Part 5 out of 12
great cities, clothed in purple and fine linen, are the sport of peoples
who were then roaming wild in woods and marshes clothed in the skins of
the wolf and the bear. Now in the East there gleams again a star of
hope--why shall we not follow it? Never has the chance of the
Restoration flamed so high as to-day. Our capitalists rule the markets
of Europe, our generals lead armies, our great men sit in the Councils
of every State. We are everywhere--a thousand thousand stray rivulets of
power that could be blent into a mighty ocean. Palestine is one if we
wish--the whole house of Israel has but to speak with a mighty unanimous
voice. Poets will sing for us, journalists write for us, diplomatists
haggle for us, millionaires pay the price for us. The sultan would
restore our land to us to-morrow, did we but essay to get it. There are
no obstacles--but ourselves. It is not the heathen that keeps us out of
our land--it is the Jews, the rich and prosperous Jews--Jeshurun grown
fat and sleepy, dreaming the false dream of assimilation with the people
of the pleasant places in which their lines have been cast. Give us back
our country; this alone will solve the Jewish question. Our paupers
shall become agriculturists, and like Antaeus, the genius of Israel
shall gain fresh strength by contact with mother earth. And for England
it will help to solve the Indian question--Between European Russia and
India there will be planted a people, fierce, terrible, hating Russia
for her wild-beast deeds. Into the Exile we took with us, of all our
glories, only a spark of the fire by which our Temple, the abode of our
great One was engirdled, and this little spark kept us alive while the
towers of our enemies crumbled to dust, and this spark leaped into
celestial flame and shed light upon the faces of the heroes of our race
and inspired them to endure the horrors of the Dance of Death and the
tortures of the _Auto-da-fe_. Let us fan the spark again till it leap up
and become a pillar of flame going before us and showing us the way to
Jerusalem, the City of our sires. And if gold will not buy back our land
we must try steel. As the National Poet of Israel, Naphtali Herz Imber,
has so nobly sung (here he broke into the Hebrew _Wacht Am Rhein_, of
which an English version would run thus):
"THE WATCH ON THE JORDAN.
"Like the crash of the thunder
Which splitteth asunder
The flame of the cloud,
On our ears ever falling,
A voice is heard calling
From Zion aloud:
'Let your spirits' desires
For the land of your sires
From the foe to deliver
Our own holy river,
To Jordan return.'
Where the soft flowing stream
Murmurs low as in dream,
There set we our watch.
Our watchword, 'The sword
Of our land and our Lord'--
By the Jordan then set we our watch.
"Rest in peace, loved land,
For we rest not, but stand,
Off shaken our sloth.
When the boils of war rattle
To shirk not the battle,
We make thee our oath.
As we hope for a Heaven,
Thy chains shall be riven,
Thine ensign unfurled.
And in pride of our race
We will fearlessly face
The might of the world.
When our trumpet is blown,
And our standard is flown,
Then set we our watch.
Our watchword, 'The sword
Of our land and our Lord'--
By Jordan then set we our watch.
"Yea, as long as there he
Birds in air, fish in sea,
And blood in our veins;
And the lions in might.
Leaping down from the height,
Shake, roaring, their manes;
And the dew nightly laves
The forgotten old graves
Where Judah's sires sleep,--
We swear, who are living,
To rest not in striving,
To pause not to weep.
Let the trumpet be blown,
Let the standard be flown,
Now set we our watch.
Our watchword, 'The sword
Of our land and our Lord'--
In Jordan NOW set we our watch."
He sank upon the rude, wooden bench, exhausted, his eyes glittering, his
raven hair dishevelled by the wildness of his gestures. He had said. For
the rest of the evening he neither moved nor spake. The calm,
good-humored tones of Simon Gradkoski followed like a cold shower.
"We must be sensible," he said, for he enjoyed the reputation of a
shrewd conciliatory man of the world as well as of a pillar of
orthodoxy. "The great people will come to us, but not if we abuse them.
We must flatter them up and tell them they are the descendants of the
Maccabees. There is much political kudos to be got out of leading such a
movement--this, too, they will see. Rome was not built in a day, and the
Temple will not be rebuilt in a year. Besides, we are not soldiers now.
We must recapture our land by brain, not sword. Slow and sure and the
blessing of God over all."
After such wise Simon Gradkoski. But Gronovitz, the Hebrew teacher,
crypto-atheist and overt revolutionary, who read a Hebrew edition of the
"Pickwick Papers" in synagogue on the Day of Atonement, was with
Strelitski, and a bigot whose religion made his wife and children
wretched was with the cautious Simon Gradkoski. Froom Karlkammer
followed, but his drift was uncertain. He apparently looked forward to
miraculous interpositions. Still he approved of the movement from one
point of view. The more Jews lived in Jerusalem the more would be
enabled to die there--which was the aim of a good Jew's life. As for the
Messiah, he would come assuredly--in God's good time. Thus Karlkammer at
enormous length with frequent intervals of unintelligibility and huge
chunks of irrelevant quotation and much play of Cabalistic conceptions.
Pinchas, who had been fuming throughout this speech, for to him
Karlkammer stood for the archetype of all donkeys, jumped up impatiently
when Karlkammer paused for breath and denounced as an interruption that
gentleman's indignant continuance of his speech. The sense of the
meeting was with the poet and Karlkammer was silenced. Pinchas was
dithyrambic, sublime, with audacities which only genius can venture on.
He was pungently merry over Imber's pretensions to be the National Poet
of Israel, declaring that his prosody, his vocabulary, and even his
grammar were beneath contempt. He, Pinchas, would write Judaea a real
Patriotic Poem, which should be sung from the slums of Whitechapel to
the _Veldts_ of South Africa, and from the _Mellah_ of Morocco to the
_Judengassen_ of Germany, and should gladden the hearts and break from
the mouths of the poor immigrants saluting the Statue of Liberty in New
York Harbor. When he, Pinchas, walked in Victoria Park of a Sunday
afternoon and heard the band play, the sound of a cornet always seemed
to him, said he, like the sound of Bar Cochba's trumpet calling the
warriors to battle. And when it was all over and the band played "God
save the Queen," it sounded like the paean of victory when he marched, a
conqueror, to the gates of Jerusalem. Wherefore he, Pinchas, would be
their leader. Had not the Providence, which concealed so many
revelations in the letters of the Torah, given him the name Melchitsedek
Pinchas, whereof one initial stood for Messiah and the other for
Palestine. Yes, he would be their Messiah. But money now-a-days was the
sinews of war and the first step to Messiahship was the keeping of the
funds. The Redeemer must in the first instance be the treasurer. With
this anti-climax Pinchas wound up, his childishness and _naivete_
conquering his cunning.
Other speakers followed but in the end Guedalyah the greengrocer
prevailed. They appointed him President and Simon Gradkoski, Treasurer,
collecting twenty-five shillings on the spot, ten from the lad Raphael
Leon. In vain Pinchas reminded the President they would need Collectors
to make house to house calls; three other members were chosen to trisect
the Ghetto. All felt the incongruity of hanging money bags at the
saddle-bow of Pegasus. Whereupon Pinchas re-lit his cigar and muttering
that they were all fool-men betook himself unceremoniously without.
Gabriel Hamburg looked on throughout with something like a smile on his
shrivelled features. Once while Joseph Strelitski was holding forth he
blew his nose violently. Perhaps he had taken too large a pinch of
snuff. But not a word did the great scholar speak. He would give up his
last breath to promote the Return (provided the Hebrew manuscripts were
not left behind in alien museums); but the humors of the enthusiasts
were part of the great comedy in the only theatre he cared for. Mendel
Hyams was another silent member. But he wept openly under Strelitski's
When the meeting adjourned, the lank unhealthy swaying creature in the
corner, who had been mumbling the tractate Baba Kama out of courtesy,
now burst out afresh in his quaint argumentative recitative.
"What then does it refer to? To his stone or his knife or his burden
which he has left on the highway and it injured a passer-by. How is
this? If he gave up his ownership, whether according to Rav or according
to Shemuel, it is a pit, and if he retained his ownership, if according
to Shemuel, who holds that all are derived from 'his pit,' then it is 'a
pit,' and if according to Rav, who holds that all are derived from 'his
ox,' then it is 'an ox,' therefore the derivatives of 'an ox' are the
same as 'an ox' itself."
He had been at it all day, and he went on far into the small hours,
shaking his body backwards and forwards without remission.
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK.
Meckisch was a _Chasid_, which in the vernacular is a saint, but in the
actual a member of the sect of the _Chasidim_ whose centre is Galicia.
In the eighteenth century Israel Baal Shem, "the Master of the Name,"
retired to the mountains to meditate on philosophical truths. He arrived
at a creed of cheerful and even stoical acceptance of the Cosmos in all
its aspects and a conviction that the incense of an enjoyed pipe was
grateful to the Creator. But it is the inevitable misfortune of
religious founders to work apocryphal miracles and to raise up an army
of disciples who squeeze the teaching of their master into their own
mental moulds and are ready to die for the resultant distortion. It is
only by being misunderstood that a great man can have any influence upon
his kind. Baal Shem was succeeded by an army of thaumaturgists, and the
wonder-working Rabbis of Sadagora who are in touch with all the spirits
of the air enjoy the revenue of princes and the reverence of Popes. To
snatch a morsel of such a Rabbi's Sabbath _Kuggol_, or pudding, is to
insure Paradise, and the scramble is a scene to witness. _Chasidism_ is
the extreme expression of Jewish optimism. The Chasidim are the
Corybantes or Salvationists of Judaism. In England their idiosyncrasies
are limited to noisy jubilant services in their _Chevrah_, the
worshippers dancing or leaning or standing or writhing or beating their
heads against the wall as they will, and frisking like happy children in
the presence of their Father.
