father thinks more of his own way than he does of Samuel's.  He says Samuel is a prophet, not a general, and so should tend to the business of Yahweh and leave the ordering of the army to those who know better how to win battles and hold the peace."

      That sounded like sense to me, and I said so.

      "Yes, but Samuel says that the ordering of the army and the kingdom is the business of Yahweh," Jonathan said.

      "And Father does not?"

      "And Father does not," Jonathan agreed.  I looked at him more closely; laughter danced in his eyes like sunlight over a brook, and I laughed too, hardly knowing why.

      "It is nothing to laugh at, Michal," he said after a moment.  I did not know why, for a moment before he too had thought it funny.

      So I tossed my head, and the gold rings in my braids chimed and clashed.  "Father is the king.  What can an old prophet do to hurt him?"

      Jonathan sighed, and put an arm around my shoulders.  "That old prophet made him king, Michal, and now I think he wishes to unmake him."

      "He cannot do that!  Father is a great king and the people love him!"  I was past eight now.  I could not imagine a life where my father was not king -- and I was not the daughter of a king.

      "They do not love him as well as they love their own way, and Samuel loves him not at all.  That time last year when Father would not wait, and made the sacrifices himself -- you remember?"

      I nodded, for all knew the tale.  The Philistines had been massed and ready to attack, and Samuel and the priests had not yet arrived for the sacrifices and blessings.  To prevent his army from slipping away, fearful of attacking without Yahweh's approval, Saul had made the sacrifices himself.  He had won the battle, so his deed must have found favor in Yahweh's eyes -- but Samuel had been very angry.

      "Well, that was the start of it, I think.  I was away with a raiding party, and by the time I returned Samuel was swearing that Yahweh would turn his face from Father for trying to be priest as well as king, and Father was shouting so they could hear him in Ascalon that Samuel -- "  Jonathan looked down at me and stopped, so I did not hear what Father had called Samuel.  Nor would Jonathan tell me, for all my teasing.

      He would not talk of his own deeds, either, for Jonathan was a modest man, for all they sang his name in the streets.  If I asked, it was always the same; Jonathan would smile and tug one of my braids and shake his head, saying, "It was nothing, little sister.  We fought -- I lived -- others died.  I was lucky."

      "You were brave!" I cried.  "Everyone says you are a great hero, Jonathan, and killed twenty men at a blow!"

      "Go listen to 'everyone' then," he would say, and no more.

      But there were many others who were happy to gossip before me.  Once I knew there were tales to listen for I learned to sit and keep silent, and soon the house women -- and the men, too -- would forget I was there, and they would talk.

      And so I heard, not only of my father's victories over our enemies, but of his bitter quarrels with Samuel.  These quarrels grew worse as my father grew older.  As he gained more knowledge of kingship, he was less and less willing to let priest or prophet say him nay.

      When I was a girl, I thought that my father was a great king.  I know better now.  Saul was a great warrior, but that is not enough to make a ruler.  Saul's way was to fight hard when attacked and beat foes back beyond their borders.

      "Hit a man hard enough and he'll stay down.  Hit an army hard enough and it'll stay home, eh?"  Saul would laugh, and so would his war-captains -- all save Abner, his cousin and war-chief, second in command only to Saul himself.  But Abner was a man who kept his mouth tight always, and laughed seldom, so no one minded.

      I thought it a valiant saying then, and wise.  Well, brave my father always was.  Wise?  I think he was that, too, once.  But that was before Samuel poured the sacred oil on his hair and made him king of Israel.

      Now when my father was home he smiled less and shouted more, and swore a great deal.  This made us all keep well away, when we could.  I still remember how sometimes the very stones in the walls seemed to quiver, and people became still as he raged, crying to heaven that he would tolerate Samuel's interference no longer.

      "Who is king in Israel, Saul or Samuel?  I am, by Yahweh, and if that dusty, dried‑up old man thinks he rules here -- we shall see what happens in the next battle!  If it's kingship he wants, well -- let him take the field against Moab and earn it!"

      There was always much more of this, for even my quiet brother Jonathan seemed to have lost the trick of calming him.

      But it always passed, in the end, and Saul would greet Samuel in peace once more, and the prophet would smile upon him and bless him.  Samuel could do little else; Saul's name was still sweet on men's tongues.

      But Samuel's smiles were sour things, now, and his blessings sounded grudging.

      I heard the final quarrel myself.  All the household did, and half the town as well, for it took place in the open courtyard, and my father was never one for quiet words.

      It had promised to be a day for feasting and finery -- my father had won his greatest victory.  For this time Saul had taken the Amalekite army, and the Amalekite king as well.  The Amalekites were rich in grain and cattle; this time there had been no slaughter.  This time there would be talk instead.  The Amalekite king was to come home with my father, and sit at his table.  A treaty, Jonathan had said.  King Agag would pay us well to return his men and land; he would be King Saul's friend and pay him tribute.

      I was on the rooftop, having my new-washed hair combed dry under the noonday sun.  When the shouting began I ran to the edge and looked down.

      Samuel stood in the courtyard below me.  He was silent, but my father was not.

      "Man, are you mad?  Throw over a prize like that?  Well, I won't ask my men to do it!  Do you hear me, prophet?"  My father bellowed like a stalled bull; only the dead could fail to hear.

      The prophet flung back his head and pointed his staff.  "You mock the words of Yahweh, Saul.  Take care."  His voice was low, but it carried clearly to the ear.

      "Yahweh's word or yours?"  My father yanked the staff from Samuel's hand and flung it away.  "Who took the Amalekites, eh, you or me?  Well, I'll tell you plain, old man -- it was me and mine, and I'll be damned if I'll put all our prizes to the sword!  I say I won't do it!  I say King Agag will be as my brother -- are you so blind now you can't see this will bring wealth and peace?"

      "I see you take too much upon your shoulders.  Who are you to think you know Yahweh's will?  I warn you again, Saul -- Yahweh demands the extermination of the Amalekites, man and woman, ox and ass, to the last grain and sheaf.  Spare Agag and his wealth at your peril."

      "And I tell you go too far!  Who do you think the people will follow, eh?  Their king, who gives them victory and spoils, or you, you canting hypocrite?"  This last was shouted louder than all the rest.

      There was a silence.  Samuel looked a long while at my father.  I could hear the sharp buzz of insects in the roof-arbor, and the softer hum of noises from the streets beyond the house.

      "Shall we put it to the test, O great King?" the prophet said at last.  His voice was a venomous thing, to wither the ear his words fell upon.

      Something in those words made my father swallow his anger and pride.  I watched him do it, and did not understand.  When he spoke again I could not hear him, although I leaned over the wall as far as I dared.

      His words seemed to please Samuel.  There was no more shouting, and after a few moments they both went away.

      Saul bowed to Samuel's will.  King Agag was slain by Samuel's own hand, and all the Amalekite wealth in flocks and herds was offered up to Yahweh instead of being given out among Saul's men.

