Had the hope of his heart been vanity? Did Naomi know nothing? Was her great gift a mockery?
Israel’s feet were set in a slippery place. Why had he boasted himself of God’s mercy? What were ears to hear to her that could not understand? Only a torment, a terror, a plague, a perpetual desolation! When Naomi had heard nothing she had known nothing, and never had her spirit asked and cried in vain. Now she was dumb for the first time, being no longer deaf. Miserable man that he was, why had the Lord heard his supplication and why had He received his prayer?
But, repenting of such reproaches, in memory of the joy that Naomi’s new gift had given her, he called on God to give her speech as well.
“Give her speech, O Lord!” he cried, “speech that shall lift her above the creatures of the field, speech whereby alone she may ask and know! Give her speech, O God my God, and Thy servant will be satisfied!”
ISRAEL AT SHAWAN
After Israel’s return from his journey he had followed the precepts of the young Mahdi of Mequinez. Taking a view of his situation, that by his hardness of heart in the early days, and by base submission to the will of Katrina, the Kaid’s Christian wife, in the later ones, he had filled the land with miseries, he now spared no cost to restore what he had unjustly extorted. So to him that had paid double in the taxings he had returned double—once for the tax and once for the excess; and if any man, having been unjustly taxed for the Kaid’s tribute, had given bond on his lands for his debt and been cast into the Kasbah and died, without ransoming them, then to his children he had returned fourfold—double for the lands and double for the death. Israel had done this continually, and said nothing to Ben Aboo, but paid all charges out of his own purse, so that from being a rich man he had fallen within a month to the condition of a poor one, for what was one man’s wealth among so many? Yet no goodwill had he won thereby, but only pity and contempt, for the people that had taken his money had thanked the Kaid for it, who, according to their supposals, had called on him to correct what he had done amiss. And with Ben Aboo himself he had fared no better, for the Basha was provoked to anger with him when he heard from Katrina of the good money that he had been casting away in pity for the poor.
“What have I told you a score of times?” said the woman. “That man has mints of money.”
“My money, burn his grandfather,” said Ben Aboo.
Thus, on every side Israel had fallen in the world’s reckoning. When he lifted his hand from off that plough wherewith he had done the devil’s work, he had made many enemies, and such as he had before he had made more powerful. People who had showed him lip-service when he was thought to be rich did not conceal the joy they had that he was brought down so near to be a beggar. Upstarts, who owed their promotion to his intercession, found in his charities an easy handle given them to be insolent, for, by carrying to Katrina their secret messages of his mercy to the people, they brought things at length to such a pass between him and the Kaid that Ben Aboo openly upbraided Israel for his weakness, not once or twice but many times.