And when he remembered Naomi, he quarrelled with God again. She was a helpless exile among men, a creature banished from all human intercourse, a living soul locked in a tabernacle of flesh. Was it a good God who had taken the mother from such a child—the child from such a mother? Israel was heart-smitten, and his soul blasphemed. It was not God but the devil that ruled the world. It was not justice but evil that governed it.
Thus did this outcast man rebel against God, thinking of the child’s loss and of his own; but nevertheless by the child itself he was yet to be saved from the devil’s snare, and the ways wherein this sweet flower, fresh from God’s hand, wrought upon his heart to redeem it were very strange and beautiful.
The promise which Israel made to Ruth at her death, that Naomi should not lack for love and tending, he faithfully fulfilled. From that time forward he became as father and mother both to the child.
At the outset of his charge he made a survey of her condition, and found it more terrible than imagination of the mind could think or words of the tongue express. It was easy to say that she was deaf and dumb and blind, but it was hard to realise what so great an affliction implied. It implied that she was a little human sister standing close to the rest of the family of man, yet very far away from them. She was as much apart as if she had inhabited a different sphere. No human sympathy could reach her in joy or pain and sorrow. She had no part to play in life. In the midst of a world of light she was in a land of darkness, and she was in a world of silence in the midst of a land of sweet sounds. She was a living and buried soul.
And of that soul itself what did Israel know? He knew that it had memory, for Naomi had remembered her mother; and he knew that it had love, for she had pined for Ruth, and clung to her. But what were love and memory without sight and speech? They were no more than a magnet locked in a casket—idle and useless to any purposes of man or the world.
Thinking of this, Israel realised for the first time how awful was the affliction of his motherless girl. To be blind was to be afflicted once, but to be both blind and deaf was not only to be afflicted twice, but twice ten thousand times, and to be blind and deaf and dumb was not merely to be afflicted thrice, but beyond all reckonings of human speech.
For though Naomi had been blind, yet, if she could have had hearing, her father might have spoken with her, and if she had sorrows he must have soothed them, and if she had joys he must have shared them, and in this beautiful world of God, so full of things to look upon and to love, he must have been eyes of her eyes that could not see. On the other hand, though Naomi had been deaf, yet if she could have had sight her father might have held intercourse with her by