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Title: Rabbi and Priest - A Story
Author: Goldsmith, Milton
Language: English
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RABBI AND PRIEST.

A Story

by

MILTON GOLDSMITH.



Philadelphia:
Jewish Publication Society of America.
1891.
Copyright, 1891,
by the Jewish Publication Society of America.

Press of
Edward Stern & Co.
Philadelphia.



PREFACE.


Towards the end of 1882, there arrived at the old Pennsylvania Railroad
Depot in Philadelphia, several hundred Russian refugees, driven from
their native land by the inhuman treatment of the Muscovite Government.
Among them were many intelligent people, who had been prosperous in
their native land, but who were now reduced to dire want. One couple, in
particular, attracted the attention of the visitors, by their
intellectual appearance and air of gentility, in marked contrast to the
abject condition of many of their associates. Joseph Kierson was the
name of the man, and the story of his sufferings aroused the sympathy of
his hearers. The man and his wife were assisted by the Relief Committee,
and in a short time were in a condition to provide for themselves.

The writer had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kierson a few years later,
and elicited from him a complete recital of his trials and an account of
the causes of the terrible persecution which compelled such large
numbers of his countrymen to flee from their once happy homes.

His story forms the nucleus of the novel I now present to my readers.
While adhering as closely as possible to actual names, dates and events,
it does not pretend to be historically accurate. In following the
fortunes of Mendel Winenki, from boyhood to old age, it endeavors to
present a series of pictures portraying the character, life, and
sufferings of the misunderstood and much-maligned Russian Jew.

In the description of Russia's customs and characteristics, the
barbarous cruelty of her criminal code and the nihilistic tendency of
the times, the author has followed such eminent writers as Wallace,
Foulke, Stepniak, Tolstoi and Herzberg-Fraenkel. The accounts of the
riots of 1882 will be found to agree in historic details with the
reports which were published at the time.

With this introduction, I respectfully submit the work to the
consideration of an indulgent public.

                                                 MILTON GOLDSMITH.
  PHILADELPHIA, April, 1891.



CHAPTER I.

RECRUITS FOR SIBERIA.


We are in Russia.

On the high road from Tscherkask to Togarog, and not far from the latter
village, there stood, in the year 1850, a large and inhospitable-looking
inn. Its shingled walls, whose rough surface no paint-brush had touched
for long generations, seemed decaying from sheer old age. Its tiled roof
was in a most dilapidated state, displaying large gaps imperfectly
stuffed with straw, and serving rather to collect the rain and snow for
the more thorough inundation of the rooms below than to protect them
from the elements. The grounds about the house were in keeping with it
in point of picturesque neglect, and were as innocent of cultivation as
the building was of paint. A roughly paved path led from the highway to
the tavern door. Two old and sickly poplar trees cast a poor and
half-hearted shade upon the parched ground, and mournfully shook their
leaves over the scene of desolation. The herbage grew in isolated
patches on a black and uncultivated soil. Nature might have originally
been friendly to the place, but generations of poverty and neglect had
reduced it to a condition of wretched misery.

As was this particular spot, so was the entire village. Slavery had
wound its chains about the inhabitants, stifling whatever energy they
possessed, entailing upon them constant toil to satisfy the exorbitant
demands of their task-masters. Hence, even with a genial sun and a
southern climate, the fields were barren, the crops poor and the people
sunk in abject poverty.

The dilapidated inn, or _kretschma_, was known in the vicinity by the
ideal and appropriate name of "Paradise"--appropriate, because in it
many a sinner had been tempted and had fallen from grace. It was the
popular rendezvous of the village peasants. Thither the serfs living in
the village of Togarog and for miles around, would repair after their
labors in the fields, and forget their fatigue in a dram of rank Russian
_vodka_. Upon the barren plot of ground before the tavern, the _mir_, or
communal assembly, was wont to meet, and in open session elect its
Elder, decide its quarrels, allot its ground to the heads of families,
and frame its rude and primitive laws.

In its bare and smoke-begrimed public room, the people of Togarog
assembled night after night, and discussed, as far as the autocratic
government of the Czar Nicholas would allow, the political news of the
day. Poor souls! They enjoyed little latitude in this direction. Items
of information concerning the acts of the central government in St.
Petersburg were few and vague. The newspapers, owing to an extremely
severe censorship, gave but meagre accounts of the political situation
in the capital, and these were of necessity favorable to the government.
Now and then, however, came rambling accounts of insurrections, of acts
of cruelty, of large bodies of political offenders banished to a
life-long slavery in Siberia. At times came the news that the Czar had
been inspired by Providence to inaugurate some new and important reform,
only to be followed by the announcement that Satan had held a conference
with his Imperial Majesty, and that the reform had fallen through. All
such information was carried into Togarog by word of mouth, for few of
the good _moujiks_ could read the papers. Woe to anyone, however, who
allowed his tongue too great a license! Woe to him who dared utter a
suggestion that the existing laws bore heavily upon him. It was a
dangerous experiment to criticise in a hostile spirit any of the abuses
heaped upon the degraded people. The condition of Russia was
deplorable.[1] Insurrection and rebellion nourished in all parts of the
Empire. Degraded to the lowest depths, the crushed worm turned
occasionally, but free itself it could not. Brave spirits arose for whom
exile had no terrors. With their rude eloquence they incited their
fellow-sufferers to throw off the yoke of tyranny and assert their
freedom; and the morrow found them wandering toward the snow-bound
confines of Siberia. Patriotism was not very much encouraged in Russia.

The proprietor of the tavern, a burly, red-faced Cossack, Peter
Basilivitch by name, was in the employ and under the protection of the
Governor of Alexandrovsk, in which department the village of Togarog
lay. The rent paid by Basilivitch was nominal, it is true, but he sold
enormous quantities of liquor, all of which he was obliged to buy from
the Governor's stills; furthermore, he furnished his master with such
information concerning the actions, words, and even thoughts of his
patrons, as came under his observation; and as the serfs that frequented
"Paradise" had no suspicion of the true relation betwixt master and
man, the Governor was enabled to keep himself accurately informed as to
the sayings and doings of his subjects.

Let us enter the public room, this bright Sunday afternoon in the month
of April, in the year 1850. A dense crowd has assembled to-day to do
honor to Basilivitch's wretched liquor. The face of the host fairly
gloats in anticipation of the lucrative harvest that he will glean. He
rubs his hands gleefully, as he orders his servants about.

"Here, Ivan, a pint of _vodka_, and be quick about it! Alexander, you
lazy dog, here comes the village elder, Selaski Starosta--see that he is
served!"

And the crowd continues to grow, until his room will scarcely seat all
the guests.

There are sturdy farmers, wearing their heavy coats and fur caps, in
spite of the sultry weather and still warmer alcoholic beverages, and
swearing and vociferating in sonorous Russian. There are gossiping
women, decked in their caps and many-colored finery. There are
smartly-arrayed young girls, chatting merrily with the swains at their
side. Unruly children scamper, barefooted and bareheaded, around and
under the tables. Puling infants and barking dogs add their discord to
the din and confusion. It is a scene one is not apt to forget.

We repeat it, this is Sunday; the one day when the arm of the laborer
obtains a respite from the tasks imposed upon it during the week; and
the serf of Russia knows no diversion, can find no relaxation, but in
the genial climate of a tavern. But this is no ordinary occasion. Not
every Sunday ushers in so bountiful a supply of customers to Peter
Basilivitch's inn as this. There must be something of unusual
importance, perhaps some interesting bit of rumor from the capital, that
unites the inhabitants of Togarog. After the alcoholic beverages that
are so freely imbibed fulfil their mission and loosen the wits and the
tongues of these good _moujiks_, we may arrive at the cause. Nor have we
long to wait. Already in the far corner of the dingy and smoke-obscured
room, we hear voices in altercation; a hot, angry dispute forces itself
upon our ears, and the people cease their revels to listen.

"Say what you will," shouted one fur-bedecked individual; "it is an
outrage! We are already burdened with enough taxes. Three days of the
week we must work for the master of our lands, and but three days are
left us for our own support; and now they want to tax us again for a war
in which we have no interest."

"But the Czar must have the money," retorted another. "The people of
Poland are in a state of rebellion, and the army has already been
ordered out to subdue that province."

"Let them tax the nobles, then," angrily cried a third. "Why do they
constantly bleed the poor peasant? Do they want to suck the last drop of
our life's blood? I tell you, we ought not submit."

"How will you help yourselves?" sneeringly asked the host, who, with
napkin tucked under his chin, stood near the speakers, and lost not a
word of the conversation.

How, indeed? Silence fell over the disputants. The question had been
asked, alas! how often, but the answer had not yet been forthcoming.

"Let us arise and organize," at length cried the first speaker, one
Podoloff by name, who was known as a man of great daring and more than
average intelligence, and who had upon more than one occasion been
unconsciously very near having himself transported to Siberia. "Let us
organize!" he repeated. "Think ye we alone are tired of this wretched
existence? Think ye that the peasants of Radtsk and Mohilev and Kief are
less human than ourselves, and that they are less weary of the slavery
under which they drag out a miserable existence? Let us assert our
rights! With the proper organization, and a few good leaders, we could
humble this proud nobility and bring it to our feet. There was a time
when the Russian peasant was a free man, with the privilege to go
whither he pleased, but a word from an arrogant ruler changed it all,
and we are now bound and fettered like veritable slaves."

A murmur of surprise swept through the room. Such an incendiary harangue
was new to the serfs of that region. Never before had such revolutionary
doctrines been openly advanced. Subdued complaints, undefined
expressions of discontent, were frequent, and were as frequently
repressed, but such an outspoken insult to the reigning nobility, such a
fearless invitation to rebellion against the authorities, were unheard
of.

The village elder, a venerable and worthy man, arose and sought to check
the fiery eloquence of the orator.

"Be silent, Podoloff," he commanded. "It is not for you to speak against
the existing order of things. Your father and your father's father were
content to live as you do, and were none the worse for it. By what right
do you complain?"

"By the right that every human being ought to enjoy!" retorted Podoloff.
"Our condition is growing worse every year. Last year the Czar imposed
a tax on account of the disturbances in Poland. Three months later, the
Governor created another tax to pay for his new palace. Now there is to
be still another tax, bigger than the last. No; we ought not to stand
it. It has reached the limit of endurance."

Murmurs of approval arose from various quarters, only to be quickly
suppressed by the cooler heads in the assembly.

"Still we have much to be thankful for," said an old cobbler, Sobelefsky
by name. "The nobles are very kind to us. They supply us with implements
and find a market for our grain."

"And for that they rob us of our money and our liberty," retorted
Podoloff, hotly. "Ask Simon Schefsky there, how much he owes to our
gracious Governor, who last year took from him his pretty daughter, that
her charms might while away his weary hours in Alexandrovsk."

"He is a tyrant!" shouted several women, their rough cheeks tingling at
the recollection of recent indignities. The cry was taken up by many of
the poor wretches present.

What material there was in "Paradise" for the infernal regions of
Siberia!

In vain did Selaski Starosta endeavor to make himself heard. In vain did
the older and more conservative among the company advise caution. The
passion of an angry and enslaved people had for the moment broken its
bonds, and the tumult could not be quelled by mere words.

"See!" cried Podoloff, emboldened by his success. He sprang upon a table
and tore a paper from his pocket. "Yesterday I went to Kharkov to sell
some cattle. I found that the people there had already organized. They
have sent a petition to the Czar, asking for greater liberties. Here is
a copy. Let me read it to you," and, amid a silence as profound as the
occasional bark of a dog or the wail of a child would permit, Podoloff
read the following:

"Russia, O Czar, confided to thee supreme power, and thou wert to her as
a God upon earth. What hast thou done? Blinded by passion and ignorance,
thou hast sought nothing but power! Thou hast forgotten Russia! Thou
hast consumed thy time in reviewing troops, in altering uniforms, in
signing the legislative papers of ignorant charlatans. Thou hast created
a despicable race of censors of the press, that thou mightst sleep in
peace, and never know the wants, never hear the murmurs of thy people,
never listen to the voice of truth. Truth! Thou hast buried her. For her
there is no resurrection. Thou hast refused liberty. At the same time
thou wast enslaved by thy passions. By thy pride and thy obstinacy thou
hast exhausted Russia. Thou hast armed the world against her. Humiliate
thyself before thy brothers! Bow thy haughty forehead in the dust!
Implore pardon! Ask counsel! Throw thyself in the arms of thy people.
There is no other way of salvation for thee!"[2]

Podoloff replaced the paper in his pocket, and looked triumphantly about
him. A twofold sentiment greeted the reading of this wonderful
manifesto. The younger generation were disposed to applaud it, but the
older men, those who preferred to bear the evils they had rather than
fly to those they knew not of, shook their fur-capped heads in doubt.

"Did the writers sign their names to that article?" asked the
circumspect old cobbler.

"Not they," answered Podoloff. "They valued their lives too highly. But
nearly every village in the north has sent the Czar a similar petition.
Nicholas must in the end perceive our misery, and lighten our burdens."

"Or make our existence doubly bitter," answered old Schefsky. "It is a
dangerous experiment."

"The Government will take no notice of it, unless it be to double your
taxes," said the Elder.

At the word "taxes," a new storm of wailing and imprecations broke out.

"I could not pay another kopeck," cried one cadaverous looking wretch.
"I work myself to death, and as it is can hardly keep starvation from
the door."

"Why don't they tax the nobles?" asked another. "They can stand it."

"Or the Jews," cried a third, whose liberal potations of alcohol had
brought him to the verge of intoxication. "Let them take all they
possess. A Jew don't work in the fields. He has no right to wealth!"

Here was a topic upon which all these people were cordially agreed.

"Oppress the Jews."

There was not a dissenting voice in the room.

"The Czar has need of soldiers. Why don't he take the sons of Jews for
his wars?"

"We must sit and toil till our nails fall off, while the Jews do nothing
but grow rich."

"We'll have no more of it! Let the Jews pay the taxes."

And so the cry went on. Glass after glass of _vodka_ moistened the
capacious throats that had shrieked themselves hoarse, and in the cry of
"Down with the Jews!" the other more dangerous cry of "Down with the
Nobles!" was for the moment forgotten.

It was with difficulty that the Elder of the commune could make himself
heard above the din.

"My friends," he finally said, "I am afraid we have made bad work of it
to-day. Should this get to the Governor's ears, I fear some of us will
suffer. I hope, however, that what we have to-day heard and discussed
will remain our secret. I trust all of you. I am sure there is no
traitor among us who would betray our deliberations to the Governor. As
regards our condition, let us be patient. We have nothing serious to
complain of. If the Czar needs money, ours should be at his disposal. If
he needs men for the army, we are his subjects and his property.
Whatever he does, is for the best. Let us submit. As to the manifesto we
have just heard, we will have none of it. Other _mirs_ may do as they
please, but we will remain loyal to our Czar and our Governor, and live
our quiet, uneventful lives."

These words, delivered in a simple but forcible manner by the
acknowledged head of the village, did not fail of their desired effect.
The rabble, realizing the danger into which its enthusiasm had hurried
it, became but too anxious to appear on the side of the Government.
Those who had been loudest in their outcry, now meekly protested against
disloyalty, and Podoloff suddenly found himself bereft of all friends,
with the exception of three or four fearless supporters, as stanch as
their leader. In vain he sought by his eloquence to regain his lost
ground, but he was in a hopeless minority, and, gulping down the
remaining spirits which stood before him, he prepared to leave the
tavern.

"Continue to suffer," were his parting words. "No people is worse off
than it deserves to be. But the day is not far distant when the serf
shall be able to hold up his head, a free man, and that will be
accomplished as soon as you all feel the humiliation of being slaves!"

The meeting broke up in great disorder. Sentiment appeared to be
divided, but the radicals were very circumspect in their remarks, for
earlier experience had taught them that, under an autocratic government
like that of Czar Nicholas, silence was golden. The blandly smiling
host, Basilivitch, went from group to group, threw in a word here and a
suggestion there, smiled at this man's eloquence and ridiculed that
man's caution, all the while making a mental inventory of the facts he
would lay before the Governor on the next morning.

The peasants, when they retired for the night, felt none of that
pleasurable exaltation which should accompany a step towards liberty,
but were oppressed by the weight of an undefined terror, as though they
were on the verge of some catastrophe.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: "Looking about, one saw venality in full feather, serfdom
crushing people like a rock, informers lurking everywhere. No one could
safely express himself in the presence of his dearest friend. There was
no common bond, no general interest. Fear and flattery were
universal."--_Tourgenieff._]

[Footnote 2: Leroy-Boileau.]



CHAPTER II.

MASTER AND MAN.


A clear April morning was dawning when Basilivitch saddled his horse and
rode off in the direction of Alexandrovsk, at which place he arrived at
noon and at once repaired to the Governor's residence. A crowd of idle
and flashily-dressed servants, all of whom were serfs, lounged about the
new and stately palace, and found exhilarating amusement in setting
their ferocious dogs upon the unoffending farmers who happened to pass
that way. The greater the fear evinced by the victims, the greater was
the delight of the humorously inclined menials, and if perchance a dog
succeeded in fixing his fangs in the garments or calf of a pedestrian
their mirth found vent in ecstatic shouts of laughter. Basilivitch had
on more than one occasion been upon such errands as that which brought
him to-day, and seemed on terms of familiarity with the liveried
guardians of the palace. They obligingly called off their dogs, and at
once announced the innkeeper to his excellency, General Drudkoff. The
Governor had dined sumptuously and received his henchman graciously.

Stretching himself upon a sofa and lazily rolling a cigarette, he said:

"Well, Basilivitch, what news do you bring? How fare my good subjects at
Togarog?"

"I have bad news, your excellency," answered Basilivitch. "My heart is
sad at the information I have to impart. Insurrection is rife in our
village, and not only your excellency, but also his majesty the Czar is
in imminent danger."

The Governor sprang up from his couch, and his face became ashen white
with fear. There was perhaps no man in all Russia more cruel, and at the
same time more cowardly, than this General Drudkoff.

"Explain yourself," he cried, at length recovering from his terror.
"What do you mean?"

Thereupon the loyal Basilivitch began a recital of the events of the
previous evening. Nor did he spare exaggeration where it suited him to
strive for effect. According to his version, Podoloff had incited his
fellow-peasants to march at once to Alexandrovsk and attack his
excellency in the palace. The line of march had already been formed with
the arch agitator, Podoloff, at the head.

"I saw," said Basilivitch, waxing warm as his recital progressed, "I saw
that it would fare ill with your excellency if the progress of the mob
was not arrested. With a handful of friends, therefore, I threw myself
in front of the insurgents and commanded them to disband."

"Well done," cried the Governor, upon whom every word made a profound
impression. "What did Podoloff do?"

"He would have come on alone, but I overpowered him and secured him in
my barn, where he spent the night in imprecations against your
excellency."

"You did well, Basilivitch, and I shall not forget you. But who were
Podoloff's accomplices? You say a number of men supported him in his
treasonable utterances."

"Yes; there were fully a dozen of them," said Basilivitch, counting upon
his fingers, and enumerating a number of poor innocents, whose only
offence lay in the fact that Basilivitch owed them some private grudge.
"There were quite a number of Jews in the assembly," continued the
innkeeper; "and their presence seemed to cause a great deal of
ill-feeling."

Now it happened that there was not a single Jew in the tavern on that
memorable Sunday. The twelve Israelitish families of Togarog found
sufficient relaxation and entertainment in their own circle, and did not
in the least yearn after the boisterous and uncivil companionship of
Russian _moujiks_. Alas! they knew but too well that taunts and insults
would be their portion, if they but dared to show themselves at one of
these public gatherings. Moreover, the Jews were in the midst of their
Passover, a time during which the partaking of any refreshments not
prepared according to their strict ritual is sternly interdicted.

Be that as it may, Basilivitch did not allow such simple facts to stand
in his way. He had come with a very pretty and effective tale, and drew
largely upon his imagination to make it dramatic.

"Ah, the Jews again!" hissed the Governor. "Did they take an active part
in the insurrection?"

Basilivitch was forced to admit that they did not.

The Governor appeared disappointed.

"Well, what matters it?" he said. "They have been a menace to us long
enough. I doubt whether they have a legal right to live in this part of
Russia. We must investigate the matter. In the meantime, we will make an
example of them. Give me the names of those Hebrews that were present."

Basilivitch's powers of improvisation failed him. In vain he endeavored
to remember the names of the Jews who would most likely have been
implicated in such an affair, but the names had slipped his memory.

"Your excellency," he stammered, "I never could tax my memory with their
outlandish names."

"It is of no consequence," said the Governor. "A Jew is a Jew. We will
make an example of the entire tribe. And now, good Basilivitch, of what
do the people complain?"

"It is a mere bagatelle, your excellency. They would like to imitate
their betters and live a life of ease and luxury; as though a serf were
created for anything but labor. They complain that they cannot lie upon
a bed of roses. They want their taxes remitted and would like their
children to be sent to school, to be brought up to detest honest work."

"Preposterous!" exclaimed the Governor. "What else have they to complain
of?"

"They say that, while they must toil from morning till night, the Jews
do nothing but amass wealth; that they must provide men for the army,
while the Jews remain at home."

"Stop!" cried the Governor in a fury. "Is what they say concerning the
Jews true?"

"It is, your excellency. They do not work in the fields, they have no
trades, they simply buy and sell and make money."

The Governor paced the room in silence, an occasional vehement gesture
alone giving evidence of the agitation or fear that was raging within
him. Finally, he stopped and stood before the obsequious Basilivitch.

"We will find a plan to humble the haughty race," he said. "Return to
Togarog and keep your eyes open. Make out a list of the Jews in the
village, and find out exactly how many boys there are in each family,
and what are their ages. We will remove the brats from their parents'
influence and send them to the army, where they will soon become loyal
soldiers and faithful Catholics. Bring me the names of the _moujiks_ who
supported Podoloff in his rebellion. I shall send them to Siberia to
reflect on the uncertainty of human aspirations. Now, go! Here is a
rouble for you. Should any new symptoms of revolt show themselves, send
me word at once."

Scarcely had the door closed upon Basilivitch, before the Governor rang
for his Secretary.

"Send two officers to Togarog at once," he commanded. "It appears my
good serfs are becoming unruly, and would like a taste of freedom. Let
the officers disguise themselves as peasants, and carefully observe
every action of Podoloff and his friends. Let our faithful Basilivitch
also be watched. I have my suspicions concerning that fellow. He is too
ready with his information."

The Secretary left the room to fulfil the Governor's instructions, while
Basilivitch remounted his horse and returned to his _kretschma_, to
serve, with smiling countenance and friendly mien, the men whom he had
devoted to irretrievable ruin.



CHAPTER III.

A FAMILY IN ISRAEL.


In a remote portion of Togarog, and separated from the main village by a
number of wretched lanes, lay the Jewish quarter. A decided improvement
in the general condition of the houses which formed this suburb was
plainly visible to the casual observer. The houses were, if possible,
more unpretentious than those of the serfs, yet there was an air of
home-like comfort about them, an impression of neatness and cleanliness
prevailed, which one would seek for in vain among the semi-barbarous
peasants of Southern Russia. To the inhabitants of these poor huts, home
was everything. The ordinary occupations, the primitive diversions of
the serfs, were forbidden them. Shunned and decried by their gentile
neighbors, the Jews meekly withdrew into the seclusion of their
dwellings, and allowed the wicked world to wag. Their "home" was
synonymous with their happiness, with their existence.

The shadows of evening were falling upon the quiet village. Above, the
stars were beginning to twinkle in the calmness of an April sky, and
brighter and brighter shone the candles in the houses of the Jews,
inviting the wayfarer to the cheer of a hospitable board.

It is the Jewish Sabbath eve, the divine day of rest. The hardships and
worry of daily toil are succeeded by a peaceful and joyous repose. The
trials and humiliations of a week of care are followed by a day of peace
and security.

The poor, despised Hebrew, who, during the past week, has been hunted
and persecuted, bound by the chain of intolerance and scourged by the
whip of fanaticism; who, in fair weather and foul, has wandered from
place to place with his pack, stinting, starving himself, that he may
provide bread for his wife and little ones, has returned for the Sabbath
eve, to find, in the presence and in the smiles of his dear ones, an
ample compensation for the care and anxiety he has been compelled to
endure.

At the end of the street, and not far from the last house in the
settlement, stands the House of Prayer. Thither the population of the
Jewish quarter wends its way. Men arrayed in their best attire, and
followed by troops of children, who from earliest infancy have been
taught to acknowledge the efficacy of prayer, enter the synagogue.

It is a poor, modest-looking enclosure.

A number of tallow candles illumine its recesses. The _oron-hakodesh_,
or ark containing the holy Pentateuch, a shabbily-covered pulpit, or
_almemor_, and a few rough praying-desks for the men, are all that
relieve the emptiness of the room. Around one side there runs a gallery,
in which the women sit during divine service. In spite of its humble
plainness, the place beams with cheerfulness; it bears the impress of
holiness. Gradually the benches fill. All of the men, and many of the
boys who form the population of the quarter, are present.

Reb Mordecai Winenki, the reader, begins the service. Prayers of sincere
gratitude are sent on high. The worshippers greet the Sabbath as a lover
greets his long-awaited bride--with joy, with smiles, with loving
fervor. The service is at an end and the happy participants return to
their homes.

Beautiful is the legend of the Sabbath eve.

When a man leaves the synagogue for his home, an Angel of Good and an
Angel of Evil accompany him. If he finds the table spread in his house,
the Sabbath lamps lighted, and his wife and children in festive attire,
ready to bless the holy day of rest, then the good Angel says:

"May the next Sabbath and all thy Sabbaths be like this. Peace unto this
dwelling!"

And the Angel of Evil is forced to say, "Amen."

No one, indeed, would, before entering one of these poor, unpainted huts
expect to find the cheerful and brilliant interior that greets his eyes.
Let us enter one of the houses, that of Reb Mordecai Winenki.

The table is covered with a snow-white cloth. The utensils are clean and
bright. The board is spread with tempting viands. An antique brass lamp,
polished like a mirror, hangs from the ceiling, and the flame from its
six arms sheds a soft light upon the table beneath. A number of silver
candlesticks among the dishes add to the illumination.

On this evening, Mordecai returned from the synagogue with his son
Mendel, a lad of thirteen, and his brother-in-law, Hirsch Bensef, a
resident of Kief. Mordecai was a thin, pale-faced, brown-bearded man of
forty or thereabouts, with shoulders stooping as though under a weight
of care; perhaps, though, it was from the sedentary life he led,
teaching unruly children the elements of Hebrew and religion. He had
resided in Togarog for fourteen years, ever since he had married Leah,
the daughter of Reb Bensef of Kief. His wife's brother was a man of
different stamp. He was a few years younger than Mordecai. His step was
firm, his head erect, his beard jet black, and his intellect, though not
above the superstitious fancies of his time and race, was, for all
ordinary transactions, especially those of trade, eminently clear and
powerful. He was, as we shall see, one of the wealthiest Jewish
merchants in Kief, and therefore quite a power in the community of that
place.

Leah met the men at the door.

"Good _Shabbes_, my dear husband; good _Shabbes_, brother," said the
woman, cheerfully, her matronly face all aglow with pride and pleasure.
"You must be famished from your long trip, brother."

"Yes, I am very hungry. I have tasted nothing since I left Kharkov, at
five o'clock this morning."

"How kind of you to come all that distance to our boy's _bar-mitzvah!_
He can never be sufficiently grateful."

"He is my god-child," said the man, affectionately stroking his nephew's
head. "I take great pride in him. It has pleased the Lord to deny me
children, and the deprivation is hard to bear. Sister, let me take
Mendel with me. I am rich and can give him all he can desire. He shall
study Talmud and become a great and famous rabbi, of whom all the world
will one day speak in praise. You have still another boy, while my home
is dreary for want of a child's presence. What say you?"

But the mother had, long before the conclusion of this appeal, clasped
the boy to her bosom, while the tears of love forced themselves through
her lashes at the bare suggestion of parting from her first-born.

"God forbid," she cried, "that he should ever leave me; my precious
boy." And she embraced him again and again.

Meanwhile, the husband had crossed the room to where a little fellow,
scarcely six years of age, lay upon a sofa.

"Well, Jacob, my boy; how do you feel?" he asked, gently.

"A little better, father," murmured the child. "My arm and ear still
pain me, but not so much as yesterday."

The boy sat up and attempted to smile, but sank back with a groan.

"Poor child, poor child," said the father, soothingly, "Have patience.
In a few days you will be about again."

"Is uncle here? I want to see uncle," cried the boy.

Hirsch Bensef obeyed the call, and, going to the sufferer, kissed his
burning brow.

"Why, Jacob; how is this?" he said. "I did not know that you were sick.
What is the trouble, my lad?" The child turned his face to the wall and
shuddered.

Reb Mordecai shook his head mournfully, while a tear he sought to
repress ran down his furrowed cheek.

"It is the old story," he said. "Prejudice and fanaticism, hatred and
ignorance."

And while the Sabbath meal waited, the father told his tale in a simple,
unaffected manner, and the uncle listened with clenched hands and
threatening glances.

The day following the events in the _kretschma_, little Jacob had
wandered, in company with some Christian playmates, through the village,
and seeing the door of a barn wide open, his childish curiosity got the
better of his discretion, and he peeped in. A brindled cow, with a
pretty calf scarcely three days old, attracted his attention, and for
some minutes he gazed upon the pair in silent ecstasy. Then, knowing
that he was on forbidden ground, he retraced his steps and endeavored to
reach the lane where he had left his companions. The master of the farm,
however, having witnessed the intrusion from a neighboring window, did
not lose the opportunity to vent his anger against the whole tribe of
inquisitive Jews. On the following day the cow ran dry. In vain did the
calf seek nourishment at the maternal breast; there was nothing to
satisfy its cravings.

The farmer, slow as he was in matters of general importance, was far
from slow in tracing the melancholy occurrence to its supposed source.

"That accursed Jew has bewitched my cow," was his first thought, and his
second was to find the author of the deed and mete out punishment to
him.

Throughout the whole of Russia, and even in parts of civilized Germany,
Jews are accused of all manner of sorcery. The _Cabala_ is the principal
religious authority of the lower classes among the Russian Jews, and
this may perhaps inspire such a preposterous notion. The Jews,
themselves, frequently believe that some one of their own number is in
possession of supernatural secrets which give him wonderful and awful
powers. Many were the tortures which these poor people were doomed to
endure for their supposed influence over nature's laws.

It was an easy matter to find little Jacob. His hours at the _cheder_
(school) were over. He was sure to be playing upon the streets, and his
capture was quickly effected. Seizing the innocent little fellow by the
arm, the irate peasant lifted him off his feet, and dragged him by sheer
force into the barn, where he confronted the malefactor with his victim.

"So, you thought you could bewitch my cow," he hissed. "But I saw you,
Jew, and, by our holy Czar, I swear that, unless you repair the damage,
I shall feed your carcass to the dogs."

Poor Jacob was too terrified to understand of what crime he had been
accused. He looked piteously at his tormentor, and burst into tears.

"Well?" cried the peasant, impatiently; "will you take off the spell, or
shall I call my dog?"

The child, knowing that such threats were not made in vain, endeavored
to plead his innocence, but the bellowing of the hungry calf outweighed
the sobbing of the boy, and with an angry oath Jacob was struck to the
ground, and a ferocious bull-dog, but little more brutal than his
master, was set upon the helpless little fellow.

"Please, Mr. Farmer, don't kill me," he pleaded, groaning in pain.

"Will you cure my cow?" demanded the peasant.

"I'll try to; I'll do my best," sobbed the boy, whose pain made him
diplomatic at last.

The dog was called off, and the child, after promising to restore the
cow to her former condition, was turned out into the lane, where his
mother found him an hour later, unconscious, his body lacerated, one arm
broken, and a portion of his right ear torn off.

When Reb Mordecai concluded his sad narration, all about him were in
tears.

"Just God!" exclaimed the uncle; "hast Thou indeed deserted Thy people,
that Thou canst allow such indignities? How long, O Lord! must we endure
these torments?"

"Nay, brother," sobbed the poor mother, while she caressed her ailing
boy; "what God does is for the best. It is not for us to peer into his
inscrutable actions. But come, Mordecai, banish your sorrows. This is
_Shabbes_, a day of joy and peace. Come, the table is spread."

Father and mother placed their hands upon the heads of their children,
and pronounced the solemn blessing:--"May God let you become like
Ephraim and Manasseh!" and the family took their places at the table.

Then Mordecai made _kiddush_, which consisted in blessing the wine,
without which no Jewish Sabbath is complete, and having pronounced
_motzi_, a similar prayer over the bread, he dipped the latter in salt,
and passed a small piece to each of the participants. It is a ceremony
which no pious Jew ever neglects.

In spite of the recent affliction, the meal was a merry one. The poorest
Israelite will deny himself even the necessaries of life during the six
working-days, that he may live well on the Sabbath. Reb Mordecai was a
poor man. He had a small income, derived from teaching the Talmud to the
children in the vicinity, from transcribing the holy scrolls, and from
sundry bits of work for which he was fitted by his intellectual
attainments. He was the most influential Jew in the settlement and not
even the fanatical serfs of the village could find a complaint to make
against his character or person.

The theme of conversation was naturally the family festival, which would
take place upon the morrow. Mendel having attained his thirteenth year
and acquired due proficiency in the difficult studies of the Jewish law,
would become _bar-mitzvah_; in other words, he would take upon himself
the responsibility of a man before God and the world, and acknowledge
his readiness to act and suffer for the maintenance of the belief in
_Adonai Echod_--the only God. Mendel, under his father's tuition, had
made rapid strides. He was the wonder of every male inhabitant of the
community. His knowledge of the Scriptures was simply phenomenal, and
his philosophical reasoning puzzled and astonished his friends.

"He will be a great rabbi some day," they prophesied.

Hirsch Bensef had journeyed all the way from Kief to take part in the
family festival. There were some privileges which not even the wealthy
Jews of Russia could purchase, and among them was the right to travel in
a public conveyance. Hirsch was obliged to journey as best he could. A
kindly disposed wagoner had permitted him to ride part of the way, but
the greater portion of the distance he was compelled to walk. Still, at
any cost, he had determined not to miss so important an event as his
nephew's _bar-mitzvah_.

The bread having been broken, the supper was proceeded with. The fish
was succulent and the cake delicious. A lofty and religious Sabbath
sentiment enhanced the charm of the whole meal. Then a prayer of thanks
was offered, the dishes were cleared away and the family settled
themselves at ease, to discuss the topics most dear to them.

"You make a great mistake, sister," said Bensef, "if you allow Mendel to
waste his time in this village. The boy is much too bright for his
surroundings."

"Don't begin that subject again," said the mother, determinedly; "for I
positively will not hear of his leaving. The parting would kill me."

"But," continued her brother, "have you ever asked yourself what his
future will be in this wretched neighborhood? Shall he waste his
precious years helping his father teach _cheder_? Shall he earn a few
paltry kopecks in making _tzitzith_ (fringes for the praying scarfs) for
the _Jehudim_ in the village? Or, shall he cobble shoes or peddle from
place to place with a bundle upon his back, which are the only two
occupations open to the despised race?"

"Alas!" sighed the mother, "what you say may be true. But what would you
propose for the boy?"

"Let him go with me to Kief. There are nearly fifteen thousand of our
co-religionists in that city; and, while their lot is not an enviable
one, it is decidedly better than vegetating in a village. Our celebrated
Rabbi Jeiteles is getting old and we will soon need a successor. It is
an honorable position and one which our little Mendel will some day be
able to fill. Would you not like living in a big city, my boy?"

Mendel hovered between filial affection and a desire to see the big
world. It was difficult to decide.

"I should like to remain with father and mother--and Jacob," he
stammered, "and yet----"

"And yet," continued his uncle, "you would love to come to Kief, where
everything is grand and brilliant, where the stores and booths are
fairly alive with light and beauty, where the soldiers parade every day
in gorgeous uniforms. Ah, my boy, there is life for you!"

"But how much of that life may the Jews enjoy?" asked Mordecai. "Are
they not restricted in their privileges and deprived of every
possibility of rising in station? Is their lot any happier than ours in
this village, where, at all events, we are not troubled with the envy
which the sight of so much luxury must bring with it?"

"It will not always be so," said Bensef, confidently. "With each year we
may expect reforms, and where will they strike first if not in the
cities? Nicholas already has plans under consideration, whereby the
condition of the serfs may be bettered."

"How will that benefit our race?"

"How? I will tell you. The serf persecutes the Jew because he is himself
persecuted by the nobility. There is no real animosity between the
peasant and his Jewish neighbors. Our wretched state is the outgrowth of
a petty tyranny, in which the serf desires to imitate his superiors. Let
the people once enjoy freedom and they will cease to persecute the
Hebrews, without whom they cannot exist."

"Absurd ideas," interrupted the teacher. "Our degradation proceeds not
from the people, but from those in authority. Our lot will not improve
until the Messiah comes with sword in hand, to deliver us from our
enemies. Remember the proverb: 'The heavens are far, but further the
Czar.'"

"But about Mendel?" asked Bensef, suddenly reverting to his original
topic, for in spite of his hopeful theories, he did not feel sanguine
that he would live to see their realization.

"The matter is not pressing," said the father. "We can think it over,
and decide before you return to Kief."

"No, no!" cried Leah; "Mendel must not leave us. Promise to remain, my
child!"

But the boy was now delighted with the idea of accompanying his uncle.
He asked a thousand questions concerning the wonderful town of Kief,
which suddenly became the goal of all his hopes and ambitions.

Bensef took the boy upon his lap and told him all about the great city,
which had once been the capital of Russia. Mendel listened and sighed.
His eyes beamed with pleasurable anticipation. Before going to bed, he
threw his arms about his mother's neck.

"Mother," he whispered; "let me go to Kief. I want to become great."

Leah held him in a convulsive embrace, but said nothing.

The morrow was Saturday--Sabbath morning. The little synagogue was
crowded with an expectant throng. It was long since there had been a
_bar-mitzvah_ in Togarog, and Israelites came from all the villages in
the vicinity to witness the happy event. Happy seemed the men, arrayed
in their white _tallesim_ (praying scarfs)--happy at the thought of
another member being added to their ranks. Happy appeared the mothers in
the reflection that their sons, too, would some day be admitted to the
holy rite. When Mendel finally mounted the _almemor_ (pulpit), and began
his _Bar'chu eth Adonai_, the audience scarcely breathed.

Like a finished scholar did Mendel recite his _sidrah_, that portion of
the _Torah_ or Law which was appropriate to the day. This was followed
by the _drosha_, a well-committed speech, expressive of gratitude to his
parents and teachers, and full of beautiful promises of a future that
should be pleasant in the eyes of the Lord. The words fell from his lips
as though inspired. It was a proud moment for the boy's parents. Their
tears mingled with their smiles. Forgotten were hardships and
persecutions. God still held happiness in reserve for his chosen people.
When the boy concluded his exercises, kisses and congratulations were
showered upon him by his admiring friends.

"Hirsch Bensef is right," said Mordecai to his wife. "Mendel ought to go
to some large city. He has wonderful talents. He may become a great
rabbi. Who can tell?"

"We shall see; we shall see!" replied his wife, with a look of mingled
pleasure and pain. But she did not say her husband was in the wrong.

In the afternoon the entire congregation visited Reb Mordecai, so that
the little house scarcely held all the people. The men came with their
long _caftans_, the women with their black silk robes, their prettiest
wigs, and strings of pearls; and one and all brought presents, tokens of
their esteem. Naturally, Mendel was the centre of attraction. His
present, past and future were discussed. A brilliant career was
predicted for him, and he was held up as a model to his juniors.

Little Jacob was also the recipient of attentions from young and old.
His mishap, though painful, was not an exceptional case. Similar ones
occurred almost weekly in the surrounding country. What mattered it?
His arm would be stiff and his ear mutilated to the end of his days; but
he was only a Jew--doomed to live and suffer for his belief in the one
God. It was a sad consolation they gave him, but it was the best they
had to offer.

The poor children, Christian as well as Jew, came from miles around to
receive alms, which were generously given. Then refreshments were
served, followed by speeches and jests; and so the afternoon and evening
wore merrily away, and night--a dark and dismal night--followed the
happy day.



CHAPTER IV.

A NIGHT OF TERROR.


The guests had retired to their homes. The children had been blessed and
sent to bed. The parents throughout the quarter, having discussed the
one topic of the day, Mendel's _bar-mitzvah_, had extinguished their
candles and sought their pillows, preparatory to again venturing forth
into a cold and inhospitable world in search of their meagre
subsistence.

In the village, too, the serfs had retired, the brawling in "Paradise"
had gradually ceased, and silent night had cast her mantle of sleep over
Togarog.

A dim rumbling of wagons, a clattering of horses' hoofs, a murmur of
men's voices fell upon the air. Nearer and nearer came the sounds and
the soldiers that produced them, until the village was reached. With as
little noise as possible, the company crept through the narrow streets
until they came to the inn of our friend Basilivitch, who evidently
expected them, for he hastily opened the door and bade the martial band
enter. There was a whispered consultation between the host and the
leader of the soldiers. Basilivitch put on his cap and guided the
captain through the village. Carefully the two scanned the houses, and
now and then Basilivitch drew a cross upon one of the doors with a piece
of red chalk. They then directed their footsteps to the Jewish quarter,
where they repeated their tactics, and finally rejoined their companions
in "Paradise." Here the soldiers were given their instructions, and
silently and stealthily, lest they might arouse the village and invite
resistance, they crept forth in twos, to the huts marked with the mystic
sign of the cross. The house of Podoloff was the first they reached.
Cautiously one of the soldiers knocked at the door.

"Who's there?" cried a voice, inside.

"Friends! Open at once!" was the enticing answer.

Podoloff hastily attired himself, and, cautiously opening the door, he
peeped through the crevice. At the sight of the soldiers, he
instinctively divined danger, and tried to bar the entrance. Too late!
One of the soldiers had already thrust the muzzle of his gun into the
opening, while the other forced his way into the room.

"Utter a single cry," he said, "and you are a corpse."

Resistance was useless. Podoloff, in spite of his pleading, was seized
and his hands bound behind him. Then, while one man held guard over the
captive's wife and children, the other ransacked the house, rummaging
through filthy and worm-eaten closets, and exploring dirty coffers, into
which had been thrust a wretched assortment of rags--the garb of
slavery. Every scrap of paper was captured and jealously guarded.
During this time, the greatest silence was preserved. Other arrests were
to be made, and it was imperative upon the men to take every precaution
not to arouse the intended victims prematurely.

"Forward, march!" commanded one of the soldiers; and poor Podoloff,
without even daring to bid his wife farewell, was forced into the street
and carried, rather than led, to Basilivitch's hostlery.

Nine others were captured in a similar manner; nine poor wretches,
doomed to life-long misery in the copper mines of Siberia, many of them
having not the slightest idea of the nature of their offence.
Basilivitch had placed the Governor of Alexandrovsk under eternal
obligations by his patriotic devotion. Of the number captured, there
were three who had seconded Podoloff during the discussion at the inn,
the previous Sunday afternoon. The remainder were to be exiled, because
the Governor, on Basilivitch's recommendation, deemed them dangerous. A
good day's work, Basilivitch! You have done the nation a signal service,
and have rid yourself of six persons from whom you had at various times
borrowed money, and who had of late become troublesome in their dunning.
They will not trouble you from the Siberian mines.

The prisoners were thrown into two carts, which had been brought for
that purpose, and a detachment of soldiers accompanied them without
delay to Alexandrovsk. There they were put into prison for a month,
until it pleased the Governor to take notice of them. Then followed the
mere mockery of a trial, during which the prisoners were not permitted
to utter a word in self-defence, and as a fitting end to this travesty
of justice, the ten unfortunates were launched upon their weary
foot-journey to the frozen North, destined to live and die beyond the
reach, beyond the sympathy of mankind.

Let us retrace our steps and accompany the Governor's soldiers through
the Jewish quarter. The refinement of cruelty demanded from the Jews a
greater sacrifice than from the Catholics. The malefactors must be
punished through their little ones. In pursuance of a decree of the
mighty Czar, passed some years before, the Governors of the various
provinces were authorized to visit the Jewish homes, and to remove from
them all male children that had reached the age of five years.[3]

There was a twofold object in this course. Firstly, the humane Czar
desired to accustom these babes to the rigorous soldier life of Russia,
to transform the weakly scions of an oriental race into strong and hardy
Russians; and, secondly, it was deemed a blessing to humanity to tear
the Jewish children from their homes, parents and religion, and to bring
them up in the only saving Catholic faith. Far, far from all that was
dear to them, in a strange locality, among hostile people, exposed to
unutterable hardships and rigorous discipline, these unfortunate beings
dragged out their wretched existence. Fully half of their number died of
exposure, wearing away their poor lives in a vain longing for home and
friends, while the remainder survived, only to forget their kind and
kin, and to furnish the raw material for future Nihilists. Many Jewish
communities had already suffered from this heartless decree, and those
who had been spared its terrors, anticipated them as they would some
dreaded scourge, some deadly pestilence. That the Jews of Togarog and
the surrounding villages had escaped its influences, was due less to the
humane sentiments of the Governor than to his natural indolence. But now
his ire was aroused. The Jews should feel his power.

The detachment of soldiers having seen their Russian prisoners safely on
the road to oblivion, now directed their attention to the Jewish
quarter.

Mordecai Winenki's house stood not far from the head of the street. No
need to knock for admittance. A Jew was not allowed to lock his door,
the better to give his sociable neighbors an opportunity of molesting
him. Two of the soldiers entered, and groped their way through the
darkness. The master of the house heard their footsteps, and timidly
called out:

"Who's there?"

"Quick, Jew, give us a light!" was the sole reply.

Shaking like a leaf, poor Mordecai struck a light, and the candle cast
its rays upon the fierce-looking Cossacks in the apartment. A cry
escaped the man's lips, but it was quickly stifled by the rough hand of
one of the soldiers.

"If you make the least noise I will strangle you. Now show me where your
boys sleep!"

"Oh, God! they will take my Mendel for a recruit," cried the poor
father.

"Silence, you viper! Well, why don't you move? We want to know where
your boys are sleeping!"

Mordecai, convinced of the futility of resistance, shuffled across the
floor in his bare feet, and opened the door of an adjoining room. There,
in the innocence of youth, lay Mendel, dreaming, perhaps, of his recent
triumphs. An unpitying hand landed the boy upon the floor. Paralyzed
with fear, he could not speak, but gazed pleadingly from his father to
the soldiers. His uncle Bensef, who had shared his bed, now endeavored
to interfere, but a blow from the stalwart Cossack sent him to the
opposite corner of the room. Quickly they inspected the boy, taking a
mental note of his height and appearance, and, barely giving him time to
put on his clothing, hurried him into the arms of the soldiers waiting
without.

