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The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan

Part 8 out of 11

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get a move on you!"

I called the hostess aside. "May I ask you a question, Mrs.
Nodelman?" I said, in the manner of a boy addressing his teacher

"What is it?" she asked, awkwardly.

"No, I won't ask any questions. I see you are angry at me."

"I ain't angry at all," she returned, making an effort to look me
straight in the face.


"Sure," with a laugh. "What is it you want to ask me about?"

And again assuming the tone of a penitent pupil, I said, "May I ask
Stella to dance with me?"

"But you don't dance."

"Let her teach me, then."

"Let her, if she wants to. I ain't her mother, am I?"

"But you have no objection, have you?"

"Where do I come in? On my part, you can dance with every girl in
the house."

"Oh, you don't like me this evening, Mrs. Nodelman. You are
angry witn me.

Else you wouldn't talk the way you do."

She burst into a laugh, and said, "You're a hell of a fellow, you

"I know I misbehaved myself, but I couldn't help it. Miss
Kalmanovitch is too fat, you know, and her hands perspire so."

"She's a charmin' girl," she returned, with a hearty laugh. "I wish
her mother was half so good."

"Was she angry, her mother?"

"Was she! She put all the blame on me. I invited her daughter on
purpose to make fun of her, she says. My, how she carried on!"

"I'm really sorry, but it's a matter of taste, you know."

"I know it is. I don't blame you at all."

"So you and I are friends again, aren't we?"

She laughed

"Well, then, you have no objection to my being sweet on Stella,
have you?"

"You are a hell of a fellow. That's just what you are. But I might as
well tell you it's no use trying to get Stella. She's already

"Is she really?"


"Well, I don't care. I'll take her away from her fellow. That's all
there is to it." "You can't do it," she said, gaily. "She is dead stuck
on her intended.

They'll be married in June."

I went home a lovesick man, but the following evening I went to
Boston for a day, and my feeling did not survive the trip

CHAPTER V THAT journey to Boston is fixed in my memory by
an incident which is one of my landmarks in the history of my
financial evolution and, indeed, in the history of the American
cloak industry. It occurred in the afternoon of the Monday which I
spent in that city, less than two days after that birthday party at the
Nodelmans'. I was lounging in an easy-chair in the lobby of my
hotel, when I beheld Loeb, the "star" salesman of what had been
the "star" firm in the cloak-and-suit business. I had not seen him
for some time, but I knew that his employers were on their last
legs and that he had a hard struggle trying to make a living. Nor
was that firm the only one of the old-established cloak-and-suit
concerns that found itself in this state at the period in
question--that is, at the time of the economic crisis and the burst
of good times that had succeeded it. Far from filling their coffers
from the golden flood of those few years, they were drowned in it
almost to a man. The trade was now in the hands of men from the
ranks of their former employees, tailors or cloak operators of
Russian or Galician origin, some of whom were Talmudic
scholars like myself. It was the passing of the German Jew from
the American cloak industry

We did profit by the abundance of the period. Moreover, there
were many among us to whom the crisis of 1893 had proved a
blessing. To begin with, some of our tailors, being unable to
obtain employment in that year, had been driven to make up a
garment or two and to offer it for sale in the street, huckster
fashion--a venture which in many instances formed a
stepping-stone to a cloak-factory. Others of our workmen had
achieved the same evolution by employing their days of enforced
idleness in taking lessons in cloak-designing, and then setting up a
small shop of their own

Newfangled manufacturers of this kind were now springing up like

Joe, my old-time instructor in cloak-making, was one of the latest
additions to their number. They worked--often assisted by their
wives and children--in all sorts of capacities and at all hours. They
lived on bread and salmon and were content with almost a
nominal margin of profit. There were instances when the
clippings from the cutting-table constituted all the profit the
business yielded them. Pitted against "manufacturers" of this class
or against a fellow like myself were the old-established firms,
with their dignified office methods and high profit-rates, firms
whose fortunes had been sorely tried, to boot, by their bitter
struggle with the union

Loeb swaggered up to me with quizzical joviality as usual. But the
smug luster of his face was faded and his kindly black eyes had an
unsteady glance in them that belied his vivacity. I could see at
once that he felt nothing but hate for me

"Hello, Get-Rich-Quick Levinsky!" he greeted me. "Haven't seen
you for an age."

"How are you, Loch?" I asked, genially, my heart full of mixed
triumph and compassion

We had not been talking five minutes before he grew sardonic and

As Division Street--a few blocks on the lower East Side--was the
center of the new type of cloak-manufacturing, he referred to us
by the name of that street. My business was on Broadway, yet I
was included in the term, "Division Street manufacturer."

"What is Division Street going to do next?" he asked. "Sell a
fifteen-dollar suit for fifteen cents?"

I smiled

"That's a great place, that is. There are two big business streets in
New York--Wall Street and Division." He broke into a laugh at his
own joke and I charitably joined in. I endeavored to take his
thrusts good-naturedly and for many minutes I succeeded, but at
one point when he referred to us as "manufacturers," with a
sneering implication of quotation marks over the word, I flared up

"You don't seem to like the Division Street manufacturers, do
you?" I said.

"I suppose you have a reason for it." "I have a reason? Of course I
have," he retorted. "So has every other decent man in the

"It depends on what you call decent. Every misfit claims to be
more decent than the fellow who gets the business."

He grew pale. It almost looked as though we were coming to
blows. After a pause he said, with an effect of holding himself in
leash: "Business! Do you call that business? I call it peanuts."

"Well, the peanuts are rapidly growing in size while the oranges
and the apples are shrinking and rotting. The fittest survives." ("A
lot he knows about the theory of the survival of the fittest!" I
jeered in my heart. "He hasn't even heard the name of Herbert
Spencer.") "Peanuts are peanuts, that's all there's to it," he returned

"Then why are you excited? How can we hurt you if we are only

He made no answer

"We don't steal the trade we're getting, do we? If the American
people prefer to buy our product they probably like it."

"Oh, chuck your big words, Levinsky. You fellows are killing the
trade, and you know it."

He laughed, but what I said was true. The old cloak-manufacturers,
the German Jews, were merely merchant. Our people, on the other
hand, were mostly tailors or cloak operators who had learned the
mechanical part of the industry, and they were introducing a
thousand innovations into it, perfecting, revolutionizing it. We
brought to our work a knowledge, a taste, and an ardor which the
men of the old firms did not possess. And we were shedding our
uncouthness, too. In proportion as we grew we adapted American
business ways

Speaking in a semi-amicable vein, Loeb went on citing cases of
what he termed cutthroat competition on our part, till he worked
himself into a passion and became abusive again. The drift of his
harangue was that "smashing" prices was something distasteful to
the American spirit, that we were only foreigners, products of an
inferior civilization, and that we ought to know our place.

"This way of doing business may be all right in Russia, but it won't
do in this country," he said. "I tell you, it won't do."

"But it does do. So it seems."

As he continued to fume and rail at us, and I sat listening with a
bored air, an idea flashed upon my mind, and, acting upon it on
the spur of the moment, I suddenly laid a friendly hand on his arm

"Look here, Loeb," I said. "What's the use being excited? I have a

What's the matter with you selling goods for me?"

He was taken aback, but I could see that he was going to accept it

"What do you mean?" he asked, flushing

"I mean what I say. I want you to come with me. You will make
more money than you have ever made before. You're a first-rate
salesman, Loeb, and--well, it will pay you to make the change.
What do you say?"

He contemplated the floor for a minute or two, and then, looking
up awkwardly, he said: "I'll think it over. But you're a smart
fellow, Levinsky. I can tell you that."

We proceeded to discuss details, and I received his answer--a
favorable one--before we left our seats

To celebrate the event I had him dine with me that evening, our
pledges of mutual loyalty being solemnized by a toast which we
drank in the costliest champagne the hotel restaurant could furnish

It was not a year and a half after this episode that Chaikin entered
my employ as designer

CHAPTER VI I SAW other girls with a view to marriage, but I
was "too particular," as my friends, the Nodelmans, would have it.
I had two narrow escapes from breach-of-promise suits.

"He has too much education," Nodelman once said to his wife in
my presence.

"Too much in his head, don't you know. You think too much,
Levinsky. That's what's the matter. First marry, and do your
thinking afterward. If you stopped to think before eating you
would starve to death, wouldn't you? Well, and if you keep on
thinking and figuring if this girl's nose is nice enough and if that
girl's eyes are nice enough, you'll die before you get married, and
there are no weddings among the dead, you know."