Meckisch also danced at home and sang "Tiddy, riddy, roi, toi, toi, toi,
ta," varied by "Rom, pom, pom" and "Bim, bom" in a quaint melody to
express his personal satisfaction with existence. He was a weazened
little widower with a deep yellow complexion, prominent cheek bones, a
hook nose and a scrubby, straggling little beard. Years of professional
practice as a mendicant had stamped his face with an anguished suppliant
conciliatory grin, which he could not now erase even after business
hours. It might perhaps have yielded to soap and water but the
experiment had not been tried. On his head he always wore a fur cap with
lappets for his ears. Across his shoulders was strung a lemon-basket
filled with grimy, gritty bits of sponge which nobody ever bought.
Meckisch's merchandise was quite other. He dealt in sensational
spectacle. As he shambled along with extreme difficulty and by the aid
of a stick, his lower limbs which were crossed in odd contortions
appeared half paralyzed, and, when his strange appearance had attracted
attention, his legs would give way and he would find himself with his
back on the pavement, where he waited to be picked up by sympathetic
spectators shedding silver and copper. After an indefinite number of
performances Meckisch would hurry home in the darkness to dance and sing
"Tiddy, riddy, roi, toi, bim, bom."
Thus Meckisch lived at peace with God and man, till one day the fatal
thought came into his head that he wanted a second wife. There was no
difficulty in getting one--by the aid of his friend, Sugarman the __
soon the little man found his household goods increased by the
possession of a fat, Russian giantess. Meckisch did not call in the
authorities to marry him. He had a "still wedding," which cost nothing.
An artificial canopy made out of a sheet and four broomsticks was
erected in the chimney corner and nine male friends sanctified the
ceremony by their presence. Meckisch and the Russian giantess fasted on
their wedding morn and everything was in honorable order.
But Meckisch's happiness and economies were short-lived. The Russian
giantess turned out a tartar. She got her claws into his savings and
decorated herself with Paisley shawls and gold necklaces. Nay more! She
insisted that Meckisch must give her "Society" and keep open house.
Accordingly the bed-sitting room which they rented was turned into a
_salon_ of reception, and hither one Friday night came Peleg Shmendrik
and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Sugarman. Over the Sabbath meal the
current of talk divided itself into masculine and feminine freshets. The
ladies discussed bonnets and the gentlemen Talmud. All the three men
dabbled, pettily enough, in stocks and shares, but nothing in the world
would tempt them to transact any negotiation or discuss the merits of a
prospectus on the Sabbath, though they were all fluttered by the
allurements of the Sapphire Mines, Limited, as set forth in a whole page
of advertisement in the "_Jewish Chronicle_, the organ naturally perused
for its religious news on Friday evenings. The share-list would close at
noon on Monday.
"But when Moses, our teacher, struck the rock," said Peleg Shmendrik, in
the course of the discussion, "he was right the first time but wrong the
second, because as the Talmud points out, a child may be chastised when
it is little, but as it grows up it should be reasoned with."
"Yes," said Sugarman the _Shadchan_, quickly; "but if his rod had not
been made of sapphire he would have split that instead of the rock."
"Was it made of sapphire?" asked Meckisch, who was rather a
"Of course it was--and a very fine thing, too," answered Sugarman.
"Do you think so?" inquired Peleg Shmendrik eagerly.
"The sapphire is a magic stone," answered Sugarman. "It improves the
vision and makes peace between foes. Issachar, the studious son of
Jacob, was represented on the Breast-plate by the sapphire. Do you not
know that the mist-like centre of the sapphire symbolizes the cloud that
enveloped Sinai at the giving of the Law?"
"I did not know that," answered Peleg Shmendrik, "but I know that
Moses's Rod was created in the twilight of the first Sabbath and God did
everything after that with this sceptre."
"Ah, but we are not all strong enough to wield Moses's Rod; it weighed
forty seahs," said Sugarman.
"How many seahs do you think one could safely carry?" said Meckisch.
"Five or six seahs--not more," said Sugarman. "You see one might drop
them if he attempted more and even sapphire may break--the First Tables
of the Law were made of sapphire, and yet from a great height they fell
terribly, and were shattered to pieces."
"Gideon, the M.P., may be said to desire a Rod of Moses, for his
secretary told me he will take forty," said Shmendrik.
"Hush! what are you saying!" said Sugarman, "Gideon is a rich man, and
then he is a director."
"It seems a good lot of directors," said Meckisch.
"Good to look at. But who can tell?" said Sugarman, shaking his head.
"The Queen of Sheba probably brought sapphires to Solomon, but she was
not a virtuous woman."
"Ah, Solomon!" sighed Mrs. Shmendrik, pricking up her ears and
interrupting this talk of stocks and stones, "If he'd had a thousand
daughters instead of a thousand wives, even his treasury couldn't have
held out. I had only two girls, praised be He, and yet it nearly ruined
me to buy them husbands. A dirty _Greener_ comes over, without a shirt
to his skin, and nothing else but he must have two hundred pounds in the
hand. And then you've got to stick to his back to see that he doesn't
take his breeches in his hand and off to America. In Poland he would
have been glad to get a maiden, and would have said thank you."
"Well, but what about your own son?" said Sugarman; "Why haven't you
asked me to find Shosshi a wife? It's a sin against the maidens of
Israel. He must be long past the Talmudical age."
"He is twenty-four," replied Peleg Shmendrik.
"Tu, tu, tu, tu, tu!" said Sugarman, clacking his tongue in horror,
"have you perhaps an objection to his marrying?"
"Save us and grant us peace!" said the father in deprecatory horror.
"Only Shosshi is so shy. You are aware, too, he is not handsome. Heaven
alone knows whom he takes after."
"Peleg, I blush for you," said Mrs. Shmendrik. "What is the matter with
the boy? Is he deaf, dumb, blind, unprovided with legs? If Shosshi is
backward with the women, it is because he 'learns' so hard when he's not
at work. He earns a good living by his cabinet-making and it is quite
time he set up a Jewish household for himself. How much will you want
for finding him a _Calloh_?"
"Hush!" said Sugarman sternly, "do you forget it is the Sabbath? Be
assured I shall not charge more than last time, unless the bride has an
extra good dowry."
On Saturday night immediately after _Havdalah_, Sugarman went to Mr.
Belcovitch, who was just about to resume work, and informed him he had
the very _Chosan_ for Becky. "I know," he said, "Becky has a lot of
young men after her, but what are they but a pack of bare-backs? How
much will you give for a solid man?"
After much haggling Belcovitch consented to give twenty pounds
immediately before the marriage ceremony and another twenty at the end
of twelve months.
"But no pretending you haven't got it about you, when we're at the
_Shool_, no asking us to wait till we get home," said Sugarman, "or else
I withdraw my man, even from under the _Chuppah_ itself. When shall I
bring him for your inspection?"
"Oh, to-morrow afternoon, Sunday, when Becky will be out in the park
with her young men. It's best I shall see him first!"
Sugarman now regarded Shosshi as a married man! He rubbed his hands and
went to see him. He found him in a little shed in the back yard where
he did extra work at home. Shosshi was busy completing little wooden
articles--stools and wooden spoons and moneyboxes for sale in Petticoat
Lane next day. He supplemented his wages that way.
"Good evening, Shosshi," said Sugarman.
"Good evening," murmured Shosshi, sawing away.
Shosshi was a gawky young man with a blotched sandy face ever ready to
blush deeper with the suspicion that conversations going on at a
distance were all about him. His eyes were shifty and catlike; one
shoulder overbalanced the other, and when he walked, he swayed loosely
to and fro. Sugarman was rarely remiss in the offices of piety and he
was nigh murmuring the prayer at the sight of monstrosities. "Blessed
art Thou who variest the creatures." But resisting the temptation he
said aloud, "I have something to tell you."
Shosshi looked up suspiciously.
"Don't bother: I am busy," he said, and applied his plane to the leg of
"But this is more important than stools. How would you like to get
Shosshi's face became like a peony.
"Don't make laughter," he said.
"But I mean it. You are twenty-four years old and ought to have a wife
and four children by this time."
"But I don't want a wife and four children," said Shosshi.
"No, of course not. I don't mean a widow. It is a maiden I have in my
"Nonsense, what maiden would have me?" said Shosshi, a note of eagerness
mingling with the diffidence of the words.
"What maiden? _Gott in Himmel_! A hundred. A fine, strong, healthy young
man like you, who can make a good living!"
Shosshi put down his plane and straightened himself. There was a moment
of silence. Then his frame collapsed again into a limp mass. His head
drooped over his left shoulder. "This is all foolishness you talk, the
maidens make mock."
"Be not a piece of clay! I know a maiden who has you quite in
The blush which had waned mantled in a full flood. Shosshi stood
breathless, gazing half suspiciously, half credulously at his strictly
It was about seven o'clock and the moon was a yellow crescent in the
frosty heavens. The sky was punctured with clear-cut constellations. The
back yard looked poetic with its blend of shadow and moonlight.
"A beautiful fine maid," said Sugarman ecstatically, "with pink cheeks
and black eyes and forty pounds dowry."
The moon sailed smilingly along. The water was running into the cistern
with a soothing, peaceful sound. Shosshi consented to go and see Mr.
Mr. Belcovitch made no parade. Everything was as usual. On the wooden
table were two halves of squeezed lemons, a piece of chalk, two cracked
cups and some squashed soap. He was not overwhelmed by Shosshi, but
admitted he was solid. His father was known to be pious, and both his
sisters had married reputable men. Above all, he was not a Dutchman.
Shosshi left No. 1 Royal Street, Belcovitch's accepted son-in-law.
Esther met him on the stairs and noted the radiance on his pimply
countenance. He walked with his head almost erect. Shosshi was indeed
very much in love and felt that all that was needed for his happiness
was a sight of his future wife.
