The King was sat between the two gates, every muscle in his aging body strained with tension. His noble figure without a doubt excited notice, although the King was approaching his sixtieth winter. In old age the silver of his beard and the strong grey line of his brow only served to underline the gentle delicacy of his features. All of Israel knew the face of the King.

All of Israel for forty years had served the court with wholly merited devotion, as the King was a fair and loving ruler. Above all else he was annointed.

David sat between the two gates, awaiting news about his son, his beloved, Absalom, who not a week before had turned against the courts of David, raping, pillaging and slandering the King's name. And the King, following his people's counsel, had fled into the desert as his generals confronted Absalom's armies in battle.

Many hours passed under the sun, but the King did not notice, so lost was he in anxious thought. And the watchmen stood up on the roof with eyes lifted, peering over the desert's distant lands.

And behold: a man running alone. The watchman cried: "Behold, a lone man approaching the gates!"

And the king said: "If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. He must be a messenger."

As the lone man drew nearer, kicking up sand in his haste to reach the gates, the keen watchman saw another man running. Instantly he called unto the porter: "Behold, yet another man running alone!"

And the King, afflicted, said: "He also brings tidings."

The watchman, still peering, increasingly felt he recognized the figure of the lone man leading the way. As sudden realisation struck him, he cried out: "Let me speak one more word unto my lord the King!" And the King said: "Say on."

The watchmen spoke: "Unless my eyes be cheated by some spell, the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, the Priest."

And the King, whose heart was lifted momentarily, said: "He is a good man. He will come with good tidings."

Ahimaaz, as he reached the gates, threw himself down upon his face before the King, and said: "All is well! Blessed be the Lord our God, who has delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the King.

And the King, in a strained voice, said: "What about Absalom? Is the young man Absalom safe?"

And Ahimaaz answered: "When Joab sent me, your servant, I saw a great tumult but I knew not what it was."

The King, his heart sinking, said unto him: "Turn aside and stand here." And Ahimaaz turned aside and stood still, quietly waiting for the second messenger to draw near.

And behold, Cushi arrived at the gates, sunburnt and out of breath, his lips parched from the desert heat. Throwing himself down at the King's feet, he cried out: "Tidings, my lord the King! For the Lord has avenged you this day of all those that rose up against you."

And the King, trembling, said unto Cushi: "What of my son? What of Absalom? Is the young man Absalom safe?"

And Cushi, pressing his forehead into the dust at David's feet, answered: "May the enemies of my lord the King, and all that rise against to do you hurt, suffer the same fate as that young man has."

And the King staggered, bracing himself against the sunbleached walls of the gate. And he went up to the chamber over the gate, weeping; and as he wept he cried out:

"O, my son Absalom, my son! My son Absalom! Would God I had died in your stead, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people, for the people heard say that day how the King was grieved for his son. And they snuck that day into the city, as soldiers being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.

And the king covered his face and cried, in a loud voice: "O, my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son! My son!"

(adapted from 2 Samuel 18, King James Version)