My matrimonial aspirations made themselves felt with fits and
starts. There were periods when I seemed to be completely in their
grip, when I was restless and as though ready to marry the first
girl I met. Then there would be many months during which I was
utterly indifferent, enjoying my freedom and putting off the
question indefinitely

Year after year slid by. When my thirty-ninth birthday became a
thing of the past and I saw myself entering upon my fortieth year
without knowing who I worked for I was in something like a state
of despair. When I was a boy forty years had seemed to be the
beginning of old age. This notion I now repudiated as ridiculous,
for I felt as young as I had done ten, fifteen, or twenty years
before; and yet the words "forty years" appalled me. The wish to
"settle down" then grew into a passion in me. The vague portrait of
a woman in the abstract seemed never to be absent from my mind.
Coupled with that portrait was a similarly vague image of a
window and a table set for dinner. That, somehow, was my
symbol of home. Home and woman were one, a complex charm
joining them into an inseparable force. There was the glamour of
sex, shelter, and companionship in that charm, and of something
else that promised security and perpetuity to the successes that
fate was pouring into my lap. It whispered of a future that was to
continue after I was gone

My loneliness often took on the pungence of acute physical
discomfort. The more I achieved, the more painful was my

Nothing seemed to matter unless it was sanctified by marriage, and
marriage now mattered far more than love

Girls had acquired a new meaning. They were not merely girls.
They were matrimonial possibilities

Odd as it may appear, my romantic ideals of twenty years ago now
reasserted their claim upon me. It was my ambition to marry into
some orthodox family, well-to-do, well connected, and with an
atmosphere of Talmudic education--the kind of match of which I
had dreamed before my mother died, with such modifications as
the American environment rendered natural

There were two distinct circumstances to account for this new
mood in me

In the first place, my sense of approaching middle age somehow
rekindled my yearning interest in the scenes of my childhood and
boyhood. Memories of bygone days had become ineffably dear to
me. I seemed to remember things of my boyhood more vividly
than I did things that had happened only a year before

I was homesick for Antomir again

To revisit Abner's Court or the Preacher's Synagogue, to speak to
Reb Sender, or to the bewhiskered old soldier, the skeepskin
tailor, if they were still living, was one of my day-dreams.

Eliakim Zunzer, the famous wedding-bard whose songs my mother
used to sing in her dear, sonorous contralto, had emigrated to
America several years before and I had heard of it at the time of
his arrival, yet I had never thought of going to see him. Now,
however, I could not rest until I looked him up. It appeared that he
owned a small printing-shop in a basement on East Broadway, so I
called at his place one afternoon on the pretext of ordering some
cards. When I saw the poet--an aged little man with a tragic, tired
look on a cadaverous face--I was so unstrung that when a young
man in the shop asked me something about the cards, he had to
repeat the question before I understood it

"My mother used to sing your beautiful songs, Mr. Zunzer," I said
to the poet some minutes later, my heart beating violently again.

"Did she? Where do you come from?" he asked, with a smile that
banished the tired look, but deepened the tragic sadness of his
death-like countenance

Everything bearing the name of my native place touched a tender
spot in my heart. It was enough for a cloak-maker to ask me for a
job with the Antomir accent to be favorably recommended to one
of my foremen. A number of the men who received special
consideration and were kept working in my shop in the slack
seasons, when my force was greatly reduced, were
fellow-townspeople of mine. This had been going on for several
years, in fact, till gradually an Antomir atmosphere had been
established in my shop, and something like a family spirit of
which I was proud. We had formed a Levinsky Antomir Benefit
Society of which I was an honorary member and which was made
up, for the most part, of my own employees

All this, I confess, was not without advantage to my business
interests, for it afforded me a low average of wages and
safeguarded my shop against labor troubles. The Cloak-makers'
Union had again come into existence, and, although it had no real
power over the men, the trade was not free from sporadic conflicts
in individual shops. My place, however, was absolutely immune
from difficulties of this sort--all because of the Levinsky Antomir
Benefit Society

If one of my operatives happened to have a relative in Antomir, a
women's tailor who wished to emigrate to America, I would
advance him the passage money, with the understanding that he
was to work off the loan in my employ.

That the "green one" was to work for low wages was a matter of
course. But then, in justice to myself, I must add that I did my
men favors in numerous cases that could in no way redound to my
benefit. Besides, the fiscal advantages that I did derive from the
Antomir spirit of my shop really were not a primary consideration
with me. I sincerely cherished that spirit for its own sake.
Moreover, if my Antomir employees were willing to accept from
me lower pay than they might have received in other places, their
average earnings were actually higher than they would have been
elsewhere. I gave them steady work. Besides, they felt perfectly at
home in my shop. I treated them well. I was very democratic

Compared to the thoughts of home that had oppressed me during
my first months in America, my new visions of Antomir were like
the wistful lights of a sunset as compared with the glare of
midday. But then sunsets produce deeper, if quieter, effects on the
emotions than the strongest daylight

It was my new homesickness, then, which inclined me to an
American form of the kind of marriage of which I used to dream
in the days of my Talmudic studies. Another motive that led me to
matrimonial aspirations of this kind lay in my new ideas of
respectability as a necessary accompaniment to success. Marrying
into a well-to-do orthodox family meant respectability and
solidity. It implied law and order, the antithesis of anarchism,
socialism, trade-unionism, strikes

I was a convinced free-thinker. Spencer's Unknowable had
irrevocably replaced my God. Yet religion now appealed to me as
an indispensable instrument in the great orchestra of things. From
what I had seen of the world, or read about it in the daily press, I
was convinced that but few people of wealth and power had real
religion in their hearts. I felt sure that most of them looked upon
churches or synagogues as they did upon police-courts; that they
valued them primarily as safeguards of law and order and
correctness, and this had become my attitude. For the rest, I felt
that a vast number of the people who professed Christianity or
Judaism did so merely because to declare oneself an atheist was
not a prudent thing to do from a business or social point of view,
or that they were in doubt and chose to be on the safe side of it,
lest there should be a God, "after all," while millions of other
people were not interested enough even to doubt, or to ask
questions, and were content to do as everybody did. But there were
some who did ask questions and did dare to declare themselves
atheists. I was one of these, and yet I looked upon religion as a
most important institution, and was willing to contribute to its

My business life had fostered the conviction in me that, outside of
the family, the human world was as brutally selfish as the jungle,
and that it was worm-eaten with hypocrisy into the bargain. From
time to time the newspapers published sensational revelations
concerning some pillar of society who had turned out to be a
common thief on an uncommon scale. I saw that political
speeches, sermons, and editorials had, with very few exceptions,
no more sincerity in them than the rhetoric of an advertisement.

I saw that Americans who boasted descent from the heroes of the
Revolution boasted, in the same breath, of having spent an
evening with Lord So-and-so; that it was their avowed ambition to
acquire for their daughters the very titles which their ancestors
had fought to banish from the life of their country. I saw that
civilization was honeycombed with what Max Nordau called
conventional lies, with sham ecstasy, sham sympathy, sham
smiles, sham laughter

The riot of prosperity introduced the fashion of respectable women
covering their faces with powder and paint in a way that had
hitherto been peculiar to women of the streets, so I pictured
civilization as a harlot with cheeks, lips, and eyelashes of artificial
beauty. I imagined mountains of powder and paint, a deafening
chorus of affected laughter, a huge heart, as large as a city, full of
falsehood and mischief

The leaders of the Jewish socialists, who were also at the head of
the Jewish labor movement, seemed to me to be the most
repulsive hypocrites of all. I loathed them

I had no creed. I knew of no ideals. The only thing I believed in
was the cold, drab theory of the struggle for existence and the
survival of the fittest. This could not satisfy a heart that was
hungry for enthusiasm and affection, so dreams of family life
became my religion. Self-sacrificing devotion to one's family was
the only kind of altruism and idealism I did not flout

I was worth over a million, and my profits had reached enormous
dimensions, so I was regarded a most desirable match, and
match-makers pestered me as much as I would let them, but they
found me a hard man to suit

There was a homesick young man in my shop, a native of
Antomir, with whom I often chatted of our common birthplace.
His name was Mirmelstein. He was a little fellow with a massive
head and a neck that seemed to be too slender to support it. I liked
his face for its honest, ingenuous expression, but more especially
because I thought his eyes had a homesick look in them. He was a
poor mechanic, but I found him a steady job in my shipping

He could furnish me no information about Reb Sender, of whom
he had never heard before; he knew of the Minsker family, of
course, and he told me that Shiphrah, Matilda's mother, was dead;
that Yeffim, Matilda's brother, had been sent to Siberia some
three years before for complicity in the revolutionary movement,
and that Matilda herself had had a hair-breadth escape from arrest
and was living in Switzerland

He wrote to Antomir, and a few weeks later he brought me the sad
information that Reb Sender had been dead for several years, and
that his wife had married again

CHAPTER VII ONE day in November less than six months after I
had learned of Yeffim Minsker's arrest and of Matilda's escape, as
I was making the rounds of my several departments, little
Mirmelstein accosted me timidly

"Yeffim Minsker and his sister are here," he said, with the smile of
one breaking an interesting surprise

I paused, flushing. I feigned indifference and preoccupation, but
the next moment I cast off all pretense

"Are they really?" I asked

He produced a clipping from a socialist Yiddish daily containing
an advertisement of a public meeting to be held at Cooper
Institute under the auspices of an organization of Russian
revolutionists for the purpose of welcoming Yefflm and another
man, a Doctor Gorsky, both of whom had recently escaped from
Siberia. The revolutionary movement was then at its height in
Russia, and the Jews were among its foremost and bravest leaders
(which, by the way, accounts for the anti-Jewish riots and
massacres which the Government inspired and encouraged quite
openly). As was mentioned in an early chapter of this book, the
then Minister of the Interior was the same man who had been
Director of Police over the whole empire at the time of the
anti-Jewish riots which followed the assassination of Czar
Alexander II. in 1881, and which started the great emigration of
Jews to America. From time to time some distinguished
revolutionist would be sent to America for subscriptions to the
cause. This was the mission of Doctor Gorsky and Yeffim. They
were here, not as immigrants, but merely to raise funds for the
movement at home

As for Matilda, it appeared that Doctor Gorsky was her husband.
Whether he had married her in Russia, before his arrest, or in
Switzerland, where he and her brother had spent some time after
their escape from exile, Mirmelstein could not tell me. Matilda's
name was not mentioned in the advertisement, but my
shipping-clerk had heard of her arrival and marriage from some
Antomir people.

