Part 12 out of 12
privately to me wouldn't do me any good in any case."
He felt miserable; from the crude standpoint of facts, there was no
answer to give. He gave none.
"I suppose it is all about now?" she went on, seeing him silent.
"Pretty well," he answered, understanding the question. Then, with an
indignant accent, he said, "Mrs. Goldsmith tells everybody she found it
out; and sent you away."
"I am glad she says that," she remarked enigmatically. "And, naturally,
everybody detests me?"
"Not everybody," he began threateningly.
"Don't let us stand on the steps," she interrupted. "People will be
looking at us." They moved slowly downwards, and into the hot, bustling
streets. "Why are you not at the _Flag_? I thought this was your busy
day." She did not add, "And so I ventured to the Museum, knowing there
was no chance of your turning up;" but such was the fact.
"I am not the editor any longer, he replied.
"Not?" She almost came to a stop. "So much for my critical faculty; I
could have sworn to your hand in every number."
"Your critical faculty equals your creative," he began.
"Journalism has taught you sarcasm."
"No, no! please do not be so unkind. I spoke in earnestness. I have only
just been dismissed."
"Dismissed!" she echoed incredulously. "I thought the _Flag_ was your
He grew troubled. "I bought it--but for another. We--he--has dispensed
with my services."
"Oh, how shameful!"
The latent sympathy of her indignation cheered him again.
"I am not sorry," he said. "I'm afraid I really was outgrowing its
"What?" she asked, with a note of mockery in her voice. "You have left
off being orthodox?"
"I don't say that, it seems to me, rather, that I have come to
understand I never was orthodox in the sense that the orthodox
understand the word. I had never come into contact with them before. I
never realized how unfair orthodox writers are to Judaism. But I do not
abate one word of what I have ever said or written, except, of course,
on questions of scholarship, which are always open to revision."
"But what is to become of me--of my conversion?" she said, with mock
"You need no conversion!" he answered passionately, abandoning without a
twinge all those criteria of Judaism for which he had fought with
Strelitski. "You are a Jewess not only in blood, but in spirit. Deny it
as you may, you have all the Jewish ideals,--they are implied in your
attack on our society."
She shook her head obstinately.
"You read all that into me, as you read your modern thought into the old
"I read what is in you. Your soul is in the right, whatever your brain
says." He went on, almost to echo Strelitski's words, "Selfishness is
the only real atheism; aspiration, unselfishness, the only real
religion. In the language of our Hillel, this is the text of the Law;
the rest is commentary. You and I are at one in believing that, despite
all and after all, the world turns on righteousness, on justice"--his
voice became a whisper--"on love."
The old thrill went through her, as when first they met. Once again the
universe seemed bathed in holy joy. But she shook off the spell almost
angrily. Her face was definitely set towards the life of the New World.
Why should he disturb her anew?
"Ah, well, I'm glad you allow me a little goodness," she said
sarcastically. "It is quite evident how you have drifted from orthodoxy.
Strange result of _The Flag of Judah_! Started to convert me, it has
ended by alienating you--its editor--from the true faith. Oh, the irony
of circumstance! But don't look so glum. It has fulfilled its mission
all the same; it _has_ converted me--I will confess it to you." Her face
grew grave, her tones earnest "So I haven't an atom of sympathy with
your broader attitude. I am full of longing for the old impossible
His face took on a look of anxious solicitude. He was uncertain whether
she spoke ironically or seriously. Only one thing was certain--that she
was slipping from him again. She seemed so complex, paradoxical,
elusive--and yet growing every moment more dear and desirable.
"Where are you living?" he asked abruptly. "It doesn't matter where,"
she answered. "I sail for America in three weeks."
The world seemed suddenly empty. It was hopeless, then--she was almost
in his grasp, yet he could not hold her. Some greater force was
sweeping her into strange alien solitudes. A storm of protest raged in
his heart--all he had meant to say to her rose to his lips, but he only
said, "Must you go?"
"I must. My little sister marries. I have timed my visit so as to arrive
just for the wedding--like a fairy godmother." She smiled wistfully.
"Then you will live with your people, I suppose?"
"I suppose so. I dare say I shall become quite good again. Ah, your new
Judaisms will never appeal like the old, with all its imperfections.
They will never keep the race together through shine and shade as that
did. They do but stave off the inevitable dissolution. It is
beautiful--that old childlike faith in the pillar of cloud by day and
the pillar of fire by night, that patient waiting through the centuries
for the Messiah who even to you, I dare say, is a mere symbol." Again
the wistful look lit up her eyes. "That's what you rich people will
never understand--it doesn't seem to go with dinners in seven courses,
"Oh, but I do understand," he protested. "It's what I told Strelitski,
who is all for intellect in religion. He is going to America, too," he
said, with a sudden pang of jealous apprehension.
