At this awful cry Fatimah fled out of the hut. It was the last voice of tottering reason. After that he became quiet, and when Fatimah returned the following morning he was talking to himself in a childish way while sitting at the door, and gazing before him with a lifeless look. Sometimes he quoted Scriptures which were startlingly true to his own condition: “I am alone, I am a companion to owls. . . . I have cleansed my heart in vain. . . . My feet are almost gone, my steps have well-nigh slipped. . . . I am as one whom his mother comforteth.”
Between these Scriptures there were low incoherent cries and simple foolish play-words. Again and again he called on Naomi, always softly and tenderly, as if her name were a sacred thing. At times he appeared to think that he was back in prison, and made a little prayer—always the same—that some one should be kept from harm and evil. Once he seemed to hear a voice that cried, “Israel ben Oliel! Israel ben Oliel!” “Here! Israel is here!” he answered. He thought the Kaid was calling him. The Kaid was the King. “Yes, I will go back to the King,” he said. Then he looked down at his tattered kaftan, which was mired with dirt, and tried to brush it clean, to button it, and to tie up the ragged threads of it. At last he cried, as if servants were about him and he were a master still, “Bring me robes—clean robes—white robes; I am going back to the King!”
THE ENTRY OF THE SULTAN
Meantime Tetuan was looking for the visit of His Shereefian Majesty, the Sultan Abd er-Rahman. He had been heard of about four hours away, encamped with his Ministers, a portion of his hareem, and a detachment of his army, somewhere by the foot of Beni Hosmar. His entry was fixed for eight o’clock next morning, and preparations for his coming were everywhere afoot. All other occupations were at a standstill, and nothing was to be heard but the noise and clamour of the cleansing of the streets, and the hanging of flags and of carpets.
Early on the following morning a street-crier came, beating a drum, and crying in a hoarse voice, “Awake! Awake! Come and greet your Lord! Awake! Awake!”
In a little while the streets were alive with motley and noisy crowds. The sun was up, if still red and hazy, and sunlight came like a tunnel of gold down the swampy valley and from over the sea; the orange orchards lying to the south, called the gardens of the Sultan, were red rather than yellow, and the snowy crests of the mountain heights above them were crimson rather than white. In the town itself the small red flag that is the Moorish ensign hung out from every house, and carpets of various colours swung on many walls.