Bathsheba lowers her eyes and gives a shy, hesitant nod to one concubine after another, as they are coming down, measuring her top to bottom, and flinging their skirts about, with a happy whistle on their lips.
That uneasy scramble to the top has the questionable effect of humbling her. By the time she arrives, there are tears in her eyes.
“What’s the matter?” I ask, because I truly feel for her. Being an outsider, she is greeted with suspicion by the rest of my wives.
Asking this question is, without a doubt, my second mistake of the day. For a long time Bathsheba is silent.
At long last, “Oh, nothing,” she says, biting her lip.
So hard does she do it that her lip becomes white, and it bears the marks of her teeth.
“Come here,” I whisper to her.
Instead she goes to the window. I find myself unable to say anything, so instead I make a note to myself, to write down these words, later: “The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride. You are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”
By the reflection I can read her. I see that she wipes the corner of her eye. Silk curtains start swishing. They sway, they billow wildly around her, blotting and redrawing the curves of her silhouette.
I join her by the window and hold her, rocking her gently in my arms. Together, we look out at the last glimmer of the sun, sinking.
C. 1562, oil on wood, Musee du Louvre, Paris
My book is greatly inspired by art of all ages, such as this painting of Bathsheba, who is both lovely and wears extravagant cloths. In the background you can see an imagined view of the City of David.
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