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The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan

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"Do you know, Naphtali," I said, "it is pleasant even to famish in

If I were alone it would be harder to stand it. 'The misery of the
many is a consolation.'" He made no answer. Minutes passed.
Presently he turned from his desk

"Do you really think there is a God?" he asked, irrelevantly

I stared

"Don't be shocked. It is all bosh." And he fell to swaying over his

I was dumfounded. "Why do you keep reading Talmud, then?" I
asked, looking aghast

"Because I am a fool," he returned, going on with his reading. A
minute later he added, "But you are a bigger one."

I was hurt and horrified. I tried to argue, but he went on
murmuring, his eyes on the folio before him

Finally I snapped: "You are a horrid atheist and a sinner in Israel.
You are desecrating the holy place." And I rushed from the little

His shocking whisper, "Do you really think there is a God?"
haunted me all that afternoon and evening. He appeared like
another man to me. I was burning to see him again and to smash
his atheism, to prove to him that there was a God. But as I made a
mental rehearsal of my argument I realized that I had nothing
clear or definite to put forth. So I cursed Naphtali for an apostate,
registered a vow to shun him, and was looking forward to the
following day when I should go to see him again

My interest in the matter was not keen, however, and soon it died
down altogether. Nothing really interested me except the fact that
I had not enough to eat, that mother was no more, that I was all
alone in the world.

The shock of the catastrophe had produced a striking effect on me.
My incessant broodings, and the corroding sense of my great
irreparable loss and of my desolation had made a nerveless,
listless wreck of me, a mere shadow of my former self. I was
incapable of sustained thinking

My communions with God were quite rare now. Nor did He take
as much interest in my studies as He used to. Instead of the Divine
Presence shining down on me while I read, the face of my
martyred mother would loom before me. Once or twice in my
hungry rambles I visited Abner's Court and let my heart be racked
by the sight of what had once been our home, mother's and mine. I
said prayers for her three times a day with great devotion, with a
deep yearning. But this piety was powerless to restore me to my
former feeling for the Talmud

I distinctly recall how I would shut my eyes and vision my mother
looking at me from her grave, her heart contracted with anguish
and pity for her famished orphan. It was an excruciating vision,
yet I found comfort in it. I would mutely complain of the world to
her. It would give me satisfaction to denounce the whole town to
her. "Ah, I have got you!" I seemed to say to the people of
Antomir. "The ghost of my mother and the whole Other World see
you in all your heartlessness. You can't wriggle out of it." This
was my revenge. I reveled in it.

But, nothing daunted, the people of Antomir would go about their
business as usual and my heart would sink with a sense of my

I was restless. I coveted diversion, company, and I saw a good deal
of Naphtali. As for his Free Thought, it soon, after we had two
mild quarrels over it, began to bore me. It appeared that the huge
tomes of the Talmud were not the only books he read these days.
He spent much time, clandestinely, on little books written in the
holy tongue on any but holy topics. They were taken up with such
things as modern science, poetry, fiction, and, above all, criticism
of our faith. He made some attempts to lure me into an interest in
these books, but without avail. The only thing connected with
them that appealed to me were the anecdotes that Naphtali would
tell me, in his laconic way, concerning their authors. I scarcely
ever listened to these stories without invoking imprecations upon
the infidels, but I enjoyed them all the same. They were mostly
concerned with their apostasy, but there were many that were not.
Some of these, or rather the fact that I had first heard them from
Naphtali, in my youth, were destined to have a peculiar bearing on
an important event in my life, on something that occurred many
years later, when I was already a prosperous merchant in New
York. They were about Doctor Rachaeles, a famous Hebrew writer
who practised medicine in Odessa, and his son-in-law, a poet
named Abraham Tevkin. Doctor Rachacles's daughter was a
celebrated beauty and the poet's courtship of her had been in the
form of a long series of passionate letters addressed, not to his
lady-love, but to her father. This love-story made a strong
impression on me. The figures of the beautiful girl and of the
enamoured young poet, as I pictured them, were vivid in my mind.

"Did he write of his love in those letters?" I demanded, shyly

"He did not write of onions, did he?" Naphtali retorted. After a
little I asked: "But how could she read those letters? She certainly
does not read holy tongue?"

"Go ask her."

"You're a funny fellow. Did Tevkin get the girl?"

"He did, and they have been married for many years. Why, did you
wonder if you mightn't have a chance?"

"You're impossible, Naphtali."

He smiled

CHAPTER II ONE afternoon Naphtali called on me at the
Preacher's Synagogue

"Have you got all your 'days'?" he asked, in his whisper


He had discovered a "treasure"--a pious, rich, elderly woman
whose latest hobby was to care for at least eighteen poor
Talmudists--eighteen being the numerical value of the letters
composing the Hebrew word for "life." Her name was Shiphrah
Minsker. She belonged to one of the oldest families in Antomir,
and her husband was equally well-born. Her religious zeal was of
recent origin, in fact, and even now she wore her hair "Gentile
fashion." It was a great sin, but she had never worn a wig in her
life, and putting on one now seemed to be out of the question.
This hair of hers was of a dark-brown hue, threaded with silver,
and it grew in a tousled abundance of unruly wisps that seemed to
be symbolic of her harum-scarum character. She was as
pugnacious as she was charitable, and as quick to make up a
quarrel as to pick one. Her husband, Michael Minsker, was a
"worldly" man, with only a smattering of Talmud, and their
younger children were being educated at the Russian schools. But
they all humored her newly adopted old-fashioned ways, to a
certain extent at least, while she tolerated their "Gentile" ones as
she did her own uncovered hair. Relegating her household affairs
to a devoted old servant, with whom she was forever wrangling,
Shiphrah spent most of her time raising contributions to her
various charity funds, looking after her Talmud students,
quarreling with her numerous friends, and begging their
forgiveness. If she was unable to provide meals for a student in the
houses of some people of her acquaintance she paid for his board
out of her own purse

Her husband was an exporter of grain and his business often took
him to Koenigsberg, Prussia, for several weeks at a time.
Occasions of this kind were hailed by Shiphrah as a godsend (in
the literal sense of the term), for in his absence she could freely
spend on her beneficiaries and even feed some of them at her own

When I was introduced to her as "the son of the woman who had
been killed on the Horse-market" and she heard that I frequently
had nothing to eat, she burst into tears and berated me soundly for
not having knocked at her door sooner

"It's terrible! It's terrible!" she moaned, breaking into tears again.
"In fact I, too, deserve a spanking. To think that I did not look him
up at once when that awful thing happened!"

As a matter of fact, she had not done so because at the time of my
mother's death her house had been agog with a trouble of its own.
But of this presently

She handed me a three-ruble bill and set about filling up the gaps
in my eating calendar and substituting fat "days" for lean ones.

She often came to see me at the synagogue, never empty-handed.
Now she had a silver coin for me, now a pair of socks, a shirt, or
perhaps a pair of trousers which some member of her family had
discarded. Often, too, she would bring me a quarter of a chicken,
cookies, or some other article of food from her own table

My days of hunger were at an end. I lived in clover. "Now I can
work," I thought to myself, with the satisfaction of a well-filled
stomach. "And work I will. I'll show people what I can do."

I applied myself to my task with ardor, but it did not last long. My
former interest in the Talmud was gone. The spell was broken
irretrievably. Now that I did not want for food, my sense of
loneliness became keener than ever. Indeed, it was a novel sense
of loneliness, quite unlike the one I had experienced before

My surroundings had somehow lost their former meaning. Life
was devoid of savor, and I was thirsting for an appetizer, as it
were, for some violent change, for piquant sensations

Then it was that the word America first caught my fancy

The name was buzzing all around me. The great emigration of
Jews to the United States, which had received its first impulse two
or three years before, was already in full swing. It may not be out
of order to relate, briefly. how it had all come about

An anti-Semitic riot broke out in a southern town named
Elisabethgrad in the early spring of 1881. Occurrences of this kind
were, in those days, quite rare in Russia, and when they did
happen they did not extend beyond the town of their origin. But
the circumstances that surrounded the Elisabethgrad outbreak
were of a specific character. It took place one month after the
assassination of the Czar, Alexander II. The actual size and
influence of the "underground" revolutionary organization being
an unknown quantity, St.

Petersburg was full of the rumblings of a general uprising. The
Elisabethgrad riot, however, was not of a revolutionary nature. Yet
the police, so far from suppressing it, encouraged it. The example
of the Elisabethgrad rabble was followed by the riffraff of other
places. The epidemic quickly spread from city to city. Whereupon
the scenes of lawlessness in the various cities were marked by the
same method in the mob's madness, by the same connivance on
the part of the police, and by many other traits that clearly pointed
to a common source of inspiration. It has long since become a
well-established historical fact that the anti-Jewish disturbances
were encouraged, even arranged, by the authorities as an outlet for
the growing popular discontent with the Government.

Count von Plehve was then at the head of the Police Department in
the Ministry of the Interior.

This bit of history repeated itself, on a larger scale, twenty-two
years later, when Russia was in the paroxysm of a real revolution
and when the ghastly massacres of Jews in Kishineff, Odessa,
Kieff, and other cities were among the means employed in an
effort to keep the masses "busy."

