When he got to Tetuan the white city was glistening under the setting sun. Then he thought of his Moorish jellab, and looked at himself, and saw that he was returning home like a beggar; and he remembered with what splendour he had started out. Should he wait for the darkness, and creep into his house under the cover of it? If the thought had occurred an hour before he must have scouted it. Better to brave the looks of every face in Tetuan than be kept back one minute from Naomi. But now that he was so near he was afraid to go in; and now that he was so soon to learn the truth he dreaded to hear it. So he walked to and fro on the heath outside the town, paltering with himself, struggling with himself, eating out his heart with eagerness, trying to believe that he was waiting for the night.
The night came at length, and, under a deep-blue sky fast whitening with thick stars, Israel passed unknown through the Moorish gate, which was still open, and down the narrow lane to the market square. At the gate of the Mellah, which was closed, he knocked, and demanded entrance in the name of the Kaid. The Moorish guards who kept it fell back at sight of him with looks of consternation.
“Israel!” cried one, and dropped his lantern.
Israel whispered, “Keep your tongue between your teeth!” and hurried on.
At the door of his own house, which was also closed, he knocked again, but more fearfully. The black woman Habeebah opened it cautiously, and, seeing his jellab, she clashed it back in his face.
“Habeebah!” he cried, and he knocked once more.
Then Ali came to the door. “What Moorish man are you?” cried Ali, pushing him back as he pressed forward.
“Ali! Hush! It is I—Israel.”
Then Ali knew him and cried, “God save us! What has happened?”
“What has happened here?” said Israel. “Naomi,” he faltered, “what of her?”
“Then you have heard?” said Ali. “Thank God, she is now well.”
Israel laughed—his laugh was like a scream.
“More than that—a strange thing has befallen her since you went away,” said Ali.
“She can hear!”
“It’s a lie!” cried Israel, and he raised his hand and struck Ali to the floor. But at the next minute he was lifting him up and sobbing and saying, “Forgive me, my brave boy. I was mad, my son; I did not know what I was doing. But do not torture me. If what you tell me is true, there is no man so happy under heaven; but if it is false, there is no fiend in hell need envy me.”
And Ali answered through his tears, “It is true, my father—come and see.”
THE BAPTISM OF SOUND
What had happened at Israel’s house during Israel’s absence is a story that may be quickly told. On the day of his departure Naomi wandered from room to room, seeming to seek for what she could not find, and in the evening the black women came upon her in the upper chamber where her father had read to her at sunset, and she was kneeling by his chair and the book was in her hands.