by Beatrice Gormley

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Miriam is only a tenant farmer's daughter in ancient Egypt, but she has a rare gift. When danger threatens her family, using the Gift draws Miriam and her baby brother Moses into Pharaoh's palace. At first homesick for her village, she soon begins to enjoy the luxuries of the palace. Miriam finally has the chance to become important in Pharaoh's court--if she gives up her Gift and her true self.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940044553316
Publisher: Beatrice Gormley
Publication date: 05/17/2013
Sold by: Smashwords
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 213 KB

About the Author

Beatrice Gormley is the author of many popular novels and biographies for young people. Most recent books: Poisoned Honey, a story of Mary Magdalene; Barack Obama: Our 44th President; and Pope Francis: The People's Pope.
Other books include Back to the Titanic! and Amelia Earhart, Young Aviator.

Beatrice lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Robert Gormley, and their dog and cats.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Promise

The first time I sensed my special gift, I did not even know it was special. I certainly did not guess it was the same gift as our ancestor Joseph's. My mind was not on myself at all, for it was the evening of my brother Aaron's weaning celebration. I was proud of my bright, healthy little brother, proud of my family, and looking forward to an evening of songs and stories.

    As I waited at the bottom of the ladder, I hitched Aaron up on my hip. The air was hot and stale in the shadows between our hut and Uncle Hebron's, but there would be a breeze on the rooftop. I watched the members of my family climb the ladder to the roof, turning into black outlines against the western sky.

    First went Abba — my father, Amram. He reached down a lean, muscled arm to pull up my grandfather, Kohath. Sabba (Grandfather), as the whole clan called him, was so stiff in the joints that it was hard for him even to climb the ladder. Next came Imma (my mother, Jochabed) balancing a small jug of wine on her head. Finally I, Miriam — the family calls me Miri — climbed the ladder with Aaron clinging to my neck.

    On the roof next door, Uncle Hebron and Aunt Shiphrah and my five cousins were already enjoying the fresh air. Ephraim, my oldest cousin and almost a man, was asking his father something about the sheep flock. Tamar, the next oldest, was lighting their oil lamps.

    Tamar was thirteen, a year and a half older than I was, but we were close. Every day of my life, as far back as Icould remember, she had greeeted me the same way she did now. "Shalom, peace, Miri." A smile broke out on her round face, and she looked glad to see me, although she had already seen me more than once today.

    "Shalom, Tamar." I smiled back; she always made me glad to see her, too.

    The flat rooftops of the clan of Levi were so close together that a grown person could step across from one roof to the other. And tonight all the families were up on their roofs, waiting respectfully for the ceremony to start.

    Next to Uncle Hebron and Aunt Shiphrah's hut was that of my grandfather's nephew, with his second wife and eight children (two from his first marriage) and his widowed mother. Behind my aunt and uncle's, and partly behind our hut, was the home of my grandfather's younger cousin, with his wife and their five girls and the two orphan boys {distant relatives) they had adopted. And so on. Each rooftop was full of people linked somehow or other to all the rest of the clan.

    In the almost-darkness their lamps made pools of yellow light, picking out the Hebrew section of the village. The Egyptians would be up on their rooftops, too, to catch the evening breeze. But this was not their celebration, and so they would not waste precious oil by lighting their lamps.

    Beyond our village, the flooded fields spread out in every direction. The western horizon, on the other side of the river, was a black line against the setting sun. Just above it hung the crescent of the new moon. In the east, the sky had already turned dark blue, and the flat horizon was almost invisible.

    Sabba, as head of our family, led the ceremony. Taking Aaron from me, he lifted him up. In his deep, mellow voice that carried across the rooftops, he said, "Praise God, who has brought our Aaron safely from infancy to childhood!"

    "Praise God," we all repeated. From other rooftops of the Hebrew quarter, voices echoed, "Praise God."

    I wondered if other people were feeling, as I was, a bit of sadness underneath the joy. There were so many children who had not survived. Aunt Shiphrah's sixth child, a little girl, had died of floodtime fever. Thinking of this and other dangers as Sabba handed my little brother back to me, I gave Aaron a squeeze and a kiss on the top of his curly head.

    Our family sang the hymn of thanksgiving for the weaning of a child, and then the wine jug was passed around the rooftops. Each person took just a small sip, of course. Wine was expensive, only for special occasions. In my opinion, one sip was plenty, anyway.

    "Congratulations," the other Hebrews called out to our family. I sat down against the low wall surrounding the roof and settled Aaron, drowsy and limp, on my lap. I closed my eyes and savored the glow that the tangy, sweet wine made in my throat.

    "Huh," grunted Sabba, rubbing his shoulders from the effort of lifting Aaron. "In the old days, when my grandfather was head of the family and we celebrated my brother's weaning, we feasted the whole clan with roast kid. And we drank more than a sip of wine apiece, I can tell you that."

    My father sighed loudly. Maybe he was only weary from his day in the brickyards. Or maybe he would rather not hear any more about how good life used to be in the old days.

    Aunt Shiphrah leaned over the low wall of her roof. A tear gleamed on her round cheek — she, too, must have been thinking of her lost baby. But my aunt loved celebrations, and she was smiling eagerly at my grandfather. "Sabba, tell us a story. About the old old days, before we came to Egypt."

    "Yes, a story, please, Sabba!" The families on neighboring rooftops quieted and drew as close as they could to listen. My grandfather cleared his throat.

    "Many years before our clan came to Egypt, our ancestor Abraham and his wife Sarah" — the people listening murmured appreciatively, because this was one of our favorite stories — "lived far across the Great Eastern Desert, in the land of Canaan. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, very old — almost twice as old as I am."

    That was hard for me to imagine. Sabba was the oldest person in the clan, although there was an Egyptian woman in the village who was supposed to be older.

    "And to their sorrow," my grandfather went on, "though they had flocks of fine sheep and goats, they had no children."

    A sympathetic hum ran across the rooftops. No children! Could any misfortune be worse than to grow older and older, and finally to die, with no children or grandchildren to come after?

    "One day, the Lord God spoke to Abraham."

    God spoke. What was it like, to listen to God? Once I had asked Sabba, but he had only frowned into the distance and shaken his head. That was not a question to ask, or a question to be answered.

    "God told Abraham," my grandfather went on as the sliver of new moon sank out of sight in the west, "that his aged wife, Sarah, would bear a son. And not only that. Because Abraham had been faithful, God promised that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the heavens."

    As Sabba spoke, the last of the blank blue daylight melted away. I caught my breath.

    Of course, I had heard this story about Abraham many times, and I had seen the stars every night of my life. But never had the words of the story and the sight of the stars come together for me like this.

    I saw — I saw what God had shown Abraham. "This many descendants," God told our ancestor, and He pointed to the glittering heavens.

    I was no longer aware of Aaron's weight on my lap. I forgot about the fields and the village and the people on the rooftops. I was floating among the dazzling stars. I was dizzy with delight, God's delight in the stars — and in us.

    I felt so close to the Power at the center of all things that I should have been terrified. I should have died of fear.

    Instead, I was alive with joy.

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