Chapter 20 - Arriving in Bethlehem
Having finished their mid-day meal, Daniel and Joseph once again assisted Mary as she climbed atop the donkey. Rebekah made her way over to the cart, carefully carrying her father’s knife, which still bore the sample of frankincense. Rebekah gently placed the knife next to a jar of olive oil, hoping it wouldn’t get disturbed as the milky resin dried. Imhotep was very curious about what she was doing, and so squirmed his way through a few jars of olive oil and sniffed at the drop of resin on the knife.
“You be careful now, Imhotep,” Rebekah warned him. “That knife is sharp, and even though it may smell good, you don’t want to taste that frankincense.” Imhotep didn’t seem too tempted by the strange new smell. Mere seconds later, he crawled deeper into the cart, working his way down among the sacks of grain. It didn’t take long before Imhotep came out from the pile, with the tail of a mouse dangling from his closed jaws.
“That cat of yours is definitely an excellent hunter,” Esther declared. “Our grain must be attracting rodents all along the journey, but Imhotep is certainly dealing with that problem in a very effective way.”
“He definitely can take care of finding food for himself, Mother,” Rebekah answered. “Good job, Imhotep!” The cat looked up at her and gave a soft meow, before curling up contentedly in the sunlight shining down on the cart.
As the travelers neared the end of their journey, Rebekah started to wonder what it would be like in Bethlehem, a town she had never seen before. She hoped there would be a chance to meet more children of David, relatives like Mary and Joseph. Rebekah also couldn’t stop wondering what interesting things they might find in the market area, where they were planning to trade the oil and grain they brought with them. Whatever they might find, Rebekah was certain it wouldn’t be as wonderful of a gift as Imhotep had been.
The sounds from Bethlehem seemed to increase with every step they took. Esther and Rebekah were amazed at how loud it was as they finally reached the edge of the town. Daniel wasn’t as surprised by this, as he had heard a similar volume of noise coming from the bustling markets near every port he had visited on his trading journeys to Egypt. Esther glanced over at Mary and Joseph, noting their overwhelmed expressions. Both of them were staring at the sea of people crowding the road in front of them.
“I believe it will be best for us to proceed from here on foot,” Joseph said to Mary. “I don’t know if the donkey will continue his good behavior once we enter the crowd ahead.” Joseph helped Mary down from the donkey. He turned to face their traveling companions, his voice full of sincerity. “I can’t thank you enough for sharing your food with us, and allowing Mary to ride on your donkey today. It has been a wonderful way to end our long journey.” Joseph handed the reins of the donkey to Daniel.
“We’re glad we could be of help,” Daniel answered as he tied the donkey to the side of the cart.
Mary walked over to Esther and Rebekah, hugging them both. She reached down and gave Imhotep a parting pat on his back. “Shalom, my friends,” Mary said, as she and Joseph walked into the crowd to begin their search for a place to spend the night.
Next: A Disappointing Surprise