Murray, KY – We continue storyteller Robert Valentine's series of new perspectives on classic Christmas tales. This week's story is about a caravan taking in a weary couple on their winter journey through the desert. This is the second story in his three part series, titled "For Unto You "
"There's a man on the road!"
The boy trotted up, pulling the donkey to a halt beside Benjamin, who sat high atop his camel.
"I have seen him. Do you think I am blind? Are there others? Did you look?"
"Yes, Father, I looked," said the boy. "He is alone, but he has a woman and she rides a donkey. No others, and the land is flat here. No bandits." When Benjamin ignored him, he lashed his donkey into a trot and went to tell his brothers.
The small caravan was easily overtaking the traveler.
* * * * *
The light was almost gone when Benjamin returned to the large tent. The man and his wife were invited to stay in Jaleel's tent, and had accepted with as much grace as a town dweller could manage. Still, Benjamin could not help but like the big man, who worked in wood and had proved no shirker when it came to the labor of making camp here in the wilderness.
He stood in the fading light and surveyed his ring of five tents and his caravan of beasts, their cargo unloaded, as the youngest of his sons tended to their feed and water.
"There is something very strange about that girl," said Benjamin.
"She is with child," said his wife as she stirred the stew. "Perhaps that is what you saw."
"She is?" Benjamin was surprised. "I did not see it."
"Then you would not see a camel in your cup," said his wife, as her leathery face broke into that smile that had first attracted him to her when she was the smallest, quietest girl around her father's fire so many years ago.
"That must be what I saw," he conceded, "But she seems young."
"No younger than I was before Jaleel was born," she said, her eyes on the fire. "But you see something else about her. She is as one born to a high family, and yet she is a common girl, and her hands show that she works as other women do."
Benjamin had seen none of those things, but he decided something instantly. "Well, he is no thief. I am going to give them the protection of the caravan until we reach the town. I would not have harm come to them."
"No," said his wife, and she looked at him with approval. "No, you should do what you must to protect them. She is young, and ."
"And what?" said Benjamin as he watched the big carpenter help Jaleel repair the harness on one of the camels.
"I don't know," she said as she stared from under the tent at the stars, which had begun to appear in the deepening sky. "I believe it would please God, that's all."
"And you," he said. "To please you and the God is all that I live for, you know."
She struck his foot with the stirring stick and he pretended great hurt, dancing on one foot and falling onto the rug beside her. For some reason, they felt great happiness at that moment.
How strange, he thought to himself. After all, it is only one more weary night on the road to Bethlehem.
Robert Valentine is a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Murray State University. He is also a professional storyteller. His stories and essays can be read in Murray Life Magazine.