"You have another son! Where is he?" demanded one of the soldiers of the
half-paralyzed Mordecai.

"No! no!" he sobbed; "I have no more!"

"You lie, Jew! Show us the other boy!" And without further ceremony,
they broke into the third room, where Jacob lay in the arms of his
terrified mother.

In vain the boy shrieked at the sight of the fierce-looking visitors. In
vain the mother pleaded: "He is sick and helpless. Spare him. He is but
a baby. Leave him with me!"

There was no pity in the breasts of the hardened soldiers. Neither tears
nor entreaties won them over. The more the sorrowing parents implored,
the louder were the oaths, the fiercer the blows of the barbarous
Cossacks.

Jacob, followed by his weeping parents, was carried half-dressed into
the street.

Similar scenes were enacted in every house in which there were male
children. Of the twelve Jewish homes in Togarog, but two were spared.
The children, in most cases scantily dressed, were hurried to
Basilivitch's hostlery, where wagons were in waiting to take them to
Alexandrovsk for the Governor's inspection.

Mournful was the train that followed the little band through the
village. Shrieks and lamentations, prayers and imprecations resounded,
until the brutal guards, wearied by the incessant clamor, finally drove
the frenzied people back and set out upon their homeward journey.

The little ones sat cowering in the wagons, afraid to weep, scarcely
daring to breathe. Taken from home when they most needed their parents'
care and love, what would become of these poor waifs? What would the
future have in store for them?

General Drudkoff could now sleep in peace; the insurrection in Togarog
was quelled. Its ringleaders were on the way to Siberia, and its
abettors, the Jews (according to Basilivitch), had been rendered
harmless.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 3: This decree was repealed by Alexander II.]



CHAPTER V.

THE JOURNEY TO KHARKOV.


The wagons, with their helpless freight, reached Alexandrovsk shortly
after daybreak. Their first stupor having passed, the children conversed
with each other in whispers and tried in their own poor way to console
one another. Jacob, whose mutilated ear and broken arm had not been
improved by the rough treatment he had experienced, wept bitterly at
first, until the savage voice of a soldier bade him be quiet. Then the
child made a Spartan-like endeavor to forget his pain and fell asleep
upon his brother's breast. It was nine o'clock on Sunday morning when
they arrived at the Governor's palace. The devout and religious General
Drudkoff usually declined to transact any business on that day; but this
was an important matter of State, a question threatening perhaps the
very existence of the Empire, and a departure from ordinary rules was
allowable. The waifs were brought into the ante-chamber, and obliged to
pass muster before his excellency, who read them a lesson upon their
future career and duties. After those whose hasty abduction had made it
impossible to dress, had been provided with odds and ends of clothing,
the rags cast off by the children of the Governor's serfs, and which his
excellency declared were much too good for Jews, the lads were again
placed upon rickety carts, and, while the Governor proceeded to his
religious services at the _kiosk_, they were escorted under a strong
guard to the military headquarters at Kharkov.

Long and tedious was the journey. At noon a village was reached, and the
travellers were furnished with a meal consisting of pork and bread.
Half-famished by his long fast, one of the boys had already bitten into
his portion, but stern religion interfered.

"Do not eat it," whispered Mendel; "it is _trefa!_" (unclean).

The lads gazed wistfully at the tempting morsels, but touch them they
dared not.

"Why don't you eat?" roughly asked one of the soldiers, whose duty it
was to walk by the side of the wagon and guard against a possible
escape.

"It is forbidden," answered Mendel, who, being the oldest of the little
group, took upon himself the duties of spokesman. "It is unclean."

"If it is good enough for us, it is good enough for a Jew. Here, eat
this quickly!" and he endeavored to force a large piece of the dreaded
meat between the teeth of one of the lads.

"If they wont eat, let them starve," said another of the guards, who was
attracted by the noise. "Why do you trouble yourself about them?"

"You are right," answered the first; "let them starve."

And their fast continued.

The smiling fields through which they rode, the sunny sky above them,
the merry birds warbling in the bushes, had no attraction for the
ill-fated boys. The world was but a vast desert, an unfriendly
wilderness to them. But Mendel's mind, sharpened by misfortune, was not
dormant. A thought of escape had already presented itself to his active
brain.

"If Jacob and I could only manage to run away and reach our uncle in
Kief," he mused.

Presently he plucked up courage and asked the guard: "Will you please
tell me what you are going to do with us?"

"You will find out when you get to Kharkov," was the ungracious
rejoinder.

To Kharkov! The information was welcome indeed. Not that Mendel had ever
been in that place, but he recollected hearing his uncle say that he had
come through Kharkov on his way from Kief. It must be on the direct
route to the latter city. O God! if he could but escape!

A dark, stormy night found the travellers in the miserable little
village of Poltarack. The weary horses were unharnessed and the soldiers
looked about for comfortable quarters for the night. They found refuge
in a dilapidated structure, the only inn of which the place could boast.
The children were led to a barn, where a bountiful supply of straw
served them as a bed. A piece of bread and a glass of rank brandy formed
their evening meal, and hunger left them no desire to investigate
whether the humble repast was _kosher_ (clean) or not.

The footsteps of the guards had scarcely died away in the distance,
before Mendel sprang to the door and endeavored to open it. It was
securely locked and the boy turned disconsolate to his companions. It
was the hour when, at home, their fathers would send them lovingly to
bed, when their mothers would tuck them comfortably under the covers and
kiss them good-night; and here they lay, clad in tatters, numb with
cold, pinched with hunger; pictures of misery and woe. Heart-rending
were the sighs, bitter the complaints, in which the poor lads gave
utterance to their feelings.

"Come, boys!" at length cried Mendel, "it wont do to grieve. Let us bear
up as bravely as possible. They will take us to Kharkov and leave us at
military headquarters. Perhaps we can escape. If we are kept together it
will be difficult, but if they separate us, it will perhaps be easy to
give the soldiers in charge the slip. If you get away, do not at once go
back home or you will be recaptured. Go on until you come to a Jewish
settlement, where you will be cared for. Jacob, you must try to stay
with me, whatever may happen."

Long and earnest was the conversation between the boys, all of whom, in
spite of their tender years, realized their perilous position.

Then Mendel arose and recited the old and familiar Hebrew evening
prayers and the little gathering made the responses; then, weary and
homesick, the boys cried themselves to sleep.

At break of day, the Cossacks pounded at the barn-door, and the boys,
after breakfasting on dry bread, again set out upon their tedious
journey. The soldiers who had accompanied the wagons, were replaced by
others; the new men were in a better humor and more graciously inclined
than those of the preceding day. They even condescended to jest with the
young recruits and to civilly answer their many questions. From their
replies, Mendel gleaned that the commander at Kharkov would distribute
them among the various military camps throughout the province, where
constant hard labor, a stern discipline and a not too humane treatment
would eventually toughen their physical fibre and wean them from the
cherished religion of their youth.

The weather was unfriendly, the sky was overcast, and the boys,
shivering with cold and apprehension, at length made their entry into
Kharkov. The commander of the garrison, a grim-visaged, bearded warrior,
received them, heard the story of their capture from one of the guards,
amused himself by pulling the boys' ears and administering sundry blows.
He then divided them into twos, to be escorted to the various barracks
about the district. Mendel and Jacob were permitted to go together, not
because the commander yielded to a feeling of humanity, but because they
happened to be standing together, and it really did not matter to the
Russian authorities how the new recruits were distributed. A soldier was
placed in charge of each couple, and, like cattle to the slaughter, the
boys were led through the town.

Weary and silent, yet filled with wonder and surprise, Mendel and Jacob
preceded their guard through the gay and animated streets of Kharkov. It
was a new life that opened to their vision. With childish curiosity they
gazed at every booth, looked fondly into every gaily decorated shop and
glanced timidly at the many uniformed officers who hurried to and fro.

For a moment, their desolate homes, their sorrowing parents, their
unpromising future were forgotten in the excitement of the scenes about
them, and it required at times the rough command and brutal push of the
soldier behind them to recall them to the misery of the moment. This
soldier, a fine-looking, sturdy fellow, appeared as much interested in
the animated scene as were his captives. Years had passed since he had
last visited Kharkov, his native town. Much had changed during that
period. A conflagration had destroyed the central portion of the city
and imposing stone edifices had in many streets replaced the former
crazy structures. Now and then an old building or hoary landmark would
recall pleasant memories of early youth. The fountain in the centre of
the square was eloquent with reminders of by-gone joys, of hasty
interviews, of stolen kisses; and our brave warrior strode along with a
bland smile of contentment upon his bronzed countenance. Suddenly, a man
brushed past him. The two looked at each other for a moment, as if in
doubt, and then with a simultaneous shout of recognition, they shook
each other heartily by the hand.

"Cantorwitch!" cried the soldier. "By all the saints, this is rare good
luck! How have you been?"

"Very well, friend Polatschek. But you are the last man I should have
looked for in Kharkov. How well your service agrees with you."

The two friends stood and talked of all that had befallen them since
their separation. Not until the calendar of gossip had been exhausted
did Cantorwitch finally ask: "But what brings you to Kharkov, my boy? I
thought you were on the southern frontier."

"So I was; so I was," rejoined the other. "I have been sent up with two
Jewish recruits. Holy Madonna! what has become of them?"

Mendel and Jacob had disappeared, without even saying, "By your leave!"
In vain the friends peered into the various shops along the street, into
every open door-way, behind every box and barrel. In vain they inquired
of every soldier who passed. No one had seen the runaways.

Poor Polatschek, after listening to the consolations of his friend and
fortifying himself with a quart of spirits, returned to headquarters, to
spend the following ninety days under arrest for gross negligence while
on duty.



CHAPTER VI.

TWO UNFORTUNATES.


To Mendel, Cantorwitch seemed a special messenger sent by a benign
Providence. He waited for a moment until he perceived the two friends in
earnest conversation, and seizing his brother by the arm, he took
advantage of an approaching crowd of sight-seers to get away from the
gossiping soldier. The boys ran down the nearest street as fast as their
feeble limbs would carry them. Not until they had reached the limits of
the town did they pause for breath, and Jacob, thoroughly exhausted,
sank to the ground.

"Thank God, we are free!" said Mendel, jubilantly.

But Jacob began to weep, crying, "Oh, I'm so tired and hungry!"

"Do not cry; it is of no use. We will find our way to Kief, and there
uncle will take care of us."

"I do not think I can go much farther, Mendel."

"But you must. If we remain here we shall be captured and put into
prison. Let us go as far as we possibly can. Perhaps we can find a
village on the road where the _Jehudim_ (Jews) will shelter us until you
become stronger. Come, Jacob."

The child struggled to his feet and the brothers set out upon their
journey through an unknown country.

The sun, the cheerful king of day, had peeped through the April rifts
and sent his bright rays upon the smiling landscape. Gradually the
clouds dissolved under the genial influence and a friendly sky cheered
the fugitives on their way.

The merry chirping of the birds, the buzzing of the insects, the
blossoming fruit trees along the route, betokened the advent of spring.
Mendel gulped down a great lump in his throat and stifled a sob, as he
thought of his distant home. How happy, how joyful, had this season
been, when, after the termination of the Bible studies at the _cheder_,
their father had taken them for a long walk through the fields and in
his own crude way had spoken of the beauties of Nature and of the wisdom
and beneficence of the Creator. Then, all was peace and contentment; and
now, what a dreary contrast! Mendel dashed the gathering tears from his
eyes--it would not do to let Jacob see him cry--and resolutely taking
his little brother by the hand, walked on more rapidly.

There was a tedious journey in prospect; God only knew when and where it
would end. On they walked through bramble and marsh, over stones and
fallen boughs, preferring the newly-ploughed fields to the public road,
for fear of detection; trembling with fear at the sight of a human
being, lest it might be a soldier charged with their recapture. On they
struggled until night hid the road from their view and darkness arrested
further progress. A ruined and deserted shed afforded them shelter, a
stone did service as a pillow, and, embracing each other, the lads lay
down to sleep.

The dawn found the wanderers astir, and after a hasty ablution at a
neighboring brook and a recital of their morning prayers, they bravely
started out upon their cheerless journey.

The day had dawned brightly, but before long threatening clouds obscured
the sun. The wind veered to the North and howled dismally.

Sadly and silently the boys trudged onward, buffeting the wind and
stifling their growing hunger.

"Mendel," finally sobbed Jacob, "I am so hungry. If I only had a piece
of bread I would feel much stronger."

"Let us walk faster," replied the other. "Perhaps we will reach some
village."

Manfully they pushed onward for another hour, Mendel endeavoring to
entertain his brother by relating stories he had heard when a child.

Jacob stopped again, exhausted.

"It is no use, Mendel," he cried. "I am too hungry to walk any further."

"Courage, brother," answered Mendel, cheerfully. "See, there are houses
ahead of us. We can surely find something to eat."

The waifs dragged their way to a weather-beaten hut and knocked at the
door. A mild-visaged woman responded and surveyed the travel-stained
children with something like compassion.

"We are hungry," pleaded Mendel. "Please give us a bite of food."

"Who are you and where do you come from?" queried the woman.

"We are trying to reach Kief, where we have friends," answered Mendel.
"Please do not let us starve on the road."

"Jews, eh?" asked the woman, suspiciously. "Well, no matter; you don't
look any too happy. Come in and warm yourselves."

The boys were soon sitting before a roaring kitchen-fire, while the
woman busied herself with providing them with a meal. Tempting, indeed,
did it appear to the famished lads; but could they eat it? Was it
prepared according to the Jewish ritual? It was a momentous question to
Mendel, and only his little brother's pinched and miserable countenance
could have induced him to violate the law which to his conception was as
sacred as life itself. While Mendel debated, Jacob solved the knotty
problem by attacking the savory dishes before him, and his brother
reluctantly followed his example.

"It may be a sin, but God will forgive us," was his mental reflection as
he greedily swallowed the food.

The woman looked on in admiration at the huge appetites of the lads. She
plied them with questions, to which she received vague replies, and
finally contented herself with the thought that these were perhaps
wayward children who had run away from home and were now penitently
trying to find their way back.

After the boys were rested, they thanked their kind hostess and set out
again upon their wanderings with no other compass than blind chance, but
avoiding the highways for fear of being captured by the soldiers. On
they went for hours, Mendel supporting his complaining brother and
whispering words of hope and courage.

By noon the sky had become darker, the storm more threatening. The wind
blew in furious gusts over the dismal country, and an occasional
rumbling of distant thunder filled the weary lads with dread. The road
they had chosen was absolutely deserted. It lay through a bleak,
scarcely habitable prairie, a landscape common enough in that part of
Russia; and stones and brambles did much to retard their progress. There
was not a place of shelter in sight. The outlook was sufficiently
unpromising to dismay the most resolute.

Jacob sat down upon a stone and began to weep.

"I can go no further," he sobbed. "I am tired and sick."

"But you must come," pleaded his brother. "See what a storm is
gathering. If we remain here we shall be drenched. We must find
shelter."

"Go alone, brother," said the little one. "I'll stay here."

There was a sudden flash of lightning, which illumined Jacob's bandaged
face, pale with fear and fatigue. The trembling boys looked at each
other and Jacob began to cry.

"Come, Jacob," murmured Mendel, helping his brother to rise. "We shall
die if we stay here. May God protect us."

Again the waifs plodded on, Mendel supporting his brother and
endeavoring to protect him from the cruel wind. Darker grew the sky.
Large drops of rain began to fall and with a startling peal of thunder
the tempest broke in its fury. The pitiless wind sweeping through the
land from the bleak northern steppes brought cold and desolation in its
train. The poor children were drenched to the skin. They clung to each
other and painfully made their way across the miry fields to the
highway, the ancient road of the Tartar Khans.

At last Jacob succumbed to the awful strain and sank to the ground.

"Let me die," moaned the child.

"Oh, dear brother; you must live! We will find our way back to Togarog
to papa and mamma. How they would grieve if I came back alone."

The child shook his head mutely to this appeal, but rise he could not.
Mendel was in despair.

A bright flash lit up the landscape and showed the dim outlines of huts
not many rods away.

"God be thanked!" cried Mendel, fervently. "See, Jacob, there are
houses. The village is near. There we can get food and shelter. Come,
lean on me and we will be there in a few minutes."

"No, go alone; I am too weak."

"I will carry you," cried Mendel. "Oh, I can do it; I am strong enough."

He attempted to lift the child from the ground, but he had overrated his
strength and gave up his task in despair. What was he to do? He could
not leave him in the road to perish. If he could but reach the village
and summon help. They would not refuse assistance to a dying child, even
if he were a Jew.

"Jacob," he said, encouragingly, "I am going for help. Don't be afraid;
keep up your courage and strength until I come back. The rain will soon
stop. Good-by. I shall not be long."

Kissing his scarcely conscious brother, the heroic boy bounded in the
direction of the village.

Though the thunder still rolled and the lightning still flashed, the
rain soon ceased and the clouds began to show cheerful patches of blue.
Mendel was gone some five minutes when a covered _droshka_ drove up the
road as rapidly as the muddy ground would allow. The driver, amply
protected by furs, seemed proof against both wind and water, yet he
cursed in good round Russian at the inclemency of the weather. Suddenly,
a brilliant flash lighted up the road, and he saw a lad near the wheels.
With an oath, the driver reined in the frightened horses and jumped to
the ground.

"What is it, Ivan? Has anything happened?" asked a lady, from the
carriage window.

"Please your excellency, a little boy lying in the road, half-dead."

"Bring him here," commanded the lady, and the child was lifted into the
carriage and placed on the seat before them.

"What a pretty lad," said the lady, who was no less important a person
than the Countess Drentell, of Lubny, to her companion. "The poor child
must be badly hurt."

"Perhaps a little brandy would strengthen him," suggested the practical
coachman, who knew the value of the remedy.

The cordial revived him, and, opening his eyes, he murmured: "Wait for
me, Mendel; I will go along."

"Drive on, Ivan, as quickly as possible; we must get the little fellow
some dry clothes," said the Countess.

Yielding to the luxury of shelter and to the effect of the brandy, Jacob
sank into a sweet sleep.

Mendel had in the meantime reached the village and knocked at the first
house. A _moujik_ emerged and eyed him suspiciously. "What do you
want?" he asked, gruffly.

"We have been caught in the storm and my brother is out on the road,
dying. Please help me bring him here."

"You are a Jew, are you not?" asked the man, savagely, as he recognized
by the boy's jargon that he was a member of the proscribed race.

"Yes, sir," answered Mendel, timidly.

"Then go about your business; I wont put myself out for a Jew!" saying
which, he shut the door in the boy's face.

Sadly Mendel wandered on until he met a kindly disposed woman, who
directed him to the Jewish quarter.

"At the house of prayer there is always someone to be found," thought
Mendel, and thither he bent his steps. Half-a-dozen men at once
surrounded him and listened to his harrowing story; half-a-dozen hearts
beat in sympathy with his distress. One of the number soon spread the
dismal tidings; the entire congregation, headed by Mendel, hastened to
where the child had been left. As they came to the highway, a _droshka_
passed them at full speed; they fell back to the right and left to make
room for the galloping horses and in a moment the carriage had
disappeared.

When they reached the spot pointed out by Mendel they saw the impress of
a child's form in the yielding ground, and a tattered little cap which
was Jacob's; but the child was gone.

"The soldiers have recaptured him!" gasped Mendel, with a groan of
anguish. "Oh, my poor brother; God help you!" and sank unconscious into
the friendly arms of his new acquaintances.



CHAPTER VII.

A RUSSIAN NOBLEMAN.


After an hour's sojourn in "The Imperial Crown," the best inn of
Poltava, Countess Drentell continued her journey towards her
country-seat at Lubny, where the carriage arrived just before nightfall.
With the creaking of the wheels upon the gravel path leading to the
house, Jacob awoke and gazed sleepily about him.

"See, Tekla; he is awake!" cried the Countess. "Poor child!"

The carriage stopped; Ivan opened the door and assisted the ladies to
alight.

"Carry the little one into the house and take him to the kitchen to
dry," commanded the Countess. "What a surprise he will be to Loris and
how he will enjoy having a playmate!"

Another servant appeared at the door to assist the Countess.

"Your excellency," he whispered, "the Count arrived the day before
yesterday. He was furious at finding you absent."

Louise bit her lip and her face became pale. Then she shrugged her
pretty shoulders and broke into a careless laugh.

"Oh, well, Dimitri will forgive me when I tell him how sorry I am," she
thought to herself, as she tripped up the stone steps into the house.

In the brilliantly lighted hall she was met by her husband, Count
Dimitri Drentell, and she clasped her arms around his neck in a
transport of conjugal affection.

"So you have come back, my dear, from those horrid barracks!" she
cried. "I am so glad! But why didn't you send word you were coming, that
I might have been at home to meet you? But it is just like you to keep
the matter a perfect secret and give me no chance to prepare for your
reception."

The Count's brow contracted. Before he had an opportunity to reply, his
wife continued:

"Indeed, I'm glad you've come. If I had known that I was marrying a son
of Mars who would be away in the army for eight months of the year, I
doubt whether I should have left my happy Tiflis."

The Countess paused for want of breath.

"The Czar places duty to country higher than domestic comfort," answered
her husband, curtly. "But how could you leave your home and your child
for so long a time? It is now three days since I arrived here, expecting
to be lovingly received by you and little Loris; but you had gone away,
no one knew whither, leaving Loris in charge of an ignorant woman, who
has been sadly neglecting the child."

"Poor fellow," laughed the Countess, in mock grief. "I suppose he will
be happy to see his mamma again. But, my dear, you must not scold me for
having gone away. It was so dull at home without you, so lonesome, that
I could bear it no longer, and I took a trip to Valki, to visit the
Abbess of the convent there."

The cloud upon the Count's face darkened.

"I have repeatedly told you that I do not approve of your excursions
into the country," he answered, gloomily; "and I am especially opposed
to your locking yourself up in a convent. You pay no heed to my
requests, nor do you seem to realize the dangers you incur in travelling
about in that manner."

"Then let us live in our town house. I am too dull here, all alone,"
answered the Countess, nestling closer to her husband and kissing him.

"It was at your desire that I bought this place, immediately after our
marriage. You were enchanted with it and said it reminded you of your
Caucasian country. Now you are already tired of it."

"I would not be if you were here to share its delights with me," she
answered, coquettishly. "But, alone!--b-r-r! It is too vast, too
immense! I shall never feel at home in it."

Louise gave her graceful head a mournful shake and looked dismally at
her husband.

Suddenly she cried: "Where is Loris? What have they done with my boy?"

"It is time you inquired," said her husband, reproachfully. "I doubt if
he remembers you."

Louise broke into a merry laugh. "Not know his mamma? Indeed! We shall
see!"

Going to a table, she rang a bell, which was immediately answered by a
liveried servant.

"Bring me my Loris," she cried.

"He has already been put to bed," answered the man.

"Bring him, anyhow. I have not seen him for almost nine days."

The man disappeared, and shortly after a nurse entered, bearing in her
arms a bright little fellow scarcely four years of age. Loris, the
tyrant of the house, who was fast being spoiled by the alternate
indulgence and neglect of his capricious mother, struggled violently
with his nurse, who had just aroused him from his first sleep.

Louise threw herself upon the child in an excess of maternal devotion.
She fairly covered him with kisses.

"How has my Loris been? My poor boy! Will he forgive his mamma for
having deserted him?"

The boy resented this outburst of love by sundry kicks and screams.

"The child is cross and sleepy," said the Count; "let Minka put him to
bed."

"Wait a moment," exclaimed the Countess, in childish glee. "I have
brought him a present. Loris, my pet, how would you like a little boy to
play with? A real live boy?"

Loris ceased his struggles and became interested.

"I want a pony to play with! I don't want a boy," he cried, peevishly.

"What folly have you been guilty of now?" asked Dimitri, with some
misgivings, for he had had frequent proofs of his wife's impulsive
extravagance.

"You shall see, my dear."

Louise rang for Ivan. When he appeared, she asked:

"What have you done with the boy we found?"

"He is in the kitchen and has just eaten his supper," answered the
servant.

"Bring him up at once."

While Ivan went to fetch Jacob, the Countess related, with many
embellishments and exaggerations, and with frequent appeals to her maid
Tekla for corroboration, how she had found the boy on the road, how she
had saved his life, and, finally, how she had decided to bring him home
as a little playmate for her darling Loris. Before she had finished her
story Jacob himself appeared upon the scene, the personification of
abject misery. His features were still besmeared with the dirt of the
highway, his clothes were in a wretched condition, and his bandaged arm
and lacerated face did not improve his general appearance. Louise
laughed heartily when this apparition entered the door.

"Is he not a beauty?" she exclaimed.

The Count was too much surprised to speak. After a pause, during which
poor Jacob looked pleadingly from one to the other, Dimitri asked:

"In all seriousness, Louise, why did you introduce that being into our
house?"

"He is not as bad as he looks," answered the Countess. "Wait till he is
washed and dressed, and you will agree that he is a handsome fellow."

The Count crossed the room and looked at the boy.

"What is your name?" he asked, gruffly.

"Jacob Winenki," answered the child, timidly.

"A Jew!" ejaculated the Count. "By our Holy Madonna, that is just what I
needed to make me completely happy--the companionship of an accursed
Jew!"

Jacob instinctively divined that he was not welcome, and began to cry.

"Please, I want my mamma!"

"Stop your whimpering, you cur!" shouted the enraged Count.

But Jacob's tears would not be checked so abruptly.

"Please don't send me back to the soldiers," he pleaded, in his
miserable jargon. "I don't want to go with the soldiers."

At this juncture Loris joined in the cry. "I don't want him. I want a
pony to play with."

"Here, Ivan," commanded the excited Count, "take this brat out into the
barn, and keep him secure until I ask for him. We will investigate his
case after supper. Minka, take Loris to bed at once." Then turning to
his wife, who actually trembled before his infuriated glance, he said:

"Louise, you have done some very silly things since I married you, but
this is the most absurd. You know my aversion to Jews, and here you
bring a dirty Jew out of the streets to become a playmate of our Loris!"

"I could not leave the poor child to die in the road," pouted Louise,
who, in addition to being extremely frivolous, was very tender-hearted.
"If I had found a sick dog, I should have aided him."

"I would rather it had been a dog than a Jew."

"How could I know it was a Jew?"

"By his looks; by his language," answered the exasperated man.

"He was insensible, and could not speak," retorted Louise; "and his
appearance no worse than that of other dirty children. Tell me,
Dimitri," she added, throwing her arms about her husband's waist, in a
childish endeavor to appease his wrath; "tell me why you have such an
animosity towards the Jews?"

The count impressively rolled up his sleeve and displayed a scar about
two inches in length upon his forearm.

"See, Louise," he said, gloomily; "that is some of their accursed work.
Have I not cause to detest them? They are spiteful, vengeful,
implacable."

Louise lovingly kissed the scarred arm.

"Poor Dimitri," she murmured; "how it must have pained. Tell me how it
happened."

"There is no need to go into details," answered the Count, abruptly.
"But if ever I acquire the power, I shall make a Jew smart for every
drop of blood that flowed from the wound. Come, supper must be ready.
We will not spoil our appetites by speaking of the despicable race."

Count Drentell wisely refrained from telling his wife the cause of his
scar. It was not for a wife's ear to hear the tale. Eight years before,
he, with a number of young officers of the army stationed at Pinsk,
while in search of a little pleasurable excitement, had raided the
Jewish quarter and terrorized the helpless inhabitants. After having
broken every window, the party, inflamed by wine and enthusiasm, entered
the house of Haim Kusel, demolished the furniture, helped themselves to
articles of value that chanced to be exposed, and having caught a
glimpse of Haim's pretty daughter, Drentell, the leader of the band,
attempted to embrace her. The Jew, who had offered no resistance while
his hard-earned possessions were being destroyed, was driven to frenzy
by the insult to his daughter. Seizing a knife he drove the party from
the house, but not until he had wounded several of the wretches, among
whom was Drentell. Kusel had saved his daughter's honor, but he well
knew that he had forfeited his life if he remained in the village.
Packing up the few household articles that yet remained, he and his
daughter fled from Pinsk to find protection with friends in a distant
town.

At midnight, the officers, now reinforced by a number of sympathizing
comrades, returned, and furious at the escape of their victim, burned
his dwelling to the ground. Drentell never forgot his ignominious
repulse nor the wound he received at the hands of Haim Kusel. His own
offence counted as naught, so blunted was his moral sense. To inflict
misery upon a Jew was at all times considered meritorious, but for a
Jew to so far forget himself as to assault an officer of the Czar, was a
crime for which the whole race would one day be held accountable.

While the Count and Countess are at supper, we may find time to examine
into their past and become better acquainted with the worthy couple,
into whose company the events of this story will occasionally lead us.

Dimitri was the only son of Paul Drentell, the renowned banker of St.
Petersburg, who had been raised to the nobility as a reward for having
negotiated a loan for the Government. Paul had been sordid and
avaricious; his vast wealth was wrung from the necessities of the
unfortunates Otho were obliged to borrow from him or succumb to
financial disaster. Had he been a Jew, his greed, his miserly ways, his
usuries, would have been stigmatized as Jewish traits, but being a
devout Catholic he was spoken of as "Drentell, the financier."

The nobility of Russia counts many such upstarts among its
representatives. It boasts of a peculiar historical development. The
hereditary element plays an unimportant part in matters of state.
Exposed to the tyranny of the Muscovite autocrats, they hailed with joy
the elevation of the Romanoff family to the throne. The condition of the
nobles was thenceforth bettered, their political influence increased.
Under Peter the Great, however, there came a change. To noble birth,
this Czar showed a most humiliating indifference, and the nobles saw
with horror the accession to their ranks of the lowest order of men. The
condition of the aristocracy, old and new, was not, however, one of
unmixed happiness. The nobles were transformed into mere servants of the
Czar, and heavily did their bondage weigh upon them. After the death of
the great Prince, they experienced varied changes. Catherine converted
the surroundings of her court into a ludicrous imitation of the elegant
and refined French _régime_. Parisian fashions and the French language
were adopted by the nobility. It was a pleasure-seeking, pomp-loving
aristocracy that surrounded the powerful Empress. But her capricious and
violent son overturned this order of things and again reduced the
nobility to a condition of dependence and even degradation, from which
it had not yet recovered in the days of Nicholas I. For these reasons
the nobility of Russia is not characterized by the proud bearing and
firm demeanor which are the attributes of the aristocracy of Western
Europe. A _parvenu_, who has, by an act of slavish submission, won the
Emperor's favor, may be ennobled, and he thenceforth holds his head as
high as the greatest. No one of these is regarded as more important than
his neighbor. Dumouriez, having casually spoken to Nicholas of one of
the considerable personages at court, received the reply:

"You must learn, sir, that the only considerable person here is the one
to whom I am speaking, and that only as long as I am speaking to
him."[4]

Hence, we rarely find a Russian noble who is proud of his ancestry or of
his ancient name. It is wealth and power, momentary distinction and
royal favor that make him of worth. When, therefore, Paul Drentell,
because of his valuable services in raising a loan which enabled Russia
to engage in war with one of her less powerful neighbors, was elevated
to the nobility, it caused no surprise, and the banker at once began a
life of pomp and extravagance which he thought suited to his new
station. His wealth was fabulous, and was for the greater part invested
in large estates, comprising confiscated lands, formerly the property of
less fortunate nobles, who, deprived of their rank, were now atoning for
their sins in the frozen North. His possessions included about twenty
thousand male serfs; consequently, more than forty thousand souls.

Dimitri, upon his father's elevation, was sent to the army, where he
distinguished himself in nocturnal debauches and adventures such as we
have related, and where, thanks to his father's influence, he shortly
rose to the rank of lieutenant.

About five years before the beginning of this story, Paul Drentell died
and his vast estates, as well as his title of Count, descended to
Dimitri, who now found himself one of the richest men in the Empire. He
was, moreover, a personal friend of the young Czarewitch, Alexander, in
whose regiment he served. To such a man, a notable future was open:
great honors as Governor of a province or exile to Siberia as a
dangerous power. One of the features of public life in Russia is the
comparative ease with which either of these distinctions may be
obtained.

Count Drentell was haughty and arrogant, caring for naught but his own
personal advantage, consulting only his own tastes and pleasures. He was
a stern officer to his soldiers, a cruel taskmaster to the serfs he had
inherited, and a bitter foe of the Jews whom he had offended.

Very different was his wife, Louise. A Georgian by birth, her beauty and
ingenuousness had won her great popularity at the court of St.
Petersburg, to which she had been introduced by the Governor of Tiflis.
She was neither tall nor short, possessed a wealth of raven black hair,
perfect teeth, lustrous black eyes, a smile that would inspire poets and
a voice that was all music and melody. When Count Drentell carried her
off in the face of a hundred admirers, he was considered lucky indeed.
Dimitri never confessed, even to himself, that he regretted his hasty
choice. Louise was as capricious as she was beautiful, as unlettered as
she was charming, as superstitious as she was fascinating. All that she
did was done on impulse. She loved her husband on impulse, she deserted
her child for weeks at a time on impulse, she succored the poor or
neglected them on impulse. Her army of servants set her commands at
defiance, for they knew them to be the outgrowth of momentary caprice.

Fortunately for the domestic happiness of the couple, the Count was with
his command at St. Petersburg during two-thirds of the year, while his
wife enjoyed herself as best she might on his magnificent estate at
Lubny.

Brought up among the highlands of Tiflis, Louise possessed all of the
unreasoning bigotry characteristic of the people inhabiting that region.
She was religious to the very depths of superstition, and she chose
Lubny for a dwelling-place, less for its resemblance to the sunny hills
of her native province than for its proximity to several large Catholic
cloisters for both monks and nuns, whence she hoped to receive that
religious nourishment which her southern and impetuous nature craved. It
was while returning from an expedition to the furthest of these
nunneries, in which she frequently immured herself for weeks at a time,
that she found Jacob upon the road.

The Count, who, with the companions of his youth, had lost what little
religious sentiment he may have once possessed, regarded this trait in
his wife with great disfavor; but neither threats nor prayers effected a
change, and he finally allowed her to follow her own inclinations.

While the union was not one of the happiest, there were fewer
altercations than might have been reasonably expected from the
thoroughly opposite natures of man and wife. Louise, with all her
faults, was a loving wife, and when her husband's temper was ruffled,
her smiles and caresses, her appealing looks and tender glances, won him
back to serenity.

The supper, therefore, was not as gloomy as the stormy introduction
indicated. Both had much to tell each other, for a great deal had
occurred during their eight months' separation, and it was late when
they left the table.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 4: Wallace's "Russia."]



CHAPTER VIII.

AN UNWILLING CONVERT TO CHRISTIANITY.


On the following morning the Count bethought himself of the Jewish lad,
and the reflection that he had harbored one of the despised people on
his estates for an entire night, rekindled his anger against the whole
race. He rang for Ivan and strode impatiently up and down his
well-furnished library until the coachman appeared.

"Tell the Countess that I await her here, and then bring me the boy you
found on the road!"

Both Louise and Jacob made their appearance shortly after. Jacob had
been washed and his hair combed, and not even the Count could deny that
he was a lad of uncommon beauty.

"What is your name?" interrogated the Count, with the air of a grand
inquisitor.

"Jacob Winenki."

"Where do you live?"

"In the Jew lane," answered the child, slowly.

"But where? In what town?"

Jacob hung his head. He did not know.

"How did you come here?" was the next query.

Then Jacob related, with childish hesitancy, how the soldiers stole him
and his brother from home and took them to a big city, and how he and
Mendel ran away and were caught in a storm. Further information he could
not give, having no recollection of anything that happened from the time
of his lying upon the highway until he found himself in the _droshka_
with the ladies.

"You say that the soldiers came to your house and took you and your
brother away?" asked the Count.

"Yes, sir."

"What did they want with you?"

"One of them said he would make _goyim_ (gentiles) of us," answered the
boy, in his native jargon.

"I see," said Count Drentell, as the truth dawned upon him; "you were
taken to become recruits. So you escaped!"

"Please, sir, Mendel and I ran away. We wanted to go home to father and
mother."

"Were there more boys with you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did they run away, too?"

"I don't know."

"There is not much information to be obtained from the child," said
Drentell, angrily. Then pointing to the boy's face and arm, he asked:

"Did that happen to you on the road?"

"Oh, no; that happened at home," answered Jacob, tearfully; and he
related the story of the cow and the farmer, the details of which were
too deeply impressed upon his memory to be soon forgotten.

Louise understood the jargon of the boy but imperfectly, still her
sympathetic nature comprehended that the boy had been seriously hurt,
and she asked her husband to repeat the story of his injuries.

"Poor fellow," she exclaimed, wiping away a tear. "How cruelly he has
been treated!"

"I suppose it served him right," answered the Count, rudely. "Who knows
what he had been guilty of. One never knows whether a Jew is lying or
telling the truth."

In spite of his doubts upon the subject, Drentell examined the boy's
arm. It was evident that the bone had been broken, and that the fracture
had been imperfectly set. After a short inspection, he hazarded an
opinion that the boy would have a stiff arm all his life.

"It was almost well," sobbed Jacob, "but the soldiers pulled me about so
that it is now much worse."

"Poor boy," sighed the Countess, "how dreadful it must be! Can we do
nothing for him?"

"In the name of St. Nicholas, Louise, cease this sentimental
whimpering," retorted her husband, losing patience.

"But think of a stiff arm through life, and his ear almost torn off! It
is terrible to carry such mutilations to the grave."

"It does not matter much," answered the Count, "he is a Jew."

"True, I had forgotten that. It does make a great difference, does it
not?" And the impulsive little woman dried her eyes and smilingly forgot
her compassion.

"What will you do with him?" she asked, after a pause.

"I don't know. The wisest plan would be to deliver him up to military
headquarters. He was taken from home to be a recruit, and having escaped
from the Czar's soldiers, I would be derelict in my duty if I did not at
once send him back."

At the word "soldiers," Jacob, who had caught but a few stray words of
the conversation, began to howl and shriek.

"No, don't send me back to the soldiers," he pleaded. "They will kill
me! Please don't send me back!"

"Stop your crying," thundered the Count, stopping his ears with his
hands to keep out the disagreeable sounds, "or I will call the soldiers
at once."

This terrible threat had the desired effect, and Jacob, gulping down his
grief, remained quiet save for an occasional sob that would not be
repressed.

"Listen, Dimitri," said the Countess. "I found the boy insensible in the
storm. He is sick and weak. Of what service can a child like that be
among the soldiers? Under rough treatment he would die in a week. Even
though he be a Jew, there is no use in sacrificing his life uselessly."

"But we can't keep him here," urged the Count.

"There is no need of his remaining at Lubny. The principal motive in
taking Jewish children from their homes is to make Christians of them.
That can certainly be better accomplished at a cloister than in camp.
Send the boy to the convent at Poltava; they will baptize him and make a
good Catholic of him, and we will gain our reward in heaven for having
led one erring soul to the Saviour." And the religious woman crossed
herself devoutly.

While his wife argued, Drentell appeared lost in thought. Suddenly his
face became illumined by a fiendish light, and he rubbed his hands in
evident satisfaction.

"Louise," he said, at length, "those are the first sensible words I have
heard you utter since we were married. Your idea is a capital one!"

"I am glad you think so," she replied, wisely refraining from commenting
upon her husband's doubtful compliment. "The Abbess at Valki told me
only the day before yesterday, that for every soul brought into the holy
church, a Christian's happiness would be increased tenfold in Paradise."

"Fanatical absurdities," cried the Count, who was as free from religious
sentiment as his wife was devout. "If I consent to have the child
brought up in a convent, I am not actuated by any considerations of
future reward or punishment. I don't believe in such antiquated dogmas.
But to the convent he shall go, and when they have taught him to forget
his origin and his religion, when they have educated him into a
fanatical, Jew-hating priest, then will I use him to wreak upon his own
race that vengeance which I have sworn never to forego."

Louise shuddered at her husband's vehement gestures and passionate
words. His eyes rolled wildly, his whole body seemed swayed by
uncontrollable rage. Little Jacob, although he understood nothing of the
Count's words, recoiled instinctively and hid his face in his hands.

Drentell gradually regained his composure, and after walking up and down
the room for a few moments, in apparent meditation, he rang the bell.

A servant entered.

"Take the boy back to the barn, and keep him there until I ask for him
again," he commanded. "Then harness up at once and send for _Batushka_
Alexei, the Abbot of the convent at Poltava. Tell his reverence that I
desire to see him as soon as possible on matters pertaining to the holy
church."

The servant disappeared, taking Jacob with him, and the Count and
Countess were left alone to discuss their plans.

It was almost night when the vehicle containing the Abbot rolled up to
the villa, and the _batushka_ (priest) was announced. He was a
powerfully built man, displaying a physique of which a Roman gladiator
might have been proud. His grizzled beard reached down to his waist, and
his flowing black robes gave him the appearance of a dervish. Alexei
enjoyed the reputation of being very devout, and the cloister of which
he was the head was known as the most thoroughly religious in the
Empire. To this man the future of the Jewish lad was to be entrusted.

When the holy man entered the library, both the Count and his wife
crossed themselves reverently.

"Your excellency has sent for me," said Alexei, slowly.

"Yes, _batushka_," answered the Count. "We wish to place in your pious
care a young Jewish boy who, having escaped from his parents' roof, and
having much to fear from the anger of his people, desires to seek
present safety and ultimate salvation of his soul in the bosom of our
holy church. I at once thought of you, as I believe that under your
tuition the lad will be instructed in all that is essential to the
perfect Christian."

"Your excellency does me too much honor," said the priest, meekly. "With
the grace of our Lord Christ, I shall do my utmost to bring this lamb
into the fold."

"The boy is feverish and his mind wanders," continued the Count. "If you
interrogate him, he will tell you that he received certain injuries--a
broken arm and a mutilated ear--from the Christians. I happen to be
conversant with the facts of the case and know that he was injured by
members of his own family, in their impotent frenzy to keep him from
seeking the solace of the only saving church. I desire you to remember
three things, _batushka_: Firstly, that this boy must be taught to
forget absolutely that he belongs to that accursed people; secondly, the
idea must be firmly implanted in his mind that he has been mutilated by
the Jews; and thirdly, he must be taught to despise and detest the
Hebrew race with all the hatred of which his soul is capable. Do you
understand me?"

"I do, your excellency. You desire the boy to so far forget his former
associations, that he will belong heart and soul to the church of
Christ; and as a further precaution that he may never harbor a desire to
return to the religion of his fathers, you desire us to impress him with
an implacable hatred, a thirst for revenge against his race, for wrongs
they have inflicted upon him."

The Count looked at the priest significantly; they had understood one
another.

"You will find the boy docile," continued Drentell, "and unless he
belies the characteristics of his people, you will find him quick and
intelligent. Employ that intelligence for the good of our holy faith and
to the prejudice of the Jewish race. Give him every advantage, every
inducement to advance, and shape his career so that in him the church
will find a faithful supporter and an earnest champion."

"And the Jews an enemy before whom the stoutest of their number shall
quail," continued the priest. "So shall it be, your excellency."

"I shall expect to receive occasional reports of his progress. Let him
be taught to respect me as his benefactor, and once a year I desire him
to spend a week or two with me, in order that by wise counsels and
salutary advice, I may assist the holy church in her noble work.
Remember, too," and here the Count's features assumed a threatening
look, "that this act of to-day is done by the authority of his majesty
the Czar, who will hold you accountable for the strict observance of all
you have promised."

The priest bowed his head humbly.

"I reverence the church, your excellency," he answered, "but above all I
owe allegiance to its spiritual head, the Czar."

All preliminaries having been arranged, Jacob was sent for. The priest,
who not unnaturally expected to see a young man, was greatly surprised
at the appearance of this puny child. He concealed his astonishment as
well as possible, merely observing:

"I presume, your excellency, this is my future pupil."

"It is, and may he prove worthy of his eminent teacher."

"Come, my boy," said the priest, taking the mystified Jacob by the
hand; "say good-by to your benefactors."

But Jacob, upon whom the sombre-robed, grim-visaged stranger did not
make a favorable impression, broke from his hold and took refuge in the
skirts of the Countess, as the most compassionate of the company.

"Don't let them take me away," he sobbed. "Let me remain with you."

"Be a good boy and he will take you home to your papa and mamma," said
the Countess, with the best intentions in the world.

"Will he take me to Mendel?" asked the boy.

"Yes, he is going there now and will take you to all your friends."

The child wiped away his tears and a smile rippled over his face. He put
his hand confidingly into that of the priest, and said:

"Come, I will go with you."

The priest, in spite of his fanaticism, took the poor Jew in his arms
and kissed him tenderly. Then setting him again upon his feet, he
whispered:

"I shall take him to a kind and loving mother, one from whose embrace he
will not care to flee--the Holy Mother of God."

Jacob entered the wagon with his new acquaintance, and in the belief
that he was going direct to the home of his parents, he fell asleep.
When he awoke, he found himself borne by strong arms into the convent,
whose doors closed upon him, separating him forever from his home and
his religion.



CHAPTER IX.

A MIRACULOUS CURE.


Let us return to Mendel.

The unconscious boy was carried to the village by the sympathizing
Israelites of Poltava. When he recovered his senses he found himself
safely sheltered in the house of Reb Sholem, the _parnas_ (president of
the congregation). It was a pleasure to find kind sympathy, a warm room
and a substantial meal, after the hardships of the last few days; but
the constant recollection of Jacob's disappearance, the reproaches which
Mendel heaped upon himself for having deserted his brother, left him no
peace of mind.

The Jews of Poltava displayed their practical sympathy by dividing into
groups and scouring the village and the surrounding country, in hopes of
finding some clue to the whereabouts of the boy. He might even now be
wandering through the fields. Night, however, found them all gathered at
Reb Sholem's house, sorrowful and disheartened, as not a trace of the
missing lad had been discovered. Mendel retired in a state of fever and
tossed restlessly about on his bed during the entire night. He was moved
by but one desire--to get to his uncle at Kief as quickly as possible.
In the morning he informed his host of his plans. A carrier of the
village, who drove his team to within a few versts of Kief, was induced,
upon the payment of an exorbitant sum, to take the boy as a passenger,
and at dawn next morning they started upon their slow and tedious
journey, followed by the good wishes of the Jewish community. It was an
all-day trip to Kief. Over stone and stubble, through ditch and mire
moved the lumbering, springless vehicle, and Mendel, who quitted Poltava
with an incipient fever, arrived at his destination in a state of utter
exhaustion. The carrier set him down at the outskirts of the town. It
was as much as his position was worth to have harbored a Jew--a fugitive
from the military at that--and slowly and painfully Mendel found his way
through the strange city, to the Jewish quarter. Every soldier that
crossed his path inspired him with terror; it might be some one charged
with his recapture. Not until he reached his destination did he deem
himself safe.