Count von Plehve then held the office of Prime Minister. To return
to 1881 and 1882. Thousands of Jewish families were left
homeless. Of still greater moment was the moral effect which the
atrocities produced on the whole Jewish population of Russia.
Over five million people were suddenly made to realize that their
birthplace was not their home (a feeling which the great Russian
revolution has suddenly changed). Then it was that the cry "To
America!" was raised. It spread like wild-fire, even over those
parts of the Pale of Jewish Settlement which lay outside the riot

This was the beginning of the great New Exodus that has been in
progress for decades

My native town and the entire section to which it belongs had been
immune from the riots, yet it caught the general contagion, and at
the time I became one of Shiphrah's wards hundreds of its
inhabitants were going to America or planning to do so. Letters
full of wonders from emigrants already there went the rounds of
eager readers and listeners until they were worn to shreds in the

I succumbed to the spreading fever. It was one of these letters from
America, in fact, which put the notion of emigrating to the New
World definitely in my mind. An illiterate woman brought it to the
synagogue to have it read to her, and I happened to be the one to
whom she addressed her request. The concrete details of that
letter gave New York tangible form in my imagination. It haunted
me ever after

The United States lured me not merely as a land of milk and
honey, but also, and perhaps chiefly, as one of mystery, of
fantastic experiences, of marvelous transformations. To leave my
native place and to seek my fortune in that distant, weird world
seemed to be just the kind of sensational adventure my heart was
hankering for.

When I unburdened myself of my project to Reb Sender he was

"To America!" he said. "Lord of the World! But one becomes a
Gentile there."

"Not at all," I sought to reassure him. "There are lots of good Jews
there, and they don't neglect their Talmud, either." The amount
that was necessary to take me to America loomed staggeringly
large. Where was it to come from? I thought of approaching
Shiphrah, but the idea of her helping me abandon my Talmud and
go to live in a godless country seemed preposterous. So I began by
saving the small allowance which I received from her and by
selling some of the clothes and food she brought me. For the
evening meal I usually received some rye bread and a small coin
for cheese or herring, so I invariably added the coin to my little
hoard, relishing the bread with thoughts of America.

While I was thus pinching and saving pennies I was continually
casting about for some more effective way of raising the sum that
would take me to New York. I confided my plan to Naphtali.

"Not a bad idea," he said, "but you will never raise the money. You
are a master of dreams, David."

"I'll get the money, and, what is more, when I am in America I
shall bring you over there, too."

"May your words pass from your lips into the ear of God."

"I thought you did not believe in God."

"How long will you believe in Him after you get to America?"

anything but America. I read every letter from there that I could
obtain. I was constantly seeking information about the country
and the opportunities it held out to a man of my type, and
cudgeling my brains for some way of scraping together the
formidable sum. I was restless, sleepless, and finally, when I
caught a slight cold, my health broke down so completely that I
had to be taken to the hospital. Shiphrah visited me every day,
calling me poor orphan boy and quarreling with the
superintendent over me. One afternoon, after I had been
discharged, when she saw me at the synagogue, feeble and
emaciated, she gasped

"You're a cruel, heartless man," she flared up, addressing herself to
the beadle. "The poor boy needs a good soft bed, fine chicken
soup, and real care. Why didn't you let me know at once? Come
on, David!"

"Where to?" I inquired, timidly.

"None of your business. Come on. I'm not going to take you to the
woods, you may be sure of that. I want you to stay in my house
until you are well rested and strong enough to study. Don't you
like it?" she added, with a wink to the beadle

It appeared that her husband was away on one of his prolonged
business excursions. Otherwise installing in her "modern" home
an old-fashioned, ridiculous young creature like a Talmud student
would have been out of the question

I followed her with fast-beating heart. I knew that her family was
"modern," that her children spoke Russian and "behaved like
Gentiles," that there was a grown young woman among them and
that her name was Matilda

The case of this young woman had been the talk of the town the
year before.

She had been persuaded to marry a man for whom she did not
care, and shortly after the wedding and after a sensational passage
at arms between his people and hers, she made her father pay him
a small fortune for divorcing her

Matilda's family being one of the "upper ten" in our town, its
members were frequently the subject of envious gossip, and so I
had known a good deal about them even before Shiphrah
befriended me. I had heard, for example, that Matilda had
received her early education in a boarding-school in Germany (in
accordance with a custom that had been in existence among people
of her father's class until recently); that she had subsequently
studied Russian and other subjects under Russian tutors at home;
and that her two brothers, who were younger than she, were at the
local Russian gymnasium, or high school. I had heard, also, that
Matilda was very pretty. That she was well dressed went without

All this both fascinated and cowed me

Suddenly Shiphrah paused, as though bethinking herself of
something. "Wait.

Don't stir," she said, rushing back. Ten or fifteen minutes later she
returned, saying: "I was not long, was I? I just went to get the
beadle's forgiveness. Had insulted him for nothing. But he's a
dummy, all the same.

Come on, David."

Arrived at her house, she introduced me to her old servant, in the

"He'll stay a week with us, perhaps more," she explained. "I want
you to build him up. Fatten him up like a Passover goose. Do you

The servant, a tall, spare woman, with an extremely dark face
tinged with blue, began by darting hostile glances at me

"Look at the way she is staring at him!" Shiphrah growled. "He is
the son of the woman who was murdered at the Horse-market."

The old servant started. "Is he?" she said, aghast

"Are you pleased now? Will you take good care of him?"

"May the Uppermost give him a good appetite."

As Shiphrah led me from the kitchen into another room she said:
"She took a fancy to you. It will be all right."

She towed me into a vast sitting-room, so crowded with new
furniture that it had the appearance of a furniture-store. There
were many rooms in the apartment and they all produced a similar
impression. I subsequently learned that the superabundance of
sofas, chests of drawers, chairs, or bric--brac-stands was due to
Shiphrah's passion for bargains, a weakness which made her the
fair game of tradespeople and artisans. Several of her wardrobes
and bureaus were packed full of all sorts of things for which she
had no earthly use and many of which she had smuggled in when
her husband and the children were out

Ensconced in a corner of an enormous green sofa in the big
crowded sitting-room, with a book in her lap, we found a young
woman with curly brown hair and sparkling brown eyes set in a
small oval face. She looked no more than twenty, but when her
mother addressed her as Matilda I knew that I was facing the
heroine of the sensational divorce. She was singularly interesting,
but pretty she certainly was not. Her Gentile name had a world of
charm for my ear

One of the trifles that clung to my memory is the fact that upon
seeing her I felt something like amazement at her girlish
appearance. I had had a notion that a married woman, no matter
how young, must have a married face, something quite distinct
from the countenance of a maiden, while this married woman did
not begin to look married.

Matilda got up, cast a frowning side-glance at her mother, and
walked over to one of the four immense windows illuminating the
room. Less than a minute later she turned around and crossed over
to her mother's side

She was small, but well made, and her movements were brisk,
firm, elastic

"Come on, mother, there's something I want to tell you," she said, a
jerk of her curly head indicating the adjoining room

"I have no secrets," Shiphrah growled. "What do you want?"

A snappish whispered conference ensued, the trend of which was
at once betrayed in an acrimonious retort by Shiphrah: "Just keep
your foolish nose out of my affairs, will you? When I say he is
going to stay here for some time I mean it. Don't you mind her,

"Mother! Mother! Mother!" Matilda trilled with a gesture of
disgust, and flounced out of the room

I felt my face turning all colors, and at the same time her "Mother!
Mother! Mother!" (instead of "Mamma! Mamma! Mamma!") was
echoing in my brain enchantingly

Presently a fair-complexioned youth of eighteen or nineteen came
in, apparently attracted by his mother's angry voice. He wore a
blue coat with silver lace and silver buttons, the uniform of a
Russian high school, which sent a flutter of mixed envy and awe
through me. He threw a frowning glance at me, and withdrew.
Two smaller children, a uniformed boy and a little girl, made their
appearance, talking in Russian noisily. At sight of me they fell
silent, looked me over, from my side-locks to the edge of my
long-skirted coat, and then took to whispering and giggling

"Clear out, you devils!" Shiphrah shouted, stamping her foot.
"Shoo!" A young chambermaid passed through the room, and
Shiphrah stopped her long enough to introduce me and to
command her to look after me as if I were one of the
family--"even better."

CHAPTER II THE spacious sitting-room was used as a
breakfast-room as well. It was in this room, on the enormous
green sofa, that my bed was made for the night.

It was by far the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in

Early the next morning, after I finished my long prayer and had put
away my phylacteries, the young chambermaid removed the
bedding and the swarthy old servant served me my breakfast

"Go wash your hands and eat in good health. Eat hearty, and may it
well agree with you," she said, with a compound of deep
commiseration, reverence, and disdain. I went to the kitchen,
where I washed my hands, and, while wiping them, muttered the
brief prayer which one offers before eating. As I returned to the
sitting-room I found Matilda there. She was seated at some
distance from the table upon which my breakfast was spread. She
wore a sort of white kimono. One did not have to stand on
ceremony with a fellow who did not even wear a stiff collar and a
necktie. Nor did I know enough to resent her costume. She did not
order anything to eat for herself, not even a glass of tea. It seemed
as though she had come in for the express purpose of eying me out
of countenance. If she had, she succeeded but too well. Her silent
glances fell on me like splashes of hot water. I was so disconcerted
I could not swallow my food. There were centuries of difference
between her and myself, not to speak of the economic chasm that
separated us. To me she was an aristocrat, while I was a poor,
wretched "day" eater, a cross between a beggar and a recluse. I
dared not even look at her. Talmud students were expected to be
the shyest creatures under the sun. On this occasion I certainly

The other children entered the room. They were dressing
themselves, eating and studying their Gentile lessons all at once.
Matilda had a mild altercation with Yeffim, her eighteen-year-old
brother, ordered breakfast for herself, and seemed to have
forgotten my existence. Her mother came in and took to cloying
me with food

At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon I was alone in the
drawing-room. I stood at the piano--the first I had ever laid eyes
on--timidly sounding some of the keys, when I heard approaching
voices. With my heart in my mouth, I rushed over to the nearest
window, where I paused, feigning interest in some passing peasant
teams. Presently Matilda made her appearance. accompanied by
two girl friends

The three young women were chattering in Russian, a language of
which I understood scarcely three dozen words. I could
conjecture, however, that the subject of their talk was no other
than my own quailing personality

Suddenly Matilda addressed herself to me in Yiddish: "Look here,
young man! Don't you know it is bad manners for a gentleman to
stand with his back to ladies?"