"On a holiday?"
"No; he is going to resign his ministry here."
"What! Has he got a better offer from America?"
"Still so cruel to him," he said reprovingly. "He is resigning for
"After all these years?" she queried sarcastically.
"Miss Ansell, you wrong him! He was not happy in his position. You were
right so far. But he cannot endure his shackles any longer. And it is
you who have inspired him to break them."
"I?" she exclaimed, startled.
"Yes, I told him why you had left Mrs. Henry Goldsmith's--it seemed to
act like an electrical stimulus. Then and there he made me write a
paragraph announcing his resignation. It will appear to-morrow."
Esther's eyes filled with soft light. She walked on in silence; then,
noticing she had automatically walked too much in the direction of her
place of concealment, she came to an abrupt stop.
"We must part here," she said. "If I ever come across my old shepherd in
America, I will be nicer to him. It is really quite heroic of him--you
must have exaggerated my own petty sacrifice alarmingly if it really
supplied him with inspiration. What is he going to do in America?"
"To preach a universal Judaism. He is a born idealist; his ideas have
always such a magnificent sweep. Years ago he wanted all the Jews to
return to Palestine."
Esther smiled faintly, not at Strelitski, but at Raphael's calling
another man an idealist. She had never yet done justice to the strain of
common-sense that saved him from being a great man; he and the new
Strelitski were of one breed to her.
"He will make Jews no happier and Christians no wiser," she said
sceptically. "The great populations will sweep on, as little affected by
the Jews as this crowd by you and me. The world will not go back on
itself--rather will Christianity transform itself and take the credit.
We are such a handful of outsiders. Judaism--old or new--is a forlorn
"The forlorn hope will yet save the world," he answered quietly, "but it
has first to be saved to the world."
"Be happy in your hope," she said gently. "Good-bye." She held out her
little hand. He had no option but to take it.
"But we are not going to part like this," he said desperately. "I shall
see you again before you go to America?"
"No, why should you?"
"Because I love you," rose to his lips. But the avowal seemed too plump.
He prevaricated by retorting, "Why should I not?"
"Because I fear you," was in her heart, but nothing rose to her lips. He
looked into her eyes to read an answer there, but she dropped them. He
saw his opportunity.
"Why should I not?" he repeated.
"Your time is valuable," she said faintly.
"I could not spend it better than with you," he answered boldly.
"Please don't insist," she said in distress.
"But I shall; I am your friend. So far as I know, you are lonely. If you
are bent upon going away, why deny me the pleasure of the society I am
about to lose for ever?"
"Oh, how can you call it a pleasure--such poor melancholy company as I
"Such poor melancholy company that I came expressly to seek it, for some
one told me you were at the Museum. Such poor melancholy company that if
I am robbed of it life will be a blank."
He had not let go her hand; his tones were low and passionate; the
heedless traffic of the sultry London street was all about them.
Esther trembled from head to foot; she could not look at him. There was
no mistaking his meaning now; her breast was a whirl of delicious pain.
But in proportion as the happiness at her beck and call dazzled her, so
she recoiled from it. Bent on self-effacement, attuned to the peace of
despair, she almost resented the solicitation to be happy; she had
suffered so much that she had grown to think suffering her natural
element, out of which she could not breathe; she was almost in love with
misery. And in so sad a world was there not something ignoble about
happiness, a selfish aloofness from the life of humanity? And,
illogically blent with this questioning, and strengthening her recoil,
was an obstinate conviction that there could never be happiness for her,
a being of ignominious birth, without roots in life, futile, shadowy,
out of relation to the tangible solidities of ordinary existence. To
offer her a warm fireside seemed to be to tempt her to be false to
something--she knew not what. Perhaps it was because the warm fireside
was in the circle she had quitted, and her heart was yet bitter against
it, finding no palliative even in the thought of a triumphant return.
She did not belong to it; she was not of Raphael's world. But she felt
grateful to the point of tears for his incomprehensible love for a
plain, penniless, low-born girl. Surely, it was only his chivalry. Other
men had not found her attractive. Sidney had not; Levi only fancied
himself in love. And yet beneath all her humility was a sense of being
loved for the best in her, for the hidden qualities Raphael alone had
the insight to divine. She could never think so meanly of herself or of
humanity again. He had helped and strengthened her for her lonely
future; the remembrance of him would always be an inspiration, and a
reminder of the nobler side of human nature.
All this contradictory medley of thought and feeling occupied but a few
seconds of consciousness. She answered him without any perceptible
pause, lightly enough.
"Really, Mr. Leon, I don't expect _you_ to say such things. Why should
we be so conventional, you and I? How can your life be a blank, with
Judaism yet to be saved?"
