TIME: A month later: dawn
NAAMAN’S tent, on high ground among the mountains
near Samaria: the city below. In the distance,
a wide and splendid landscape.
SABALLIDIN and soldiers on guard below the tent. Enter RUAHMAH in hunter’s dress, with a lute slung from her shoulder.
Peace and good health to you, Saballidin.
Good morrow to you all. How fares my lord?
The curtains of his tent are folded still:
They have not moved since we returned, last night,
And told him what befell us in the city.
Told him! Why did you make report to him
And not to me? Am I not captain here,
Intrusted by the King’s command with care
Of Naaman until he is restored?
’Tis mine to know the first of good or ill
In this adventure: mine to shield his heart
From every arrow of adversity.
What have you told him? Speak!
Lady, we feared
To bring our news to you. For when the King
Of Israel had read our monarch’s letter,
He rent his clothes, and cried, “Am I a god,
To kill and make alive, that I should heal
A leper? Ye have come with false pretence,
Damascus seeks a quarrel with me. Go!”
But when we told our lord, he closed his tent,
And there remains enfolded in his grief.
I trust he sleeps; ’twere kind to let him sleep!
For now he doth forget his misery,
And all the burden of his hopeless woe
Is lifted from him by the gentle hand
Of slumber. Oh, to those bereft of hope
Sleep is the only blessing left,—the last
Asylum of the weary, the one sign
Of pity from impenetrable heaven.
Waking is strife; sleep is the truce of God!
Ah, lady, wake him not. The day will be
Full long for him to suffer, and for us
To turn our disappointed faces home
On the long road by which we must return.
Return! Who gave you that command? Not I!
The King made me the leader of this quest,
And bound you all to follow me, because
He knew I never would return without
The thing for which he sent us. I’ll go on
Day after day, unto the uttermost parts
Of earth, if need be, and beyond the gates
Of morning, till I find that which I seek,—
New life for Naaman. Are ye ashamed
To have a woman lead you? Then go back
And tell the King, “This huntress went too far
For us to follow: she pursues the trail
Of hope alone, refusing to forsake
The quarry: we grew weary of the chase;