Israel took back his prayer. There were things to know that words could never tell. Now was Naomi blind for the first time, being no longer dumb. “Give her sight, O Lord,” he cried; “open her eyes that she may see; let her look on Thy beautiful world and know it! Then shall her life be safe, and her heart be happy, and her soul be Thine, and Thy servant at last be satisfied!”
ISRAEL’S GREAT RESOLVE
It was six-and-twenty days since the night of the meeting on the Sok, and no rain had yet fallen. The eggs of the locust might be hatched at any time. Then the wingless creatures would rise on the face of the earth like snow, and the poor lean stalks of wheat and barley that were coming green out of the ground would wither before them. The country people were in despair. They were all but stripped of their cattle; they had no milk; and they came afoot to the market. Death seemed to look them in the face. Neither in the mosques nor in the synagogues did they offer petitions to God for rain. They had long ceased their prayers. Only in the Feddan at the mouths of their tents did they lift up their heavy eyes to the hot haze of the pitiless sky and mutter, “It is written!”
Israel was busy with other matters. During these six-and-twenty days he had been asking himself what it was right and needful that he should do. He had concluded at length that it was his duty to give up the office he held under the Kaid. No longer could he serve two masters. Too long had he held to the one, thinking that by recompense and restitution, by fair dealing and even-handed justice, he might atone to the other. Recompense was a mockery of the sufferings which had led to death; restitution was no longer possible—his own purse being empty—without robbery of the treasury of his master; fair dealing and even justice were a vain hope in Barbary, where every man who held office, from the heartless Sultan in his hareem to the pert Mut’hasseb in the market, must be only as a human torture-jellab, made and designed to squeeze the life-blood out of the man beneath him.
To endure any longer the taunts and laughter of Ben Aboo was impossible, and to resist the covetous importunities of his Spanish woman, Katrina, was a waste of shame and spirit. Besides, and above all, Israel remembered that God had given him grace in the sacrifices which he had made already. Twice had God rewarded him, in the mercy He had shown to Naomi, for putting by the pomp and circumstance of the world. Would His great hand be idle now—now when he most needed its mighty and miraculous power when Naomi, being conscious of her blindness, was mourning and crying for sweet sight of the world and he himself was about to put under his feet the last of his possessions that separated him from other men—his office that he wrought for in the early days with sweat of brow and blood, and held on to in the later days through evil report and hatred, that he might conquer the fate that had first beaten him down!