I could scarcely do anything that day. I was in a fever of
excitement. "Do I still love her?" I wondered

I made up my mind to attend the Cooper Institute meeting. It was a
bold venture, for the crowd was sure to contain some socialist
cloak-makers who held me in anything but esteem. But then I had
not had a strike in my shop for several years, and it did not seem
likely that they would offer me an insult. Anyhow, the temptation
to see Matilda was too strong. I had to go.

She was certain to be on the platform, and all I wanted was to take
a look at her from the auditorium. "And who knows but I may
have a chance to speak to her, too," I thought.

It was a cold evening in the latter part of November. I went to the
meeting in my expensive fur coat (although fur coats were still a
rare spectacle in the streets), with a secret foretaste of the
impression my prosperity would make upon Matilda. It was a fatal

It was twenty minutes to 8 when I reached the front door of the
historical meeting-hall, but it was already crowded to
overflowing, and the policemen guarding the brightly illuminated
entrance tumed me away with a crowd of others. I was in despair.
I tried again, and this time, apparently owing to my mink coat, I
was admitted. Every seat in the vast underground auditorium was
occupied. But few people were allowed to stand, in the rear of the
hall, and I was one of them. From the chat I overheard around me
I gathered that there were scores of men and women in the
audience who had been in the thick of sensational conflicts in the
great crusade for liberty that was then going on in Russia. I
questioned a man who stood beside me about Doctor Gorsky, and
from his answers I gained the impression that Matilda's husband
was considered one of the pluckiest men in the struggle. At the
time of his arrest he was practising medicine

Ranged on the platform on either side of the speaker's desk were
about a hundred chairs, several of which in the two front rows
were kept vacant.

Presently there was a stir on the platform. A group of men and
women made their appearance and seated themselves on the
unoccupied chairs. They were greeted with passionate cheers and

One of them was Matilda. I recognized her at once. Her curly
brown hair was gray at the temples, and her oval little face was
somewhat bloated, and she was stouter than she had been
twenty-one years before; but all this was merely like a new dress.
Had I met her in the street, I might have merely felt that she
looked familiar to me, without being able to trace her. As it was,
she was strikingly the same as I had known her, though not
precisely the same as I had pictured her, of late years, at least.
Some errors had stolen into my image of her, and now, that I saw
her in the flesh, I recalled her likeness of twenty-one years before,
and she now looked precisely as she had done then. She was as
interesting as ever. I was in such a turmoil that I scarcely knew
what was happening on the platform. Did I still love her, or was it
merely the excitement of beholding a living memory of my youth?
One thing was certain--the feeling of reverence and awe with
which I had once been wont to view her and her parents was
stirring in my heart again. For the moment I did not seem to be the
man who owned a big cloak-factory and was worth over a million
American dollars

The chairman had been speaking for some time before I became
aware of his existence. As his address was in Russian and I had
long since unlearned what little I had ever known of that
language, his words were Greek to me

Matilda was flanked by two men, both with full beards, one fair
and the other rather dark. The one of the fair complexion and
beard was Yeffim, although I recognized him by his resemblance
to Matilda and more especially to her father, rather than by his
image of twenty-one years ago. I supposed that the man on the
other side of her, the one with the dark beard, was her husband,
and I asked the man by my side about it, but he did not know

Several speakers made brief addresses of welcome. One of these
spoke in Yiddish and one in English, so I understood them. They
dealt with the revolution and the anti-Semitic atrocities, and paid
glowing tributes to the new-comers. They were interrupted by
outburst after outburst of enthusiasm and indignation. When
finally Doctor Gorsky was introduced (it was the man with the
dark beard) there was a veritable pandemonium of applause,
cheers, and ejaculations that lasted many minutes. He spoke in
Russian and he seemed to be a poor speaker. I searched his face
for evidence of valor and strength, but did not seem to find any. I
thought it was rather a weak face--weak and kindly and
girlish-looking. His beard, which was long and thin, did not
become him. I asked myself whether I was jealous of him, and the
question seemed so incongruous, so remote. He made a good
impression on me. The fact that this man, who was possessed of
indomitable courage, had a weak, good-natured face interested me
greatly, and the fact that he had gone through much suffering
made a strong appeal to my sympathies (somehow his martyrdom
was linked in my mind to his futility as a speaker). I warmed to

He was followed by Yeffim, and the scene of wild enthusiasm was

When Minsker had finished the chairman declared the meeting
closed. There was a rush for the platform. It was quite high above
the auditorium floor; unless one reached it by way of the
committee-room, which was a considerable distance to the right,
it had to be mounted, not without an effort, by means of the chairs
in the press inclosure. After some hesitation I made a dash for one
of these chairs, and the next minute I was within three or four feet
from Matilda, but with an excited crowd between us. Everybody
wanted to shake hands with the heroes. The jam and scramble
were so great that Doctor Gorsky, Yeffim, and Matilda had to
extricate themselves and to escape into the spacious
committee-room in the rear of the platform

Some minutes later I stood by her side in that room, amid a cluster
of revolutionists, her husband and Yeffim being each the center of
another crowd in the same room

"I beg your pardon," I began, with a sheepish smile. "Do you know

Her glittering brown eyes fixed me with a curious look. "My name
is David Levinsky," I added. "'Dovid,' the Talmudic student to
whom you gave money with which to go to America."

"Of course I know you," she snapped. taking stock of my mink
overcoat. "And I have heard about you, too. You have a lot of
money, haven't you? I see you are wearing a costly fur coat." And
she brutally turned to speak to somebody else

My heart stood still. I wanted to say something, to assure her that I
was not so black as the socialists painted me. I had an impulse to
offer her a generous contribution to the cause, but I had not the
courage to open my mouth again. The bystanders were eying me
with glances that seemed to say, "The idea of a fellow like this
being here!" I was a despicable "bourgeois," a "capitalist" of the
kind whose presence at a socialist meeting was a sacrilege

I slunk out of the room feeling like a whipped cur. "Why, she is a
perfect savage!" I thought. "But then what else can you expect of a

I thought of the scenes that had passed between her and myself in
her mother's house and I sneered. "A socialist, a good, pure soul,
indeed!" I mused, gloatingly. "That's exactly like them. A bunch
of hypocrites, that's all they are."

At the same time I was nagging myself for having had so little
sense as to sport my prosperity before a socialist, of all the people
in the world

A few days later the episode seemed to have occurred many years
before. It did not bother me. Nor did Matilda

CHAPTER VIII IT was an afternoon in April. My chief
bookkeeper, one of my stenographers, Bender, and myself were
hard at work at my Broadway factory amid a muffled turmoil of
industry. There were important questions of credit to dispose of
and letters to answer. I was taking up account after account,
weighing my data with the utmost care, giving every detail my
closest attention. And all the while I was thus absorbed, seemingly
oblivious to everything else, I was alive to the fact that it was
Passover and the eve of the anniversary of my mother's death; that
three or four hours later I should be solemnizing her memorial day
at the new Synagogue of the Sons of Antomir; that while there I
should sit next to Mr. Kaplan, a venerable-looking man to whose
daughter I had recently become engaged, and that after the service
I was to accompany Mr. Kaplan to his house and spend the
evening in the bosom of his family, by the side of the girl that was
soon to become my wife. My consciousness of all this grew
keener every minute, till it began to interfere with my work.

I was getting fidgety. Finally I broke off in the middle of a

I washed myself, combed my plentiful crop of dark hair, carefully
brushed myself, and put on my spring overcoat and derby
hat--both of a dark-brown hue

"I sha'n't be back until the day after to-morrow," I announced to
Bender, after giving him some orders

"Till day after to-morrow!" he said, with reproachful amazement

I nodded

"Can't you put it off? This is no time for being away," he grumbled

"It can't be helped."

"You're not going out of town, are you?"

"What difference does it make?" After a pause I added: "It isn't on
business. It's a private matter."

"Oh!" he uttered, with evident relief. Nothing hurt his pride more
than to suspect me of having business secrets from him.

He was a married man now, having, less than a year ago, wedded a
sweet little girl, a cousin, who was as simple-hearted and
simple-minded as himself, and to whom he had practically been
engaged since boyhood. His salary was one hundred and
twenty-five dollars a week now. I was at home in their
well-ordered little establishment, the sunshine that filled it having
given an added impulse to my matrimonial aspirations

I betook myself to the new Antomir Synagogue. The congregation
had greatly grown in prosperity and had recently moved from the
ramshackle little frame building that had been its home into an
impressive granite structure, formerly a Presbyterian church. This
was my first visit to the building.

Indeed, I had not seen the inside of its predecessor, the little old
house of prayer that had borne the name of my native town, years
before it was abandoned. In former years, even some time after I
had become a convinced free-thinker, I had visited it at least twice
a year-on my two memorial days--that is, on the anniversaries of
the death of my parents. I had not done so since I had read
Spencer. This time, however, the anniversary of my mother's
death had a peculiar meaning for me. Vaguely as a result of my
new mood, and distinctly as a result of my betrothal, I was lured
to the synagogue by a force against which my Spencerian
agnosticism was powerless

I found the interior of the building brilliantly illuminated. The
woodwork of the "stand" and the bible platform, the
velvet-and-gold curtains of the Holy Ark, and the fresco paintings
on the walls and ceiling were screamingly new and gaudy. So
were the ornamental electric fixtures. Altogether the place
reminded me of a reformed German synagogue rather than of the
kind with which my idea of Judaism had always been identified.
This seemed to accentuate the fact that the building had until
recently been a Christian church. The glaring electric lights and
the glittering decorations struck me as something unholy. Still, the
scattered handful of worshipers I found there, and more
particularly the beadle, looked orthodox enough, and I gradually
became reconciled to the place as a house of God

The beadle was a new incumbent. Better dressed and with more
authority in his appearance than the man who had superintended
the old place, he comported well with the look of things in the
new synagogue. After obsequiously directing me to the pew of my
prospective father-in-law, who had not yet arrived, he inserted a
stout, tall candle into one of the sockets of the "stand" and lit it. It
was mine. It was to burn uninterruptedly for my mother's soul for
the next twenty-four hours. Mr.

