Since Tobit had prayed for death, he set about preparing for it. After calling for his son, Tobias, he scooted into the cool shade of a fig tree and rubbed his unseeing eyes. Then he snorted at his foolishness. Did he think he could wipe away his blindness?
Tobias’s footsteps approached with a confident stride. “You wanted to see me, Father?”
Tobit couldn’t help but smile. His son was tall now, and though still young, he was fully a man. Tobit wished he could see Tobias’s face, newly bearded, and his dark eyes, surely as handsome as his mother’s.
As Tobias sat beside him, Tobit felt for his son’s broad back. “I wish to speak to you of my death.”
“But Father,” Tobias protested, “you’re healthy still.”
Tobit held up his hand. “One never knows about the matter of death. You are apprenticed to the scribes. Excel in your work. Make yourself worthy of the highest positions in the land, for when I die, you must provide for your mother as long as she lives. When she dies, bury her in my grave beside me. Always give your surplus to the poor. Be sure to take a wife from among our people. And ask advice of every wise man.”
Tobias cleared his throat. “All this I will do, Father. But may God give you a long life so that you may be that wise man.”
“We don’t know the future.” Tobit patted his son’s well-muscled shoulder. “I deposited ten talents of silver with Gabel in Ragae in Media. Go and ask for it.” He pressed a receipt into Tobias’s palm. “Find someone to travel with you. I’ll pay him.”
Tobias stuffed the receipt into his waist sash and reluctantly left to tell friends and trustworthy acquaintances that he sought a traveling companion. But two days of searching yielded no one able – or willing – to travel to Ragae. On the third day, Babin the wool merchant pointed him to a broad-shouldered man wandering through the crowd at the bazaar.
“But he’s a stranger,” said Tobias. “Do you think he’s honest?”
Babin shrugged. “The man bought bread, and when old Marya gave him too much change, he gave the coins back. With interest!”
Tobias eased closer to the cloaked man, whose brown hair was streaked in red. The man, a head taller than the shoppers milling around him, was watching the bladesmith sharpen a knife. As Tobias edged nearer, he turned, looked Tobias up and down, and smiled. “You may be just the companion I’m looking for. I’m traveling to Ragae and would rather go in company. I’ll pay you if you’re interested.”
Tobias blinked in surprise. “Ragae? You would pay . . . me?” It was supposed to work the other way around.
“If you’re willing to travel.” The man wore a thin leather band across his forehead, and when he offered Tobias a round of bread, his cloak gaped, revealing the silver hilt of a sword. “I’ve no cart or donkeys, so we’ll go by foot. And we leave today.”
“I, too, must go to Ragae.” Tobias took the bread. “But I’ll have to run home and fetch a journey pack.”
“Of course.” The man examined a knife from the display of wares. “You’ll find me somewhere around here when you’re ready to go.”
Tobias half bowed and wormed through the crowd, munching on the herb-flavored bread, but he went only a stone’s throw before he realized he had no idea who the man was. He wove his way back to the man. “Excuse me, sir,” he said. “My name is Tobias. And you?”
Tobias bowed back through the crowd and headed home, hoping the stranger with the silver-hilted sword was trustworthy.
- to be continued -
© 2012 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved. Based on The Book of Tobit, circa 200 BCE. Photo courtesy clipart.com.