"Who am I to save Judaism? I want to save you," he said passionately.
"What a descent! For heaven's sake, stick to your earlier ambition!"
"No, the two are one to me. Somehow you seem to stand for Judaism, too.
I cannot disentwine my hopes; I have come to conceive your life as an
allegory of Judaism, the offspring of a great and tragic past with the
germs of a rich blossoming, yet wasting with an inward canker, I have
grown to think of its future as somehow bound up with yours. I want to
see your eyes laughing, the shadows lifted from your brow; I want to see
you face life courageously, not in passionate revolt nor in passionless
despair, but in faith and hope and the joy that springs from them. I
want you to seek peace, not in a despairing surrender of the intellect
to the faith of childhood, but in that faith intellectually justified.
And while I want to help you, and to fill your life with the sunshine it
needs, I want you to help me, to inspire me when I falter, to complete
my life, to make me happier than I had ever dreamed. Be my wife, Esther.
Let me save you from yourself."
"Let me save you from yourself, Raphael. Is it wise to wed with the gray
spirit of the Ghetto that doubts itself?"
And like a spirit she glided from his grasp and disappeared in the
THE PRODIGAL SON.
The New Year dawned upon the Ghetto, heralded by a month of special
matins and the long-sustained note of the ram's horn. It was in the
midst of the Ten Days of Repentance which find their awful climax in the
Day of Atonement that a strange letter for Hannah came to startle the
breakfast-table at Reb Shemuel's. Hannah read it with growing pallor and
"What is the matter, my dear?" asked the Reb, anxiously.
"Oh, father," she cried, "read this! Bad news of Levi."
A spasm of pain contorted the old man's furrowed countenance.
"Mention not his name!" he said harshly "He is dead."
"He may be by now!" Hannah exclaimed agitatedly. "You were right,
Esther. He did join a strolling company, and now he is laid up with
typhoid in the hospital in Stockbridge. One of his friends writes to
tell us. He must have caught it in one of those insanitary
dressing-rooms we were reading about."
Esther trembled all over. The scene in the garret when the fatal
telegram came announcing Benjamin's illness had never faded from her
mind. She had an instant conviction that it was all over with poor Levi.
"My poor lamb!" cried the Rebbitzin, the coffee-cup dropping from her
"Simcha," said Reb Shemuel sternly, "calm thyself; we have no son to
lose. The Holy One--blessed be He!--hath taken him from us. The Lord
giveth, and the Lord taketh. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Hannah rose. Her face was white and resolute. She moved towards the
"Whither goest thou?" inquired her father in German.
"I am going to my room, to put on my hat and jacket," replied Hannah
"Whither goest thou?" repeated Reb Shemuel.
"To Stockbridge. Mother, you and I must go at once."
The Reb sprang to his feet. His brow was dark; his eyes gleamed with
anger and pain.
"Sit down and finish thy breakfast," he said.
"How can I eat? Levi is dying," said Hannah, in low, firm tones. "Will
you come, mother, or must I go alone?"
The Rebbitzin began to wring her hands and weep. Esther stole gently to
Hannah's side and pressed the poor girl's hand. "You and I will go," her
"Hannah!" said Reb Shemuel. "What madness is this? Dost thou think thy
mother will obey thee rather than her husband?"
"Levi is dying. It is our duty to go to him." Hannah's gentle face was
rigid. But there was exaltation rather than defiance in the eyes.
"It is not the duty of women," said Reb Shemuel harshly. "I will go to
Stockbridge. If he dies (God have mercy upon his soul!) I will see that
he is buried among his own people. Thou knowest women go not to
funerals." He reseated himself at the table, pushing aside his scarcely
touched meal, and began saying the grace. Dominated by his will and by
old habit, the three trembling women remained in reverential silence.
"The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His
people with Peace," concluded the old man in unfaltering accents. He
rose from the table and strode to the door, stern and erect "Thou wilt
remain here, Hannah, and thou, Simcha," he said. In the passage his
shoulders relaxed their stiffness, so that the long snow-white beard
drooped upon his breast. The three women looked at one another.
"Mother," said Hannah, passionately breaking the silence, "are you going
to stay here while Levi is dying in a strange town?"
"My husband wills it," said the Rebbitzin, sobbing. "Levi is a sinner in
Israel. Thy father will not see him; he will not go to him till he is
"Oh yes, surely he will," said Esther. "But be comforted. Levi is young
and strong. Let us hope he will pull through."
"No, no!" moaned the Rebbitzin. "He will die, and my husband will but
read the psalms at his death-bed. He will not forgive him; he will not
speak to him of his mother and sister."
"Let _me_ go. I will give him your messages," said Esther.
"No, no," interrupted Hannah. "What are you to him? Why should you risk
infection for our sakes?"
