Later, when I start awakening from my slumber, the first thing I sense is her touch. Or is it the memory of her touch? I fumble, I reach for it, rolling into the dent in the mattress, which is where she used to lie. I wonder where she is, and why her absence screams at me so crisply, even as I curl myself into the crimson bedspread.
Alas, reality is such a fluid, fleeting thing when you find yourself as old as I am.
Bathsheba is gone, but her voice still echoes in my head. It is still resonating around me in the chamber, whispering softly, “I beg you: show me you still care. Read the scroll. Do it now, David, because this you must realize: my life, and the life of our son, are both in grave danger.”
The scroll has been hanging by a thread from Goliath’s sword up there over my head, but now it has fallen next to my pillow. With some effort I break the seal. Even so I do not care to read it, or to deal with danger, at my age. She should know that. At his point, the present is such a boring thing for me. Not so the past: I ask myself, over and again, what happened? How in heaven’s name did it come to this?
Was it not just yesterday when I was standing there, in my court, beaming a wide smile at the sight of my handsome, mischievous little boys as they came running to me, as they pushed each other aside, simply to cling to my hand?
And didn’t Bathsheba raise the baby, then—ever so gently—from his little crib, and let me cradle him in my arms, for the first time? Was it all a dream, nothing more than a yearning for a new beginning?
David in A Peek at Bathsheba
My novel is greatly inspired by art. Here is an oil painting by Govert Flinck, Bathsheba makes an appeal to David. It depicts a scene similar to the excerpt above, perhaps a scene that happened just an hour earlier, when an aging Bathsheba pleads before David. Here, he pays her full attention, to the point of pushing the young Abishag, who takes care of him, away.
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