      All should have been well, then.  But it was not.

      Samuel watched all done as he had ordered in Yahweh's name, and then walked away from Saul.  We did not learn where he went until long after, and then it was too late.

      My father, bitter as tears, nursed his anger until it turned inward, and poisoned him.

      And in time, to heal him, came David.

      I was nearly ten, and growing tall, when I first heard his name.

      "King Saul has a harper to give him rest at night," they said.  "Jesse of Bethlehem's son David -- he makes music sweet and the king calm."

      My father was seldom home now, spending all his time with his army, and I had not seen him for many months.  But I could not imagine his angers soothed by any harper, however sweet.  I said as much to Jonathan, when he finally came home to visit us.

      "And so I said too, little sister, when his servants said that music would ease him when he was troubled.  But then they brought David -- and his music."  Jonathan smiled in a way that made my heart leap, although I could not tell why.  I had no interest in harpers.  My marriage-dreams were all of heroes mighty in battle, not of men who dealt in music and soft words.  I did not know then that words and music are more deadly than any spear.

      Perhaps my face showed my thoughts, for Jonathan laughed.  "Not all men can be warriors, Michal.  No, do not toss your head at me -- we have over-many who know nothing but how to hurl a spear and taunt an enemy.  A king needs men with many different skills about him.  And David -- "

      "Has many skills?"  I was not sure I liked the way Jonathan's voice changed when he spoke of David.  It did not alter so for me, or even for his wife, though he loved her as he should.

      But Jonathan was never one to be baited with sharp words.  He only smiled again and reached to tug my braids.  "He can sing words of honey and play music of gold, and speak with wisdom and tact.  He can also tend sheep and never lose the smallest lamb."  Jonathan's eyes were soft.  "Someday, little sister, you may see for yourself."

      Then I did toss my head at him, all the king's daughter.  "How should I see him?  Will the king bring this shepherd's son home from the war-tents to eat at his table?"

      "Oh, so high, Princess Michal!"

      I scowled and stamped my foot.  I had some of our father's temper, and all my own pride.  "He will not," I said.  "You know he will not!"

      "He may yet," said Jonathan, solemn as a new-anointed judge.  "David sings songs our father delights to hear -- and a king's hall needs a harper, even as it needs a king's haughty daughter!"

      Then I knew he teased, and I flung myself at him in mock rage, to beat at him with gentle fists until he took back his words.  But he would not, and called me prideful and vain, and chased me round the pillars of the outer court to tickle me until I begged him to stop.

      He did, and then would have told me more about David, but I would not hear.  I had more important things to think of than a shepherd's son -- "Even if he has killed a lion and a bear, which I do not believe!  Harper's tales," I said, and thought it keen wit.

      "Wait and see," said Jonathan.  "Wait and see."

      And we spoke no more that day of David and his talents.

      But David did not remain only my father's harper.  He sang so well that he was given the post of the king's armor-bearer.  And, so said the gossip, that was not all he had won.  For he had found high favor not only with the king, but with the king's son.  It was said Prince Jonathan loved David well -- some said too well.

      Our other brothers were not best pleased, but there was nothing to be done; they even said that, to give him his due, the shepherd's son had sought no advantage.  King Saul had raised David up, and that was an end to it.  No, the blame was all for King Saul's moods, which grew inconstant as the moon.

      But not so inconstant that he failed to keep our enemies at spear's-point.  For all the prophet Samuel's complaints, Saul's army had beaten all nations but the Philistines back from our borders, and held them back, too.  The Philistines we had always against us; clashes with them were too common to even be worth much mention at the wells.

      So when word came that the Philistine troops were mustered for war at Socoh, we paid little heed to the news.  Men would fight, some would die, the Philistines would go home for another season.  Then a messenger arrived gasping out a tale hard to believe, and the story of that battle was to be on men's lips forever.

      The Philistines had taken their stand on one side of a valley, facing my father's camp, and then, rather than do battle, they sent forth a single champion.  He was a man called Goliath, and he was a true giant, two heads taller even than my father.  The messenger swore by Yahweh that this was true; when our men returned they swore the same, although some would have him three heads taller.  This giant challenged all Israel to produce a man to face him in single combat for the victory.

      They expected the king himself, of course.  In the old days Saul would have moved like a hill lion to face the challenge, and sent a spear through Goliath's heart even as he swaggered and boasted.  But Saul was no longer a young man, and his captains feared to let him try his might against a giant.  I thought they were wise, then; later I was not so sure.  I do not think my father thanked them for their caution, in the end.

      The messenger was all smooth words and spoke all around the coal at the story's heart, but even I guessed, from what he did not say, that King Saul had not taken their interference kindly, and had gone into a rage.  In such a temper no man would have been able to hold Saul back; he would have flown like a thunderbolt at the giant, had it not been for David.

      While others wailed and pleaded with Saul as if they were women and he a wayward child, David acted.  No one had noticed until he stood across the valley from Goliath, shouting that he was the king's champion.

      "And the Philistine giant looked upon him and laughed," the messenger told us as we all pressed close and stretched our ears to hear.  "For David is young, and wore no armor, and carried neither sword nor spear.  But the giant did not laugh long, by Yahweh!  While he still mocked, David killed him."

      He waited the tale there while he drank deep of the good wine my mother had given him with her own hands; I suppose he fancied himself a harper or a bard, and wished to delay until we begged the ending, to show the value of his tale.  In truth, he had chosen his words well, for I could not bear to wait another breath or heartbeat for the finish, and would gladly have shaken the rest from him, had I been close enough.

      Others were as eager, and many demanded to know how a man might kill another -- and that one an armored giant -- and yet carry no weapon.  When the courtyard echoed as if a flock of starlings chattered there, he was satisfied.

      "A stone," he told us.  "David killed the giant Goliath with a stone flung from a shepherd's sling.  And when the giant fell, the Philistines ran, leaving their camp open to us.  We chased them all the way to the gates of Gath, and they left forty times forty dead.  David brought the giant's head to King Saul.  The king has made him a captain of a thousand, and Prince Jonathan has kissed him before all the army and called him brother, and given him his own robe to wear."

      As if all this were not enough to stretch our eyes wide, there was more.  For this time the Philistines had been made so low in the sight of all men that they would surely cower in their own cities for many seasons.  And so my father was to come home again -- and he was to bring David with him, to live in his house and show all Israel how King Saul loved him.

      The shepherd's son was to sit at the king's table after all.  But now the king's daughter did not toss her head in willful pride, for my heart and mind had been caught in the net woven of David's deeds and the messenger's words.  When my father's army came through the gates of Gibeah to march the streets in triumph, I too leaned far over the rooftop wall, calling out and waving flowers.  I had done this before, but this time it was not my father and my brothers I looked for.  Like all the others, I longed to see David.

