Ben Aboo knew his awful fate. Gesticulating wildly, having flung the money-bags from him, slobbering and screaming, the blighted soul was seen to raise his eyes towards the black sky, his thick lubber lips working visibly, as if in wild invocation of heaven. At the next instant the stones began to fall on him. Slowly they fell at first, and he reeled under them like a drunken man; the back of his neck arched itself like the neck of a bull, and like the roar of a bull was the groan that came from his throat. Then they fell faster, and he swayed to and fro, and grunted, with his beard bobbing at his breast, and his tongue lolling out. Faster and faster, and thicker and thicker they showered upon him, darting out of the darkness like swallows of the night. His clothes were rent, his blood spirted over them, he staggered as a beast staggers in the slaughter, and at length his thick knees doubled up, and he fell in a round heap like a ball.
The ferocity of the crowd was not yet quelled. They hailed the fall of Ben Aboo with a triumphant howl, but their stones continued to shower upon his body. In a little while they had piled a cairn above it. Then they left it with curses of content and went their ways. When the Spanish soldiers, who had stood aside while the work was done, came up with their lanterns to look at this monument of Eastern justice, the heap of stones was still moving with the terrific convulsions of death.
Such was the fall of El Arby, nicknamed Ben Aboo.
Travelling through the night,—Naomi laughing and singing snatches in her new-found joy, and the Mahdi looking back at intervals at the huge outline of Tetuan against the blackness of the sky,—they came to the hut by Semsa before dawn of the following day. But they had come too late. Israel ben Oliel was not, after all, to set out for England. He was going on a longer journey. His lonely hour had come to him, his dark hour wherein none could bear him company. On a mattress by the wall he lay outstretched, unconscious, and near to his end. Two neighbours from the village were with him, and but for these he must have been alone—the mighty man in his downfall deserted by all save the great Judge and God.
What Naomi did when the first shock of this hard blow fell upon her, what she said, and how she bore herself, it would be a painful task to tell. Oh, the irony of fate! Ay, the irony of God! That scene, and what followed it, looked like a cruel and colossal jest—none the less cruel because long drawn out and as old as the days of Job.
It was useless to go out in search of a doctor. The country was as innocent of leechcraft as the land of Canaan in the days of Abraham. All they could do was to submit, absolutely and unconditionally. They were in God’s hands.