I faced about, all flushed and scared

"That's better," she said, gaily. "Never mind staring at the floor.
Give us a look, will you? Don't act as a shy bridegroom."

I made no answer. The room seemed to be in a whirl

"Why don't you speak?" Matilda insisted, concealing her quizzical
purpose under a well-acted air of gravity

Her two friends roared, and, spurred on by their merriment, she
continued to make game of me.

"Won't you give us one look, at least? Do, please! Come, my
mother will never find out you have been guilty of a great sin like

I was dying to get up and fling out of the room, but I felt glued to
the spot. Their cruel sport, which made me faint with
embarrassment and misery, had something inexpressibly alluring
in it

One of the two girls said something in Russian of which I caught
the word "kiss" and which was greeted by a new outburst of
laughter. I was terror-stricken

"Well, pious Jew!" Matilda resumed. "Suppose a girl were to give
you a kiss.

What would you do? Commit suicide, would you? Well, never
fear; we won't be as cruel as all that. I tell you what, though. I'll
hide your side-locks behind your ears. I just want to see how you
would look without them." At this she stepped up close to me and
reached out her hands for my two appendages

I pushed her off. "Please, let me alone," I protested

"At last we have heard his voice. Bravo! We're making headway,
aren't we?"

At this point her mother's angry voice made itself heard. Matilda
desisted, with a merry remark to her friends

The next morning when she and I were alone she tantalized me
again. She made another attempt to tuck my side-locks behind my
ears. As we were alone I had more courage

"If you don't stop I'll go away from here," I said, in a rage. "What
do you want of me?"

As I thus gave vent to my resentment I instinctively felt that, so far
from causing her to avoid me, it would quicken her rompish
interest in me. And I hoped it would

"'S-sh! don't yell," she said, startled. "Can't you take a joke?"

"A nice joke, that."

"Very well, I won't do it again. I didn't know you were a
touch-me-not." After a pause she resumed, in grave, friendly
accents: "Come, don't be angry. I want to talk to you. Look here. Is
there any sense in your wasting your life the way you do? Look at
the way you are dressed, the way you live generally. Besides, the
idea of a young man like you not being able to speak a word of
Russian! Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Why, mother says you
are remarkably bright. Isn't it a pity that you should throw it all
away? Why don't you try to study Russian, geography, history?
Why don't you try to become an educated man?"

"The idea!" I said, with a laugh.

My confusion was gone, partly, at least. I looked her full in the

She flared up. "The idea!" she mocked me. "Rather say, 'The idea
of a bright young fellow being so ignorant!' Did you ever hear of a
provoking thing like that?" There was a good deal of her mother's
helter-skelter explosiveness in her

Now, that I had scanned her features in the light of the fact that she
was a married woman, I read that fact into them. She did look
married, I remarked to myself. Her exposed hair gave her an effect
of "aristocratic" wickedness and wantonness which repelled and
drew me at once. She was a girl, and yet she was a married
woman. This duality of hers deepened the fascinating mystery of
the distance between us

She proceeded to draw me out. She made me tell her the story of
my young life, and I obeyed her but too willingly. I told her my
whole tale of woe, reveling in my own rehearsal of my sufferings
and more especially in the expressions of horror and heartfelt pity
which it elicited from her.

"My God! My God!" she cried, gasping and wringing her hands.
"Poor boy!" or, "Oh, I can't hear it! I can't hear it! It is enough to
drive one crazy."

At one point, as I described the pangs of hunger which I had often
borne, there were tears in her interesting eyes

When I had finished my story, flushed with a sense of my
histrionic success, she ordered tea and preserves, as though to
indemnify me for my past sufferings

"All the more reason for you to study Russian and to become an
educated man," she said, as she put sugar into my glass. She cited
the cases of former Talmudists, poor and friendless like myself,
who had studied at the universities, fighting every inch of their
way, till they had achieved success as physicians, lawyers, writers.
She spoke passionately, often with the absurd acerbity of her
mother. "It's a crime for a young man like you to throw himself
away on that idiotic Talmud of yours," she said, pacing up and
down the room fiercely

All this sounded shockingly wicked, and yet it did not shock me in
the least

"I have a plan," I said

When she heard what I wanted to do she shook her head and
frowned. She said, in substance, that America was a land of
dollars, not of education, and that she wanted me to be an
educated man. I assured her that I should study English in
America and, after I had laid up some money, prepare for college
there (she could have made me promise anything). But colleges in
which the instruction was not in Russian failed to appeal to her

Still, when she saw that my heart was set on the project, she
yielded. She seemed to like the fervor with which I defended my
cause, and the notion of my going to a far-away land was
apparently beginning to have its effect. I was the hero of an
adventure. Gradually she became quite enthusiastic about my plan

"I tell you what. I can raise the money for you," she said, with a
gesture of sudden resolution. "How much is it?"

When I said, forlornly, that it would come to about eighty rubles,
she declared, gravely: "That's all right. I shall get it for you. Only,
say nothing to mother about it." I thought myself in a flurry of joy
over this windfall, but a little later, when I was left to myself, I
became aware that the flurry I was in was of quite a different
nature. When I tried to think of America I found that my ambition
in that direction had lost its former vitality

I was deeply in love with Matilda

CHAPTER III SHE continued to treat me in a patronizing, playful
way; but we were supposed to be great friends and I asked myself
no questions.

"The money is assured," she once announced. "You shall get it in a
few days.

You may begin to pack your great baggage," she jested

My heart sank within me, but I feigned exultation

"Do you deserve it, pious soul that you are?" she laughed. And
casting a glance at my side-locks, she added: "I do wish you would
cut off those horrid things of yours. You won't take them to
America, will you?"

I smiled. Small as was my stock of information of the New World,
I knew enough of it to understand, in a general way, that
side-locks were out of place there

She proceeded to put my side-locks behind my ears, and this time I
did not object. She then smoothed them down, the touch of her
fingers thrilling me through and through. Then she brought a
hand-glass and made me look at myself.

"Do you see the difference?" she demanded. "If you were not
rigged out like the savage that you are you wouldn't be a
bad-looking fellow, after all.

Why, girls might even fall in love with you. But then what does a
pious soul like you know about such things as love?"

"How do you know I don't?" I ventured to say, blushing like a

"Do you, really?" she said, with mischievous surprise

I nodded

"Well, well. So you are not quite so saintly as I thought you were!
Perhaps you have even been in love yourself? Have you? Tell

I kept silent. My heart was throbbing wildly.

"Do you love me?"

I nodded once more. My heart stood still.

"Kiss me, then."

She put my arms around her, made me clasp her to my breast, and
we kissed, passionately

I suddenly felt ten years older

She broke away from me, jumping around, slapping her hands and
bubbling over with triumphant mirth, as she shouted: "There is a
pious soul for you! There is a pious soul for you!"

A thought of little Red Esther of my childhood days flashed
through my brain, of the way she would force me to "sin" and then
gloat over my "fall."

"A penny for your piety," Matilda added, gravely. "When you are
in America you'll dress like a Gentile and even shave. Then you
won't look so ridiculous. Good clothes would make another man
of you." At this she looked me over in a business-like sort of way.
"Pretty good figure, that," she concluded

In the evening of that day, when there was company in the house,
she bore herself as though she did not know me. But the next
morning, after the children had gone to school and her mother was
away on her various missions, she made me put on the glittering
coat and cap of her brother's Sunday uniform

"It's rather too small for you, but it's becoming all the same," she
said, enthusiastically. "If mamma came in now she would not
know you. But then there would be a nice how-do-you-do if she
did." She gave a titter which rolled through my very heart. "Well,
Mr. Gymnasist, [note] are you really in love with me?"

"Don't make fun of me, pray," I implored her. "It hurts, you know."
"Very well, I sha'n't. But you haven't answered my question."

"What question?"

"What a poor memory you have! And yet mother says you have 'a
good head.' Try to remember."

"I do remember your question."

"Then what is your answer?"


"Yes!" she mocked me. "That's not the way gentlemen declare
their love." "What else shall I say?"

"What else! Well, say: 'I am ready to die for you. You are the
sunshine of my life.'" "'You are the sunshine of my life,'" I
echoed, with a smile that was a combination of mirth and

"'You are my happiness, my soul. The world would be dark
without you.'"

"I am no baby to parrot somebody else's words."

"Then you don't love me."

"Yes, I do. But I hate to be made fun of. Don't! Please don't!" I said
it with a beseeching, passionate tremor in my voice, and all at
once I clasped her violently to me and was about to kiss her. She
put up her lips responsively, but suddenly she wrenched herself

"Easy, easy, you saintly Talmudist," she said, good-naturedly.
"You must not forget that you are not a gymnasist, that to kiss a
woman is a sin, a great sin. You'll be beaten with rods of iron in
the world to come. Well, good-by," she concluded, gravely. "I
must go. Take off that coat and cap.