But he had no time to go and see her except on Sunday afternoons, and
then she was always out. Mrs. Belcovitch, however, made amends by paying
him considerable attention. The sickly-looking little woman chatted to
him for hours at a time about her ailments and invited him to taste her
medicine, which was a compliment Mrs. Belcovitch passed only to her most
esteemed visitors. By and by she even wore her night-cap in his presence
as a sign that he had become one of the family. Under this encouragement
Shosshi grew confidential and imparted to his future mother-in-law the
details of his mother's disabilities. But he could mention nothing which
Mrs. Belcovitch could not cap, for she was a woman extremely catholic in
her maladies. She was possessed of considerable imagination, and once
when Fanny selected a bonnet for her in a milliner's window, the girl
had much difficulty in persuading her it was not inferior to what turned
out to be the reflection of itself in a side mirror.
"I'm so weak upon my legs," she would boast to Shosshi. "I was born with
ill-matched legs. One is a thick one and one is a thin one, and so one
Shosshi expressed his sympathetic admiration and the courtship proceeded
apace. Sometimes Fanny and Pesach Weingott would be at home working, and
they were very affable to him. He began to lose something of his shyness
and his lurching gait, and he quite looked forward to his weekly visit
to the Belcovitches. It was the story of Cymon and Iphigenia over again.
Love improved even his powers of conversation, for when Belcovitch held
forth at length Shosshi came in several times with "So?" and sometimes
in the right place. Mr. Belcovitch loved his own voice and listened to
it, the arrested press-iron in his hand. Occasionally in the middle of
one of his harangues it would occur to him that some one was talking and
wasting time, and then he would say to the room, "Shah! Make an end,
make an end," and dry up. But to Shosshi he was especially polite,
rarely interrupting himself when his son-in-law elect was hanging on his
words. There was an intimate tender tone about these _causeries_.
"I should like to drop down dead suddenly," he would say with the air of
a philosopher, who had thought it all out. "I shouldn't care to lie up
in bed and mess about with medicine and doctors. To make a long job of
dying is so expensive."
"So?" said Shosshi.
"Don't worry, Bear! I dare say the devil will seize you suddenly,"
interposed Mrs. Belcovitch drily.
"It will not be the devil," said Mr. Belcovitch, confidently and in a
confidential manner. "If I had died as a young man, Shosshi, it might
have been different."
Shosshi pricked up his ears to listen to the tale of Bear's wild
"One morning," said Belcovitch, "in Poland, I got up at four o'clock to
go to Supplications for Forgiveness. The air was raw and there was no
sign of dawn! Suddenly I noticed a black pig trotting behind me. I
quickened my pace and the black pig did likewise. I broke into a run and
I heard the pig's paws patting furiously upon the hard frozen ground. A
cold sweat broke out all over me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the
pig's eyes burning like red-hot coals in the darkness. Then I knew that
the Not Good One was after me. 'Hear, O Israel,' I cried. I looked up to
the heavens but there was a cold mist covering the stars. Faster and
faster I flew and faster and faster flew the demon pig. At last the
_Shool_ came in sight. I made one last wild effort and fell exhausted
upon the holy threshold and the pig vanished."
"So?" said Shosshi, with a long breath.
"Immediately after _Shool_ I spake with the Rabbi and he said 'Bear, are
thy _Tephillin_ in order?' So I said 'Yea, Rabbi, they are very large
and I bought them of the pious scribe, Naphtali, and I look to the knots
weekly.' But he said, 'I will examine them.' So I brought them to him
and he opened the head-phylactery and lo! in place of the holy parchment
he found bread crumbs."
"Hoi, hoi," said Shosshi in horror, his red hands quivering.
"Yes," said Bear mournfully, "I had worn them for ten years and moreover
the leaven had denied all my Passovers."
Belcovitch also entertained the lover with details of the internal
politics of the "Sons of the Covenant."
Shosshi's affection for Becky increased weekly under the stress of these
intimate conversations with her family. At last his passion was
rewarded, and Becky, at the violent instance of her father, consented to
disappoint one of her young men and stay at home to meet her future
husband. She put off her consent till after dinner though, and it began
to rain immediately before she gave it.
The moment Shosshi came into the room he divined that a change had come
over the spirit of the dream. Out of the corners of his eyes he caught a
glimpse of an appalling beauty standing behind a sewing machine. His
face fired up, his legs began to quiver, he wished the ground would open
and swallow him as it did Korah.
"Becky," said Mr. Belcovitch, "this is Mr. Shosshi Shmendrik."
Shosshi put on a sickly grin and nodded his head affirmatively, as if to
corroborate the statement, and the round felt hat he wore slid back till
the broad rim rested on his ears. Through a sort of mist a terribly fine
Becky stared at him haughtily and curled her lip. Then she giggled.
Shosshi held out his huge red hand limply. Becky took no notice of it.
"_Nu_, Becky!" breathed Belcovitch, in a whisper that could have been
heard across the way.
"How are you? All right?" said Becky, very loud, as if she thought
deafness was among Shosshi's disadvantages.
Shosshi grinned reassuringly.
There was another silence.
Shosshi wondered whether the _convenances_ would permit him to take his
leave now. He did not feel comfortable at all. Everything had been going
so delightfully, it had been quite a pleasure to him to come to the
house. But now all was changed. The course of true love never does run
smooth, and the advent of this new personage into the courtship was
The father came to the rescue.
"A little rum?" he said.
"Yes," said Shosshi.
"Chayah! _nu_. Fetch the bottle!"
Mrs. Belcovitch went to the chest of drawers in the corner of the room
and took from the top of it a large decanter. She then produced two
glasses without feet and filled them with the home-made rum, handing one
to Shosshi and the other to her husband. Shosshi muttered a blessing
over it, then he leered vacuously at the company and cried, "To life!"
"To peace!" replied the older man, gulping down the spirit. Shosshi was
doing the same, when his eye caught Becky's. He choked for five minutes,
Mrs. Belcovitch thumping him maternally on the back. When he was
comparatively recovered the sense of his disgrace rushed upon him and
overwhelmed him afresh. Becky was still giggling behind the sewing
machine. Once more Shosshi felt that the burden of the conversation was
upon him. He looked at his boots and not seeing anything there, looked
up again and grinned encouragingly at the company as if to waive his
rights. But finding the company did not respond, he blew his nose
enthusiastically as a lead off to the conversation.
Mr. Belcovitch saw his embarrassment, and, making a sign to Chayah,
slipped out of the room followed by his wife. Shosshi was left alone
with the terribly fine maid.
Becky stood still, humming a little air and looking up at the ceiling,
as if she had forgotten Shosshi's existence. With her eyes in that
position it was easier for Shosshi to look at her. He stole side-long
glances at her, which, growing bolder and bolder, at length fused into
an uninterrupted steady gaze. How fine and beautiful she was! His eyes
began to glitter, a smile of approbation overspread his face. Suddenly
she looked down and their eyes met. Shosshi's smile hurried off and gave
way to a sickly sheepish look and his legs felt weak. The terribly fine
maid gave a kind of snort and resumed her inspection of the ceiling.
Gradually Shosshi found himself examining her again. Verily Sugarman had
spoken truly of her charms. But--overwhelming thought--had not Sugarman
also said she loved him? Shosshi knew nothing of the ways of girls,
except what he had learned from the Talmud. Quite possibly Becky was now
occupied in expressing ardent affection. He shuffled towards her, his
heart beating violently. He was near enough to touch her. The air she
was humming throbbed in his ears. He opened his mouth to speak--Becky
becoming suddenly aware of his proximity fixed him with a basilisk
glare--the words were frozen on his lips. For some seconds his mouth
remained open, then the ridiculousness of shutting it again without
speaking spurred him on to make some sound, however meaningless. He made
a violent effort and there burst from his lips in Hebrew:
"Happy are those who dwell in thy house, ever shall they praise thee,
Selah!" It was not a compliment to Becky. Shosshi's face lit up with
joyous relief. By some inspiration he had started the afternoon prayer.
He felt that Becky would understand the pious necessity. With fervent
gratitude to the Almighty he continued the Psalm: "Happy are the people
whose lot is thus, etc." Then he turned his back on Becky, with his face
to the East wall, made three steps forwards and commenced the silent
delivery of the _Amidah_. Usually he gabbled off the "Eighteen
Blessings" in five minutes. To-day they were prolonged till he heard the
footsteps of the returning parents. Then he scurried through the relics
of the service at lightning speed. When Mr. and Mrs. Belcovitch
re-entered the room they saw by his happy face that all was well and
made no opposition to his instant departure.
He came again the next Sunday and was rejoiced to find that Becky was
out, though he had hoped to find her in. The courtship made great
strides that afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Belcovitch being more amiable than
ever to compensate for Becky's private refusal to entertain the
addresses of such a _Schmuck_. There had been sharp domestic discussions
during the week, and Becky had only sniffed at her parents'
commendations of Shosshi as a "very worthy youth." She declared that it
was "remission of sins merely to look at him."
Next Sabbath Mr. and Mrs. Belcovitch paid a formal visit to Shosshi's
parents to make their acquaintance, and partook of tea and cake. Becky
was not with them; moreover she defiantly declared she would never be at
home on a Sunday till Shosshi was married. They circumvented her by
getting him up on a weekday. The image of Becky had been so often in his
thoughts now that by the time he saw her the second time he was quite
habituated to her appearance. He had even imagined his arm round her
waist, but in practice he found he could go no further as yet than
Becky was sitting sewing buttonholes when Shosshi arrived. Everybody was
there--Mr. Belcovitch pressing coats with hot irons; Fanny shaking the
room with her heavy machine; Pesach Weingott cutting a piece of
chalk-marked cloth; Mrs. Belcovitch carefully pouring out
tablespoonfuls of medicine. There were even some outside "hands," work
being unusually plentiful, as from the manifestos of Simon Wolf, the
labor-leader, the slop manufacturers anticipated a strike.
Sustained by their presence, Shosshi felt a bold and gallant wooer. He
determined that this time he would not go without having addressed at
least one remark to the object of his affections. Grinning amiably at
the company generally, by way of salutation, he made straight for
Becky's corner. The terribly fine lady snorted at the sight of him,
divining that she had been out-manoeuvred. Belcovitch surveyed the
situation out of the corners of his eyes, not pausing a moment in his
"_Nu_, how goes it, Becky?" Shosshi murmured.
