“Look!” cried poor Dumah. “The son of the widow of Nain! The son of the widow of Nain! Oh, why does not he whom Dumah sees in his dreams come to raise him! But then, there are idols here, and he cannot come where there are other gods before him.”
On surveying the temple, Yusuf discovered that the door of the edifice was placed seven feet above the ground. Amzi informed him that the temple might be entered only at certain times, but that it contained an image of Abraham holding in its hand some arrows without heads; also a similar statue of Ishmael likewise with divining arrows, and lesser images of prophets and angels amounting almost to the number of three hundred.
Passing round the temple to the north-eastern corner, Yusuf looked curiously at the Black Stone, which was set in the wall at a few spans from the ground, and which seemed to be black with yellowish specks in it. Many people were pressing forward to kiss it, while many more were drinking and laving themselves with water from a well a few paces distant,—the well Zem-Zem,—believing that in so doing their sins were washed off in the water.
“This,” said Amzi, pointing to the spring, “is said to be the well which gushed up to give drink to our forefather Ishmael and Hagar his mother, when they had gone into the wilderness to die.”
Yusuf sighed heavily. Such empty ceremony had no longer any attraction for him, and he turned his eyes towards the mountain Abu Kubays, towering dark and gloomy above the town, its black crest touched with a silvery radiance by the light of the stars shining brilliantly above.
Was this, then, the Caaba? Was this what he had fondly hoped would fill his heart’s longing? Was there any food in this empty ceremonial for a hungering soul? Why, oh why did the truth ever elude him, flitting like an ignis-fatuus with phantom light through a dark and blackened wilderness!
Amzi was talking to someone in the crowd, and Yusuf passed slowly out and bent his way down a silent and deserted street. No one was in sight except a very young girl, almost a child, who was gliding quickly on in the shadows. Once or twice she seemed to stagger, then she fell. Yusuf hurried to her, and turned her face to the starlight. Even in that dim light he could see that it was contorted with pain. Yusuf heard the murmur of voices in a low building close at hand, and, without waiting to knock, he lifted the girl in his arms, opened the door, and passed in.
Nathan the Jew.
“I shall be content,
whatever happens, for what God chooses must
be better than what I can choose.”—Epictetus.