Mamma may come in at any moment." She showed me where to
hang them

[note: Gymnasist] A pupil of a gymnasium or high school

CHAPTER IV In my incessant reveries of her I developed the
theory that if I abandoned my plan about going to America she
would have her father send me to college with a view to my
marrying her. Indeed, matches of this kind were not an unusual
arrangement in our town (nor are they in the Jewish districts of
New York, Philadelphia, Boston, or Chicago, for example)

My bed was usually made on the enormous green sofa in the
spacious sitting-room. One night, when I was asleep on that great
sofa, I was suddenly aroused by the touch of a hand

"'S-sh," I heard Matilda's whisper. "I want to talk to you. I can't
sleep, anyhow. I don't know why. So I was thinking of all kinds of
things till I came to your plan about America. It is foolish. Why go
so far? Perhaps something can be done to get you into high school
and then into the university."

"I have guessed it right, then," I exclaimed within myself. The
room was pitch-dark. Her white kimono was all I could see of her

She explained certain details. She spoke in a very low undertone,
with great earnestness. I took her by the hand and drew her down
to a seat on the edge of the sofa beside me. She offered no
resistance. She continued to talk, partly in the same undertone,
partly in whispers, with her hand remaining in mine. I was aflame
with happiness, yet I listened intently. I felt sure that she was my
bride-to-be, that it was only a matter of days when our
engagement would be celebrated. My heart went out to her with a
passion that seemed to be sanctioned by God and men. I strained
down her head and kissed her, but that was the stainless kiss of a
man yearning upon the lips of his betrothed. I clasped her flimsily
garmented form, kissed her again and again, let her kiss and bite
me; and still it all seemed legitimate, or nearly so. I saw in it an
emphatic confirmation of my feeling that she did not regard
herself a stranger to me. That mattered more than anything else at
this moment

"You're a devil," she whispered, slapping me on both cheeks, "a
devil with side-locks." And she broke into a suppressed laugh

"I'll study as hard as I can," I assured her, with boyish exultation.

"You'll see what I can do. The Gentile books are child's play in
comparison with the Talmud."

I went into details. She took no part in my talk, but she let me go
on. I became so absorbed in what I was saying that my caresses
ceased. I sat up and spoke quite audibly

"'S-sh!" she cautioned me in an irritated whisper

I dropped my voice. She listened for another minute or two and
then, suddenly rising, she said: "Oh, you are a Talmud student,
after all," and her indistinct kimono vanished in the darkness

I felt crushed, but I was sure that the words "Talmud student,"
which are Yiddish for "ninny," merely referred to my rendering
our confab dangerous by speaking too loud

The next afternoon she kissed me once more, calling me Talmud
student again.

But she was apparently getting somewhat fidgety about our
relations. She was more guarded, more on the alert for
eavesdroppers, as though somebody had become suspicious. My
Gentile education she never broached again. Finally when a letter
came from her father announcing his speedy return and Shiphrah
hastened to terminate my stay at the house, Matilda was obviously
glad to have me go.

"I shall bring you the money to the synagogue," she whispered as I
was about to leave

I was stunned. I left in a turmoil of misery and perplexity, yet not
in despair

When I returned to the synagogue everybody and everything in it
looked strange to me. Reb Sender was dearer than ever, but that
was chiefly because I was longing for a devoted friend. I was
dying to relieve my fevered mind by telling him all and seeking
advice, but I did not

"Are you still weak?" he asked, tenderly, looking close into niy

"Oh, it is not that, Reb Sender." "Is it the death of your dear
mother--peace upon her?"

"Yes, of course. That and lots of other things."

"It will all pass. She will have a bright paradise, and The Upper
One will help you. Don't lose heart, my boy."

I ran over to Naphtali's place. We talked of Shiphrah and her
children--at least I did. He asked about Matilda, and I answered
reluctantly. Now and again I felt impelled to tell him all. It would
have been such a relief to ease my mind of its cruel burden and to
hear somebody's, anybody's opinion about it. But his laconical
questions and answers were anything but encouraging

I spent many an hour in his company, but he was always absorbed
in the Talmud, or in some of his infidel books. The specific
character of my restlessness was lost upon him

I was in the grip of a dull, enervating, overpowering agony that
seemed to be weighing my heart down and filling my throat with
pent-up sobs. I was writhing inwardly, praying for Matilda's
mercy. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced. I
remember it distinctly in every detail. If I now wished to imagine
a state of mind driving one to suicide I could not do it better than
by recalling my mental condition in those days

In point of fact I took pride in my misery. "I am in love. I am no
mere slouch of a Talmud student," I would say to myself

In the evening of the fourth day, as I was making a pretense at
reading Talmud, a poor boy came in to call me out. In the alley
outside the house of worship I found Matilda. She had the money
with her

"I don't think I want it now," I said. "I don't care to go to America."
"Why?" she asked, impatiently. "Oh, take it and let me be done
with it," she said, forcing a small packet into my hand. "I have no
time to bother with you. Go to America. I wish you good luck."

"But I'll miss you. I sha'n't be able to live without you."

"What? Are you crazy?" she said, sternly. "You forget your place,
young man!"

She stalked hastily away, her form, at once an angel of light and a
messenger of death, being swallowed up by the gloom

Ten minutes later, when I was at my book again, my heart bleeding
and my head in a daze, I was called out once more

Again I found her standing in the lane

"I did not mean to hurt your feelings," she said. "I wish you good
luck from the bottom of my heart."

She uttered it with a warm cordiality, and yet the note of
impatience which rang in her voice ten minutes before was again

"Try to become an educated man in America," she added. "That's
the main thing. Good-by. You have my best wishes. Good-by."

And before I had time to say anything she shook my hand and was

CHAPTER V A LITTLE over three weeks had elapsed. It was two
days after Passover. I had just solemnized the first anniversary of
my mother's death. The snow had melted. Each of my five senses
seemed to be thrillingly aware of the presence of spring

I was at the railway station. Clustered about me were Reb Sender
and his wife, two other Talmudists from the Preacher's
Synagogue, the retired old soldier with the formidable
side-whiskers, and Naphtali

As I write these words I seem to see the group before me. It is one
of those scenes that never grow dim in one's memory

"Be a good Jew and a good man," Reb Sender murmured to me,
confusedly. "Do not forget that there is a God in heaven in
America as well as here. Do not forget to write us." Naphtali,
speaking in his hoarse whisper, half in jest, half in earnest, made
me repeat my promise to send him a "ship ticket" from America. I
promised everything that was asked of me. My head was

While the first bell was sounding for the passengers to board the
train, Shiphrah rushed in, puffing for breath. I looked at the door
to see if Matilda was not following her. She was not.

The group around me made way for the rich woman

"Here," she said, handing me a ten-ruble bill and a package. "There
is a boiled chicken in it, and some other things, provided you
won't neglect your Talmud in America."

A minute later she drew her purse from her skirt pocket, produced
a five-ruble bill, and put it into my hand. That all the other money
I had for my journey had come from her daughter she had not the
remotest idea

I made my final farewells amid a hubbub of excited voices and
eyes glistening with tears

I was one of a multitude of steerage passengers on a Bremen
steamship on my way to New York. Who can depict the feeling of
desolation, homesickness, uncertainty, and anxiety with which an
emigrant makes his first voyage across the ocean? I proved to be a
good sailor, but the sea frightened me. The thumping of the
engines was drumming a ghastly accompaniment to the awesome
whisper of the waves. I felt in the embrace of a vast, uncanny
force. And echoing through it all were the heart-lashing words:
"Are you crazy? You forget your place, young man!" When
Columbus was crossing the Atlantic, on his first great voyage, his
men doubted whether they would ever reach land. So does many
an America-bound emigrant to this day. Such, at least, was the
feeling that was lurking in my heart while the Bremen steamer
was carrying me to New York. Day after day passes and all you
see about you is an unbroken waste of water, an unrelieved, a
hopeless monotony of water. You know that a change will come,
but this knowledge is confined to your brain. Your senses are

In my devotions, which I performed three times a day, without
counting a benediction before every meal and every drink of
water, grace after every meal and a prayer before going to sleep, I
would mentally plead for the safety of the ship and for a speedy
sight of land. My scanty luggage included a pair of phylacteries
and a plump little prayer-book, with the Book of Psalms at the
end. The prayers I knew by heart, but I now often said psalms, in
addition, particularly when the sea looked angry and the pitching
or rolling was unusually violent. I would read all kinds of psalms,
but my favorite among them was the 104th, generally referred to
by our people as "Bless the Lord, O my soul," its opening words in
the original Hebrew. It is a poem on the power and wisdom of
God as manifested in the wonders of nature, some of its verses
dealing with the sea. It is said by the faithful every Saturday
afternoon during the fall and winter; so I could have recited it
from memory; but I preferred to read it in my prayer-book. For it
seemed as though the familiar words had changed their identity
and meaning, especially those concerned with the sea. Their
divine inspiration was now something visible and audible. It was
not I who was reading them. It was as though the waves and the
clouds, the whole far-flung scene of restlessness and mystery,
were whispering to me: "Thou who coverest thyself with light as
with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: who
layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the
clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind. . . .
So is this great and wide sea wherein are things creeping
innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships:
there is that leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein. . .