To the south-east of the city, stretched along the Dnieper, lay the
Jewish settlement of almost fifteen thousand souls. The most dismal,
unhealthy portion of the town had in days gone by been selected as its
location. The decree of the _mir_ had fixed its limits in the days of
Peter the Great, and its boundaries could not be extended, no matter how
rapidly the population might increase, no matter how great a lack of
room, of air, of light there might be for future generations. The houses
were, therefore, built as closely together as possible, without regard
to comfort or sanitary needs. To each was added new rooms, as the
necessities of the inhabiting family demanded, and these additions hung
like excrescences from all sides of the ugly huts, like toadstools to
decaying logs. Every inch of ground was precious to the ever-increasing
settlement. It was a labyrinth of narrow, dirty streets, of unpainted,
unattractive, dilapidated houses, a lasting monument of hatred and
persecution, of bigotry and prejudice. Mendel gasped for a breath of
fresh air, and, feeling himself grow faint, he hurried onward and
inquired the way to Hirsch Bensef's house. A plain, unpretentious
structure was pointed out and Mendel knocked at the door.

Hirsch himself opened the door. For a moment he stood undecided,
scarcely recognizing in the form before him, his chubby nephew of a week
ago. Then he opened his arms and drew the little fellow to his breast.

"Is it indeed you, Mendel?" he cried. "_Sholem alechem!_ (Peace be with
you!) God be praised that He has brought you to us!" and he led the boy
into the room and closed the door.

"Miriam," he called to his wife, who was engaged in her household duties
in an adjoining room; "quick, here is our boy, our Mendel. I knew he
would come."

Mendel was lovingly embraced by his cheerful-looking aunt, whom he had
never seen, but whom he loved from that moment.

"What ails you, my boy? You look ill; your head is burning," said
Miriam, anxiously.

"Yes, aunt; I fear I shall be sick," answered Mendel, faintly.

"Nonsense; we will take care of that," replied Hirsch. "But where is
Jacob?"

Mendel burst into tears, the first he had shed since his enforced
departure from home. In as few words as possible he told his story,
accompanied by the sobs and exclamations of his hearers. In conclusion,
he added:

"Either Jacob wandered away in his delirium and is perhaps dead in some
deserted place, or else the soldiers have recaptured him and have taken
him back to Kharkov."

"Rather he be dead than among the inhuman Cossacks at the barracks,"
returned his uncle. "God in His mercy does all things for the best!"

"The poor boy must be starving," said Miriam, and she set the table with
the best the house afforded, but Mendel could touch nothing.

"It looks tempting, but I cannot eat," he said. "I have no appetite."

The poor fellow stretched himself on a large sofa, where he lay so
quiet, so utterly exhausted, that Hirsch and his wife looked at each
other anxiously and gravely shook their heads.

A casual stranger would not have judged from the unpretentious exterior
of Bensef's house, that its proprietor was in possession of considerable
means, that every room was furnished in taste and even luxury, that
works of oriental art were hidden in its recesses. Persecuted during
generations by the jealous and covetous nations surrounding them, the
Jews learned to conceal their wealth beneath the mask of poverty.
Robbers, in the guise of uniformed soldiery and decorated officers of
the Czar, stalked in broad daylight to relieve the despised Hebrew of
his superfluous wealth, and thus it happened that the poorest hut was
often the depository of gold and silver, of artistic utensils, which
were worthy of the table of the Czar himself. Nor was this fact entirely
unknown to the surrounding Christians. Not unfrequently were
persecutions the outcome of the absurd idea that every Jewish hovel was
the abode of riches, and that every hut where misery held court, where
starving children cried for bread, was a mine of untold wealth. The
condition of the race has changed in some of the more civilized
countries, but in Russia these barbarous notions still prevail.

Hirsch Bensef, by untiring energy and perseverance as a dealer in curios
and works of art, had become one of the wealthiest and most influential
men in the community. He was _parnas_ of the great congregation of Kief,
and was respected, not only by his co-religionists, but also by the
nobles with whom he transacted the greater portion of his business.

His wife, who had in her youth been styled the "Beautiful Miriam," even
now, after twelve years of married life, was still a handsome woman. Her
dark eyes shone with the same bewitching fire; her beautiful hair had,
in accordance with the orthodox Jewish custom, fallen under the shears
on the day of her marriage, but the silken band and string of pearls
that henceforth decked her brow did not detract from her oriental
beauty. Hirsch was proud of her and he would have been completely happy
if God had vouchsafed her a son. Like Hannah, she prayed night and
morning to the Heavenly throne. Such was the family in whose bosom
Mendel had found a refuge.

After a while, the boy asked for a glass of water, which he swallowed
eagerly. Then he asked:

"When did you leave Togarog, uncle; and how are father and mother?"

Bensef sighed at the recollection of the sad parting and tearfully
related the events of that memorable night.

"After the soldiers had carried you off," he said, "the little band that
followed you to the confines of the village, returned sorrowful to their
homes. I need not tell you of our misery. It appeared as though God had
turned his face from his chosen people. We spent the night in prayer and
lamentations. In every house the inhabitants put on mourning, for
whatever might befall the children, to their parents they were
irretrievably lost."

"Poor papa! poor mamma!" murmured Mendel, wiping away a tear.

"On the following morning," continued Bensef; "all the male _Jehudim_
went to Alexandrovsk and implored an audience of the Governor. He sent
us word that he would hold no conference with Jews and threatened us all
with Siberia if we did not at once return home. What could we do? I bade
your parents farewell, and after promising to do all in my power to find
and succor you and Jacob, I left them and returned home, where I arrived
yesterday. Thank God that you, at least, are safe from harm."

Mendel nestled closer to his uncle, who affectionately stroked his
fevered brow.

"Oh! why does God send us such sufferings?" moaned the boy.

"Be patient, my child. It is through suffering that we will in the end
attain happiness. When afflictions bear most heavily upon us, then will
the Messiah come!"

This hope was ever the anchor which preserved the chosen people when the
storms of misfortune threatened to destroy them. The belief in the
eventual coming of a redeemer who would lead them to independence, and
for whose approach trials, misery and persecution were but a necessary
preparation, has been the great secret of Israel's strength and
endurance.

During the evening, a number of Bensef's intimate friends visited the
house and were told Mendel's history. The news of his arrival soon
spread through the community, awakening everywhere the liveliest
sympathy. Many parents had been bereft of their children in the
self-same way and still mourned the absence of their first-born, whom
the cruel decree of Nicholas had condemned to the rigors of some
military outpost. Mendel became the hero of Kief, while he lay tossing
in bed, a prey to high fever.

In spite of the care that was lavished upon him, he steadily grew worse.
Fear, hunger, exposure and self-reproach had been too much for his
youthful frame. For several days Miriam administered her humble
house-remedies, but they were powerless to relieve his sufferings. The
hot tea which he was made to drink, only served to augment the fever.

On the fifth day, Mendel was decidedly in a dangerous condition. He was
delirious. The doctors in the Jewish community were consulted, but were
powerless to effect a cure. Bensef and his wife were in despair.

"What shall we do?" said Miriam, sadly. "We cannot let the boy die."

"Die?" cried Hirsch, becoming pale at the thought. "Oh, God, do not take
the boy! He has wound himself about my heart. Oh, God, let him live!"

"Come, husband, praying is of little avail," answered his practical
wife; "we must have a _feldsher_" (doctor).

"A _feldsher_ in the Jewish community? Why, Miriam, are you out of your
mind? Have you forgotten how, when Rabbi Jeiteles was lying at the point
of death, no amount of persuasion could induce a doctor to come into the
quarter. 'Let the Jews die,' they answered to our entreaties; 'there
will still be too many of them!'"

Miriam sighed. She remembered it well.

"What persuasion would not do, money may accomplish," she said, after a
pause. "Hirsch, that boy must not die. He must live to be a credit to us
and a comfort to our old age. You have money--what gentile ever
resisted it?"

"I will do what I can," said the man, gloomily. "But even though I could
bring one to the house, what good can he do. It is merely an experiment
with the best of them. They will take our money, make a few magical
incantations, prescribe a useless drug, and leave their patient to the
mercy of Fate."

Hirsch Bensef was right. At the time of which we speak, medicine could
scarcely be classed among the sciences in Russia, and if we accept the
statement of modern travellers, the situation is not much improved at
the present day. The scientific doctor of Russia was the _feldsher_ or
army surgeon, whose sole schooling was obtained among the soldiery and
whose knowledge did not extend beyond dressing wounds and giving an
occasional dose of physic. Upon being called to the bedside of a
patient, he adopted an air of profound learning, asked a number of
unimportant questions, prescribed an herb or drug of doubtful efficacy,
and charged an exorbitant fee. The patient usually refused to take the
medicine and recovered. It sometimes happened that he took the
prescribed dose and perhaps recovered, too. On a level with the
_feldsher_ and much preferred by the peasantry, stood the _snakharka_, a
woman, half witch, half quack, who was regarded by the _moujiks_ with
the greatest veneration. By means of herbs and charms, she could
accomplish any cure short of restoring life to a corpse. "The
_snakharka_ and the _feldsher_ represent two very different periods in
the history of medical science--the magical and the scientific. The
Russian peasantry have still many conceptions which belong to the
former. The majority of them are now quite willing, under ordinary
circumstances, to use the scientific means of healing, but as soon as a
violent epidemic breaks out and scientific means prove unequal to the
occasion, the old faith revives and recourse is had to magical rites and
incantations."[5]

Neither of these systems was regarded favorably by the Hebrews. The
_feldshers_ were, by right of their superior knowledge, an arrogant
class; and it was suspected that on more than one occasion they had
hastened the death of a Jew under treatment, instead of relieving him.
The Israelites were equally suspicious of the _snakharkas_; not because
they were intellectually above the superstitions of their times, but
because the incantations and spells were invariably pronounced in the
name of the Virgin Mary, and no Jew could be reasonably expected to
recover under such treatment.

What was to be done for poor Mendel? Hirsch, assisted by suggestions
from his wife, cogitated long and earnestly. Suddenly Miriam found a
solution of the difficulty.

"Why not send to Rabbi Eleazer at Tchernigof?"

Hirsch gazed at his wife in silent admiration.

"To the _bal-shem_?" he asked.

"Why not? When Chune Benefski's little boy was so sick that they thought
he was already dead, a parchment blessed by the _bal-shem_ brought him
back to life. Is Mendel less to you than your own son would be?"

"God forbid," said Hirsch; then added, reflectively: "but to-day is
Thursday. It will take a day and a half to reach Tchernigof, and the
messenger will arrive there just before _Shabbes_. He cannot start on
his return until Saturday evening, and by the time he got back Mendel
would be cold in death. No; it is too far!"

"_Shaute!_" (Nonsense!) ejaculated his wife, who was now warmed up to
the subject. "Do you imagine the _bal-shem_ cannot cure at a distance as
well as though he were at the patient's bedside? Lose no time. God did
not deliver Mendel out of the hands of the soldiers to let him die in
our house."

One of the most fantastic notions of Cabalistic teaching was that
certain persons, possessing a clue to the mysterious powers of nature,
were enabled to control its laws, to heal the sick, to compel even the
Almighty to do their behests. Such a man, such a miracle worker, was
called a _bal-shem_.

That a _bal-shem_ should thrive and grow fat is a matter of course, for
consultations were often paid for in gold. To the wonder-working Rabbi
travelled all those who had a petition to bring to the Throne of
God--the old and decrepit who desired to defraud the grave of a few
miserable years; the unfortunate who wished to improve his condition;
the oppressed who yearned for relief from a tyrannical taskmaster; the
father who prayed for a husband for his fast aging daughter; the sick,
the halt, the maim, the malcontent, the egotist--all sought the aid, the
mediation of the holy man. He refused no one his assistance, declined no
one's proffered gifts.

It was finally decided to send to the _bal-shem_ to effect Mendel's
cure. But time was pressing, Mendel was growing visibly worse and
Tchernigof was a long way off!

Hirsch rose to go in search of a messenger.

"Whom will you send?" asked his wife, accompanying him to the door.

"The beadle, Itzig Maier, of course," rang back Hirsch's answer, as he
strode rapidly down the street.

Let us accompany him to Itzig Maier's house, situated in the poorest
quarter of Kief. In a narrow lane stood a low, dingy, wooden hut, whose
boards were rotting with age. The little windows were covered for the
most part with greased paper in lieu of the panes that had years ago
been destroyed, and scarcely admitted a stray beam of sunlight into the
room. The door, which was partially sunken into the earth, suggesting
the entrance to a cave, opened into the one room of the house, which
served at once as kitchen and dormitory. It was damp, foul and
unhealthy, scarcely a fit dwelling-place for the emaciated cat, which
sat lazily at the entrance. The floor was innocent of boards or tiles,
and was wet after a shower and dry during a drought. The walls were bare
of plaster. It was a stronghold of poverty. Misery had left her impress
upon everything within that wretched enclosure. Yet here it was that
Itzig Maier, his wife, and five children lived and after a fashion
thrived. In one respect he was more fortunate than most of his
neighbors; his hut possessed the advantage of housing but one family,
whereas many places, not a whit more spacious or commodious, furnished a
dwelling to three or four. The persecutions which limited the Jewish
quarter to certain defined boundaries, the intolerance which prohibited
the Jews from possessing or cultivating land, or from acquiring any
trade or profession, were to blame for this wretchedness.

A brief review of the past career of our new acquaintance, Itzig Maier,
will give us a picture of the unfortunate destiny of thousands of
Russian Jews.

Itzig had studied Talmud until he had attained his eighteenth year. But
lacking originality he lapsed into a mere automaton. His eighteenth year
found him a sallow-visaged, slovenly lad, ignorant of all else but the
Holy Law. His anxious and loving parents began to think seriously of his
future. Almost nineteen years of age and not yet married! It was
preposterous! A _schadchen_ (match-maker) was brought into requisition
and a wife obtained for the young man. What mattered it that she was a
mere child, unlettered and unfit for the solemn duties of wife and
mother? What mattered it that the young people had never met before and
had no inclination for each other? "It is not good for man to be alone,"
said the parents, and the prospective bride and bridegroom were simply
not consulted. The girl's straggling curls succumbed to the shears; a
band of silk, the insignia of married life, was placed over her brow,
and the fate of two inexperienced children was irrevocably fixed; they
were henceforth man and wife.

Both parents of Itzig Maier died shortly after the nuptials and the
young man inherited a small sum of money, the meagre earnings of years,
and the miserable hut which had for generations served as the family
homestead. For a brief period the couple lived carelessly and
contentedly; but, alas! the little store of wealth gradually decreased.
Itzig's fingers, unskilled in manual labor, could not add to it nor
prevent its melting away. He knew nothing but Law and Talmud and his
chances for advancement were meagre, indeed. After the last rouble had
been spent, Itzig sought refuge in the great synagogue, where as beadle
he executed any little duties for which the services of a pious man were
required--sat up with the sick, prayed for the dead, trimmed the lamps
and swept the floor of the House of Worship; in return for which he
thankfully accepted the gifts of the charitably inclined. His wife, when
she was not occupied with the care of her rapidly growing family,
cheerfully assisted in swelling the family fund by peddling vegetables
and fruit from door to door.

Oh, the misery of such an existence! Slowly and drearily day followed
day and time itself moved with leaden soles. There were many such
families, many such hovels in Kief; for although thrift and economy,
prudence and good management are pre-eminently Jewish qualities, yet
they are not infrequently absent and their place usurped by neglect with
its attendant misery.

In spite of privations, however, life still possessed a charm for Itzig
Maier. At times the wedding of a wealthy Jew, or the funeral of some
eminent man, demanded his services and for a week or more money would be
plentiful and happiness reign supreme.

Hirsch Bensef entered the hut and found Jentele, Maier's wife,
perspiring over the hearth which occupied one corner of the room. She
was preparing a meal of boiled potatoes. A sick child was tossing
restlessly in an improvised cradle, which in order to save room was
suspended from a hook in the smoke-begrimed ceiling. Several children
were squalling in the lane before the house.

"_Sholem alechem_," said the woman, as she saw the stranger stoop and
enter the door-way, and wiping her hands upon her greasy gown, she
offered Hirsch a chair.

"Where is your husband?" asked Hirsch, gasping for breath, for the heat
and the malodorous atmosphere were stifling.

"Where should he be but in the synagogue?" said Jentele, as she went to
rock the cradle, for the child had begun to cry and fret at the sight of
the stranger.

"Is the child sick?" asked Bensef, advancing to the cradle and observing
the poor half-starved creature struggling and whining for relief.

"Yes, it is sick. God knows whether it will recover. It is dying of
hunger and thirst and I have no money to buy it medicines or
nourishment."

"Does your husband earn nothing?"

"Very little. There have been no funerals and no weddings for several
months."

"Can you not earn anything?"

"How can I? I must cook for my little ones and watch my ailing child."

"Are your children of no service to you?"

"My oldest girl, Beile, is but seven years old. She does all she can to
help me, but it is not much," answered Jentele, irritably.

Hirsch sighed heavily and drawing out his purse, he placed a gold coin
in the woman's hand.

"Here, take this," he said, "and provide for the child." He thought of
Mendel at home and tears almost blinded him. "Carry the boy out into the
air; this atmosphere is enough to kill a healthy person. Well, God be
with you!" and Hirsch hurriedly left the the house.

He found the man he was seeking at the synagogue. Poverty and privation,
hunger and care, had undertaken the duties of time and had converted
this person into a decrepit ruin while yet in the prime of life.

Without unnecessary delay, for great was the need of haste, Hirsch
unfolded his plans, and Itzig, in consideration of a sum of money,
consented to undertake the journey at once. The money, destined as a
gift to the _bal-shem_, was securely strapped about his waist, and
arrangements were made with a _moujik_, who was going part of the way,
to carry Itzig on his wagon.

"Get there as soon as possible, and by all means before _Shabbes_!" were
Bensef's parting words.

In the meantime not a little sympathy was manifested for the unfortunate
lad. Bensef's house was crowded during the entire day. Every visitor
brought a slight token of love--a cake, a cup of jelly, a leg of a
chicken; but Mendel could eat nothing and the good things remained
untouched. There was no lack of advice as to the boy's treatment.
Everyone had a recipe or a drug to offer, all of which Miriam wisely
refused to administer. There was at one time quite a serious dispute in
the room adjoining the sick-chamber. Hinka Kierson, a stout, red-faced
matron, asserted that cold applications were most efficacious in fevers
of this nature, while Chune Benefski, whose son had had a similar
attack, and who was therefore qualified to speak upon the subject,
insisted that cold applications meant instant death, and that nothing
could relieve the boy but a hot bath. Miriam quieted the disputants by
promising to try both remedies. To her credit be it said, she applied
neither, but pinned her entire faith upon the coming remedy of the
_bal-shem_.

Friday noon came but it brought no improvement. He continued delirious
and his mind dwelt upon his recent trials, at one moment struggling
against unseen enemies and the next calling piteously upon his brother
Jacob.

Hirsch and Miriam could witness his suffering no longer, but went to
their own room and gave free vent to the tears which would not be
repressed.

"Oh, if the answer from the Rabbi were but here," sighed Miriam.

"Itzig will have just arrived in Tchernigof," said her husband,
despondingly. "We can expect no answer until Monday morning."

"And must we sit helpless in the meantime?" sobbed Miriam, through her
tears.

The door opened and a woman living in the neighborhood entered to
inquire after the patient.

"See, Miriam," she said, "when I was feverish last year after my
confinement, a _snakharka_ gave me this bark with which to make a tea. I
used a part of it and you remember how quickly I recovered. Here is all
I have left. Try it on your boy; it can't hurt him and with God's help
it will cure him."

Yes, Miriam remembered how ill her neighbor had been and how rapid had
been her convalescence. She took the bark and examined it curiously,
made the tea and administered a portion without any visible effect.

"Continue to give it to him regularly until it is all gone," said the
neighbor, and she went home to prepare for the Sabbath.

Miriam, too, had her house to put in order and to prepare the table for
the following day; but for the first time the gold and silver utensils,
the snow-white linen--the luxurious essentials of the Sabbath
table--failed to give her pleasure. What did all her wealth avail her if
Mendel must die! Her husband sat apathetically at the boy's bedside,
watching his flushed face and listening to his delirious raving. The end
seemed near. The boy asked for drink and Miriam gave him more of the
tea.

Five o'clock sounded from the tower of a near-by church and Hirsch arose
to dress for the house of prayer. _Shabbes_ must not be neglected,
happen what may. Suddenly there was an unusual commotion in the narrow
lane in which stood Bensef's house. The door was hastily thrown open and
in rushed Itzig, the messenger to Tchernigof, followed by a dozen
excited, gesticulating friends.

Bensef ran to meet them, but when he saw his messenger already returned
his countenance fell.

"For God's sake, what is the matter? Why are you not in Tchernigof?" he
said.

"I was," retorted Itzig, "but I have come back. Here," he continued,
opening a bag about his neck and carefully drawing therefrom a small
piece of parchment covered with hieroglyphics, "put this under the boy's
tongue and he will recover!"

"But what is this paper?" asked Hirsch, suspiciously.

"It is from the _bal-shem_. Don't ask so many questions, but do as I
tell you! Put it under the boy's tongue before the Sabbath or it will be
of no avail!"

Hirsch looked from Itzig to the ever-increasing crowd that was peering
in through the open door. Then he gazed at the parchment. It was about
two inches square and covered with mystic signs which none understood,
but the power of which none doubted. In the margin was written in
Hebrew, "In the name of the Lord--Rabbi Eleazer."

There was no time for idle curiosity. Hirsch ran into the patient's
presence with the precious talisman and placed it under the boy's
tongue.

"There, my child," he whispered; "the _bal-shem_ sends you this. By
to-morrow you will be cured."

The boy, whose fever appeared already broken, opened his eyes and,
looking gratefully at Hirsch, answered:

"Yes, dear uncle, I shall soon be well," and fell into a deep sleep.

Hirsch closed the door softly and went out to his friends. The
excitement was intense and the crowd was steadily growing, for the news
had spread that Itzig Maier had been to Tchernigof and back in less than
two days.

"Tell us about it, Itzig," they clamored. "How is it possible that you
could do it?" But Itzig waved them back and not until Hirsch Bensef came
out from the sick chamber did he deign to speak. Then his tongue became
loosened, and to the awe and amazement of his listeners he related his
wonderful adventures. He told them that, having left the wagon half-way
to Tchernigof, he had walked the rest of the distance, reaching his
destination that very morning at eleven o'clock. The holy man, being
advised by mysterious power of his expected arrival, awaited him at the
door and said: "Itzig, thou hast come about a sick boy at Kief." The
_bal-shem_ then gave him a parchment already written, and told him to
return home at once and apply the remedy before _Shabbes_, otherwise the
spell would lose its efficacy.

"Then," continued the messenger, "I said, 'Rabbi, this is Friday noon;
it takes almost a day and a half to reach Kief. How can I get there by
_Shabbes_?' Then he answered, 'Thinkest thou that I possess the power to
cure a dying man and not to send thee home before the Sabbath? Begin thy
journey at once and on foot and thou shalt be in Kief before night.'
Then I gave him the present I had brought and started out upon my
homeward journey. I appeared to fly. It seemed as though I was suspended
in the air, and trees, fields and villages passed me in rapid
succession. This continued until about a half hour ago, when I suddenly
found myself before Kief and at once hastened here with the parchment."

This incredible story produced different effects upon the auditors
present.

"It is wonderful," said one. "The _bal-shem_ knows the mysteries of
God."

"I don't believe a word of it," shouted another; "such things are
impossible."

"But we have proof of it before us," cried a third. "Itzig could not
have returned by natural means."

Then a number of the men related similar occurrences for which they
could vouch, or which had taken place in the experience of their
parents, and the gathering broke up into little groups, each
gesticulating, relating or explaining. The excitement was indescribable.

Bensef laid his hand upon Itzig's shoulder and led him aside.

"Look at me, Itzig," he commanded. "I want to know the truth. Is what
you have just related exactly true."

"To be sure it is. If you doubt it, go to the _bal-shem_ and ask him
yourself."

"Do you swear by----" Then checking himself, Hirsch muttered: "We will
see. If the boy recovers, I will believe you."

When Itzig arrived at the synagogue that evening, he was the cynosure of
all eyes, and it is safe to say that there was not in Kief a Jewish
household in which the wonderful story was not repeated and commented
upon.

Mendel recovered with marvellous rapidity. Whether his improvement was
due to the Peruvian bark which the kind-hearted neighbor had brought,
or to the power of the Cabalistic writing, or to the psychological
influence of faith in the _bal-shem's_ power, it is not for us to
decide, but certain it is that Rabbi Eleazer received full credit for
the cure and his already great reputation spread through Russia.

The fact that Itzig, whose poverty had been notorious, now occasionally
indulged in expenditures requiring the outlay of considerable money,
caused a rumor to spread that the worthy messenger had gone no further
than the village of Navrack, where he himself prepared the parchment and
then returned with the wonderful story of his trip through the air and
with his fortune augmented to the extent of Bensef's present to the
Rabbi. Envious people were not wanting who gave ear to this unkind rumor
and even helped to spread it. But the fact that Mendel had been snatched
from the jaws of death was sufficient vindication for Itzig, who for a
long time enjoyed great honors at Kief.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 5: Wallace, p. 77.]



CHAPTER X.

MENDEL THINKS FOR HIMSELF.


Mendel's fondness for study determined his future career. Nowhere were
there such opportunities for learning the Talmud as in Kief. Its
numerous synagogues, its eminent rabbis, its large Hebrew population,
made it the centre of Judaism in Southern Russia. In its schools some of
the most learned rabbis of the Empire had studied.

Throughout the whole of Russia there were, at the time of which we
speak, but few universities, and these scarcely deserved to rank above
second-rate colleges. Education was within the reach of very few. At the
present day, "the merchants do not even possess the rudiments of an
education. Many of them can neither read nor write and are forced to
keep their accounts in their memory, or by means of ingenious
hieroglyphics, intelligible only to their inventors. Others can decipher
the calendar and the lives of the saints, and can sign their name with
tolerable facility. They can make the simpler arithmetical calculations
with the help of a little calculating machine, called _stchety_."[6]

In the days of Nicholas it was infinitely worse. Learning of any kind
was considered detrimental to the State; schools were practically
unknown. "The most stringent regulations were made concerning tutors and
governesses. It was forbidden to send young men to study in western
colleges and every obstacle was thrown in the way of foreign travel and
residence. Philosophy could not be taught in the universities."[7]

Contrast with this enforced lethargy the intellectual activity that we
meet with everywhere in Jewish quarters. No settlement in which we find
a _minyan_ (ten men necessary for divine worship), but there we will
also find a _cheder_, a school in which the Bible and the Talmud are
taught. Indeed, study is the first duty of the Jew; it is the
quintessence of his religion. The unravelling of God's Word has been
from time immemorial regarded as the greatest need, the most ennobling
occupation of man--a work commanded by God. The Talmud teems with
precepts concerning this all-important subject.

"Study by day and by night, for it is written: 'Thou shalt meditate
therein day and night.'"

"The study of the Law may be compared to a huge heap that is to be
cleared away. The foolish man will say: 'It is impossible for me to
remove this immense pile, I will not attempt it.' But the wise man says:
'I will remove a little to-day, and more to-morrow, and thus in time I
shall have removed it all.' It is the same in studying the Law."[8]

It was to this incessant study of the Scriptures that Israel owed its
patience, its courage, its fortitude during centuries of persecution. It
was this constant delving for truth which produced that bright, acute
Jewish mind, which in days of fanaticism and intolerance, protected the
despised people from stupefying mental decay. It was this incessant
yearning after the word of God, which moulded the moral and religious
life of the Jews and preserved them from the fanatical excesses of the
surrounding peoples.

That this study often degenerated into a mere useless cramming of
unintelligible ideas is easily understood, and its effects were in many
cases the reverse of ennobling. At the age of five, the Jewish lad was
sent to _cheder_ and his young years devoted to the study of the Bible.
Every other occupation of mind and body was interdicted, the very plays
of happy childhood were abolished. The Pentateuch must henceforth form
the sole mental nourishment of the boy. Later on he is led through the
labyrinth of Talmudic lore, to wander through the dark and dreary
catacombs of the past, analyze the mouldering corpses of a by-gone
philosophy, drink into his very blood the wisdom, superstitions,
morality and prejudices of preceding ages. He must digest problems which
the greatest minds have failed to solve. Either the pupil is spurred on
to preternatural acuteness and becomes a credit to his parents and his
teachers, or he succumbs entirely to the benumbing influence of an
over-wrought intellect and is rendered unfit for the great physical
struggle for existence.

What is the Talmud, this sacred literature of Israel? It is a collection
of discussions and comments of biblical subjects, by generations of
rabbis and teachers who devoted their time and intellects to an analysis
of the Scriptures. It is a curious store-house of literary gems, at
times carefully, at times carelessly compiled by writers living in
different lands and different ages; a museum of curiosities, into which
are thrown in strange confusion beautiful legends, historical facts,
metaphysical discussions, sanitary regulations and records of scientific
research. In it are preserved the wise decisions, stirring sermons and
religious maxims of Israel's philosophers.

Although a huge work, consisting of twelve folios, it bears no
resemblance to a single literary production. On first acquaintance it
appears a wilderness, a meaningless tangle of heterogeneous ideas, of
scientific absurdities, of hair-splitting arguments, of profound
aphorisms, of ancient traditions, of falsehood and of truth. It is a
work of broadest humanity, of most fanatical bigotry.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Talmud contains a great number
of trivial subjects, which it treats with great seriousness. It
contains, for example, dissertations upon sorcery and witchcraft as well
as powerful religious precepts, and presents along-side of its wise and
charitable maxims many utterances of an opposite nature. "For these
faults the whole Talmud had often been held responsible, as a work of
trifles, as a source of trickery, without taking into consideration that
it is not the work of a single author. Over six centuries are
crystallized in the Talmud with animated distinctness. It is, therefore,
no wonder if in this work, sublime and mean, serious and ridiculous,
Jewish and heathen elements, the altar and the ashes are found in motley
mixture."[9]

To the _jeschiva_, or Talmud school, Mendel was immediately sent after
his phenomenal recovery. The great Rabbi Jeiteles himself became the
lad's instructor. Let us accompany Mendel on this beautiful autumn day
to his school.

The house of Rabbi Jeiteles was hemmed in on three sides by decaying and
overcrowded dwellings, facing on the fourth a narrow, neglected lane.
There was nothing in its appearance to attract a passer-by. The
interior, however, was neatly and tastefully, if not luxuriously,
furnished. On entering, one found himself in a comfortably arranged
reception-room. On the eastern wall there hung a _misrach_, a scriptural
picture bearing the inscription, "From the rising of the sun to its
setting shall the name of the Lord be praised." Prints of biblical
subjects adorned the remaining walls, the Sabbath lamp hung from the
ceiling and thrift and comfort seemed to be thoroughly at home. Rebecca,
the Rabbi's wife, a pleasant-faced, mild-tempered little woman, was busy
arranging the table for the evening meal. There is not much to be said
about her and absolutely nothing against her. To a profound admiration
for her husband's ability, she added charity and benevolence and shared
with him the respect of the congregation. It had pleased the Lord to
deprive her of her three sons and the mother's love and devotion was now
lavished upon her sole remaining child, her daughter Recha.

"My sons would be a great comfort to me," she often sighed, and then
added, with resignation: "the Lord's will be done."

To the right of the entrance lay the staircase leading to the bed-rooms
on the second floor, and to the left a door opened into the
school-rooms, a recent addition to the dwelling, and in which the
Rabbi's fifty-odd pupils were daily instructed in their important
studies.

In the first of these rooms, the elementary department, sat the younger
boys, whose spiritual and mental welfare were entrusted to an assistant,
a young pedagogue, who did not believe in sparing the rod at the expense
of the child, but, mindful of the unmerciful whippings he had received
in his youth, endeavored on his part to inculcate the precepts of the
Pentateuch by means of sound thrashings. The progress of his pupils was
not phenomenal, but their training was eminently useful in aiding them
to bear the blows and trials which the gentile world had in store for
them. The Rabbi occasionally looked in upon the class and added his
instructions to those of the assistant, who in the presence of his
superior concealed his rod and assumed an air of unspeakable tenderness
and loving solicitude towards his charges.

The second school-room was for the more advanced pupils, who had for the
most part passed their _bar-mitzvah_ and now revelled in the mystic lore
of the Talmud. On rough wooden desks, whose surfaces had been engraved
by unskilled hands, huge folios lay open. At the upper end of the room
sat the Rabbi, on whose head the frosts of sixty winters had left their
traces. His snow-white beard covered his breast and his hair hung in
silver locks over his temples. His pale and finely-cut features stamped
him as a man of education and refinement. The venerable patriarch had
for more than thirty years filled the position of Chief Rabbi of Kief,
and his reputation as a Talmudist and a man of great mental acumen was
not confined to his native town.

The rattan which the Rabbi held in his hand, the better to guide his
pupils, was never used for corporal punishment, for a glance or a
whispered admonition from the beloved teacher was more potent than were
blows from another. At his side sat his little daughter Recha, scarcely
nine years of age, whose features gave promise of great oriental beauty.
Her dark eyes and darker hair, her rosy lips and merry smile, formed a
veritable symphony of childish loveliness. Recha deemed it a great favor
to be allowed in the room with her father during school-hours, and as
her presence exercised a refining influence over the boys, each one of
whom loved the girl in his own juvenile way, the Rabbi offered no
objections.

The boys were being instructed in a difficult passage of the Talmud.
Following the movements of the Rabbi's head and body they recited their
appropriate lines. Like a mighty _crescendo_ swelled the chorus, for the
greater the pupil's zeal the louder rose his voice, and ever and anon
they were inspired to quicker time, to greater enthusiasm, until the
lesson came to an end.

Alas, poor boys! Taken from the cheerful sunlight to pass the days of
happy boyhood in wading through heaps of useless learning, tutored in a
philosophy which demands age and experience for its perfect
comprehension; of what use can all this Talmud delving be to you, when
once life summons you to more practical duties? And yet how much better
this training, confusing and bewildering though it be, than the absolute
ignorance, the unchecked illiteracy of the Russian Christians.

Rabbi Jeiteles interrupted his class to amplify upon the passage just
read. He had been a great traveller in his youth, had wandered through
Austria and Germany, and had picked up disconnected scraps of worldly
information, to which, in a measure, his superiority in Kief was due.
There were envious calumniators who did not hesitate to assert that the
Rabbi was a _meshumed_ (a renegade), that his mind had become polluted
with ideas and thoughts at variance with Judaism, that he had in his
possession--_O mirabile dictu!_--a copy of the Mendelssohnian
translation of the Pentateuch, against which a ban had been hurled.
These were but rumors, however, and the better class of Hebrews paid no
attention to them.

The passage under consideration was the beautiful legend concerning the
necessity of understanding the Law, and the Rabbi undertook to elucidate
its somewhat difficult construction. According to the wise scribes of
the Talmud, each soul after death enters into the presence of its maker,
and is asked to give a reason for not having studied the _Torah_. If
poverty is offered as an excuse, he is reminded of Hillel, who though
poor deprived himself of life's comforts that he might enjoy God's word.
If the burdens and cares of wealth are advanced in palliation, he is
reminded of Eleazer, who abandoned his lands and possessions to seek the
consolation of knowledge. If a man pleads temptations and weakness to
excuse a life of evil, he is told of Joseph's constancy. In short, it is
incumbent on all to understand God's commandments and to obey them, for
"the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord."

Silence reigned in the class-room, while the Rabbi, in explanation of
his subject, related incidents that had occurred to him during his
eventful career. The interest was intense, numerous questions were asked
and graciously answered, and the _mishna_ was again taken up.

At length the lesson came to an end and the school was dismissed. The
pupils, glad to be released from their duties, bade their teacher
good-by and tripped out into the inviting sunlight. Mendel alone
remained.

"Well, my boy, what is it?" asked the Rabbi, as Mendel gazed wistfully
at him.

"Rabbi, are you going out for your walk?" he asked, timidly.

"Yes," answered the other, surprised at the question.

"May I accompany you? I have so much to ask of you."

The Rabbi gladly acquiesced. Although Mendel had been but six months
under his tuition, he had already become his favorite pupil. His quick
perception and wonderful originality of thought attracted the teacher.

The teacher and pupil walked through the miserable streets of the
quarter until they reached the open fields. Here the Rabbi stopped and
drew a long breath.

"How different this is," he said, "from the contaminated air one
breathes in the narrow lanes of our quarter."

"You have travelled much, Rabbi," said the boy. "Tell me, are the Jews
treated as cruelly all over the world as they are in Russia?"

"Unfortunately they are, in some other countries. Why do you ask?"

"Because I think--Rabbi, are we not ourselves to blame for our wretched
existence?"

Jeiteles looked at the boy in surprise.

"That is a very grave question for a boy of your age," he said. "What
gave you such an idea?"

"I have been thinking very much of late that if we were more like other
people we might be made to suffer less."

"God forbid that we should become like them," answered the Rabbi,
hastily. "Israel's greatest calamities have been caused by aping the
fashions of other nations. Our only salvation lies in clinging to our
customs and faith. Do not attempt to judge your elders until you are
more conversant with your own religion. Obey the Law and do not trouble
yourself concerning the religious observances of your people."

The boy took the rebuke meekly and the two walked on in silent
meditation. After a pause, Mendel again took up the conversation.

"In to-day's lesson," he said, "we learned that the fear of God is the
beginning of wisdom; that study is God's special command. A wise Rabbi
furthermore said upon this subject: 'He gains wisdom who is willing to
receive from all sources.' Am I right?"

"You have quoted correctly. Go on!"

"Is there any passage in the Talmud which forbids the learning of a
foreign language or the reading of a book not written in Hebrew?"

The Rabbi gazed thoughtfully upon the ground but could not recollect
such a passage.

"Last week," continued Mendel, "while in the city, I saw a book in
Russian characters. I bought it and took it home to study. My uncle tore
the book from my hands and threw it into the fire, all the time
bewailing that anything so impure had been brought into the house. Then
I was obliged to run to the house of worship and pray until sunset for
forgiveness. Was there anything so very wrong in trying to learn
something beside the Talmud?"

The worthy Rabbi was sorely puzzled for a reply. His knowledge of the
world had long ago opened his eyes to the narrow-minded bigotry which
swayed the Russian Jewish people in their prejudices against anything
foreign. He, too, deplored the fact that intellects so bright and alert
should be content to linger in these musty catacombs. Full well he knew
that the constant searching for hidden meanings in the Scriptures was
the direct cause of many of the superstitions which had crept into
Judaism. He, too, had in his youth yearned for more extended knowledge
than that derived from the Talmud's folios, and had in secret studied
the Russian and German languages at the risk of being discovered and
branded as a heretic. He understood the boy's craving and sympathized
with him; but could he conscientiously advise him to brave the
opposition and prejudices of his people and pursue that knowledge to
which he aspired?

"Well, Rabbi," said the boy, eagerly, "you do not answer. Have I
violated any law by asking such a question?"

Rabbi Jeiteles wiping his perspiring brow with a large red handkerchief,
sat down upon a moss-grown log and bade the boy sit at his side.

"My dear Mendel," he began, "you are scarcely old or experienced enough
to comprehend the gravity of your question. It is important for Israel
the world over to remain unpolluted by the influence of gentile customs.
The Messiah will surely come, nor can his arrival be far off, and a new
kingdom, a united power will reward us for our past sufferings and
present faith. Were Israel to become tainted with foreign ideas, she
would in each country develop different propensities, learn different
languages and her religion would become contaminated by all that is most
obnoxious in other faiths. It is to preserve the unity of Israel, the
similarity of thought, the purity of our religion, that we look with
horror upon any foreign learning. Now, compare our mental condition with
that of the Russian _moujiks_, or even nobles. What do they know? What
have they studied? Very little, indeed! They know nothing of the great
deeds of the past that are revealed to us through the Scriptures; they
cannot enjoy the grand and majestic philosophy of our God-inspired
rabbis. Brought up in utter ignorance, their life may be likened to a
desert, barren of all that pleases the eye and elevates the mind."

"But," interrupted the boy, "might we not hold on to our own, even while
we are learning from the gentiles? Our language, for example, is, as I
have heard you say, a terrible jargon. We have forgotten much of our
Hebrew and use many strange words instead. We have but to open our
mouths to be recognized at once as Jews and to be treated with contempt.
If we were but to learn the Russian language, it might save us from many
a cruel humiliation and the Hebrew tongue might still be preserved in
our own circle."

"You mistake, my boy; our humiliations do not proceed from any one
fact, such as jargon or customs, but from a variety of circumstances
combined, principal among which are envy of our domestic happiness,
fanaticism because of our rejection of the Christian religion, and a
cruel prejudice which has been handed down through generations from
father to son. No amount of learning on our side can change this.
Persecutions will continue, the gentiles will never learn that the Jew
is made of flesh and blood and has sentiments and feelings the same as
they. Our right to humane treatment will not be recognized any more than
at present, and harder, unspeakably harder, will be the sting and pain
of our degradation, if by deep study we rise mentally above our sphere.
The ignorant man suffers less than the person with elevated
susceptibilities. Learning, therefore, while it would not improve our
treatment at the hands of the gentiles, would but serve to make us the
more discontented with our own unfortunate condition."

The Rabbi was right; he spoke from bitter experience, and Mendel slipped
his hand into that of his teacher and gazed thoughtfully before him.

"A great head," muttered the old man, looking fondly at the boy. "If his
energies are directed into the proper channels, he will become a shining
light in Israel."

"Come, Mendel, let us go home," he said aloud, and they started silently
for the town, both too much engrossed in thought to speak. Only once,
Mendel asked:

"Rabbi, you are not offended by my questions?" and the Rabbi replied:

"No, my boy. On the contrary, I am glad that you are beginning to think
for yourself. The world is but a group of thinkers and the best heads
among them are usually leaders. This has been an agreeable walk to me.
Let us repeat it soon."

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure," cried Mendel, with undisguised
delight. "And if you will be so kind, I should like to hear all about
your travels."

The Rabbi promised, and, having reached the Jewish quarter, pupil and
teacher parted for their respective homes.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: Wallace, p. 179.]

[Footnote 7: Foulke, "Slav or Saxon," p. 91.]

[Footnote 8: Rabbi Chonan.]

[Footnote 9: "Graetz's History of the Jews," vol. 4, p. 309.]



CHAPTER XI.

THE RETURN OF THE RENEGADE.


It was just a week since Mendel and the Rabbi had walked out together.

Hirsch Bensef rushed with gigantic strides up the street leading to his
house, and long before he reached his door he shouted, at the top of his
voice:

"Miriam! Miriam! I have news for you!"

Miriam had recovered her health, and was in the kitchen preparing meat
for the following day. This was a most important operation, requiring
the housewife's undivided attention. According to a Mosaic command blood
was sacrificed upon the altar of the Temple, but was strictly forbidden
as an article of diet. The animal is slaughtered in a manner which will
drain off the greatest amount of the life-giving fluid, and great
importance is attached to the processes for extracting every particle of
blood from the meat which is brought upon the Jewish table. A thorough
rubbing with salt and an hour's immersion in water are necessary to its
preparation. Scientists who acknowledge that the blood is the general
vehicle for conveying the parasites and germs of disease, recognize in
this command of Moses a valuable sanitary measure, worthy of universal
imitation.

Miriam heard her husband's distant call and, with her hands full of
salt, she ran to the door.

Hirsch entered, completely out of breath.

"Who do you think has arrived?" he gasped.

"How should I know?"

"Guess."

"I might guess from now until the coming of _Meschiach_ and still not be
right."

"Pesach Harretzki, your cousin and old admirer."

Miriam sank into a chair and a smile rippled over her pretty features.

"Pesach Harretzki here? When did he arrive?"

"To-day. This morning. Itzig Maier, who knows all the news in town, has
just told me. He has come back from America to visit his old parents and
take them with him across the ocean."

"Has he changed much?" asked Miriam.

"No doubt of it! Itzig says he is without a beard and looks more like a
_goy_ (gentile) than like one of our own people. I suppose he has lost
what religion he once possessed, which by the way was not much."

"You will invite him to call on us, of course."

Hirsch looked askance at his wife and frowned.

"I don't know," he answered, reflectively; "we shall see."

Hirsch Bensef, the _parnas_ of the chief congregation, and whose
reputation for piety overtopped that of any other man of the community,
might well pause before inviting the new arrival to his house. Pesach
Harretzki was one of those perverse lads that one meets occasionally in
a Hebrew community, who, feeling the wild impulse of youth in every
vein, throws over the holy traditions of his forefathers and follows
rather the promptings of his own heart than that happiness which can
only be found in a firm adherence to the law and its precepts.
Unrestrained by his parents' anxious pleadings, bound by no will save
that of momentary caprice, he overstepped the boundary which separates
the pious Jew from his profane surroundings and thereby forfeited the
respect and good-will of the entire community. The young man had never
been guilty of actual wrong-doing, but had in a thousand petty ways
displayed his utter disregard of the customs that were so dear to the
hearts of his co-religionists. The Sabbath found him strolling through
the city instead of attending divine service at the synagogue. Of the
Talmud he knew very little, having preferred to play with his gentile
friends to wasting his hours in the _cheder_. He had been known to eat
_trefa_ at the house of a _goy_, and with a fastidiousness that was
without parallel in the annals of Kief, he had shaved off all of his
beard, leaving only a jaunty little mustache. So it happened that his
name became a terror to all pious Israelites. There was but one
attraction in Judaism which still fascinated Pesach, and that was his
charming cousin Miriam. She alone possessed the power of bringing him
back when he had strayed too far from the fold and her bright eyes often
recalled him to a sense of duty. He loved the girl, and had she shown
him any encouragement he might still have reformed the evil of his ways.
But even had Miriam favored his advances, her father, one of the most
pious men of Kief, would have dispelled all hope of an alliance between
the two. Old Reb Kohn, after endeavoring in vain to bring the reprobate
to his senses, finally forbade him the house. Shortly after, the
betrothal of Miriam Kohn with the learned and wealthy Hirsch Bensef was
announced. Pesach became despondent and put the finishing touch to his
ungodly career by becoming intoxicated with beer on the Passover. In
consequence of this and former misdeeds, he was ostracized from good
Jewish society, and finding himself shunned by his former associates he
departed from Kief to seek his fortune in a foreign land.