Becky said, "All right, how are you?"
"God be thanked, I have nothing to complain of," said Shosshi,
encouraged by the warmth of his welcome. "My eyes are rather weak,
still, though much better than last year."
Becky made no reply, so Shosshi continued: "But my mother is always a
sick person. She has to swallow bucketsful of cod liver oil. She cannot
be long for this world."
"Nonsense, nonsense," put in Mrs. Belcovitch, appearing suddenly behind
the lovers. "My children's children shall never be any worse; it's all
fancy with her, she coddles herself too much."
"Oh, no, she says she's much worse than you," Shosshi blurted out,
turning round to face his future mother-in-law.
"Oh, indeed!" said Chayah angrily. "My enemies shall have my maladies!
If your mother had my health, she would be lying in bed with it. But I
go about in a sick condition. I can hardly crawl around. Look at my
legs--has your mother got such legs? One a thick one and one a thin
Shosshi grew scarlet; he felt he had blundered. It was the first real
shadow on his courtship--perhaps the little rift within the lute. He
turned back to Becky for sympathy. There was no Becky. She had taken
advantage of the conversation to slip away. He found her again in a
moment though, at the other end of the room. She was seated before a
machine. He crossed the room boldly and bent over her.
"Don't you feel cold, working?"
It was the machine turning. Becky had set the treadle going madly and
was pushing a piece of cloth under the needle. When she paused, Shosshi
"Have you heard Reb Shemuel preach? He told a very amusing allegory
Undaunted, Shosshi recounted the amusing allegory at length, and as the
noise of her machine prevented Becky hearing a word she found his
conversation endurable. After several more monologues, accompanied on
the machine by Becky, Shosshi took his departure in high feather,
promising to bring up specimens of his handiwork for her edification.
On his next visit he arrived with his arms laden with choice morsels of
carpentry. He laid them on the table for her admiration.
They were odd knobs and rockers for Polish cradles! The pink of Becky's
cheeks spread all over her face like a blot of red ink on a piece of
porous paper. Shosshi's face reflected the color in even more
ensanguined dyes. Becky rushed from the room and Shosshi heard her
giggling madly on the staircase. It dawned upon him that he had
displayed bad taste in his selection.
"What have you done to my child?" Mrs. Belcovitch inquired.
"N-n-othing," he stammered; "I only brought her some of my work to see."
"And is this what one shows to a young girl?" demanded the mother
"They are only bits of cradles," said Shosshi deprecatingly. "I thought
she would like to see what nice workmanly things I turned out. See how
smoothly these rockers are carved! There is a thick one, and there is a
"Ah! Shameless droll! dost thou make mock of my legs, too?" said Mrs.
Belcovitch. "Out, impudent face, out with thee!"
Shosshi gathered up his specimens in his arms and fled through the
door. Becky was still in hilarious eruption outside. The sight of her
made confusion worse confounded. The knobs and rockers rolled
thunderously down the stairs; Shosshi stumbled after them, picking them
up on his course and wishing himself dead.
All Sugarman's strenuous efforts to patch up the affair failed. Shosshi
went about broken-hearted for several days. To have been so near the
goal--and then not to arrive after all! What made failure more bitter
was that he had boasted of his conquest to his acquaintances, especially
to the two who kept the stalls to the right and left of him on Sundays
in Petticoat Lane. They made a butt of him as it was; he felt he could
never stand between them for a whole morning now, and have Attic salt
put upon his wounds. He shifted his position, arranging to pay sixpence
a time for the privilege of fixing himself outside Widow Finkelstein's
shop, which stood at the corner of a street, and might be presumed to
intercept two streams of pedestrians. Widow Finkelstein's shop was a
chandler's, and she did a large business in farthing-worths of boiling
water. There was thus no possible rivalry between her ware and
Shosshi's, which consisted of wooden candlesticks, little rocking
chairs, stools, ash-trays, etc., piled up artistically on a barrow.
But Shosshi's luck had gone with the change of _locus_. His _clientele_
went to the old spot but did not find him. He did not even make a
hansel. At two o'clock he tied his articles to the barrow with a
complicated arrangement of cords. Widow Finkelstein waddled out and
demanded her sixpence. Shosshi replied that he had not taken sixpence,
that the coign was not one of vantage. Widow Finkelstein stood up for
her rights, and even hung on to the barrow for them. There was a short,
sharp argument, a simultaneous jabbering, as of a pair of monkeys.
Shosshi Shmendrik's pimply face worked with excited expostulation, Widow
Finkelstein's cushion-like countenance was agitated by waves of
righteous indignation. Suddenly Shosshi darted between the shafts and
made a dash off with the barrow down the side street. But Widow
Finkelstein pressed it down with all her force, arresting the motion
like a drag. Incensed by the laughter of the spectators, Shosshi put
forth all his strength at the shafts, jerked the widow off her feet and
see-sawed her sky-wards, huddled up spherically like a balloon, but
clinging as grimly as ever to the defalcating barrow. Then Shosshi
started off at a run, the carpentry rattling, and the dead weight of his
living burden making his muscles ache.
Right to the end of the street he dragged her, pursued by a hooting
crowd. Then he stopped, worn out.
"Will you give me that sixpence, you _Ganef_!"
"No, I haven't got it. You'd better go back to your shop, else you'll
suffer from worse thieves."
It was true. Widow Finkelstein smote her wig in horror and hurried back
to purvey treacle.
But that night when she shut up the shutters, she hurried off to
Shosshi's address, which she had learned in the interim. His little
brother opened the door and said Shosshi was in the shed.
He was just nailing the thicker of those rockers on to the body of a
cradle. His soul was full of bitter-sweet memories. Widow Finkelstein
suddenly appeared in the moonlight. For a moment Shosshi's heart beat
wildly. He thought the buxom figure was Becky's.
"I have come for my sixpence."
Ah! The words awoke him from his dream. It was only the Widow
And yet--! Verily, the widow, too, was plump and agreeable; if only her
errand had been pleasant, Shosshi felt she might have brightened his
back yard. He had been moved to his depths latterly and a new tenderness
and a new boldness towards women shone in his eyes.
He rose and put his head on one side and smiled amiably and said, "Be
not so foolish. I did not take a copper. I am a poor young man. You have
plenty of money in your stocking."
"How know you that?" said the widow, stretching forward her right foot
meditatively and gazing at the strip of stocking revealed.
"Never mind!" said Shosshi, shaking his head sapiently.
"Well, it's true," she admitted. "I have two hundred and seventeen
golden sovereigns besides my shop. But for all that why should you keep
my sixpence?" She asked it with the same good-humored smile.
The logic of that smile was unanswerable. Shosshi's mouth opened, but no
sound issued from it. He did not even say the Evening Prayer. The moon
sailed slowly across the heavens. The water flowed into the cistern with
a soft soothing sound.
Suddenly it occurred to Shosshi that the widow's waist was not very
unlike that which he had engirdled imaginatively. He thought he would
just try if the sensation was anything like what he had fancied. His arm
strayed timidly round her black-beaded mantle. The sense of his audacity
was delicious. He was wondering whether he ought to say
_She-hechyoni_--the prayer over a new pleasure. But the Widow
Finkelstein stopped his mouth with a kiss. After that Shosshi forgot his
Except old Mrs. Ansell, Sugarman was the only person scandalized.
Shosshi's irrepressible spirit of romance had robbed him of his
commission. But Meckisch danced with Shosshi Shmendrik at the wedding,
while the _Calloh_ footed it with the Russian giantess. The men danced
in one-half of the room, the women in the other.
THE HYAMS'S HONEYMOON.
"Beenah, hast thou heard aught about our Daniel?" There was a note of
anxiety in old Hyams's voice.
"Thou hast not heard talk of him and Sugarman's daughter?"
"No, is there aught between them?" The listless old woman spoke a little
"Only that a man told me that his son saw our Daniel pay court to the
"At the Purim Ball."
"The man is a tool; a youth must dance with some maiden or other."
Miriam came in, fagged out from teaching. Old Hyams dropped from Yiddish
"You are right, he must."
Beenah replied in her slow painful English.
"Would he not have told us?"
Mendel repeated:--"Would he not have told us?"
Each avoided the others eye. Beenah dragged herself about the room,
laying Miriam's tea.
"Mother, I wish you wouldn't scrape your feet along the floor so. It
gets on my nerves and I _am_ so worn out. Would he not have told you
what? And who's he?"
Beenah looked at her husband.
"I heard Daniel was engaged," said old Hyams jerkily.
Miriam started and flushed.
"To whom?" she cried, in excitement.
"Sugarman's daughter?" Miriam's voice was pitched high.
Miriam's voice rose to a higher pitch.
"Sugarman the _Shadchan's_ daughter?"
Miriam burst into a fit of incredulous laughter.
"As if Daniel would marry into a miserable family like that!"
"It is as good as ours," said Mendel, with white lips.
His daughter looked at him astonished. "I thought your children had
taught you more self-respect than that," she said quietly. "Mr. Sugarman
is a nice person to be related to!"
"At home, Mrs. Sugarman's family was highly respected," quavered old
"We are not at home now," said Miriam witheringly. "We're in England. A
bad-tempered old hag!"
"That is what she thinks me," thought Mrs. Hyams. But she said nothing.
"Did you not see Daniel with her at the ball?" said Mr. Hyams, still
"I'm sure I didn't notice," Miriam replied petulantly. "I think you must
have forgot the sugar, mother, or else the tea is viler than usual. Why
don't you let Jane cut the bread and butter instead of lazing in the
"Jane has been washing all day in the scullery," said Mrs. Hyams
"H'm!" snapped Miriam, her pretty face looking peevish and careworn.
"Jane ought to have to manage sixty-three girls whose ignorant parents
let them run wild at home, and haven't the least idea of discipline. As
for this chit of a Sugarman, don't you know that Jews always engage
every fellow and girl that look at each other across the street, and
make fun of them and discuss their united prospects before they are even
introduced to each other."
