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.
loved him once. When I was young, my very bones melted for love of
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.
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.
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."
smooth stones," he would sing then, smiling down at me. "Five smooth
stones did Yahweh put into my hand...."
gave the credit to Yahweh, but I knew better. In those days, the god
I worshipped was David.
David, I pray thee, stand before me...."
-- I Samuel 16:22
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.
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
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.
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.
Samuel agreed to choose a king for them. Who else but Yahweh's most
favored prophet should choose Yahweh's king?
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.
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
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.
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," 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."
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.
ways are not for us to dispute, Saul."
dispute them, man -- but if the oil's to be on my head there are plenty of
men who will!"
pause. "Send the child away," Samuel said.
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.
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.
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."
thought again. "You mean Samuel, Father?"
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?"
frowned. "But, Father -- "
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
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.
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,
never been a king in Israel before," was all my brother said as he took me
into his arms.
did not like this. "Well, by Yahweh, there's to be one now!" he
bellowed, and stomped off.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
sounded like sense to me, and I said so.
Samuel says that the ordering of the army and the kingdom is
business of Yahweh," Jonathan said.
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
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?"
sighed, and put an arm around my shoulders. "That old prophet made
him king, Michal, and now I think he wishes to unmake him."
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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."
brave!" I cried. "Everyone says you are a great hero, Jonathan, and
killed twenty men at a blow!"
to 'everyone' then," he would say, and no more.
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
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.
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
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.
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!"
always much more of this, for even my quiet brother Jonathan seemed to
have lost the trick of calming him.
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.
Samuel's smiles were sour things, now, and his blessings sounded
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.
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.
stood in the courtyard below me. He was silent, but my father was
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
seemed to please Samuel. There was no more shouting, and after a few
moments they both went away.
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.
have been well, then. But it was not.
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.
bitter as tears, nursed his anger until it turned inward, and poisoned
time, to heal him, came David.
nearly ten, and growing tall, when I first heard his name.
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."
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.
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 -- "
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.
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?"
high, Princess Michal!"
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!"
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
killed a lion and a bear, which I do not believe!
Harper's tales," I said, and thought it keen wit.
see," said Jonathan. "Wait and see."
spoke no more that day of David and his talents.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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."
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
so clever, to think of the stones and the sling!"
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."
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...."
that, and he sang other songs, too. The servants came to light the
torches before we realized how dark it was, and how late.
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.
Michal Saul's daughter loved David...."
-- I Samuel 18:20
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.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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?
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.
brother's love was better than nothing -- or so I told myself.
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.
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."
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
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
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
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?"
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."
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?"
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 -- "
one, you mean!" I fancied this an arrow that would sting.
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
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.
Michal!" he said. "What are you doing here?"
I could not
answer, for I did not know.
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
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?"
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."
promised you Merab!"
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
"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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
sister loves her brother." Soft words, rueful words. Gentle
sorrow rippled under them, or regret.
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
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.
promised you his daughter," I added desperately, when it seemed David
would not speak. "David -- you would not want him to be
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?"
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!"
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
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.
daughter of Saul." David smiled, and lightly kissed my
forehead. "Ask your father to keep his promise and give me his
daughter to wife."
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
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.
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?"
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.
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
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.
you promised David should marry your daughter, but you have given Merab to
Adriel. Give me to David instead."
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
somehow made the last three words a mockery of all David's beautiful
"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
shattered to move, I managed to say, "But Father -- I love David."
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 -- "
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.
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 -- "
! 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."
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.
child," King Saul repeated.
I went, and
did not look back.
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.
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
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."
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
"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."
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.
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."
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!"
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."
David," I said, "you will be careful, won't you?"
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
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
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.
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, 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
"If I am
welcome, will not King Saul open his gate to me?"
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?"
smiled up at those who watched and waited. "They are not the enemy
of Israel, Abner."
Philistine armor. The Philistines are not our friends."
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
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.
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.
, did you hear, man!"
people had heard; I was glad the old prophet had forgiven my father at
? And what is to be done now, eh?"
looked at me and I looked away, down to where David stood with his men in
the bright noon light.
wedding, O King," said Abner, and it seemed to me that he wished to make
people hear his words plainly. "What else?"
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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
was much wine and spiced fruit, and more singing and dancing. I was
not let to dance; I was the bride --
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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
!" 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 -- "
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.
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
lamp-flame was long drowned when Jonathan came in thief-footed. I
awoke to his touch on my shoulder.
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."
it? What is wrong?"
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."
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
"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.
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
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
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.
wrong -- you must be! You saw what he gave for my wedding! He
cannot hate you! It is not fair!"
bade me hush. "Be still, Michal. King Saul thinks he has
reason, and who am I to say he is wrong?"
reason, brother?" Jonathan demanded. "What reason could he possibly
said. "Oh, he can have none -- you are right, Jonathan, he must be
"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."
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."
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
ear Jonathan drew breath sharply; a snake-hiss in the dark. "Samuel
anointed you as king -- with the king still living?"
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."
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
said Jonathan at last, "so that is where Samuel went when he quarreled
with our father, and that is what he did."
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 -- "
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."
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."
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!"
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
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.
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 -- "
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
Michal. You will stay here, where I can find you, where you will be
"But I wish
to go with you!" I could not believe he meant it.
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
-- " 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
"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 -- "
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
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
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
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.
needed my help; that was enough.
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.
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
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.
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?"
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
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.
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
my hair, and stared at me, and I tried to speak. "Father -- "
no. After this you are not my daughter."
expected anger, but he sounded only grieved. I would rather he had
raged and beaten me until my bones broke.
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
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
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
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 --
last was true enough. But it did no good, as Jonathan told me many
long days later.
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."
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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