Kaplan's pew was in a place of honor--that is, by the east wall, near
the Holy Ark. To see my memorial candle I had to take a few
steps back. I did so, and as I watched its flame memories and
images took possession of me that turned my present life into a
dream and my Russian past into reality.

According to the Talmud there is a close affinity between the
human soul and light, for "the spirit of man is the lamp of God,"
as Solomon puts it in his Parables. Hence the custom of lighting
candles or lamps for the dead. And so, as I gazed at that huge
candle commemorating the day when my mother gave her life for
me, I felt as though its light was part of her spirit. The gentle
flutter of its flame seemed to be speaking in the sacred whisper of
a grave-yard

"Mother dear! Mother dear!" my heart was saying. And then:
"Thank God, mother dear! I own a large factory. I am a rich man
and I am going to be married to the daughter of a fine Jew, a man
of substance and Talmud. And the family comes from around
Antomir, too. Ah, if you were here to escort me to the wedding

The number of worshipers was slowly increasing. An old woman
made her appearance in the gallery reserved for her sex. At last
Mr. Kaplan, the father of my fiancée, entered the synagogue--a
man of sixty, with a gray patriarchal beard and a general
appearance that bespoke Talmudic scholarship and prosperity. He
was a native of a small town near Antomir, where his father had
been rabbi, and was now a retired flour merchant, having come to
America in the seventies. He had always been one of the pillars of
the Synagogue of the Sons of Antomir. In the days when I was a
frequenter at the old house of prayer the social chasm between
him and myself was so wide that the notion of my being engaged
to a daughter of his would have seemed absurd. Which, by the
way, was one of the attractions that his house now had for me

"Good holiday, Mr. Kaplan!" some of the other worshipers saluted
him, as he made his way toward his pew

"Good holiday! Good holiday!" he responded, with dignified

I could see that he was aware of my presence but carefully avoided
looking at me until he should be near enough for me to greet him.
He was a kindly, serious-minded man, sincerely devout, and not
over-bright. He had his little vanities and I was willing to humor

"Good holiday, Mr. Kaplan!" I called out to him

"Good holiday! Good holiday, David!" he returned, amiably. "Here
already? Ahead of me? That's good! Just follow the path of
Judaism and everything will be all right." "How's everybody?" I

"All are well, thank God."

"How's Fanny?"

"Now you're talking. That's the real question, isn't it?" he chaffed
me, with dignity. "She's well, thank God."

He introduced me to the cantor--a pug-nosed man with a pale face
and a skimpy little beard of a brownish hue

"Our new cantor, the celebrated Jacob Goldstein!" he said. "And
this is Mr.

David Levinsky, my intended son-in-law. An Antomir man. Was a
fine scholar over there and still remembers a lot of Talmud."

The newly arrived synagogue tenor was really a celebrated man, in
the Antomir section of Russia, at least. His coming had been
conceived as a sensational feature of the opening of the new
synagogue. While "town cantor" in Antomir he had received the
highest salary ever paid there. The contract that had induced him
to come over to America pledged him nearly five times as much.
Thus the New York Sons of Antomir were not only able to parade
a famous cantor before the multitude of other New York
congregations, but also to prove to the people at home that they
were the financial superiors of the whole town of their birth. So
far, however, as the New York end of the sensation was
concerned, there was a good-sized bee in the honey. The imported
cantor was a tragic disappointment. The trouble was that his New
York audiences were far more critical and exacting than the people
in Antomir, and he was not up to their standard. For one thing,
many of the Sons of Antomir, and others who came to their
synagogue to hear the new singer, people who had mostly lived in
poverty and ignorance at home, now had a piano or a violin in the
house, with a son or a daughter to play it, and had become
frequenters of the Metropolitan Opera House or the Carnegie
Music Hall; for another, the New York Ghetto was full of good
concerts and all other sorts of musical entertainments, so much so
that good music had become all but part of the daily life of the
Jewish tenement population; for a third, the audiences of the
imported cantor included people who had lived in much larger
European cities than Antomir, in such places as Warsaw, Odessa,
Lemberg, or Vienna, for example, where they had heard much
better cantors than Goldstein. Then, too, life in New York had
Americanized my fellow-townspeople, modernized their tastes,
broadened them out. As a consequence, the methods of the man
who had won the admiration of their native town seemed to them
old-fashioned, crude, droll

Still, the trustees, and several others who were responsible for the
coming of the pug-nosed singer, persisted in speaking of him as "a
greater tenor than Jean de Rezske," and my prospective
father-in-law was a trustee, and a good-natured man to boot, so he
had compassion for him

"In the old country when we meet a new-comer we only say, 'Peace
to you,'" I remarked to the cantor, gaily. "Here we say this and
something else, besides. We ask him how he likes America."

"But I have not yet seen it," the cantor returned, with a broad smile
in which his pug nose seemed to grow in size

I told him the threadbare joke of American newspaper reporters
boarding an incoming steamer at Sandy Hook and asking some
European celebrity how he likes America hours before he has set
foot on its soil

"That's what we call 'hurry up,'" Kaplan remarked

"That means quick, doesn't it?" the cantor asked, with another
broad smile

"You're picking up English rather fast," I jested

"He has not only a fine voice, but a fine head, too," Kaplan put in

"I know what 'all right' means, too," the cantor laughed. I thought
there was servility in his laugh, and I ascribed it to the lukewarm
reception with which he had met. I was touched We talked of
Antomir, and although a conversation of this kind was nothing
new to me, yet what he said of the streets, market-places, the
bridge, the synagogues, and of some of the people of the town
interested me inexpressibly

Presently the service was begun--not by the imported singer, but by
an amateur from among the worshipers, the service on a Passover
evening not being considered important enough to be conducted
by a professional cantor of consequence

My heart was all in Antomir, in the good old Antomir of
synagogues and Talmud scholars and old-fashioned marriages, not
of college students, revolutionists, and Matildas

When the service was over I stepped up close to the Holy Ark and
recited the Prayer for the Dead, in chorus with several other men
and boys. As I cast a glance at my "memorial candle" my mother
loomed saintly through its flame. I beheld myself in her arms, a
boy of four, on our way to the synagogue, where I was to be taught
to parrot the very words that I was now saying for her spirit

The Prayer for the Dead was at an end. "A good holiday! A merry
holiday!" rang on all sides, as the slender crowd streamed
chatteringly toward the door

Mr. Kaplan, the cantor, and several other men, clustering together,
lingered to bandy reminiscences of Antomir, interspersing them
with "bits of law."

CHAPTER IX The Kaplans occupied a large, old house on Henry
Street that had been built at a period when the neighborhood was
considered the best in the city. While Kaplan and I were taking off
our overcoats in the broad, carpeted, rather dimly lighted hall, a
dark-eyed girl appeared at the head of a steep stairway

"Hello, Dave! You're a good boy," she shouted, joyously, as she ran
down to meet me with coquettish complacency

She had regular features, and her face wore an expression of ease
and self-satisfaction. Her dark eyes were large and pretty, and
altogether she was rather good-looking. Indeed, there seemed to
be no reason why she should not be decidedly pretty, but she was
not. Perhaps it was because of that self-satisfied air of hers, the air
of one whom nothing in the world could startle or stir.
Temperamentally she reminded me somewhat of Miss
Kalmanovitch, but she was the better-looking of the two. I was not
in love with her, but she certainly was not repulsive to me

"Good holiday, dad! Good holiday, Dave!" she saluted us in
Yiddish, throwing out her chest and squaring her shoulders as she
reached us

She was born in New York and had graduated at a public
grammar-school and English was the only language which she
spoke like one born to speak it, and yet her Yiddish greeting was
precisely what it would have been had she been born and bred in

Her "Good holiday, dad. Good holiday, Dave!" went straight to my

"Well, I've brought him to you, haven't I? Are you pleased?" her
father said, with affectionate grimness, in Yiddish

"Oh, you're a dandy dad. You're just sweet," she returned, in
English, putting up her red lips as if he were her baby. And this,
too, went to my heart

When her father had gone to have his shoes changed for slippers
and before her mother came down from her bedroom, where she
was apparently dressing for supper, Fanny slipped her arm around
me and I kissed her lips and eyes

A chuckle rang out somewhere near by. Standing in the doorway
of the back parlor, Mefisto-like, was Mary, Fanny's
twelve-year-old sister

"Shame!" she said, gloatingly

"The nasty thing!" Fanny exclaimed, half gaily, half in anger

"You're nasty yourself," returned Mary, making faces at her sister

"Shut up or I'll knock your head off."

"Stop quarreling, kids," I intervened. Then, addressing myself to
Mary, "Can you spell 'eavesdropping'?"

Mary laughed

"Never mind laughing," I insisted. "Do you know what
eavesdropping means? Is it a nice thing to do? Anyhow, when
you're as big as Fanny and you have a sweetheart, won't you let
him kiss you?" As I said this I took Fanny's hand tenderly

"She has sweethearts already," said Fanny. "She is running around
with three boys."

"I ain't," Mary protested, pouting.