The relentless presence of Matilda in my mind worried me
immeasurably, for to think of a woman who is a stranger to you is
a sin, and so there was the danger of the vessel coming to grief on
my account. And, as though to spite me, the closing verse of
Psalm 104 reads, "Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth
and let the wicked be no more." I strained every nerve to keep
Matilda out of my thoughts, but without avail

When the discoverers of America saw land at last they fell on their
knees and a hymn of thanksgiving burst from their souls. The
scene, which is one of the most thrilling in history, repeats itself
in the heart of every immigrant as he comes in sight of the
American shores. I am at a loss to convey the peculiar state of
mind that the experience created in me

When the ship reached Sandy Hook I was literally overcome with
the beauty of the landscape

The immigrant's arrival in his new home is like a second birth to

Imagine a new-born babe in possession of a fully developed
intellect. Would it ever forget its entry into the world? Neither
does the immigrant ever forget his entry into a country which is,
to him, a new world in the profoundest sense of the term and in
which he expects to pass the rest of his life. I conjure up the
gorgeousness of the spectacle as it appeared to me on that clear
June morning: the magnificent verdure of Staten Island, the tender
blue of sea and sky, the dignified bustle of passing craft--above
all, those floating, squatting, multitudinously windowed palaces
which I subsequently learned to call ferries. It was all so utterly
unlike anything I had ever seen or dreamed of before. It unfolded
itself like a divine revelation. I was in a trance or in something
closely resembling one

"This, then, is America!" I exclaimed, mutely. The notion of
something enchanted which the name had always evoked in me
now seemed fully borne out

In my ecstasy I could not help thinking of Psalm 104, and, opening
my little prayer-book, I glanced over those of its verses that speak
of hills and rocks, of grass and trees and birds.

My transport of admiration, however, only added to my sense of
helplessness and awe. Here, on shipboard, I was sure of my shelter
and food, at least.

How was I going to procure my sustenance on those magic shores?
I wished the remaining hour could be prolonged indefinitely

Psalm 104 spoke reassuringly to me. It reminded me of the way
God took care of man and beast: "Thou openest thine hand and
they are filled with good." But then the very next verse warned me
that "Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away
their breath, they die." So I was praying God not to hide His face
from me, but to open His hand to me; to remember that my
mother had been murdered by Gentiles and that I was going to a
strange land.

When I reached the words, "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I
live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being," I uttered
them in a fervent whisper

My unhappy love never ceased to harrow me. The stern image of
Matilda blended with the hostile glamour of America

One of my fellow-passengers was a young Yiddish-speaking tailor
named Gitelson. He was about twenty-four years old, yet his
forelock was gray, just his forelock, the rest of his hair being a
fine, glossy brown. His own cap had been blown into the sea and
the one he had obtained from the steerage steward was too small
for him, so that gray tuft of his was always out like a plume. We
had not been acquainted more than a few hours, in fact, for he had
been seasick throughout the voyage and this was the first day he
had been up and about. But then I had seen him on the day of our
sailing and subsequently, many times, as he wretchedly lay in his
berth. He was literally in tatters. He clung to me like a lover, but
we spoke very little.

Our hearts were too full for words

As I thus stood at the railing, prayer-book in hand, he took a look
at the page. The most ignorant "man of the earth" among our
people can read holy tongue (Hebrew), though he may not
understand the meaning of the words. This was the case with

"Saying, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul'?" he asked, reverently. "Why
this chapter of all others?"

"Because--Why, just listen." With which I took to translating the
Hebrew text into Yiddish for him

He listened with devout mien. I was not sure that he understood it
even in his native tongue, but, whether he did or not, his beaming,
wistful look and the deep sigh he emitted indicated that he was in
a state similar to mine

When I say that my first view of New York Bay struck me as
something not of this earth it is not a mere figure of speech. I
vividly recall the feeling, for example, with which I greeted the
first cat I saw on American soil. It was on the Hoboken pier, while
the steerage passengers were being marched to the ferry. A large,
black, well-fed feline stood in a corner, eying the crowd of
new-comers. The sight of it gave me a thrill of joy. "Look! there is
a cat!" I said to Gitelson. And in my heart I added, "Just like those
at home!" For the moment the little animal made America real to
me. At the same time it seemed unreal itself. I was tempted to feel
its fur to ascertain whether it was actually the kind of creature I
took it for

We were ferried over to Castle Garden. One of the things that
caught my eye as I entered the vast rotunda was an iron staircase
rising diagonally against one of the inner walls. A uniformed man,
with some papers in his hands, ascended it with brisk, resounding
step till he disappeared through a door not many inches from the
ceiling. It may seem odd, but I can never think of my arrival in
this country without hearing the ringing footfalls of this official
and beholding the yellow eyes of the black cat which stared at us
at the Hoboken pier. The harsh manner of the immigration officers
was a grievous surprise to me. As contrasted with the officials of
my despotic country, those of a republic had been portrayed in my
mind as paragons of refinement and cordiality. My anticipations
were rudely belied. "They are not a bit better than Cossacks," I
remarked to Gitelson. But they neither looked nor spoke like
Cossacks, so their gruff voices were part of the uncanny scheme
of things that surrounded me. These unfriendly voices flavored all
America with a spirit of icy inhospitality that sent a chill through
my very soul

The stringent immigration laws that were passed some years later
had not yet come into existence. We had no difficulty in being
admitted to the United States, and when I was I was loath to leave
the Garden

Many of the other immigrants were met by relatives, friends.
There were cries of joy, tears, embraces, kisses. All of which
intensified my sense of loneliness and dread of the New World.
The agencies which two Jewish charity organizations now
maintain at the Immigrant Station had not yet been established.
Gitelson, who like myself had no friends in New York, never left
my side. He was even more timid than I. It seemed as though he
were holding on to me for dear life. This had the effect of putting
me on my mettle

"Cheer up, old man!" I said, with bravado. "America is not the
place to be a ninny in. Come, pull yourself together." In truth, I
addressed these exhortations as much to myself as to him; and so
far, at least, as I was concerned, my words had the desired effect.

I led the way out of the big Immigrant Station. As we reached the
park outside we were pounced down upon by two evil-looking
men, representatives of boarding-houses for immigrants. They
pulled us so roughly and their general appearance and manner
were so uninviting that we struggled and protested until they let us
go--not without some parting curses. Then I led the way across
Battery Park and under the Elevated railway to State Street.

A train hurtling and panting along overhead produced a
bewildering, a daunting effect on me. The active life of the great
strange city made me feel like one abandoned in the midst of a
jungle. Where were we to go? What were we to do? But the
presence of Gitelson continued to act as a spur on me. I mustered
courage to approach a policeman, something I should never have
been bold enough to do at home. As a matter of fact, I scarcely had
an idea what his function was. To me he looked like some
uniformed nobleman--an impression that in itself was enough to
intimidate me. With his coat of blue cloth, starched linen collar,
and white gloves, he reminded me of anything but the policemen
of my town. I addressed him in Yiddish, making it as near an
approach to German as I knew how, but my efforts were lost on
him. He shook his head. With a witheringly dignified grimace he
then pointed his club in the direction of Broadway and strutted off

"He's not better than a Cossack, either," was my verdict

At this moment a voice hailed us in Yiddish. Facing about, we
beheld a middle-aged man with huge, round, perpendicular
nostrils and a huge, round, deep dimple in his chin that looked
like a third nostril. Prosperity was written all over his
smooth-shaven face and broad-shouldered, stocky figure.

He was literally aglow with diamonds and self-satisfaction. But he
was unmistakably one of our people. It was like coming across a
human being in the jungle. Moreover, his very diamonds
somehow told a tale of former want, of a time when he had
landed, an impecunious immigrant like myself; and this made him
a living source of encouragement to me

"God Himself has sent you to us," I began, acting as the
spokesman; but he gave no heed to me. His eyes were eagerly
fixed on Gitelson and his tatters

"You're a tailor, aren't you?" he questioned him

My steerage companion nodded. "I'm a ladies' tailor, but I have
worked on men's clothing, too," he said

"A ladies' tailor?" the well-dressed stranger echoed, with
ill-concealed delight. "Very well; come along. I have work for

That he should have been able to read Gitelson's trade in his face
and figure scarcely surprised me. In my native place it seemed to
be a matter of course that one could tell a tailor by his general
appearance and walk.

Besides, had I not divined the occupation of my fellow-passenger
the moment I saw him on deck? As I learned subsequently, the
man who accosted us on State Street was a cloak contractor, and
his presence in the neighborhood of Castle Garden was anything
but a matter of chance. He came there quite often, in fact, his
purpose being to angle for cheap labor among the newly arrived

We paused near Bowling Green. The contractor and my
fellow-passenger were absorbed in a conversation full of sartorial
technicalities which were Greek to me, but which brought a gleam
of joy into Gitelson's eye. My former companion seemed to have
become oblivious of my existence.

As we resumed our walk up Broadway the bejeweled man turned
to me

"And what was your occupation? You have no trade, have you?"

"I read Talmud," I said, confusedly.

"I see, but that's no business in America," he declared. "Any
relatives here?" "Well, don't worry. You will be all right. If a
fellow isn't lazy nor a fool he has no reason to be sorry he came to
America. It'll be all right."

