Before the sun was high everything was in readiness, and the caravan was waiting at the door. Then Israel remembered Naomi. Where was the girl, that he had not seen her that morning? They answered him that she had not yet left her room, and he sent the black woman Fatimah to fetch her. And when she came and he had kissed her, bidding her farewell in silence, his heart misgave him concerning her, and, after raising his foot to the stirrup, he returned to where she stood in the patio with the two bondwomen beside her.
“Is she well?” he asked.
“Oh yes, well—very well,” said Fatimah, and Habeebah echoed her. Nevertheless, Israel remembered that he had not heard the only language of her lips, her laugh, and, looking at her again, he saw that her face, which had used to be cheerful, was now sad. At that he almost repented of his purpose, and but for shame in his own eyes he might have gone no farther, for it smote him with terror that, though she were sick, nothing could she say to stay him, and even if she were dying she must let him go his ways without warning.
He kissed her again, and she clung to him, so that at last, with many words of tender protest which she did not hear, he had to break away from the beautiful arms that held him.
Ali was waiting by the mules in the streets, and the soldier and guide and muleteers and tentmen were already mounted, amid a chattering throng of idle people looking on.
“Ali, my lad,” said Israel, “if anything should befall Naomi while I am away, will you watch over her and guard her with all your strength?”
“With all my life,” said Ali stoutly. He was Naomi’s playfellow no longer, but her devoted slave.
Then Israel set off on his journey.
Mohammed of Mequinez, the man whom Israel went out to seek, had been a Kadi and the son of a Kadi. While he was still a child his father died, and he was brought up by two uncles, his father’s brothers, both men of yet higher place, the one being Naib es-sultan, or Foreign Minister, at Tangier, and the other Grand Vizier to the Sultan at Morocco. Thus in a land where there is one noble only, the Sultan himself, where ascent and descent are as free as in a republic, though the ways of both are mired with crime and corruption, Mohammed was come as from the highest nobility. Nevertheless, he renounced his rank and the hope of wealth that went along with it at the call of duty and the cry of misery.
He parted from his uncles, abandoned his judgeship, and went out into the plains. The poor and outcast and down-trodden among the people, the shamed, the disgraced, and the neglected left the towns and followed him. He established a sect. They were to be despisers of riches and lovers of poverty. No man among them was to have more than another. They were never to buy or sell among themselves, but