She finished her tea, changed her dress and went off to the theatre with
a girl-friend. The really harassing nature of her work called for some
such recreation. Daniel came in a little after she had gone out, and ate
his supper, which was his dinner saved for him and warmed up in the
oven. Mendel sat studying from an unwieldy folio which he held on his
lap by the fireside and bent over. When Daniel had done supper and was
standing yawning and stretching himself, Mendel said suddenly as if
trying to bluff him:
"Why don't you ask your father to wish you _Mazzoltov_?"
"_Mazzoltov_? What for?" asked Daniel puzzled.
"On your engagement."
"My engagement!" repeated Daniel, his heart thumping against his ribs.
"Yes--to Bessie Sugarman."
Mendel's eye, fixed scrutinizingly on his boy's face, saw it pass from
white to red and from red to white. Daniel caught hold of the mantel as
if to steady himself.
"But it is a lie!" he cried hotly. "Who told you that?"
"No one; a man hinted as much."
"But I haven't even been in her company."
"Yes--at the Purim Ball."
Daniel bit his lip.
"Damned gossips!" he cried. "I'll never speak to the girl again."
There was a tense silence for a few seconds, then old Hyams said:
"Why not? You love her."
Daniel stared at him, his heart palpitating painfully. The blood in his
ears throbbed mad sweet music.
"You love her," Mendel repeated quietly. "Why do you not ask her to
marry you? Do you fear she would refuse?"
Daniel burst into semi-hysterical laughter. Then seeing his father's
half-reproachful, half-puzzled look he said shamefacedly:
"Forgive me, father, I really couldn't help it. The idea of your talking
about love! The oddity of it came over me all of a heap."
"Why should I not talk about love?"
"Don't be so comically serious, father," said Daniel, smiling afresh.
"What's come over you? What have you to do with love? One would think
you were a romantic young fool on the stage. It's all nonsense about
love. I don't love anybody, least of all Bessie Sugarman, so don't you
go worrying your old head about _my_ affairs. You get back to that musty
book of yours there. I wonder if you've suddenly come across anything
about love in that, and don't forget to use the reading glasses and not
your ordinary spectacles, else it'll be a sheer waste of money. By the
way, mother, remember to go to the Eye Hospital on Saturday to be
tested. I feel sure it's time you had a pair of specs, too."
"Don't I look old enough already?" thought Mrs. Hyams. But she said,
"Very well, Daniel," and began to clear away his supper.
"That's the best of being in the fancy," said Daniel cheerfully.
"There's no end of articles you can get at trade prices."
He sat for half an hour turning over the evening paper, then went to
bed. Mr. and Mrs. Hyams's eyes sought each other involuntarily but they
said nothing. Mrs. Hyams fried a piece of _Wurst_ for Miriam's supper
and put it into the oven to keep hot, then she sat down opposite Mendel
to stitch on a strip of fur, which had got unripped on one of Miriam's
jackets. The fire burnt briskly, little flames leaped up with a
crackling sound, the clock ticked quietly.
Beenah threaded her needle at the first attempt.
"I can still see without spectacles," she thought bitterly. But she said
Mendel looked up furtively at her several times from his book. The
meagreness of her parchment flesh, the thickening mesh of wrinkles, the
snow-white hair struck him with almost novel force. But he said nothing.
Beenah patiently drew her needle through and through the fur, ever and
anon glancing at Mendel's worn spectacled face, the eyes deep in the
sockets, the forehead that was bent over the folio furrowed painfully
beneath the black _Koppel_, the complexion sickly. A lump seemed to be
rising in her throat. She bent determinedly over her sewing, then
suddenly looked up again. This time their eyes met. They did not droop
them; a strange subtle flash seemed to pass from soul to soul. They
gazed at each other, trembling on the brink of tears.
"Beenah." The voice was thick with suppressed sobs.
"Thou hast heard?"
"He says he loves her not."
"So he says."
"It is lies, Beenah."
"But wherefore should he lie?"
"Thou askest with thy mouth, not thy heart. Thou knowest that he wishes
us not to think that he remains single for our sake. All his money goes
to keep up this house we live in. It is the law of Moses. Sawest thou
not his face when I spake of Sugarman's daughter?"
Beenah rocked herself to and fro, crying: "My poor Daniel, my poor lamb!
Wait a little. I shall die soon. The All-High is merciful. Wait a
Mendel caught Miriam's jacket which was slipping to the floor and laid
"It helps not to cry," said he gently, longing to cry with her. "This
cannot be. He must marry the maiden whom his heart desires. Is it not
enough that he feels that we have crippled his life for the sake of our
Sabbath? He never speaks of it, but it smoulders in his veins."
"Wait a little!" moaned Beenah, still rocking to and fro.
"Nay, calm thyself." He rose and passed his horny hand tenderly over her
white hair. "We must not wait. Consider how long Daniel has waited."
"Yes, my poor lamb, my poor lamb!" sobbed the old woman.
"If Daniel marries," said the old man, striving to speak firmly, "we
have not a penny to live upon. Our Miriam requires all her salary.
Already she gives us more than she can spare. She is a lady, in a great
position. She must dress finely. Who knows, too, but that we are in the
way of a gentleman marrying her? We are not fit to mix with high people.
But above all, Daniel must marry and I must earn your and my living as I
did when the children were young."
"But what wilt thou do?" said Beenah, ceasing to cry and looking up with
affrighted face. "Thou canst not go glaziering. Think of Miriam. What
canst thou do, what canst thou do? Thou knowest no trade!"
"No, I know no trade," he said bitterly. "At home, as thou art aware, I
was a stone-mason, but here I could get no work without breaking the
Sabbath, and my hand has forgotten its cunning. Perhaps I shall get my
hand back." He took hers in the meantime. It was limp and chill, though
so near the fire. "Have courage." he said. "There is naught I can do
here that will not shame Miriam. We cannot even go into an almshouse
without shedding her blood. But the Holy One, blessed be He, is good. I
will go away."
"Go away!" Beenah's clammy hand tightened her clasp of his. "Thou wilt
travel with ware in the country?"
"No. If it stands written that I must break with my children, let the
gap be too wide for repining. Miriam will like it better. I will go to
"To America!" Beenah's heartbeat wildly. "And leave me?" A strange
sense of desolation swept over her.
"Yes--for a little, anyhow. Thou must not face the first hardships. I
shall find something to do. Perhaps in America there are more Jewish
stone-masons to get work from. God will not desert us. There I can sell
ware in the streets--do as I will. At the worst I can always fall back
upon glaziering. Have faith, my dove."
The novel word of affection thrilled Beenah through and through.
"I shall send thee a little money; then as soon as I can see my way dear
I shall send for thee and thou shalt come out to me and we will live
happily together and our children shall live happily here."
But Beenah burst into fresh tears.
"Woe! Woe!" she sobbed. "How wilt thou, an old man, face the sea and the
strange faces all alone? See how sorely thou art racked with rheumatism.
How canst thou go glaziering? Thou liest often groaning all the night.
How shalt thou carry the heavy crate on thy shoulders?"
"God will give me strength to do what is right." The tears were plain
enough in his voice now and would not be denied. His words forced
themselves out in a husky wheeze.
Beenah threw her arms round his neck. "No! No!" she cried hysterically.
"Thou shalt not go! Thou shalt not leave me!"
"I must go," his parched lips articulated. He could not see that the
snow of her hair had drifted into her eyes and was scarce whiter than
her cheeks. His spectacles were a blur of mist.
"No, no," she moaned incoherently. "I shall die soon. God is merciful.
Wait a little, wait a little. He will kill us both soon. My poor lamb,
my poor Daniel! Thou shalt not leave me."
The old man unlaced her arms from his neck.
"I must. I have heard God's word in the silence."
"Then I will go with thee. Wherever thou goest I will go."
"No, no; thou shall not face the first hardships, I will front them
alone; I am strong, I am a man."
"And thou hast the heart to leave me?" She looked piteously into his
face, but hers was still hidden from him in the mist. But through the
darkness the flash passed again. His hand groped for her waist, he drew
her again towards him and put the arms he had unlaced round his neck and
stooped his wet cheek to hers. The past was a void, the forty years of
joint housekeeping, since the morning each had seen a strange face on
the pillow, faded to a point. For fifteen years they had been drifting
towards each other, drifting nearer, nearer in dual loneliness; driven
together by common suffering and growing alienation from the children
they had begotten in common; drifting nearer, nearer in silence, almost
in unconsciousness. And now they had met. The supreme moment of their
lives had come. The silence of forty years was broken. His withered lips
sought hers and love flooded their souls at last.
When the first delicious instants were over, Mendel drew a chair to the
table and wrote a letter in Hebrew script and posted it and Beenah
picked up Miriam's jacket. The crackling flames had subsided to a steady
glow, the clock ticked on quietly as before, but something new and sweet
and sacred had come into her life, and Beenah no longer wished to die.
When Miriam came home, she brought a little blast of cold air into the
room. Beenah rose and shut the door and put out Miriam's supper; she did
not drag her feet now.
"Was it a nice play, Miriam?" said Beenah softly.
"The usual stuff and nonsense!" said Miriam peevishly. "Love and all
that sort of thing, as if the world never got any older."
At breakfast next morning old Hyams received a letter by the first post.
He carefully took his spectacles off and donned his reading-glasses to
read it, throwing the envelope carelessly into the fire. When he had
scanned a few lines he uttered an exclamation of surprise and dropped
"What's the matter, father?" said Daniel, while Miriam tilted her snub
"Praised be God!" was all the old man could say.
"Well, what is it? Speak!" said Beenah, with unusual animation, while a
flush of excitement lit up Miriam's face and made it beautiful.
"My brother in America has won a thousand pounds on the lotter_ee_ and
he invites me and Beenah to come and live with him."
"Your brother in America!" repeated his children staring.
"Why, I didn't know you had a brother in America," added Miriam.
