When Uriah comes before me he seems unusually tense. His jaw is set, his face—pale.
At first I figure that the long journey to the city of Rabbah and back here again must have drained him. I try to ignore the pain I detect in his eyes. I mean, it must be my mistake, I am seeing things. And whether I like it or not, for his wife’s sake I must push him into a trap.
For that I do feel guilty.
Even so I must make sure he goes home. Bathsheba will know what she must do, once he is there. No woman is more skilled than her in the delightful art of seduction.
I imagine she will wash his feet from the dust of the road, and rub his aching muscles, each and every one of them, and take it from there.
I force myself to engage him in small talk, which feels uncomfortable to both of us.
I ask, “How’s your commander, Joav?”
Uriah says, in his Hittite accent, “Fine.”
“And the other soldiers?”
“How’s the war been going?”
“Not bad, huh?”
“No, not at all.”
“That’s good,” say I. “Really.”
Nothing more remains to be said. I wonder if he wonders why I have pulled him out of a critical battle, and brought him back here, to Jerusalem, only to engage him in a polite chitchat, over nonsense such as who or what feels fine, well, not bad, and good.
Trying to break an uneasy silence I tell him, “You must be tired. Go down to your house and wash your feet.”
Uriah snaps to attention and leaves the palace, after which I send my bodyguard, Benaiah, after him, with a gift: a platter of succulent cherries and a casket of red wine, that he may loosen up and have fun with his beloved, loving wife.
Next morning I step into the court, hoping to turn my attention to pressing political and social matters, such as controlling some unrest on our border with the Sinai desert, and holding a series of meetings with ambassadors from Babylon, Egypt, and Moav, and dealing with an unexpected shortage of materials for a new wing for the palace, and consulting with city designers and architects, in order to select the most appropriate site to build a temple, and in the midst of all of that, separating between my boys, Amnon and Absalom, who are at each other’s throat.
And just as I rise to my throne my bodyguard, Benaiah, comes in to tell me that my trusty soldier never made it home last night.
“What?” I cry. “How dare Uriah disobey me? What a scoundrel! What a fool! Doesn’t he know that his wife’s expecting him—”
“He knows she’s expecting.”
“What d’you mean by that?”
“Me?” says Benaiah, wearing his innocently dumb expression. “Nothing.”
“Where did he sleep, then?” I ask.
“At the entrance to the palace,” says Benaiah. “With all the servants. No matter what I told him, he refused to go down to his house.”
As Uriah is summoned back to the court I ask myself, why is he so obstinate, so determined not to visit his wife? It is possible that a hint, a rumor of his her adultery has already reached his ears? If so, is there any course of action open to him? I mean, what can a soldier do to defy a king?
David in A Peek at Bathsheba
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Volume I: Rise to Power
Volume II: A Peek at Bathsheba
Volume III: The Edge of Revolt
The complete trilogy:
The David Chronicles (Boxed Set)