It was a hard task for her to restrain her tears. But had she permitted them to flow uncontrolled, they would have been those of wrath and insulted womanly dignity, not of grief and longing.
During the hours of the evening watch soldiers marched past, and from troop after troop cheers for Joshua reached her.
Even when the words “strong and steadfast!” were heard, they recalled the man who had once been dear to her, and whom now—she freely admitted it—she hated. The men of his own tribe only had honored her husband with a cheer. Was this fitting gratitude for the generosity with which he had divested himself, for the sake of the younger man, of a dignity that belonged to him alone? To see her husband thus slighted pierced her to the heart and caused her more pain than Hur’s leaving her, his newly-wedded wife, to solitude.
The supper before the tent of the Ephraimites lasted a long time. Miriam sent her women to rest before midnight, and lay down to await Hur’s return and to confess to him all that had wounded and angered her, everything for which she longed.
She thought it would be an easy matter to keep awake while suffering such mental anguish. But the great fatigues and excitements of the last few days asserted their rights, and in the midst of a prayer for humility and her husband’s love sleep overpowered her. At last, at the time of the first morning watch, just as day was dawning, the sound of trumpets announcing peril close at hand, startled her from sleep.
She rose hurriedly and glancing at her husband’s couch found it empty. But it had been used, and on the sandy soil—for mats had been spread only in the living room of the tent—she saw close beside her own bed the prints of Hur’s footsteps.
So he had stood close by it and perhaps, while she was sleeping, gazed yearningly into her face.
Ay, this had really happened; her old female slave told her so unasked. After she had roused Hur, she had seen him hold the light cautiously so that it illumined Miriam’s face and then stoop over her a long time as if to kiss her.
This was good news, and so rejoiced the solitary woman that she forgot the formality which was peculiar to her and pressed her lips to the wrinkled brow of the crooked little crone who had served her parents. Then she had her hair arranged, donned the light-blue festal robe Hur had given her, and hurried out to bid him farewell.
Meanwhile the troops had formed in battle array.
The tents were being struck and for a long time Miriam vainly sought her husband. At last she found him; but he was engaged in earnest conversation with Joshua, and when she saw the latter a chill ran through the prophetess’ blood, and she could not bring herself to approach the men.
A severe struggle was impending; for as the spies reported, the Amalekites had been joined by other desert tribes. Nevertheless the Hebrew troops were twice their number. But how greatly inferior in warlike skill were Joshua’s bands to the foes habituated to battle and attack.