"All right" he said in English, and I conjectured what it meant
from the context. In the course of the minute or two which he
bestowed upon me he uttered it so many times that the phrase
engraved itself upon my memory. It was the first bit of English I
ever acquired

The well-dressed, trim-looking crowds of lower Broadway
impressed me as a multitude of counts, barons, princes. I was
puzzled by their preoccupied faces and hurried step. It seemed to
comport ill with their baronial dress and general high-born

In a vague way all this helped to confirm my conception of
America as a unique country, unlike the rest of the world

When we reached the General Post-Office, at the end of the Third
Avenue surface line, our guide bade us stop

"Walk straight ahead," he said to me, waving his hand toward Park
Row. "Just keep walking until you see a lot of Jewish people. It
isn't far from here." With which he slipped a silver quarter into my
hand and made Gitelson bid me good-by

The two then boarded a big red horse-car

I was left with a sickening sense of having been tricked, cast off,
and abandoned. I stood watching the receding public vehicle, as
though its scarlet hue were my last gleam of hope in the world.
When it finally disappeared from view my heart sank within me. I
may safely say that the half-hour that followed is one of the worst
I experienced in all the thirty-odd years of my life in this country

The big, round nostrils of the contractor and the gray forelock of
my young steerage-fellow haunted my brain as hideous symbols of

With twenty-nine cents in my pocket (four cents was all that was
left of the sum which I had received from Matilda and her mother)
I set forth in the direction of East Broadway

CHAPTER II TEN minutes' walk brought me to the heart of the
Jewish East Side. The streets swarmed with Yiddish-speaking
immigrants. The sign-boards were in English and Yiddish, some
of them in Russian. The scurry and hustle of the people were not
merely overwhelmingly greater, both in volume and intensity,
than in my native town. It was of another sort. The swing and step
of the pedestrians, the voices and manner of the street peddlers,
and a hundred and one other things seemed to testify to far more
self-confidence and energy, to larger ambitions and wider scopes,
than did the appearance of the crowds in my birthplace

The great thing was that these people were better dressed than the
inhabitants of my town. The poorest-looking man wore a hat
(instead of a cap), a stiff collar and a necktie, and the poorest
woman wore a hat or a bonnet

The appearance of a newly arrived immigrant was still a novel
spectacle on the East Side. Many of the passers-by paused to look
at me with wistful smiles of curiosity

"There goes a green one!" some of them exclaimed

The sight of me obviously evoked reminiscences in them of the
days when they had been "green ones" like myself. It was a second
birth that they were witnessing, an experience which they had
once gone through themselves and which was one of the greatest
events in their lives.

"Green one" or "greenhorn" is one of the many English words and
phrases which my mother-tongue has appropriated in England and
America. Thanks to the many millions of letters that pass annually
between the Jews of Russia and their relatives in the United
States, a number of these words have by now come to be generally
known among our people at home as well as here. In the eighties,
however, one who had not visited any English-speaking country
was utterly unfamiliar with them. And so I had never heard of
"green one" before. Still, "green," in the sense of color, is Yiddish
as well as English, so I understood the phrase at once, and as a
contemptuous quizzical appellation for a newly arrived,
inexperienced immigrant it stung me cruelly. As I went along I
heard it again and again. Some of the passers-by would call me
"greenhorn" in a tone of blighting gaiety, but these were an
exception. For the most part it was "green one" and in a spirit of
sympathetic interest. It hurt me, all the same. Even those glances
that offered me a cordial welcome and good wishes had
something self-complacent and condescending in them. "Poor
fellow! he is a green one," these people seemed to say. "We are
not, of course. We are Americanized."

For my first meal in the New World I bought a three-cent wedge of
coarse rye bread, off a huge round loaf, on a stand on Essex
Street. I was too strict in my religious observances to eat it
without first performing ablutions and offering a brief prayer. So I
approached a bewigged old woman who stood in the doorway of a
small grocery-store to let me wash my hands and eat my meal in
her place. She looked old-fashioned enough, yet when she heard
my request she said, with a laugh: "You're a green one, I see."

"Suppose I am," I resented. "Do the yellow ones or black ones all
eat without washing? Can't a fellow be a good Jew in America?"

"Yes, of course he can, but--well, wait till you see for yourself."

However, she asked me to come in, gave me some water and an
old apron to serve me for a towel, and when I was ready to eat my
bread she placed a glass of milk before me, explaining that she
was not going to charge me for it

"In America people are not foolish enough to be content with dry
bread," she said, sententiously

While I ate she questioned me about my antecedents. I remember
how she impressed me as a strong, clever woman of few words as
long as she catechised me, and how disappointed I was when she
began to talk of herself.

The astute, knowing mien gradually faded out of her face and I had
before me a gushing, boastful old bore

My intention was to take a long stroll, as much in the hope of
coming upon some windfall as for the purpose of taking a look at
the great American city. Many of the letters that came from the
United States to my birthplace before I sailed had contained a
warning not to imagine that America was a "land of gold" and that
treasure might be had in the streets of New York for the picking.
But these warnings only had the effect of lending vividness to my
image of an American street as a thoroughfare strewn with nuggets
of the precious metal. Symbolically speaking, this was the idea
one had of the "land of Columbus." It was a continuation of the
widespread effect produced by stories of Cortes and Pizarro in the
sixteenth century, confirmed by the successes of some Russian
emigrants of my time

I asked the grocery-woman to let me leave my bundle with her,
and, after considerable hesitation, she allowed me to put it among
some empty barrels in her cellar

I went wandering over the Ghetto. Instead of stumbling upon
nuggets of gold, I found signs of poverty. In one place I came
across a poor family who--as I learned upon inquiry--had been
dispossessed for non-payment of rent. A mother and her two little
boys were watching their pile of furniture and other household
goods on the sidewalk while the passers-by were dropping coins
into a saucer placed on one of the chairs to enable the family to
move into new quarters

What puzzled me was the nature of the furniture. For in my
birthplace chairs and a couch like those I now saw on the
sidewalk would be a sign of prosperity. But then anything was to
be expected of a country where the poorest devil wore a hat and a
starched collar

I walked on

The exclamation "A green one" or "A greenhorn" continued. If I
did not hear it, I saw it in the eyes of the people who passed me

When it grew dark and I was much in need of rest I had a street
peddler direct me to a synagogue. I expected to spend the night
there. What could have been more natural? At the house of God I
found a handful of men in prayer. It was a large, spacious room
and the smallness of their number gave it an air of desolation. I
joined in the devotions with great fervor. My soul was sobbing to
Heaven to take care of me in the strange country

The service over, several of the worshipers took up some Talmud
folio or other holy book and proceeded to read them aloud in the
familiar singsong.

The strange surroundings suddenly began to look like home to me

One of the readers, an elderly man with a pinched face and forked
little beard, paused to look me over

"A green one?" he asked, genially.

He told me that the synagogue was crowded on Saturdays, while
on week-days people in America had no time to say their prayers
at home, much less to visit a house of worship

"It isn't Russia," he said, with a sigh. "Judaism has not much of a
chance here."

When he heard that I intended to stay at the synagogue overnight
he smiled ruefully

"One does not sleep in an American synagogue," he said. "It is not
Russia." Then, scanning me once more, he added, with an air of
compassionate perplexity: "Where will you sleep, poor child? I
wish I could take you to my house, but--well, America is not
Russia. There is no pity here, no hospitality. My wife would raise
a rumpus if I brought you along. I should never hear the last of it."

With a deep sigh and nodding his head plaintively he returned to
his book, swaying back and forth. But he was apparently more
interested in the subject he had broached. "When we were at
home," he resumed, "she, too, was a different woman. She did not
make life a burden to me as she does here. Have you no money at

I showed him the quarter I had received from the cloak contractor

"Poor fellow! Is that all you have? There are places where you can
get a night's lodging for fifteen cents, but what are you going to do
afterward? I am simply ashamed of myself."

"'Hospitality,'" he quoted from the Talmud, "'is one of the things
which the giver enjoys in this world and the fruit of which he
relishes in the world to come.' To think that I cannot offer a
Talmudic scholar a night's rest! Alas! America has turned me into
a mound of ashes."

"You were well off in Russia, weren't you?" I inquired, in

For, indeed, I had never heard of any but poor people emigrating to

"I used to spend my time reading Talmud at the synagogue," was
his reply

Many of his answers seemed to fit, not the question asked, but one
which was expected to follow it. You might have thought him
anxious to forestall your next query in order to save time and
words, had it not been so difficult for him to keep his mouth shut

"She," he said, referring to his wife, "had a nice little business. She
sold feed for horses and she rejoiced in the thought that she was
married to a man of learning. True, she has a tongue. That she
always had, but over there it was not so bad. She has become a
different woman here. Alas! America is a topsy-turvy country."

He went on to show how the New World turned things upside
down, transforming an immigrant shoemaker into a man of
substance, while a former man of leisure was forced to work in a
factory here. In like manner, his wife had changed for the worse,
for, lo and behold! instead of supporting him while he read
Talmud, as she used to do at home, she persisted in sending him
out to peddle. "America is not Russia," she said. "A man must
make a living here." But, alas! it was too late to begin now! He
had spent the better part of his life at his holy books and was fit
for nothing else now. His wife, however, would take no excuse.
He must peddle or be nagged to death. And if he ventured to slip
into some synagogue of an afternoon and read a page or two he
would be in danger of being caught red-handed, so to say, for,
indeed, she often shadowed him to make sure that he did not play

Alas! America was not Russia

A thought crossed my mind that if Reb Sender were here, he, too,
might have to go peddling. Poor Reb Sender! The very image of
him with a basket on his arm broke my heart. America did seem
to be the most cruel place on earth

"I am telling you all this that you may see why I can't invite you to
my house," explained the peddier

All I did see was that the poor man could not help unburdening his
mind to the first listener that presented himself

He pursued his tale of woe. He went on complaining of his own
fate, quite forgetful of mine. Instead of continuing to listen, I fell
to gazing around the synagogue more or less furtively. One of the
readers attracted my special attention. He was a venerable-looking
man with a face which, as I now recall it, reminds me of
Thackeray. Only he had a finer head than the English novelist

At last the henpecked man discovered my inattention and fell
silent. A minute later his tongue was at work again

"You are looking at that man over there, aren't you?" he asked

"Who is he?"

