The corner of the courtyard was dark, and at first Absolom did not see into it. Then, she was so quiet and still that his eyes would have slipped over her altogether, if they had not been caught by the sudden waving of an arm by the infant at her breast. Beside her, another lady. She was never alone, not these days.

He offered a small bow. She nodded, reserved, aloof. If it had not been for David’s infatuation with her, she would not have mattered, another young wife, mother of yet another princeling. As it was, he paused. However irritating it was that his father had made a fool of himself, in the Palace there were always politics.

‘This baby does well?’ he asked, not caring.

‘This one does very well. It is good. The King is pleased, and I live to please the King,’ she said serenely. ‘One day the babe will be just such as his father – just as you and Amnon, you two elder sons.’

‘Well, little matter if he is or is not,’ said Absolom, his irritation showing, which was not at all what he had intended, ‘for the King has many sons, and Amnon will be King after him.’

‘Oh, I hope the King will live for ever!’ said Bathsheba, piously politic.

‘Indeed,’ said Absolom, ‘Oh, yes. And after him, I hope Amnon will live for ever.’

‘Well, such a fine man as David,’ said Bathsheba calmly, ‘I hope all his sons are like him. I myself strive to be as wise and generous as him, for all that I am but a weak woman.’

Absolom, irritated beyond good manners flung off, tossing back his beautiful hair.

Thoughtfully, Bathsheba watched him go. In the silence of her own head she considered that it might be easier than she had thought. Absolom was as impulsive as his father, and as hot tempered, and lacking his father’s innate caution and his wiliness. Amnon was, she thought, by far the stupidest of the sons, and almost bound to do something to shipwreck his chances of the throne. She stroked Solomon’s little downy cheek, and he rooted towards her nipple. ‘Give it time,’ she thought, ‘Give it time.’ She was already sowing the seeds which would bring others to see things the way she needed them to.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah

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