With the last of my strength I flung my beloved child the last few feet into the only shade available, and moved slowly, feebly, like an old woman, to sit down and give way to despair. My eyes were dazzled by sun and sand, my skin blistering, and my lips and throat were parched. It seemed like hours ago that I had forced the last of the water down Ishmael’s throat, and now he moaned and tossed in a delirium that I could not bear to witness.
How could Abraham have done this to us - to his firstborn son, at least, however little he thought of me? Yet his eyes had borne a stricken look as he placed the supplies on my back, and there had been tenderness in the hand that brushed a stray lock of hair out of my eyes. As he bent over me, he had whispered some hurried instructions to the nearest oasis, but I had either misunderstood or made a wrong turning, an error we would pay for with our lives.
If only I had never gone back to Sarah! I had been deceived; it had been no divine being but a demon who had made such dazzling promises on that day when, out of fear and despair, I had run away from my mistress. My bones and Ishmael’s would whiten in the blazing sun, and only Isaac would father the great nation Abraham’s God had promised him. I slumped on the ground, sunk in my misery.
Ishmael gave another moan, and it was as if the voice which had spoken to me before spoke once again. In the deathly quiet around us, I heard a blessed sound, a tiny splash as some desert creature landed in water. Lifting up my eyes, I looked desperately around, trying to place the sound, and found it at last, only a few feet away from where I was lying. El-Roi had not lied to me after all, and I knelt by the spring to fill the waterskin, babbling thanks and apologies as my laughter mingled with my tears, and my tears with the water of life