He had not spoken before, and some of the Moors tried to laugh at his answer; but his voice, which was like a frenzied cry, went to the hearts of the Jews, and many of them fell away from the crowd straightway, and followed it no farther. It was the cry of the voice of a brother. They had been insulting calamity itself.
“Balak!” shouted the soldier, and the crier cried once more, and the procession moved again.
It was the hour of Israel’s last temptation. Not a glance in his face disclosed passion, but his heart was afire. The devil seemed to be jarring at his ear, “Look! Listen! Is it for people like these that you have come to this? Were they worth the sacrifice? You might have been rich and great, and riding on their heads. They would have honoured you then, but now they despise you. Fool! You have sold all and given to the poor, and this is the end of it.” But in the throes and last gasp of his agony, hearing his voice in his ear, and seeing Naomi going barefooted on the stones before him, an angel seemed to come to him and whisper, “Be strong. Only a little longer. Finish as you have begun. Well done, servant of God, well done!”
He did not flinch, but rode on without a word or a cry. Once he lifted his head and looked down at the steaming, gaping, grinning cauldron of faces black and white. “O pity of men!” he thought. “What devil is tempting them?”
By this time the procession had come to the town walls at a point near to the Bab Toot. No one had observed until then that the rain was no longer falling, but now everybody was made aware of this at once by sight of a rainbow which spanned the sky to the north-west immediately over the arch of the gate.
Israel saw the rainbow, and took it for a sign. It was God’s hand in the heavens. To this gate then, and through it, out of Tetuan, into the land beyond—the plains, the hills, the desert where no man was wronged—God Himself, and not these people, had that day been leading them!
What happened next Israel never rightly knew. His proper sense of life seemed lost. Through thick waves of hot air he heard many voices.
First the voice of the crier, “So shall it be done to every man who is an enemy of the Kaid, and to every woman who is a play-actor and a cheat.”
Then the voice of the soldier, “Balak! Balak!”
After that a multitudinous din that seemed to break off sharply and then to come muffled and dense as from the other side of the closed gate.
When Israel came to himself again he was walking on a barren heath that was dotted over with clumps of the long aloe, and he was holding Naomi by the hand.
LIFE’S NEW LANGUAGE