"Well, three sweethearts means no sweetheart at all," I remarked

Fanny and I went into the front parlor, a vast, high-ceiled room, as
large as the average four-room flat in the "modern
apartment-house" that had recently been completed on the next
block. It was drearily too large for the habits of the East Side of
my time, depressingly out of keeping with its sense of home. It
had lanky pink-and-gold furniture and a heavy bright carpet, all of
which had a forbidding effect. It was as though the chairs and the
sofa had been placed there, not for use, but for storage. Nor was
there enough furniture to give the room an air of being inhabited,
the six pink-and-gold pieces and the marble-topped center-table
losing themselves in spaces full of gaudy desolation

"She's awful saucy," said Fanny.

I caught her in my arms. "I have not three sweethearts. I have only
one, and that's a real one," I cooed

"Only one? Really and truly?" she demanded, playfully. She
gathered me to her plump bosom, planting a deep, slow, sensuous
kiss on my lips

I cast a side-glance to ascertain if Mary was not spying upon us

"Don't be uneasy," Fanny whispered. "She won't dare. We can kiss
all we want."

I thought she was putting it in a rather matter-of-fact way, but I
kissed her with passion, all the same

"Dearest! If you knew how happy I am," I murmured

"Are you really? Oh, I don't believe you," she jested,

"You're just pretending, that's all. Let me kiss your sweet mouthie

She did, and then, breaking away at the sound of her mother's
lumbering steps, she threw out her bosom with an upward jerk, a
trick she had which I disliked

Ten minutes later the whole family, myself included, were seated
around a large oval table in the basement dining-room. Besides
the members already known to the reader, there was Fanny's
mother, a corpulent woman with a fat, diabetic face and large,
listless eyes, and Fanny's brother, Rubie, a boy with intense
features, one year younger than Mary. Rubie was the youngest of
five children, the oldest two, daughters, being married

Mr. Kaplan was in his skull-cap, while I wore my dark-brown

Everything in this house was strictly orthodox and as old-fashioned
as the American environment would permit

That there was not a trace of leavened bread in the house, its place
being taken by thin, flat, unleavened "matzos," and that the repast
included "matzo balls," wine, mead, and other accessories of a
Passover meal, is a matter of course

Mr. Kaplan was wrapped up in his family, and on this occasion,
though he presided with conscious dignity, he was in one of his
best domestic moods, talkative, and affectionately facetious. The
children were the real masters of his house

Watching his wife nag Rubie because he would not accept another
matzo ball, Mr. Kaplan said: "Don't worry, Malkah. Your matzo
balls are delicious, even if your 'only son' won't do justice to them.
Aren't they, David?"

"They certainly are," I answered. "What is more, they have the
genuine Antomir taste to them."

"Hear that, Fanny?" Mr. Kaplan said to my betrothed. "You had
better learn to make matzo balls exactly like these. He likes
everything that smells of Antomir, you know." "That's all right,"
said Malkah. "Fanny is a good housekeeper. May I have as good a

"It's a good thing you say it," her husband jested. "Else David
might break the engagement."

"Let him," said Fanny, with a jerk of her bosom and a theatrical
glance at me. "I really don't know how to make matzo balls, and
Passover is nearly over, so there's no time for mamma to show me
how to do it."

"I'll do so next year," her mother said, with an affectionate smile
that kindled life in her diabetic eyes. "The two of you will then
have to pass Passover with us."

"I accept the invitation at once," I said

"Provided you attend the seder, too," remarked Kaplan, referring to
the elaborate and picturesque ceremony attending the first two
suppers of the great festival

I had been expected to partake of those ceremonial repasts on the
first and second nights of this Passover, but had been unavoidably
kept away from the city. Kaplan had resented it, and even now, as
he spoke of the next year's seder, there was reproach in his voice.

"I will, I will," I said, ardently.

"One mustn't do business on a seder night. It isn't right."

"Give it to him, pa!" Fanny cut in.

"I am not joking," Kaplan persisted. "One has got to be a Jew.
Excuse me, David, for speaking like that, but you re going to be as
good as a son of mine and I have a right to talk to you in this

"Why, of course, you have!" I answered, with filial docility

His lecture bored me, but it did me good, too. It was sweet to hear
myself called "as good as a son" by this man of Talmudic
education who was at the same time a man of substance and of
excellent family

The chicken was served. My intended wife ate voraciously, biting
lustily and chewing with gusto. The sight of it jarred on me
somewhat, but I overruled myself. "It's all right," I thought. "She's
a healthy girl. She'll make me a strong mate, and she'll bear me
healthy children."

I had a temptation to take her in my arms and kiss her. "I am not in
love with her, and yet I am so happy," I thought. "Oh, love isn't
essential to happiness. Not at all. Our old generation is right."

Fanny's reading, which was only an occasional performance, was
confined to the cheapest stories published. Even the popular
novels of the day, the "best sellers," seemed to be beyond her
depth. Her intellectual range was not much wider than that of her
old-fashioned mother, whose literary attainments were restricted
to the reading of the Yiddish Commentary on the Pentateuch. She
often interrupted me or her mother; everybody except her father.
But all this seemed to be quite natural and fitting. "She is
expected to be a wife, a mother, and a housekeeper," I reflected,
"and that she will know how to be. Everything else is nonsense. I
don't want to discuss Spencer with her, do I?"

Kaplan quoted the opening words of a passage in the Talmud
bearing upon piety as the bulwark of happiness. I took it up,
finishing the passage for him

"See?" he said to his wife. "I have told you he remembers his
Talmud pretty well, haven't I?"

"When a man has a good head he has a good head," she returned,

Rubie went to a public school, but he spent three or four hours
every afternoon at an old-fashioned Talmudic academy, or
"yeshivah." There were two such "yeshivahs" on the East Side,
and they were attended by boys of the most orthodox families in
the Ghetto. I had never met such boys before. That an American
school-boy should read Talmud seemed a joke to me. I could not
take Rubie's holy studies seriously. As we now sat at the table I
banteringly asked him about the last page he had read. He
answered my question, and at his father's command he ran
up-stairs, into the back parlor, where stood two huge bookcases
filled with glittering folios of the Talmud and other volumes of
holy lore, and came back with one containing the page he had

"Find it and let David see what you can do," his father said

Rubie complied, reading the text and interpreting it in Yiddish
precisely as I should have done when I was eleven years old. He
even gesticulated and swayed backward and forward as I used to
do. To complete the picture, his mother, watching him, beamed as
my mother used to do when she watched me reading at the
Preacher's Synagogue or at home in our wretched basement. I was
deeply affected

"He's all right!" I said

"He's a loafer, just the same," his father said, gaily. "If he had as
much appetite for his Talmud as he has for his school-books he
would really be all right." "What do you want of him?" Malkah
interceded. "Doesn't he work hard enough as it is? He hardly has
an hour's rest."

"There you have it! I didn't speak respectfully enough of her 'only
son.' I beg your pardon, Malkah," Mr. Kaplan said, facetiously

The wedding had been set for one of the half-holidays included in
the Feast of Tabernacles, about six months later. Mrs. Kaplan said
something about her plans concerning the event. Fanny objected.
Her mother insisted, and it looked like an altercation, when the
head of the family called them to order

"And where are you going for your honeymoon, Fanny?" asked

"That's none of your business," her sister retorted

"She's stuck up because she's going to be married," Mary jeered

"Shut your mouth," her father growled

"Do you know my idea of a honeymoon?" said I. "That is, if it were
possible--if Russia didn't have that accursed government of hers.
We should take a trip to Antomir." "Wouldn't that be lovely!" said
Fanny. "We would stop in Paris, wouldn't we?"

Fanny and her mother resumed their discussion of the preparations
for the wedding. I scarcely listened, yet I was thrilled. I gazed at
Fanny, trying to picture her as the mother of my first child. "If it's
a girl she'll be named for mother, of course," I mused. I reflected
with mortification that my mother's name could not be left in its
original form, but would have to be Americanized, and for the
moment this seemed to be a matter of the gravest concern to me

My attitude toward Fanny and our prospective marriage was
primitive enough, and yet our engagement had an ennobling effect
on me. I was in a lofty mood.

My heart sang of motives higher than the mere feathering of my
own nest. The vision of working for my wife and children
somehow induced a yearning for altruism in a broader sense.
While free from any vestige of religion, in the ordinary meaning
of the word, I was tingling with a religious ecstasy that was based
on a sense of public duty. The Synagogue of the Sons of Antomir
seemed to represent not a creed, but unselfishness. I donated
generously to it. Also, I subscribed a liberal sum to an East Side
hospital of which Kaplan was a member, and to other institutions.
The sum I gave to the hospital was so large that it made a stir, and
a conservative Yiddish daily printed my photograph and a short
sketch of my life. I thought of the promise I had given Naphtali,
before leaving Antomir, to send him a "ship ticket." I had thought
of it many times before, but I had never even sought to discover
his whereabouts. This time, however, I throbbed with a firm
resolution to get his address, and, in case he was poor, to bring him
over and liberally provide for his future

My wedding loomed as the beginning of a new era in my life. It
appealed to my imagination as a new birth, like my coming to
America. I looked forward to it with mixed awe and bliss

Three or four months later, however, something happened that
played havoc with that feeling

in August I took a train for Tannersville, Catskill Mountains,
where the Kaplan family had a cottage. I was to stay with them
over Sunday. I had been expected to be there the day before, but
had been detained, August being part of our busiest season. While
in the smoking-car it came over me that from Kaplan's point of
view my journey was a flagrant violation of the Sabbath and that
it was sure to make things awkward.