"No, while he was poor, I didn't mention him," replied Mendel, with
unintentional sarcasm. "But I've heard from him several times. We both
came over from Poland together, but the Board of Guardians sent him and
a lot of others on to New York."
"But you won't go, father!" said Daniel.
"Why not? I should like to see my brother before I die. We were very
thick as boys."
"But a thousand pounds isn't so very much," Miriam could not refrain
Old Hyams had thought it boundless opulence and was now sorry he had not
done his brother a better turn.
"It will be enough for us all to live upon, he and Beenah and me. You
see his wife died and he has no children."
"You don't really mean to go?" gasped Daniel, unable to grasp the
situation suddenly sprung upon him. "How will you get the money to
"Read here!" said Mendel, quietly passing him the letter. "He offers to
"But it's written in Hebrew!" cried Daniel, turning it upside down
"You can read Hebrew writing surely," said his father.
"I could, years and years ago. I remember you taught me the letters. But
my Hebrew correspondence has been so scanty--" He broke off with a
laugh and handed the letter to Miriam, who surveyed it with mock
comprehension. There was a look of relief in her eyes as she returned it
to her father.
"He might have sent something to his nephew and his niece," she said
"Perhaps he will when I get to America and tell him how pretty you are,"
said Mendel oracularly. He looked quite joyous and even ventured to
pinch Miriam's flushed cheek roguishly, and she submitted to the
indignity without a murmur.
"Why _you're_ looking as pleased as Punch too, mother," said Daniel, in
half-rueful amazement. "You seem delighted at the idea of leaving us."
"I always wanted to see America," the old woman admitted with a smile.
"I also shall renew an old friendship in New York." She looked meaningly
at her husband, and in his eye was an answering love-light.
"Well, that's cool!" Daniel burst forth. "But she doesn't mean it, does
"I mean it." Hyams answered.
"But it can't be true," persisted Daniel, in ever-growing bewilderment.
"I believe it's all a hoax."
Mendel hastily drained his coffee-cup.
"A hoax!" he murmured, from behind the cup.
"Yes, I believe some one is having a lark with you."
"Nonsense!" cried Mendel vehemently, as he put down his coffee-cup and
picked up the letter from the table. "Don't I know my own brother
Yankov's writing. Besides, who else would know all the little things he
Daniel was silenced, but lingered on after Miriam had departed to her
"I shall write at once, accepting Yankov's offer," said his father.
"Fortunately we took the house by the week, so you can always move out
if it is too large for you and Miriam. I can trust you to look after
Miriam, I know, Daniel." Daniel expostulated yet further, but Mendel
"He is so lonely. He cannot well come over here by himself because he is
half paralyzed. After all, what have I to do in England? And the mother
naturally does not care to leave me. Perhaps I shall get my brother to
travel with me to the land of Israel, and then we shall all end our
days in Jerusalem, which you know has always been my heart's desire."
Neither mentioned Bessie Sugarman.
"Why do you make so much bother?" Miriam said to Daniel in the evening.
"It's the best thing that could have happened. Who'd have dreamed at
this hour of the day of coming into possession of a relative who might
actually have something to leave us. It'll be a good story to tell,
After _Shool_ next morning Mendel spoke to the President.
"Can you lend me six pounds?" he asked.
"Six pounds!" he repeated, dazed.
"Yes. I wish to go to America with my wife. And I want you moreover to
give your hand as a countryman that you will not breathe a word of this,
whatever you hear. Beenah and I have sold a few little trinkets which
our children gave us, and we have reckoned that with six pounds more we
shall be able to take steerage passages and just exist till I get work."
"But six pounds is a very great sum--without sureties," said Belcovitch,
rubbing his time-worn workaday high hat in his agitation.
"I know it is!" answered Mendel, "but God is my witness that I mean to
pay you. And if I die before I can do so I vow to send word to my son
Daniel, who will pay you the balance. You know my son Daniel. His word
is an oath."
"But where shall I get six pounds from?" said Bear helplessly. "I am
only a poor tailor, and my daughter gets married soon. It is a great
sum. By my honorable word, it is. I have never lent so much in my life,
nor even been security for such an amount."
Mendel dropped his head. There was a moment of anxious silence. Bear
"I tell you what I'll do," said Bear at last. "I'll lend you five if you
can manage to come out with that."
Mendel gave a great sigh of relief. "God shall bless you," he said. He
wrung the sweater's hand passionately. "I dare say we shall find another
sovereign's-worth to sell." Mendel clinched the borrowing by standing
the lender a glass of rum, and Bear felt secure against the graver
shocks of doom. If the worst come to the worst now, he had still had
something for his money.
And so Mendel and Beenah sailed away over the Atlantic. Daniel
accompanied them to Liverpool, but Miriam said she could not get a day's
holiday--perhaps she remembered the rebuke Esther Ansell had drawn down
on herself, and was chary of asking.
At the dock in the chill dawn, Mendel Hyams kissed his son Daniel on the
forehead and said in a broken voice:
"Good-bye. God bless you." He dared not add and God bless your Bessie,
my daughter-in-law to be; but the benediction was in his heart.
Daniel turned away heavy-hearted, but the old man touched him on the
shoulder and said in a low tremulous voice:
"Won't you forgive me for putting you into the fancy goods?"
"Father! What do you mean?" said Daniel choking. "Surely you are not
thinking of the wild words I spoke years and years ago. I have long
"Then you will remain a good Jew," said Mendel, trembling all over,
"even when we are far away?"
"With God's help," said Daniel. And then Mendel turned to Beenah and
kissed her, weeping, and the faces of the old couple were radiant behind
Daniel stood on the clamorous hustling wharf, watching the ship move
slowly from her moorings towards the open river, and neither he nor any
one in the world but the happy pair knew that Mendel and Beenah were on
* * * * *
Mrs. Hyams died two years after her honeymoon, and old Hyams laid a
lover's kiss upon her sealed eyelids. Then, being absolutely alone in
the world, he sold off his scanty furniture, sent the balance of the
debt with a sovereign of undemanded interest to Bear Belcovitch, and
girded up his loins for the journey to Jerusalem, which had been the
dream of his life.
But the dream of his life had better have remained a dream Mendel saw
the hills of Palestine and the holy Jordan and Mount Moriah, the site of
the Temple, and the tombs of Absalom and Melchitsedek, and the gate of
Zion and the aqueduct built by Solomon, and all that he had longed to
see from boyhood. But somehow it was not _his_ Jerusalem--scarce more
than his London Ghetto transplanted, only grown filthier and narrower
and more ragged, with cripples for beggars and lepers in lieu of
hawkers. The magic of his dream-city was not here. This was something
prosaic, almost sordid. It made his heart sink as he thought of the
sacred splendors of the Zion he had imaged in his suffering soul. The
rainbows builded of his bitter tears did not span the firmament of this
dingy Eastern city, set amid sterile hills. Where were the roses and
lilies, the cedars and the fountains? Mount Moriah was here indeed, but
it bore the Mosque of Omar, and the Temple of Jehovah was but one ruined
wall. The Shechinah, the Divine Glory, had faded into cold sunshine.
"Who shall go up into the Mount of Jehovah." Lo, the Moslem worshipper
and the Christian tourist. Barracks and convents stood on Zion's hill.
His brethren, rulers by divine right of the soil they trod, were lost in
the chaos of populations--Syrians, Armenians, Turks, Copts, Abyssinians,
Europeans--as their synagogues were lost amid the domes and minarets of
the Gentiles. The city was full of venerated relics of the Christ his
people had lived--and died--to deny, and over all flew the crescent flag
of the Mussulman.
And so every Friday, heedless of scoffing on-lookers, Mendel Hyams
kissed the stones of the Wailing Place, bedewing their barrenness with
tears; and every year at Passover, until he was gathered to his fathers,
he continued to pray: "Next year--in Jerusalem!"
THE HEBREW'S FRIDAY NIGHT.
"Ah, the Men-of-the-Earth!" said Pinchas to Reb Shemuel, "ignorant
fanatics, how shall a movement prosper in their hands? They have not the
poetic vision, their ideas are as the mole's; they wish to make
Messiahs out of half-pence. What inspiration for the soul is there in
the sight of snuffy collectors that have the air of _Schnorrers_? with
Karlkammer's red hair for a flag and the sound of Gradkoski's nose
blowing for a trumpet-peal. But I have written an acrostic against
Guedalyah the greengrocer, virulent as serpent's gall. He the Redeemer,
indeed, with his diseased potatoes and his flat ginger-beer! Not thus
did the great prophets and teachers in Israel figure the Return. Let a
great signal-fire be lit in Israel and lo! the beacons will leap up on
every mountain and tongue of flame shall call to tongue. Yea, I, even I,
Melchitsedek Pinchas, will light the fire forthwith."
"Nay, not to-day," said Reb Shemuel, with his humorous twinkle; "it is
The Rabbi was returning from synagogue and Pinchas was giving him his
company on the short homeward journey. At their heels trudged Levi and
on the other side of Reb Shemuel walked Eliphaz Chowchoski, a
miserable-looking Pole whom Reb Shemuel was taking home to supper. In
those days Reb Shemuel was not alone in taking to his hearth "the
Sabbath guest"--some forlorn starveling or other--to sit at the table in
like honor with the master. It was an object lesson in equality and
fraternity for the children of many a well-to-do household, nor did it
fail altogether in the homes of the poor. "All Israel are brothers," and
how better honor the Sabbath than by making the lip-babble a reality?
"You will speak to your daughter?" said Pinchas, changing the subject
abruptly. "You will tell her that what I wrote to her is not a millionth
part of what I feel--that she is my sun by day and my moon and stars by
night, that I must marry her at once or die, that I think of nothing in
the world but her, that I can do, write, plan, nothing without her, that
once she smiles on me I will write her great love-poems, greater than
Byron's, greater than Heine's--the real Song of Songs, which is
Pinchas's--that I will make her immortal as Dante made Beatrice, as
Petrarch made Laura, that I walk about wretched, bedewing the pavements
with my tears, that I sleep not by night nor eat by day--you will tell
her this?" He laid his finger pleadingly on his nose.