After wandering about Germany for a year or two, picking up a precarious
living and a varied experience, he set sail for America, where he
arrived without a penny. Fortune smiled upon the poor man at last. He
drifted into an inland city, Americanized his name to Philip Harris, and
succeeded, through honesty, thrift and perseverance, in building up a
large business and accumulating a respectable fortune. It was only after
success had been assured that he communicated with his parents in
Russia, and in spite of his past record great was the rejoicing when the
first letter was received. He whom his friends had mourned as dead was
alive and thriving; he had moreover become rich and respected and had
been the means of establishing a Jewish synagogue in the land of his
adoption. The last two facts, coupled with the munificent gifts which he
sent to the synagogue in Kief and to his parents, were sufficient to
lift the ban which had so long rested upon his name and to re-establish
him in the good graces of the community. Pesach, the _meshumed_,
continued these contributions to the synagogue and to his parents, and
the Jews of Kief, having forgotten his former escapades, referred to him
thenceforth as "Pesach the Generous." He had now returned after an
absence of twelve years, and the whole settlement was in a state of
pardonable excitement.

"Is he still a Jew? Has he remained true to the old faith?" was asked on
every side.

It being Friday, the Sabbath eve, the synagogue was crowded and
curiosity to see the stranger was at its height. The men frequently
looked up from their prayer-books, and the women from their seats in the
gallery craned their necks to get a view of the sunburnt, closely-shaven
American. Yes, he had changed; no one would have recognized him. Of all
the pious men that filled the house of worship, he was the only one who
was without a beard. It was against the Jewish custom to allow a razor
to touch the beard, and had not Philip's benevolence paved the way it is
doubtful whether his presence would have been tolerated within those
sacred precincts. In all other respects, however, he bore himself like a
devout Israelite. He stood by the side of his father, earnestly scanning
the pages of his prayer-book, the greater part of whose contents were
still familiar to him. His beardless face was in a measure atoned for.

What a throng of visitors there was that evening at Harretzkis house!
The little room could scarcely hold them all. Among them was Rabbi
Jeiteles, who shook the suave and smiling stranger by the hand,
congratulated him upon his appearance and asked him a hundred questions
about his travels. Indeed, it seemed as though the worthy Rabbi intended
to monopolize his company for the rest of the evening. Then came Hirsch
Bensef and his charming wife, the latter trembling and blushing in
recollection of the days when she and her cousin Pesach loved each
other in secret. Philip recognized her immediately.

"Why this is my dear cousin Miriam," he said. "How well you look! You
seem scarcely a day older than when I left you. Is this your husband?
Happy man! How I used to envy you your good fortune? But that is all
over now!" and he turned with a sigh to meet other friends.

He recollected every man and woman in Kief; moreover, he had a kind word
and pretty compliment for each and the worthy people returned home more
than ever impressed with the true excellence of Pesach Harretzki.

"What a _medina_ (country) America must be to make such a finished
product of the ungodly youth that Kief turned out of doors twelve years
ago!" Such was Bensef's remark to his wife, as they wended their way
homeward.

On the Sabbath morn the capacity of the synagogue was again tested to
the utmost. Those who had not yet seen Philip hastened to avail
themselves of this opportunity. The man from America had become the
greatest curiosity in the province. And to him, the great traveller,
every incident, however trivial, served to recall a vision of the past.
The devout men about him, wearing the fringed _tallis_, the venerable
Rabbi at the _almemor_, the ark with the same musty hangings, the
Pentateuch scrolls with the same faded covers which they bore in the
years gone by, all appealed mightily to his heart and a tear forced
itself unchecked through his lashes. Philip would have been unable to
explain to himself the cause of his emotion. The past had not been
particularly pleasant; there was nothing to regret. Perhaps some
psychologist can account for that sweet and melancholy sentiment which
the recollection of a dim and half-forgotten past brings in its train.

It was delightful to Philip to find himself once more in the presence of
all that had been dear to him. His mind reviewed the many vicissitudes
he had undergone, the many changes he had witnessed, and he fervently
thanked the God of Israel that he was permitted to revisit the scenes of
his childhood, and that the people who had rejected him in his youth now
received him with open arms. After prayers the _hazan_ (reader),
assisted by the Rabbi, opened the Holy Ark and took therefrom one of the
scrolls. To Philip, as a stranger, was accorded the honor of being one
of those called up to say the blessing over the _Torah_ (Law). He
touched the parchment with the fringes of his _tallis_, kissed them to
signify his reverence for the holy words, and began with "_Bar'chu eth
Adonai_."

"He knows his _brocha_ yet, he is still a good Jew!" was the mental
comment of the congregation.

Then followed Rabbi Jeiteles in a short but pithy address, in which he
laid great stress upon the fact that Jehovah never allows his lambs to
stray far from the fold, and that charity and benevolence cover a
multitude of sins. He incidentally announced the fact that Harretzki had
offered the synagogue new hangings for the ark, covers for the scrolls
and an entirely new metal roof for the _schul_ (synagogue) in place of
the present one, which was sadly out of repair.

Such generosity was unparalleled. In spite of the sanctity of the place,
expressions of approval were loud and emphatic. For a time the services
were interrupted and general congratulations took the place of the
prayers. Philip's popularity was now assured. All opposition vanished
and the American became a lion indeed. Bensef no longer hesitated as to
the propriety of inviting the stranger to his house. As _parnas_ he must
be the first to do him honor and after the services were at an end the
invitation was extended and accepted.

It was a pleasant assemblage that gathered at Bensef's house. Philip,
his father and mother, Rabbi Jeiteles, Haim Goldheim (a banker and
intimate friend of the host), and several other patriarchal gentlemen,
pillars of the congregation, were of the company. Miriam was an
excellent provider and on this occasion she fairly outdid herself.

"Perhaps," thought Bensef, "there still lingers in her breast a spark of
affection for the man who is now so greatly honored."

But, no! Miriam loved her husband dearly, and if she was attentive to
her cousin it was but the courtesy due to a man who had been so far and
seen so much.

Mendel, too, was at the table and could not take his eyes from the
handsome stranger whose praises every mouth proclaimed. The boy regarded
him as a superior being.

Tales of adventure, stories of travel, were the topics of conversation
during the evening. After the dessert the talk took a more serious turn.
The liberty enjoyed by the Jews in America was a fruitful theme for
discussion and many were the questions asked by the interested group.
That Israelites were politically and socially placed upon the same
footing with their Christian neighbors was a source of gratification,
but that some religious observances were in many cases neglected or
totally abolished, appeared to these pious listeners as very
reprehensible.

"You see," said Philip, in explanation, "where a number of Jewish
families reside in one place it is still possible to obey the dietary
laws, but in inland towns, where the number of Israelite families is
limited, it becomes an impossibility to observe them. Nor do they deem
it necessary that all the ceremonies that time has collected around the
Jewish religion should be strictly observed. Those Israelites who
soonest adopt the customs of their new country soonest enjoy the
benefits which a free and liberty-loving nation offers."

Hirsch Bensef shook his head, doubtingly.

"Then you mean to imply that it becomes necessary to abolish those
usages in which one's heart and soul are wrapped!" he said.

"Not at all," answered the American. "There are thousands of Jews in
America as observant of the ordinances as the most pious in Kief. Yet it
seems to me that a Jew can remain a Jew even if he neglect some of those
ceremonials which have very little to do with Judaism pure and simple.
Some are remnants of an oriental symbolism, others comparatively recent
additions to the creed, which ought to give way before civilization.
What possible harm can it do you or your religion if you shave your
beard or abandon your jargon for the language of the people among whom
you live?"

"It would make us undistinguishable from the _goyim_," answered Bensef.

"The sooner such a distinction falls the better," said Philip. "You may
recollect reading in history that in the time of Peter the Great the
Russian nobility wore beards and the Czar's efforts to make them shave
their faces provoked more animosity than did all the massacres of Ivan
the Terrible. Now a nobleman would sooner go to prison than wear a
beard."

"We never read history," interposed the childish treble of Mendel. "If
we did we should know more about the great world."

"That is indeed a misfortune," said Philip, sadly. "Every effort to
develop the Jewish mind is checked, not by the gentiles, but by the Jews
themselves. Had I been allowed full liberty to study what and how I
pleased, I should never have been guilty of the excesses which drove me
from home. A knowledge of the history of the world, an insight into
modern science, will teach us why and wherefore all our laws were given
and how we can best obey, not the letter but the spirit of God's
commands."

The faces of the little group fell visibly. This was rank heresy. God
forbid that it should ever take root in Israel. Mendel alone appeared
satisfied. He was absorbed in all the stranger had to say. This new
doctrine was a revelation to him. But Philip did not observe the
impression he had created. He had warmed up to his subject and pursued
it mercilessly.

"The Israelites in America," he continued, "are free and respected. They
enjoy equal rights with the citizens of other religious beliefs. They
are at liberty to go wherever they please and to live as they desire,
and are often chosen to positions of honor and responsibility. Such
distinctions are only obtained, however, after one has become a citizen,
and citizenship means adherence to the laws of the land and assimilation
with its inhabitants. It was not long before I discovered, through
constant friction with intelligent people about me, the absurdity of
many of my ideas and prejudices. The more I associated with my
fellow-men the more difficult I found it to retain the superstitions of
by-gone days."

"But in giving up what you call superstition," said the Rabbi, "are you
not giving up a portion of your religion as well?"

"By no means," said Philip, eagerly. "If Rabbi Jeiteles will pardon my
speaking upon a subject concerning which he is better instructed and
which he is better qualified to expound than myself, I will endeavor to
tell why. You well know that until after the destruction of the second
Temple the Jews had no Talmud. They then obeyed the laws of God in all
their simplicity and as they understood them, and not one of you will
assert that they were not good and pious Jews. Then came the writers of
the Talmud with their explanations and commentaries, and the laws of
Moses acquired a new meaning. Stress was laid upon words instead of upon
ideas, upon conventionalities instead of upon the true spirit of God's
word. After five centuries of Talmudists had exhausted all possible
explanations of the Scriptures, the study of the Law eventually paved
the way for the invention of the _Cabala_. A new bible was constructed.
The pious were no longer content with a rational observance of the
Mosaic command, but a hidden meaning must be found for every word and in
many cases for the individual letters of the Pentateuch. The six hundred
and thirteen precepts of Moses were so altered, so tortured to fit new
constructions, that the great prophet would experience difficulty in
recognizing any one of his beautiful laws from the rubbish under which
it now lies buried. New laws and ceremonies, new beliefs and, worse than
all, new superstitions were thrust upon the people already weakened by
mental fatigue caused by their incessant delving into the mysteries of
the Talmud. The free will of the people was suppressed. Instead of
giving the healthy imagination and pure reason full power to act, the
teachers of the _Cabala_ arrogated to themselves the power to decide
what to do and how to do it, and as a result the Jewish observances, as
they exist to-day in pious communities, are bound up in arbitrary rules
and superstitious absurdities which are as unlike the primitive and
rational religion of Israel as night is to day."

This bold utterance produced a profound sensation in Bensef's little
dining-room. Murmurs of disapproval and of indignation frequently
interrupted the speaker, and long before he had finished, several of his
listeners had sprung up and were pacing the room in great excitement.
Never before had any one dared so to trample upon the time-honored
beliefs of Israel. For infinitely less had the ban been hurled against
hundreds of offenders and the renegades placed beyond the pale of
Judaism.

The Rabbi alone preserved his composure. Mendel lost not a word of the
discussion. He sat motionless, with staring eyes and wide open mouth, as
though the stranger's eloquence had changed him into stone.

"No, this is too much!" at length stammered Hirsch Bensef. "Such a
condemnation of our holy religion is blasphemy. Rabbi, can you sit by
and remain silent?"

The Rabbi moved uneasily upon his chair, but said nothing.

Philip continued:

"That your Rabbi should be of one mind with you is natural, but that
does not in any way impair the force of what I have said. You will all
admit that you place more weight upon your ceremonials than upon your
faith. You deem it more important to preserve a certain position of the
feet, a proper intonation of the voice during prayers than to fully
understand the prayer itself, and in spite of your pretended belief in
the greatness and goodness of God, you belittle Him by the thought that
an omission of a single ceremony, the eating of meat and milk together,
the tearing of a _tzitzith_ (fringe) will offend Him, or that a certain
number of _mitzvoth_ (good acts) will propitiate Him. Do you understand
now what I mean when I say that superstition is not religion?"

"But," returned Goldheim, "the _Shulkan-aruch_ commands us to do certain
things in certain ways. Is it not our duty as God-fearing Jews to obey
the laws that have His sanction?"

"Undoubtedly! If you were certain that this book contained His express
commands it would be incumbent upon you to observe them, only, however,
after having sought to understand their meaning. But you know, or ought
to know, that the book was written by a man like yourselves, who was as
liable to err as you are. Many of these commands were excellent at the
time in which they were given, but change of circumstances has made them
absurd."

"What is godly at one time cannot become ungodly at another," said
Bensef, with determined obstinacy.

"No; but what is beautiful and appropriate in one land may become the
reverse in a different country, or at another period. Let us take an
example: It is an oriental custom to wear one's hat or turban as a mark
of respect. In Palestine such a usage is proper and the man who keeps
his head covered before his fellow-men certainly should keep it covered
before God. In America, however, I am considered ill-bred if I keep my
hat on when I am conversing with the humblest of my associates; should I
therefore keep it on when I am addressing my God? Thus, many of your
religious observances take their origin outside of religion and are
appropriate only to the country in which they were conceived."

"But to appear before God bareheaded is surely a sin!" stammered Hirsch
Bensef, who would gladly have ended the conversation then and there.

"Not a sin, simply a novelty," answered Philip.

"But our proverb says: 'Novelty brings calamity.'"

"Proverbs do not always speak the truth," replied the American. Then
after a pause he continued, reflectively: "There is another class of
ceremonials which find their origin in one or the other of the commands
of Moses, and which through the eagerness of the people to observe them
for fear of Divine wrath, have been given an importance out of all
proportion to their original significance. For instance, Moses, for
reasons purely humane, prohibited the cooking of a kid in its mother's
milk, wisely teaching that what nature intended for the preservation of
the animal should not be employed for its destruction. This law has been
so distorted that the eating of meat and milk together was prohibited,
and the severity of the resulting dietary laws makes it necessary to
have two sets of dishes--one for meat, the other for all food prepared
with milk. And so in a thousand cases the original intention of the
command is lost in the mass of foreign matter that has been added to
it."

Philip paused and, toying with his massive watch-chain, tried hard not
to see the indignant glances that threatened to consume him. Bensef
arose from his chair in sheer desperation.

"What would you have us do?" he asked, angrily. "Desert the ceremonies
of our forefathers and surrender to the ungodly?"

"Not by any means," was the quiet rejoinder. "Worship God as your
conscience dictates, continue in your ancient fashion if it makes you
happy, but be tolerant towards him who, feeling himself mentally and
spiritually above superstition, seeks to emancipate himself from its
bonds and to follow the dictates of his own good common-sense."

With these concluding words, Philip arose and prepared to leave. The
remaining guests also arose from their chairs and looked at each other
in blank dismay. Rabbi Jeiteles stepped to the American and placed his
hand upon his shoulder.

"My dear Pesach," he began, "what you have just said sounds strange and
very dangerous to these good people. To me it was nothing new, for
during my early travels I heard such discussions again and again. Your
arguments may or may not be correct. We will not discuss the matter. One
thing you must not forget, however: the Jews in Russia and elsewhere are
despised and rejected; they are degraded to the very scum of the earth.
Social standing, pursuit of knowledge, means of amusement, everything is
taken from them. What is left? Only the consolation which their sacred
religion brings. The observance of the thousand ceremonials which you
decry, is to them not only a religious necessity, a God-pleasing work;
it is more, it is a source of domestic happiness, a means of genuine
enjoyment, a comfort and a solace. Whether these observances are needed
or are superfluous in a free country like America I shall not presume
to say, but in Russia they are a moral and a physical necessity. You
have spoken to-night as no man has ever spoken before in Kief. Were the
congregation to hear of it, you would again find yourself an outcast
from your native town, shunned and despised by all that now look upon
you as a model of benevolence and piety. For your own sake, therefore,
as well as for the peace of mind of those among whom your words might
act as a firebrand, we hope that you will speak no more upon this
subject and we on our part promise to keep our own counsel."

Philip readily consented and with his aged parents he left for his home,
at the other end of the quarter.

The friends bade each other a hasty good-night, and not another word was
spoken concerning the discussion.

"Uncle," said Mendel, as he was about to retire, "is not Harretzki a
very wise man?"

"My boy," replied his uncle; "our rabbis say, 'Much speech--much
folly.'"



CHAPTER XII.

FORBIDDEN BOOKS.


Philip remained in Kief about two weeks, during which time he was
hospitably entertained by the leaders of the Jewish community. There was
some difficulty in obtaining a passport for his parents, for, anxious as
the Russians are to expel the Jews, by a remarkable contrariety of human
nature they throw every obstacle in the way of a Jew who endeavors to
emigrate.

Mendel never missed an opportunity of passing Harretzki's house. It had
a strange fascination for him, and if he but saw the American at the
window and exchanged greetings with him, the boy returned home with a
happy heart.

Once--it was the day before Philip's departure--Mendel again passed the
wretched abode in which the stranger dwelt. The door was open and Philip
was busied with preparations for his coming voyage. Mendel gazed
wistfully for some minutes and finally mustered up courage to enter and
ask:

"Can I be of any service to you, sir?"

Philip, who had taken a decided fancy to the boy, said, kindly:

"Yes; you may assist me. Here are my books. Pack them into this chest."

With a reverence amounting almost to awe, Mendel took up the books one
by one and arranged them as Philip directed. Now and then he opened a
volume and endeavored to peer into the wondrous mysteries it contained,
but the characters were new to him; they were neither Hebrew nor
Russian, and the boy sighed as he piled the books upon each other.
Philip observed him with growing interest.

"Are you fond of books?" he asked, at length.

"Oh, yes. If I could but study," answered the boy, eagerly, and big
tears welled up into his eyes.

"And why can't you?"

"Because I have no books but our old Hebrew folios, and if I had they
would be taken from me."

"Continue to study the books you have," said Philip, "you will find much
to learn from them."

"But there are so many things to know that are not in our books. How I
should like to be as wise as you are."

Philip smiled, sorrowfully.

"I know very little," he answered. "I am not regarded as a particularly
well-educated person in my country. What good would learning do you in
Kief?"

"It would make me happy," answered the boy.

"No, child; it would make you miserable by filling your little head with
ideas which would bring down upon you the anathemas of your dearest
friends."

There was a pause, during which Mendel worked industriously. Suddenly he
said:

"Might I ask a favor, sir?"

"Certainly, my boy; I shall be happy if I can grant it."

"Let me take one of your books to keep in remembrance of you?"

"You cannot read them; they are written in German and English."

"That does not matter. Their presence would remind me of you. Besides I
might learn to read them."

"But if a strange book is found in your possession it will be taken from
you."

"I will conceal it."

Philip reflected a moment; then carefully selecting two books, he
presented them to the overjoyed boy.

"Remember," he said, "that ignorance is frequently bliss. A Rabbi once
said: 'Beware of the conceit of learning.' It is often well to say, 'I
don't know.'"

Then the American spoke of the difficulties he had experienced in
acquiring an education, how he had worked at a trade by day and gone to
school during the evening. Mendel had a thousand questions to ask, which
Philip answered graciously; but the packing having come to an end, and
Mendel having exhausted his inquiries and finding no further excuse to
remain, the two bade each other an affectionate farewell. Mendel ran
home with his sacred treasures carefully concealed under his blouse, and
with great solicitude he locked them up in an old closet which served as
his wardrobe. The following morning Philip and his parents were escorted
to the limits of the city by the influential Jews of Kief, and the
travellers started upon their long voyage to America.

During the next few weeks Mendel was at his Talmudic studies in the
_jeschiva_ as usual, but there was a decided change in his manner--a
certain listlessness, a lack of interest, which were so apparent that
Rabbi Jeiteles could not but observe them.

"I fear that the boy has been studying too hard," he said to his wife
one day. "We must induce him to take more exercise."

After the close of the lesson, the teacher said:

"Come, Mendel; it is quite a while since we have walked together. Let us
go into the fields."

Mendel, who adored his preceptor, was well pleased to have an
opportunity of relieving his heart of its burden, and gladly accepted
the invitation. For a while the two strolled in silence. The air was
balmy and nature was in her most radiant dress.

"Tell me," at length began the Rabbi; "tell me why you appear so
dejected?"

"You will reproach me if I confess the cause," answered the boy,
tearfully.

"You should know me better," answered the Rabbi. "You ought to be aware
that I am interested in your welfare."

"Well, then," sobbed Mendel, no longer able to repress his feelings, "I
am unhappy because of my ignorance. I wish to become wise."

"And then?" asked the Rabbi.

The boy opened his eyes to their full extent. He did not comprehend the
question.

"After you have acquired great wisdom, what then?" repeated the Rabbi.

"Then I shall be happy and content."

The Rabbi stopped and pointed to a dilapidated bridge which crossed the
Dnieper at a place to which their walk had led them. Sadly he called his
pupil's attention to a sign which hung at the entrance of the structure
and which bore the following legend: "Toll--For a horse, 15 kopecks; for
a hog, 3 kopecks; for a Jew, 10 kopecks."

"Read that," he said; "and see how futile must be the efforts of wisdom
in a country whose rulers issue such decrees."

"Perhaps you are right," said the boy, sorrowfully; "and yet I feel that
God has not given me my intellect to keep it in ignorance and
superstition. It must expand. Look, Rabbi, at this river. They have
dammed it to keep its waters back; but further down, the stream leaps
over the obstruction and forces its way onward. Its confinement makes it
but sparkle the more after it has once acquired its freedom. Is not the
mind of man like this river? Can you confine it and prevent its onward
course?"

The Rabbi gazed with looks of mingled astonishment and admiration upon
the boy at his side.

The boy continued:

"I would become wise like you and Pesach Harretzki. I would acquire the
art of reading other works besides our ancient folios. Rabbi, will you
teach me?"

"Has Harretzki been putting these new ideas into your head?" asked the
old man.

"No; they were there before he came. You yourself have often told me:
'Study rather to fill your mind than your coffers.' I have some of
Harretzki's books, however, and at night when I cannot sleep I take them
out of my closet and look at them. But they are not in Hebrew and I
cannot read them. Rabbi, I beg of you to teach me."

Rabbi Jeiteles was in a quandary. He hated the bigotry and
narrow-mindedness which forbade the study of any subject but the
time-honored Talmud. He himself had been as anxious as was Mendel to
strive after other knowledge. On the other hand, he bore in mind the
prejudice which the Jews entertained against foreign learning, and he
clearly foresaw the many difficulties which Mendel must encounter if his
desire became known.

"Well, Rabbi, you do not answer," said the boy, inquiringly.

"Bring me your books to-morrow and I will decide."

Mendel seized the preceptor's hand and kissed it rapturously.

"Thanks," he murmured.

Teacher and pupil turned their steps homeward, the one perplexed, the
other overjoyed.

The sun had not fully risen on the morrow, when Mendel, with his
precious books carefully concealed, sought the Rabbi's presence, and the
two withdrew into an inner room, beyond the reach of prying intruders.
The teacher glanced at the titles. They were Mendelssohn's "Phædon," and
Ludwig Philippson's "The Development of the Religious Idea," both
written in German. Mendel did not take his eyes from his teacher; he
could scarcely master his impatience.

"Well, Rabbi," he asked, "of what do they speak?"

"Of things beyond your comprehension," replied the teacher. "The writers
of both these books were good and pious Jews, who, because of their
learning, were branded and ostracized by many of their co-religionists.
Their only sin lay in the use of classical German. You must know that
many hundreds of years ago, our ancestors lived in Germany, and,
mingling with men of other creeds, learned the language of their time.
By and by, persecutions arose and gradually the Jews were driven into
closer quarters and narrower communities. Many emigrated to Poland and
Russia, carrying with them their foreign language, which was little
changed except by the addition of Hebrew--and, in this country, of a few
Russian words--so that what was once a language became a semi-sacred
jargon in which the translations of our holy books were read. When
Mendelssohn began to write in the ordinary German, he was thought to be
ashamed of his fathers' speech and to have abandoned it for that of
their oppressors. Pause before you choose a path which may estrange you
from all you love best."

"Did these men accomplish no good by their writings?"

"Much good, my son; but through much travail."

The more the teacher talked, the more gloomy the picture he drew, the
greater became the enthusiasm of the pupil, the firmer his determination
to emulate the example of the men of whom he now heard for the first
time. The Rabbi at last consented to instruct the boy in the elements of
the Russian and German languages.

While the old man did not for a moment close his eyes to the perils
which his pupil invited by his pursuit of knowledge; while he did not
conceal from himself the fact that his own position would be endangered
if the nature of his teachings was suspected, he was happy in the
thought of having before him a youthful mind, brave to seek truth. Rabbi
Jeiteles was a learned man; his youth had been spent in travel. He had
seen much and read more, and even in the bigoted community in which he
lived he kept abreast of the knowledge of the times.

The first lesson was mastered then and there. It was a hard and tedious
task and progress was necessarily slow, but Mendel possessed two great
essentials to progress, indomitable perseverance and an active
intellect, and his teacher displayed the painstaking care and patience
with which love for his pupil inspired him.

Day by day, Mendel added to his store of knowledge. He was still the
most industrious Talmud scholar of the college; his remarkable aptitude
and zeal for the studies of his fathers was in nowise diminished; but
when the hours at the _jeschiva_ were at an end, instead of returning to
his uncle's home, or of spending his time upon the streets with his
boisterous playmates, he would walk with Rabbi Jeiteles in the fields,
or remain closeted with him, pursuing his investigations in new fields
of knowledge. Nor were his labors at an end when he had retired to his
bed-room. In the still hours of the night, when every noise was hushed
and he deemed himself safe from intrusion, he would rise, silently open
his closet for his carefully concealed volume and creep back to bed.
Then, by the aid of secretly purloined candle ends, he would read hour
after hour, and often the dawn found him still at his books.



CHAPTER XIII.

PERSECUTIONS IN TOGAROG.


The flight of time brings us to the year 1855--the epoch of the Crimean
War.

Ever since the days when Bonaparte was driven from burning Moscow, there
was a popular belief that the Russian soldiery was superior to that of
the western nations. The Emperor Nicholas was a thorough soldier as well
as a tyrant, possessing an enormous and well-equipped army, which he
deemed invincible. This boasted superiority was now to be tested. For
years the Russians had been groaning under heavy taxes. During this
period they had been finding fault with their central government in a
mild, Siberia-fearing manner. To keep them from brooding on their
oppressed condition, visions of glory and conquest were to be opened to
them by a foreign war. As the patriotic enthusiasm and military fervor
increased, the praises of Nicholas were sounded throughout the vast
dominion. "The coming war was regarded by many as a kind of crusade, and
the most exaggerated expectations were entertained of its results. The
old Eastern question was at last to be solved in accordance with Russian
ideals, and Nicholas was about to realize Catherine's grand scheme of
driving the Turks out of Europe. That the enemy could prevent the
accomplishment of these schemes was regarded as impossible. 'We have
only to throw our hats at them,' became a favorite expression."[10]

The greater portion of the army was concentrated at the Southern
extremity of Russia, for it was here that the fleets of the allied
powers would be encountered. Like devastating swarms of locusts the
semi-barbarous warriors descended upon the fertile fields, destroying
all that lay in their path. Great was the misery of the peasantry in
that section of the Empire; greater still the hardships endured by the
Jews, who were despoiled of their possessions and driven from their
homes.

In the village of Togarog the Jewish quarter was exactly as we last saw
it--poverty-stricken and dilapidated. Nothing appeared to be changed in
it except the miserable inhabitants. The Governor of Alexandrovsk
continued to persecute the Jews with relentless ferocity, and the
kidnapping of their children was followed by other acts almost as cruel.
If a Jew was suspected of possessing money, he was forced by the gentle
persuasion of the Governor's men to disgorge. Broken in fortune and in
spirits, the Israelites were indeed in a pitiable plight.

Mordecai Winenki was reduced to dire want. Deprived of the means of
livelihood by the removal of his former pupils, despoiled of his meagre
savings, the reward of years of toil, there was no occupation open to
him but to peddle, the meagre income from which, added to the earnings
of his wife by knitting and sewing for the neighboring peasantry, gave
them a scanty subsistence.

For six days of each week they toiled patiently, saving and scraping to
provide for the holy Sabbath, the celebration of which alone compensated
for days of misfortune and privation. On the Sabbath all work was laid
aside; the dreary room blazed with the lights of many candles; white,
unsullied linen adorned the table; a substantial meal was served, and
joy returned to the oppressed and weary hearts. Then the father and
mother spoke lovingly of the dear ones whom a cruel despotism had torn
from them, and a prayer of thanks was sent to the God of Israel that one
of the boys, at least, was alive and well; for Mendel since his arrival
in Kief had regularly corresponded with his parents, and his progress
and welfare were in a measure a compensation for the trials they had
endured. Of Jacob they had never discovered a trace, and they had long
since believed him dead.

It was the Sabbath eve. Mordecai and his wife were seated in their
humble little room, happy for the time being, in spite of their
deplorable condition. A sudden noise in the street interrupted their
conversation. The narrow Jewish quarter became animated, and a company
of Russian soldiers, led by the Elder of the village and followed by a
group of ragged urchins, marched with martial tread through the crooked
lane.

"Soldiers!" cried Mordecai and his wife, in one breath. "God help us,
they will quarter them on us!"

It was the advance guard of the great army that had entered Togarog.
Before Mordecai and his wife could recover from their fright, the door
opened and half a dozen soldiers entered the room.

"Give us something to eat!" cried one of the men, boisterously, as he
relieved himself of his gun and knapsack. His example was followed by
his comrades.

"We are hungry," said another of the men. "We have had nothing to eat
since five o'clock this morning. Get us our supper!"

"We have nothing to give you," replied Mordecai, trembling. "Why do you
come to us?"

"Not from choice, I can tell you," said a soldier, angrily. "Lots were
cast and we were unlucky enough to be sent here. As we are here,
however, let us make the best of it and see what your larder contains."

"Bah!" said another, as Mordecai did not move; "you can't expect these
people to wait upon us! We must help ourselves," and suiting the action
to the word, he strode to the cupboard and pulled it open.

The harvest was more plentiful than they had anticipated. Cooking, like
all other work, being forbidden on the Sabbath, provisions sufficient
for the holy day were prepared on Friday, and stood temptingly upon the
shelves. In a twinkling the succulent viands were placed upon the table
and quickly devoured by the half-famished soldiers. The repast, however,
failed to satisfy the hunger of these sturdy warriors.

"Come," cried one of them, "what else have you to eat?"

"Nothing," answered Mordecai, sullenly.

"You lie, Jew. Tell us where we may find something to eat."

"You have just eaten all there was in the house," said Mordecai, gulping
down a rising lump in his throat, as he thought of the fast he would
have to endure on the morrow.

"Then give us money that we may buy our own food!" shouted one of the
soldiers.

"I have no money; it is all gone, all gone," said the poor man, sadly.

"Ha! ha! ha! that is a good joke!" retorted the soldier, while his
companions laughed immoderately. "A Jew without money! I'll wager there
is gold and silver in every closet. I know you Jews; you are sly dogs."

"Look for yourselves," cried Mordecai, driven to desperation. "You are
welcome to all the gold and silver you can find."

The soldiers took him at his word and began to ransack the house, while
Mordecai and Leah, paralyzed with fear, great beads of perspiration
starting from their foreheads, sat idly by and watched the work of
destruction. Not an article of furniture was left entire in the wild
search for treasure, which, according to popular belief, every Jew was
supposed to possess. Finding nothing, they bestowed a few resounding
curses upon the inmates of the house, and in sheer desperation wended
their way to the village inn and sought the solace of Basilivitch's
vodka.

Poor Mordecai! Poor Leah! For hours they sat just as the soldiers had
left them, great tears streaming down their pale and haggard faces,
viewing the destruction of their few earthly possessions, the loss of
all they could still call their own. They knew not what course to
pursue, whether to remain or to flee. The unexpected blow appeared to
have robbed them of their faculties; all power of reflection seemed to
have left them, and trembling and groaning they remained where they
were, in fearful expectancy of what might follow.

Towards midnight the soldiers returned. The liberal potations in which
they had indulged had washed away the last semblance of humanity. Food
and money had been the motives of their previous excesses, but on their
return, hunger and cupidity had made way for lust. Mordecai's wife
became the object of their insults, and in the resistance which she and
her husband offered, both were beaten unmercifully. Finally, the
soldiers, overpowered by the close quarters and by the fumes of the
wretched liquor they had imbibed, dropped off, one by one, into a
drunken sleep.

"Let us take what we can, Leah," said the wretched man, after assuring
himself that the soldiers were all fast asleep, "and let us flee."

"We dare carry nothing--we dare not even travel, for this is the
Sabbath," answered Leah, sadly.

Poor Jews! In the midst of sorrow, as in the midst of joy, the behests
of their holy religion are never forgotten.

"Yes, we may travel," replied Mordecai. "It is a matter of more
importance than life and death, and the Talmud authorizes the
desecration of the Sabbath in time of great danger."

"Then let us go at once," whispered Leah.

Hand in hand they left the miserable hut, the place they had for so many
years called home, and wandered out into the world, without a prospect
to cheer them on their desolate way.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 10: Wallace.]



CHAPTER XIV.

A HAPPY PASSOVER.


It is the eve of the Passover feast, the birthday of Israel's
nationality. All is bustle and excitement in the Jewish quarter of Kief.
Kitchen utensils and furniture have been removed from the houses and are
piled up in the streets. Dust rises in clouds, water flows in torrents
through the muddy gutters. Children, banished from the vacant rooms, are
romping and playing, shouting and crying in the lanes. Feather beds and
blankets, clothing and linen are being aired. Within the houses
scourers and scrubbers are cleaning, dusting and white-washing. The
great national house-cleaning is in progress. From closet and cupboard,
dishes and cooking utensils are brought out for their eight days'
service.

To-morrow is _Pesach_ (Passover). An entire nation await with passionate
longing the arrival of this festival and accord it a hospitable welcome.
The man of wealth lavishly displays on this day his gold and silver, his
finely wrought utensils and crystal dishes. The poor man has labored day
and night to save enough to give the guest a worthy reception. The
stranger and the homeless are made welcome at every table, that they,
too, may enjoy, free from care and sorrow, the advent of the _Pesach_.

What yearning, what hopes, what anticipations usher in this feast of
feasts! Winter, with its manifold hardships, is past. Nature awakes from
her frigid lethargy, and the balmy air gives promise of renewed life and
happiness.

The preparations are at length complete. Every nook and corner is
scrupulously clean; all _chometz_ (leaven) has been banished from the
house; even the children have carefully emptied their pockets of stray
crumbs. The round and tempting _matzoth_ (Passover bread) have been
baked--the guest is at the door!

In the dining-room of Hirsch Bensef sat a goodly circle of friends at
the _seder_ (services conducted on the eve of Passover). The lamps shone
brightly, and the lights in the silver candelabra threw their sheen upon
the sumptuously set table, with its white embroidered cloth and its
artistic dishes and goblets. At the head of the table stood a sofa
covered with rich hangings and soft pillows, a veritable throne, upon
which sat the king of the family, clad in snow-white attire. In the
midst of richly-robed guests, surrounded by an almost oriental luxury,
the master of the house had donned his shroud. It is a custom akin to
that of the ancient Egyptians, who brought the mummies of their
ancestors to the festive board, that in the excess of carnal enjoyment
they might not forget the grim reaper, Death. Upon the table stood a
plate of _mitzvoth_ (a thicker kind of _matzoth_ prepared specially for
the _seder_), covered with a napkin, and upon this were placed a number
of tiny silver dishes containing an egg, horseradish, the bone of a
lamb, lettuce and a mixture of raisins and spices--all symbolical of
ancient rites. Before each guest there stood a silver wine cup, to be
refilled three times in the course of the evening. In the centre of the
table stood the goblet of wine for _Elijahu Hanovi_ (the Prophet
Elijah), the hero of a thousand legends, and the fondly expected
forerunner of the redemption of Israel and the coming of the Messiah. By
each plate was a copy of _Hagada_, the order of service for the evening.
It is a book of facts and fancies, containing a recital of Israel's
trials in Egypt; of its deliverance from the house of bondage; of its
wanderings in the desert, and the sayings of Israel's wise men--a
mixture of Bible stories, myths and prayers.

Contentment, peace and joy were plainly written upon the faces of the
participants. The terrors of persecution were forgotten in the
recollection of the miraculous deliverance of the Jews from their
Egyptian task-masters. Reb Hirsch Bensef having pronounced a short
blessing over the wine, pointed solemnly to the plate of unleavened
bread before him.

"See," he said, "this is the bread your fathers ate in _Mizraim_. He
that hungers let him partake of it, he that is in need let him eat and
be satisfied."

As though in response to the hospitable invitation, there came a soft
rap at the door. Mendel opened it and the bright light revealed a man
and a woman, whose haggard faces and tattered garments presented the
very picture of misery.

"Father! Mother!" Mendel cried, joyfully. "God be praised!" and he threw
himself into the arms of his father.

With a single impulse the entire company arose and welcomed the
unexpected guests. Mordecai and his wife had travelled on foot from
Togarog to Kief, and, after terrible hardships, had arrived in time for
the Passover. Great was the pleasure at their unlooked-for appearance,
and as they hastened to tell the story of their sorrows and wanderings,
sincere was the joy at their providential escape and the safe
termination of their journey. All Israel is one family, and had the
wanderers been in nowise related to Bensef, their reception would have
been equally cordial and sincere.

A short time sufficed to remove the last traces of their terrible
journey and to clothe them in the best that the wardrobe of their hosts
afforded. Two more plates were set, two more goblets of wine were served
and the ceremonies were continued.

So excited was Mendel over the arrival of his parents that he could
scarcely compose himself sufficiently to follow the _seder_ and ask the
conventional question concerning the significance of the _Pesach_
festival. In reply, the head of the house recited from his _Hagada_ how
the Lord punished Pharaoh for his obduracy, how the children of Israel
were eventually led from captivity, how the Red Sea was divided that
the chosen people might traverse its bed while the Egyptian perished
miserably, and how the Lord conducted his people safely through the
wilderness to the promised land. Then followed praise and thanksgiving,
the _Hagadas_ were pushed aside and feasting followed, continuing far
into the night.

The woes and adventures of Mordecai and his wife elicited the hearty
sympathy of their hearers, and the enjoyment of the evening was greatly
enhanced by the knowledge that the dear ones were, for the present at
least, safe from persecution.

The quiet dignity which had distinguished Mendel since he had become a
student vanished. He became a child again, embracing and caressing his
parents, weeping at their sorrows, laughing over their deliverance, and
asking a thousand questions without waiting for replies.

It was decided that for the present the fugitives should remain with
Bensef as his guests.

At the conclusion of the meal, the _Hagadas_ were again taken up, and to
the prayers of thanksgiving was added a prayer for the welfare of that
little soul that was lost to Israel, the missing child Jacob.



CHAPTER XV.

TWO LOVING HEARTS.


The Crimean War had reached its disastrous conclusion. Russia had
suffered ignominious defeat, the allies were successful in the Black
Sea, and the despised Turks had shown a bold front along the Danube. It
was evident that the military organization was as corrupt as the civil
administration, that fraud and dishonesty were prevalent and neutralized
the bravery of the troops.

"Another year of war and the whole of Southern Russia will be ruined,"
so wrote a patriot of 1855.

Under this great humiliation, the people suddenly awoke from their
lethargy. The system of Nicholas had been put to the test and found
wanting. The Government believed that it could accomplish everything by
its own inherent wisdom and superiority, and had shown itself wofully
incompetent. Dissatisfaction was deep and widespread. Philippics and
satires appeared, and reforms were so boldly demanded that the Czar
could not close his ears to the universal clamor. In the midst of
disasters abroad and dissatisfaction at home, Nicholas died, and was
succeeded by his son, a man of very different type.

The new monarch was well aware of the existing abuses, many of which had
been carefully concealed from Nicholas by his obsequious counsellors. As
heir-apparent he had held aloof from public affairs, and was therefore
free from pledges of any kind; yet, while he allowed popular ideas and
aspirations to find free utterance, he did not commit himself to any
definite policy.

To Alexander, the Russians, Jew and gentile, now looked for relief.
There were many abuses to correct and oppressive laws to repeal, and the
public heart beat high with hope at the prospect of reforms. He repealed
the laws limiting the number of students at each university; he reduced
the excessive fees for passports; he moderated the rigorous censorship
of the press, and, in fact, the Czar's acts justified the hopes of his
subjects. Hundreds of new journals sprang into existence. He introduced
reforms into the civil and military administrations, and, best of all,
he created the _semstvos_ or town assemblies of the people.

To the Jews, Alexander was particularly gracious. He removed many of the
restrictions imposed by his predecessor. The stringent laws limiting the
number of marriages in a community were moderated. In some few instances
their quarters were enlarged, and an order was issued restoring to their
parents all children that had been forcibly taken from them during the
reign of the old Czar.

What rejoicing was there in Israel! How many families, separated by the
inhuman decrees of Nicholas, were now reunited! Every home was gladdened
either by the restoration of some beloved son, or in sympathy with the
general rejoicing. One family in Kief waited in vain, however, for the
return of a missing child. It was hoped by Mordecai that under the
general amnesty Jacob, if indeed he were still living, would be allowed
to return; but there were no tidings of him, and the conviction that he
had met his death was strengthened.

A new and promising era opened for the oppressed and persecuted Hebrews.
It appeared as if their patient resignation under adverse circumstances
would eventually be rewarded by the concession of equal rights with
their fellow-men. To be sure, all persecution did not cease. The badge
of disgrace was still worn by every male Jew, the owning of land and the
following of many trades was still forbidden. The Jew was still the
object of derision throughout the Empire; he was still judged by a
severer code of justice than were his gentile neighbors; the entire race
was still held responsible for the crime of the individual. But active
hostilities ceased and the Hebrews rejoiced thereat.

Mendel continued his studies, and in the course of a few years his fame
spread from _jeschiva_ to _jeschiva_, from congregation to congregation.
By the time that he was twenty-one years of age, he had published a book
in Hebrew, which, while it respected the religious sentiment of his
people, paved the way for assimilating the modern knowledge. The work
created a profound impression. The chief synagogues of Moscow and of
Warsaw invited him to take up his residence with them. His reply was
that as his parents resided in Kief, he preferred to remain there.

There was another attraction in Kief more powerful than that exercised
by his parents, more potent to keep the young philosopher in the city of
his adoption. Mendel was in love. His heart, schooled in the wisdom of
many nations, had surrendered unconditionally to the charm of Recha, the
beautiful dark-eyed daughter of Rabbi Jeiteles. Recha was rapidly
nearing her seventeenth year and each month, nay each day, added to her
charms. Like most girls of her ancient race, she was well developed for
her years, and her symmetrical figure, lustrous eyes and raven tresses
presented a picture of oriental beauty, whose peer did not exist among
the Slavonic types that lived and loved round about her. So at least
thought Mendel, and so thought a score of enamored youths beside.
Recha's beauty was by no means her chief attraction. The graces of her
mind and heart were in keeping with her lovely exterior. From her father
she had acquired learning, wit and wisdom, and from her mother charm of
manner and gentle ways.

The student's affection for the girl into whose society he was daily
thrown, exercised great influence in holding him to the path of duty. To
become worthy of such a treasure was his one desire. All that was best
and brightest in his soul was aroused when he thought of Recha. It was
she that inspired him, and his mind appeared more active when he thought
of her. She was the beacon that guided his steps through the difficult
paths of learning. Nor was his love unrequited. Young, handsome,
intelligent beyond the generality of Jewish youth, Mendel was to Recha
the embodiment of all that was good and noble.

No word of love had ever passed Mendel's lips, and yet there was a
sympathetic understanding between them; they found a paradise in each
other's society. Recha had not a few admirers. Go where she would, she
found herself surrounded by willing slaves, who at the slightest
encouragement would have thrown themselves at her feet. In vain were
_schadchens_ employed by many of the wealthy and influential Jewish
residents in Kief to seek the hand of Jeiteles' lovely daughter in
marriage. But Recha had neither eyes nor ears for any of them.

One evening Mendel entered the Rabbi's house in unusual haste, his face
wearing an expression of mingled doubt and hope.

The Rabbi and his wife were absent. Recha observing his perturbation,
asked eagerly:

"Has anything happened?"

"Here, Recha, read this letter."

Recha read the missive which Mendel handed to her. It was a flattering
invitation from the congregation of Odessa. "Our Rabbi is old and
infirm," stated the letter, "and desires a staff in his declining years.
Your reputation as a scholar has reached our people and we would
consider it an honor to have you with us."

As Recha read, she turned deadly pale and the paper almost fell from her
hands.

"What will you do?" she faltered at length, while the great tears stood
in her eyes.

Mendel's heart throbbed with wild delight as he saw her evident emotion,
and her eyes fell under his ardent gaze. Seizing her hand, he asked, in
a low voice:

"What would you have me do?"

Recha gazed fondly into Mendel's eyes, and said:

"I should be very unhappy if you left home. What would my father do
without you? Think of the void it would create in the lives of your
parents and of your uncle. What would the congregation do without you,
whom they already regard as an oracle? Stay with us in Kief."

"God bless you, my dear," replied the young man, fervently. "I will
remain; I shall never leave this place unless you go with me as my
wife."

It was simple and unromantic.

The lovers, happy and contented, sat side by side, discussing their
roseate future, and when the Rabbi and his wife returned, the young
folks advanced to meet them.

"Rabbi," said the student, bravely, "Recha has promised to be my wife."

"_Mazal tov_," ejaculated both Jeiteles and his wife. "May the Lord of
Israel bless you."

The messenger from Odessa was dismissed with a negative reply.

There was a merry gathering the following Saturday afternoon to
congratulate the betrothed couple. Sincere were the wishes for their
future happiness that were showered upon them. It is a characteristic of
Israelites the world over to feel a lively interest in whatever befalls
their co-religionists, high or low. "Despised and rejected" by their
gentile neighbors, they sought for consolation and found it in the
society of their own kin, and thus arose this sympathy, this love for
one another which has so strongly cemented the hearts of the Jews.