      I do not remember now what I expected to see.  A war-song's hero, I suppose, spear-tall and armor-hard.  But he was not like that.

      At first I thought that my father had left David behind, for I saw no one who impressed me.  Then Jonathan looked up and waved to me, and the man beside him looked up too.  Jonathan turned and said something to him, and then the stranger waved at me too, and smiled, and I knew that it was David.

      And I knew another thing as well; I would love him until I died.  Yes, that is what I knew that day, when David first looked upon me, and smiled.  Between one beat and the next my heart was wax to his sun, and I could not bear that he should not know it.

      So I called out his name and flung my flowers at his feet.  The blossoms did not stay in the hot dust, for David bent and caught some of them up, and waved my flowers back at me, smiling all the while.  Then he spoke to Jonathan, and they both laughed, and moved on so that others might see them.

      The rest of the women stayed to cheer the other men, but I did not.  I wished to be alone, to clutch my new joy close and cherish it, for it was strange, yet already dear to me.

      So I ran to sit behind the arbor at the far end of the roof and wait, and count upon my fingers the hours that must pass before I could seek out Jonathan and make him speak to me of David.

      Of course I was not let to sit and dream as I wished.  There was much to be done to make all ready for the men's feasting and comfort, and even a king's daughter must be of use in the house.  My sister found me out, and I was sent here and there and back again on this errand and that.  I will not say I found much pleasure in it, but it kept my hands and feet and eyes busy and made the time pass.  I knew I would not be able to see Jonathan until long after the men's feast was over, and perhaps not even then.

      I was fortunate, for much later I slipped away from the women, and when I went to Jonathan's courtyard he was there, and I did not even have to ask his servants to find him.  So much was luck, and I would have run to Jonathan -- but then I saw that David sat beside him.

      It was almost more than I could bear.  David's beauty caught and held me fast; I could do nothing but stare and admire from afar.  It seemed to me then that I could look forever and never grow tired of his face.  I stood in the shadow of the pillars like a ghost until David looked up, as if drawn by my eyes, and set aside his goblet.

      "Your sister would speak with you, Jonathan."  David had seen me; David had remembered one girl out of all those who had called out to him that day.  "I will come again later, if I may."

      David's voice was water flowing in the desert, honey dripping golden from the comb, wind sighing through the spring grass.  I was lost forever; stones and butterflies filled me and I could not move, or think, or speak.

      "No, David, do not go.  This is my little sister Michal, of whom I have told you much.  Come in, king's daughter, and meet a shepherd's son, if you are not too proud."

      Jonathan wished only to tease, but I was too young for such a jest not to slice deep.  I grew hot, and said that I would go, as they were busy with men's matters.

      Jonathan knew me well, and saw that he had hurt me, and so he rose and came to put an arm about my shoulders.  "No, no -- I am sorry I teased you.  Come and greet David, who is as a brother to me.  I would have him dear to you as well."

      All words scattered beyond my grasp once more, and so I looked down at the flagstones.  I could not bear to look at David, for I knew he must think me a silly and tiresome thing, and wish me gone.

      "If you are my brother, Jonathan, then Michal must be my sister, and I will be glad of it -- for my father has many sons, but no daughter left at home to tend us."  David did not sound as if he mocked, or thought me foolish, or wished me gone.  He took me by the hand and made me sit beside him.  "Stay with us, and we will talk and laugh together, and you will smile for me.  Come, be my obedient sister in this."

      "I will be as obedient to you as I am to my true brothers," I vowed.  I would have sworn anything, done anything he asked of me.  That night I could imagine no greater joy than to have David call me sister.

      Jonathan choked on his wine, and laughed.  I would have been angry, but then David laughed too.  His laughter did not sting, but somehow called mine as well; the three of us sat there laughing until Jonathan's servants came to see what caused the noise.  We must have sounded like jackals in the hills.

      And when the laughter stopped I stayed with them, and listened as David and Jonathan talked.  When I asked questions, I found that David would not speak of himself, any more than Jonathan would do his own boasting.  But each would willingly praise the other, and so I heard much to their credit -- although each would deny he deserved any; it was all the other.  To hear David tell it, he had done nothing in all his life to earn any man's praise.

      "What, Michal?  Goliath?  Oh, that was nothing -- a giant is dull‑witted, and slow.  There was never any danger.  I saw no reason for King Saul to waste his time on so unworthy a foe; I was enough."

      "You were so clever, to think of the stones and the sling!"

      "It was habit, nothing more.  A sling is what I used to chase the bears and the wolves when I tended my father's sheep, and so comes readily to my hand.  And the giant was no more than another beast to be kept away.  Anyone could have done it."

      Later still he sang for us, just for Jonathan and me.  That was the first time I heard the song he had made about the slaying of the giant Goliath.  "From the claw of the lion did Yahweh deliver me; from the paw of the bear did Yahweh deliver me; from the spear of the giant would Yahweh deliver me.  My trust did I place in Yahweh; five smooth stones did Yahweh put into my hand...."

      David sang that, and he sang other songs, too.  The servants came to light the torches before we realized how dark it was, and how late.

      Jonathan sent me off before the women came seeking me there.  I kissed him, and I kissed David too, as he was my brother now.  I was bold enough when I set my lips to his cheek, but then I grew shy again, and ran away before he could say anything.

"And Michal Saul's daughter loved David...."
-- I Samuel 18:20

      That was the start; it sounds little enough, but it was much to me.  For I was the youngest child in my father's house, and treated by all but David as if I still must be held by the hand to take my steps.  But I would soon be twelve and thought myself nearly a woman, so I found such treatment hard to bear.  David knew it and was always kind; he never teased me as if I were a baby, as my brothers did, but spoke to me as if I were grown, and sensible.

      He and Jonathan were together always, and often they would let me come too.  I rode beside David in his chariot when they raced; I chased them through the rocks to the fishing pool; I sat with them on the rooftop in the long twilights.  I was David's beloved little sister, as I was Jonathan's.  I had his soft words and his small gifts and his hands tugging my braids.

      My sister Merab had his eyes and his heart.

      I knew that from the time I came upon them talking alone together in the gallery.  I heard David's voice, and Merab's laugh, sounds like soft breeze on hot summer nights.  When I ran around the corner I saw that they stood so close they cast only one shadow on the wall.

      At my noise one shadow became two.  David turned toward me and smiled, and Merab turned away and put her hands to her shoulder-brooches.

      I pretended I had seen nothing, but I was not so young as that, and I knew what it meant.  Merab was already a woman to delight men's eyes; even I thought her fair.  Of course David would love her.

      I did not wonder if she loved him.  I knew she must.  Everyone loved David.

      I thought my father loved him too.  How could he not?  David was the raid‑leader who always won; whose victories brought glory to King Saul, and to Israel.  There was a new victory‑chant sung in the streets now:  "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands!"

      Everyone sang it; I, too, sang -- and not once did I think how my father felt, to hear those words even from his daughter's lips.

