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A Lesson From Scripture

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The coat was an old one, much in need of patching and cleaning. It had seen Jonathan through his three years in the Peninsula. As her mother would have said, it didn’t owe him anything. And he could certainly afford a new one: that was never the problem. But Arabella had been brought up to be thrifty, as befitted a poor curate’s daughter, and she couldn’t abide waste, even now.

She fished in the pockets before taking the coat to be laundered. A handkerchief, a small mirror (why?), a piece of string, something that might once have been an apple core (oh, Jonathan!).

A scrap of paper, with an inscription in an unfamiliar hand: 2 Samuel 1, 26.

Arabella had not sat in church all those years, Sundays and weekdays, not to know her Biblical texts. She and Henry used to pass notes to each other in code during the longer sermons. The words were in her mind, as clear as if written on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast:

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.