"Go, Hannah, but secretly," said the Rebbitzin in a wailing whisper.
"Let not thy father see thee till thou arrive; then he will not send
thee back. Tell Levi that I--oh, my poor child, my poor lamb!" Sobs
overpowered her speech.
"No, mother," said Hannah quietly, "thou and I shall go. I will tell
father we are accompanying him."
She left the room, while the Rebbitzin fell weeping and terrified into a
chair, and Esther vainly endeavored to soothe her. The Reb was changing
his coat when Hannah knocked at the door and called "Father."
"Speak not to me, Hannah," answered the Reb, roughly. "It is useless."
Then, as if repentant of his tone, he threw open the door, and passed
his great trembling hand lovingly over her hair. "Thou art a good
daughter," he said tenderly. "Forget that thou hast had a brother."
"But how can I forget?" she answered him in his own idiom. "Why should I
forget? What hath he done?"
He ceased to smooth her hair--his voice grew sad and stern.
"He hath profaned the Name. He hath lived like a heathen; he dieth like
a heathen now. His blasphemy was a by-word in the congregation. I alone
knew it not till last Passover. He hath brought down my gray hairs in
sorrow to the grave."
"Yes, father, I know," said Hannah, more gently. "But he is not all to
"Thou meanest that I am not guiltless; that I should have kept him at my
side?" said the Reb, his voice faltering a little.
"No, father, not that! Levi could not always be a baby. He had to walk
alone some day."
"Yes, and did I not teach him to walk alone?" asked the Reb eagerly. "My
God, thou canst not say I did not teach him Thy Law, day and night." He
uplifted his eyes in anguished appeal.
"Yes, but he is not all to blame," she repeated. "Thy teaching did not
reach his soul; he is of another generation, the air is different, his
life was cast amid conditions for which the Law doth not allow."
"Hannah!" Reb Shemuel's accents became harsh and chiding again. "What
sayest thou? The Law of Moses is eternal; it will never be changed. Levi
knew God's commandments, but he followed the desire of his own heart and
his own eyes. If God's Word were obeyed, he should have been stoned with
stones. But Heaven itself hath punished him; he will die, for it is
ordained that whosoever is stubborn and disobedient, that soul shall
surely be cut off from among his people. 'Keep My commandments, that thy
days may be long in the land,' God Himself hath said it. Is it not
written: 'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer
thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart and
in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou that for all these things the
Lord will bring thee into judgment'? But thou, my Hannah," he started
caressing her hair again, "art a good Jewish maiden. Between Levi and
thee there is naught in common. His touch would profane thee. Sadden not
thy innocent eyes with the sight of his end. Think of him as one who
died in boyhood. My God! why didst thou not take him then?" He turned
away, stifling a sob.
"Father," she put her hand on his shoulder, "we will go with thee to
Stockbridge--I and the mother."
He faced her again, stern and rigid.
"Cease thy entreaties. I will go alone."
"No, we will all go."
"Hannah," he said, his voice tremulous with pain and astonishment, "dost
thou, too, set light by thy father?"
"Yes," she cried, and there was no answering tremor in her voice. "Now
thou knowest! I am not a good Jewish maiden. Levi and I are brother and
sister. His touch profane me, forsooth!" She laughed bitterly.
"Thou wilt take this journey though I forbid thee?" he cried in acrid
accents, still mingled with surprise.
"Yes; would I had taken the journey thou wouldst have forbidden ten
"What journey? thou talkest madness."
"I talk truth. Thou hast forgotten David Brandon; I have not. Ten years
last Passover I arranged to fly with him, to marry him, in defiance of
the Law and thee."
A new pallor overspread the Reb's countenance, already ashen. He
trembled and almost fell backwards.
"But thou didst not?" he whispered hoarsely.
"I did not, I know not why," she said sullenly; "else thou wouldst never
have seen me again. It may be I respected thy religion, although thou
didst not dream what was in my mind. But thy religion shall not keep me
from this journey."
The Reb had hidden his face in his hands. His lips were moving; was it
in grateful prayer, in self-reproach, or merely in nervous trembling?
Hannah never knew. Presently the Reb's arms dropped, great tears rolled
down towards the white beard. When he spoke, his tones were hushed as
"This man--tell me, my daughter, thou lovest him still?"
She shrugged her shoulders with a gesture of reckless despair.
"What does it matter? My life is but a shadow."
The Reb took her to his breast, though she remained stony to his touch,
and laid his wet face against her burning cheeks.
"My child, my poor Hannah; I thought God had sent thee peace ten years
ago; that He had rewarded thee for thy obedience to His Law."
She drew her face away from his.
"It was not His Law; it was a miserable juggling with texts. Thou alone
interpretedst God's law thus. No one knew of the matter."