"I will tell her," said Reb Shemuel. "You are a son-in-law to gladden
the heart of any man. But I fear the maiden looks but coldly on wooers.
Besides you are fourteen years older than she."
"Then I love her twice as much as Jacob loved Rachel--for it is written
'seven years were but as a day in his love for her.' To me fourteen
years are but as a day in my love for Hannah."
The Rabbi laughed at the quibble and said:
"You are like the man who when he was accused of being twenty years
older than the maiden he desired, replied 'but when I look at her I
shall become ten years younger, and when she looks at me she will become
ten years older, and thus we shall be even.'"
Pinchas laughed enthusiastically in his turn, but replied:
"Surely you will plead my cause, you whose motto is the Hebrew
saying--'the husband help the housewife, God help the bachelor.'"
"But have you the wherewithal to support her?"
"Shall my writings not suffice? If there are none to protect literature
in England, we will go abroad--to your birthplace, Reb Shemuel, the
cradle of great scholars."
The poet spoke yet more, but in the end his excited stridulous accents
fell on Reb Shemuel's ears as a storm without on the ears of the
slippered reader by the fireside. He had dropped into a delicious
reverie--tasting in advance the Sabbath peace. The work of the week was
over. The faithful Jew could enter on his rest--the narrow, miry streets
faded before the brighter image of his brain. "_Come, my beloved, to
meet the Bride, the face of the Sabbath let us welcome._"
To-night his sweetheart would wear her Sabbath face, putting off the
mask of the shrew, which hid not from him the angel countenance.
To-night he could in very truth call his wife (as the Rabbi in the
Talmud did) "not wife, but home." To-night she would be in very truth
_Simcha_--rejoicing. A cheerful warmth glowed at his heart, love for all
the wonderful Creation dissolved him in tenderness. As he approached
the door, cheerful lights gleamed on him like a heavenly smile. He
invited Pinchas to enter, but the poet in view of his passion thought it
prudent to let others plead for him and went off with his finger to his
nose in final reminder. The Reb kissed the _Mezuzah_ on the outside of
the door and his daughter, who met him, on the inside. Everything was as
he had pictured it--the two tall wax candles in quaint heavy silver
candlesticks, the spotless table-cloth, the dish of fried fish made
picturesque with sprigs of parsley, the Sabbath loaves shaped like boys'
tip-cats, with a curious plait of crust from point to point and thickly
sprinkled with a drift of poppy-seed, and covered with a velvet cloth
embroidered with Hebrew words; the flask of wine and the silver goblet.
The sight was familiar yet it always struck the simple old Reb anew,
with a sense of special blessing.
"Good _Shabbos_, Simcha," said Reb Shemuel.
"Good _Shabbos_, Shemuel." said Simcha. The light of love was in her
eyes, and in her hair her newest comb. Her sharp features shone with
peace and good-will and the consciousness of having duly lit the Sabbath
candles and thrown the morsel of dough into the fire. Shemuel kissed
her, then he laid his hands upon Hannah's head and murmured:
"May God make thee as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah," and upon
Levi's, murmuring: "May God make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh."
Even the callous Levi felt the breath of sanctity in the air and had a
vague restful sense of his Sabbath Angel hovering about and causing him
to cast two shadows on the wall while his Evil Angel shivered impotent
on the door-step.
Then Reb Shemuel repeated three times a series of sentences commencing:
"_Peace be unto you, ye ministering Angels_," and thereupon the
wonderful picture of an ideal woman from Proverbs, looking
affectionately at Simcha the while. "A woman of worth, whoso findeth
her, her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband trusteth in
her; good and not evil will she do him all the days of her life; she
riseth, while it is yet night, giveth food to her household and a task
to her maidens. She putteth her own hands to the spindle; she
stretcheth out her hand to the poor--strength and honor are her clothing
and she looketh forth smilingly to the morrow; she openeth her mouth
with wisdom and the law of kindness is on her tongue--she looketh well
to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Deceitful is favor and vain is beauty, but the woman that feareth the
Lord, _she_ shall be praised."
Then, washing his hands with the due benediction, he filled the goblet
with wine, and while every one reverently stood he "made Kiddish," in a
traditional joyous recitative "... blessed art thou, O Lord, our God!
King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine, who doth
sanctify us with His commandments and hath delight in us.... Thou hast
chosen and sanctified us above all peoples and with love and favor hast
made us to inherit Thy holy Sabbath...."
And all the household, and the hungry Pole, answered "Amen," each
sipping of the cup in due gradation, then eating a special morsel of
bread cut by the father and dipped in salt; after which the good wife
served the fish, and cups and saucers clattered and knives and forks
rattled. And after a few mouthfuls, the Pole knew himself a Prince in
Israel and felt he must forthwith make choice of a maiden to grace his
royal Sabbath board. Soup followed the fish; it was not served direct
from the saucepan but transferred by way of a large tureen; since any
creeping thing that might have got into the soup would have rendered the
plateful in which it appeared not legally potable, whereas if it were
detected in the large tureen, its polluting powers would be dissipated
by being diffused over such a large mass of fluid. For like religious
reasons, another feature of the etiquette of the modern fashionable
table had been anticipated by many centuries--the eaters washed their
hands in a little bowl of water after their meal. The Pollack was thus
kept by main religious force in touch with a liquid with which he had no
When supper was over, grace was chanted and then the _Zemiroth_ was
sung--songs summing up in light and jingling metre the very essence of
holy joyousness--neither riotous nor ascetic--the note of spiritualized
common sense which has been the key-note of historical Judaism. For to
feel "the delight of Sabbath" is a duty and to take three meals thereon
a religions obligation--the sanctification of the sensuous by a creed to
which everything is holy. The Sabbath is the hub of the Jew's universe;
to protract it is a virtue, to love it a liberal education. It cancels
all mourning--even for Jerusalem. The candles may gutter out at their
own greasy will--unsnuffed, untended--is not Sabbath its own
This is the sanctified rest-day;
Happy the man who observes it,
Thinks of it over the wine-cup,
Feeling no pang at his heart-strings
For that his purse-strings are empty,
Joyous, and if he must borrow
God will repay the good lender,
Meat, wine and fish in profusion--
See no delight is deficient.
Let but the table be spread well,
Angels of God answer "Amen!"
So when a soul is in dolor,
Cometh the sweet restful Sabbath,
Singing and joy in its footsteps,
Rapidly floweth Sambatyon,
Till that, of God's love the symbol,
Sabbath, the holy, the peaceful,
Husheth its turbulent waters.
* * * * *
Bless Him, O constant companions,
Rock from whose stores we have eaten,
Eaten have we and have left, too,
Just as the Lord hath commanded
Father and Shepherd and Feeder.
His is the bread we have eaten,
His is the wine we have drunken,
Wherefore with lips let us praise Him,
Lord of the land of our fathers,
Gratefully, ceaselessly chaunting
"None like Jehovah is holy."
* * * * *
Light and rejoicing to Israel,
Sabbath, the soother of sorrows,
Comfort of down-trodden Israel,
Healing the hearts that were broken!
Banish despair! Here is Hope come,
What! A soul crushed! Lo a stranger
Bringeth the balsamous Sabbath.
Build, O rebuild thou, Thy Temple,
Fill again Zion, Thy city,
Clad with delight will we go there,
Other and new songs to sing there,
Merciful One and All-Holy,
Praised for ever and ever.
During the meal the Pollack began to speak with his host about the
persecution in the land whence he had come, the bright spot in his
picture being the fidelity of his brethren under trial, only a minority
deserting and those already tainted with Epicureanism--students wishful
of University distinction and such like. Orthodox Jews are rather
surprised when men of (secular) education remain in the fold.
Hannah took advantage of a pause in their conversation to say in German:
"I am so glad, father, thou didst not bring that man home."
"What man?" said Reb Shemuel.
"The dirty monkey-faced little man who talks so much."
The Reb considered.
"I know none such."
"Pinchas she means," said her mother. "The poet!"
Reb Shemuel looked at her gravely. This did not sound promising.
"Why dost thou speak so harshly of thy fellow-creatures?" he said. "The
man is a scholar and a poet, such as we have too few in Israel."
"We have too many _Schnorrers_ in Israel already," retorted Hannah.
"Sh!" whispered Reb Shemuel reddening and indicating his guest with a
slight movement of the eye.
Hannah bit her lip in self-humiliation and hastened to load the lucky
Pole's plate with an extra piece of fish.
"He has written me a letter," she went on.
"He has told me so," he answered. "He loves thee with a great love."
"What nonsense, Shemuel!" broke in Simcha, setting down her coffee-cup
with work-a-day violence. "The idea of a man who has not a penny to
bless himself with marrying our Hannah! They would be on the Board of
Guardians in a month."
"Money is not everything. Wisdom and learning outweigh much. And as the
Midrash says: 'As a scarlet ribbon becometh a black horse, so poverty
becometh the daughter of Jacob.' The world stands on the Torah, not on
gold; as it is written: 'Better is the Law of Thy mouth to me than
thousands of gold or silver.' He is greater than I, for he studies the
law for nothing like the fathers of the Mishna while I am paid a
"Methinks thou art little inferior," said Simcha, "for thou retainest
little enough thereof. Let Pinchas get nothing for himself, 'tis his
affair, but, if he wants my Hannah, he must get something for her. Were
the fathers of the Mishna also fathers of families?"
"Certainly; is it not a command--'Be fruitful and multiply'?"
"And how did their families live?"
"Many of our sages were artisans."
"Aha!" snorted Simcha triumphantly.
"And says not the Talmud," put in the Pole as if he were on the family
council, "'Flay a carcass in the streets rather than be under an
obligation'?" This with supreme unconsciousness of any personal
application. "Yea, and said not Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabbi Judah
the Prince, 'it is commendable to join the study of the Law with worldly
employment'? Did not Moses our teacher keep sheep?
