But at the next moment he had fallen back to his place, and was sobbing like a little child. The other prisoners had risen in their amazement, and ’Larby, who was shedding hot tears over his cold ones, was capering down the floor, and singing, “El Arby was a black man.”
Then there was a rattling of keys, and suddenly a flood of light shot into the dark place. The Kaid el habs was bringing a courier, who carried an order for Israel’s release. Abd er-Rahman, the Sultan, was to keep the feast of the Moolood at Tetuan, and Ben Aboo, to celebrate the visit, had pardoned Israel.
It was coals of fire on Israel’s head. “God is good,” he muttered. “I shall see her again. Yes, God has a right to do as He will. I shall see her soon. God is wise beyond all wisdom. I must lose no time. Jailer can I leave the town to-night? I wish to start on my journey. To-night?—yes, to-night! Are the gates open? No? You will open them? You are very good. Everybody is very good. God is good. God is mighty.”
Then half in shame, and partly as apology for his late intemperate outburst, with a simpleness that was almost childish, he said, “A man’s a fool when he loses his only child. I don’t mean by death. Time heals that. But the living child—oh, it’s an unending pain! You would never think how happy we were. Her pretty ways were all my joy. Yes, for her voice was music, and her breath was like the dawn. Do you know, I was very fond of the little one—I was quite miserable if I lost sight of her for an hour. And then to be wrenched away! . . . . But I must hasten back. The little one will be waiting. Yes, I know quite well she’ll be looking out from the door in the sunshine when she awakes in the morning. It’s always the way of these tender creatures, is it not? So we must humour them. Yes, yes, that’s so that’s so.”
His fellow-prisoners stood around him each in his night-headkerchief knotted under his chin—gaunt, hooded figures, in the shifting light of the jailer’s lantern.
“Farewell, brothers!” he cried; and one by one they touched his hand and brought it to their breasts.
“Farewell, master!” “Peace, Sidi!” “Farewell!” “Peace!” “Farewell!”
The light shot out; the door clasped back; there were footsteps dying away outside; two loud bangs as of a closing gate, and then silence—empty and ghostly.
In the darkness the hooded figures stood a moment listening, and then a croaking, breaking, husky, merry voice began to sing—
El Arby was a black
They called him “’Larby Kosk;”
He loved the wives of the Kasbah,
And stole slippers in the Mosque.
HOW NAOMI TURNED MUSLIMA
What had happened to Naomi during the two months and a half while Israel lay at Shawan is this: After the first agony of their parting, in which she was driven back by the soldiers when she attempted to follow them, she sat down in a maze of pain, without any true perception of the evil which had befallen her, but with her father’s warning voice and his last words in her ear: “Stay here. Never leave this place. Whatever they say, stay here. I will come back.”