      But David was more than a great warrior.  David was the songmaster whose words brought glory to Yahweh.  Hymns of praise, tales of love, psalms to Yahweh -- nothing was too great or small for David's songs.  He was loved as much for his songs as for his victories; people sang them in the streets.  David used words as well as he used sword and spear.

      And he loved Saul as a son does, plain for all to see.  Even when my father fell into the first of his mad frenzies, so that he thought David his enemy, David said no word against him.  My father shouted and brandished his spear, and threatened to pin David against the wall, and those who watched thought he would surely kill him.

      But David sang his way out of danger that time, and my father was sorry for his unjust anger.  It was not long after that he promised David my sister Merab for his wife, when the time was ripe.

      It was a promise that drew my father much praise from the people, but some of my brothers did not like it.  "Who is this man, to marry our sister -- to marry the king's daughter?"

      My father would not listen, and shouted them down.  If he was not too proud to own David, they should not be.  And he reminded us all that he was king by chance alone, and his father had been a humble man.

      "And who is your sister, that David is too low for her to wed?  Is this Philistia, then, and she a queen?  I say David is to have Merab to wife, and there's an end to it!  I have my reasons, and they are better than yours!  Who is king here, you or I?"

      It was how he ended all arguments now; my brothers left him alone after that.  Few wished to tempt his mad angers.

      It was left so; David was to marry Merab and be my brother in truth.  I tried to take some comfort from that.  But I was growing too old to love David as a good sister loves her brother.

      Still, a brother's love was better than nothing -- or so I told myself.

      Later I knew that by the time Merab was ripe for marriage our father was ripe for madness.  But the summer that I was twelve I only knew that he was breaking his word, and I could see no reason for it.  Merab was not to be given to David after all, but to a man named Adriel, of Meholah.

      I heard the news as I passed some maidservants gossiping in the kitchen-court.  I stopped and made them tell me the tale; they swore that it was true.

      "I do not believe it!" I said, and ran to find Merab.

      I found Merab in her room, holding a length of cloth up to the sunlight through the window.  "Look, little sister," Merab said.  "See what our father has given me!  The best Egyptian byssus, and not yet sewn upon -- I shall be the first to wear it!  Only see how fine -- and there is enough for my bride-dress, if I am careful with my cutting."

      I cared nothing for that.  "Oh, Merab, I have just heard such a tale -- that you are not to marry David, but some old man no one has ever heard of!"

      "Oh, is that all?  Why yes, I am to marry Adriel -- and many have heard of him, I assure you."  Merab stroked the smooth white cloth and smiled.

      "But why?" I asked, flinging myself into Merab's arms and weeping for what must be her sorrow.  "You are so brave -- but O my sister, how can you bear it?"

      To my astonishment, she laughed, and pushed me away.  "Bear what, little fool?  Should I weep because I am to wed a man with many flocks, and many servants, instead of my father's shield-bearer?  Now dry your eyes, and help me sort this linen."

      I caught up a fold of my skirt and wiped my eyes.  "But Merab, Adriel is so old!  How can you take him instead of David?"

      Merab thrust a pile of folded linens into my arms.  "Because our father bids me do so, of course, and because I am not a fool!"  Then she looked at me and put her arms around me, heedless of the bundle between us.  "It is kind of you to worry over me, little sister, but what is past is past, and I shall be happy enough.  Adriel is not so old as all that, and they say he is a good man.  And he has paid our father a pretty bride-price for me, and will send him five armed fighting men as well.  He will know how to value me when I am in his house."

      She looked self-satisfied as a cat in sunlight.  I could not believe she cared so little for David.  I twisted out of her arms and flung the linens back onto the cedar-wood chest.  "Merab!  What of David?"

      Merab tossed her head; the thin gold leaves shimmered in her hair.  "Well, and what of him?  Who is he that he should wed the daughter of Saul the king?  Adriel is a worthy man -- "

      "A wealthy one, you mean!"  I fancied this an arrow that would sting.

      "Oh, hold your tongue!"  Merab looked bored and cross, and not stung at all by my words.  "Adriel is to have me and there is an end to it.  Now look what you have done -- half the sheets on the floor and all to be folded again!  Really, Michal, you are far too old to run wild as you do -- "

      But I did not stay to hear the rest.  I was out of her room, running through the house in a way that would have brought reproof even from Jonathan, who loved me well.  But I did not care for that now.  I had to find David.

      David had gone up to the rooftop, to sit alone under the arbor of vines and play his harp.  When I ran up the stairs and stopped to catch my breath at the top, I thought I had never heard sadder notes fall from harp-strings.  Then he set the harp aside, and looked at me, and I knew that I would never see anything more beautiful than his face.

      "Why, Michal!" he said.  "What are you doing here?"

      I could not answer, for I did not know.

      "Come and sit by me, sister of Jonathan, and rest.  You've been running in the house again -- but I promise I will not scold.  Sit, and I will play for you."

      I obeyed, crossing the rooftop to sink down by his feet.  "Oh, David," I gasped, "I have just come from Merab.  I am so sorry!  How could my father do such a thing to you?"

      David shrugged, and the dappled light through the grapevines danced over his skin; shadows pale gold and dark.  "Saul is a king, and kings are driven by reasons only Yahweh knows."

      "But he promised you Merab!"

      "But Adriel promised him five armed men, five talents of silver, and five hundred sheep."  David ran his fingers over the strings of his harp.  A ripple of music lay between us, then silence, and sun hot on the stones.

      "And who am I," he said at last, "to raise my eyes to a king's daughter?  I am only the eighth son of a humble man.  I am only David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem.  I have never pretended otherwise.  And I shall serve King Saul well, whether he gives me one of his daughters to wife or reviles me in the marketplace."

      His words fell on me like rain in the desert, bringing hidden wonders to life.  "David -- "  There was a band tight about my chest, almost like a pain.  "King Saul has two daughters.  Merab -- and Michal."

      David stared at me until I grew hot and looked at my hands -- the lattice of vines above me -- the hem of my gown -- anything but David.

      "You, Michal?  I had not thought of you.  I never thought that you --  You are too young."  But there was a note of doubt in his voice that gave me hope and the courage to go on.

      "I shall soon be thirteen!  And I would make you a good wife, David!  I will learn to be meek, and biddable, and -- and I love you well."

      "As a sister loves her brother."  Soft words, rueful words.  Gentle sorrow rippled under them, or regret.

      "No," I said.  I wished to say much more, to tell David all my heart felt for him, but I could not find the words.  "No," I said again.  That was all.

      I waited then for his answer, but he did not make one.  He put his fingers to his harp once more and looked out over the dusty hills.  He seemed to be waiting, perhaps for Yahweh's voice.

      "Saul promised you his daughter," I added desperately, when it seemed David would not speak.  "David -- you would not want him to be forsworn?"