He could not argue; the breast against which he held her was shaken by a
tempest of grief, which swept away all save human remorse, human love.
"My daughter," he sobbed, "I have ruined thy life!" After an agonized
pause, he said: "Tell me, Hannah, is there nothing I can do to make
atonement to thee?"
"Only one thing, father," she articulated chokingly; "forgive Levi."
There was a moment of solemn silence. Then the Reb spake.
"Tell thy mother to put on her things and take what she needs for the
journey. Perchance we may be away for days."
They mingled their tears in sweet reconciliation. Presently, the Reb
"Go now to thy mother, and see also that the boy's room be made ready as
of old. Perchance God will hear my prayer, and he will yet be restored
A new peace fell upon Hannah's soul. "My sacrifice was not in vain after
all," she thought, with a throb of happiness that was almost exultation.
But Levi never came back. The news of his death arrived on the eve of
_Yom Kippur_, the Day of Atonement, in a letter to Esther who had been
left in charge of the house.
"He died quietly at the end," Hannah wrote, "happy in the consciousness
of father's forgiveness, and leaning trustfully upon his interposition
with Heaven; but he had delirious moments, during which he raved
painfully. The poor boy was in great fear of death, moaning prayers that
he might be spared till after _Yom Kippur_, when he would be cleansed of
sin, and babbling about serpents that would twine themselves round his
arm and brow, like the phylacteries he had not worn. He made father
repeat his 'Verse' to him over and over again, so that he might remember
his name when the angel of the grave asked it; and borrowed father's
phylacteries, the headpiece of which was much too large for him with his
shaven crown. When he had them on, and the _Talith_ round him, he grew
easier, and began murmuring the death-bed prayers with father. One of
them runs: 'O may my death be an atonement for all the sins, iniquities
and transgressions of which I have been guilty against Thee!' I trust it
may be so indeed. It seems so hard for a young man full of life and high
spirits to be cut down, while the wretched are left alive. Your name was
often on his lips. I was glad to learn he thought so much of you. 'Be
sure to give Esther my love,' he said almost with his last breath, 'and
ask her to forgive me.' I know not if you have anything to forgive, or
whether this was delirium. He looks quite calm now--but oh! so worn.
They have closed the eyes. The beard he shocked father so by shaving
off, has sprouted scrubbily during his illness. On the dead face it
seems a mockery, like the _Talith_ and phylacteries that have not been
A phrase of Leonard James vibrated in Esther's ears: "If the chappies
could see me!"
HOPES AND DREAMS.
The morning of the Great White Fast broke bleak and gray. Esther, alone
in the house save for the servant, wandered from room to room in dull
misery. The day before had been almost a feast-day in the
Ghetto--everybody providing for the morrow. Esther had scarcely eaten
anything. Nevertheless she was fasting, and would fast for over
twenty-four hours, till the night fell. She knew not why. Her record was
unbroken, and instinct resented a breach now. She had always
fasted--even the Henry Goldsmiths fasted, and greater than the Henry
Goldsmiths! Q.C.'s fasted, and peers, and prize-fighters and actors. And
yet Esther, like many far more pious persons, did not think of her sins
for a moment. She thought of everything but them--of the bereaved family
in that strange provincial town; of her own family in that strange
distant land. Well, she would soon be with them now. Her passage was
booked--a steerage passage it was, not because she could not afford
cabin fare, but from her morbid impulse to identify herself with
poverty. The same impulse led her to choose a vessel in which a party of
Jewish pauper immigrants was being shipped farther West. She thought
also of Dutch Debby, with whom she had spent the previous evening; and
of Raphael Leon, who had sent her, _via_ the publishers, a letter which
she could not trust herself to answer cruelly, and which she deemed it
most prudent to leave unanswered. Uncertain of her powers of resistance,
she scarcely ventured outside the house for fear of his stumbling across
her. Happily, every day diminished the chance of her whereabouts
leaking out through some unsuspected channel.
About noon, her restlessness carried her into the streets. There was a
festal solemnity about the air. Women and children, not at synagogue,
showed themselves at the doors, pranked in their best. Indifferently
pious young men sought relief from the ennui of the day-long service in
lounging about for a breath of fresh air; some even strolled towards the
Strand, and turned into the National Gallery, satisfied to reappear for
the twilight service. On all sides came the fervent roar of prayer which
indicated a synagogue or a _Chevrah_, the number of places of worship
having been indefinitely increased to accommodate those who made their
appearance for this occasion only.