"Clannish" has been hurled at them as a term of reproach. So are the
frightened sheep clannish when they huddle together in the shelterless
field, for protection against the blasts of the pitiless storm.

The interval between the betrothal and the wedding is usually short, and
the happy day that made Mendel and Recha man and wife was not long in
coming.

"I have a request to make," said the student to the Rabbi, a few days
before the all-important event took place.

"Name it, my son," replied the Rabbi.

"I do not wish Recha to have her hair cut off. Her tresses are her
crowning beauty, and it would grieve me to the heart to see her shorn of
them."

The Rabbi shrugged his shoulders and uttered a short ejaculation of
surprise.

"A breach of so old a custom," said he, "will be looked upon by the
whole congregation as impiety."

"I know," replied Mendel, "but in this instance, I must brave their
displeasure."

"But," said the Rabbi, still hesitating, "if--God forbid--your wife
should meet with any misfortune, it would be attributed to the anger of
God at this innovation."

"I must do what I think is right," replied Mendel, "and if the example
of Recha induces others to disobey an offensive and obnoxious
injunction, the people will be the gainers."

After much deliberation, the Rabbi and his wife at last consented. Not
so easily, however, were the rest of the congregation reconciled.

We will anticipate a little to remark that there was no calamity in the
course of Mendel's conjugal experience, which could be traced to Recha's
luxuriant hair.

Great were the preparations with which the happy day was ushered in.

The closely veiled bride, supported by her mother and aunt, was
conducted into the room in a shower of barley, and was led to the
supremely happy groom, who, arrayed in cap and gown and wearing a
praying scarf, stood ready to receive her. Seven times the maiden
encircled her future husband and then took her position at his side,
after which the father of the _kalle_ (bride) began the important
services. Holding a goblet of wine in his right hand, he invoked God's
blessing with the tenderness of a loving father and the solemnity of a
priest. Short and impressive was the chanted prayer. The couple sipped
the wine, the ring was placed on the bride's finger, the words uttered,
a glass broken into fragments under the heel of the groom, prayers were
recited by the Rabbi, and the religious ceremony was at an end. Then
followed the congratulations of the friends, the good-natured pushing of
the assembled guests in their eagerness to kiss the bride or shake the
radiant groom by the hand. A bounteous feast closed the festivities.
Mendel and Recha were bound to each other by indissoluble ties.

The newly wedded pair took up their residence with Rabbi Jeiteles, whose
advanced age incapacitated him at times from attending to the onerous
duties of his office. Mendel was ever at his side as a helper, until he
grew into the office. Despite the honors showered upon him he remained
the modest, unassuming, amiable young man, whom flattery could not
affect nor pleasure lure from the course of strict duty.

When at the end of a year Recha presented him with a little girl-baby,
which they called Kathinka, he was the happiest man on the face of the
earth.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE CHOLERA AND ITS VICTIMS.


A new danger threatened our friends. Scarcely had the fanatical Russian
given the Jews a brief respite from persecution, when Nature seized the
rod and wielded it with relentless hand, smiting Jew and gentile, the
pious and the ungodly, with equal severity. The cholera had broken out
in Central Russia and its devastations were terrible beyond description.
The country from Kief to Odessa was as one vast charnel-house. As has
always been the case during epidemics, the Jews suffered less from the
ravages of the disease than did their gentile neighbors. The strict
dietary laws which excluded everything not absolutely fresh and clean,
the frequent ablutions which the religious rites demanded of the Jews
and their freedom from all enervating excesses, bore excellent results
in a diminished mortality. Nevertheless, many a victim was hurried to an
untimely grave, many a family sat in sackcloth and ashes for a departed
member.

Amid the general consternation caused by the rapid spread of the plague,
the _feldshers_ were unceremoniously relegated to the background. Their
surgery was practically useless and their drugs proved powerless to
stay the disease. The _snakharkas_, on the other hand, prospered
greatly. Superstition flourished; prayers, sacrifices, incantations,
magical rites, exorcisms, were invoked to allay the evil. The _moujiks_
called frantically upon the saints for assistance, and then deliberately
frustrated any relief these might have afforded by committing frightful
excesses. Many a saint fell into temporary disfavor by his apparent
indifference to the sufferings of his devotees.

The priests invented new ceremonials and each village had its own
peculiar method of appeasing divine wrath. In Kief, the disease had
taken a particularly virulent form. The filthy Dnieper, contaminated by
the reeking sewerage of the city, was in a great measure to blame for
the rapid spread of the disorder, but to have advanced such a theory
would have been useless; the ignorant inhabitants ascribed the scourge
to any source but the true one. At one time the _feldshers_ were accused
of having propagated the plague for their own pecuniary benefit, and the
excited populace threw a number of doctors out of the windows of a
hospital and otherwise maltreated the poor practitioners who fell into
their clutches.

In Kanief, the inhabitants, crazed with fear at the progress of the
plague, adopted an original and ingenious method to check it. At
midnight, according to a preconcerted plan, all the maidens of the
village met on the outskirts of the place and formed in picturesque
procession. At the head marched a girl bearing an icon of the Madonna,
gaudily painted and bedecked with jewels. Behind her came her
companions, dragging a rope to which was attached a plow. In this order
they made the circuit of the village, and it was confidently believed
that the cholera would disappear within the magical circle thus
described.[11]

Many and equally ingenious were the devices employed in Kief by the
ignorant peasants. A wonder-working icon was brought from St.
Petersburg, where, according to tradition, it had performed many
miracles. Yet the plague continued, fed by the ignorance and
intemperance of the people.

Surrounded by such dense superstition, it is not strange that the Jews,
too, should resort to absurd rites to rid themselves of the dreaded
guest. The poorer classes, living in the lower portions of the quarter,
were the chief sufferers. There, where a dozen half-starved wretches
were crowded into one small room, the plague was at its height. A
hundred souls had already succumbed and the list of victims was growing
daily. Alas! the misery of the stricken families! Deprived of medical
attendance, of drugs, of fresh air, there appeared little hope for the
denizens of the infected district.

The busiest man during these troublous times was Itzig Maier, the
beadle, whose acquaintance we have already made as the messenger sent by
Bensef to the _bal-shem_ at Tchernigof. The condition of Itzig and his
family had not improved since we last saw him. The little fortune which,
if gossip spoke truly, he had acquired by his adroit manoeuvring at
that time, had been dissipated; his family had grown larger and was a
constant drain upon his meagre resources, while his income appeared to
diminish as his expenses increased. Besides, Itzig had a daughter who
was now of a marriageable age, and he was obliged to toil and save to
provide a dowry. Beile was unattractive and uninteresting, and Itzig did
not conceal from himself the fact that without a dowry it might prove
difficult to bring her under the _chuppe_.

Of late Itzig had had little time to think of his family. In the house
and in the hovel, wherever the cholera had knocked for admittance, there
was Itzig Maier, performing his duties with an unfailing
regularity--preparing the shrouds, attiring the dead and comforting the
mourners--all unmindful that he might be the next victim. His services
were in constant demand and money was actually pouring in upon him.

The first to visit, aid and counsel the stricken community was Rabbi
Jeiteles, whose unselfish devotion to duty led him from house to house,
administering simple remedies to the suffering, closing the eyes of the
dead and consoling the grieving survivors. He knew no fear, no
hesitation. To his wife's anxious words of warning he had but one reply,
"We are all in God's hands."

Earnestly he went about his work, conscious of his danger, yet putting
all thought of self aside until he, too, fell a victim to the dread
destroyer.

One day, while performing the last sad rites over a dead child, he was
stricken, and before he could be removed to his home he had breathed his
last.

Great was the grief in the Jewish community in Kief. From one end of the
quarter to the other the inhabitants mourned for thirty days, bewailing
the death of their beloved Rabbi, as though each household had lost a
revered parent.

The plague continued its ravages, and the people in their wild terror
resorted to the _bal-shem_ for amulets and talismans. On every door
could be read the inscription, "Not at home." But the cholera would not
be put off by so flimsy a device and entered unbidden. Even the death of
a grave-digger did not stay the dread disease, although it had been
prophesied that such an event would end the trouble. The cabalistic
books were ransacked for charms and mystic signs with which to resist
the power of the conqueror, but all in vain.

One morning Itzig ran as fast as his shuffling legs would bear him, up
the dirty lane that led to his abode, and fell rather than walked into
the low door that led into his hut. His wife was engaged in washing a
baby--the seventh--and Beile, an ill-favored, sallow-complexioned girl,
sat at the window sewing.

"Jentele," cried Itzig, sinking into a chair, "God has been good to us!"

"Have you just found that out?" asked his wife, petulantly. "What is the
matter? Have you come into a fortune?"

"Beile, leave the room," said Itzig.

"Why, father?"

"Leave the room! I want to talk to your mother."

Beile put away her work and walked out into the lane.

"Rejoice with me, Jentele," said the delighted husband, as he rubbed his
shrivelled hands. "Beile is a _kalle_; she will marry to-morrow."

"Has anybody fallen in love with her?" asked the mother.

"No; but she will marry all the same."

"Well, speak out, man! You kill one with suspense."

"Do you know Reb Bensef, our _parnas_?"

"Yes; but what has he to do with our Beile?"

"Reb Bensef being very much distressed by the death of Rabbi Jeiteles,
went to Tchernigof to ask counsel of the _bal-shem_ and has just
returned."

"Well, what did the wise man advise?" asked Jentele, burning with
impatience, while her partially washed baby lay kicking in her arms.

"Listen, I am coming to that," answered Itzig, with provoking slowness.
"He said that if a poor man would marry an equally poor girl, under a
_chuppe_ erected in the cemetery between two newly made graves, God's
anger would be appeased and the scourge would end. To-day Bensef sought
me out. 'Itzig,' he said, 'you have a daughter. I know a husband for
her. I will give an outfit to both bride and groom and provide them with
money to last a year, if you will consent to their marrying in the
cemetery.' What do you think of it?"

"Who is the young man?" queried Jentele, her face expressing neither
pleasure nor pain.

"You know the _jeschiva_ student, Kahn?"

"He is poor, very poor, indeed."

"What is that to us? Reb Bensef will provide clothing and money for a
whole year."

"And when that is all gone?" queried his wife, resuming operations upon
the baby.

"Then God will provide. Did we have more when we married?"

"It is an opportunity of a life-time," mused Jentele, looking at her
parched and yellow better-half. "Do as you think best."

Armed with the support of his wife and without consulting his daughter,
whose voice in a matter of such minor importance seemed to him
unnecessary, Itzig hastened to Bensef's house and expressed his consent
to the arrangement. Together the worthies went to the synagogue, where
the unsuspecting Kahn was engaged in prayer. A few words sufficed to
explain the situation. Kahn looked timidly at Bensef, then upon the
ground; finally, he shrugged his shoulders and signified his readiness
to be led to the altar. It mattered not to him what disposition they
made of him. He was poor and without prospects and could never hope to
support a wife by his own exertions. The way was now made easy. Besides,
in thus sacrificing himself for the extinction of the plague he was
doing a _mitzva_ (a good deed) in the sight of the Lord. To refuse was
out of the question. The young man was led in triumph to Itzig's house
and introduced to his future wife, who heard of the arrangement for the
first time and evinced neither pleasure nor dissatisfaction.

The betrothal was duly announced and hasty preparations made for the
coming ceremony, since delay meant new victims to the plague.

Mendel strove with all his eloquence to prevent the carrying out of this
monstrous purpose. Every fibre within him revolted at such folly, and he
hurried from house to house, entreating the most influential members of
the congregation to aid him in opposing it. But the scourge spoke more
eloquently than did the young Rabbi--the people listened to him but
shook their heads. Many who doubted the efficacy of the plan, lacked the
moral courage to oppose an act which met with the approval of the
greater portion of the community.

"Every means should be employed to prevent the disease from doing
further mischief," argued some. "We have vainly tried everything else,
let us try this. God may at last listen to our prayers."

"The _bal-shem_ has commanded it; it is sure to prove successful," said
others.

After a day spent in earnest but ineffectual arguments, Mendel saw that
his endeavors in this direction were futile, and concluding that further
interference would be useless, he sorrowfully wended his way homeward.

The sun shone fiercely on the morrow upon a desolate landscape. All
nature appeared to be under the ban of the plague. The leaves upon the
trees were sere and withered, the brooks were dry and the birds had long
since hushed their melody. The highways were deserted, save where at
intervals a solemn funeral train carried the dead to a final
resting-place.

A strange procession wended its way to the Jewish cemetery. It was not a
funeral, although from the tears and lamentations of those who took part
in it, it might have been mistaken for one. Young and old, men and
women, all in whom superstition still dwelt, followed the cortege to the
field of death and accompanied the bride and bridegroom to the
improvised altar. Thanks to the generosity of Bensef, Beile was richly
attired, and the groom in spite of his poverty was neatly clad. They
walked hand in hand, happy in the consciousness that they were
performing a service to humanity. As the grotesque train entered the
burial-ground the lamentations became louder at the sight of the scores
of newly-made graves. The bride and groom lost their happy look, for a
stern and terrible reality confronted them. The _chuppe_ had been
erected between two freshly-dug graves. The people ceased their wailing
and became as silent as the awful place in which they stood.

Mendel, who had been requested to tie the solemn knot, had refused to do
so and had absented himself. The ceremony was, therefore, performed by
the Rabbi of another congregation, who hurried through the short service
with almost eager haste. Jentele kissed the weeping bride, Itzig
embraced his son-in-law.

Suddenly the father tottered and with a moan fell to the ground. His
face became livid, his eyes sank in their sockets, his blue lips
frothed, and his whole body shook with agony.

"The cholera! the cholera!" shouted those nearest him, and while many
fled for their lives, a dozen willing hands lifted up the prostrate
beadle and endeavored by every means in their power to restore him to
consciousness. In vain were all their ministrations, in vain their
prayers and exhortations. For a short while Itzig suffered intense
agony, then his shrunken form became rigid, his head fell back, his
homely and shrivelled features relaxed into a hideous grin, and the
unfortunate beadle travelled the way of the hundreds he had in his time
borne to this very spot.[12]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 11: Wallace, p. 78.]



CHAPTER XVII.

COMMON-SENSE VS. SUPERSTITION.


In spite of the sacrifice, in spite of the fanaticism of the gentiles
and the equally great superstition of the Jews, the plague continued
with unabated violence. But few families in Kief had been spared a visit
from the dread reaper.

On the Sabbath following the events just narrated, the Israelites went
to their places of worship as usual, and ardent prayers for deliverance
ascended to the Almighty. Mendel, notwithstanding his youth, officiated
in the place of the departed Rabbi Jeiteles, and on this occasion he
formally entered upon the duties of his honorable office.

Sermons, as we understand them, were not in vogue among the Russian
Jews, and lectures in the synagogue on topics unconnected with religion
or morality had not been dreamed of. Jeiteles would at times discourse
upon some knotty point in the _Torah_, and on the more important
holidays expound the meaning of certain ceremonials. When Mendel
ascended the pulpit, the stricken congregation, with hushed and eager
expectation, awaited his words.

Mendel began by alluding to the sad demise of the beloved Rabbi. He
spoke of his great heart, of his benevolence and wisdom, and as his
powerful and sympathetic voice rang through the vast synagogue, few were
the eyes that were not suffused with tears.

"Friends," he continued, "in an epidemic such as is at present raging in
our midst, our thoughts are naturally directed to _Adonai_, and we
implore His mercy. If such a misfortune tends to turn our prayers
heavenward, to arouse our humanity towards our suffering fellow-men,
then indeed the evil may become a blessing in disguise. But if you lay
the blame of your misfortunes to God alone, and believe that He inflicts
His creatures with disease because He is angry with the world, you
degrade the Lord into an angry, revengeful Being of human type, instead
of the grand and supreme _Adonai Echod_ whom our forefathers worshipped.

"The many absurd observances of which you have been guilty, and which
culminated in the marriage at the cemetery, are blasphemous. I will tell
you why. If God has really sent this trouble, it is done for a wise
purpose, and God will know when to remove the infliction without such
barbaric ceremonies to propitiate Him. If, on the other hand, your own
negligence of the laws of health is to blame, then absurd rites, even
though sanctioned by a wonder-working Rabbi of some distant city, are of
no avail; but the only effective way to terminate the trouble is to
investigate our way of living, and to correct whatever we find
prejudicial to our well-being."

That this new and hitherto unheard-of doctrine should cause a profound
sensation was but natural. A murmur through the audience showed plainly
that sentiment was divided upon the subject. Mendel, disregarding the
interruption, continued. In clear and concise terms he pointed out the
historical fact that throughout all the epidemics of the past, Israel,
by the perfection of her sanitary laws, enjoyed almost an immunity from
disease. He hurriedly enumerated the many excellent Mosaic laws
concerning diet and cleanliness, and endeavored to show that the ablest
physicians of modern times could not improve upon these commands. Then
he spoke of the recent discoveries by the German doctors, and the
promulgation of the new theory that contagious diseases were due to the
existence of germs which could only be exterminated by certain
well-defined means, prominent among which was cleanliness. While he
spoke his audience hung breathlessly upon his words, and, as they gazed
upon the inspired countenance of the young man, they felt that he
expounded the truth, and they believed in him.

"And now, my friends," continued Mendel, "let us drop superstition and
substitute common-sense. Let us show our gentile neighbors that we can
combat this epidemic with intelligence. In the first place, let us
determine upon some well-defined plan. Let us organize. With unity of
purpose much can be accomplished. The greatest danger of the disease
lies in its contagious nature. Our first duty, therefore, is to isolate
those who are sick. In this way the spreading of the plague may be
checked. There is nothing new in this plan. Moses commanded that all
persons suffering with infectious diseases should be placed outside of
the camp of Israel. That you have not already resorted to this means
shows rather a kind heart than a quick wit.

"You have doubtless observed that those living upon the swampy ground
near the river mourn a greater number of departed than those dwelling
further inland. That locality must, therefore, exercise a prejudicial
influence upon the health of the people. It is here that the poor and
destitute live. Let us care for them. Let the more wealthy and more
fortunate families take into their houses those to whom Providence has
been less bountiful. You whose daily business takes you to the hovels of
the poor, know how wretched and filthy they are, how even the healthy
can scarcely bear the foulness of their atmosphere. How great must be
the power of such pest-holes to extend the plague when once it finds a
foothold there! Let us tear down those hovels. There are enough rich men
among you to build new and better houses. You have heard that many have
become ill through drinking the water from the wells. Water you must
drink; but a German doctor tells us that heat will kill the germs of
disease. Let us, therefore, boil all the water we drink and diminish the
tendency to sickness in that way. Finally, it is necessary to avoid all
excesses, to live temperately, to observe strict cleanliness. Thus you
may cheat the plague of a great number of victims. God sends the good,
my friends, but we bring the evil upon ourselves. This evening I shall
be pleased to see at my house all those who are willing to devote their
time and money to the great cause, and we will there discuss the ways
and means of driving out the cholera, and thus avenging the death of our
beloved and regretted Rabbi Jeiteles."

Such enthusiasm as greeted the speaker when he descended from the pulpit
had never been known in the synagogue. His manner as well as his words,
his beauty and imposing presence as well as his profound and magnetic
intellect, had carried the hearts of his auditors. The men clasped him
warmly by the hand and promised their co-operation, and the women in the
gallery gave vent to their approval in a no less hearty manner. When the
Sabbath service came to a close, the only sentiment among the members of
the congregation was in favor of immediate action.

The news of the sermon spread rapidly through the community, and the
other congregations became interested and promised their support.

The young Rabbi still lived with his mother-in-law, and a large company
assembled at the house to carry out the plans suggested by him that
morning. The meeting included all the wealthy and influential men of the
quarter, and they entered into the spirit of the new ideas with as much
enthusiasm as they had displayed in the superstitious observances of a
few days before. Those willing to take an active part in the great
hygienic work were divided by Mendel into committees, one of which was
to undertake the arduous work of isolation and of providing willing and
capable nurses to wait upon the sick; another to superintend the
disinfection or removal of the wretched hovels in the lower portion of
the Jewish quarter; a third to visit the families into which the scourge
had already forced an entrance, and inculcate such lessons of
cleanliness as would materially lessen the chances of further contagion.

Mendel placed himself at the head of all these bodies, so that he might
the better direct their actions. He then explained to them in detail the
various theories that had been advanced throughout the civilized world
as to the cause of the cholera and the methods employed in western
countries to combat the disease. He had read much and his powerful
memory had retained all that was useful and important, and he spoke with
such decision that all those pious men, among whom any delving outside
of the sacred limits of the Talmud was strictly prohibited, now
listened, in open-mouthed wonder, to the instruction of their youthful
sage without once demanding whence he had obtained his knowledge. It
sufficed them to know that they now possessed a tangible weapon with
which to fight their dreaded enemy, and they were ready to follow their
leader wherever he chose to conduct them.

The great work was begun without delay. Before undertaking it, however,
it was necessary to obtain the Governor's consent to the improvements,
and to Mendel fell the task of calling upon the mighty man at his
palace.

When Alexander II. ascended his father's throne, his first important act
was to appoint new Governors of the various provinces, for it was a
notorious fact that the heads of these departments were as a rule
totally unfit to direct the affairs with which they were entrusted. He
replaced the old and corrupt Governors by young and vigorous men,
heartily in accord with his ideas of reform. General Pomeroff, a friend
and stanch admirer of the Emperor while he was still Czarewitch, was
selected to govern the influential province of Kief. Pomeroff was a
strikingly handsome man, progressive in his views, humane in the
treatment of his subordinates, quick to perceive merit where it existed
and anxious to assist in any work which promised to redound to the
credit of his province. With this man Mendel sought an interview. It was
with difficulty that he gained admittance to the presence of the august
ruler, into whose sanctum no Jew had yet entered, but after a long delay
he succeeded in meeting the Governor face to face.

"Your excellency," said Mendel, in a quiet and dignified manner,
speaking in perfect Russian, "I come to seek your assistance in a matter
of great importance to a large class of your subjects."

The Governor, surprised as much by the purity of language as by the
temerity of the Jew, looked at the young man, scrutinizingly, for some
moments.

"What do you wish?" he asked, at length. "Make your application short,
for I have much to do."

Mendel unfolded his views briefly to the astonished Governor. He
expressed his desire to rid the Jewish quarter as far as practicable
from the effects of the plague.

"The cholera has almost run its course," he said, "and while our efforts
might have been impotent to check its ravages during its early course,
they may serve to prevent its further spread and to diminish the number
of its victims. We are amply provided with willing hands and with the
necessary money, but we desire your excellency's sanction, and your
permission to remove those hovels from our quarter which are dangerous
to the general health of its inhabitants."

Governor Pomeroff had arisen and was striding up and down his apartment.
When Mendel concluded, he stopped and held out his hand.

"Give me your hand," he said; "you are a man after my own heart. Go on
with your work, and I will give instructions that no one shall interfere
with you. If you need assistance, call upon me and I will do what I can
for you."

"I thank your excellency," replied Mendel, overjoyed, "but your
good-will is all we ask. The cholera is a frightful evil, and if we
succeed in lessening its ravages we shall be well repaid for our
trouble."

"I expect you to come and report to me from time to time," said the
Governor, so far forgetting his dignity as to accompany the Jew to the
door.

Mendel bowed and left the apartment. In the ante-room, a number of
servants had collected, and no sooner did the young man appear than they
began to banter and annoy him. It was perfectly legitimate for the serfs
to derive as much amusement from the Jews as possible.

"Here comes the Jew," cried one, "and by the Holy St. Peter he is still
alive."

"Well, Jew," said another, seizing Mendel by the beard; "by what charms
did you force your way into the Governor's presence? Impudence is a
great characteristic of your race."

At that moment the door opened and Governor Pomeroff appeared at the
threshold.

He severely rebuked the astonished servants for their rude behavior,
apologized to Mendel for the indignities he had been obliged to endure,
and sent a guard with him to conduct him to his home.

The Rabbi returned to his people with a light and happy heart. He had
been more than successful, for he had gained a friend in the Governor,
and his mind lost itself in visions of the good this powerful ally would
enable him to effect.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 12: Herzberg-Fraenkel's "Polnische Juden" cites a similar
incident.]



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE GOVERNOR'S PROJECT.


Great were the energy and zeal which the Hebrew community of Kief
displayed in carrying out the plans of their young Rabbi. Mendel himself
led them on with an ardor that knew no abatement. He visited the most
dangerous pest-holes, helped to move the sick, brought relief and
consolation to the suffering and bereaved, while ever at his side was
his wife, Recha. Her devotion to the cause was only second to the love
she bore her husband. Undaunted by the awful fate that had befallen her
father, she followed Mendel into the thickest of the danger and like a
ministering angel brought comfort and relief. Their example was
contagious. Young and old, male and female, vied with one another in
doing good and in mitigating suffering. The superstitious dread with
which they had formerly regarded the disease had disappeared and with it
much of the danger which fear or an over-wrought imagination causes. A
large building was secured and fitted up as a hospital. Thither the sick
were conveyed and there kept in strict quarantine. It was not difficult
to find nurses among those who had already had the disease, when told
that they need not fear its recurrence.

Many of the miserable dwellings of the poor were demolished and the
ground cleansed and fumigated, their former inhabitants in the meanwhile
finding ample accommodations in the synagogues or in the houses of the
wealthy. There was not a family of well-to-do Jews that did not harbor a
number of those who were thus summarily deprived of shelter. Every well
which might have become contaminated was filled up with earth and stone,
and strict injunctions were issued to use no water that had not been
thoroughly boiled. The schools were temporarily closed to avoid the
danger of infection, exercise in the fields was recommended, and so well
were all these regulations observed that at the end of six weeks the
Jewish quarter was practically free from the disease, while the grim
monster still raged among the families of the less prudent gentiles.
Then the work of reconstructing what had been demolished was taken up.
Thanks to the offerings of Hirsch Bensef and his friends, money was not
lacking and willing hands were found to supply the necessary manual
labor. Where wretched huts and unpainted hovels had offended the eye,
unpretentious but clean and comfortable dwellings now were seen. The
lower portion of the town had been entirely remodelled and vied in point
of neatness with the more aristocratic quarter. As home after home was
completed, the former inmates took possession and great was the
rejoicing. It was impossible, however, to do away with all the poor
hovels that abounded in the Jewish quarter: such an undertaking would
have required a vast amount of money and years of labor. It was only
where the need was most pressing that the work of regeneration was
carried on.

The sad fact soon forced itself on Mendel that the portion of Kief
allotted to the Jews was entirely inadequate for the fifteen thousand
inhabitants who were condemned to dwell there. So overcrowded were some
of the houses that it seemed a miracle that the death-rate had not been
even greater; yet there seemed to be no remedy for the evil. The limits
had been fixed by the government and against its decree who dared
appeal? By _Rosh-Hashana_ (New Year's) there was not a single case of
cholera in the Jewish quarter. One morning, several days after the New
Year festival, Mendel sat in his snug parlor with his wife and her
mother, speaking hopefully of the coming time.

"How happy we would be," said Recha, "if father were alive to see all
the good that has been accomplished. His only ambition was to improve
the mental and physical condition of our people. He would have taken the
greatest interest in your undertaking, and would have been the most
zealous of your helpers."

Mendel sighed.

"I feel, Recha," he said, "that all this work was inspired by his death.
Had it not been for the grief it caused me, I doubt whether I should
have felt it my duty to open the eyes of our good people, but might have
allowed them to continue in their accustomed way. Troubles, dear Recha,
are frequently blessings in disguise, and under the rod of affliction we
may recognize the loving hand of God. Our hearts groan under the heavy
blows of misfortune, but in the end we will find ourselves the stronger,
the better, the more perfect for the tribulations we have undergone."

Recha felt the truth of her husband's words and dried her eyes.

"I look into the year just begun with great hopes," continued Mendel.
"Among our own people the greatest harmony prevails. The sorrows we have
suffered in common have served to knit our souls more closely together,
and the little quarrels and petty jealousies that formerly agitated our
community have ceased. All is bright and beautiful without. The Emperor
purposes to introduce various reforms and the Governor is favorably
disposed towards us. Let us trust that those who have suffered losses
through the merciless hand of death may find some consolation in the
greater happiness and prosperity of the community."

Mendel was interrupted by a knock at the door, and Recha upon opening it
gave admittance to a soldier, whose uniform proclaimed him one of the
Governor's body guard.

"I seek Mendel Winenki," said the man, with military precision.

Recha became pale as death; a terrible suspicion flashed through her
mind. Mendel, too, was ill at ease.

"What do you want of me?" he asked.

"His excellency, the Governor, has instructed me to conduct you into his
presence," answered the soldier.

"For what purpose?" asked the Rabbi, anxiously.

"I do not know. I am simply to take you with me."

The greatest consternation prevailed among the little group. For a Jew
to be summoned before the Governor betokened no good.

"You would arrest my husband!" cried Recha, placing herself between the
soldier and the Rabbi. "He has done no wrong. You shall not take him!"

"Calm yourself, Recha," said the Rabbi, gently. "There is no need of
borrowing trouble. The soldier has not intimated that I am to be
punished. The Governor was at one time very friendly to me; perhaps it
is upon a friendly matter that he now wishes to see me."

Kissing his wife and mother-in-law and bidding them be of good cheer,
Mendel accompanied the guide to the Governor's residence. It was a long
walk through a number of densely populated streets to the animated
_podol_, or business centre. Hundreds of shops lined the streets, but
they were empty and deserted. The cholera had deprived them of their
customers and in many cases of their proprietors. Business was
practically suspended during the continuance of the plague. On leaving
the _podol_, the road led up a steep incline to the Petcherskoi. This
was the official portion of the town. Here stood the vast Petcherskoi
convent, a mass of old buildings, formerly a fine specimen of Byzantine
architecture, but now gradually yielding to the ravages of time. Here,
too, were the barracks, and the martial tread of the exercising
regiments rang out clearly in the September air. Beyond the barracks,
and by its high position commanding a fine view of the city, stood the
Governor's palace, an imposing pile of Russian architecture, which, when
Kief was still the capital of the Empire, was the scene of regal
festivities and despotic cruelty.

The ante-room of the Governor was filled with a motley crowd of
petitioners. There were deputations from the provincial towns, haughty
noblemen attired in lace coats and bedecked with badges, officers,
soldiers and _gendarmes_ in gorgeous uniforms. Mendel's courage sank
when he saw the formidable group before him.

"Remain here," commanded the guard who had accompanied him, "and I will
announce your presence to his excellency."

A moment later he returned and, to the surprise of the waiting
petitioners, beckoned Mendel to follow him into the private cabinet.
That a Jew should be shown such favor was scarcely calculated to put the
rest in a good humor, and loud murmurs of discontent arose from all
parts of the room.

If Mendel had any fears of the reception which awaited him, they were at
once dispelled by the Governor's cordial greeting:

"Well, Rabbi," he exclaimed, smilingly, extending his hand, "I have
waited in vain for you to bring me the promised tidings and have sent
for you in sheer despair. Why did you not come to see me?"

"Your excellency," replied Mendel, "I have been busy day and night, but
had I thought that you took an interest in our work I would have
hastened to inform you of our progress. Thank God, the result has
exceeded our fondest expectations."

"I have heard of it," replied Pomeroff. "It has been the subject of a
hundred discussions at court and at the exchanges, and there is nought
but praise for the man who was the first to fight the cholera here in
Russia with the weapons science has furnished mankind."

Mendel blushed and said, modestly:

"That man is a Jew, your excellency. It is not usual for one of our race
to be the recipient of compliments at the hands of the gentiles."

The Governor's brow darkened and he remained silent for a moment.
Finally he replied:

"Such praise would be more plentiful if all Jews were like you."

"They are, your excellency," answered Mendel, warmly. "Oh, if you but
knew how brave, how noble a heart beats beneath the rough exterior of
the Jew; if you but knew how passionately he yearns for an opportunity
to show himself in his true character, you would pity him more and judge
him less harshly."

"It is upon that very topic that I wish to converse with you," said the
Governor, motioning Mendel to a seat, while he threw himself upon a
comfortable lounge. Lighting a cigarette, he settled himself for a long
conversation, apparently unmindful of the dignitaries who awaited an
audience without. "I would give the Jew an opportunity to become not
only a useful but a respected citizen."

"Your excellency is too good," said Mendel, joyously, as bright visions
of emancipation flashed through his brain.

"I am told that you have great influence with your people," continued
the Governor. "Am I correctly informed?"

"I am too young to influence them, but I believe I have their esteem and
respect."

"They, at all events, place confidence in you," answered Pomeroff. "Now
listen to me patiently. I have always been a friend of the Hebrews. As a
boy, I associated with Jews of my own age and found them congenial
companions. When I had arrived at the age of manhood I awoke one day to
find myself in grave financial difficulties. There is no need of going
into details. Suffice it to say that in my dilemma I went to one of the
companions of my youth, a Jew, who had in the meantime acquired a
fortune, and appealed to his generosity. My confidence was not misplaced
and his timely aid saved my reputation and my honor. I am therefore
favorably disposed toward your people and would help them if it were in
my power to do so."

"Your excellency can do much," exclaimed Mendel.

"Let me finish what I have to say before you indulge in vain hopes,"
answered the Governor. "Let us discuss the situation fearlessly and
without prejudice and try to find the root of the difficulty. Why are
your people despised? Firstly, because they are not Christians and the
gentile can never forget that it was your race that was directly
responsible for the death of our Saviour; secondly, were the gentile to
forget it, the religious and social observances of your race are so
thoroughly at variance with his own that he does not understand you and
therefore looks down upon you. Under usual conditions, however, the Jew
and the non-Jew live side by side in peace and harmony. It is only in
time of unusual religious or political excitement that race prejudice
comes into play and then the Hebrews suffer. Were your people to adopt
the Christian religion and change their oriental customs for our own,
race prejudice and persecution would cease, they would be placed
socially upon a footing of equality with the gentiles and the entire
human race would be benefited thereby. Do I make my meaning clear?"

"I do not quite grasp it," answered Mendel.

"Briefly, then, my idea is this: You have great influence over your
co-religionists. Use that influence to their lasting advantage. Persuade
them to accept the Christian faith. Induce them to be baptized and with
that solemn rite will end the unnumbered persecutions, the untold misery
which has unfortunately been the lot of Israel. His majesty Alexander is
most graciously disposed towards reform. Now, at the beginning of his
career, he is eager to accept any innovation which will reflect renown
upon his rule. He has already considered plans for freeing the serfs and
would gladly include in that emancipation the three million Jews that
reside in the Empire. I speak with his august authority when I say that
as soon as the Jews embrace the holy Catholic faith not only will their
troubles end, but they will find themselves raised to an enviable
condition and the fittest among them will fill positions of rank and
honor."

Mendel had arisen and with a pitying smile waited for the Governor to
conclude his remarks.

"Your excellency does me too much honor," he said, quietly. "The man was
never born, nor will he ever be, who can wean the Jews from their faith.
Your excellency would find it easier to turn the waters of the Dnieper
into the Arctic Ocean than to change the handful of Jews in Kief into
Christians."

"But there are many who have already deserted the ranks of Israel," said
the Governor.

"There are some renegades, it is true, but they do not in reality desert
the faith of their people. They merely seek to escape some of the
observances with which they are not in accord. Such people do not become
Christians--they remain Jews to the end of their days."

"But, consider," said the Governor, earnestly, for he had set his heart
upon this project. "At present you are despised and hated. You are
forced to vegetate, rather than live, within the narrow confines of an
uninviting and unhealthy quarter. Your natural capabilities are dwarfed.
Your property and even your lives are at the mercy of the ignorant
people that surround you. An acknowledgment of the faith that already
counts many millions of adherents, a mere profession of belief in the
great Saviour who came from heaven to save mankind, will change all this
and you will at once enter into a life of peace and honor and social
equality with the noblest of the land. Is it not worth considering?"

"No, your excellency," answered Mendel, boldly. "As I have already told
you, it is impossible."

"Your reasons, Rabbi," said the Governor, with a shade of irritation in
his voice. "Will not the new avenues for pleasure and happiness
compensate for your ancient ceremonials and superstitions? The theatre,
the lecture, the school will be opened to you. We will bid you enter and
partake of all those delights which are in store for the best of us. Is
that no inducement?"

Mendel sighed deeply, as he answered:

"Your excellency invites me to speak and I will do so frankly, even at
the risk of incurring your displeasure. Think you that the prejudice
which the Christian has felt against the Jew for over eighteen centuries
can be eradicated in a moment by the apostasy of our race? The Russian
nobility, accustomed to regard the Hebrews as accursed in the sight of
God, as a nation of usurers and ungodly fanatics, is not in a fit
condition of mind to forego its prejudices and welcome these same Jews
as equals. The lower classes of Russians who have at the the mother's
breast imbibed hatred and contempt for the despised and helpless Jew,
who have from time immemorial considered the Jews as their just and
legitimate prey, will scarcely condescend to offer the rejected race the
hand of brotherly love simply because the Governor or even the Emperor
commands it. It has been tried, your excellency, at various times;
notably in Spain. Terrified by threats of torture on the one hand or
seduced by promises of great reward on the other, many an Israelite
accepted the Catholic faith. Alas! how bitterly was the error regretted.
Instead of being admitted to that fellowship with which the gentiles had
tempted them, greater humiliations, greater persecutions followed, until
the horrors of the inquisition chamber and death at the stake were
welcomed by the poor wretches as a relief from mental torment still more
terrible."

So they talked, the mighty ruler and the humble Rabbi, while those in
the ante-room waited impatiently for an audience.

Finally the Governor arose.

"I will not exact a definite answer at present," he said. "Discuss the
matter with your friends and come to see me again in the course of a
week or two. Perhaps you will then think better of it."

Mendel shook his head.

"In a few days we shall have _Yom-Kipur_, our Day of Atonement," he
said. "If you would know how tenaciously the Israelites cling to their
faith and to their God, visit the synagogue on that day; behold them in
fasting and prayer, renewing their covenant with the Lord and relying
upon his divine protection and assistance. You will find it an
impressive sight, one that will speak more eloquently than my weak
words."

"I may come," answered the Governor, half in jest and half in earnest,
while Mendel bowed himself out through the crowd of angry people in the
waiting-room.

We shall not attempt to analyze the thoughts of the young Rabbi, as he
retraced his steps towards his dwelling. On his arrival there, he found
his wife and her mother greatly alarmed as to his safety. The strange
and sudden summons and his long absence had aroused terrible fears in
Recha's breast that he had been thrown into prison by the Governor, and
her eyes were red with weeping. It was with a bounding heart, therefore,
that she heard her husband's step on the threshold, and with a joyous
cry she rushed to embrace him.

"God be praised, my Mendel has returned," she exclaimed, and smiling
through her tears she led him into the house.



CHAPTER XIX.

YOM-KIPUR.


It is _Yom-Kipur_, the Day of Atonement.

Long before nightfall the shops and booths of the Israelites are closed.
The merchant has silenced his cravings for gain, the pedler and the
wanderer have returned to their families, travelling leagues upon
leagues to reach home in time for the holy day. The beggar has cast
aside his rags and attired himself in a manner more befitting the solemn
occasion. The God-fearing man has closed his heart to all but pious
thoughts, and, yielding to the holy influence, even the impious cannot
but think of God and of a future beyond the grave.

The holy night is approaching. A river of light streams through the
arched windows of the houses of prayer, flooding the streets and
penetrating into the hearts of the inhabitants. Young and old slowly
wend their way to the synagogues, there to bow down before the Lord who
delivered their ancestors from Egyptian bondage and who on this day will
sit in judgment upon their actions; will grant them mercy or pronounce
their doom; will inscribe them in the book of life or in that of
eternal death. The women are robed in white, the men wear shrouds over
their black _caftans_ and carry huge prayer-books. At the door of the
Lord's House, and before entering its sacred precincts, they ask pardon
of each other for any sins or shortcomings, for the envy, the malice,
the calumny of which they may have been guilty.

"Forgive me whatever wrong I may have done thee!"

The phrase is repeated from man to man, for none may enter the holy
temple unless he be at peace with mankind.

Let us enter the synagogue. Hundreds of candles fill the sacred hall
with their light and the whitened walls and ceiling appear to glow with
glory. Rows of men in ghastly attire, constant reminder of the
inevitable end of mundane greatness, stand with covered heads and with
their faces turned towards the orient, fervently praying. Screened by
the lattice-work of the galleries are the women, who, with their treble
voices, augment the solemn chant that vibrates on the air.

Repentance, fear, self-reproach have blanched the cheeks and dimmed the
eyes of the devotees. Fervent and sincere are the prayers that rise to
the throne of God; contrite and remorseful are the blows with which the
men beat their breasts and with which they seek to chasten their
sin-encrusted hearts.

Fearfully and tearfully they make the sorrowful avowal: "We have
sinned!" Down into the depths of his soul does each one search to render
to himself and to God a truthful account of the deeds and thoughts that
lie hidden there. And above the din, the voice of the reader is heard,
beseeching forgiveness for the repentant congregation, pleading for the
grace of the Lord and asking to be enrolled in the book of life and
happiness. It is a solemn, heart-stirring spectacle, moving the soul of
the sinner with a mighty force. An observer, who for the first time
attends the _Yom-Kipur_ services, can arrive at but one verdict
concerning the beauty of the religion which has instituted this holy
day.

The heathen is impressed with the fact that in doing wrong he has
offended a god whom, by means of sacrifice, he seeks to propitiate. The
Christian proclaims that he sins by compulsion in consequence of the
original fall of Adam, and, as he is not a free agent in the matter of
right or wrong, he can expect grace only through the mediation of his
Saviour. The Jew recognizes the fact that he is entirely free to sin or
to remain pure, and that, having erred, he can only hope for forgiveness
by acknowledging his error, by purifying himself from all that is vile
and by a sincere resolution to do better. Mere faith has never played
the important part in the Jewish religion that is assigned it in that of
the gentiles. The Israelite believes that if he has done wrong and
sincerely repents and by his subsequent actions seeks to repair the
injury, divine forgiveness will not be withheld; but the dogma that
belief independent of good deeds purifies the heart has never found
favor in his eyes.

The worshippers stayed until a late hour, and many of them remained in
the synagogue all night. Early dawn found the congregation again at its
post, as devout, as fervent as before. The candles were burning low in
their sockets, casting a fitful glare upon the pale faces of the
worshippers, reminding them of the flight of time, of the brevity of
life, of the inevitable moment when repentance will come too late, when
the account of one's good and evil deeds will be closed.

The synagogue was filled to overflowing with fasting men and women. Not
a morsel of food, not a drop of water was permitted to pass their lips
for twenty-four hours. "As the body can abstain from food," said the
wise rabbis, "so shall the soul abstain from sin."

The terrible plague that had left its sad impress upon the community
greatly increased the solemnity of the occasion. To the expressions of
repentance were added the prayers of gratitude of those who had escaped
its fatal breath and the lamentations of those whose hearts still
smarted under recent bereavement. It was Rabbi Mendel's custom to
combine instruction with devotion whenever an occasion presented itself,
and to do this in such homely logic as his congregation could easily
comprehend, taking especial pains to impress them with the spirit of the
rites they observed. Being a great favorite with them, they listened
attentively to his melodious voice and persuasive arguments, and found
themselves the better for his teaching. On the Day of Atonement he had
hardly begun to speak when his attention was attracted by a stranger who
had entered and quietly taken a seat in the rear of the synagogue. With
the exception of Mendel not one of the assembled worshippers recognized
the unpretentious looking man.

It was Governor Pomeroff who had come in response to his invitation.
Mendel's face flushed with emotion when he saw the Governor enter the
synagogue. After that he paid no further attention to his distinguished
guest, but took up the thread of his discourse.

He spoke of the effect of sin upon our earthly life and upon our
possible existence after death, expounded the doctrine of punishment in
the hereafter as given in the _Midrash_, and spoke of the infinite
mercy of the Father in Heaven.

"Not in idle protestations," he said, "lies the road to forgiveness, but
in a thorough avowal of sins committed and in a sincere determination to
avoid the iniquities of the past."

Mendel's inspired words fell upon eager ears and contrite hearts. After
the sermon the _hazan_ again intoned the prayers, assisted by the
fervent responses of the congregation.

The Governor remained a long time an interested observer of the
impressive scene, until the lateness of the hour admonished him of other
duties, and he left as unceremoniously as he had come.

"The Rabbi is right," he murmured, as he wended his way out of the
deserted quarter; "it will be a herculean task to alienate the Jews from
their faith and bring them into the fold of the Russian church; but I
shall not yet abandon my project!"

The people prayed and fasted until the stars shone out in Heaven and the
_shofar_ (ram's horn) blast announced the death of the solemn day. Then,
with cheerful hearts and smiling faces they returned to their dwellings,
purified in spirit, cleansed and purged of the dross that had defiled
their souls, more thoroughly in unison with the Lord, who, though the
sins of His people be as scarlet, will make them white as snow.

Rabbi Mendel was not surprised next morning when a message came from the
Governor, requesting his immediate presence at the palace. The summons
did not create the consternation which had been caused by the
unceremonious call of a few days before. On the contrary, Recha felt
proud of the distinction accorded her husband in being thus made the
confidant of the mighty ruler of Kief. She had implicit faith in her
husband's ability to hold his ground even in the Governor's august
presence.

"Have you thought over our recent conversation?" asked Pomeroff, as soon
as Mendel entered.

"Yes, your excellency."

"And to what conclusion have you come?"

"Simply to thank your excellency for your kind interest in our behalf
and to express the conviction that the Israelites of Kief would rather
endure a thousand persecutions than abandon a jot of their holy faith."

"Have you laid the matter before the people?" queried the Governor.

"I have not, your excellency. It would have been worse than useless. You
have doubtless observed how thoroughly sincere the Jews were in their
devotions on _Yom-Kipur_ day: such men die for their religion, they do
not abandon it. If your excellency can assist us in obtaining greater
liberty of action, if you can gain for our children admittance into the
schools of the Empire and open for us the various avenues of trade from
which we have hitherto been shut out, we will hail you as our
benefactor; but if we can only buy freedom and honors at the cost of our
ancient and revered religion, we will be content to follow the example
of our ancestors and suffer."

A long discussion followed, in which Mendel proved that the Jews, in
spite of persecution, were really happier than the unlettered and
uncultured Russians and morally far superior to them.

Finally the Governor arose.

"Your hand, Rabbi," he said, heartily, "you have carried the day. I
shall not revert to the subject of baptism again."

"I hope your excellency will not renounce the desire to befriend us,"
answered Mendel. "There is such a large field for improvement in our
community. I wish you could see the crowded condition of our streets,
the wretched abodes of our poor. If you knew the secret persecutions
which the petty officers of the crown visit upon us, outrages which
never reach the ears of the higher authorities, your excellency would be
surprised that our moral and physical condition is no worse."