      A jangle of notes from the harp.  David laughed, and set the harp aside.  "You argue like a prophet!  But what makes you think Saul will give me Michal if he refused me Merab?"

      His eyes were intent on mine, as if willing me to find the answer.  And I did.  "You will not ask him for me, David, I will!"  Saul had many sons, but only two daughters; he was called overfond of Merab and me, for he could deny us little.  "Merab does not love you, but I do -- oh, David, I swear I would die for you -- my father will surely give me to you, if I ask it!"

      David bent and took my face between his hands; strong hands, hardened by spear and harp.  "To have you love me so, Michal -- never did I dare dream of such good fortune.  I had feared that to you I was a brother only."

      I stared up into his eyes and was dazzled by the sun behind him.  I closed my eyes against the burning light.  David bent closer; a shadow-shift beyond my lashes.  And then he kissed me upon the mouth.

      It was not a brother's kiss, but a lover's, sweet and deep and strange; the rooftop seemed to wheel about me, leaving me giddy and trembling.  I thought I would die of joy.

      "Ask, then, daughter of Saul."  David smiled, and lightly kissed my forehead.  "Ask your father to keep his promise and give me his daughter to wife."

      I should have gone to my room and combed my hair and changed my gown, and asked if my father would see me.  But all that would have meant waiting, and I could not wait.  I ran to him as I was and burst into his presence unannounced.

      "Father, may I speak?"

      It was only then that I saw my father was not alone.  Abner was with him -- Abner, his war-chief.  I wished then that I had come another time, for Abner made me nervous.  He was a man all bone and thin muscle; like the prophet Samuel, I never felt Abner saw me truly, but saw only a stone in the path.  But he was called the cleverest man with a raiding party in all the tribes of Israel and Judah both.  Men admired Abner, but they did not like him.

      Now Abner frowned, but my father only laughed and opened his arms to me.  I ran to him and he hugged me and rocked me back and forth.  "So here you are -- I have had half the women in the house complain of you today, little daughter!  Well, well, what is it you want?"

      My father was a large man, broad and strong as a bear; when he hugged me, my bones creaked.  I begged him to put me down, and even remembered to apologize for interrupting him.  I spoke properly, with great dignity; in my eyes, I was a woman now.  I wondered that my father did not at once see the difference in me.

      "Yes, yes, that's all very well, daughter, but I'm very busy, so out with it.  That's the best way, eh, Abner?"

      "As my lord king says," Abner murmured, rolling his maps so that I could not see them.

      I had wished to speak to my father privately; my love for David was a sacred thing.  But he was impatient to return to his work, and so I forgot the pretty plea I had rehearsed and blurted it out, bald as rock.

      "Father -- you promised David should marry your daughter, but you have given Merab to Adriel.  Give me to David instead."

      He looked at me and his face turned slowly to a dull red.  But he might have calmed had Abner not said, in his dry way, "So the son of Jesse had two strings to his bow.  Better that, I suppose, than five smooth stones."

      Abner somehow made the last three words a mockery of all David's beautiful songs.

      "Can no one talk of anything but that damned shepherd's son?" my father bellowed, striking the table.  It shook and the rolled maps jumped.  "First Jonathan, now you -- praise Yahweh that Merab listened to her father -- that one of my children is free of his spell!  Now get out, girl, and go to your room!  And I'll tell you when you can leave it!"

      Too shattered to move, I managed to say, "But Father -- I love David."

      He turned on me and for the first time in my life I was afraid of him.  "David -- David -- always David!  I swear by Yahweh that the next person who says that name to me shall be -- "

      Abner coughed.  It was a little sound, but it caught my father's attention and he rounded on Abner.  I would have fled then, but I could not make my legs obey me.

      "Listen to me, cousin," said Abner quietly.  "Princess Michal's suggestion has a certain merit."  My father glared at him, eyes rolling like a wild bull's.  "Yes, a certain merit," Abner repeated.  "There is, after all, something owing to David -- "

            "Owing!  I'll show that damned upstart who owes -- "

      " -- and there would be the question of the bride-price," Abner finished calmly.  "Perhaps even such a price as we were just discussing.  You know I felt it was not necessarily wise to deny him Princess Merab -- perhaps Princess Michal will serve as well."

      The dull red faded from my father's face.  His eyes were shrewd once more, the strangeness vanished.  "Yes....  Yes, Abner, you may be right.  Michal!"  He swooped upon me; I flinched, but he merely flung one massive arm about my shoulders.  "So you would marry our fair young hero, eh?  Well, well, so it shall be.  Now run along, child, run along.  We have work to do.  Yes.  Run to David, Michal, and tell him to come here to me."

      He bent and kissed my forehead, just as David had and upon the very spot David's lips had blessed.  There was a light in his eyes that made me uneasy, but I could not tell why.

      "Go, child," King Saul repeated.

      I went, and did not look back.

      My bride-price was to be one hundred foreskins taken from the Philistines.  So my father said to David before the priests and judges in the open court.  David and Jonathan came to me with the news, to tell me before others could.  It was the first time I heard Jonathan call our father mad.  But I do not think King Saul was truly mad -- not then.

      "But Jonathan -- "  I was so shocked that I could think of nothing to say.  How could anyone pay such a price?  One hundred Philistines!  David was a great warrior, but even David could not hope to kill one hundred men before I was too old to care whether I married or not.  I would not even think that the Philistines might kill David instead.

      "If he is not mad, why should he set such a price for you?" Jonathan demanded.  "Who has ever heard of such a thing before in all the land?"

      "But -- but he said David might have me!"

      "And he has not said I may not."  David put an arm around me.  "Now do not cry, Michal -- and Jonathan, do not look as if you already mourned me."

      I sniffed, but obeyed, and David smiled.  He could always draw back a smile from me; this time my smile was an uncertain thing, but it made him hug me a little.  "That is better, Michal.  Understand, I still mean to marry you, but you will have to wait longer than we thought before you put on your bride-clothes."

      "Where are you going?" said Jonathan.  "And what do you mean to do?"  He did not sound as if he thought he would like what he would hear in answer.

      "Why, I am going to Philistia, to fetch back the price King Saul has set on his daughter -- I will hear no words from you, Michal, for I will have you for my wife, and that is a settled thing."

      I was afraid for David, but to hear him speak this way was exciting, too.  All that had been paid for Merab was silver and sheep and some men for the army.  But Merab had not married a hero.

      "I will go with you."  Jonathan spoke slowly, as he did when he had been thinking deep; I could tell he liked nothing about this.

      David laughed and shook his head.  "You will not, brother -- this is my task, and I alone will set my hand to it.  Do not fear for me, for Yahweh will protect me."

      "Yahweh will not stand at your back with spear and blade."  Jonathan spoke so sharp that my eyes stretched to stare at him.  "David, are you mad as well?  Do you think the Philistines will lie down for your knife?  You know what my father must mean by this!"