Everywhere friends and neighbors were asking one another how they were
bearing the fast, exhibiting their white tongues and generally comparing
symptoms, the physical aspects of the Day of Atonement more or less
completely diverting attention from the spiritual. Smelling-salts passed
from hand to hand, and men explained to one another that, but for the
deprivation of their cigars, they could endure _Yom Kippur_ with
Esther passed the Ghetto school, within which free services were going
on even in the playground, poor Russians and Poles, fanatically
observant, fore-gathering with lax fishmongers and welshers; and without
which hulking young men hovered uneasily, feeling too out of tune with
religion to go in, too conscious of the terrors of the day to stay
entirely away. From the interior came from sunrise to nightfall a
throbbing thunder of supplication, now pealing in passionate outcry, now
subsiding to a low rumble. The sounds of prayer that pervaded the
Ghetto, and burst upon her at every turn, wrought upon Esther strangely;
all her soul went out in sympathy with these yearning outbursts; she
stopped every now and then to listen, as in those far-off days when the
Sons of the Covenant drew her with their melancholy cadences.
At last, moved by an irresistible instinct, she crossed the threshold of
a large _Chevrah_ she had known in her girlhood, mounted the stairs and
entered the female compartment without hostile challenge. The reek of
many breaths and candles nearly drove her back, but she pressed forwards
towards a remembered window, through a crowd of be-wigged women, shaking
their bodies fervently to and fro.
This room had no connection with the men's; it was simply the room above
part of theirs, and the declamations of the unseen cantor came but
faintly through the flooring, though the clamor of the general masculine
chorus kept the pious _au courant_ with their husbands. When weather or
the whims of the more important ladies permitted, the window at the end
was opened; it gave upon a little balcony, below which the men's chamber
projected considerably, having been built out into the back yard. When
this window was opened simultaneously with the skylight in the men's
synagogue, the fervid roulades of the cantor were as audible to the
women as to their masters.
Esther had always affected the balcony: there the air was comparatively
fresh, and on fine days there was a glimpse of blue sky, and a
perspective of sunny red tiles, where brown birds fluttered and cats
lounged and little episodes arose to temper the tedium of endless
invocation: and farther off there was a back view of a nunnery, with
visions of placid black-hooded faces at windows; and from the distance
came a pleasant drone of monosyllabic spelling from fresh young voices,
to relieve the ear from the monotony of long stretches of meaningless
Here, lost in a sweet melancholy, Esther dreamed away the long gray day,
only vaguely conscious of the stages of the service--morning dovetailing
into afternoon service, and afternoon into evening; of the heavy-jowled
woman behind her reciting a jargon-version of the Atonement liturgy to a
devout coterie; of the prostrations full-length on the floor, and the
series of impassioned sermons; of the interminably rhyming poems, and
the acrostics with their recurring burdens shouted in devotional frenzy,
voice rising above voice as in emulation, with special staccato phrases
flung heavenwards; of the wailing confessions of communal sin, with
their accompaniment of sobs and tears and howls and grimaces and
clenchings of palms and beatings of the breast. She was lapped in a
great ocean of sound that broke upon her consciousness like the waves
upon a beach, now with a cooing murmur, now with a majestic crash,
followed by a long receding moan. She lost herself in the roar, in its
barren sensuousness, while the leaden sky grew duskier and the twilight
crept on, and the awful hour drew nigh when God would seal what He had
written, and the annual scrolls of destiny would be closed, immutable.
She saw them looming mystically through the skylight, the swaying forms
below, in their white grave-clothes, oscillating weirdly backwards and
forwards, bowed as by a mighty wind.
Suddenly there fell a vast silence; even from without no sound came to
break the awful stillness. It was as if all creation paused to hear a
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!" sang the cantor
And all the ghostly congregation answered with a great cry, closing
their eyes and rocking frantically to and fro:
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!"
They seemed like a great army of the sheeted dead risen to testify to
the Unity. The magnetic tremor that ran through the synagogue thrilled
the lonely girl to the core; once again her dead self woke, her dead
ancestors that would not be shaken off lived and moved in her. She was
sucked up into the great wave of passionate faith, and from her lips
came, in rapturous surrender to an overmastering impulse, the
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!"