"Poor Jews," said the Governor, sadly.

"O, sir," continued Mendel, earnestly; "visit the Jewish quarter!
Investigate the official abuses on every hand. Extend the limits of our
homes. Remove the antiquated restrictions that enslave our daily
actions. Give the Jew an opportunity to develop his great capabilities
and he will become a desirable citizen and a stanch patriot."

The kind-hearted Governor was visibly affected by Mendel's words.

"I will reflect upon what you have said," he replied. "You are a brave
champion and your people should feel proud of you."

Governor Pomeroff, who recognized the young Rabbi's cleverness and
learning, was loath to let him depart. Long after they had exhausted the
topic that first engaged them, he detained him, conversing upon every
conceivable subject, and listening with pleasure to the original
thoughts and eloquent words of the young man. At length Mendel arose and
prepared to leave.

"Your excellency must pardon me," he said, "but my poor wife will be in
despair at my late return and I must hasten to reassure her."

"Go," answered the Governor; "but come again to-morrow or the day after.
I have much to talk over with you."

As Mendel bowed himself out, Pomeroff muttered to himself:

"Strange man! He thinks more of allaying the anxiety of his wife than of
currying favor with his ruler. He is right; such a people as he
represents cannot be forced into baptism. They place their moral law and
their ancient faith above temporal advantage."

As Mendel had anticipated, Recha was a prey to the liveliest fears at
the protracted absence of her husband. It seemed incredible to her that
the busy Governor should have kept him so long. With Mendel, however,
smiles and contentment returned.

That evening the Rabbi called Hirsch Bensef and the elders of the
congregation into his house and told them all about the Governor and his
schemes. Great was the surprise of these worthy men and unanimous their
approval of Mendel's course in the matter.

"I believe," said the Rabbi, in conclusion, "that we have gained a
friend in the Governor, and I see rising above the horizon a new era of
security and prosperity for Israel."

"God grant it," cried the listeners, fervently.



CHAPTER XX.

NEEDED REFORMS.


If Governor Pomeroff abandoned his original plan of Christianizing the
Jews, he did not relinquish his friendship for Mendel. The Rabbi was
frequently summoned to appear before him, professedly for the purpose
of giving an account of this or that good work which he had undertaken,
but in reality to entertain the Governor by his brilliant conversation.
So frequent had these visits become that the guards about the palace
were no longer surprised at the strange companionship and the term
"Jew," with which they were wont to designate Mendel, gave place to the
more respectful appellation of "The Rabbi."

As Mendel became better acquainted with his powerful friend, his
appreciation of his noble qualities steadily increased and they became
warmly attached to each other.

"Would that all the Jews were like you," Pomeroff occasionally remarked,
to which Mendel would reply: "How fortunate would be our lot if all
Christians possessed your nobility of character."

Then came the glorious year 1861, the year in which Russia freed
millions of serfs and removed the shackles of slavery from a debased
people.

While much praise should be accorded to the liberality and humanity of
Alexander, the main cause of the emancipation act was the
unprofitableness of serf labor. Public opinion, too, had demanded the
change. What "Uncle Tom's Cabin" accomplished in this country Gogol's
"Dead Souls" and Tourgenieff's "Recollections of a Sportsman" did for
the Russian slaves. The disasters of the Crimean War were attributed to
the corrupt condition of all classes, caused, it was claimed, by this
pernicious institution of serfdom. By the edict of 1861, in the same
year in which our own struggle for the emancipation of our Southern
slaves began, the peasants were made free and were granted the right to
purchase the lands occupied by them at the time. "Enfranchisement was
effected in Russia in a manner far more skilful than in our own country,
where it was accomplished through the terrible agency of a civil war.
Yet the Russian people have been, perhaps, less satisfied with its
results. Since then the serfs have been compelled to work harder than
ever to pay for the land they had always cultivated and regarded as
their own. The complete ignorance of the _moujiks_ has laid them open to
greater vices than serfdom possessed and drunkenness has greatly
increased since the emancipation."[13]

At the time of which we speak, however, there was nought but rejoicing
in Russia. Freedom had unfurled her banner, and the sanguine prophets
foresaw in the near future a complete cessation of despotism and a
constitutional government such as the people had demanded since the
beginning of Nicholas' reign in 1825. Amidst the general joy, the
Governor of Kief found an opportunity for materially improving the
condition of the Jews of his province.

Mendel would have been less than human had he not endeavored to turn
this condition of affairs and Pomeroff's friendship to practical
account. For himself he desired nothing. When the Governor, in order to
have him constantly at his side, tendered him an honorable office in the
palace, Mendel gently but firmly declined the proffered honor. All his
energies were directed towards ameliorating the lot of his
co-religionists.

He one day induced the Governor to stroll with him through the Jewish
quarter, and with tact and eloquence called his attention to the crowded
condition of the houses and streets, explaining how difficult it was to
preserve health where the hygienic laws were of necessity utterly
disregarded. He showed how the streets, at first ample for all
requirements, had in the course of years become overcrowded; how hut had
been built against hut and story erected upon story, until the lack of
room deprived many a dwelling of light and air. He led the surprised
Governor through the squalid lanes near the river and demonstrated how
difficult it would be to master an epidemic when once it had taken root
there, and how the welfare of the entire town of Kief depended upon the
sanitary condition of each of its parts.

With the financial acumen of his race, he appealed to the economic
aspect of the case, demonstrated how many houses, large and small, were
standing idle in the city proper, bringing neither rent to their owners
nor taxes to the province, and depicted the benefits that would be
gained by granting the Jews the privilege of occupying such dwellings.

The Governor, who had never before visited the haunts of poverty, felt a
positive repugnance to the system, or rather lack of system, that could
countenance such a condition of affairs. He hurried away from the
uninviting neighborhood, and, having again reached a spot where the air
was fit to breathe, he promised to exert his influence with the Czar to
have the boundaries of the Jewish quarter extended.

Nobly did he keep his word. He journeyed to St. Petersburg and sought an
audience with Alexander. What happened at the interview the Jews of Kief
never discovered, but the result was extremely gratifying. At the end of
a fortnight there came a ukase extending indefinitely the limits of the
Jewish quarters of all large cities, granting permission to all Jewish
merchants who had been established in some branch of trade for
twenty-five years or over, and to all rabbis and teachers, to reside in
the city proper, in such streets as they might select, and permitting
merchants of ten years' standing to dwell on certain streets carefully
specified in the proclamation. It also made it lawful for Jews and
Christians to live in the same building, a privilege hitherto withheld.

Many were the Jews who availed themselves of their new privileges.
Bensef was among the first. His house, since the arrival of Mendel's
parents, had been too small for comfort and the wealthy man desired a
dwelling befitting his means. Haim Goldheim, the banker, found that
there was not enough room in his house for the works of art it
contained. He took a house in the fashionable Vladimir quarter, where,
to the intense disgust of the aristocrats, he established himself in
princely magnificence. A hundred families, at least, followed the
example thus set, leaving the crowded streets, in order to breathe the
purer air of the more select quarters of Kief. To their credit be it
said, however, few went far from their old homes; the synagogue still
formed the rallying centre of their community. About it revolved their
daily thoughts and actions and the greatest recommendation a new home
could have was that it was near the _schul_.

Upon Mendel, who had brought about this change, the greatest honors were
showered. His congregation almost worshipped him. There were envious
detractors, however, who contended that it did not behoove a Jew to
become so intimate with a _goy_, and a Governor at that. They claimed
that the Rabbi labored only to promote his own private ends; but, as
these malcontents were among the first to seize the opportunity of
bettering their condition, Mendel could afford to shrug his shoulders
and smile at their insinuations.

The principal class to benefit by the new order of things were the poor,
who now found abundant room and greedily availed themselves of it. To
them Mendel was a saviour in the practical sense of the word, and many a
grateful woman whose hovel had been exchanged for a more commodious
dwelling would kiss the Rabbi's hand as he passed through the quarter on
his errands of mercy.

But the young Rabbi's zeal did not end here. He convinced the Governor
that the taxes exacted from the Jews were not only excessive, but
disproportionate, and, as a result, they were lowered to a level with
those paid by the gentiles.

Hitherto the Jews had been forbidden to cultivate land on their own
account. Mendel, in presenting this subject to the Governor, laid stress
upon the fact that vast tracts were lying fallow for want of
agriculturists, and that the crown was thereby losing much revenue which
could easily be raised by a judicious distribution of these fields among
the thrifty and industrious Hebrews. Pomeroff saw the justice of the
argument and a proclamation resulted, removing the restrictions placed
upon the cultivation of land by the Jews.

The Jews of Kief and the surrounding provinces felt that a day of
prosperity and happiness had dawned for them. In a measure they enjoyed
the same liberty and privileges as did the lower classes of Russians.
They were free to come and go, to live where they pleased and to engage
in a score of occupations which had hitherto been forbidden, and Mendel
was justly honored as the author of these changes. His fame spread at
home and was heralded abroad. During his frequent visits to the Governor
he came in contact with many of the great and brilliant men of the
Empire. Dignitaries who at first met the Jew with a feeling of
repugnance gradually yielded to the charm of his personal influence and
vied with each other in honoring him, and through him Judaism was
honored and respected. His character, his benevolence, his patriotism
and his great mental gifts did more to convince those gentiles of what
the Jew could be than the keenest arguments could have done.

A great general one day asked him:

"Why are you so different from the Jews one usually meets?"

"Your excellency is in error," Mendel replied. "I am not unlike my
fellow-men. In disposition and feeling I am the same, but I have had an
opportunity for mental improvement of which most of my brethren have
been deprived. Give them the privilege of attending your universities,
open to them the avenues of knowledge and you will create for Russia an
intellectual element which will eventually place her in the front ranks
of the nations."

The general shrugged his shoulders and smiled. The idea seemed
preposterous.

"You have certainly an exalted opinion of your co-religionists," he
said.

"I have, your excellency, and it is borne out by history. Your
excellency has doubtless read of the intellectual supremacy of Spain
when the Jews were in the ascendant."

His excellency had not read of it. In fighting but not in reading lay
his strength and, not wishing to display his ignorance, he wisely
changed the subject.

As might have been expected, violent objections were raised by the
gentiles to the enlarged privileges granted the Jews. The priests were
particularly virulent in their denunciation of the new liberties
conferred, in which they saw but the beginning of the gradual
emancipation of the Hebrews. Attacks were made against them from press
and from pulpit, and all of these Mendel answered calmly and
convincingly. His logic finally silenced the ravings of the unlettered
and fanatical Jew-haters and the privileges once accorded were not
repealed.

Had Mendel's zeal ended here he would have avoided much subsequent
difficulty, but he was well aware that the Jews had not attained to the
ideal he had formed, that much ignorance, fanaticism and superstition
still prevailed. He desired to imitate the example of his great
prototype, Moses Mendelssohn, and spread the light of learning
throughout the Jewish world. He did not lose sight of the vastness of
the undertaking, of the dangers he was incurring, or of the animosity he
was inviting, for the Jews of Russia still regarded all learning not
found in the folios of the Talmud as sacrilegious and unholy. To
overcome this antagonism to secular knowledge now became Mendel's
self-imposed task.

Consulting no one but his friend the Governor, and armed with a letter
of introduction from this powerful ally, Mendel set out for St.
Petersburg, to visit the Czar in person. It was an unheard-of experiment
on the part of a Jew, but Mendel felt the inspiration of right and
undertook his new mission fearlessly. What nothing else could accomplish
was done by the Governor's letter of recommendation. After a little
delay he was admitted into the august presence of the Czar Alexander
and presented his petition.

Alexander was not a little surprised at the temerity of a Jew in thus
appearing before him, but the very strangeness of the proceeding
enlisted the ruler's interest in the demands of the Rabbi. After a long
conference, during which Mendel eloquently pleaded his cause, he was
dismissed with the assurance that the educational disabilities of the
Hebrews would be in a measure removed, and shortly after his return to
Kief a proclamation was issued admitting Jewish youth into the Russian
schools upon terms of equality with the gentiles.

Then arose a storm of indignation among the pious Israelites. Those who
had antagonized Mendel from the first, now were furious at his attempt
to force intelligence upon them. They prophesied that these were but the
stepping-stones to more radical changes and stubbornly refused to yield
an inch, lest the proverbial ell might be seized.

"Never," they cried, "shall our children be taught the wisdom of the
_goyim_. The Law and the Talmud are sufficient for our needs.
Instruction in the public schools will force rabbinical studies into the
background and will gradually estrange our children from the religion of
their fathers. We want no new-fangled education. We are Jews and we will
remain Jews."

So hostile was the greater part of the community to the idea of
extending educational facilities, that the friends of Mendel, and there
were many of them, advised him to make an effort to have the obnoxious
privileges repealed.

This Mendel positively refused to do.

"It is but a privilege," he answered, "and not at all obligatory. You
can do as you like about sending your children to the public schools.
As for myself, however, I shall never cease to uphold the necessity of
education in order to obtain the rights that belong to our race."

The battle thus commenced raged fiercely. Hirsch Bensef was one of the
ablest supporters of the young Rabbi. Haim Goldheim was another; his
wealth had procured him the friendship of several aristocratic but
impoverished families in the neighborhood of his new home, and he never
forgot that the blessings he now enjoyed were due to Mendel's past
labors.

The young men were all on Mendel's side. They chafed under the restraint
that had been put upon them and yearned for instruction in keeping with
the enlarged sphere of activity now opened to them.

Thus a schism arose in Kief. The progressive Israelites siding with
Mendel founded a congregation of their own, leaving the more
conservative to work out their salvation in their old accustomed way. It
must not be supposed that Mendel observed this break in the ranks of
Judaism without a pang. He spent many a sleepless night in planning how
to avert further differences and to appease existing animosities. Balzac
truly says: "Every great man has paid heavily for his greatness. Genius
waters all its work with its own tears. He who would raise himself above
the average level of humanity, must prepare himself for long struggles,
for trying difficulties. A great thinker is a self-devoted martyr to
immortality."

In spite of the anathemas of the narrow-minded, in spite of the cry that
the Messiah could never come as long as such sacrilege was tolerated in
the household of Israel, the good work went steadily forward, to the
manifest advantage of the entire body of Jews.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 13: Foulke.]



CHAPTER XXI.

A DEN OF NIHILISTS.


Let us open the records of Kief for the year 1879.

Fifteen years have elapsed since the events last narrated; fifteen years
of peace and plenty, of security and prosperity for Jew and gentile.

What sudden change do we behold! Is this the country whose future looked
so hopeful in the early days of Alexander's reign? Is this the people
who saw the golden promise of a constitutional government? Alas, for the
instability of human purpose! The reforms then instituted have been
revoked, the men who were the leaders in these reforms have been exiled
to Siberia. A period of reaction has set in: Despotism and Nihilism meet
face to face. The entire nation is in chains.

Russia during these troublous times presents a dreary picture. At a
period when the intellectual activity of Europe is at its height, she
still groans under the unrestricted despotism of an autocrat. Here the
effects of progress that obtain elsewhere seem inverted. Such advance as
is made in civilization and knowledge is used to buttress imperial
tyranny and the knout is wielded more cruelly than ever before. We
behold liberal institutions overthrown and a whole people held in
bondage worse than slavery. We hear of families torn asunder, of
innocent men condemned to life-long exile in Siberia, simply because
they have aroused the suspicion or incurred the ill-will of those in
authority. Force in its most brutal form holds sway throughout the
Empire.

What wonder then that the discontented masses writhe in their despair
and seek redress! What wonder that Nihilism should flourish and the
service of dynamite be enlisted to accomplish what moral suasion failed
to achieve! The years beginning with 1879 were disastrous for Russia.
They marked the decadence of those reforms which ten years before had
given promise of such glorious results.

In one of the most populous portions of Kief, in the shadow of the
Petcherskoi convent, stood a large, modern house. As is the case with
the generality of Russian dwellings, it was tenanted by a number of
families who came and went, beat their children, ill-treated their
servants and transacted their daily affairs, rarely becoming acquainted
with each other.

It was a many-storied building, of plain exterior. The lower floor was
occupied by the worthy family of Pavel Kodasky, a clerk in the employ of
the government. His wife filled the responsible position of _concierge_
to the immense house. The third and fourth floors were the abode of
families equally worthy but unimportant to our story, while the upper
floors were inhabited by a vast number of students and officers who, in
consideration of cheap rent and convenient proximity to the university
and the barracks, had here furnished themselves with comfortable
bachelors' quarters.

The second floor still remains to be spoken of. It was occupied by a
young officer of prepossessing appearance, who was widely known in the
aristocratic circles of Kief. The dark-eyed Russian beauties adored him
for his handsome bearing, his flashing eyes, his gallant and fearless
demeanor; the gay young officers and dandies that hovered about the
Governor's court admired him for his reckless habits, his daring
escapades and his lavish expenditure of a fortune which seemed
inexhaustible.

Loris Drentell, the young lieutenant of the Seventh Cossack Regiment,
might well be thankful to Fortuna for the gifts she had lavished upon
him. The reader will remember having met the young man before, when he
was but a baby in his nurse's arms at the Drentell villa at Lubny. The
promise he then gave of becoming a spoiled child was fully realized.
Indulged by his father and neglected by his mother, his every wish
gratified as soon as expressed, enjoying unlimited freedom in the use of
a vast fortune, Loris developed a disposition in which indolence,
recklessness and unprincipled ambition contended for the mastery. The
young man was unscrupulous and vindictive and he obeyed no law save that
of his own unbridled will. He was a type of a class of Russian
aristocrats whose social position and wealth enable them to tyrannize
over their associates and dependants.

Reckless and fearless as Loris was known to be, none suspected that this
gay and pampered youth, this officer of the Imperial troops, was the
acknowledged head of a Nihilist club. None but a chosen few knew that
this apparently peaceful dwelling, with its many stories and
multitudinous inhabitants, was the meeting-place of a powerful band of
would-be patriots, whose mission it was to inaugurate a constitutional
government by the aid of dynamite. Here was the unsuspected centre from
which thousands of Nihilist documents were scattered to the ends of
Russia. Here were concealed papers which if discovered would have
consigned many of the greatest in Russia to Siberia or the scaffold, and
here it was that the frightful engine of destruction--Nihilism--had its
cradle. So great was the caution observed by the members of the secret
organization that the wary and vigilant police did not dream of its
existence.

Loris was walking impatiently up and down his parlor, now looking at the
clock, now gazing expectantly through his window up and down the street.

"He is late," exclaimed the young man, anxiously. "I wonder what detains
him."

He began nervously to roll a cigarette, without however leaving his
watch at the window. Finally he smiled with satisfaction.

"At last," he cried, as he perceived his belated friend turn a corner
and hurry towards the house. "We shall soon have news from the
Governor."

There was a hasty knock at the door and a tall young fellow entered,
carefully locking the door behind him.

"Well, Paulowitch, I began to feel uneasy," said Loris. "What kept you
so late?"

"I have just arrived from Pomeroff's," whispered Paulowitch. "He had a
very large audience and it was some time before I could gain his ear."

"What was the result?" asked Loris, eagerly.

"He will come to-night. I told him that there would be a meeting of
officers in honor of your birthday and that we would like to have him
with us."

"Does he suspect anything?"

"How should he?"

"He will find out soon enough."

"You are mistaken, Loris, if you think he will join us. I know Pomeroff
too well. Although he has had much to suffer from the arbitrary rulings
of the Czar, the recollection of former favors will not permit him to
desert his Emperor."

"Mere sentimentality," answered Loris. "Do you forget how the Czar, in a
proclamation, publicly reprimanded him for allowing the Jews too many
liberties, and of harboring treasonable sympathy with them? I know that
Pomeroff has been smarting under the insult ever since. He will be glad
to have an opportunity of avenging himself."

Paulowitch shook his head, in doubt.

"And if, after having learned our secrets, he should refuse to join us?"
he asked.

"If he does not affiliate with us, we must render him harmless. We dare
not give him an opportunity to betray us."

"But what is to prevent him from informing the police of our plans and
having us all sent to Siberia?"

"We have foreseen such a possibility. Moleska, his secretary, who has
access to his desks and closets, and who is one of us, has full
instructions how to act in such an emergency."

"Poor Pomeroff," murmured Paulowitch. "I am sorry for him."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Loris; "we need him to insure our success. While
his police are prying about to discover something new, we are in
constant danger of detection and can accomplish little. If, however, he
declines to join us, we dare run no risk. He must be removed."

"In that event, who do you suppose will take his place?"

"I cannot say. But the arrest and execution or exile of the Governor
will cause such a disturbance in the affairs of the province that
several months must elapse before order is again restored. In the
meantime our association will flourish unimpeded. We will be able to
scatter our pamphlets and manifestoes broadcast, and to prepare
everything necessary for the final stroke, which shall rid us of the
imperial tyrant and pave the way for liberty."

There was a peculiar knock at the door and a man, in the garb of a
student and possessing a countenance that displayed rare intellect, was
admitted. The new-comer was about twenty-three years of age. In fact,
Martinski was one of the leaders of the order and most of its master
moves were conceived by him.

"Well," asked Loris, addressing him, "have the papers been forwarded?"

"Yes; both Myra Sergeitch and Paulovna Tschorgini left for St.
Petersburg at noon. The documents were concealed in secret compartments
of their trunks. There is no danger of detection."

"But if they should be found in spite of all precautions?" asked
Paulowitch.

"Bah! Who will suspect two inoffensive-looking women? Besides, the
messages were written in cipher which no one can read. Should the worst
happen, however, both ladies are devoted to the cause and would rather
die than betray us."

"Noble hearts," said Paulowitch, reflectively. "A cause like ours makes
heroes."

"Come," said Loris; "it is growing late. Let us take a stroll while our
landlady prepares the feast for to-night."

It was a large and heterogeneous assembly that partook of the cheer of
Loris' table that evening. There were a few army officers, some
students, two or three political writers and half-a-dozen young
noblemen, who, as a rule, possessed more money than brains. Supper was
already begun, and the expected guest, Governor Pomeroff, had not yet
made his appearance. The suspense was great, for it was felt that much
depended upon securing Pomeroff as an ally. Few doubted that he would
join them, for he, if any one, had just cause to detest the Czar, and
the arrangements made to prevent disclosures would not be needed.

After a long wait, during which the conspirators conversed in an
undertone, the door was opened and the Governor entered in company with
Paulowitch. He appeared surprised to find himself in so large a company,
when he had expected to meet but a few intimate friends, but he greeted
all cordially and sat down in the place of honor accorded him.

The conversation was comparatively uninteresting during the progress of
the repast. There was none of that conviviality which one is accustomed
to find at a friendly banquet; each member of the circle appeared
constrained and nervous in the presence of his comrades and an undefined
suspicion that he had been decoyed into a trap of some kind flashed
through Pomeroff's brain. Drinking, rather than eating, formed the chief
part of the entertainment and the spirits of the party rose as the
bottles were emptied.

Suddenly Loris sprang to his feet and lifting his glass proposed the
toast:

"To his excellency, the Governor of Kief, the champion of liberty, the
enemy of the autocrat at St. Petersburg!"

"Long may he live!" shouted his associates.

Pomeroff sat in his chair as if thunderstruck. The suspicion which up to
this moment had but faintly suggested itself had become a terrible
certainty. As soon as he could master his excitement he arose.

"Gentlemen," he began, endeavoring to smile, "what jest is this? You
are certainly in error. Allow me to correct it. I drink to the health
and long life of his majesty the Czar!"

A storm of hisses greeted this toast and Pomeroff, after trying in vain
to make himself heard above the din, sat down. His face was pale and his
frame shook with suppressed anger.

Quiet was finally restored and Martinski rose and addressed the meeting,
speaking more directly to the Governor. He rehearsed the outrages
committed upon submissive Russians by the Czar Nicholas, whose despotic
government had finally driven the country into the disastrous Crimean
War. He spoke in terms of praise of the noble aims and ambitions of
Alexander during the early years of his reign, only to denounce in
unmeasured terms the reaction which had destroyed the little good that
had been accomplished. He depicted the cruelty and the tyranny practised
by the Czar upon those who had incurred his displeasure, the utter lack
of educational facilities and the consequent ignorance of the masses,
the rigorous censorship of the press and the arbitrary rule of the men
in power. He pictured in vivid colors the cruelties of Siberian exile
and the sufferings of the prisoners in those distant mines, from which
there was no escape but through the valley of death.

"But," continued he, warming up to a genuine outburst of eloquence,
"there is still a lower depth; a dungeon, a human slaughter-house
rather, has recently been contrived, the horrors of which surpass
anything hitherto conceived by man. It is the Troubetzkoi Ravelin, where
convicts condemned upon the most trivial charges are confined for life;
a hell for those for whom the mines of Siberia are not considered
severe enough. Compared to this prison, the Bastile of France was a
palace of luxury. Woe to him who is obliged to enter this frightful
place: hardships, hunger, disease and insanity await him.

"The convicts of Siberia cry to us for help. The scurvy-stricken
prisoners of the Troubetzkoi Ravelin appeal to us to avenge their wrongs
upon the author of their misfortunes. The French destroyed their
Bastile. Why should we not also demolish our dungeons before we
ourselves are called upon to fill them. O, Russia, how pitiable is your
condition! 'Despotism has blasted the high hopes to which the splendid
awakening of the first half of the century gave birth. The living forces
of later generations have been buried by the Government in the Siberian
snows or Esquimaux villages. It is worse than the plague, for that comes
and goes, but the Government has oppressed the country for years and
will continue to do so. The plague strikes blindly but the present
régime chooses its victims from the flower of the nation, taking all
upon whom depend the fortune and glory of Russia. It is not a political
party that they crush, it is a nation of a hundred millions that they
stifle. That is what the Czar has done.'[14] Down with such despotism!
Down with its instigator, the Czar!"

At these concluding words, the whole party arose and, holding out their
right hands in token of allegiance to their cause, they repeated the
cry:

"Down with the Czar!"

For a few moments absolute silence reigned. Then Governor Pomeroff
struggled to his feet.

"I fear I am out of place here," he began. "You will do me the favor to
remember that I came here ignorant of your purposes. Whatever cause you
may have for complaint, you have taken the wrong means for correcting
your grievances. Rest assured, gentlemen, that I sympathize with your
troubles, even though I cannot agree with your method of changing the
condition of things. I promise, moreover, to forget what I have heard
and beg of you to excuse me from further attendance." And bowing
politely, the Governor moved towards the door.

"Stop!" cried Loris, excitedly, barring the passage and leading the
Governor back to his seat. "Do you for a moment imagine that after
having heard our deliberations and learned our secrets you will be
allowed to leave here and denounce us? It is too late for you to
retreat. You have cast your fortunes with us and must share our dangers
and our glory."

"You mistake," answered the Governor, proudly. "I came to a feast, not
to a conspiracy. Your motive for bringing me here is not known to me,
but if it is to make me a traitor to my country and my Czar you do not
know me. A Pomeroff has never yet stooped to treason. Again I say, let
me go!"

"Governor, hear me," now said Martinski, in a tone of persuasion. "We
need your assistance. Without your sympathy we are in constant fear of
detection from your officers; with you on our side we can continue our
noble work without fear of molestation. The work will go on, the
glorious end will be achieved in spite of all difficulties, and our
labors will only end when the Czar lies buried with his ancestors. Ours
is not a society for wilful destruction of life or property. Our aims
are just. We demand a general amnesty for political offenders and a
convocation of the people for the framing of a liberal constitution, and
meanwhile we demand as provisional concessions freedom of the press,
freedom of speech and freedom of public meetings. These are the only
means by which Russia can enter upon the path of peaceful and regular
development. We will be content with nothing less. We will turn to
dynamite, only when all else fails. Governor Pomeroff, will you join us
in the attainment of these rights, which every civilized nation already
possesses?"

"No!" thundered the Governor, his eyes flashing.

"Then I beg to call your excellency's attention to the fact that a trip
to Siberia or to the gallows as a condemned Nihilist awaits you."

The Governor turned pale, but remained silent.

"Think not that we have rushed blindly into this danger," continued
Martinski. "It was necessary to have you on our side or out of the way.
Therefore, we brought you here this evening. We have carefully weighed
our chances. Having made you our confidant we dare not jeopardize our
lives by allowing you your liberty. By to-morrow you would have us all
in chains. We therefore offer you the alternative of joining our
fraternity or of being denounced to-morrow as an enemy of the Czar."

"I refuse to identify myself with a band of assassins," answered
Pomeroff, boldly. "Throughout my life I have ever striven to be on the
side of right and justice, have ever protected the oppressed and
assisted those who came to me for help. I have been loyal to my Czar and
to my country. I will not now be frightened into doing that which my
nature loathes and against which every fibre of my body revolts. I defy
your power and laugh at your threats. You leave me no alternative but
to inform his majesty of this diabolical plot upon his life."

"And you leave us no alternative but to render you harmless," replied
Martinski. At these words, all arose and silently surrounded the
Governor.

Pomeroff had by this time forced his way to the door which he tried to
open. It was locked. Pale with anger, he turned upon the Nihilists.

"Cowards!" he hissed, "you would force me to join your fraternity. Then
I give you my brotherly greeting," and, drawing his pistol, he fired
into the group.

Loris was wounded in the side, but the ball striking a rib glanced off.
A dozen men threw themselves upon the Governor, who defended himself
with the strength of despair; but superior numbers quickly gained the
mastery, and after a short struggle Pomeroff lay helpless upon the
floor.

Then one of the students took a vial of chloroform from his pocket.
Seizing a napkin he saturated it with the liquid and applied it to the
nostrils of the prostrated man. In a few minutes the victim was
insensible.

"Flee for your lives!" ordered Martinski, "we have not a moment to lose.
It is fortunate that the shot has not already brought the police down
upon us. We must carry the Governor at once to his palace. Drentell, you
will pass the night with me."

Under cover of a dark and cloudy night Pomeroff was carried to his home,
and with the assistance of his secretary, Moleska, was carefully placed
upon the couch in his private cabinet.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 14: Stepniak.]



CHAPTER XXII.

A MODERN BRUTUS.


When Pomeroff awoke next morning, he rubbed his eyes sleepily and looked
about him.

"By St. Nicholas, I have had a horrible dream," he muttered. "I must
have slept on this couch all night."

On attempting to rise, however, he felt a soreness in every limb and the
events of the preceding night flashed through his mind. Instantly his
face became grave.

"Can it be that I have not been dreaming after all; that I was really in
the lair of the Nihilists? Bah, it must be a mistake!"

He arose with difficulty and opened the window. It was a glorious day.
The birds were chirping merrily in the trees that shaded the courtyard,
but though the sun was high there were no signs of the usual activity
below.

"It must be early," mused the Governor; "no one is stirring. What!" he
cried, looking at his watch, "ten o'clock! There is something wrong."

He crossed the room and tried to open the door leading to the
ante-chamber. It was locked. He tried a smaller door leading to the rear
of the palace. It, too, was locked and resisted his efforts to open it.

With a cry of anger and surprise, Pomeroff exclaimed:

"This is carrying the farce to extremes. So I am a prisoner in my own
house! Can it be that they will carry out their diabolical threats and
have me tried as a suspect? Nonsense! I will subvert their plans and
turn the tables on them."

He rang the bell violently, but there was no response. As a last resort
he hurled his whole weight against the oaken door, but it remained
immovable.

It appeared probable to him that his enemies would carry out their
threat of accusing him, and he carefully mapped out his line of defence.
He would prove that he had innocently walked into a trap, set for him by
a band of conspirators, who had planned to assassinate the Czar, and
that he had used every argument to dissuade them from their murderous
project. He would prove that he had firmly refused to join their ranks,
and that he had been obliged to use his pistol in his effort to escape
from their midst.

Prove it? How? A little reflection showed him that he had no proofs
whatever and that he was absolutely powerless to defend himself against
any charges that they might bring. Wearied with his vain exertions and
furious at his helplessness, he threw himself upon the sofa. As he
became calmer he began to reflect upon his situation.

Slowly the hours passed without affording relief. About noon Pomeroff
heard the key turn in the lock and an instant later the apartment was
filled with officers of the _gendarmerie_.

The Chief of Police, Polatschek, was the first to break the silence.

"I regret, your excellency," he said, sadly, "that I am obliged to take
this step against one who has been my friend and benefactor, but the
Czar's orders are imperative. You will consider yourself my prisoner."

"Of what am I accused?" asked the Governor.

"You are accused of associating with Nihilists and of being at the
present time involved in a plot to take the Czar's life."

"It is false," cried Pomeroff.

"We will hear your defence in due time," answered Polatschek. "In the
meantime it becomes my unpleasant duty to search your desk and closets
for Nihilistic papers, which the deposition accuses you of having in
your possession."

Pomeroff smiled bitterly.

"Search, gentlemen. The absence of such documents will, I hope, convince
you that I am innocent of this outrageous charge."

"Nothing will give me greater pleasure than to see you vindicated," said
the Chief, politely, as he gave orders to ransack the drawers and
receptacles of the Governor's writing-desk.

Alas, poor Pomeroff! Almost the first roll of papers examined proved of
a most damaging nature, being the rules of an association of Nihilists
in St. Petersburg. A further search revealed plans of a dynamite mine to
be laid beneath the imperial palace at the capital.

In vain were all the Governor's denials. Never was proof of guilt more
complete and convincing, and Polatschek, who was almost as much unnerved
by the discovery as the prisoner, reluctantly gave orders to seize and
secure the unfortunate man, and Pomeroff was hurried away to the house
of detention, to await his trial.

Since the beginning of the so-called terrorist period, and the first
attack upon the life of the Czar, a short time before the occurrence of
the above events, the trial of political offenders had been taken from
the civil tribunals and transferred to the military. Even counsel for
the prisoner must be an army officer. The court to try Governor Pomeroff
was hastily convened next morning. Instructions concerning the judgment
to be rendered were telegraphed from St. Petersburg and the military
judges had but to obey their imperial mandate. Under such conditions
the trial was a mere form. The evidence against the prisoner was
positive. Within an hour Pomeroff, who had no opportunity of saying a
word in his defence, was sentenced to death.

"The secret 'council of ten' that once terrorized Venice, and which,
without process of law, condemned men to punishment upon secret charges,
preferred by unknown accusers, often where no crime had been committed,
has long been regarded as the most odious form of injustice. Yet the
Russian system of to-day is quite as repugnant to every idea of justice.
Men who have never been tried, nor perhaps even accused, but who are
simply suspected by the police, are often without the slightest
investigation hurried into exile or death."[15]

On the following morning, Governor Pomeroff, the just and merciful, the
friend and protector of the Jews, was secretly executed in the fortress
of Kief.

Excitement was at fever heat. The Governor was beloved by all. Never had
the province been so well governed as during his administration.

Among the Jews whom Pomeroff had especially befriended the grief was
deep and sincere. Rabbi Mendel Winenki, in an address to his
congregation, fearlessly denounced a system by which an innocent man
could be put to death. In the synagogues the _kaddish_ (prayer for the
dead) was recited as for a beloved parent. In consequence of these
demonstrations the authorities warned the Jews that any further
expressions of disapproval of the Government's course would be severely
punished.

Well might the Jews mourn their friend and protector. With his death
their bright hopes and dreams, their prospects of emancipation, were
rudely dispelled.

Within a week of Pomeroff's execution Count Dimitri Drentell, our old
acquaintance whom we left at Lubny and whom the Crimean War had made a
General, arrived in Kief as its future Governor.

While the majority of the inhabitants of the province were indifferent
as to which creature of the imperial autocrat oppressed them, there were
two classes who viewed the change with great misgivings: the Jews and
the band of agitators to which Loris Drentell, the new Governor's son,
belonged. The Jews had learned from their co-religionists in Poltava of
the implacable hatred Dimitri bore their race. They had for fifteen
years basked in the sunshine of Pomeroff's favor, but now trembled at
the dismal prospect before them.

The Nihilists had equal cause for fear. Their safety required a Governor
who could be controlled or hoodwinked by them. But they well knew that
this man was unapproachable, that neither bribes nor threats would avail
to win him over. Besides, Loris felt that by remaining the leader of the
Nihilist Club he would come in conflict with his father. The elder
Drentell was not merely the civil Governor of Kief--he was also one of
the Generals appointed by the Czar with unlimited power to punish the
guilty; with the right to exile all persons whose stay he might consider
prejudicial to public welfare; to imprison at discretion; to suppress or
suspend any journal, and to take all measures that he might deem
necessary for public safety. With a man of such vast powers, it was
dangerous for even a beloved son to trifle. For the time being,
therefore, the Nihilists were doomed to inactivity.

General Drentell began his administration with a careful examination of
the evidence which had caused the condemnation of his predecessor. He
had a strong conviction that Pomeroff was innocent, but if guilty he
felt it his duty to ferret out the conspiracy and discover Pomeroff's
accomplices. He owed it to his own safety to purge the palace of such as
might be there.

With the skill of a trained detective, and with the utmost secrecy, he
began the work. His first investigations were made in the palace which
he was henceforth to occupy. Drentell soon discovered that Moleska,
Pomeroff's secretary, had duplicate keys to the desk and closets in the
private cabinet. If Pomeroff was innocent, this would explain the
presence of the incriminating papers in the Governor's desk. Acting
entirely upon this suspicion, he ordered the arrest of Moleska, who,
overcome by terror, confessed the entire plot.

On the following day, Loris was hastily summoned into the Governor's
presence. He found his father striding up and down the apartment, a prey
to the most violent agitation.

"You have sent for me, father?" said the young man.

"Yes; sit down," answered Drentell, curtly. "Have you ever read the
history of Rome?"

Loris opened his eyes wide at the unexpected question.

"Why do you ask?"

"Answer my question. Have you ever read the history of Rome?"

"Yes."

"Do you remember the story of Brutus, whose son was engaged in a
conspiracy against the republic?"

Loris became very pale and stammered an indistinct reply.

"You do; I see it in your face! Tell me how did Brutus act towards his
son?"

"He condemned him to death," faltered Loris.

"Right! He condemned him to death. The malefactor paid the penalty with
his life."

The General arose and again paced up and down the room, in a vain
attempt to control his agitation.

"What have these questions to do with me?" asked Loris, nervously.

"Simply this," answered the Governor, coming to a sudden stop before his
son, while his eyes flashed and big blue veins stood out upon his
forehead: "I have proofs that my predecessor died an innocent man. I
have also the names of those Nihilists who should have suffered in his
stead. Shall I tell you whose name is at the head? My duty is clear. I
should follow the example of Brutus and deliver my son into the hands of
the law."

Loris, a thorough coward at heart, sank into a chair.

"Father," he stammered; "you would not condemn me to death; me, your
only child?"

"Coward!" cried the General, looking scornfully at his son, whom terror
had robbed of strength to stand. "You have the courage to plan
cold-blooded murder, but when the time comes to face your own death you
show yourself a miserable poltroon. Fear nothing: you shall not die. I
have passed a sleepless night, struggling between duty and parental
affection. But were it known in St. Petersburg that I had shown you
mercy, I would answer for it with my life."

"Father!" exclaimed the young man, remorsefully, hiding his face in his
hands.

"Don't interrupt me," said the General, savagely. "I have already
requested the immediate removal of your regiment to the frontier. The
Turks are aggressive, and our forces in that neighborhood should be
increased. By to-morrow you will receive your order to march. It is
absolutely necessary that you should leave Kief. Of your misguided
companions, Moleska, who revealed the conspiracy, is already in the
fortress, and the others will soon follow. For your own safety, you must
leave Kief before the arrests are made, or I will not answer for the
consequences."

"But, father, you will be lenient towards them," cried the young man.
"You will not condemn them to death. Remember that whatever may have
been their guilt, had it not been for the death of Pomeroff, you would
not now be Governor of Kief."

"For shame, Loris!" cried the General, red with anger. "Are you so lost
to all sense of honor that you must remind me that I stepped into office
over the corpse of my predecessor and my friend, murdered by my own son?
Do not provoke me too far! Your associates have been guilty of the most
grievous of crimes. They must die. Besides, were they to live they would
denounce you as their leader and even I could not save your life. Go!
Arrange your affairs, avoid further intercourse with your companions. By
this time to-morrow you must be on the way to the frontier while they
will mount the scaffold."

Loris shuddered and for the first time a sentiment of humanity moved
within him.

"I will not go," he said, resolutely. "I have lived and plotted with
them and I shall die with them."

"No, Loris, no," replied his father, softened. "You must depart. There
is no other course. A Drentell must not die a traitor's death. It would
break my heart and kill your mother, who dotes upon you. It will be
better not to see her before your departure. Questionings and
explanations are dangerous. After all this is forgotten, you may return
and work out the career I had hoped for you."

Loris, sorrowful and conscience-stricken, kissed his father's hand and
slowly left the room.

On the morrow, the Seventh Cossack Regiment received orders from St.
Petersburg to proceed to Kothim without delay, and long before nightfall
it was on the march. Next morning twelve conspirators were arrested at
their homes and dragged before the tribunal of judicial inquiry. Their
trial, like that of Pomeroff, was a mockery, for their fate had already
been decided. Defence was useless. The incriminating papers found in the
places designated by the informer Moleska sealed their doom. Governor
Drentell himself pronounced their sentence. Two days afterward they were
secretly executed.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 15: Foulke.]



CHAPTER XXIII.

LOUISE'S PRACTICAL ADVICE.


Tyranny, which for a brief period had slept, was now wide-awake and
aggressively active. Throughout the entire Empire despotism stalked
unimpeded. The recent attempt upon the Czar's life had increased the
vigilance of the police, and the most frightful atrocities were
committed in the holy name of Justice. The blood curdles with horror
when reading of the indignities and the injustice visited upon the
people.

"When the police deem it best," says one writer,[16] in portraying the
condition of that period, "they steal noiselessly through the streets
and alleys, surround a private dwelling in the dead of the night, and
under some false pretence, invade every room in the house, waking the
sleeping occupants. Each member of the household is given in charge of a
policeman, everything is turned topsy-turvy, books, papers, private
letters are carefully inspected--nothing is secret. It is not necessary
that the police should have any evidence for these searches. An
anonymous charge, a mere suspicion is enough. Houses have sometimes been
inspected seven times in a single day. If anything is discovered to
excite the suspicions of the police an arrest follows and the supposed
culprit is sent to the house of Preventive Detention. There he awaits
his trial for weeks and months and sometimes for years. He is brought
out occasionally for examination. If he confesses nothing he is sent
back to reflect. Sometimes the wrong man is arrested and confined a year
or two before the mistake is discovered."

The solitary confinement to which prisoners were doomed in this house of
detention was often fatal. The hardships to which they were subjected
frequently led to consumption, insanity or suicide. The examination of
prisoners and witnesses was dragged out to an interminable length. In
one celebrated case it lasted four years and over seven hundred
witnesses were kept in jail during that time. The prosecutor admitted
that only twenty persons deserved punishment, yet there were
seventy-three who died from suicide or the effects of confinement.

Louder and louder grew the clamor of the masses and the threats against
the imperial autocrat. Wholesale arrests could not quell the popular
voice. A prisoner wrote from his living tomb in the Troubetzkoi Ravelin:
"Fight on till the victory is won! The more they torment me in prison,
the better it is for the struggle!"

Governor Drentell entered upon his new duties at a trying time. His
existence was embittered by political strife and tumult, and by
complications with which he found it difficult to cope.

Let us seek him in his palace, by the side of his wife, Louise.

When we first met Louise, she was young and frivolous; now she is old
and frivolous. The years have dealt gently with her, however, for she is
still quite handsome and as vivacious, as capricious, as kind-hearted
and as religious as when we last parted from her, twenty-seven years
ago.

"Poor Dimitri," she said, dolefully, after her husband had recounted the
events of the day. "Eighteen persons exiled to Siberia and two sentenced
to death. How hard you toil! You will kill yourself with overwork!"

The General sighed.

"I should think," continued Louise, "that Loris could be of service to
you in these difficult affairs of State. Why don't you recall our boy?"

The General's brow clouded.

"He must remain at his post for the present," he answered. "After he has
achieved military glory, it will be time enough to initiate him in civil
affairs."

"But you need an adviser, an assistant who can take some of your work
off your hands."

"You are right! But who shall it be? There are so many Nihilists about,
that I cannot be too careful whom I take into my confidence."

Louise rocked herself awhile in silence. Suddenly she said, impetuously:

"I wish we were back in St. Petersburg, or even at Lubny. Do you know,
Dimitri, our days at Lubny were pleasant, after all?"

"Perhaps," answered Drentell, sarcastically, "that accounts for your
incessant desire to leave the place."

"I never know when I am happy," said Louise, truthfully.

For some minutes she again rocked herself vigorously. It was her way of
stimulating her mental faculties. Suddenly she cried:

"Ah, if you had only brought Mikail along. He might assist you."

"You appear too fond of Mikail's society," answered the Governor,
sharply; "and that is just why I left him in St. Petersburg."

"Fool," replied Louise, half in jest, half in earnest. "Why, he is only
my father confessor. You surely would not be jealous of a priest?"

"Yes, even of a priest, especially when he is as handsome and
fascinating as our Mikail."

Louise broke into a merry laugh.

"Then that is why you were so solicitous about placing him with the
Minister of War in St. Petersburg. You were afraid to bring him along on
my account?"

"Candidly, yes. In spite of his priestly robes, I fancied he was too
fond of your society and you of his, and I deemed it best for my peace
of mind to leave him at the capital while we came here."

For a time Louise's mirth appeared uncontrollable.

"Why, you goose!" she said, after her laughter had subsided. "Mikail has
never approached me but with the greatest respect. He knows that I have
been his benefactress, and I am sure that, while he thinks me awfully
ignorant, he respects me as he would an aged relative."

"And what are your feelings towards him?"

"I know what he was in the past; and, while I have unbounded admiration
for his wisdom, I can never forget how he first came into our house."

"Then there is no danger of your falling in love with him?"

"None, whatever. I am old enough to be his mother."

"But his beauty--his charms?"

"They do not compare with those of my dear husband," replied Louise, as
she twined her arms about Dimitri's neck, with all the coquetry of
twenty-seven years ago.

There was no reason to doubt Louise's sincerity, and the General felt a
little ashamed of his unfounded suspicions.

"Have you heard from the Minister since our departure from St.
Petersburg?" asked Louise.

"Yes; he has written several times. He cannot sufficiently praise the
keen intellect of our young priest."

"He is the very man you want. Have him come to Kief at once. You need an
assistant and Mikail is bound to you by ties of gratitude and
affection."

