White Hands was a very thin man, he looked the sort that would be nervous in Smoke’s experience, but this man didn’t seem to be. His eyes were serious, but he did not look embittered or even impoverished by his condition. Smoke tore his eyes away from White Hand’s gaze and focused his attention on the meager meal. “What do you mean?” Smoke ventured.
“Well, I confess, I was a bit discouraged. I was unsure of what the Lord had intended by stranding me here. Now I wonder, after a string of somewhat improbable failures to leave, if the reason I am here is you.”
There was little enough of the dried fish and greens but hunger made it delicious, “Good fortune for me.” he said around a mouthful.
“Most uncommon luck. More likely God’s providence.”
Smoke didn’t know what to make of the suggestion and the personal implications. He decided to take the focus off of himself, “Tell me, this Lord, this God of whom you speak. I have some knowledge of religion. I have lived among the Mohammedans and too I learned to read the Hebrew scripture. Is it one of these that you invoke?”
“Are you Jewish?”
“No. Or rather I do not believe so. I never knew my parents.” Smoke brushed aside the question about his person. “I just noticed that the prayers you chant, the songs, they seem to me to be much like the Psalms of the Hebrew king David, but you sing them in the language of the traders, the navigators.”
“Umircen. I am of that folk, originally. But now I serve the Lord God of Israel. Some call him Jehovah, though it is thought by scholars that His name is in truth Yahweh. I understand that the Hebrews do not say it lest they take that holy name in vain.”
“So you are of a sect of Judaism?”
“Devoted to the true King of Israel, the Christ, so we call ourselves Christian. But the sect, as you say, the brotherhood, is the Community of the Word. Jesus Christ is named also the Word, and the Light of the World, and many other names. Allah, though, is not among them.”
“Among the Mohammedans there is a Jesus who is honored as a prophet, I have not heard of him from the Jews. . .”
“He is prophet, priest, and He is King, not just of the Jews, but of this world and all others.”
“Hmmm, King of all. If you say, though it would seem that he does not pay his servants that well.”
White Hands laughed. Smoke was shocked by the reaction. The laughter was sincere as was the smile that White Hands shared with him. In truth, he had only meant to sting the fellow a little and break him out of his religious lecture, but the good will flowing from this fellow was at odds with what he had experienced from Muhammadan Imams and Jewish Rabbis alike. “I should ask Him about that. The Word says that He sends rain on the just and the unjust. Perhaps I could do with less of that one and more of another.” White Hands laughed at his own joke. “Do you read Umircen, the trader’s tongue, young man?”
“I do a little,” Smoke answered.
“Then perhaps I do have wealth to share, though not much food.”
“or wine. . .”
“In truth no, none at all for either of us, but we do have water.”