The two remained by the stone awhile; then they moved slowly, painfully, and with much fear towards the well, whereat several voices were raised to stop them; yet they kept on. The drawer of water picked up some pebbles, and made ready to drive them back. The company cursed them. The greater company on the hill shouted shrilly, “Unclean, unclean!”
“Surely,” thought Amrah of the two, as they kept coming- “surely, they are strangers to the usage of lepers.”
She arose, and went to meet them, taking the basket and jar. The alarm at the well immediately subsided.
“What a fool,” said one, laughing- “what a fool to give good bread to the dead in that way!”
“And to think of her coming so far!” said another. “I would at least make them meet me at the gate.”
Amrah, with better impulse, proceeded. If she should be mistaken! Her heart arose into her throat. And the farther she went the more doubtful and confused she became. Four or five yards from where they stood waiting for her she stopped.
That the mistress she loved! whose hand she had so often kissed in gratitude! whose image of matronly loveliness she had treasured in memory so faithfully! And that the Tirzah she had nursed through babyhood! whose pains she had soothed, whose sports she had shared! that the smiling, sweet-faced, songful Tirzah, the light of the great house, the promised blessing of her old age! Her mistress, her darling- they? The soul of the woman sickened at the sight.
“These are old women,” she said to herself. “I never saw them before. I will go back.”
She turned away.
“Amrah,” said one of the lepers.
The Egyptian dropped the jar, and looked back, trembling.
“Who called me?” she asked.
The servant’s wondering eyes settled upon the speaker’s face.
“Who are you?” she cried.
“We are they you are seeking.”
Amrah fell upon her knees.
“O my mistress, my mistress! As I have made your God my God, be he praised that he has led me to you!”
And upon her knees the poor overwhelmed creature began moving forward.
“Stay, Amrah! Come not nearer. Unclean, unclean!”
The words sufficed. Amrah fell upon her face, sobbing so loud the people at the well heard her. Suddenly she arose upon her knees again.
“O my mistress, where is Tirzah!”
“Here I am, Amrah, here! Will you bring me a little water?”
The habit of the servant renewed itself. Putting back the coarse hair fallen over her face, Amrah arose and went to the basket and uncovered it.
“See,” she said, “here are bread and meat.”
She would have spread the napkin upon the ground, but the mistress spoke again- “Do not so, Amrah. Those yonder may stone you, and refuse us drink. Leave the basket with me. Take up the jar and fill it, and bring it here. We will carry them to the tomb with us. For this day you will then have rendered all the service that is lawful. Haste, Amrah.”