“And think you this Mohammed is worthy of your sacrifice?” she asked.
“If he be really inspired, as hundreds now believe, is he not worthy of every sacrifice? Does he not promise his followers an eternal felicity?”
“A vile impostor!” exclaimed the woman harshly. “Yet you will not believe what I say, until your own eyes see and your own ears hear! Go! Go! I shall talk no more to you! If you fall it shall be no fault of Lois’!”
She arose and waved him off with an impatient gesture. Yet he lingered.
“You will forgive me, mother?” he asked, gently.
The woman’s mother-heart welled to the brim. She answered brokenly:
“My son, my son! Could I do aught else? Take my blessing with you! And now, here comes your father.”
Musa was feebler than upon that first night when he met Yusuf in his tent, and his hair had become almost white, yet there was the same dignity in his appearance.
“Go, Kedar,” he said, “and prove that you are indeed the son of Musa. Go, and see that you bring back good news of battle!”
Kedar bent his head in token of assent.
Before an hour had passed he was mounted on the swiftest of his father’s horses—a short, fleshless animal, with legs thin and of steel-like muscle. But its slender neck, its small, snake-like head, its dilating nostrils, through which the light shone crimson, and its fiery, intelligent eye, showed its blood as it pawed the ground and neighed impatiently. A noble animal and a noble rider they looked as they were off like an arrow, Kedar’s fine figure swaying with the movement of the steed as though rider and horse were one.
All alone went the youth across hill and valley, over rock and torrent, fearless and swift as an eagle; for Kedar scorned to seek the protection of numbers, although quite aware of the fact that a large caravan, under Abu Sofian, was even then on its way from Syria to Mecca, and was within three hours’ journey from him.
ABU SOFIAN’S CARAVAN.
While Kedar was thus speeding towards Medina, the caravan was also proceeding more slowly towards the south. It consisted of thirty horsemen and one thousand camels richly laden with grain, with spices, with purple of Syria, richest cloths of Damascus, and choicest perfumes of the northern regions.
It was the month Ramadhan, and the peaceful traders went confidently and securely on their way, well pleased with the success of their journey and hopeful in anticipation of the large gain they were to make during the great bazar of the pilgrimage.
While thus proceeding leisurely on, the leaders were somewhat surprised to see a solitary rider coming towards them in the greatest haste. He was mounted on a swift dromedary, and with head bent down so that his turban concealed his face, he kept striking the animal with his short camel-stick and urging it on with his shrill “Yakh! Yakh!”