He had stepped aside as he spoke, and with a sweep of his arm he was driving them all out like sheep before him, dumbfounded and with their eyes in the dust, when suddenly there was a low cry from the inner room.
It was Ruth calling for her husband. Israel wheeled about and went in to her hurriedly, and his enemies, by one impulse of evil instinct, followed him and listened from the threshold.
Ruth’s face was a face of fear, and her lips moved, but no voice came from them.
And Israel said, “How is it with you, my dearest joy of my joy and pride of my pride?”
Then Ruth lifted the babe from her bosom and said “The Lord has counted my prayer to me as sin—look, see; the child is both dumb and blind!”
At that word Israel’s heart died within him, but he muttered out of his dry throat, “No, no, never believe it!”
“True, true, it is true,” she moaned; “the child has not uttered a cry, and its eyelids have not blinked at the light.”
“Never believe it, I say!” Israel growled, and he lifted the babe in his arms to try it.
But when he held it to the fading light of the window which opened upon the street where the woman called the prophetess had cursed him, the eyes of the child did not close, neither did their pupils diminish. Then his limbs began to tremble, so that the midwife took the babe out of his arms and laid it again on its mother’s bosom.
And Ruth wept over it, saying, “Even if it were a son never could it serve in the synagogue! Never! Never!”
At that Israel began to curse and to swear. His enemies had now pushed themselves into the chamber, and they cried, “Peace! Peace!” And old Judah ben Lolo, the elder of the synagogue, grunted, and said, “Is it not written that no one afflicted of God shall minister in His temples?”
Israel stared around in silence into the faces about him, first into the face of his wife, and then into the faces of his enemies whom he had bidden. Then he fell to laughing hideously and crying, “What matter? Every monkey is a gazelle to its mother!” But after that he staggered, his knees gave way, he pitched half forward and half aside, like a falling horse, and with a deep groan he fell with his face to the floor.
The midwife and the slave lifted him up and moistened his lips with water; but his enemies turned and left him, muttering among themselves, “The Lord killeth and maketh alive, He bringeth low and lifteth up, and into the pit that the evil man diggeth or another He causeth his foot to slip.”
THE CHILDHOOD OF NAOMI
Throughout Tetuan and the country round about Israel was now an object of contempt. God had declared against him, God had brought him low, God Himself had filled him with confusion. Then why should man show him mercy?
But if he was despised he was still powerful. None dare openly insult him. And, between their fear and their scorn of him, the shifts of the rabble to give vent to their contempt were often ludicrous enough. Thus, they would call their dogs and their asses by his name, and the dogs would be the scabbiest in the streets, and the asses the laziest in the market.