      "He means that his youngest daughter is of great worth in his eyes," David said, and hugged me again.  "And I am but a poor man's son -- what else could he ask of me?  Gold and spices?  I am a simple warrior, so he set a warrior's price.  No, no more, Jonathan.  I mean to do this, and I will come back to pay Saul what he asks and claim his daughter as I have said."

      "Oh, David," I said, "you will be careful, won't you?"

      At that both men laughed, which made me angry.  I could not see that I had said anything to mock.

      "I will be as careful, Michal, as you are meek and obedient.  There, does that satisfy you?"  He and Jonathan smiled at each other, and I scowled.  "No, do not frown at me, but kiss me farewell.  Come, now, smile for me, Michal -- and you too, Jonathan.  Do not worry if I am gone long without word -- and pay no heed to any tales you may hear of me.  True news will come only from my lips, so trust no messenger."

      So we both kissed David and said farewell.  He left that day, taking no men and carrying little.  Jonathan and I stood on the wall over the gateway and watched him go until the haze and dust swallowed him into the blue distance.

      We did not see David again for half a year.  We had no word of him either, until the day he came to Saul's gate at the head of two hundred armed men.  They had marched fast and hard from the Philistine border, and no messenger had outdistanced them to warn of their coming.

      "Behold, King Saul -- David son of Jesse has returned to claim your daughter Michal for his wife, as you promised him."  David stood tall before the gate; he did not shout, but his voice somehow carried clear even to the top of the walls where all the city watched.

      "Well, well, so you are back," my father called down to him.  "You have been a long time about it, boy, but you are welcome.  And if you have brought her price, you will have my daughter, as I said before the priests."

      "If I am welcome, will not King Saul open his gate to me?"

      My father and Abner looked at each other, and Abner spoke next.  "Who are the men, David?  Why do you come leading the enemy to our walls?"

      David smiled up at those who watched and waited.  "They are not the enemy of Israel, Abner."

      "They wear Philistine armor.  The Philistines are not our friends."

      David stepped back and spread his arms wide.  "Look, King Saul -- you set a price for your daughter's marriage of one hundred Philistine foreskins.  I have brought two hundred -- for these men who were of Philistia have abandoned their idols and now worship only Yahweh.  They were converted and circumcised by the prophet Samuel himself, and have come to serve the King of Israel."  Now his voice was raised to shout a triumph.  "A great victory for Yahweh and no man lost, but many gained!"

       He stood there in the sunlight, and smiled, and the people watching from the walls cheered and called his name; some flung jewelry to him.  I saw many gold leaves and silver flowers tossed down from women's hair.

      My eyes were all for David, but then there was a sound from my father harsh enough to make even me look away from David for an instant, and so I saw him turn round on Abner.  There was such a noise from the people that I could hardly hear, but some words rose too sharp to be lost.

      "Samuel -- Samuel, did you hear, man!"

      All the people had heard; I was glad the old prophet had forgiven my father at last.

      "Well, Abner, well?  And what is to be done now, eh?"

      Abner looked at me and I looked away, down to where David stood with his men in the bright noon light.

      "Plan the wedding, O King," said Abner, and it seemed to me that he wished to make people hear his words plainly.  "What else?"

      My father grudged nothing for my wedding-day -- not the bride-clothes, nor the fatted lambs and calves for the feast, nor the honors for my bridegroom.  Saul was the open-handed king to all the world, now, to prove his joy.  The wedding festival was to last for seven days and seven nights.  A king's daughter did not wed a hero every day, Saul said.  How could he do less?

      Indeed, how could King Saul do less for David?  Of myself, I did not think much.  I was so enraptured that I saw the world already as through my wedding veil, golden and beautiful.

      On my wedding day I awoke at dawn and watched the sun claw its slow way over the hills to spill shadow and light over the land.  The day shone like glass, echoing the joy in my heart; I danced around the room in the pale light until the women came in to catch me and make me stand while I was adorned to delight my husband's eyes.

      All the women of the house wished to help deck the bride for this wedding.  There were so many helping hands that it took half the day to dress me; plaiting my hair alone took all the forenoon.  I was little help to them, for I could not be still.  They would have been cross with me on any other day, but it was ill luck to scold a bride, and so it was all jests and laughter.  Even when I shook my head to hear the coins ring and there was half the braiding to begin anew they only laughed, and slanted their eyes at each other and teased me for being too eager.

      Their voices hinted at things I did not yet know, but was hot to learn with David.  Still, I was young enough to blush and duck my head, to keep my face from their eyes.

      "And wouldn't we all be eager if such a man waited for us on the other side of the veil!" said Rizpah briskly.  "Now stand still, do, child, and let me finish with your hair, or you'll be a maid another season!"

      "Not she!" another said.  They all laughed, and nodded wisely to each other.

      I liked to be mocked as little as any girl at such a time; then each experience is new, and some are sacred to your own heart.  "It is only proper for a woman to submit to her husband," I said with great dignity, trying to sound more knowing than I was.

      That set them off again, their laughter rising like the shrieks of hoopoes, until my face was as hot as the roof-tiles at summer midday.

      And then I was ready, or so the women said.  When they pulled down the veil and tugged at my hands, crying that my bridegroom awaited, there was a moment when I would have died rather than follow.

      It passed, of course; bride's fears are well known and there are always many hands to help her along the way.  And once I was moving all was well again, and I was as eager as before.

      All the long day there was noise; people singing and chanting and playing every kind of instrument that would clash or chime or jingle.  I was not allowed to put back my veil, so I saw it all as a yellow haze of sunlight and sweet incense smoke.  That is what I remember about my first wedding day -- music clanging in my ears and golden mist dazzling my eyes.  I do not remember seeing David at all, though we must have met in the public courtyard when he claimed me as his wife before the people.

      Later there was much wine and spiced fruit, and more singing and dancing.  I was not let to dance; I was the bride --

      "And must save your dancing for your husband," my sister Merab whispered into my ear.  She was full-round with her first child; now she laughed and patted her belly.  "It will be your turn next year if your husband is truly good with his spear!"

      Merab's was not the only bride-jest.  I sat among a flock of women who all talked and giggled as though my bridal veil made me deaf, or invisible.

      Later still it was night at last, and I was taken in a roar of torches and banging of cymbals to the tower room that had been made ready for us.  And then it was quiet and dark, and David my husband put back my veil.

      I had dreamed of this moment when I thought I would never know it; I had thought of nothing else since my father had promised me to David over half a year ago.  David would free me from my veil and I would go to him and we would know great joy together, as all the songs and stories promised.  I had now what I had longed for most in all the world.  David stood before me as my husband.

      I looked at him as if I were a ewe-lamb and he held the slaughter-knife.  David did not let me stand there cold afraid, but took me into his arms.

      "Poor Michal," he said, and held me close.  His heart beat under my ear louder than morning drums.  "Yahweh save me from another wedding!  Better forty battles!  And now you are tired, and afraid."