And then in the brief instant while the congregation, with
ever-ascending rhapsody, blessed God till the climax came with the
sevenfold declaration, "the Lord, He is God," the whole history of her
strange, unhappy race flashed through her mind in a whirl of resistless
emotion. She was overwhelmed by the thought of its sons in every corner
of the earth proclaiming to the sombre twilight sky the belief for which
its generations had lived and died--the Jews of Russia sobbing it forth
in their pale of enclosure, the Jews of Morocco in their _mellah_, and
of South Africa in their tents by the diamond mines: the Jews of the
New World in great free cities, in Canadian backwoods, in South American
savannahs: the Australian Jews on the sheep-farms and the gold-fields
and in the mushroom cities; the Jews of Asia in their reeking quarters
begirt by barbarian populations. The shadow of a large mysterious
destiny seemed to hang over these poor superstitious zealots, whose
lives she knew so well in all their everyday prose, and to invest the
unconscious shunning sons of the Ghetto with something of tragic
grandeur. The gray dusk palpitated with floating shapes of prophets and
martyrs, scholars and sages and poets, full of a yearning love and pity,
lifting hands of benediction. By what great high-roads and queer by-ways
of history had they travelled hither, these wandering Jews, "sated with
contempt," these shrewd eager fanatics, these sensual ascetics, these
human paradoxes, adaptive to every environment, energizing in every
field of activity, omnipresent like sonic great natural force,
indestructible and almost inconvertible, surviving--with the incurable
optimism that overlay all their poetic sadness--Babylon and Carthage,
Greece and Rome; involuntarily financing the Crusades, outliving the
Inquisition, illusive of all baits, unshaken by all persecutions--at
once the greatest and meanest of races? Had the Jew come so far only to
break down at last, sinking in morasses of modern doubt, and
irresistibly dragging down with him the Christian and the Moslem; or was
he yet fated to outlast them both, in continuous testimony to a hand
moulding incomprehensibly the life of humanity? Would Israel develop
into the sacred phalanx, the nobler brotherhood that Raphael Leon had
dreamed of, or would the race that had first proclaimed--through Moses
for the ancient world, through Spinoza for the modern--
"One God, one Law, one Element,"
become, in the larger, wilder dream of the Russian _idealist_, the main
"One far-off divine event
To which the whole Creation moves"?
The roar dwindled to a solemn silence, as though in answer to her
questionings. Then the ram's horn shrilled--a stern long-drawn-out note,
that rose at last into a mighty peal of sacred jubilation. The Atonement
The crowd bore Esther downstairs and into the blank indifferent street.
But the long exhausting fast, the fetid atmosphere, the strain upon her
emotions, had overtaxed her beyond endurance. Up to now the frenzy of
the service had sustained her, but as she stepped across the threshold
on to the pavement she staggered and fell. One of the men pouring out
from the lower synagogue caught her in his arms. It was Strelitski.
* * * * *
A group of three stood on the saloon deck of an outward-bound steamer.
Raphael Leon was bidding farewell to the man he reverenced without
discipleship, and the woman he loved without blindness.
"Look!" he said, pointing compassionately to the wretched throng of
Jewish emigrants huddling on the lower deck and scattered about the
gangway amid jostling sailors and stevedores and bales and coils of
rope; the men in peaked or fur caps, the women with shawls and babies,
some gazing upwards with lacklustre eyes, the majority brooding,
despondent, apathetic. "How could either of you have borne the sights
and smells of the steerage? You are a pair of visionaries. You could not
have breathed a day in that society. Look!"
Strelitski looked at Esther instead; perhaps he was thinking he could
have breathed anywhere in her society--nay, breathed even more freely in
the steerage than in the cabin if he had sailed away without telling
Raphael that he had found her.
"You forget a common impulse took us into such society on the Day of
Atonement," he answered after a moment. "You forget we are both Children
of the Ghetto."
"I can never forget that," said Raphael fervently, "else Esther would at
this moment be lost amid the human flotsam and jetsam below, sailing
away without you to protect her, without me to look forward to her
return, without Addie's bouquet to assure her of a sister's love."
He took Esther's little hand once more It lingered confidingly in his
own. There was no ring of betrothal upon it, nor would be, till Rachel
Ansell in America, and Addie Leon in England, should have passed under
the wedding canopy, and Raphael, whose breast pocket was bulging with a
new meerschaum too sacred to smoke, should startle the West End with his
eccentric choice, and confirm its impression of his insanity. The trio
had said and resaid all they had to tell one another, all the reminders
and the recommendations. They stood without speaking now, wrapped in
that loving silence which is sweeter than speech.
The sun, which, had been shining intermittently, flooded the serried
shipping with a burst of golden light, that coaxed the turbid waves to
brightness, and cheered the wan emigrants, and made little children leap
joyously in their mothers' arms. The knell of parting sounded insistent.
"Your allegory seems turning in your favor, Raphael," said Esther, with
a sudden memory.
The pensive smile that made her face beautiful lit up the dark eyes.
"What allegory is that of Raphael's?" said Strelitski, reflecting her
smile on his graver visage. "The long one in his prize poem?"
"No," said Raphael, catching the contagious smile. "It is our little
Strelitski turned suddenly to look at the emigrants. The smile faded
from his quivering mouth.
The last moment had come. Raphael stooped down towards the gentle
softly-flushing face, which was raised unhesitatingly to meet his, and
their lips met in a first kiss, diviner than it is given most mortals to
know--a kiss, sad and sweet, troth and parting in one: _Ave et
vale_--hail and farewell."
"Good-bye, Strelitski," said Raphael huskily. "Success to your dreams."
