“I’m an old maid!” whined Elizabeth as she and her sister Martha carried their water jugs to the village well.
“You’re not either. You’re all of fourteen,” Martha laughed.
“Yes, and Papa hasn’t met with anyone yet to talk about a marriage contract.”
“You worry too much. I have it on good authority that he is going to talk to someone tonight. He has been invited-”
“Where? Where? Tell me!”
“I will if you give me half a chance. He’s seeing the butcher tonight.”
“The butcher! He’s older than Papa!”
“Silly. Papa is talking to him about his son, Ephraim.”
Elizabeth’s eyes sparkled as she thought about Ephraim, and then she recalled an incident when he had teased her unmercifully. “I don’t like him.”
“That’s not the look I saw just now.”
“So? He’s a tease. He brags about how he can be taught by the Rabbi. I wish girls could be too!”
“Hush. That’s blasphemy. Do you want someone to hear you?”
“What’s blasphemous about being able to read the Law of Moses?”
“It’s just not done. You need to content yourself with being a good wife to Ephraim.”
“If Papa and the butcher can come to terms.”
“And why wouldn’t they?”
“It will be a big wedding, and I will be a beautiful bride. I will have to talk to Mama about getting the best oils and perfumes.”
“Mama has everything in hand. You don’t have to worry.”
“What if Papa and the butcher can’t come to terms?”
“You worry to much. It will be fine. Ephraim is a ruddy man. You will have beautiful babies.”
“He is isn’t he? A most ruddy man. It is said that he is as ruddy as King David.”
They both looked up to see their mother coming toward them.
“We have taken too long,” Martha said.
“Girls, I need you back at the house right away. Your father was called to the butcher’s home.”
“I thought it wasn’t until tonight,” Elizabeth said.
“Martha you raise hope when there is none yet,” Mama said.
“Elizabeth said she would be an old maid,” Martha said.
“Nonsense. You have good bearing, and a good dowry. You have never done anything to bring shame to either your father or me. These are things that a husband looks for in a bride.”
“Why was he called so soon?” Elizabeth asked.
“The butcher has taken with a sudden illness, and the final terms of the contract have not yet been discussed. Now get that water back to the house or I will not have dinner on the table for your father on time,” Mama said.
“Yes Mama,” both girls said.
That evening Papa sat at table while Mama, Martha, and Elizabeth waited on him. “Sit down Mama, girls. I have good news,” Papa said.
Elizabeth hurried to take a seat beside her Papa. “The contract, Papa?”
“So there is talk. It is so. The contract is finalized. The wedding will be soon. The butcher is not expected to live, but will soon join our father’s.”
“How soon, Papa?” Mama asked.
“Three days. Tomorrow will be the engagement ceremony; the following day will be the courtship, and then the wedding. It must be. He wants to see his son wed. Now you know. Elizabeth will be a bride in three days.”
The engagement ceremony took place the following day. Elizabeth was shy in the presence of her future husband, but couldn’t take her eyes off him. He was the most ruddy man around.
Later that night they were called to the butcher’s bedside where they also found the chief elder there as well.
“You are blessed in the city. You are blessed in the country. Your children will sit in the gate with the elders and possess the gates of your enemies. Your kneading trough will never be empty, and everything your hand touches will prosper,” the butcher said.
“Father,” Ephraim said.
“Long life and prosperity my son.” With that he breathed his last and was joined to his fathers.
The elder turned to the bridegroom and bride. “He spoke the blessing in the presence of your parents and me. You are legally bound to each other from this day forth. Go and find comfort in each other at your loss.”
Ephraim took Elizabeth to his home, and was comforted after the death of his father.
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