Whether my riding on Saturday would actually offend his religious
sensibilities or not (for in America one gets used to seeing such
sins committed even by the faithful), it was certain to offend his
sense of the respect I owed him. And so, to avoid a sullen
reception I decided to stop overnight in another Catskill town and
not to make my appearance at Tannersville until the following day

The insignificant change was pregnant with momentous results

It was lunch-time when I alighted from the train, amid a hubbub of
gay voices. Women and children were greeting their husbands and
fathers who had come from the city to join them for the week-end.
I had never been to the mountains before, nor practically ever
taken a day's vacation. It was so full of ozone, so full of
health-giving balm, it was almost overpowering. I was inhaling it
in deep, intoxicating gulps. It gave me a pleasure so keen it
seemed to verge on pain. It was so unlike the air I had left in the
sweltering city that the place seemed to belong to another planet

I stopped at the Rigi Kulm House. There were several other hotels
or boarding-houses in the village, and all of them except one were
occupied by our people, the Rigi Kulm being the largest and most
expensive hostelry in the neighborhood. lt was crowded, and I had
to content myself with sleeping-accommodations in one of the
near-by cottages, in which the hotel-keeper hired rooms for his
overflow business, taking my meals in the hotel

The Rigi Kulm stood at the end of the village and my cottage was
across the main country road from it. Both were on high ground.
Viewed from the veranda of the hotel, the village lay to the right
and the open country--a fascinating landscape of meadowland,
timbered hills, and a brook that lost itself in a grove--to the left.
The mountains rose in two ranges, one in front of the hotel and
one in the rear

The bulk of the boarders at the Rigi Kulm was made up of families
of cloak-manufacturers, shirt-manufacturers,
ladies'-waist-manufacturers, cigar-manufacturers, clothiers,
furriers, jewelers, leather-goods men, real-estate men, physicians,
dentists, lawyers--in most cases people who had blossomed out
into nabobs in the course of the last few years. The crowd was
ablaze with diamonds, painted cheeks, and bright-colored silks. It
was a babel of blatant self-consciousness, a miniature of the
parvenu smugness that had spread like wild-fire over the country
after a period of need and low spirits.

In addition to families who were there for the whole season--that
is, from the Fourth of July to the first Monday in October--the
hotel contained a considerable number of single young people, of
both sexes--salesmen, stenographers, bookkeepers,
librarians--who came for a fortnight's vacation.

These were known as "two-weekers." They occupied tiny rooms,
usually two girls or two men in a room. Each of these girls had a
large supply of dresses and shirt-waists of the latest style, and
altogether the two weeks' vacation ate up, in many cases, the
savings of months

To be sure, the "two-weekers" of the gentle sex were not the only
marriageable young women in the place. They had a number of
heiresses to compete with

I was too conspicuous a figure in the needle industries for my
name to be unknown to the guests of a hotel like the Rigi Kulm
House. Moreover, several of the people I found there were my
personal acquaintances. One of these was Nodelman's cousin,
Mrs. Kalch, or Auntie Yetta, the gaunt, childless woman of the
solemn countenance and the gay disposition, of the huge gold
teeth, and the fingers heavily laden with diamonds. I had not seen
her for months.

As the lessee of the hotel marched me into his great dining-room
she rushed out to me, her teeth aglitter with hospitality, and made
me take a seat at a table which she shared with her husband, the
moving-van man, and two middle-aged women. I could see that
she had not heard of my engagement, and to avoid awkward
interrogations concerning the whereabouts of my fiancée I
omitted to announce it

"I know what you have come here for," she said, archly. "You can't
fool Auntie Yetta. But you have come to the right place. I can tell
you that a larger assortment of beautiful young ladies you never
saw, Mr. Levinsky. And they're educated, too. If you don't find
your predestined one here you'll never find her. What do you say,
Mr. Rivesman?" she addressed the proprietor of the hotel, who
stood by and whom I had known for many years

"I agree with you thoroughly, Mrs. Kalch," he answered, smilingly.
"But Mr.

Levinsky tells me he can stay only one day with us."

"Plenty of time for a smart man to pick a girl in a place like this.

Besides, you just tell him that you have a lot of fine, educated
young ladies, Mr. Rivesman. He is an educated gentleman, Mr.
Levinsky is, and if he knows the kind of boarders you have he'll
stay longer." "I know Mr. Levinsky is an educated man,"
Rivesman answered. "As for our boarders, they're all

"So you've got to find your predestined one here," she resumed,
turning to me again. "Otherwise you can't leave this place. See?"

"But suppose I have found her already--elsewhere?"

"You had no business to. Anyhow, if she doesn't know enough to
hold you tight and you are here to spend a week-end with other
girls, she does not deserve to have you."

"But I am not spending it with other girls."

"What else did you come here for?" And she screwed up one-half
of her face into a wink so grotesque that I could not help bursting
into laughter

About an hour after lunch I sat in a rocking-chair on the front
porch, gazing at the landscape. The sky was a blue so subtle and
so noble that it seemed as though I had never seen such a sky
before. "This is just the kind of place for God to live in," I mused.
Whereupon I decided that this was what was meant by the word
heaven, whereas the blue overhanging the city was a "mere sky."
The village was full of blinding, scorching sunshine, yet the air
was entrancingly ref reshing. The veranda was almost deserted,
most of the women being in their rooms, gossiping or dressing for
the arrival of their husbands, fathers, sweethearts, or possible
sweethearts. Birds were embroidering the silence of the hour with
a silvery whisper that spoke of rest and good-will. The slender
brook to the left of me was droning like a bee. Everything was
charged with peace and soothing mystery. A feeling of lassitude
descended upon me. I was too lazy even to think, but the landscape
was continually forcing images on my mind. A hollow in the slope
of one of the mountains in front of me looked for all the world
like a huge spoon.

Half of it was dark, while the other half was full of golden light. It
seemed as though it was the sun's favorite spot. "The enchanted
spot," I named it. I tried to imagine that oval-shaped hollow at
night. I visioned a company of ghosts tiptoeing their way to it and
stealing a night's lodging in the "spoon," and later, at the approach
of dawn, behold! the ghosts were fleeing to the woods near by

Rising behind that mountain was the timbered peak of another one.
It looked like the fur cap of a monster, and I wondered what that
monster was thinking of

When I gazed at the mountain directly opposite the hotel I had a
feeling of disappointment. I knew that it was very high, that it
took hours to climb it, but I failed to realize it

It was seemingly quite low and commonplace. Darkling at the foot
of it was what looked like a moat choked with underbrush and
weeds. The spot was about a mile and a half from the hotel, yet it
seemed to be only a minute's walk from me. But then a bird that
was flying over that moat at the moment, winging its way straight
across it, was apparently making no progress. Was this region
exempt from the laws of space and distance? The bewitching azure
of the sky and the divine taste of the air seemed to bear out a
feeling that it was exempt from any law of nature with which I
was familiar. The mountain-peak directly opposite the hotel
looked weird now. Was it peopled with Liliputians? Another bird
made itself heard somewhere in the underbrush flanking the
brook. It was saying something in querulous accents. I knew
nothing of birds, and the song or call of this one sounded so queer
to me that I was almost frightened. All of which tended to
enhance the uncanny majesty of the whole landscape

Presently I heard Mrs. Kalch calling to me. She was coming along
the veranda, resplendent in a purple dress, a huge diamond
breastpin, and huge diamond earrings

"All alone? All alone?" she exclaimed, as she paused, interlocking
her bediamonded fingers in a posture of mock amazement. "All
alone? Aren't you ashamed of yourself to sit moping out here,
when there are so many pretty young ladies around? Come along;
I'll find you one or two as sweet as sugar," kissing the tips of her

"Thank you, Mrs. Kalch, but I like it here."

"Mrs. Kalch! Auntie Yetta, you mean." And the lumps of gold in
her mouth glinted good-naturedly

"Very well. Auntie Yetta."

"That's better. Wait! Wait'll I come back."

She vanished. Presently she returned and, grabbing me by an arm,
stood me up and convoyed me half-way around the hotel to a
secluded spot on the rear porch where four girls were chatting

"Perhaps you'll find your predestined one among these," she said

"But I have found her already," I protested, with ill-concealed

She took no heed of my words. After introducing me to two of the
girls and causing them to introduce me to the other two, she said:
"And now go for him, young ladies! You know who Mr. Levinsky
is, don't you? It isn't some kike. It's David Levinsky, the
cloak-manufacturer. Don't miss your chance. Try to catch him."

"I'm ready," said Miss Lazar, a pretty brunette in white

"She's all right," declared Auntie Yetta. "Her tongue cuts like a
knife that has just been sharpened, but she's as good as gold."

"Am I? I ain't so sure about it. You had better look out, Mr.
Levinsky," the brunette in white warned me

"Why, that just makes it interesting," I returned. "Danger is
tempting, you know. How are you going to catch me--with a net or
a trap?"

Auntie Yetta interrupted us. "I'm off," she said, rising to go. "I can
safely leave you in their hands, Mr. Levinsky. They'll take care of
you," she said, with a wink, as she departed

"You haven't answered my question," I said to Miss Lazar

"What was it?"

"She has a poor memory, don't you know," laughed a girl in a
yellow shirt-waist. She was not pretty, but she had winning blue
eyes and her yellow waist became her. "Mr. Levinsky wants to
know if you're going to catch him with a net or with a trap."

"And how about yourself?" I demanded. "What sort of tools have

"Oh, I don't think I have a chance with a big fish like yourself," she

Her companions laughed

"Well, that's only her way of fishing," said Miss Lazar. "She tells
every fellow she has no chance with him. That's her way of getting
started. You'd better look out, Mr. Levinsky."