"Truth," replied the host. "I agree with Maimonides that man should
first secure a living, then prepare a residence and after that seek a
wife; and that they are fools who invert the order. But Pinchas works
also with his pen. He writes articles in the papers. But the great
thing, Hannah, is that he loves the Law."
"H'm!" said Hannah. "Let him marry the Law, then."
"He is in a hurry," said Reb Shemuel with a flash of irreverent
facetiousness. "And he cannot become the Bridegroom of the Law till
All laughed. The Bridegroom of the Law is the temporary title of the Jew
who enjoys the distinction of being "called up" to the public reading of
the last fragment of the Pentateuch, which is got through once a year.
Under the encouragement of the laughter, the Rabbi added:
"But he will know much more of his Bride than the majority of the Law's
Hannah took advantage of her father's pleasure in the effect of his
jokes to show him Pinchas's epistle, which he deciphered laboriously. It
Next to Heaven
Ah, I love you
The Pole, looking a different being from the wretch who had come empty,
departed invoking Peace on the household; Simcha went into the kitchen
to superintend the removal of the crockery thither; Levi slipped out to
pay his respects to Esther Ansell, for the evening was yet young, and
father and daughter were left alone.
Reb Shemuel was already poring over a Pentateuch in his Friday night
duty of reading the Portion twice in Hebrew and once in Chaldaic.
Hannah sat opposite him, studying the kindly furrowed face, the massive
head set on rounded shoulders, the shaggy eyebrows, the long whitening
beard moving with the mumble of the pious lips, the brown peering eyes
held close to the sacred tome, the high forehead crowned with the black
She felt a moisture gathering under her eyelids as she looked at him.
"Father," she said at last, in a gentle voice.
"Did you call me, Hannah?" he asked, looking up.
"Yes, dear. About this man, Pinchas."
"I am sorry I spoke harshly of him,''
"Ah, that is right, my daughter. If he is poor and ill-clad we must only
honor him the more. Wisdom and learning must be respected if they appear
in rags. Abraham entertained God's messengers though they came as weary
"I know, father, it is not because of his appearance that I do not like
him. If he is really a scholar and a poet, I will try to admire him as
"Now you speak like a true daughter of Israel."
"But about my marrying him--you are not really in earnest?"
"_He_ is." said Reb Shemuel, evasively.
"Ah, I knew you were not," she said, catching the lurking twinkle in his
eye. "You know I could never marry a man like that."
"Your mother could," said the Reb.
"Dear old goose," she said, leaning across to pull his beard. "You are
not a bit like that--you know a thousand times more, you know you do."
The old Rabbi held up his hands in comic deprecation.
"Yes, you do," she persisted. "Only you let him talk so much; you let
everybody talk and bamboozle you."
Reb Shemuel drew the hand that fondled his beard in his own, feeling the
fresh warm skin with a puzzled look.
"The hands are the hands of Hannah," he said, "but the voice is the
voice of Simcha."
Hannah laughed merrily.
"All right, dear, I won't scold you any more. I'm so glad it didn't
really enter your great stupid, clever old head that I was likely to
care for Pinchas."
"My dear daughter, Pinchas wished to take you to wife, and I felt
pleased. It is a union with a son of the Torah, who has also the pen of
a ready writer. He asked me to tell you and I did."
"But you would not like me to marry any one I did not like."
"God forbid! My little Hannah shall marry whomever she pleases."
A wave of emotion passed over the girl's face.
"You don't mean that, father," she said, shaking her head.
"True as the Torah! Why should I not?"
"Suppose," she said slowly, "I wanted to marry a Christian?"
Her heart beat painfully as she put the question.
Reb Shemuel laughed heartily.
"My Hannah would have made a good Talmudist. Of course, I don't mean it
in that sense."
"Yes, but if I was to marry a very _link_ Jew, you'd think it almost as
"No, no!" said the Reb, shaking his head. "That's a different thing
altogether; a Jew is a Jew, and a Christian a Christian."
"But you can't always distinguish between them," argued Hannah. "There
are Jews who behave as if they were Christians, except, of course, they
don't believe in the Crucified One."
Still the old Reb shook his head.
"The worst of Jews cannot put off his Judaism. His unborn soul undertook
the yoke of the Torah at Sinai."
"Then you really wouldn't mind if I married a _link_ Jew!"
He looked at her, startled, a suspicion dawning in his eyes.
"I should mind," he said slowly. "But if you loved him he would become a
The simple conviction of his words moved her to tears, but she kept them
"But if he wouldn't?"
"I should pray. While there is life there is hope for the sinner in
She fell back on her old question.
"And you would really not mind whom I married?"
"Follow your heart, my little one," said Reb Shemuel. "It is a good
heart and it will not lead you wrong."
Hannah turned away to hide the tears that could no longer be stayed. Her
father resumed his reading of the Law.
But he had got through very few verses ere he felt a soft warm arm
round his neck and a wet cheek laid close to his.
"Father, forgive me," whispered the lips. "I am so sorry. I thought,
that--that I--that you--oh father, father! I feel as if I had never
known you before to-night."
"What is it, my daughter?" said Reb Shemuel, stumbling into Yiddish in
his anxiety. "What hast thou done?"
"I have betrothed myself," she answered, unwittingly adopting his
dialect. "I have betrothed myself without telling thee or mother."
"To whom?" he asked anxiously.
"To a Jew," she hastened to assure him, "But he is neither a Talmud-sage
nor pious. He is newly returned from the Cape."
"Ah, they are a _link_ lot," muttered the Reb anxiously. "Where didst
thou first meet him?"
"At the Club," she answered. "At the Purim Ball--the night before Sam
Levine came round here to be divorced from me."
He wrinkled his great brow. "Thy mother would have thee go," he said.
"Thou didst not deserve I should get thee the divorce. What is his
"David Brandon. He is not like other Jewish young men; I thought he was
and did him wrong and mocked at him when first he spoke to me, so that
afterwards I felt tender towards him. His conversation is agreeable, for
he thinks for himself, and deeming thou wouldst not hear of such a match
and that there was no danger, I met him at the Club several times in the
evening, and--and--thou knowest the rest."
She turned away her face, blushing, contrite, happy, anxious.
Her love-story was as simple as her telling of it. David Brandon was not
the shadowy Prince of her maiden dreams, nor was the passion exactly as
she had imagined it; it was both stronger and stranger, and the sense of
secrecy and impending opposition instilled into her love a poignant
The Reb stroked her hair silently.
"I would not have said 'Yea' so quick, father," she went on, "but David
had to go to Germany to take a message to the aged parents of his Cape
chum, who died in the gold-fields. David had promised the dying man to
go personally as soon as he returned to England--I think it was a
request for forgiveness and blessing--but after meeting me he delayed
going, and when I learned of it I reproached him, but he said he could
not tear himself away, and he would not go till I had confessed I loved
him. At last I said if he would go home the moment I said it and not
bother about getting me a ring or anything, but go off to Germany the
first thing the next morning, I would admit I loved him a little bit.
Thus did it occur. He went off last Wednesday. Oh, isn't it cruel to
think, father, that he should be going with love and joy in his heart to
the parents of his dead friend!"
Her father's head was bent. She lifted it up by the chin and looked
pleadingly into the big brown eyes.
"Thou art not angry with me, father?"
"No, Hannah. But thou shouldst have told me from the first."
"I always meant to, father. But I feared to grieve thee."
"Wherefore? The man is a Jew. And thou lovest him, dost thou not?"
"As my life, father."
He kissed her lips.
"It is enough, my Hannah. With thee to love him, he will become pious.
When a man has a good Jewish wife like my beloved daughter, who will
keep a good Jewish house, he cannot be long among the sinners. The light
of a true Jewish home will lead his footsteps back to God."
Hannah pressed her face to his in silence. She could not speak. She had
not strength to undeceive him further, to tell him she had no care for
trivial forms. Besides, in the flush of gratitude and surprise at her
father's tolerance, she felt stirrings of responsive tolerance to his
religion. It was not the moment to analyze her feelings or to enunciate
her state of mind regarding religion. She simply let herself sink in the
sweet sense of restored confidence and love, her head resting against
Presently Reb Shemuel put his hands on her head and murmured again:
"May God make thee as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah."
Then he added: "Go now, my daughter, and make glad the heart of thy
Hannah suspected a shade of satire in the words, but was not sure.
* * * * *
The roaring Sambatyon of life was at rest in the Ghetto; on thousands of
squalid homes the light of Sinai shone. The Sabbath Angels whispered
words of hope and comfort to the foot-sore hawker and the aching
machinist, and refreshed their parched souls with celestial anodyne and
made them kings of the hour, with leisure to dream of the golden chairs
that awaited them in Paradise.
The Ghetto welcomed the Bride with proud song and humble feast, and sped
her parting with optimistic symbolisms of fire and wine, of spice and
light and shadow. All around their neighbors sought distraction in the
blazing public-houses, and their tipsy bellowings resounded through the
streets and mingled with the Hebrew hymns. Here and there the voice of a
beaten woman rose on the air. But no Son of the Covenant was among the
revellers or the wife-beaters; the Jews remained a chosen race, a
peculiar people, faulty enough, but redeemed at least from the grosser
vices, a little human islet won from the waters of animalism by the
genius of ancient engineers. For while the genius of the Greek or the
Roman, the Egyptian or the Phoenician, survives but in word and stone,
the Hebrew word alone was made flesh.
WITH THE STRIKERS.
"Ignorant donkey-heads!" cried Pinchas next Friday morning. "Him they
make a Rabbi and give him the right of answering questions, and he know
no more of Judaism," the patriotic poet paused to take a bite out of his
ham-sandwich, "than a cow of Sunday. I lof his daughter and I tell him
so and he tells me she lof another. But I haf held him up on the point
of my pen to the contempt of posterity. I haf written an acrostic on
him; it is terrible. Her vill I shoot."