The idealist turned round with a start. His face was bright and
resolute; the black curl streamed buoyantly on the breeze.
"Good-bye," he responded, with a giant's grip of the hand. "Success to
Raphael darted away with his long stride. The sun was still bright, but
for a moment everything seemed chill and dim to Esther Ansell's vision.
With a sudden fit of nervous foreboding she stretched out her arms
towards the vanishing figure of her lover. But she saw him once again in
the tender, waving his handkerchief towards the throbbing vessel that
glided with its freight of hopes and dreams across the great waters
towards the New World.
_H._ = Hebrew.
_G._ = German.
_Gk._ = Greek.
_R._ = Russian.
_S._ = Spanish.
_c._ = corrupt.
Achi-nebbich (_etymology obscure_),
Alas, poor thing(s).
Afikuman (_Hebraicized Gk_.),
portion of a Passover cake taken at the end of Sedermeal (_q.v._).
narrative portion of the Talmud; Passover-eve ritual.
series of Benedictions said standing.
Arbah Kanfus (_H._) lit.,
four corners; a garment consisting of two shoulder straps supporting
a front and back piece with fringes at each corner (Numbers xv.
German; hence, also, Russian and Polish Jews.
Beth Din (_H._),
court of judgment.
Beth Medrash (_H._),
Cabbalah (_H._), Cabbulah (_c._), lit.,
tradition; mystic lore.
small congregation; a society.
playful humor; humorous anecdote.
rabbi who renders decisions.
Epikouros (_H. from Gk_.),
heretic, scoffer; Epicurean.
Froom (_c. G._),
Gematriyah (_Hebraicised Gk._),
mystic, numerical interpretation of Scripture.
part of the Talmud.
legal portion of the Talmud.
ceremony separating conclusion of Sabbath or Festival from the
subsequent days of toil.
Imbeshreer (_c.G. ohne beschreien_),
without bewitching; unbeshrewn.
prayer in praise of God; specially recited by male mourners.
Kind, Kinder (_G._),
Link (_G._), lit.,
left, _i.e._ not right; hence, lax, not pious.
Longe verachum (_G. and c.H._), lit.,
The long "and He being merciful." A long, extra prayer, said on
Mondays and Thursdays.
palm branch dressed with myrtle and willow, and used at the Feast
good luck, congratulations.
Megillah (_H._), lit.,
scroll. The Book of Esther.
Meshuggah, Meshuggene (_H._),
Metsiah (_H._), lit.,
finding; cp. Fr., _trouvaille_; bargain.
case containing a scroll, with Hebrew verses (Deuteronomy vi. 4-9,
13-21) affixed to every door-post.
quorum of ten males, over thirteen, necessary for public worship.
Mishna, Mishnayis (_H._),
collection of the Oral Law.
a commandment, _i.e._ a good deed.
East; a sacred picture hung on the east wall in the direction of
Jerusalem, to which the face is turned in praying.
Talmudical tractate on the purification of women.
Olov hasholom (_H._),
Peace be upon him! (loosely applied to deceased females also).
the seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost.
president of the congregation.
proper for Passover.
Pidyun haben (_H._),
redemption of the first-born son.
Piyut (_Hebraicized Gk_.),
Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, whose commentary is often printed under the
Hebrew text of the Bible.
unlucky, awkward person.
Schmull (_c.G. schmollen_),
Schnecks (? _G. Schnake_, gay nonsense),
old Jewish coins.
Spanish and Portuguese Jews.
Shaaloth u tshuvoth (_H._),
questions and answers; casuistical treatise.
wig worn by married women.
Shass (_H. abbreviation_),
the six sections of the Talmud.
Shemah beni (_H._),
Hear, my son! = Dear me!
confession of the Unity of God.
offer money to the synagogue. (An extraordinary instance of Jewish
jargon,--a compound Hebrew word meaning "who vows,"--being turned
into an English verb, and conjugated accordingly, in _ed_ and _ing_.)
trumpet of ram's horn, blown during the penitential season.
Shool (_c. G_.),
Shulchan aruch (_H._),
a sixteenth-century compilation, codifying Jewish law.
Simchath Torah (_H._),
festival of the rejoicing of the Law.
rich man, swell.
a shawl with fringes, worn by men during prayer.
betrothal contract or ceremony.
Terah, Torah (_H._),
Law of Moses.
Yiddish, Yiddishkeit (_c.G._),
hymn summarizing the thirteen creeds drawn up by Maimonides.
Yom Kippur (_H._),
Day of Atonement.
Yom tof (_H._), lit.,
good day; Festival.
Yontovdik (_hybrid H_.),
pertaining to the Festival.
May your strength increase! = Thank you; a formula to express
gratitude--especially at the end of a reading.