"And her way is to put on airs and look as if she could have
anybody she wanted," retorted the one of the blue eyes

"Stop, girls," said a third, who was also interesting. "If we are
going to give away one another's secrets there'll be no chance for
any of us."

I could see that their thrusts contained more fact than fiction and
more venom than gaiety, but it was all laughed off and everybody
seemed to be on the best of terms with everybody else. I looked at
this bevy of girls, each attractive in her way, and I became aware
of the fact that I was not in the least tempted to flirt with them. "I
am a well-behaved, sedate man now, and all because I am
engaged," I congratulated myself. "There is only one woman in
the world for me, and that is Fanny, my Fanny, the girl that is
going to be my wife in a few weeks from to-day

Directly in front of us and only a few yards off was a tennis-court.
It was unoccupied at first, but presently there appeared two girls
with rackets and balls and they started to play. One of these
arrested my attention violently, as it were. I thought her strikingly
interesting and pretty. I could not help gazing at her in spite of the
eyes that were watching me, and she was growing on me rapidly.
It seemed as though absolutely everything about her made a strong
appeal to me. She was tall and stately, with a fine pink
complexion and an effective mass of chestnut hair. I found that her
face attested intellectual dignity and a kindly disposition. I liked
her white, strong teeth. I liked the way she closed her lips and I
liked the way she opened them into a smile; the way she ran to
meet the ball and the way she betrayed disappointment when she
missed it. I still seemed to be congratulating myself upon my
indifference to women other than the one who was soon to bear
my name, when I became conscious of a mighty interest in this
girl. I said to myself that she looked refined from head to foot and
that her movements had a peculiar rhythm that was irresistible

Physically her cast of features was scarcely prettier than Fanny's,
for my betrothed was really a good-looking girl, but spiritually
there was a world of difference between their faces, the difference
between a Greek statue and one of those lay figures that one used
to see in front of cigar-stores

The other tennis-player was a short girl with a long face. I
reflected that if she were a little taller or her face were not so long
she might not be uninteresting, and that by contrast with her
companion she looked homelier than she actually was

Miss Lazar watched me closely

"Playing tennis is one way of fishing for fellows," she remarked

"So the racket is really a fishing-tackle in disguise, is it?" I

"But where are the fellows?"

"Aren't you one?" "No."

"Oh, these two girls go in for highbrow fellows," said a young
woman who had hitherto contented herself with smiling and
laughing. "They're highbrow themselves."

"Do they use big words?" I asked.

"Well, they're well read. I'll say that for them," observed Miss
Lazar, with a fine display of fairness

"College girls?"

"Only one of them."



"The tall one."

"I thought she'd be the one you'd pick. You'll have to guess again."

"What made you think I'd pick her for a college girl?" "You'll have
to guess that, too. Well, she is an educated girl, all the same."

She volunteered the further information that the tall girl's father
was a writer, and, as though anxious lest I should take him too
seriously, she hastened to add: "He doesn't write English, though.
It's Jewish, or Hebrew, or something."

"What's his name?" I asked

"Tevkin," she answered, under her breath

The name sounded remotely familiar to me. Had I seen it in some
Yiddish paper? Had I heard it somewhere? The intellectual East
Side was practically a foreign country to me, and I was proud of
the fact. I knew something of its orthodox Talmudists, but
scarcely anything of its modern men of letters, poets, thinkers,
humorists, whether they wrote in Yiddish, in Hebrew, in Russian,
or in English. If I took an occasional look at the socialist Yiddish
daily it was chiefly to see what was going on in the Cloak-makers'
Union. Otherwise I regarded everything that was written for the
East Side with contempt, and "East Side writer" was synonymous
with "greenhorn" and "tramp." Worse than that, it was identified
in my mind with socialism, anarchism, and trade-unionism. It was
something sinister, absurd, and uncouth

But Miss Tevkin was a beautiful girl, nevertheless. So I pitied her
for being the daughter of an East Side writer

The tennis game did not last long. Miss Tevkin and her companion
soon went indoors. I went out for a stroll by myself. I was thinking
of my journey to Tannersville the next morning. The enforced loss
of time chafed me. Of the strong impression which the tall girl
had produced on me not a trace seemed to have been left. She
bothered me no more than any other pretty girl I might have
recently come across. Young women with strikingly interesting
faces and figures were not rare in New York

I had not been walking five minutes when I impatiently returned to
the hotel to consult the time-tables

CHAPTER II I WAS chatting with Rivesman, the lessee of the
hotel, across the counter that separated part of his office from the
lobby. As I have said, I had known him for many years. He had
formerly been in the insurance business, and he had at one time
acted as my insurance broker. He was a Talmudist, and well
versed in modern Hebrew literature, to boot. He advised me
concerning trains to Tannersville, and then we passed to the hotel
business and mutual acquaintances

Presently Miss Tevkin, apparently on her way from her room,
paused at the counter, by my side, to leave her key. She was
dressed for dinner, although it was not yet half past 4 o'clock and
the great Saturday-evening repast, for which train after train was
bringing husbands and other "weekenders" to the mountains, was
usually a very late affair

The dress she now wore was a modest gown of navy blue trimmed
with lace. The change of attire seemed to have produced a partial
change in her identity.

She was interesting in a new way, I thought

"Going to enjoy the fresh air?" Rivesman asked her, gallantly

"Ye-es," she answered, pleasantly. "It's glorious outside." And she

"Pretty girl," I remarked

"And a well-bred one, too--in the real sense of the word."

"One of your two-week guests, I suppose," I said, with studied

"Yes. She is a stenographer." Whereupon he named a well-known
lawyer, a man prominent in the affairs of the Jewish community,
as her employer. "It was an admirer of her father who got the job
for her."

From what followed I learned that Miss Tevkin's father had once
been a celebrated Hebrew poet and that he was no other than the
hero of the romance of which Naphtali had told me a few months
before I left my native place to go to America, and that her mother
was the heroine of that romance. In other words, her mother was
the once celebrated beauty, the daughter of the famous Hebrew
writer (long since deceased), Doctor Rachaeless of Odessa

"It was her father, then, who wrote those love-letters!" I exclaimed,
excitedly. "And it was about her mother that he wrote them!
Somebody told me on the veranda that her name was Miss
Tevkin. I did think the name sounded familiar, but I could not
locate it." The discovery stirred me inordinately. I was palpitating
with reminiscent interest and with a novel interest in the beautiful
girl who had just stood by my side

At my request Rivesman, followed by myself, sought her out on
the front porch and introduced me to her as "a great admirer of
your father's poetry."

Seated beside her was a bald-headed man with a lone wisp of hair
directly over his forehead whom the hotel-keeper introduced as
"Mr. Shapiro, a counselor," and who by his manner of greeting me
showed that he was fully aware of my financial standing

The old romance of the Hebrew poet and his present wife, and
more especially the fact that I had been thrilled by it in Antomir,
threw a halo of ineffable fascination around their beautiful

"So you are a daughter of the great Hebrew poet," I said in English

"It's awfully kind of you to speak like that," she returned

"Mr. Levinsky is known for his literary tastes, you know," Shapiro
put in

"I wish I deserved the compliment," I rejoined. "Unfortunately, I
don't. I am glad I find time to read the newspapers

"The newspapers are life," observed Miss Tevkin, "and life is the
source of literature, or should be."

"'Or should be!'" Shapiro mocked her, fondly. "Is that a dig at the
popular novels?" And in an aside to me, "Miss Tevkin has no use
for them, you know."

She smiled

"Still worshiping at the shrine of Ibsen?" he asked her

"More than ever," she replied, gaily.

"I admire your loyalty, though I regret to say that I am still unable
to share your taste."

"It isn't a matter of taste," she returned. "It depends on what one is
looking for in a play or a novel."

She smiled with the air of one abstaining from a fruitless

"She's a blue-stocking," I said to myself. "Women of this kind are
usually doomed to be old maids." And yet she drew me with a
magnetic force that seemed to be beyond my power of resistance

It was evident that she enjoyed the discussion and the fact that it
was merely a pretext for the lawyer to feast his eyes on her

I wondered why a bald-headed man with a lone tuft of hair did not
repel her

A younger brother of Shapiro's, a real-estate broker, joined us. He
also was bald-headed, but his baldness formed a smaller patch
than the lawyer's

The two brothers did most of the talking, and, among other things,
they informed Miss Tevkin and myself that they were graduates of
the City College. With a great display of reading and repeatedly
interrupting each other they took up the cudgels for the "good old
school." I soon discovered, however, that their range was limited
to a small number of authors, whose names they uttered with great
gusto and to whom they returned again and again. These were
Victor Hugo, Dumas, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot,
Coleridge, Edgar Poe, and one or two others. If the lawyer added a
new name, like Walter Pater, to his list, the real-estate man would
hasten to trot out De Quincey, for example. For the rest they
would parade a whole array of writers rather than refer to any one
of them in particular. The more they fulminated and fumed and
bullied Miss Tevkin the firmer grew my conviction that they had
scarcely read the books for which they seemed to be ready to lay
down their lives

Miss Tevkin, however, took them seriously. She followed them
with the air of a "good girl "listening to a lecture by her mother or

"I don't agree with you at all," she would say, weakly, from time to
time, and resume listening with charming resignation

The noise made by the two brothers attracted several other
boarders. One of these was a slovenly-looking man of forty-five
who spoke remarkably good English with a very bad accent (far
worse than mine). That he was a Talmudic scholar was written all
over his face. By profession he was a photographer.