"When the Lord of the World gives one good luck he gives one
good looks as well."

"Why, is he rich?"

"His son-in-law is, but then his daughter cherishes him as she does
the apple of her eye, and--well, when the Lord of the World
wishes to give a man happiness he gives him good children, don't
you know."

He rattled on, betraying his envy of the venerable-looking man in
various ways and telling me all he knew about him--that he was a
widower named Even, that he had been some years in America,
and that his daughter furnished him all the money he needed and a
good deal more, so that "he lived like a monarch." Even would not
live in his daughter's house, however, because her kitchen was not
conducted according to the laws of Moses, and everything else in
it was too modern. So he roomed and boarded with pious
strangers, visiting her far less frequently than she visited him and
never eating at her table.

"He is a very proud man," my informant said. "One must not
approach him otherwise than on tiptoe."

I threw a glance at Even. His dignified singsong seemed to confirm
my interlocutor's characterization of him

"Perhaps you will ask me how his son-in-law takes it all?" the
voluble Talmudist went on. "Well, his daughter is a beautiful
woman and well favored." The implication was that her husband
was extremely fond of her and let her use his money freely. "They
are awfully rich and they live like veritable Gentiles, which is a
common disease among the Jews of America. But then she
observes the commandment, 'Honor thy father.' That she does."

Again he tried to read his book and again the temptation to gossip
was too much for him. He returned to Even's pride, dwelling with
considerable venom upon his love of approbation and vanity.
"May the Uppermost not punish me for my evil words, but to see
him take his roll of bills out of his pocket and pay his contribution
to the synagogue one would think he was some big merchant and
not a poor devil sponging on his son-in-law."

A few minutes later he told me admiringly how Even often
"loaned" him a half-dollar to enable him to do some reading at the
house of God.

"I tell my virago of a wife I have sold fifty cents' worth of goods,"
he explained to me, sadly

After a while the man with the Thackeray face closed his book,
kissed it, and rose to go. On his way out he unceremoniously
paused in front of me, a silver snuff-box in his left hand, and fell
to scrutinizing me. He had the appearance of a well-paid rabbi of
a large, prosperous town. "He is going to say, 'A green one,'" I
prophesied to myself, all but shuddering at the prospect. And, sure
enough, he did, but he took his time about it, which made the next
minute seem a year to me. He took snuff with tantalizing
deliberation. Next he sneezed with great zest and then he resumed
sizing me up. The suspense was insupportable. Another second
and I might have burst out, "For mercy's sake say 'A green one,'
and let us be done with it." But at that moment he uttered it of his
own accord: "A green one, I see. Where from?" And grasping my
hand he added in Hebrew, "Peace be to ye."

His first questions about me were obsequiously answered by the
man with the forked beard, whereupon my attention was attracted
by the fact that he addressed him by his Gentile name--that is, as
"Mr. Even," and not by his Hebrew name, as he would have done
in our birthplace. Surely America did not seem to be much of a
God-fearing country

When Mr. Even heard of my Talmud studies he questioned me
about the tractates I had recently read and even challenged me to
explain an apparent discrepancy in a certain passage, for the
double purpose of testing my "Talmud brains" and flaunting his
own. I acquitted myself creditably, it seemed, and I felt that I was
making a good impression personally as well.

Anyhow, he invited me to supper in a restaurant.

On our way there I told him of my mother's violent death, vaguely
hoping that it would add to his interest in me. It did--even more
than I had expected. To my pleasant surprise, he proved to be
familiar with the incident. It appeared that because our section lay
far outside the region of pogroms, or anti-Jewish riots, the killing
of my mother by a Gentile mob had attracted considerable
attention. I was thrilled to find myself in the lime-light of
world-wide publicity. I almost felt like a hero

"So you are her son?" he said, pausing to look me over, as though I
had suddenly become a new man. "My poor orphan boy!" He
caused me to recount the incident in every detail. In doing so I
made it as appallingly vivid as I knew how. He was so absorbed
and moved that he repeatedly made me stop in the middle of the
sidewalk so as to look me in the face as he listened

"Oh, but you must be hungry," he suddenly interrupted me. "Come
on." Arrived at the restaurant, he ordered supper for me. Then he
withdrew, commending me to the care of the proprietress until he
should return.

He had no sooner shut the door behind him than she took to
questioning me: Was I a relative of Mr. Even? If not, then why
was he taking so much interest in me? She was a vivacious,
well-fed young matron with cheeks of a flaming red and with the
consciousness of business success all but spurting from her black
eyes. From what she, assisted by one of the other customers
present, told me about my benefactor I learned that his son-in-law
was the owner of the tenement-house in which the restaurant was
located, as well as of several other buildings. They also told me of
the landlord's wife, of her devotion to her father, and of the latter's
piety and dignity. It appeared, however, that in her filial reverence
she would draw the line upon his desire not to spare the rod upon
her children, which was really the chief reason why he was a
stranger at her house

I had been waiting about two hours and was growing uneasy, when
Mr. Even came back, explaining that he had spent the time taking
his own supper and finding lodgings for me

He then took me to store after store, buying me a suit of clothes, a
hat, some underclothes, handkerchiefs (the first white
handkerchiefs I ever possessed), collars, shoes, and a necktie.

He spent a considerable sum on me. As we passed from block to
block he kept saying, "Now you won't look green," or, "That will
make you look American." At one point he added, "Not that you
are a bad-looking fellow as it is, but then one must be presentable
in America." At this he quoted from the Talmud an equivalent to
the saying that one must do in Rome as the Romans do

When all our purchases had been made he took me to a barber
shop with bathrooms in the rear

"Give him a hair-cut and a bath," he said to the proprietor. "Cut off
his side-locks while you are at it. One may go without them and
yet be a good Jew."

He disappeared again, but when I emerged from the bathroom I
found him waiting for me. I stood before him, necktie and collar
in hand, not knowing what to do with them, till he showed me
how to put them on

"Don't worry. David," he consoled me. "When I came here I, too,
had to learn these things." When he was through with the job he
took me in front of a looking-glass. "Quite an American, isn't he?"
he said to the barber, beamingly. "And a good-looking fellow,

When I took a look at the mirror I was bewildered. I scarcely
recognized myself

I was mentally parading my "modern" make-up before Matilda. A
pang of yearning clutched my heart. It was a momentary feeling.
For the rest, I was all in a flutter with embarrassment and a novel
relish of existence. It was as though the hair-cut and the American
clothes had changed my identity. The steamer, Gitelson, and the
man who had snatched him up now appeared to be something of
the remote past. The day had been so crowded with novel
impressions that it seemed an age

He took me to an apartment in a poor tenement-house and
introduced me to a tall, bewhiskered, morose-looking, elderly man
and a smiling woman of thirty-five, explaining that he had paid
them in advance for a month's board and lodging. When he said,
"This is Mr. Levinsky," I felt as though I was being promoted in
rank as behooved my new appearance. "Mister" struck me as
something like a title of nobility. It thrilled me. But somehow it
seemed ridiculous, too. Indeed, it was some time before I could
think of myself as a "Mister" without being tempted to laugh.

"And here is some cash for you," he said, handing me a five-dollar
bill, and some silver, in addition. "And now you must shift for
yourself. That's all I can do for you. Nor, indeed, would I do more
if I could. A young man like you must learn to stand on his own
legs. Understand? If you do well, come to see me. Understand?"

There was an eloquent pause which said that if I did not do well I
was not to molest him. Then he added, aloud: "There is only one
thing I want you to promise me. Don't neglect your religion nor
your Talmud. Do you promise that, David?"

I did. There was a note of fatherly tenderness in the way this utter
stranger called me David. It reminded me of Reb Sender. I wanted
to say something to express my gratitude, but I felt a lump in my

He advised me to invest the five dollars in dry-goods and to take
up peddling. Then, wishing me good luck, he left

My landlady, who had listened to Mr. Even's parting words with
pious nods and rapturous grins, remarked that one would vainly
search the world for another man like him, and proceeded to make
my bed on a lounge

The room was a kitchen. The stove was a puzzle to me. I wondered
whether it was really a stove.

"Is this used for heating?" I inquired

"Yes, for heating and cooking," she explained, with smiling
cordiality. And she added, with infinite superiority, "America has
no use for those big tile ovens."

