God did not hear the prayer of Israel. Next morning a guard of soldiers came out from Tetuan and took him prisoner in the name of the Kaid. The release of the poor followers of Absalam out of the prison at Shawan had become known by the blind gratitude of one of them, who, hastening to Israel’s house in the Mellah, had flung himself down on his face before it.
ISRAEL IN PRISON
Short as the time was—some three months and odd days—since the prison at Shawan had been emptied by order of the warrant which Israel had sealed without authority in the name of Ben Aboo, it was now occupied by other prisoners. The remoteness of the town in the territory of the Akhmas, and the wild fanaticism of the Shawanis, had made the old fortress a favourite place of banishment to such Kaids of other provinces as looked for heavier ransoms from the relatives of victims, because the locality of their imprisonment was unknown or the danger of approaching it was terrible. And thus it happened that some fifty or more men and boys from near and far were already living in the dungeon from which Israel and Ali together had set the other prisoners free.
This was the prison to which Israel was taken when he was torn from Naomi and the simple home that he had made for himself near Semsa. “Ya Allah! Let the dog eat the crust which he thought too hard for his pups!” said Ben Aboo, as he sealed the warrant which consigned Israel to the Kaid of Shawan.
Israel was taken to the prison afoot, and reached it on the morning of the second day after his arrest. The sun was shining as he approached the rude old block of masonry and entered the passage that led down to the dungeon. In a little court at the door of the place the Kaid el habs, the jailer, was sitting on a mattress, which served him for chair by day and bed by night. He was amusing himself with a ginbri, playing loud and low according as the tumult was great or little which came from the other side of a barred and knotted doorway behind him, some four feet high, and having a round peephole in the upper part of it. On the wall above hung leather thongs, and a long Reefian flintlock stood in the corner.
At Israel’s approach there were some facetious comments between the jailer and the guard. Why the ginbri? Was he practising for the fires of Jehinnum? Was he to fiddle for the Jinoon? Well, what was a man to do while the dogs inside were snarling? Were the thongs for the correction of persons lacking understanding? Why, yes; everybody knew their old saying, “A hint to the wise, a blow to the fool.”
A bunch of great keys rattled, the low doorway was thrown open, Israel stooped and went in, the door closed behind him, the footsteps of the guard died away, and the twang of the ginbri began again.