      "I am not!"  I wished to sound regal, but my mouth was as dry as if I had eaten dust, and I squeaked like a mouse.  "But -- oh, David -- I -- I am not beautiful, as Merab is -- "

      David smiled at me and stroked my hair.  "No, you are not beautiful as Merab is.  You are beautiful as Michal is.  And that beauty is marvelous to my eyes."  And then he made a song, and sang it to me, softly, as we lay down together in the thin lamplight.

      The song was all of me.  He sang of my hair, and my eyes, and my breasts -- there was no part of me he did not praise.  His words flowed freely as the wedding wine until I was giddy with love, and when he stopped singing and kissed me, I was soft to his hands as spring rain.

      And when it was over, I thought myself a woman who knew all there was to know of love.

      The lamp-flame was long drowned when Jonathan came in thief-footed.  I awoke to his touch on my shoulder.

      "Wake up, little sister.  Wake, my brother.  I must talk to you, and now.  No, do not light the lamp, David.  Those who wait outside think I have come to leave a morning jest-gift.  They must not know that we have spoken."

      "What is it?  What is wrong?"

      "Hush, Michal."  David's voice was calm in the dark.  "Jonathan will tell us.  Well, my brother?  You did not join us on our wedding-night only for a jest."

      "No, no jest, although I told the men who now guard the stair I would oil the floor thickly for your morning rising.  They let me pass for that, and because I am the king's son -- and because they do not know I know why they are there.  David, you must leave, quietly, and at once."

            "What?"  I clutched at David.  "Jonathan, are you mad?"

      "No, but I fear our father is.  David, he has set armed men to wait for you at the bottom of the stair.  A guard of honor, he says.  But in the morning -- "

      "I will go so far, and then no farther?"  David sighed, and put his arm about me so that I might cling close.  "I was afraid it would be so.  I had hoped that it would not.  Poor Saul -- he must sleep unquiet with such hate tormenting him.  You are right, Jonathan.  I must go away for a time."

      "No -- oh, no!  Our father would not do such a thing to me!"  I knew our father had grown strange -- but that he would do this on my wedding night I could not believe.

      "Oh, would he not?"  Jonathan reached out in the dark and put his hand upon my cheek.  "Ask those at whom he has thrown his spear before you say so.  Strange angers rule him now, Michal; he shows first one face and then another."

      "I have heard men say he is possessed by an evil spirit, but I do not think that is true."  David's voice was low and soft, and he stroked my arm to quiet me.

      "Then why else should he hate you, who love him as a son and have done nothing but for his glory and his good?"  Bitterness sat ill on Jonathan's tongue; he liked to speak only fair words.

      "You are wrong -- you must be!  You saw what he gave for my wedding!  He cannot hate you!  It is not fair!"

      Again David bade me hush.  "Be still, Michal.  King Saul thinks he has reason, and who am I to say he is wrong?"

      "What reason, brother?" Jonathan demanded.  "What reason could he possibly have?"

      "None," I said.  "Oh, he can have none -- you are right, Jonathan, he must be mad!"

      "He is not mad, he is afraid, although he has no need to be.  I would never harm Saul or any of his blood; I love them all too well.  Sit here beside us, Jonathan -- it is time, I think, that I told you both the tale.  It is only right that you should know."

      And there in the dark, sitting on our marriage-bed, David told such a tale -- well, if it had not been David, I would have laughed.  If it had not been David, I would not have believed.

      "It was a fine day, and the sheep were quiet.  I was sitting on a rock, and restringing my harp, when my father sent for me -- one of my brothers, running -- I thought some disaster had struck the house.  But it was only a guest, and I was bidden come at once, for he wished to see me.  I could not think who or why, but I left the sheep under my brother's eye, and went."

      The visitor had been the prophet Samuel.  He had looked David up and down, and nodded.  And then Samuel had told David that Yahweh had chosen him as the next king over Israel, and made him kneel down there before his father and his brothers, and blessed him, and poured the sacred oil upon his hair.

      Beside my ear Jonathan drew breath sharply; a snake-hiss in the dark.  "Samuel anointed you as king -- with the king still living?"

      "As the king to come after," said David.  "I thought King Saul knew nothing of it, and I swore then that he and his house would take no harm from my hands.  And so later when I heard that a man was sought to play sweet songs for our king and ease his mind, I came to serve him.  But he has been told, or has guessed, and now he fears me."

      Then there was silence between us in the dark room.  I did not know what to say, or think, or feel.  It seemed only right to me, in my love, that David should be honored above all men -- but to let Samuel anoint him while King Saul still lived in the land -- !  Even I knew that two kings living meant war, and many men dead.  Kings were new to Israel and Judah, but the bloody histories of our neighbors told tales plain and brutal.

      "Well," said Jonathan at last, "so that is where Samuel went when he quarreled with our father, and that is what he did."

      "Yes, that is what he did.  But Saul is still king while he lives -- and I have no wish to shorten his days for him.  But now it seems he would shorten mine -- "

      At that I cried out softly.  "No!  Oh, David -- Jonathan is right, you must go -- we will run away until it is safe -- "

      "It is Jonathan who must go, for I think you have already stayed over-long, brother -- even for oiling the floor!  No, do not argue with me -- be easy, I will not stay to be taken like a stalled ox."

      "How?  This room was well-chosen for a trap, David -- there is only the stair and the window.  Men watch at the stair, and as for the window -- it is very far to the ground, and I could not bring a rope."

      "Only a jug of oil?"  David laughed; I did not know how he could.  Then he leaned across me to clasp Jonathan in his arms.  "Do not fear for me, for Yahweh will protect me, and I am forewarned of what my enemies would have kept secret.  For that, and for all the rest, I thank you, brother.  Now go, before you come under suspicion as well."

      They kissed, and Jonathan went away as quietly as he had come.

      I was not quiet; I flung myself weeping into David's arms.  "No, no, I do not believe it!  Who -- who would do such a thing?  No one would harm you, David -- everyone loves you!"

      "No, not everyone -- and some fear King Saul more than they love me.  There are always men willing to do evil.  Why?  Why, they may think good will come of it, or they may be paid in one coin or another.  Now hush, Michal -- weeping and wailing will not help us."

      He set me aside and went to the window.  I could see him outlined against the dark sky beyond; it was no longer deep night.  We had little time left.

      "Can you climb down?"  It was a foolish question, and I knew it.  This was a new tower, built onto the old house only since my father had become king; the stones were smooth-fitted still.

      David laughed.  "No, Michal, I can not -- nor can I fight barehanded past men well-armed, and I will not try.  But your father is generous -- he has provided the means to my hand.  Come, wife, and help me with our bed-linen -- and let us trust it is indeed the best!"

      I saw then what he would do, and flung myself out of the bed to pull at the linens and blankets.  All was new for my marriage-chest, and all of the finest; fit to support a man, if the knots were tight.