The General looked sharply at his wife. He still felt doubtful as to her
feeling for Mikail. But Louise rocked away, unconscious of her husband's
penetrating glance.

"Perhaps it will be best to have him come," he reflected. "Yes, it must
be so. After having had him educated, after having given him the
opportunity of becoming what he now is, it would be folly not to employ
him to my own advantage. I shall write for him to-morrow."

"I shall see," he said, at length.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 16: Foulke.]



CHAPTER XXIV.

A DANIEL COME TO JUDGMENT.


A week later Mikail arrived in Kief. He appeared to be about thirty
years of age, was tall of stature, well built and sturdy. His complexion
was dark, his features oriental, his face oval, framed by a coal black
flowing beard, which gave him an appearance at once imposing and
attractive. His large black eyes shone with the lustre of intelligence.
A deep and melancholy calm seemed fixed in their commanding gaze. His
quiet countenance and stately form, his black clerical garments, his
sedate step and thoughtful mien added to the impressive effect of his
appearance. His beauty, however, was marred by two serious defects. The
lower half of his right ear had been torn away and his left arm was
stiff at the elbow and almost useless.

We find him in earnest conversation with Governor Drentell and a few of
the counsellors of his court.

"It is to be deplored," said the Governor, "that there seem to be no
efficient means of quelling the popular discontent. Arrest and exile do
not have the desired effect. Our prisons are filled to overflowing and
there is scarcely a day that does not send its quota of criminals to
Siberia. Here, in the southern part of Russia, the state of affairs is
particularly threatening. It is becoming alarming."

"Your excellency," remarked Mikail, in a deep, musical voice, "the
object of exile is, or ought to be, corrective rather than vindictive.
But, in my opinion, it exasperates the community and increases the
discontent."

"But," objected one of the counsellors, "to allow discontented persons
to remain unmolested will make them dangerous to the State."

"Undoubtedly," replied Mikail, "unless we remove the cause of their
discontent."

"Remove the cause?" interrupted Drentell, surprised. "To remove the
cause would mean to grant them liberty of action, to grant them a
constitutional government, to acquiesce in the thousand reforms they
demand."

"Let us not disguise from ourselves the fact that the people are
entitled to all they ask," said Mikail, quietly; "that the inhabitants
of other countries enjoy these rights and more, too, and that they only
ask for what is the prerogative of every human being--liberty and
happiness. But," continued he, emphasizing the little word; "while other
nations may prosper under such a rule, Russia would not. Her people are
not ready to enjoy the rights they demand. They would look into the full
glare of the mid-day sun before having accustomed their eyes to
candle-light. When I spoke of removing the cause, I did not mean to
abolish the cause of their discontent, but to obviate the necessity of
sending people into exile."

The assembly, which had at first been appalled by the priest's
unpatriotic sentiments, now breathed more freely.

"How would you accomplish your purpose?" asked the Governor.

"By directing the attention of the masses to something which will for
the time divert their minds from their present projects."

"It has been tried," replied the Governor. "We have begun quarrels with
all the countries surrounding us without accomplishing our object."

"Naturally enough. A war with Turkey or with Bulgaria is of very little
interest to those living far from the scene of conflict. Beyond taking a
few soldiers out of the country such quarrels are productive of no good.
There must be some strong excitement in which every one can take a part
and feel a personal interest, and then Nihilism will decline."

"What do you propose?" asked the Governor, whose curiosity was now
thoroughly aroused.

"Nothing new," answered the priest, deliberately. "I have already had
the honor of suggesting it to his excellency, the Minister of War, who
graciously commended it. _We must attack the Jews_. They have enjoyed
immunity long enough. For over twenty years they have lived in security,
feeding upon the fat of the land, engaging in trades that are unlawful
and amassing wealth which rightfully belongs to the faithful of the Holy
Catholic Church." And Mikail crossed himself devoutly.

The Governor and his counsellors looked at each other, significantly.

The priest continued: "The Jews have entered every branch of trade and,
worse still, have acquired lands. This is clearly against the laws of
the Empire which forbid a Hebrew's owning land. They have crowded into
our cities to the exclusion of our own people. Kief now contains over
twenty thousand Jews, whereas I am confident that the ancient laws limit
the population to less than one-half that number. They have
systematically robbed and plundered the gentiles and by their wiles
defrauded the poorer classes. They control the trade in intoxicants and
the vast quantities drunk by the _moujiks_ pass through the hands of the
Jews. Their wives are arrayed in satins and laces and wear the most
elaborate jewelry, while our lower classes suffer poverty and misery. Is
it right, gentlemen, that the Jews should have such advantages over the
faithful? Something must be done to check their dangerous progress."

"Your reverence evidently bears the race no great love," suggested one
of the counsellors.

"I have cause to hate them," answered Mikail, with darkening brow and
heaving bosom.

"You are right, Mikail," answered the Governor, eagerly; "they are a
despicable, blood-thirsty race."

"But how will a crusade against the Hebrews relieve the troubled
condition of Russia?" inquired another of the gentlemen.

"It will divert the attention of the masses from their present sinister
projects. Once let them taste the blood of the Jews, give pillage and
carnage unrestrained license, and they will forget their chimerical
schemes, and, paradoxical as it may seem, domestic order will be
re-established."

"You are right," said Drentell, rising. "It is eminently proper that the
Government should give its attention to the Jews and their relations
with the rest of Russia's inhabitants. I do not believe, however, that
this agitation can be brought about in a month or even in a year.
Unfortunately, too many of our peasants live upon terms of friendship
with them, absolutely blind to the fact that they are being preyed upon.
We must open the eyes of these poor victims. We must point out to them
that the Jew saves money and amasses wealth, while they toil in penury;
that Jews fill our schools and colleges, while our people remain
ignorant; that the Jew, base, deceitful, and avaricious, fattens on
their misery."

"The _moujiks_ once aroused," resumed the priest, "and the race struggle
begun, the Czar may sleep in peace."

"Will his majesty approve our plans?" inquired one of the counsellors.

"There will be no interference from St. Petersburg," answered the
priest. "I have already prepared the Minister of War for such a course
and he is thoroughly in accord with us. We have but to notify him of our
intentions, and he will order a similar movement in all parts of the
Empire simultaneously."

This course being decided on, the Council broke up, the Jews little
dreaming of the sword that hung suspended over their heads.



CHAPTER XXV.

MIKAIL THE PRIEST.


In Russia, the ecclesiastical administration is entirely in the hands of
the monks belonging to the "Black Clergy," in contradistinction to the
village priests, called "White Clergy." A black priest must be brought
up in one of the five hundred rigorous monastic establishments of the
Empire. The order is under the supervision of bishops, of whom there
are a great number. The black priest looks upon the parish priest as a
sort of ecclesiastical half-caste, who should obey blindly, sharing all
the onerous duties but none of the honors of the calling.

The history of monastic life in Russia does not differ materially from
that in Western Europe. The early monks were mostly ascetics, living in
colonies in a simple and primitive manner, subsisting on alms and
charity. Their only aims in life were the glorification of God and to
live as Christ commanded, in poverty, humility and self-denial. With the
flight of time, this comfortless existence gave way to more luxurious
customs. Money, lands and serfs were given to these simple monasteries,
which gradually grew into a mighty power in the land, engaging in
commerce, exercising jurisdiction over large domains, and moulding the
religious sentiment of the Church and State. During this century,
however, they grew less powerful. Secularization of church lands and the
liberation of the serfs reduced many of them to poverty.

The monks, nevertheless, hold a position in the church vastly superior
to that of the village priest, or _batushka_, as he is called. These
_batushkas_ belong to a hereditary caste, the members of which have been
priests for generations. They are subject to the rulings of the district
bishop; their livings, their distinctive names, even their wives--for
they are allowed to marry--are provided for them by their religious
superior. Their condition is not enviable. They are for the most part
poor and ignorant, with no higher ambition than to perform the rites and
ceremonies prescribed by their church. The parishioners are satisfied
with very little, and the _batushkas_ have but little to give. They
preach but rarely, and only after having submitted the sermon to the
provincial _consistorium_. The moral influence they exercise over the
people is necessarily small.

It was to the "Black Clergy" that Mikail belonged. As far back as he
could remember, his home had been in a monastery and his daily
associates austere monks. He was taught that the Catholic faith is the
only path to salvation. In so far, his education was similar to that of
his brother priests, but while the Jew Jesus inculcated love of all men,
Mikail was taught to hate the Jews. No occasion was permitted to pass,
no opportunity neglected to instil the subtle poison into his young
mind. The monks would point to his torn ear and palsied arm, and so
vividly portray the tortures he had suffered, that Mikail clenched his
little fists, his face became flushed and his bosom heaved at the
recital of his wrongs. They took delight in repeating the tale, that
they might witness his childish outbursts of passion and fury. This
treatment had its desired effect; the boy developed into a rabid
Jew-hater.

As a child, Mikail was but a servant in the monastery, ill-treated and
ill-fed. The only joyful episodes of this period of his existence were
the occasional visits to the Count and Countess Drentell, at Lubny, to
whom he believed himself distantly related. They received him with every
appearance of cordiality, made inquiries about his progress, allowed him
to revel in the companionship of Loris for a day or two, and finally
sent him back to his dreary prison.

As he grew up, his treatment at the hands of the Poltava monks improved.
The Superior, Alexei, discovered a keen intellect in this reserved and
sullen lad. It was astonishing with what avidity he read the limited
number of books which the convent bookcase contained. His desire for
learning appeared insatiable, and the few kopecks which he earned in
showing strangers through the chapel and running errands for the monks,
were invariably spent at the book shops for some bit of precious
literature. By the time he was eighteen he had mastered all the learning
that Alexei could impart, and the superior was by no means an illiterate
or ignorant man. Mikail read Latin and German fluently, developed a
talent for theology, and his shrewd arguments won the admiration of his
fellow-priests.

"He has a brilliant mind," said Alexei to himself one day. "Who knows,
he may yet become a bishop."

The Russian Catholic Church occupies a unique position as compared with
the churches of Southern and Western Europe. She is now, as she was
centuries ago, apparently oblivious of the world's advancement and
impenetrable to new ideas. Her ancient traditions are still cherished.
The theological discussions and quarrels, the reformations and schisms,
which at various times shook the Roman Catholic Church to its centre,
had no terrors for the church of Russia. Intellectual advancement,
scientific research, inventive progress left her untouched and
uninfluenced. Her theology remained precisely as it was in the days of
Constantine and, like the self-sufficient snail, she withdrew into her
shell, her convents, and allowed the world to wag as it saw fit.

This apathy is easily explained. The Czar, the autocratic temporal
ruler, is also the spiritual head of the church. Hence, she has had all
her thinking done for her and has remained stationary. This trait has
had its influence over the intellectual character of her priests, who
are for the most part indolent and ignorant, content to believe whatever
their religion requires, without question or debate. Theological
discussions, such as we find in Protestant countries, are hardly known
in Russia.

To the monks of his convent, Mikail formed a noteworthy contrast. His
mind, remarkably active for one so young, refused to accept the
intricate mass of dogmas without endeavoring to analyze them and trace
them back to their original sources. For years he had accepted the
stories of miracles and revelations unquestioningly, but after he had
begun a course of independent reading and reflection he discovered
discrepancies and contradictions, which sowed the seed of grave doubts
in his restive brain.

He confided his doubts to Alexei, his superior. This worthy gave the
matter very little consideration; he shrugged his shoulders, stroked his
beard, now a venerable white, and answered:

"I, too, had my doubts at your age, but I got bravely over them. The
miracles of which the Bible speaks are undoubtedly true, for the people
living in those times beheld them. That such things do not occur
nowadays is no proof that they could not have happened then. Our duty is
to believe what our ancient writings tell us, to see that the lamps are
kept burning before the icons, and that our ceremonials are observed to
the letter. A priest has no right to question what is sanctioned by
tradition and belief."

For a time, Mikail was content to accept this explanation and to keep
his peace. But doubt was not so easily quieted. Ever and again he would
seek the solitude of his cell and ponder over the grave and perplexing
questions that disturbed him. He found no solution. He had been
educated in an atmosphere of bigotry and superstition, had been brought
up rigorously in the belief that God himself had descended from Heaven
and adopted the form of man; had been daily taught that blind faith,
independent of deed, would lead to salvation. These dogmas now appeared
at variance with his conception of truth. Harassed by doubts, tormented
by superstitious fears for the safety of his soul, Mikail led a wretched
existence.

Gradually, the monotonous, inactive life of the monastery began to pall
upon him. He soon found, too, that many of his brethren believed as
little as he did; that others were too indolent to reflect and believed
as a matter of course. The thousand ceremonials, the carelessly recited
prayers, the perfunctory invocations, the prescribed signs, crosses and
genuflections before the rudely painted icons, appeared to him as hollow
mockeries, and soon the place seemed redolent with deceit.

It was a severe struggle for the young man, and the Superior, who
observed the storm which was surging within the doubter's breast, did
not hesitate to attribute it to the wiles of Satan.

"Cast yourself at the feet of the Saviour, O thou of little faith!"
exhorted Alexei. "He will help thee drive out the evil spirit! Fast,
pray, torture thy body if necessary, but cleanse thy soul of its doubts,
purge thy heart of the unholy thoughts which the Devil has planted
there."

Mikail fasted and prayed and scourged himself until his flesh was a mass
of sores. In vain the torture! The doubts would not be driven out, Satan
would not be exorcised.

At the age of twenty-three, Mikail could endure it no longer.

"I must go out into the world, father," he said one day to Alexei. "The
convent is too small, too limited for me. I must work and toil with and
for humanity. Let me go into the parish for a short time. The Bishop,
who thinks well of me, may be able to procure me the position of
_blagotchinny_.[17] I will have an opportunity of learning the world, of
succoring the needy, of aiding the sick. Perhaps a life of activity will
dispel the shadows which have darkened my soul."

Alexei was quite willing to grant this request. He was anxious, in fact,
to send Mikail from the cloister, for his doubts, which he took no pains
to conceal, were beginning to affect the torpid intellects of the monks.
A short conference was held with the Bishop, and Mikail obtained the
coveted position.

A new life of work and constant activity now opened for the young
priest, but he still found what he had sought to escape, hypocrisy and
deceit.

The village priests with whom he came in daily contact were a pitiable
set. He found among them many honest, respectable, well-meaning men,
conscientiously fulfilling their humble tasks, striving hard to serve
the religious needs of the community. There were, on the other hand,
however, fanatics and rogues, men representing the worse elements of
society. The people shunned the clergy, and held them up to ridicule.
They formed a class apart, not in sympathy with the parishioners. They
committed serious transgressions, were irreligious and transformed the
service of God into a profitable trade.

Could the people respect the clergy when they learned that one priest
stole money from under the pillow of a dying man at the moment he was
administering the sacrament, that another was publicly dragged out of a
house of ill-fame, that a third christened a dog, that a fourth while
officiating at the Easter service was dragged by the hair from the altar
by the deacon? Was it possible for the people to venerate priests who
spent their time in gin shops, wrote fraudulent petitions, fought with
crosses as weapons and abused each other at the altar? Was it possible
for them to have an exalted opinion of a God-inspired religion, when
they saw everywhere about them simony, carelessness in performing
religious rites, and disorder in administering the sacrament?[18]

Mikail's heart turned sick. Nowhere could he find that truth which he
sought. Even the better educated priests appeared to have given their
creed no thought, no reflection.

Still the young priest did valuable service in the field assigned to
him. Through his indomitable will be corrected many of the abuses which
existed in his district, and raised the parish clergy to a higher
standard of efficiency and morality.

So the years passed. The friendship between Mikail and General Drentell
grew stronger as the nobleman learned to value the brilliant intellect
of his _protégé_. His occasional visits to Lubny continued, and the
General usually profited by the clear, good sense of the young man, who
displayed as thorough a knowledge of agriculture as he did of theology.
Mikail and Loris, on the other hand, could never agree. The priest had
no patience with the hare-brained, pampered young aristocrat, and
occasional differences were the result. For the sake of the General's
friendship, however, as well as for the preservation of his own dignity,
Mikail restrained his feelings. At the age of twenty, Loris entered the
army, and for a while the growing animosity of the two was happily
checked.

The Bishop, greatly admiring his assistant's ability, offered him an
important position in his consistorium. This Mikail firmly refused. He
assigned as his reason that he found congenial work among the
parishioners; but in reality the priest felt in his heart that his
veneration for the Catholic creed was growing daily less, and that
vexing doubts and difficulties had gradually crowded out the faith he
had once possessed. It was at this time that General Drentell's
influence obtained for him a desirable position with General Melikoff,
the Minister of War. The priest gladly accepted the honor, happy to
escape from the continual hypocrisy of his clerical duties.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 17: A _blagotchinny_ is a parish priest who is in direct
relations with the consistorium of the province, and who is supposed to
exercise a strict supervision over all the parish priests of his
district.]

[Footnote 18: Mr. Melnikof, in a secret report to Grand Duke
Constantine. Wallace's "Russia," p. 58.]



CHAPTER XXVI.

A DAUGHTER OF ISRAEL.


Rabbi Mendel Winenki sat in his study, reading. Before him and within
easy reach stood a massive table covered with books and papers. There
were strewn upon it in motley confusion ancient folios and modern
volumes. It was a comprehensive library which the Rabbi had collected.
There were works on comparative theology, on medicine, on jurisprudence
and philosophy. The _Shulkan-aruch_ and a treatise on Buddhistic
Occultism stood side by side. The Talmud and Kant's "Kritik der reinen
Vernunft" were placed upon the same shelf, and Josephus and Renan's
"Life of Jesus" were near neighbors.

Time was when the Jew who would have exposed a single work printed in
any characters but the ancient Hebrew letters would have been ostracized
by his co-religionists. The Rabbi remembered with a smile how carefully
he had concealed the precious volumes which Pesach Harretzki had given
him, how furtively he had carried them into his bed that he might read
them undetected.

How different now was the condition of things! True, the greater portion
of the Jews of Kief still held tenaciously to their prejudices,
absolutely refusing to learn anything not taught at the _cheder_. In the
eyes of these people Mendel was a renegade and a heretic. The only thing
which prevented them from hurling the ban of excommunication against him
was their recollection of the good he had accomplished.

Mendel's greatest achievement was the introduction of secular education.
Many years elapsed before his ideas took root, but with the spread of
better instruction in the public schools, which were now open to Jewish
youth, there came a desire for greater knowledge and the difficult
problem worked out its own solution. At the time of which we speak many
Jewish lads were pupils of the gymnasium and quite a number of them
students at the University of Kief.

Seated by the side of the Rabbi, and sewing, sat his wife and his
daughter, Kathinka, now a girl of eighteen. Many changes had occurred
in the interval since we last saw our friends. Mendel was now a man of
about forty-five and in the full vigor of contented manhood. A wealth of
coal-black hair shaded his massive forehead and a long but neatly
trimmed beard set off his handsome face. Recha had become stouter and
more matronly, but one would scarcely take her for the mother of the
blooming girl by her side.

Kathinka was a perfect specimen of Hebrew beauty. She had inherited the
commanding form of her father and the regular features of her mother. To
this perfection of body she united a sweetness of disposition which made
her beloved by all who knew her.

Women among the Eastern Jews, as indeed among all oriental nations,
being considered intellectually inferior to their lords and masters,
rarely aspire to learning. Occasionally one might find an example of a
well-directed and thoroughly developed mind among the daughters of
Israel, even though surrounded by the retarding influences of the
_ghetto_. We have seen how well Recha had been educated and her daughter
Kathinka was being brought up in the same way. She was independent in
thought as well as in action, but never at the cost of maidenly
sentiment. Piety and purity shone in her lustrous eyes. Superior to her
position, she possessed the faculty of adapting herself to her
surroundings. There was no pride in her breast save that which might
arise from the consciousness of doing right. The poor had a
commiserating friend in her and the sick a tender nurse. The children
that played in the squalid lanes of the old quarter ceased their romping
when she passed and lovingly kissed her hand. She desired no better lot
than to do good in her own sphere, and to deserve the approbation of
her own conscience. Such was Kathinka, a girl of many graces and
sterling worth--in heart and soul a Jewess.

Rabbi Mendel looked up from his books and gazed fondly at his daughter,
who, seated with the full light of the window falling upon her face,
appeared the embodiment of loveliness. Then turning to his wife, he
asked:

"Recha, have you spoken to Kathinka about young Goldheim?"

"No," replied Recha; "I left it for you to tell."

"Briefly then, my dear," said the Rabbi, addressing his daughter, who
looked up from her work in surprise; "Reb Wolf, the _schadchen_, has
been here for the third time, to induce us to give him a favorable reply
for Samuel Goldheim. I told him that I feared my intervention would be
useless."

Kathinka blushed deeply.

"You did right, father," she answered.

"But, my dear child," said the Rabbi, thoughtfully; "tell me why you
refuse Goldheim? He is a fine-looking young man, of a rich and respected
family, and will make you a good husband."

Kathinka arose and, crossing to her father, put her arms lovingly about
his neck.

"Dear papa," she said, softly and caressingly, "I know you love me too
well to insist upon my doing a thing which will make me unhappy for
life. You have often told me how you and mamma first found one another,
how heart went out to heart, so that there was scarcely any need to tell
each other that you loved. That is an ideal affection, and the only one
that my heart could recognize. I abhor the notion of a marriage brought
about by the efforts of a third party, who has no other interest in the
matter than the fee he receives for his labors. There is to me something
repugnant in the idea of uniting two beings to each other for life,
without consulting their inclinations or their tastes."

"I agree with you, Kathinka," answered the Rabbi, stroking his
daughter's long curls, "and it is far from my thoughts to see you united
to any man you do not truly love. In former days the system of marrying
through the agency of a match-maker undoubtedly possessed great
advantages. It is incumbent upon every good Israelite to marry, but
originally the villages were sparsely settled, in many places there was
a lack of marriageable men, in others the maidens were in the minority,
and as facilities for travelling were limited, and often entirely
absent, a _schadchen_, who made it a business to bring eligible couples
together, was a great convenience. The necessity for such a mediator is
constantly growing less."

"But there can be no romance, no pleasant anticipation in such a union."

"My dear child, Israel has never had time for romance. Your youth has
fortunately been spared the dreadful persecutions which have from time
to time been visited upon our people; but, if you can picture the
constant dread of outrage and the incessant fear of persecution, which
have been our portion; if you can conceive the miserable existence in
wretched hovels and the weary struggle for the barest necessities of
life, you will understand why the Jews have had little of that spirit of
chivalry and romance of which modern books give us so fascinating a
picture. But tell me, Kathinka," continued the Rabbi, looking intently
at his daughter, "is there not another reason for your refusal of
Samuel's hand?"

Kathinka became very red, and looked pleadingly at her mother.

"My dear," said Recha, "you had better confess all to your father. He
has a right to know."

Still the girl remained silent.

"Well, my child; who has stolen your heart?" asked the Rabbi, kindly.

"Father, I love Joseph Kierson," said Kathinka, faintly, hiding her
blushing face upon the Rabbi's shoulder.

"What, my former pupil?" asked the Rabbi, astonished. "I must have been
blind not to have observed it. And does he love you?"

"I think he does," she archly answered.

"But Joseph is poor," returned her father. "He has nothing and has as
yet no profession. He is merely a student at the University."

"But he has a brilliant intellect," retorted Kathinka, proudly. "I have
heard you say a dozen times that he will achieve renown. It is one of
your favorite maxims that a man must rise by his own exertions. Joseph
is destined to rise."

"How long has this understanding existed?" asked Mendel.

"We were fond of each other as children, when he first began his lessons
at _cheder_," replied the girl, earnestly; "but it was only recently
that he declared his love."

"He found that you were surrounded by admiring youths and feared that
you might be taken from him," added her mother.

"And did you promise to be his wife?" asked the Rabbi.

"Oh, no, father. I could not do that without your consent. He did not
even ask me. He simply told me that he deplored his ignorance and
poverty and that it was his intention to study medicine and become a
learned doctor that he might be worthy of obtaining my hand. That was
all."

"He could not have made it plainer. And what did you answer?"

"I encouraged him in his determination and told him I would wait."

"And that is why he requested me to speak to his parents and obtain
their consent to his pursuing a course of study, and that is why you
took such an interest in his welfare and were so pleased when I told you
that he had been admitted to the University."

"Yes," answered Kathinka, with radiant face.

"Do you know how long it will take before he has finished his course? He
cannot expect to obtain his diploma in less than six years."

"I know it," replied Kathinka.

"And then it will be some time before his profession will enable him to
support a wife."

"I know it. I will wait."

"Brave girl," said Mendel, fondly. "You are doing right and may he prove
worthy of you."

"Will it take so long?" asked the mother. "You will then be twenty-four
years old, Kathinka, and will be obliged to marry a poor man. Had you
not better consider before refusing Goldheim? He is wealthy and quite
learned."

"I do not care for him," replied the girl, quietly but with decision.
"You married father for love, did you not?"

"Yes," said Mendel, replying for his wife. "She took me although I was
but a poor Talmud scholar without a kopeck that I could call my own.
Joseph will succeed. He has ambition and talent."

Kathinka kissed her father, affectionately.

"Then you are satisfied with my choice?" she asked.

"Yes, my dear, I am content. When Reb Wolf, the _schadchen_, comes for
his answer we will know just what to tell him."



CHAPTER XXVII.

AT THE RABBI'S AND AT THE GOVERNOR'S.


Joseph Kierson was a fine manly fellow of twenty-two, not particularly
handsome, but possessing what in Kathinka's eyes outweighed mere
personal appearance, a fine mind, great courage and indomitable zeal.
His youth had been uneventful. His father was a hard-working butcher,
who in spite of his industry found it difficult to provide food for his
family of half-a-dozen. Until recently Joseph had assisted his father in
his business, but felt an irresistible desire to achieve something
higher than was possible in that humble calling. Recognizing the need of
skilled physicians in the Jewish community, he conceived the idea of
taking up the profession of medicine. We have seen that his ambition was
strengthened by his desire to obtain the hand of Kathinka, in whom all
his hopes were centred.

Old Jacob Kierson was bitterly opposed to his son's project. His
objections were in a measure selfish, for he could not reconcile himself
to the thought of hiring an assistant while Joseph spent his time in
idleness. Moreover, he belonged to the old school and sincerely abhorred
all learning that savored of the gentiles. He therefore peremptorily
forbade his son's entertaining such an impious purpose. In this
emergency Rabbi Winenki's eloquence was brought into requisition. He
skilfully argued away the old man's prejudices and painted in such
glowing colors the possibilities of Joseph's future as a physician, that
Kierson's scruples were gradually quieted and he gave a reluctant
consent. Joseph, having passed a brilliant examination and being
recommended by Rabbi Winenki--a name that still carried great weight
with it in Kief--was admitted into the University.

It was Friday evening. Without, the snow was falling hard and fast; a
fierce wind, from the northern steppes, howled through the streets, and
dismal was the sound of the storm. In the houses of the Jews, however,
there was peace and comfort. The pious Hebrews, who had toiled
industriously during six days of the week to provide for the seventh,
had ceased from their labors, had cast aside their cares and sorrows,
and rejoiced in the presence of their God.

Around Rabbi Mendel's hospitable board there was assembled a goodly
company. The table was unusually attractive on this Sabbath eve and the
company uncommonly joyous, for it was the first family gathering since
the announcement of Kathinka's betrothal with the young student. There
was much surprise that this bright maiden should have bestowed her
affections upon the poorest of her suitors, but Kathinka gazed in happy
contentment at the man by her side, to whom in her heart she had erected
a holy altar of love.

The goblets with their sparkling contents, the snow-white linen and the
dainty dishes spoke a cheery welcome to the merry guests, and the
seven-armed lamp hanging from the ceiling and the silver candlesticks
upon the table threw their friendly glow over the scene. Happiness and
pleasure, contentment and gratitude, beamed in every countenance.

There were present Mendel's father and mother, old and venerable but
still active, Hirsch Bensef and his wife Miriam, Rabbi Winenki and his
wife and daughter, (Recha's mother had died some time before,) and
finally the happy Joseph Kierson with his delighted father and mother.

Their conversation was animated and cheerful. Out in the streets the
wind might blow and the snow descend; here there was naught but good
cheer and comfort. The storm served, however, to recall many a dark and
dreary day in the past, and, like soldiers sitting about a campfire, the
men related the chief incidents of their eventful lives. There was a
melancholy pleasure in recalling the trials they had experienced,
contrasted with which their present security was all the more
comforting.

Mordecai Winenki related with tears in his eyes how he saved his wife's
honor by a hasty flight from home, and how he arrived in Kief just in
time for the _Pesach_ festival. "Yes, it was a marvellous escape from
the soldiers; _Adonai_ be praised for it!" Old Kierson had a story of
privation and suffering to relate, events which carried his hearers back
to the days of Nicholas, the Iron Czar, and they smiled to think that
those days were gone, never to return. The Rabbi told, for the hundredth
time, of his memorable trip from Togarog to Kharkov; related how he and
Jacob had been torn from their mother's fond embrace, how they had
suffered, how they finally escaped from the guard that accompanied them,
and how, after enduring the misery of hunger and thirst, Jacob
disappeared to be seen no more.

"Poor Jacob," sighed the bereaved mother; "nothing has been heard of him
since. The poor lad must have perished under the rough treatment of the
soldiers."

"Peace to his soul!" said the Rabbi, reverently, and the company
responded "Amen."

These bitter-sweet memories were compensated for by the great
improvement which had taken place in the condition of the Jews during
the past twenty years. Mendel related how, on arriving in Kief, he found
his uncle in a weather-beaten hovel, through the neglected roof of which
the snow leaked in little rivulets. Hirsch Bensef now resided in a
commodious dwelling in one of the best streets of the city.

Would this state of affairs continue? Would Governor Drentell show the
same leniency and magnanimity towards the Hebrews as did his
predecessor? The new ruler had now been in power for nearly a year,
during which time there had been no hostility, no curtailing of their
liberties.

"God grant that our condition will not grow worse," said the Rabbi. "The
mental improvement of our people during these twenty years has been
marvellous. If it continues at the same pace, there is no telling
whither our progress will eventually lead us."

Thus passed the Sabbath meal in pleasant conversation, during which
plans were laid for future improvement. After supper, friends and
relatives trooped in to congratulate the newly-betrothed couple.

While this homely feast was going on at the Rabbi's house, an
entertainment of a different nature was in progress in the Petcherskoi
quarter.

The Governor's palace was ablaze with light. The glare of a thousand
lamps shone through the windows upon the falling snow, converting icy
crystals into scintillating gems. Long lines of sleighs and covered
carriages were drawn up before the entrance, and from them emerged
richly uniformed officers and handsomely attired ladies. Within,
liveried lackeys relieved the guests of their furs, and ushered them
into the presence of the Governor and his wife, who, with smiling
countenance, greeted each new arrival.

It was a court ball, such as the Governors of the various provinces
give; miniature reproductions of the magnificent entertainments in which
the Imperial Court at St. Petersburg delights.

Here all was beauty and refinement. The court circle of Kief was
composed of officers attached to the provincial government, men who
remained in the city only so long as their official duties demanded.
They were accompanied by their wives and daughters, ladies who for the
most part possessed every advantage of education, who had studied abroad
and brought into Russia the choicest of French and German fashions.
There were also many young army officers, always welcome guests at these
affairs, in which young ladies were apt to predominate. It is not
strange, therefore, that these balls should present the most fascinating
aspects of Russian life, and form a charming contrast to the dark scenes
of ignorance and misery which it has been our duty to depict.

The ball at the Governor's was given to introduce into polite Russian
society Loris Drentell, the Governor's son. Loris had returned after a
short absence from Kief. There was no need of his remaining away any
longer. No one suspected that a Drentell had been even remotely
connected with the Nihilist plot, and there were none of the
conspirators left to tell of his connection with it. The trouble in
Turkey had subsided and there was no longer any necessity for keeping
Loris' regiment on the frontier. The lieutenant was, therefore, recalled
and a grand ball was given in his honor.

Court balls in Russia do not differ materially from those of other
countries, and we will leave the gay cavaliers and pretty women whirling
through one of Strauss' waltzes, while we enter the Governor's private
room.

General Dimitri Drentell and his intimate advisers had withdrawn from
the festivities and had sought the seclusion of the cabinet. Mikail the
priest had just entered.

"Ah! Mikail," said the Governor; "you are a late caller."

"The train brought me from St. Petersburg but a few minutes ago, and I
hastened to present myself to your excellency at once. Had I known that
there was a ball this evening, I should have deferred my visit until
to-morrow."

"Make no apologies," answered Drentell. "We would have been disappointed
had you not come to-night. What news do you bring us from the capital?"

"The best, your excellency. I spoke to his imperial majesty in person.
He desires to be commended to you, and approves of your energetic
measures in bringing the suspected Nihilists to judgment. He counts your
excellency among his stanchest supporters."

The Governor flushed with pleasure. Bright visions of future advancement
passed through his mind.

"And our policy as regards the Jews?" he asked.

"Has his sanction! In fact, any project which will divert the minds of
the populace from political questions, meets with imperial favor. But
the animosity towards the Jews must not appear too sudden and
unwarranted. Convinced that they have in many cases assumed privileges
not allowed them by law, and rendered themselves punishable by the
statutes, the Minister of War has decided to appoint a commission of
inquiry, which shall investigate the following questions." The priest
took an official paper from his pocket and read:

"_First_--In what trades do the Jews engage which are injurious to the
well-being of the faithful inhabitants?

"_Second_--Is it impracticable to put into force the ancient laws
limiting the rights of the Jews in the matter of buying and farming
land, and in the trade in intoxicants.

"_Third_--How can these laws be strengthened so that they can no longer
be evaded?

"_Fourth_--To what extent is usury practised by the Jews in their
dealings with the Christians.

"_Fifth_--What is the number of public houses kept by the Jews, and what
is the injury resulting to Christians by reason of the sale of
intoxicants.

"The commission is to report to the Minister of War as soon as
practicable," continued Mikail, replacing the paper in his pocket. "I
have the honor to be one of the commissioners, and as soon as we have
obtained definite information upon these points--information which is
sure to be damaging--we will be ready to proceed against the accursed
race."

"But if the reports are not damaging to the Jews?" asked one of the
officials.

"They will be," answered the priest; "the commission has been appointed
for that purpose."

"Then woe to the Jews!" answered the official.

"Yes, woe to the Jews!" responded the priest, and the malignant
expression of his countenance boded ill to his kindred.

"Come! let us return to the ball room," said Drentell, taking the priest
by the arm.

"Your excellency must pardon me," answered Mikail, "My clothes are
travel-stained, and I am neither in a condition nor in the humor to
enjoy the festivities."

"But Loris is here," continued the Governor.

Mikail suppressed a grimace of displeasure.

"There is no haste. I shall see him to-morrow," he answered, and bowed
himself out of the room.

"Strange man," muttered the Governor, when the door had closed upon the
priest's retreating form. "I almost fear him when he is attacked by his
fits of gloomy anger. Poor Jews! You will find Drentell a different man
from your soft-hearted Pomeroff. Ah, if Mikail but knew; if he but
knew!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE PRIEST IN THE SYNAGOGUE.


Mikail did not allow the grass to grow beneath his feet. Stimulated by
the approval of the Czar as well as by his own undying hatred, he lost
no time in collecting the statistics that were required for his
purpose.

Hitherto he had been content to accept hearsay evidence in his estimate
of Jewish life and character; he had never knowingly come in contact
with one of the race. Convinced, however, that public opinion was not
half severe enough, he determined to personally investigate their manner
of life. For some days, therefore, he made periodical trips through the
old Jewish quarter, sounded the Christians with whom the Jews
occasionally associated, and with an acute but not impartial eye, made
his observations.

It was Saturday of the week following the events narrated in the last
chapter. The snow that mantled the earth was frozen solid, and the bells
tinkled merrily as the sleighs skimmed over the glistening road. A cold
bracing air sent the blood surging through the veins of the pedestrians
and brought the ruddy glow of health to their cheeks.

The priest, bent upon new discoveries, walked rapidly in the direction
of the Jewish quarter. Suddenly he stopped. He had almost run against a
man who was hurriedly walking in the opposite direction.

"What, Loris! is it you?" he cried, upon recognizing his protector's
son. "What are you doing in this part of the town?"

"I might repeat the question," answered Loris. "Why is a priest roaming
about these streets, when he should be counting his beads up in the
Petcherskoi convent?"

Mikail frowned. Loris' sneering tone grated harshly upon him.

"I owe you no explanation," he said, curtly; "but if it will give you
any satisfaction to know, I am following up a subject of importance to
the State."

"And I," said Loris, confidingly, "am following up a far more
interesting subject. You should see her, Mikail! Such a head, such eyes,
such a form! To think that I have wasted so many months abroad while
Kief held such a treasure!"

"What do you mean?" asked the priest, dryly.

"A young girl, of course. She must live about here somewhere. I saw her
come up this street, but when I turned the corner she had mysteriously
disappeared. I tell you, Mikail, she is a beauty. I shall not rest until
I find her!"

"You are seeking perdition," exclaimed the priest, wrathfully. "A pretty
face is Satan's trap to lure a weak soul into his toils."

"Convent talk!" answered Loris, disdainfully. "Why do I stand here and
speak to a priest about a woman? When you take your vows of celibacy you
pretend to dislike anything that wears petticoats. But I doubt whether
even you could resist the temptation of a handsome face and voluptuous
form."

Mikail's eyes flashed. He was about to reply to Loris' sneer, but, by a
severe effort, he checked his rising anger, and without another word
turned on his heel and walked away.

"Ill-natured cur!" muttered Loris. "They are all alike--hypocritical
fools! With all their pretended virtue, I would not like to expose the
best of them to even a moderate temptation."

Mikail walked through a maze of lanes until he came to the street which
had formed one of the boundaries of the "Jews' town." He now observed,
for the first time, groups of Jewish men, women and children, dressed in
their holiday attire, pass him and enter a large building not far away.

"It is their Sabbath, and they are going to their barbarous worship,"
thought the priest, as he crossed himself.

He went further into the quarter, carefully avoiding the groups that he
encountered, and finally entered the dwelling of a Christian woman, who
sublet rooms to Jewish tenants. The information which awaited him here
must have been important, for it was quite a while before he emerged
into the street and retraced his steps towards the city. His path led
directly past Mendel's synagogue. Through the window he heard the chant
of the _hazan_, and he paused, reflectively.

"After all," he murmured, "what harm can it do if I go in. I am in
search of facts and where shall I be better able to find them than in
the Jews' stronghold, their synagogue?"

Crossing himself devoutly, he opened the door and entered.

The _shamas_ (sexton), surprised to see a _gallach_ (priest) in the
synagogue, stood for some moments in doubt, but finally shuffled up to
the stranger and showed him a seat in the last row of benches.

Mikail sat down passively. For a moment he seemed dazed and stupefied.
Perhaps it was only the heat and the glare of the burning candles; but
gradually a strange spell came over him, which he tried in vain to shake
off.

He could not remember ever having been in a synagogue, and yet the
praying-desks, the pulpit and the ark for the holy scrolls seemed
singularly familiar. He looked up. Yes, there was the latticed gallery
filled with women, just as he had expected to find it!

The _hazan_ was intoning a prayer. Between the words he interjected a
number of strange trills and turns. How weird it all sounded, and yet
how familiar to the wondering priest. Mikail found himself almost
instinctively supplying the following word before it was uttered by the
reader. Then the congregation arose and responded to the prayer, and
Mikail arose, too, and it seemed as though the words of the responses
were laid upon his tongue.

It was strange, very strange, and yet it was fascinating.

Again the congregation arose. The Rabbi went to the ark at the back of
the pulpit and took out one of the scrolls, covered with a red velvet
cloth curiously embroidered with golden letters. Mikail followed his
every movement with intense interest. He scarcely breathed.

"_Shema Israel,_" sang the Rabbi; "_Adonai Elohenu,_" and then he paused
a moment to clear his throat of something he must have inhaled.

"Why don't he continue," thought Mikail, impatient at the momentary
interruption, and then in a voice loud enough to be heard over the
entire synagogue, he ended the sentence by crying:

"_Adonai Echod!_"

All turned to look at the speaker, and they whispered among themselves
in surprise at hearing a monk recite the _shema_ in a _schul_. The women
looked down from the gallery in amazement.

Mikail's face flushed. His first impulse was to flee, to get out of the
accursed place, to break the spell of enchantment that bound him. With a
muttered prayer he strode to the door, only to find it locked from
without. It was customary to bolt the door during certain portions of
the service, to prevent noise and consequent disturbance.

The priest was therefore obliged to remain. Obeying a natural impulse,
he made the sign of the cross, set his jaws firmly, and awaited further
developments.

The _hazan_ opened the Pentateuch and the _parnas_ of the congregation
was called to the _Torah_. Every movement was anticipated by the priest.
The parnas reverently lifted the fringes of his _tallis_, and with them
touched the sacred Scroll; then, kissing them, he recited the customary
blessing. Mikail repeated it with him. It sounded almost as familiar as
his own liturgy. Suddenly a reaction came over the stern and haughty
priest as the services continued. A strange storm broke within his
bosom; undefined recollections, visions of a once happy home, a tangled
revery of fanciful memories chased each other through his excited brain.
Without knowing why, he felt the hot tears coursing down his cheeks,
tears which not even the harsh treatment he had endured during his early
years at the monastery could force from their reservoirs. One after
another, seven men were called to the _Torah_, and their actions and
prayers were a repetition of those of the _parnas_. The monotonous
reading at length came to an end, Mikail heard the bolts withdrawn, and
with hasty strides he cleared the passage into the street. On he sped
through the city, looking neither to the right nor the left, scarcely
knowing whither he went, until he finally reached the Petcherskoi
convent, where he had taken up his temporary quarters. Without returning
the greetings of the monks, apparently unconscious of his surroundings,
he went straight to his cell and there gave way to a flood of passion.

An hour afterwards a monk found him upon his knees before an icon, in
fervent prayer.

"I have been bewitched, Sergeitch," he said, with his wonted calmness.
"Pray for me that the evil spirit may leave me."



CHAPTER XXIX.

LORIS FALLS IN LOVE.


Kathinka, well wrapped in a heavy mantle, walked briskly along the
darkening street. She had gone to the extreme end of the city to succor
a sick and needy widow and was now hastening homeward with a light and
happy heart. The world seemed bright and cheerful to the young girl
whose every desire was gratified and every wish granted. As she neared
her home, she became aware of the presence of a man some yards behind
her, keeping pace with her own steps. Kathinka quickened her gait, but
the man was evidently determined not to lose sight of her and hurried
after her. The girl remembered that she had been followed by the same
person some days before, and, while she attached no importance to the
incident at that time, she now became frightened and glanced timidly
about her. The street was deserted and there was no place of refuge in
sight. With a little cry of alarm, she lifted her skirts and ran at full
speed in the direction of her dwelling, but she had not proceeded far
before the stranger caught up with her, and, grasping her by the arm,
held her as in a vise. Kathinka stopped and, with flushed and angry
look, faced the stranger.

"Lovely creature," said the man, insinuatingly, when he had recovered
his breath, "why do you flee from me? Can you not see that I am anxious
to speak with you?"

"Let me go!" cried the girl, indignantly. "You hurt me."

Loris, for the stranger was no other than the Governor's son, released
the girl's arm, but he barred her escape by placing himself directly
before her. Kathinka tried in vain to pass him; then, pausing, with
heaving bosom, she cried:

"What do you mean, sir? Have you no manhood left, that you molest a
defenceless woman?"

"Listen to me but a moment," answered Loris, passionately; "and then go
your way if you will. I have been following your footsteps for the last
two weeks, desiring, yet fearing, to speak to you. From the day I first
beheld you, I have thought of nothing else. I have sighed for you and
dreamed of you. I was happy when I caught a glimpse of you and sad when
you were out of my sight, sad until I saw your features again. Do not
now repulse me. Take pity upon me."

These sentences, expressed with all the passionate earnestness of which
youth is capable, greatly terrified Kathinka.

"Sir, I do not know you," she exclaimed; "and if I did I could have
nothing in common with you. Let me go, and if you are a gentleman, you
will in future avoid troubling me."

"By God, you shall not leave me without giving me some encouragement.
Kathinka, I love you! When you know who I am you will not treat me so
cruelly."

"If you were the Governor himself I should have but one answer for you,
and that is that you have outraged every sentiment of honor," cried the
girl, with growing indignation.

Loris seized her hand.

"No, do not despise me; hear me to the end!" he cried, passionately. "I
am Loris Drentell, the son of your Governor. I know what I am risking in
loving a Jewess, but I cannot help it. Kathinka, you have bewitched me.
I love you! Do you understand me? I love you! I only ask you to think
kindly of me, to see me of your own free will, and to give me the
blessed hope that you will in time return my affection. Do not consign
me to misery!"

Kathinka struggled to free her hand from his grasp. Overcome by terror,
it was some time before she could gain strength to reply.

"Count Drentell," she said, at length; "you have spoken the truth. I am
a Jewess, and any contact with me would dishonor you. Moreover, I am
betrothed to one of my own race, and while I feel the honor you would
bestow upon me in offering me your love, I have but one reply to make: I
do not wish to see you again."

"Don't drive me to despair, Kathinka; I cannot live without your
friendship, without your love. Why should your betrothed stand in the
way? I am rich and powerful. I can give you whatever your heart desires.
You shall want for nothing, if you will only look upon me with favor."
And he again seized her hand and covered it with kisses.

This flattering speech filled Kathinka with loathing. Well she knew that
it meant not love, but the basest of passions, and that a Jewess could
never become more than the passing fancy of Count Drentell. With a
disdainful glance at him, she turned to go.

"Count Drentell," she answered, calmly; "this is disgraceful. You seem
to forget your position, your birth. You forget that I belong to a
proscribed race."

"You are right," replied the young man, bitterly; "I forgot everything
but my love for you."

"Then try and forget that. And now, sir, enough of this farce. Let me
pass, or I shall call for help."

Loris bit his lips in vexation.

"Do not decide so hastily," he said. "A terrible danger threatens the
Jews. My father, who detests your people, is even now plotting their
destruction. I may, perhaps, avert the calamity, may dissuade him from
his terrible projects. Will you allow me to serve you? One word of
encouragement and I will be your willing slave."

Kathinka started. Was it true that a new danger menaced her people? She
could not tell. Perhaps it was but an invention of the Count to further
his own ends. In her opinion, he was base enough for anything.

"The God of Israel has been our support in the past," she answered,
firmly; "He will not desert us in the future. Come what will, I shall
not endeavor to avoid it by the loss of my self-respect. Now, make way,
sir; let me go."