His name was Mendelson. He took a hand in our discussion, and it
at once became apparent that he had read more and knew more
than the bald-headed brothers. He was overflowing with withering
sarcasm and easily sneered them into silence

Miss Tevkin was happy. B.ut the slovenly boarder proved to be
one of those people who know what they do not want rather than
what they do. And so he proceeded, in a spirit of chivalrous
banter, to make game of her literary gods as well.

"You don't really mean to tell us that you enjoy an Ibsen play?" he
demanded. "Why, you are too full of life for that."

"But that's just what the Ibsen plays are--full of life," she answered.
"If you're bored by them it's because you're probably looking for
stories, for 'action.' But art is something more significant than that.
There is moral force and beauty in Ibsen which one misses in the
old masters."

"That's exactly what the ministers of the gospel or the up-to-date
rabbis are always talking about--moral force, moral beauty, and
moral clam-chowder," Mendelson retorted

The real-estate man uttered a chuckle

"Would you turn the theater into a church or a reform synagogue?"
the photographer continued. "People go to see a play because they
want to enjoy themselves, not because they feel that their morals
need darning."

"But in good literature the moral is not preached as a sermon,"
Miss Tevkin replied. "It naturally follows from the life it presents.
Anyhow, the other kind of literature is mere froth. You read page
after page and there doesn't seem to be any substance to it." She
said it plaintively, as though apologizing for holding views of this

"Is that the way you feel about Thackeray and Dickens, too?" I

"I do," she answered, in the same doleful tone

She went on to develop her argument. We did not interrupt her, the
two brothers, the photographer, and myself listening to her with
admiring glances that had more to do with her beautiful face and
the music of her soft, girlish voice than with what she was saying.
There was a congealed sneer on the photographer's face as he
followed her plea, but it was full of the magic of her presence

"You're a silly child," his countenance seemed to say. "But I could
eat you, all the same."

She dwelt on the virtues of Ibsen, Strindberg, Knut Hamsen,
Hauptmann, and a number of others, mostly names I did not
recollect ever having heard before, and she often used the word
"decadent," which she pronounced in the French way and which I
did not then understand. Now and then she would quote some
critic, or some remark heard from a friend or from her father, and
once she dwelt on an argument of her oldest brother, who seemed
to be well versed in Russian literature and to have clear-cut
opinions on literature in general.

She spoke with an even-voiced fluency, with a charming gift of

Words came readily, pleasantly from her pretty lips. It was evident,
too, that she was thoroughly familiar with the many authors whose
praises she was sounding. Yet I could not help feeling that she had
not much to say. The opinions she voiced were manifestly not her
own, as though she was reciting a well-mastered lesson. And I was
glad of it. "She's merely a girl, after all," I thought, fondly. "She's
the sweetest thing I ever knew, and her father is the man who
wrote those love-letters, and her mother is the celebrated beauty
with whom he was in love."

Whether the views she set forth were her own or somebody else's, I
could see that she relished uttering them. Also, that she relished
the euphony and felicity of her phrasing, which was certainly her
own. Whether she spoke from conviction or not, one thing seemed
indisputable: the atmosphere surrounding the books and authors
she named had a genuine fascination for her. There was a naive
sincerity in her rhetoric, and her delivery and gestures had a
rhythm that seemed to be akin to the rhythm of her movements in
the tennis-court

Miss Lazar passed by us, giving me a smiling look, which seemed
to say, "I knew you would sooner or later be in her company." I
felt myself blushing.

"To-morrow I'll be in Tannersville and all this nonsense will be
over," I said to myself

The long-faced, short girl with whom Miss Tevkin had played
tennis emerged from the lobby door and was introduced to me as
Miss Siegel. As I soon gathered from a bit of pleasantry by the
lawyer, she was a school-teacher

At Miss Tevkin's suggestion we all went to see the crowd waiting
for the last "husband train."

As we rose to go I made a point of asking Miss Tevkin for the
name of the best Ibsen play, my object being to be by her side on
our walk down to the village. The photographer hastened to
answer my question, thus occupying the place on the other side of

We were crossing the sloping lawn, Miss Tevkin on a narrow
flagged walk, while we were trotting along through the grass on
either side of her, with the other three of our group bringing up
the rear. Presently, as we reached the main sidewalk, we were
held up by Auntie Yetta, who was apparently returning from one
of the cottages across the road

"Is this the one you are after?" she demanded of me, with a wink in
the direction of Miss Tevkin. And, looking her over, "You do
know a good thing when you see it." Then to her: "Hold on to him,
young lady. Hold on tight.

Mr. Levinsky is said to be worth a million, you know."

"She's always joking," I said, awkwardly, as we resumed our walk

Miss Tevkin made no answer, but I felt that Auntie Yetta's joke
had made a disagreeable impression on her. I sought to efface it
by a humorous sketch of Auntie Yetta, and seemed to be

The village was astir. The great "husband train," the last and
longest of the day, was due in about ten minutes. Groups of
women and children in gala dress were emerging from the various
boarding-houses, feeding the main human stream. Some boarders
were out to meet the train, others were on their way to the
post-office for letters. A sunset of pale gold hung broodingly over
the mountains. Miss Tevkin's voice seemed to have something to
do with it

Presently we reached the crowd at the station. The train was late.
The children were getting restless. At last it arrived, the first of
two sections, with a few minutes' headway between them. There
was a jam and a babel of voices. Interminable strings of
passengers, travel-worn, begrimed, their eyes searching the
throng, came dribbling out of the cars with tantalizing slowness.
Men in livery caps were chanting the names of their respective
boarding-houses. Passengers were shouting the pet names of their
wives or children; women and children were calling to their newly
arrived husbands and fathers, some gaily, others shrieking, as
though the train were on fire. There were a large number of
handsome, well-groomed women in expensive dresses and
diamonds, and some of these were being kissed by puny, but
successful-looking, men. "They married them for their money," I
said to myself. An absurd-looking shirt-waist-manufacturer of my
acquaintance, a man with the face of a squirrel, swooped down
upon a large young matron of dazzling animal beauty who had
come in an automobile. He introduced me to her, with a beaming
air of triumph. "I can afford a machine and a beautiful wife," his
radiant squirrel-face seemed to say. He was parading the fact that
this tempting female had married him in spite of his ugliness. He
was mutely boasting as much of his own homeliness as of her
coarse beauty

Prosperity was picking the cream of the "bride market" for her
favorite sons. I thought of Lenox Avenue, a great, broad
thoroughfare up-town that had almost suddenly begun to swarm
with good-looking and flashily gowned brides of Ghetto upstarts,
like a meadow bursting into bloom in spring

"And how about your own case?" a voice retorted within me.
"Could you get a girl like Fanny if it were not for your money?
Ah, but I'm a good-looking chap myself and not as ignorant as
most of the other fellows who have succeeded," I answered,
inwardly. "Yes, and I am entitled to a better girl than Fanny, too."
And I became conscious of Miss Tevkin's presence by my side

Conversation with the poet's daughter was practically monopolized
by the misanthropic photographer. I was seized with a desire to
dislodge him. I was determined to break into the conversation and
to try to eclipse him. With a fast-beating heart I began: "What an
array of beautiful women! Present company" --with a bow to Miss
Tevkin and her long-faced chum-- "not excepted, of course. Far
from it."

The two girls smiled

"Why! Why! Whence this sudden fit of gallantry?" asked the
photographer, his sneer and the rasping Yiddish enunciation with
which he spoke English filling me with hate

"Come, Mr. Mendelson," I answered, "it's about time you cast off
your grouch. Look! The sky is so beautiful, the mountains so
majestic. Cheer up, old man."

The real-estate man burst into a laugh. The two girls smiled,
looking me over curiously. I hastened to follow up my advantage

"One does get into a peculiar mood on an evening like this," I
pursued. "The air is so divine and the people are so happy."
"That's what we all come to the mountains for," the photographer

Ignoring his remark, I resumed: "It may seem a contradiction of
terms, but these family reunions, these shouts of welcome, are so
thrilling it makes one feel as if there was something pathetic in

"Pathetic?" the bald-headed real-estate man asked in surprise

"Mr. Levinsky is in a pathetic mood, don't you know," the
photographer cut in.

"Yes, pathetic," I defied him. "But pathos has nothing to do with
grouch, has it?" I asked, addressing myself to the girls

"Why, no," Miss Siegel replied, with a perfunctory smile. "Still, I
should rather see people meet than part. It's heartbreaking to
watch a train move out of a station, with those white
handkerchiefs waving, and getting smaller, smaller. Oh, those

It was practically the first remark I had heard from her. It produced
a stronger impression on my mind than all Miss Tevkin had said.
Nevertheless, I felt that I should much rather listen to Miss Tevkin

"Of course, of course," I said. "Leave-taking is a very touching
scene to witness. But still, when people meet again after a
considerable separation, it's also touching. Don't you think it is?"

"Yes, I know what you mean," Miss Siegel assented, somewhat

"People cry for joy," Miss Tevkin put in, non-committally

"Yes, but they cry, all the same. There are tears," I urged

"I had no idea you were such a cry-baby, Mr. Levinsky," the
photographer said. "Perhaps you'll feel better when you've had
dinner. But I thought you said this weather made you happy."

"It simply means that at the bottom of our hearts we Jews are a sad
people," Miss Tevkin interceded. "There is a broad streak of
tragedy in our psychology. It's the result of many centuries of
persecution and homelessness. Gentiles take life more easily than
we do. My father has a beautiful poem on the theme. But then the
Russians are even more melancholy than we are. Russian
literature is full of it. My oldest brother, who is a great stickler for
everything Russian, is always speaking about it."

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