      "Oh, yes -- oh, David, you are so clever!  Where shall we go, and what shall we do?  Will your parents take us in, or -- "

      "Be silent, my heart, for this is not a time for talk.  We must hurry if the rope is to be ready in time."

      I knew he was right, and so I made haste to do as he told me.  There would be time enough to talk once we were away and safe.

      It was not so easy as all that to make a rope of bedclothes.  Knots that seemed tight and fast fell to nothing when I pulled on them; blankets were too thick to tie at all.  But at last we had a length that would hold, at least when we pulled at both ends as hard as we could.  So David said it was ready.

      "I will go first -- I am lighter."  The danger thrilled my blood as had David's caresses; it was a night of strange excitements and I could not be calm, or think as I ought.  I never once dreamed that I would not go with him, away out the window and down the road to meet whatever new joys life sent us.  I was young, and so could not believe life would not go all as I would have it; that anything would truly harm me or those I held dear.

      "No, Michal.  You will stay here, where I can find you, where you will be safe."

      "But I wish to go with you!"  I could not believe he meant it.

      David sighed and took me in his arms and held me close.  "Look you, my dear sister, my dear wife -- a man may take a road too hard for a woman, and I will not risk you so.  You are Saul's daughter, whom he dearly loves -- you must stay, and speak kindly of me to your father while I am gone."

      "But David -- "  Surely he could not mean to leave me behind!  Not on our wedding night -- not when I would bear any hardship gladly, only to be with him!

      "No, I will hear no more disobedience from you -- and you have not thought, Michal.  I must leave here quickly and quietly -- if you go too, who will bring up the rope again?  And if it stays -- "

      If it stayed, linen pale against the tower stones, the city watchmen would see it and raise the alarm.  David was right; someone must bring up the rope again, to give him time.

      I swore I would do it.  "I will always do whatever you ask -- I love you beyond death!"

      We kissed, and held each other close, and said many foolish things -- at least, I did.  David's words were never foolish, but worked always to an end.

      Then he was gone, down the rope we had made together from the linens of our marriage-bed, and I was left alone in the tower room.  As he had told me, I drew the rope up again, and then sat and carefully undid our careful knots, and thought of all David had said that night.

      It was hard to believe, now that he was gone, just as it was hard to believe that I was now a woman, and so must be wiser than I had been as a child.  But this was a night of strangeness, one no more so than the other.  Sitting there alone in the dark, I half-thought I might have dreamed it all.

      But I had not -- and for all my thinking, I had not thought of what was to happen to me when my father Saul found out my husband was gone.

      David had needed my help; that was enough.

"And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so...?"
-- I Samuel 19:17


      It was not enough the next day, when men ran to my father crying that David had vanished from the guarded tower, leaving no trace.  Eager to avoid blame, they told the tale I had hoped for, the tale that would absolve me also.  For I knew some such tale would be needed, and so after much thought I had made a figure under the blankets, using a goat-hair pillow, and had feigned sleep beside it.  When the men grew tired of waiting and came to take David, I pretended to wake, and be confused, and tried to shake the pillow awake.  Then I screamed.

      I did not say it was sorcery.  But I made my eyes wide, and trembled, and put my hand to my mouth as I stared at the pillow beside me.  And as they took me to my father, I asked many times how any man could have slipped past the stairway guards unseen.  I thought myself very clever.  I planted the seeds; their own fears ripened those seeds to fruit.

      So when Saul roared his angry questions, his men stammered of demons and magic.  He fell silent at that; his breath rasped loud, echoing from the cool brick walls, making the room itself seem a living thing.  His face paled from its mottled crimson, paled until he looked old, and ill.

      The time stretched long before he spoke, and I knew that I had lost, for a man who defied prophets would not believe such a tale.  I should have thought of some lie; I should have said that David had threatened me, that I had been too afraid to say him nay.  Now it was too late.

      "Witchcraft is it, you simpleminded fools?  Well, I know where stands the witch."  His voice was very soft, as I had never heard it, and I trembled now in earnest.  "A rope, eh, Michal?  Yes, yes, it must have been -- a rope you stole and hid, and used to help your father's enemy escape from him?  Now why should my daughter -- my own little daughter, whom I loved as my own heart -- do this thing?"

      He looked straight at me.  I had never seen anything like his eyes.  They were not my father's eyes; if there were demons here, they lived in King Saul.

      I had thought I was clever; I had believed I was brave.  Now I knew I was neither.  I had planned to speak out and defy all the world for David.  But David was gone and I was here alone to face King Saul's wrath, and fear was so cold in my blood that I could not even answer my father to defend myself.

      Saul came to me, walking stiffly, like an old man.  His hands fell heavy on my shoulders.  "Michal, my little dove, do you know what you have done?  No?  Well, child, you have killed your father.  Yes, yes, that is it -- you have killed him as surely as if you used the spear."

      He stroked my hair, and stared at me, and I tried to speak.  "Father -- "

      "No, no.  After this you are not my daughter."

      I had expected anger, but he sounded only grieved.  I would rather he had raged and beaten me until my bones broke.

      He patted my head, as he had done when I was small, and backed away.  "I must think what is to be done with her.  Yes, take her away, until I decide."

      He stood there, swaying gently back and forth, as men came forward to put their unwilling hands on me and lead me away.  I had not even the spirit to shrug them off and go out with my pride unbroken, as a princess should.

      Abner stopped my guards at the painted door.  "Take her back to her bridal chamber," he said.  "Set a guard to the door."  His lean face showed nothing, but then, it rarely did.  "And mind she has no ropes to her hand -- magical or otherwise."

      I was kept close confined, as Abner had ordered.  The door was barred, and a guard stood without; a bronze grille was bolted over the window.  I had light, and air, but could not look out, save through the slits in the bronze.  The woman who tended me I had never seen before; she was old, and afraid to be kind.  She was silent as she worked, and her eyes slid from side to side so that she need not see me.  I saw no one else in all the days I spent locked in the tower room that had been my bridal chamber.

      And I knew nothing of what happened beyond that barred door.  I told myself brave tales -- that David would come back, climb the wall, and take me away with him.  I told myself that my father would surely forgive me.  He had never been long angry with me; I would ask to see him, and beg his pardon, and explain all to him so that he would kiss me, and send for my husband, and they would be friends once more -- Jonathan would intercede for me, and for David --

      Well, the last was true enough.  But it did no good, as Jonathan told me many long days later.

      "He threw his spear at me when I tried, little sister -- oh, I think he meant to miss, but all the same, I felt its wind on my cheek."  Of course the men who had been meant to kill David had told of Jonathan's visit; Saul could guess what had been said.  "He has not forgiven me that, Michal.  We must all be careful now, you and I most of all."

      After that, Jonathan had gone out into the fields beyond the city.  There he had met David, and warned David that he must not come back.

      By the time I learned even this much, David was far away in the wilderness -- and I, too, was far away, and married to another man.

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