The dog stopped a moment, for such love was human, and it seemed as if the madness of the monster shrank before it. But the people came down with their wild shouts and curses, and the dog sprang upon the goat and felled it, and fled away. The people followed it, and then Naomi was alone in the market-place, and the goat lay at her feet.
Ali found her there, and brought her home to her father’s house in the Mellah, and her dying champion with her. And out of this hard chance, and not out of Israel’s teaching, Naomi was first to learn what life is and what is death. She felt the goat with her hands, and as she did so her fingers shook. Then she lifted it to its feet, and when they slipped from under it she raised her white face in wonder. Again she lifted it, and made strange noises at its ear; but when it did not answer with its bleat her lips began to tremble. Then she listened for its breathing, and felt for its breath; but when neither the one came to her ear, nor the other to her cheek, her own breath beat hot and fast. At length she fondled it in her arms, and kissed it with her lips; and when it gave back no sign of motion nor any sound of voice, a wild labouring rose at her heart. At last, when the power of life was low in it, the goat opened its heavy eyes upon her and put forth its tongue and licked her hand. With that last farewell the brave heart of the little creature broke, and it stretched itself and died.
Israel saw it all. His heart bled to see the parting in silence between those two, for not more dumb was the goat that now was dead than the human soul that was left alive. He tried to put the goat from Naomi’s arms, saying, “It was only a goat, my child; think of it no more,” though it smote him with pain to say it, for had not the creature given its life for her life? And where, O God, was the difference between them? But Naomi clung to the goat, and her throat swelled and her bosom fluttered, and her whole body panted, and it was almost as if her soul were struggling to burst through the bonds that bound it, that she might speak and ask and know.
“Oh, what does it mean? Why is it? Why? Why?”
Such were the questions that seemed ready to break from her tongue. And, thinking to answer her, Israel drew her to him and said, “It is dead, my child—the goat is dead.”
But as he spoke that word he saw by her face, as by a flash of light in a dark place, that, often as he had told her of death, never until that hour had she known what it was. Then, if the words that he had spoken of death had carried no meaning, what could he hope of the words that he had spoken of life, and of the little things which concerned their household? And if Naomi had not heard the words he had said of these—if she had not pondered and interpreted them—if they had fallen on her ear only as voices in a dark cavern—only as dead birds on a dead sea—what of the other words, the greater words, the words of the Book of the Law and the Prophets, the words of heaven and of the resurrection and of God?