T HERE was sadness in the home of Abraham, the great chief, and his son Isaac. Sarah's tent was empty now, and Isaac, her son, went about sorrowfully, for he sorely missed his mother, whom he had loved with all his heart. Abraham was an old man now, and his life was nearly over; but Isaac was young, and the future looked very lonely and very sad to him.
Abraham watched his son with anxious eyes. It was not good for him to grieve so sorely. Surely it was time that he should marry and have a wife to bring back happiness to him. But it must be the right kind of wife; his son must not choose any of the ordinary women amongst whom they lived. No, he would send his old and trusted servant back to that far-away home he had left so long ago, and bid him bring from there a maiden of his own people, one who would be a fit wife for his only son. So here the story begins.
It was evening, and the little village, perched on the side of the hill, shone white in the last rays of the setting sun against its rocky background. Below, in the plain, evening shadows had already begun to gather as a weary traveller made his way with his swaying train of camels towards the well, sheltered by palm trees at the foot of the hill.
He was an old man, and his dusty sandals and travel-stained appearance showed that he had come a long distance. The camels, too, were travel-worn and thirsty. There was no one at the well as the old man, Abraham's trusted servant, drew near; and after he had made the camels kneel down he sat himself at the well side to wait until the women of the village should come to draw the evening supply of water.
It was a difficult errand on which his master had sent him. How was he to find out which of all the village maidens was the right wife for Isaac, his beloved master's son? Surely the best thing he could do was to ask God to help him. So there, in the gathering twilight, the old servant knelt and asked God to be graciously kind to him, and to show him by a sign which maiden he should choose. He would ask for a drink, and the one who answered, "Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also," would be the one he sought.
He had not long to wait, for scarcely was his prayer ended when down the path that led from the village came a young girl carrying a pitcher upon her shoulder. The old man watched her keenly. "She is very fair to look upon," he said to himself. He wondered if she would also have a kind heart. Then after she had filled her pitcher he determined to try the test, and went forward to meet her.
"Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher," he said.
Immediately the girl lowered her water-jug from her shoulder and held it towards him.
"Drink, my lord," she said kindly; and as she looked round on the tired beasts kneeling patiently there, she added, "I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking."
It seemed almost too good to be true. The old man could only stand and look at her in silent wonder as she gave the camels their drink. Then he took from his pack two golden bracelets and a wonderful gold ear-ring, and presented them to her, asking her name, and if she thought he could find a lodging in the village.
If he had had any doubts about the sign these vanished now as he listened to her answer. She was Rebekah, the daughter of his master's own brother, not only one of his race, but one of his own family.
So he followed her as she went on ahead to tell her father of the traveller who was coming, and when he arrived there was a warm welcome awaiting him, and everything in readiness for his comfort.
But before the faithful servant would even eat or drink he declared that he must tell them the reason of his coming: how his master Abraham had sent him to seek for a wife for his only son, and how God had showed him by a sign that Rebekah was the maiden of his choice.
The family listened wonderingly. Surely it was plain that they must let their beautiful Rebekah return with the servant to be Isaac's bride, for God had clearly shown that it was His will.
That night there was much feasting and rejoicing, but next morning a little sadness crept in. It was not easy to part with the only daughter of the house. Would it not be possible to wait for a few days? asked her mother wistfully.
"No," said the old servant decidedly, "send me away, that I may return at once."
"We will call Rebekah," said her mother, "and she shall decide."
Rebekah came and answered the question bravely. Yes, she would go. She was ready to start at once on that long journey, ready to trust herself to the faithful servant whom God had sent to fetch her.
She was very young; all unknown and untried the future lay before her. It might be a shining path of happiness, or rough with the stones of difficulty, but it was the path God had chosen for her.
So after many farewells they set out, a long train of swaying camels, to journey to that far-off land where Abraham and his son Isaac dwelt.
It was again evening time as the journey drew to an end. Isaac had wandered out into the fields after his day's work, to be alone with his sorrowful thoughts. He was watching the sun dip down in the west, when far along the winding strip of white road a cloud of dust caught his eye. Travellers must be coming that way. Closer and closer they came, until the camels and their riders could be clearly seen through the dust. Then Isaac saw that it was the faithful servant who had returned; and as they stopped and dismounted, he knew that the silent girl who stood there with veiled face was the wife his father had desired for him.
Quickly the servant told his story, and then Isaac came near and took Rebekah's hand and led her away. There was but one place for this beautiful maiden who had so trustfully left her home to come to him. Straight to his mother's tent he took her, that silent tent which now would be empty no longer; and ere long all his loneliness and sorrow vanished, and his empty heart too was filled with love for his beautiful wife who had come to comfort him for the loss of his mother.