When I found myself alone in the room the feeling of desolation
and uncertainty which had tormented me all day seized me once

I went to bed and began to say my bed-prayer. I did so
mechanically. My mind did not attend to the words I was
murmuring. Instead, it was saying to God: "Lord of the Universe,
you have been good to me so far. I went out of that grocery-store
in the hope of coming upon some good piece of luck and my hope
was realized. Be good to me in the future as well. I shall be more
pious than ever, I promise you, even if America is a godless

I was excruciatingly homesick. My heart went out to my poor dead

Then I reflected that it was my story of her death that had led Even
to spend so much money on me. It seemed as if she were taking
care of me from her grave. It seemed, too, as though she had died
so that I might arouse sympathy and make a good start in
America. I thought of her and of all Antomir, and my pangs of
yearning for her were tinged with pangs of my unrequited love for

CHAPTER III MY landlady was a robust little woman, compact
and mobile as a billiard-ball, continually bustling about,
chattering and smiling or laughing. She was a good-natured, silly
creature, and her smile, which automatically shut her eyes and
opened her mouth from ear to ear, accentuated her kindliness as
well as her lack of sense. When she did not talk she would hum or
sing at the top of her absurd voice the then popular American song
"Climbing Up the Golden Stairs." She told me the very next day
that she had been married less than a year, and one of the first
things I noticed about her was the pleasure it gave her to refer to
her husband or to quote him. Her prattle was so full of, "My
husband says, says my husband," that it seemed as though the
chief purpose of her jabber was to parade her married state and to
hear herself talk of her spouse. The words, "My husband," were
music to her ears. They actually meant, "Behold, I am an old maid
no longer!"

She was so deeply impressed by the story of my meeting with Mr.
Even, whose son-in-law was her landlord, and by the amount he
had spent on me that she retailed it among her neighbors, some of
whom she invited to the house in order to exhibit me to them

Her name was Mrs. Dienstog, which is Yiddish for Tuesday. Now
Tuesday is a lucky day, so I saw a good omen in her, and thanked
God her name was not Monday or Wednesday, which, according
to the Talmud, are unlucky

One of the first things I did was to make up a list of the English
words and phrases which our people in this country had adopted
as part and parcel of their native tongue. This, I felt, was an
essential step toward shedding one's "greenhornhood," an
operation every immigrant is anxious to dispose of without delay.
The list included, "floor," "ceiling," "window," "dinner," "supper,"
"hat," "business," "job," "clean," "plenty," "never," "ready,"
"anyhow," "never mind," "hurry up," "all right," and about a
hundred other words and phrases

I was quick to realize that to be "stylishly" dressed was a good
investment, but I realized, too, that to use the Yiddish word for
"collar" or "clean" instead of their English correlatives was worse
than to wear a dirty collar

I wrote down the English words in Hebrew characters and from my
landlady's dictation, so that "never mind," for example, became

When I came home with a basket containing my first stock of
wares, Mrs.

Dienstog ran into ecstasies over it. She took to fingering some of
my collar-buttons and garters, and when I protested she drew
away, pouting

Still, the next morning, as I was leaving the house with my stock,
she wished me good luck ardently; and when I left the house she
ran after me, shouting: "Wait, Mr. Levinsky. I'll buy something of
you 'for a lucky start.'" She picked out a paper of pins, and as she
paid me the price she said, devoutly, "May this little basket
become one of the biggest stores in New York."

My plan of campaign was to peddle in the streets for a few
weeks--that is, until my "greenness" should wear off-- and then to
try to sell goods to tenement housewives. I threw myself into the
business with enthusiasm, but with rather discouraging results. I
earned what I then called a living, but made no headway. As a
consequence, my ardor cooled off. It was nothing but a daily
grind. My heart was not in it. My landlord, who was a truck-driver,
but who dreamed of business, thought that I lacked dash, pluck,
tenacity; and the proprietor of the "peddler supply store" in which
I bought my goods seemed to be of the same opinion, for he often
chaffed me on the smallness of my bill. On one occasion he said:
"If you want to make a decent living you must put all other
thoughts out of your mind and think of nothing but your

Only my smiling little landlady was always chirping words of
encouragement, assuring me that I was not doing worse than the
average beginner. This and her cordial, good-natured manner were
a source of comfort to me. We became great friends. She taught
me some of her broken English; and I let her talk of her husband
as long as she wanted. One of her weaknesses was to boast of
holding him under her thumb, though in reality she was under his.

Ceaselessly gay in his absence, she would become shy and reticent
the moment he came home. I never saw him talk to her save to
give her some order, which she would execute with feverish haste.
Still, in his surly, domineering way he was devoted to her

I was ever conscious of my modern garb, and as I walked through
the streets I would repeatedly throw glances at store windows,
trying to catch my reflection in them. Or else I would pass my
fingers across my temples to feel the absence of my side-locks. It
seemed a pity that Matilda could not see me now

One of the trifles that have remained embedded in my memory
from those days is the image of a big, florid-faced huckster
shouting at the top of his husky voice: "Strawberri-i-ies,
strawberri-i-ies, five cents a quart!"

I used to hear and see him every morning through the windows of
my lodging; and to this day, whenever I hear the singsong of a
strawberry-peddler I scent the odors of New York as they struck
me upon my arrival, in 1885, and I experience the feeling of
uncertainty, homesickness, and lovesickness that never left my
heart at that period

I often saw Antomir in my dreams

The immigrants from the various Russian, Galician, or Roumanian
towns usually have their respective synagogues in New York,
Philadelphia, Boston, or Chicago. So I sought out the house of
worship of the Sons of Antomir

There were scores, perhaps hundreds, of small congregations on
the East Side, each of which had the use of a single room, for the
service hours on Saturdays and holidays, in a building rented for
all sorts of gatherings--weddings, dances, lodge meetings,
trade-union meetings, and the like. The Antomir congregation,
however, was one of those that could afford a whole house all to
themselves. Our synagogue was a small, rickety, frame structure

It was for a Saturday-morning service that I visited it for the first

I entered it with throbbing heart. I prayed with great fervor. When
the devotions were over I was disappointed to find that the
congregation contained not a single worshiper whom I had known
or heard of at home.

Indeed, many of them did not even belong to Antomir. When I told
them about my mother there was a murmur of curiosity and
sympathy, but their interest in me soon gave way to their interest
in the information I could give each of them concerning the house
and street that had once been his home

Upon the advice of my landlord, the truck-driver, and largely with
his help, I soon changed the character of my business. I rented a
push-cart and tried to sell remnants of dress-goods, linen, and
oil-cloth. This turned out somewhat better than basket peddling;
but I was one of the common herd in this branch of the business as

Often I would load my push-cart with cheap hosiery collars,
brushes, hand-mirrors, note-books, shoe-laces, and the like,
sometimes with several of these articles at once, but more often
with one at a time. In the latter case I would announce to the
passers-by the glad news that I had struck a miraculous bargain at
a wholesale bankruptcy sale, for instance, and exhort them not to
miss their golden opportunity. I also learned to crumple up new
underwear, or even to wet it somewhat, and then shout that I could
sell it "so cheap" because it was slightly damaged

I earned enough to pay my board, but I developed neither vim nor
ardor for the occupation. I hankered after intellectual interest and
was unceasingly homesick. I was greatly tempted to call on Mr.
Even, but deferred the visit until I should make a better showing.

I hated the constant chase and scramble for bargains and I hated to
yell and scream in order to create a demand for my wares by the
sheer force of my lungs. Many an illiterate dolt easily outshouted
me and thus dampened what little interest I had mustered. One
fellow in particular was a source of discouragement to me. He
was a half -witted, hideous-looking man, with no end of vocal
energy and senseless fervor. He was a veritable engine of imbecile
vitality. He would make the street ring with deafening shrieks,
working his arms and head, sputtering and foaming at the mouth
like a madman. And it produced results. His nervous fit would
have a peculiar effect on the pedestrians. One could not help
pausing and buying something of him. The block where we
usually did business was one of the best, but I hated him so
violently that I finally moved my push-cart to a less desirable

I came home in despair

"Oh, it takes a blockhead to make a success of it," I complained to


"Why, why," she consoled me, "it is a sin to be grumbling like that.
There are lots of peddlers who have been years in America and
who would be glad to earn as much as you do. It'll be all right.
Don't worry, Mr. Levinsky."

It was less than a fortnight before I changed my place of business
once again. The only thing by which these few days became fixed
in my memory was the teeth of a young man named Volodsky and
the peculiar tale of woe he told me. He was a homely,
commonplace-looking man, but his teeth were so beautiful that
their glistening whiteness irritated me somewhat. They were his
own natural teeth, but I thought them out of place amid his plain
features, or amid the features of any other man, for that matter.
They seemed to be more suited to the face of a woman. His
push-cart was next to mine, but he sold--or tried to sell--hardware,
while my cart was laden with other goods; and as he was,
moreover, as much of a failure as I was, there was no reason why
we should not he friends. So we would spend the day in
heart-to-heart talks of our hard luck and homesickness. His chief
worry was over the "dower money" which he had borrowed of his
sister, at home, to pay for his passage

"She gave it to me cheerfully," he said, in a brooding, listless way.
"She thought I would send it back to her at once. People over
there think treasure can really be had for the picking in America.
Well, I have been over two years here, and have not been able to
send her a cent. Her letters make holes in my heart. She has a
good marriage chance, so she says, and unless I send her the
money at once it will be off. Her lamentations will drive me into
the grave."

CHAPTER IV I SOON had to move from the Dienstogs' to make
room for a relative of the truck-driver's who had arrived from
England. My second lodgings were an exact copy of my first, a
lounge in a kitchen serving me as a bed. To add to the similarity,
my new landlady was incessantly singing. Only she had three
children and her songs were all in Yiddish. Her ordinary speech
teemed with oaths like: "Strike me blind," "May I not be able to
move my arms or my legs," "May I spend every cent of it on
doctor's bills," "May I not be able to get up from this chair."

A great many of our women will spice their Yiddish with this kind
of imprecations, but she was far above the average in this respect

The curious thing about her was that her name was Mrs. Levinsky,

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