Having uncorked one of the bottles, the general takes a sniff of the wine, and relaxes into his seat.
So I decide that this is the best time to test him, and test my own thinking, too, on a more personal note.
So I say, “I hear you’re having an affair with Saul’s concubine, Ritzpah.”
“Yes,” Abner says, with an acid tone, which he intends to wash away with a drink. “And what a delight that is.”
“So, just like me,” I say, as if to confide in him, “you must have discovered one thing: taking a woman that belongs to another is a temptation unto itself.”
“I assure you, it’s more trouble than it’s worth,” he says, already uncorking the next bottle.
“Really?” I ask. “It is?”
“Because of her I must now leave a steady position with my master, and defect to you. Oh trust me, I appreciate the opportunity, I do! But an affair with another man’s wife? I would never do that again—unless, of course, it’s a way to gain something else, such as political power.”
I go on to ask, “So, if she were a regular wife, I mean, the wife of a regular soldier, and could offer no political gain—none whatsoever—would you start an affair with her?”
“No,” he says, firmly, and again he spits. “Never.”
“Not even if you were in love?”
“Love?” he echoes, as if this were some foreign, Babylonian word, written in hieroglyphs onto a brittle papyrus scroll, by our neighbors south of the border, the Egyptians, and read out with a twist, in the heavy, indecipherable accent of our neighbors north of the border, the Hittites.
Abner may be right. For a simple word, it packs a complex emotion.
“Yes,” I say. “Love.”
He claps his hand on the table, and the empty bottles start bouncing about. “Hell, what does that have to do with anything?”
David in A Peek at Bathsheba
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The complete trilogy:
Volume I: Rise to Power
Volume II: A Peek at Bathsheba
Volume III: The Edge of Revolt