Yet it is the grandeur of human nature that when it is trodden down it waits for no decree of nations, but finds its own solace amid the baffled struggle against inimical power in the hopes of an exalted faith. That cry of the soul to be lifted out of the bondage of the narrow circle of life, which carries up to God the protest and yearning of suffering man, never finds a more sublime expression than where humanity is oppressed and religion is corrupt. On the one hand, the hard experience of daily existence; on the other hand, the soul crying out that the things of this world are not the true realities. Savage vices make savage virtues. God and man are brought face to face.
In the heart of Morocco there is one man who lives a life that is like a hymn, appealing to God against tyranny and corruption and shame. This great soul is the leader of a vast following which has come to him from every scoured and beaten corner of the land. His voice sounds throughout Barbary, and wheresoever men are broken they go to him, and wheresoever women are fallen and wrecked they seek the mercy and the shelter of his face. He is poor, and has nothing to give them save one thing only, but that is the best thing of all—it is hope. Not hope in life, but hope in death, the sublime hope whose radiance is always around him. Man that veils his face before the mysteries of the hereafter, and science that reckons the laws of nature and ignores the power of God, have no place with the Mahdi. The unseen is his certainty; the miracle is all in all to him; he throngs the air with marvels; God speaks to him in dreams when he sleeps, and warns and directs him by signs when he is awake.
With this man, so singular a mixture of the haughty chief and the joyous child, there is another, a woman, his wife. She is beautiful with a beauty rarely seen in other women, and her senses are subtle beyond the wonders of enchantment. Together these two, with their ragged fellowship of the poor behind them, having no homes and no possessions, pass from place to place, unharmed and unhindered, through that land of intolerance and iniquity, being protected and reverenced by virtue of the superstition which accepts them for Saints. Who are they? What have they been?
ISRAEL BEN OLIEL
Israel was the son of a Jewish banker at Tangier. His mother was the daughter of a banker in London. The father’s name was Oliel; the mother’s was Sara. Oliel had held business connections with the house of Sara’s father, and he came over to England that he might have a personal meeting with his correspondent. The English banker lived over his office, near Holborn Bars, and Oliel met with his family. It consisted of one daughter by a first wife, long dead, and three sons by a second wife, still living. They were not altogether a happy household, and the chief apparent cause of discord was the child of the first wife in the home of the second. Oliel was a man of quick perception, and he saw the difficulty. That was how it came about that he was married to Sara. When he returned to Morocco he was some thousand pounds richer than when he left it, and he had a capable and personable wife into his bargain.