“But you will teach them?” returned Manasseh.
“Ah, yes, if God spares me through this perilous time I shall teach them.”
“Have you heard or seen aught of Kedar, lately?” asked Manasseh, abruptly.
“In the Battle of the Ditch I saw him for a moment, charging furiously against one of Abu Sofian’s divisions. He was in advance of the rest, riding with his head bent in the teeth of the tempest. On a knoll above me, I saw him for a moment, between me and the sky, his hair and long sash streaming in the wind; then the rain came, and I saw him no more. Aye, but he is a brave lad!”
“Poor cousin!” said Manasseh. “It is misplaced bravery. Would he were one of us!”
“He is not a Christian; and, unless he were so, a spirit like his would scorn to be one of such a craven, contention-torn mob as that which Abu Sofian brought to the field. Strange, is it not, that the little band of Christians find themselves allied to a set of idolaters, against one who would cast idols down?”
“Aye, but Mohammed would trample Christians and idolaters alike. Think you that defeat was owing wholly to cowardice of the soldiers?”
“Not so much, perhaps, as to bad generalship of the leader,” returned Asru. “Nevertheless the superstition of the heathen Arabs, and their fear when the cry of Mohammed’s enchantment was raised, made a craven of every one of them. Manasseh, had we had ten thousand Christian Jews, there might have been a different story.”
“We are nearly all Jews, here,” said Manasseh, proudly. “Have you happy forebodings for the issue of the next combat?”
Asru shook his head, gloomily. “There will be a brave resistance on the part of our garrisons,” he said, “although many of the men are well-nigh as ignorant and superstitious as the heathen Arabs; but Mohammed’s forces have swelled wondrously since the ‘enchanted’ storm. Well, we can but do our best. Now, I see that the council has assembled. They call us. Come.”
The two left the arbor and joined the others in the middle of the garden. And there, while the stars shone peacefully above in the evening sky, and the palm-trees waved, and a little bird twittered contentedly over its nest in an olive bush, these men talked of measures of fortification, of tactics of war, and schemes of blood-shed; a conversation forced upon them, not as a matter of choice but of necessity—the necessity of a desperate few, earthed by a relentless conqueror and a ruthless despot, whose intolerance to all who denied his claims has never been surpassed in earth’s history.
“Five great enemies
to peace inhabit with us, viz.: Avarice,
Ambition, Envy, Anger, and Pride.”—Petrarch.
In the meantime Yusuf and Amzi had taken up the old routine of life in Mecca—the faithful doing of the daily round, the little deeds of charity, the duties of business, the attendance at meetings in the little church. Everything seemed to sink back into the old way, yet there was not a man in the city but held himself in readiness to take up arms were an attack made upon them to wrest from them their freedom.