"And is this the end of all my dreams? Am I to abandon all hope of ever
seeing you again?" asked Loris, gloomily.

"Count Drentell," replied the girl, with a proud glance. "Do not
persecute me with your attentions, which are extremely distasteful to
me. I trust we shall never meet again."

And with a haughty sweep of her beautiful head, she passed the
astonished Loris and walked rapidly down the street.

The young man looked after her for a moment in silence; then he stamped
his foot in rage.

"She refuses my attentions, the proud Jewess! But I will conquer her in
spite of her pride."

It was not until Kathinka reached home that her strong spirit gave way,
and she threw herself into a chair and wept bitterly. Her mother and
father, surprised at such an outburst of emotion, hastened to her side,
but it was some time before the girl attempted an explanation. Then she
told her parents of her encounter with the Governor's son.

The Rabbi walked up and down the room in great perturbation. The affair
promised no pleasant conclusion.

"Alas, that your beauty should have attracted the young Count!" he said.
"It is very unfortunate. Who knows to what extremes he may go to revenge
himself upon you for having refused his advances."

"Was there any other course for me to take?" asked Kathinka.

"No, my child; you acted honorably. There was nothing else for you to
do."

"But the calamity which the man predicted would befall Israel?" said
Recha.

"It may have been an idle threat. There is no need of borrowing trouble.
Misfortune has ever found the Jews steadfast and ready to bear the
greatest hardships for their faith. If new troubles come, we will not be
found wanting. In the meantime there is nothing to do but wait."

"If I should meet him again and he should again force his attentions
upon me, what could I do?" sighed Kathinka, nervously.

"For the present do not venture out unless with me or Joseph. We must
inform Kierson of this matter at once. He has doubtless frequent
opportunities of seeing this young Count and can keep his eyes on him.
Perhaps Drentell is honorable enough to desist if he sees that his
advances are repelled."

Kathinka shook her head, despondently.

"I fear not, father. You should have seen his face and heard his words.
Such passion is not subdued by neglect. I am afraid that he will become
our implacable enemy and that we will eventually have more to fear from
his hatred than from his love."

The Rabbi did not reply, but his heart echoed his daughter's
forebodings.



CHAPTER XXX.

AN UNFORTUNATE ENCOUNTER.


Kathinka now rarely went out, and never alone. On her way to the
synagogue and upon her little errands of mercy, she was invariably
attended by her devoted Joseph. The very danger to which the girl had
been exposed served to cement their hearts more closely.

For a time, nothing was seen of Loris. One day, however, Joseph and
Kathinka had just left the Rabbi's house.

"Look," whispered Kathinka, pressing Joseph's arm, "he is following us."

Joseph turned rapidly and perceived the form of Loris at some distance
behind them. The Count, seeing that he was observed, turned a corner and
disappeared. For several months after, Kathinka saw nothing more of her
persecutor, and the disagreeable episode gradually faded from her
memory.

One bright afternoon the girl sat at her window, reading. Her father was
engaged in his duties at the school, and her mother had gone from home
to take a bottle of wine to a sick neighbor and would probably remain
away until evening. Kathinka was not alone, however, for she had the
companionship of her books, more congenial entertainers than were the
gossiping maidens of her intimate circle.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door; before she could rise it was
thrown open, and Loris Drentell stood before her. He deliberately closed
the door again and placed his hat and coat upon a chair.

Kathinka could not utter a word, so great was her consternation. Loris
stood facing her for some moments in silence.

"Kathinka," he said, at length, "I have come at the risk of offending
you, to repeat the declaration I made some time ago; to tell you that I
love you. Do you still bear me the ill-will that you evinced towards me
then?"

Kathinka rose from her chair and, drawing herself up to her full height,
pointed to the door.

"Go!" she said, "or I shall summon help."

Loris smiled cynically.

"Do not excite yourself unnecessarily," he said, coolly. "You are alone
in the house. I know it, for I have been watching for some time and saw
both your parents leave. It will be useless for you to call for
assistance. Sit down and hear me out."

Finding resistance useless, the girl fell back into her chair, and with
a gesture of despair hid her face in her hands.

"Miss Winenki," said Loris, quietly at first, but gradually becoming
more passionate in his appeal, "do not judge me harshly for taking this
means of seeing you. I knew of no other way of gaining your ear. I love
you sincerely, madly. For the last two months I have been vainly
struggling with this feeling, have been trying to conquer my
infatuation, but I am ever haunted by the vision of your beauty. Do not
turn from me as though I were unworthy of you. Think not of me as a
cold, selfish man who lives but to satisfy the desires of a moment.
Never had maiden so devoted a lover as I will be to you. I will grant
your every wish, I will bestow upon you wealth and luxury. You shall be
the envied of all the ladies of the land and I will have no other aim
than to make you happy. Can you still doubt me when I, who might win the
proudest in the Empire, now kneel at your feet and ask you to smile upon
me?"

Loris had fallen upon his knees and had seized the girl's hand, which he
lifted passionately to his lips.

Alone with this singular man, who seemed swayed only by his passions,
Kathinka was overcome by a terror which robbed her of the power of
speech. She could only gaze into Loris' upturned face in mute despair.

Drentell interpreted her silence favorably, and with a joyful cry he
arose and folded the astonished girl in his arms.

"You will be mine, you will not reject my love? Turn your eyes upon me
and make me happy with your smile. Do not struggle in my embrace, but
tell me that you love me."

By a violent effort Kathinka succeeded in freeing herself from his
passionate clasp and now stood with her back to the wall. Her black eyes
flashed with an angry fire, as she cried:

"Count Drentell, you have taken advantage of my helplessness to intrude
upon my privacy and have acted, not as befits a gentleman, but in a
manner that one would scarcely expect from the meanest of your father's
serfs. Let us understand one another. In spite of my repulses you still
continue to assert that you love me."

"To desperation," murmured the Count.

"Were I to yield to your entreaties and accept your love, would you make
me your wife? Would you present me to the world as the Countess
Drentell? Answer me, sir!"

Loris hesitated before replying.

"I would surround you with all the luxury and pomp that money could
command. I would make you the happiest of women."

"I demand an unequivocal reply. Would you make me your wife?" insisted
the girl.

"Before God we would be man and wife."

"Count Drentell, would you brave the anger of your father and the
opinion of the entire court and present me, the Jewess, as your wife?"

Loris looked for a moment at the flashing eyes of the indignant girl,
and then his glance sought the floor.

"I do not deny," he said, at length, "that there would be grave
difficulties in the way of such a step. I fear the court would never
recognize a Jewess as the Countess Drentell. But what of that? It is but
an idle formality. Even though the world do not know of our
relationship, we will be none the less man and wife."

"In other words, you would make of me your puppet, your plaything, to be
fondled to-day and cast aside to-morrow! You would have me renounce my
family, my betrothed, my religion, my honor and my reputation, to
become the creature of your pleasures until you weary of me! Vile
wretch! you are a greater villain than I thought. Go, and never again
darken my path with your presence."

Loris uttered a cry of fury. He had counted upon an easy victory over
the poor Jewess, and he saw his wicked dreams rudely disturbed. With one
bound he was by the side of Kathinka and wound his arms about her.

"So you think to brave me, poor fool!" he said, savagely. "You think to
escape me! But I will have you yet; you shall be mine in spite of your
petty scruples. If you will not come to my arms peaceably, I must use
force; but come you shall!"

He clasped the frail girl in both his arms, and lifting her up from the
ground, he bore her towards the door. Anger and despair lent Kathinka
tenfold strength. With a cry for help, she struggled in his embrace and
by a mighty effort freed herself.

Again, Loris, blinded by rage, seized her, and Kathinka, overcome by
terror, uttered a piercing cry and fainted away.

At that moment the door opened and Joseph Kierson entered the room. He
was on his way to Kathinka's house and her cry of terror had lent wings
to his feet. He rushed upon the Count and threw him to the floor. In an
instant the two men were locked in each other's grasp, the hand of each
upon the other's throat.

The contest was almost equal. They were both of powerful physique and
equally courageous and for some minutes the battle raged with varying
success.

Joseph was aware that upon his victory depended the honor of his
betrothed and his own happiness; he believed that if the Count obtained
the mastery, he would not scruple to kill him outright. He exerted all
his strength and freed himself from the powerful clasp of his foe. Then
he struck the Count so violent a blow as to render him senseless.

Joseph paused for breath and for reflection. His first care was to
restore Kathinka to consciousness, and he soon had the satisfaction of
bringing her back to life. With a sigh she opened her eyes and turned
them in gratitude upon her preserver. Then she gazed about her and, as
her glance fell upon the prostrate form of the nobleman, she shuddered
and stretched out her hands to Joseph. The young man helped her to her
feet and led her to a sofa. In a few words she related all that had
occurred previous to Joseph's arrival.

A great difficulty now presented itself; how to dispose of the Count. A
glance showed Kierson that he was not dead, yet it was almost half an
hour before Loris regained his senses and with difficulty rose to his
feet. His face was badly bruised and scratched, one eye being entirely
closed. Kierson humanely went to his assistance, but Loris, with an
oath, declined the proffered aid and moved slowly to the door.

"You shall hear from me again," were his parting words; "my reckoning
will come later on!"

Passing out into the street, he entered the _droshka_ which was in
waiting, and in which he had intended carrying off Kathinka, and was
driven to his home.

The Rabbi on his return was at once informed of the occurrence. While
his daughter related her story, he walked up and down with clenched
fists and heaving breast. He now realized, for the first time, the
terrible danger which threatened his beloved child, and his indignation
against the villain who had molested her found vent in vigorous
language. At the same time he did not close his eyes to the fact that
the rage of the baffled man would spend itself not only upon Kathinka
but upon the whole Jewish population.

"It is not likely," he said, after he had heard the end of the
narrative, "that Drentell will allow the matter to rest. A man who is so
unscrupulous as is this young tyrant, will go to extremes to carry out
his purpose or to take vengeance upon those who have thwarted him. It is
for your safety I fear most, Joseph, and I advise you to absent yourself
from Kief for some time at least, until this affair has been forgotten."

"Never!" cried Joseph, bravely, "I have but done my duty and I will
abide the consequences. To leave Kief would be to abandon the promising
career I have mapped out for myself; besides, Kathinka may again require
my assistance. I shall remain."

"You incur a great risk," admonished the Rabbi.

"I will not seek to escape it by flight, but will remain here and meet
the danger."

Joseph returned to his parents' roof, but in spite of his courage he
felt ill at ease. His parents heard him relate his adventures, and
lifted their hearts in prayer to God to avert the catastrophe which they
felt would in all probability follow the encounter between their boy and
the Governor's son.

Their fears were not unfounded. At eight o'clock that evening there was
a rap at the door of old Kierson's dwelling, and two uniformed officers
confronted the terror-stricken family.

"We seek Joseph Kierson," said one of the soldiers.

"I am he," answered the young man, with as much firmness as he could
command.

"I arrest you in the name of his majesty the Czar," continued the
officer, placing a heavy hand upon the poor lad's shoulder.

"Of what am I accused?" asked Joseph.

"I do not know. Perhaps the warden of the prison can tell you."

Joseph was well aware that resistance would make the matter worse.
Kissing his weeping parents and offering them all the consolation in his
power, he accompanied the officers to the prison, there to await the
action of the Governor.

Within an hour, the whole Jewish community knew the events of the day,
and there were lamentations throughout the quarter, for the blow that
had fallen upon the young man portended disaster to them all.



CHAPTER XXXI.

KIERSON'S ESCAPE.


For weeks Joseph languished in prison, in total ignorance of the fate
that awaited him. At first the Governor was too busy to attend to the
case and it afterward slipped his memory entirely. For reasons of his
own, Loris did not interfere. Although he had instigated the arrest of
the Jew, he was careful not to inform his father of the true cause of
the trouble. His injured eye and general appearance required some
explanation and a drinking bout with some of the University students was
given as the cause. For the preservation of order, however, he advocated
the arrest of the offender and Kierson was taken into custody. Loris'
course was not dictated by caprice. If his august father knew that he
had sought an alliance with a daughter of the despised Hebrew race, he
would vent his wrath upon Loris' head for compromising the honor of the
noble family of Drentell.

The punishment usually inflicted upon students for quarrelling among
themselves was light and limited to a small fine. Kierson's was an
aggravated offence, however. The dignity of the Governor's son had
suffered, and as there was no precedent the case was allowed to drag on
indefinitely. Loris used his influence with the authorities to keep
Joseph in durance.

Meanwhile, the Israelites were not idle. Convinced that Kierson had done
nothing but his duty, they drew up a petition to the Governor, pleading
for mercy. Rabbi Mendel himself carried the document to the palace,
trusting to supplement the petition with his own eloquence.

Alas! the time when Mendel Winenki was a power in the Governor's house
had long since passed. There was a ruler now who knew not of the Rabbi
and his deeds, and Mendel had not even the satisfaction of speaking to
his excellency in person. He and his petition were referred to the Chief
of Police, the official who was supposed to have the entire matter in
charge.

Sick at heart, Mendel sought that worthy functionary. He carefully read
the petition, put it in his pocket and promised to look up the case and
report it to the Governor as soon as possible.

It was poor consolation that the Rabbi took to his people. Their
petition had accomplished nothing. It was not even possible to discover
where Joseph was concealed and whether he had already been sentenced or
not. Kathinka was heart-broken. She knew not what to do. A praiseworthy
impulse to go to the palace and throw herself at the Governor's feet was
checked by the thought that Loris might be there to delight in her
humiliation and to use his power to defeat her prayer.

After several weeks of suspense, the poor girl received a letter. It was
in a strange handwriting and she opened it with trembling hands. She
glanced hastily at the signature and with a cry allowed the missive to
fall to the ground.

"What is it, Kathinka?" asked the Rabbi, who had been sitting near-by.

"Read it, father; it is from Drentell!" cried his daughter.

The Rabbi took the letter up anxiously and his eyes ran eagerly over its
contents. Kathinka saw the deadly pallor that spread over his
countenance, watched his quivering lip and darkening brow. He read to
the end, and crumpling the letter in his hand, he threw himself upon the
sofa in a paroxysm of grief. The girl who had never before seen her
father so affected became seriously alarmed.

"What is it, father? What does he write?" she asked.

"Read it, my child; it is for you," sobbed the poor man. "Read it and
decide," and he handed the letter to his daughter, while the tears ran
down his cheeks.

Kathinka, with varied emotions, opened out the paper and read the
contents. The note was as follows:


     BELOVED KATHINKA:--You will justly reproach me for having
     remained silent so long, but do not attribute it to a waning of my
     affection. I love you more devotedly, more tenderly than ever. Your
     cruelty to me at our last interview has but served to fan the flame
     of my passion. I have since thought only of you. I know your heart
     is set against me on account of the arrest of your betrothed. Do
     not blame me for having a hand in his incarceration. The law of the
     land is severe, and although I exerted my influence, I was
     powerless to stay its hand in the matter. Your friend is condemned
     to a life-long exile in Siberia. It is a terrible fate, worse than
     death itself. You alone can save him from it. Consent to come to
     me, to share my heart, to make me the happiest of men, and I myself
     will plead with the Governor and obtain his pardon. The day that
     sees you at my side will restore your friend to liberty. Do not
     deem me cruel. I would serve you if you but gave me the right to do
     so. I await your reply. LORIS.


When Kathinka had ceased reading, she dropped the letter and hid her
burning head in her hands, while her body rocked with grief and despair.

Her father gazed at her in silence, with a look of intense commiseration
on his face.

"What can I do?" she moaned, at length. "What would Joseph have me do?
He would rather die a thousand deaths than owe his liberty to my
degradation. Father, my duty is clear! Joseph is innocent of any crime
and the God of Israel will protect him."

"God bless you, my daughter," replied the Rabbi. "You have spoken well.
Will you answer this letter?"

"No, father; I shall treat it with contempt. The writer can draw his own
conclusions from my silence."

It was a sad day for both the Rabbi's and Kierson's families. The
latter, much as they loved their only son, sincerely approved of
Kathinka's decision.

"If he must go to Siberia," they sobbed; "he will go without a sin upon
his soul. We are all in the hands of the Almighty."

Old Kierson thenceforth went daily to the police headquarters,
endeavoring in vain to obtain information about his son. He found no
one that could enlighten him as to his present condition or future fate,
and he trudged homeward, feeling daily more sick at heart, more
depressed in spirit.

At the end of a week, Kathinka received a second letter from her
persecutor. It was more offensive than the first. It stated that Joseph
was still a prisoner; that owing to his (Loris') influence the sentence
had not yet been carried out. There was still time to save him from
ignominious exile. He hinted, moreover, at a movement to drive the Jews
out of Kief and promised to avert the catastrophe if Kathinka yielded to
his persuasions. There were passion and insult in every line.

The poor girl was almost distracted with grief and mortification, the
more so as it became necessary to take the entire Jewish community into
the secret.

Rabbi Mendel hastily summoned a meeting of the influential men of his
congregation and laid the matter before them. There was great
consternation when it was learned that a new danger threatened the race,
but there was not one among them who would not have suffered the
cruelest persecution rather than allow the Rabbi's daughter to sacrifice
her honor for their salvation. It was impossible to form a plan of
action, for as yet the peril that menaced them was too indefinite, but
Mendel exhorted them to do nothing that might throw the slightest
reproach upon Israel.

The Governor's animosity towards the Jews now became manifest. The acts
of intolerance were in themselves insignificant, but they were like the
distant rumblings of thunder that precede the storm and were not easily
mistaken by the poor Hebrews.

Because of Kierson's thrashing the ruler's son, an edict was issued
expelling Jewish students from the University of Kief. Some time after,
a Jew who, through Mendel's influence during Pomeroff's palmy days had
obtained the office of under-secretary to a police magistrate, was
summarily dismissed "because he was a Hebrew." Then followed an edict
restricting the attendance of Jewish children at the public schools, and
expelling all children whose parents had not resided in the city for at
least ten years, retaining the others only upon the payment of an
exorbitant tax which none but the wealthy could afford. These and many
other petty acts of intolerance caused the Jews no little uneasiness.

One day Rabbi Winenki was sitting in his study. It was raining in
torrents without, and the landscape appeared deluged and desolate. The
Rabbi gazed out at the dismal scene and sighed regretfully as he thought
of those whose occupations compelled them to remain out of doors in such
miserable weather.

Suddenly the door was thrown open and Joseph came, or rather rushed,
into the room. His face was pale as death; his garments, torn and
tattered, were soaked with rain. He had become thin through long
confinement and every line of his features betokened abject misery.

The Rabbi started as though he beheld a spectre, but seeing that the
young man was about to sink to the floor exhausted, he sprang to his
feet and helped him to a chair.

"What, Joseph! God be praised! Kathinka, Recha, come quickly," he cried,
running to the door leading to an adjoining apartment. "Bring some
brandy."

Kathinka was not long in coming, and unmindful of his appearance, with a
cry of joy, she fell upon Joseph's bosom and kissed him rapturously.

"Oh, Joseph, I am so happy!" murmured the girl. "Are you free, entirely
free?"

Joseph gasped for breath. He could not speak. The Rabbi hastily poured
some liquor into a glass which Recha had brought and held it to the
young man's lips. The draught seemed to revive him.

"Hurry," he whispered, looking about him, anxiously; "hide me somewhere
before the officers come after me."

A look of disappointment passed over the Rabbi's face.

"Then you are not acquitted?" he asked.

"No! I escaped. I'll tell you all about it, but not here. They might
come and find me. Let us go upstairs, anywhere out of sight. Send for my
parents! It would be dangerous for me to visit them, but I must see them
before I leave."

"You are not going away again!" cried Kathinka.

"I must. It is death to remain here!"

The Rabbi supported the young man while he went to an upper floor, and
leaving him to the ministrations of his wife and daughter, he despatched
a messenger to the Kiersons to inform them of the arrival of the
unexpected guest.

By the time they were all assembled, Joseph had, in a measure revived
and recovered his cheerful spirits.

"But where have you been and what have you been doing?" asked the Rabbi,
after the first loving greetings had been exchanged.

"I have been in a terrible place," sighed the student, shuddering at the
mere recollection of his experience. "When I was taken from home I was
led to the jail near the barracks, up in the Petcherskoi quarter, and
without a trial, without a hearing of any kind, I was thrown into a
cell about five feet square. After my eyes had become accustomed to the
darkness, I looked about me. In one corner I found a bed of straw with a
cover as thin as paper. A broken chair and a rough wooden basin
completed the furniture. The place reeked with corruption and filth, and
the stench was almost unbearable. Of the vile food they placed before
me, I could eat nothing except the bread. It was _trefa_, but had it
been prepared according to our rites, its nauseating appearance would
have caused me to reject it.

"There I lay for weeks, perhaps months, for I lost all reckoning of
time, without knowing what was to be done with me. I almost wished they
would send me to Siberia, so that I might escape that foul atmosphere.
If their jails are so terrible, what must be the condition of their
Troubetzkoi prison?"

"Poor boy," sobbed his father, "what a terrible experience you have had.
But tell us, how did you escape?"

"By the merest accident. They recently changed the warden of the prison,
and the new incumbent, a kind-hearted man, at once visited the cells and
inquired into the charges upon which each prisoner was detained. When he
heard my story, he evinced the greatest surprise, and on investigating
the matter, he came to the conclusion that I had been forgotten by the
authorities, as it was not customary to detain a prisoner so long upon
so slight an offence. The charge against me was simply participating in
a student's quarrel, and the warden was inclined to be lenient with me.
He at once made inquiries concerning my future fate, and learned that I
was to be kept a prisoner until my punishment had been definitely
decided upon. As there was no order to keep me in a cell, the warden
allowed me to roam about the prison at will, and I made myself generally
useful about the place. I tried to write to you, to inform you of my
condition, but it was forbidden. To-day, the warden sent his assistant
to town upon an errand, and he himself went down into one of the lower
corridors to dispose of some new prisoners. He had left his keys upon
his table. At last I saw liberty within reach! There was nobody about. I
seized the keys, unlocked the outer gates and ran for my life. I feared
I would be seen and recognized if I came directly through Kief, so I ran
to the outskirts of the town and came here by a roundabout road. I have
walked and run for the last two hours, through mud and rain, through
swamps and ditches, until my feet would support me no longer. I thought
I would never get here."

"And if you should be discovered?" asked the Rabbi.

"Then I will be taken back and treated more harshly than before. I would
rather die than go back to that dreary cell. It is dangerous for you to
harbor me. I must leave here at once, this very night."

"Where will you go?" asked Kathinka, who was seated at the sufferer's
side, and wiped the perspiration from his fevered brow.

"I do not know. Anywhere! Wherever I can find friends to succor me, and
where I can occasionally hear from you and see you."

Mendel reflected a moment.

"The Rabbi of Berditchef is my friend," he said, at length. "Go to him.
I will give you a letter of introduction, and he will do all in his
power to assist you. It is not far from here. If you start on foot
to-night you can reach the place by morning."

"Oh, you surely are not going to-night, and in such weather," cried the
girl. "Don't leave us yet, Joseph; stay with us. We will conceal you."

"Don't make my departure harder than I can bear, Kathinka. I must
go--for your sake as well as for mine. I tremble even now, lest they
should discover me. I will go to Berditchef for the present."

"And your aspirations for a physician's career--what will become of
them?" asked his father.

Joseph sighed, and his eyes were dimmed with tears.

"It will be hard to give up my plans, but I see no alternative."

"Don't worry, my boy," said the Rabbi, consolingly. "There are more ways
than one to make an honorable living. Honesty, thrift and energy will
enable you to succeed in any undertaking. Whether you be a doctor or a
cobbler, we will not think the less of you, and I am sure Kathinka will
love you none the less."

Kathinka threw her arms about her lover's neck and clung to him
affectionately. Joseph's face brightened.

"Get me something to eat," sighed the young man, "for I am famished and
the way is long."

A meal was hastily brought, and a substantial lunch was prepared by
Kathinka's hands, to cheer the wanderer upon his lonely path.

Night came. The storm had not abated, the wind still moaned and the rain
fell in torrents. It was a wretched night for a foot-journey to
Berditchef, and Joseph's mother and his affianced endeavored to persuade
the young man to postpone his journey until morning.

Joseph shook his head, sorrowfully.

"I would be recaptured if I waited. No, I have no time to lose; every
moment is precious. Think of me, my dear ones, and pray for me. When I
can do so in safety, I shall return to Kief; until then, God bless you
all."

Kissing his weeping friends farewell, he wrapped himself in a stout
mantle which the Rabbi had procured for him, and stepped out into the
inhospitable night.

For a time the sorrow-stricken families wept silently; then Mendel
advised the Kiersons to return to their home at once.

"If the police follow him," he said, "they will naturally search your
dwelling first. It will be unfortunate if they find you absent, and
might lead to inquiries which would give them a clue to his whereabouts.
As it is, you can truthfully say that he has not shown himself in your
house."

The old people acted upon the suggestion and reached their house not a
moment too soon. They had scarcely entered before a number of officers
demanded admittance and began a thorough search of the premises.
Satisfied by the replies of the lad's parents that he had not visited
the house, they withdrew in no very amiable humor to continue their
investigations at the house of the Rabbi, where they were equally
unsuccessful. Failing to trace him in the Jewish quarter, the officers
returned to the fortress and reported their lack of success to the
warden. This worthy was at first inclined to lose his temper, but he
finally shrugged his shoulders and muttered:

"Let him go, poor fellow! He has been here nearly two months, and that
is punishment enough for having thrashed a man, were that man the
Governor himself."

A few days later, Kathinka received two letters. The first she opened
was from Joseph. It announced his safe arrival in Berditchef and his
kind reception by the Rabbi's friend, who had at once found him
congenial employment. It abounded in expressions of affection and
undying love. Kathinka pressed it to her lips and, with an overflowing
heart, thanked the Almighty that her lover was safe.

The second letter was from Loris. It, too, was full of passionate
yearning, but its flowery phrases created a feeling of intense disgust.
The Count, evidently ignorant of Joseph's escape, ended his missive with
the assurance that unless Kathinka acceded to his demands, her friend
would be sent to Siberia on the morrow.

Kathinka threw the paper into the fire.



CHAPTER XXXII.

AN ATTEMPT UPON THE CZAR.


Kathinka remained unmolested for some time, not because Loris had ceased
to admire her, but because the young Count was condemned to a
twelve-months' absence from Kief. This unsuspected stroke of good
fortune for the girl happened in this wise:

Towards the end of the year 1879, it became very evident that Nihilism
was spreading to an alarming extent in the army. Four officers of Loris'
regiment were arrested on a charge of disseminating revolutionary
pamphlets and were summarily exiled. Another officer had assisted eight
political offenders to escape and was kept in close confinement. General
Drentell, in consequence, declared Kief, Kharkov and other districts
under martial law.

A stormy scene took place between the Governor and his son Loris, in
which the former, mindful of the latter's past escapades, expressed his
belief that his son was implicated in the plots of his comrades, while
Loris indignantly denied all knowledge of the matter.

"Listen to me, Loris!" said the General, purple with rage. "I saved your
life once, at the risk of losing my own. As true as St. Nicholas hears
us, if ever you repeat your plottings, I shall be as inexorable as
though you were the meanest of the Czar's subjects."

Loris saw that his father was in earnest and recoiled before the wrath
of the stern old soldier. He again asserted his ignorance of any
conspiracy.

Not knowing how many more officers of the regiment were implicated,
Drentell decided to transfer the entire division to another district, in
the hope of severing any connection which might exist between the men
and the Revolutionary Committee.

Loris had to obey the order and accompany his regiment to the steppes of
Central Russia, where he remained until the active disorders in Kief a
year later recalled him.

Nihilism was not to be rooted out by the removal of any particular set
of men. It had spread its branches among all classes and conditions of
society, and the number of its adherents was increasing with alarming
rapidity.

The martyr who unflinchingly faces death for the sake of his faith, the
Nihilist who exposes himself to imprisonment or death in the hope of
attaining constitutional liberty, are examples of the heroic endurance
of minds exalted by principle. The Jew's devotion to his religion has
always been most intense when intolerance and persecution were at their
height. In like manner the love of liberty is developed to its greatest
extent when despotism seeks to stifle it.


  "Brightest in dungeons, liberty thou art,
  For there the habitation is the heart."


Twenty-one persons were arrested in Kief, and almost as many in Kharkov,
and still Nihilism was not stamped out. Phoenix-like it arose from the
ashes of its martyrs.

On February the 17th, 1880, just as the imperial family were about to
dine, a mine was exploded beneath the winter palace, the guard-room was
demolished, ten soldiers were killed and forty-five wounded; but, the
divinity which sometimes hedges a king preserved the royal family from
harm.

Excitement was intense. A commission of public safety, with authority to
preserve order at any cost, was at once appointed, with General Melikoff
at the head.

On the second day of March, during the festival, General Melikoff was
shot at as he alighted from his carriage. The would-be assassin was so
close that the General struck him in the face, and the man was arrested.

At the trial it was discovered that the malefactor was a baptized Jew,
by the name of Wadetsky Minsk. The trial excited universal interest. The
culprit was asked by the judge why he had deserted his faith.

"Because I found it impossible to live as a Jew," he replied, bitterly.
"You took from me my children to send them to the army; you deprived me
of the lands I had cultivated and left me penniless; you despised and
degraded me, and when I had suffered until the fibres of my heart were
torn, you showed me a glowing picture of the happiness that awaited me
here and in heaven if I became a Christian. I allowed myself to be
baptized."

Minsk paused, and the expression of his face showed the mental anguish
he was at that moment enduring. Suddenly, he continued, with great
vehemence:

"Yes, I became a Christian, or rather a godless hypocrite, who had
bartered away the sympathy of his co-religionists as well as his
self-respect. How did you treat me after I had embraced your faith?
Humiliations, worse than any I had experienced as a Jew, were showered
upon me. I was regarded as something impure, shunned and execrated. It
was too late to turn back, and in spite of your treatment, I remained a
Christian, I adhered to the glorious faith which teaches 'Peace on earth
and good-will to men.' In sheer desperation, I joined the band of
unfortunates as reckless as myself, whose self-imposed mission it is to
pave the way to liberty."

Minsk preserved a defiant demeanor throughout the trial. He made no
defence, nor did he endeavor to have his punishment mitigated. His
condemnation followed, as a matter of course.

The scaffold found him unsubdued.

"My attempt has failed," he cried, "but think not that General Melikoff
is safe! After me will come a second, and after him a third. Melikoff
must fall, and the Czar will not long survive him."

The fifth of March witnessed his death struggles upon the scaffold.

Darker and darker it grew in Israel. The sun of its brief prosperity was
gradually becoming obscured by heavy clouds of intolerance and
fanaticism, clouds which did not display the proverbial silver lining of
hope and comfort. This was a period of great activity for Mikail; never
before had he found such congenial employment. After making a series of
one-sided investigations, in which he interrogated principally those who
had real or imaginary cause for complaint against the Hebrews, the
priest embodied his conclusions in a book, entitled "The Annihilation of
the Jews." Unquenchable hatred breathed in every page. With a cunning
hand, he subverted facts to suit his fancy. He drew a vivid picture of
the great dissatisfaction existing because the Hebrews were achieving
success in various branches of enterprise to the exclusion of the
gentiles. With peculiar logic he argued that sooner or later quarrels
must ensue between the races, that if there were no Jews there could be
no trouble, and that they should therefore be driven out of the country.
His work accused the Jews of thriving almost entirely upon usury and
gross dishonesty, in spite of the fact that many of the chief industries
of Russia were in the hands of thrifty and honorable Israelites. It
purposed to forbid the Jews from keeping inns, on the ground that they
fostered intemperance, in the face of statistics which showed
drunkenness to be most prevalent in provinces where no Jews are allowed
to reside. It finally advised the confiscation of all property belonging
to the Jews and the summary expulsion of the despised race from the
Empire.

Such a book, at a time when rulers and people were alike eager for
sensation, acted like a firebrand. The newspapers, knowing that the
author was a member of the commission appointed by the Czar to
investigate the conduct of the Jews and that his work would receive the
imperial sanction, published extracts from its pages and commented
editorially upon its arguments. Mikail's conclusions were accepted, and
the cry rang throughout Russia, "Down with the Jews!" In all the land
there was not a man who dared raise his voice in defence of the
unfortunate people.

That Minsk, the would-be slayer of Melikoff, had once been a Jew, served
to increase the outcry against the race. Of the scores of Nihilists who
had already been executed not one was alluded to as a Catholic, although
that church claimed them as her own; but the newspapers added the word
"Jew" every time they had occasion to mention his name.

There were as yet no open hostilities in Russia. The great majority of
laborers and _moujiks_ knew nothing of this agitation. They lived in
peace with their Jewish neighbors, on whom many were dependent for work
and wages. For the best of reasons, they did not read the newspapers and
they cared little for the vague rumors of discontent that now and then
assailed their ears. Occasionally there were quarrels, but these were
unimportant and of rare occurrence.

A dispute arose one day in the shop of a man named Itikoff. A thief
entered his place and having requested the proprietor to get him a
certain article he rifled the money-box the moment the Jew's back was
turned. Itikoff saw the act in a mirror, and turning suddenly he seized
the man by the neck and beat him severely. The man's cries brought a
crowd to the door who, seeing a fellow-gentile maltreated by a Jew, at
once set upon the unfortunate shopkeeper and brutally assaulted him.
They then sacked his shop and threw his merchandise into the street,
whence it was quickly removed by the assembled mob. A number of
policemen arrived and arrested Itikoff for instigating a riot. Despite
his pleading he was carried to jail, and only released upon the payment
of a fine of two hundred roubles.[19]

Such occasional incidents, while they were characteristic of Russian
justice, were not of a nature to foster good feeling between the Jews
and the gentiles.

Then came the event of March 3, 1881. Through the mighty Empire flashed
the awful news, "The Czar has been assassinated!" For a time all other
affairs were left in the background. Before that dire catastrophe the
petty quarrels of the races faded into insignificance. Jew and gentile
alike met to mourn over their ruler and looked forward with pleasant
anticipation to the accession of the new Czar, Alexander III., to the
throne. The Nihilists, satisfied with their work, rested upon their arms
and waited to see if the new Emperor would yield to their demands. The
agitators who had conceived the crusade against the Jews as a means of
diverting public attention from St. Petersburg had been unsuccessful and
for the time being found their occupation gone. The Jew-haters,
Drentell, Mikail and others, were busy at the capital, currying favor
with the new government, and the poor Jews breathed more freely and
enjoyed a brief respite from danger.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 19: See report of "Russian Outrages," in _London Times_.]



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE RIOTS AT ELIZABETHGRAD.


Terrible is the havoc wrought by the elements, the devastating flash,
the furious wind; appalling is the destruction of the roaring flames,
the all-devouring flood; but what elements can measure their forces with
the fury of man, once he has torn asunder the bonds of reason and rushes
madly and irresistibly onwards toward the accomplishment of his
passionate desires.


  "Gefaehrlich ist's den Leu zu wecken,
  Verderblich ist des Tigers Zahn;
  Jedoch das schrecklichste der Schrecken,
  Das ist der Mensch in seinem Wahn."


The animosity of the Russians towards the Jews had not ceased, it had
only been held in check for a final onslaught. The unfortunate year 1881
dawned upon the Hebrews. Its beginning found them hopeful, and confident
that for the future trouble would be averted; its close left them the
victims of a cruel and relentless persecution. We would gladly spare the
reader the harrowing details of this most atrocious of outbreaks, but we
must follow the fortunes of our friends to the end.

The meagre statements which found their way into our newspapers merely
announced that riots against the Jews had occurred here and there, but
were of so general a nature that they failed to impress the imagination.
They never evoked pictures of the terrible scenes which actually
occurred: men murdered, women outraged, infants butchered--arson,
pillage, slaughter and lust combined.

The ceaseless workings and writings of Mikail and other members of his
commission, had gradually aroused the fury of the masses. Their
utterances were not only repeated in every _kretschma_, but were grossly
exaggerated. Professional agitators, who had nothing to lose and
everything to gain by promoting a race quarrel, were actively at work
among the people, keeping alive the flame of hatred which they had taken
such pains to kindle.

Elizabethgrad, a large city to the south of Kief, containing ten
thousand Jews, was their first point of attack. Weeks before the event,
proclamations were posted throughout the district, calling upon the
inhabitants to throw off the yoke of the Jews and fixing Wednesday,
April 27th, as the day for the general uprising. Copies of a fictitious
_ukase_, commanding that the property of the Jews be confiscated and
handed over to the Christians, were freely circulated and universally
accepted as emanating from the Czar. Every lying accusation which had
ever been employed against the Jews since the rise of Christianity was
unearthed and used with telling effect. The atrocious calumny that the
Jews required the blood of Christian children for their Passover rites
was poured into eager ears. For a similar accusation the early
Christians were tortured by the Romans, and in their days of prosperity
they in their turn employed it against the Jews.

The Israelites were paralyzed with terror at the fate which hung over
them. The most influential of their number waited upon the Governor, who
after much deliberation received them. He listened with well-feigned
attention, while the Jews proved that they were law-abiding and that the
accusations against them were unjust. He smiled pityingly when they had
finished, and, reminding them that they were in God's hands, dismissed
them. No further notice was taken of their appeal.

On the twenty-seventh day of April came the crisis.

In a _cabaret_, kept by a Jew named Kirsanoff, a religious dispute
arose. The matter was of small importance, but it led to a scuffle by
which a large crowd of idlers was attracted. The mob grew in numbers and
in lawlessness, and having ejected the proprietor of the shop, they
proceeded to despoil the place of its liquors. Inflamed by their copious
libations, the rioters were ripe for any excess. At this moment there
arose a ringleader, a man whom no one knew, but who had been active for
some weeks past in stirring up the neighborhood. He mounted a cask and
addressed the maddened crowd:

"My friends," he cried, "your time has come! On to the Jewish quarter!
Kill, destroy, take what you can! The Czar gives you their property."

With a rallying shout he left the inn, the crowd following close upon
his heels.

"Down with the Jews!" arose the cry, and, as the mob increased, it was
repeated by a thousand intoxicated wretches.

Then began a wild destruction of property. Shops and warehouses were
attacked and their contents carried out into the street, to be destroyed
or carried away. Costly linens and works of art, fine furniture and
articles of apparel were served alike. What was too bulky to be stolen
was carried into the street and burned. A dozen bonfires roared and
blazed in the Jewish quarter.

The Jews could no longer look passively upon this wanton destruction.
Hastily conferring, they placed themselves under the leadership of one
of their merchants, one Zoletwenski, a powerful and courageous man.
Armed with clubs and such rude weapons as were within their reach, they
hurried to the scene and attempted to defend their own. Alas! the little
group was soon routed by the infuriated mob. Their resistance served
only to increase the anger of their assailants, who now left the shops
and turned their attention to the dwellings of the Hebrews.

Zolotwenski's house was the first to be attacked. Down crashed the door
and a hundred excited brutes forced their way through the house. They
seized his wife, whom they found in bed sick and helpless, and choked
her into insensibility. They followed his two daughters to a room in the
upper story in which they had locked themselves, and with threats of
vengeance worse than death they broke open the door. The poor girls
threw themselves from the window to the ground below.

In the meantime, the Rabbi, accompanied by a number of his congregation,
again hastened to the Governor's palace and besought him to protect the
innocent women and children. This time the appeal bore fruit. The
Governor promised to call out the military, and an hour afterwards a
detachment of soldiers appeared upon the scene. At first they stood by,
amused spectators, cheering the mob whenever it broke into a dwelling,
taunting the poor women who ran hither and thither in frantic endeavors
to escape the wretches who pursued them; but later in the day the
temptation to join the plunderers proved irresistible, and the soldiers
became active participants in the outrages which continually increased
in brutality. Indeed, the leaders of the soldiers soon assumed command
of the mob, and, with a refinement of cruelty, incited the people to
lust rather than to pillage.

A number of rioters and soldiers broke into the dwelling of an old man
named Pelikoff. The poor fellow had carried his sixteen-year-old
daughter to the attic and barricaded the door. In vain his resistance.
The rusty lock yielded to the onslaught from without; twenty men
precipitated themselves into the apartment, and twenty men threw
themselves upon the trembling child.

"Kill me," cried Pelikoff, "but spare my innocent daughter!"

"To the devil with them both!" laughed the leader.

Pelikoff fought with desperation. With his bare fists he felled two of
the stalwart soldiers to the ground, but he was no match against the
overpowering numbers. They seized him in their arms, carried him to the
roof, and hurled him over into the street below, while a dozen of the
ruffians attacked the unfortunate girl. When sympathizing friends
visited the house next day, they found the child dead, and Pelikoff a
hopeless maniac.

Night brought a cessation of hostilities, but not a glimmer of hope.

With early dawn, the outrages recommenced. The synagogue now became the
point of attack. Thither many of the women and children had fled for
refuge, and the mob, actuated rather by lust than by love of plunder,
proceeded to demolish the building, which they set on fire. The poor
women, as they fled from the burning pile, were set upon and cruelly
assaulted by the rioters. All that day and the next, the Hebrew quarter
was at the mercy of the savages. What the ax did not crush, fire
destroyed. Five hundred houses and over one hundred stores and shops
were ransacked; whole streets were demolished; property to the value of
two million roubles was destroyed, and upwards of twenty people lost
their lives while defending their possessions or their honor.

Thus ended the first anti-semitic riot. The plans for General Drentell's
vengeance, through Mikail the priest, were in a fair way of being
realized.[20]



CHAPTER XXXIV.

RABBI AND PRIEST MEET.


The enemies of the Jews persisted in their attacks. Ignorant greed,
commercial rivalry, religious intolerance, all played their part in
shaping coming events. The mobs soon had ringleaders; unscrupulous
agitators who counted on the gain they could derive from a general
pillage of the property of the wealthy Israelites.

The greatest terror reigned in Kief. But for the example of a few
energetic men, prominent among whom was Rabbi Winenki, the Hebrew
population would have been in despair.

Thousands of Jews, driven out of Elizabethgrad by the atrocities
committed at that place, fled to Kief and implored shelter of their
hospitable co-religionists. They were for the greater part destitute of
the commonest necessities of life. Their appeal was not in vain. The
charitable Jews opened their houses, and there was scarcely a home that
did not entertain one or more refugees.

Rabbi Winenki hastily called a conference of his friends to devise means
of assisting these unfortunates to emigrate. The project met with
immediate approval, and an association was formed to aid all those who
desired to find a home in distant America.

General Drentell heard of this benevolent undertaking, and while he was
not unwilling to drive the Jews out of the Empire, he deemed it the duty
of the Israelites to consult with him before engaging in any project
which would deprive the Czar of his subjects. He therefore sent a
communication to the Rabbi, stating that he had no objection to such a
committee as had been formed, provided it was created under the auspices
of the Government. It was customary, he said, for the ruling family to
be identified with all movements of this sort, and as an evidence of
good-will towards the Jews, his wife, Countess Louise, desired to be
elected Honorary President of the newly-organized society.

The Israelites received this communication with undisguised contempt.
The Rabbi denounced the inconsistency of the Governor, who had hitherto
never denied his animosity towards the Jews, but who now desired to pose
as their benefactor. A resolution was adopted declining to honor the
Countess Drentell with the office she coveted.

The Governor seized upon this as a pretext for the wickedest measures
against the unfortunate people. The following day, placards were issued
from a secret printing-press in Kief, and distributed throughout the
town and surrounding country, declaring that the Czar had confiscated
the property of the Jews and had presented it to his loyal subjects.
Wherever the commiserating face of a Madonna gazed down from her icon,
there hung one of these placards, which was destined to let loose the
worst passions of which man is capable. As if this were not potent
enough, Mikail the priest travelled in person through the province,
denouncing the Jews, and exhorting the orthodox Russians to wreak
vengeance upon them for real or fictitious crimes.

On came the flood which, once started, threatened to engulf the entire
Jewish population of Russia.

On May 6th, the mob attacked the Hebrew quarter at Smielo, and thirteen
men were killed, twenty wounded and sixteen hundred left without homes.

It was authoritatively announced that a riot would begin in Kief on
Sunday, the eighth of May. On weekdays the _moujiks_ were for the
greater part in the fields hard at work, while on Sunday they were free
to take part in the plunder and destruction.

The seventh was a sad day for our friends. It was the Sabbath, the last
that many of them would live to celebrate. The synagogues were filled to
overflowing with weeping women and terror-stricken men. There was no
hope, no consolation anywhere. Sadly and sorrowfully the services
proceeded, each worshipper praying as though his end were close at hand.
Not even the inspiring words of Rabbi Winenki could cheer them. In vain
he recalled the many miraculous deliverances of their forefathers, and
exhorted his hearers to place their faith in Jehovah. His sermon but
increased the gloom which hung over the congregation.

During the afternoon a delegation, headed by Mendel, proceeded to the
Governor's palace and begged for an interview. They were admitted into
the cabinet, where Governor Drentell, his wife and the Catholic priest
Mikail awaited them. Mikail was sitting at a table, writing.

"You wish to see me," said the Governor, curtly. "What is it you want?"

"Your excellency," began Mendel, with some hesitation, "we need scarcely
remind you of the fact that we have always been loyal subjects; that we
have never knowingly committed a wrong against the State, and that we
have through our thrift and industry sought to add to the wealth of the
country. We are now threatened with a serious calamity, one which will
rob us of our hard-earned possessions and may possibly deprive us of our
lives. Your excellency will surely not permit this outrage to be visited
upon us. It lies in your power to prevent it and we beseech you, in the
name of twenty thousand of the Czar's faithful subjects, who are now
crowded in Kief, to vouchsafe us your gracious protection."

The Governor listened impatiently. When Mendel had finished speaking, he
said:

"I do not see how I can help you. The Czar himself has declared your
property forfeited, and I am afraid the people will insist upon their
rights."

"But the pretended _ukase_ confiscating our property is false!" cried
Mendel, with great indignation. "Your excellency knows it is but an
invention of a body of men who wish to enrich themselves at the cost of
our people. Your excellency surely cannot allow such outrages to be
perpetrated!"

"Moderate your language, man," cried the Governor, angrily, rising from
his chair, "or you will find yourself outside the palace doors."

"I beg your excellency's pardon," answered Mendel, meekly, "if grief has
made me disrespectful. In the name of my co-religionists, I desire to
offer a proposition. If our property falls to the Czar's subjects, it is
certainly better to preserve it intact than to expose it to the savage
attacks of the rioters. If your excellency permits, we will bring you
the keys of our houses and submit to any measures you may see fit to
take. If the _ukase_ is true, the property will revert to the State
uninjured; if it is not true, your excellency will have the humanity to
restore us to our rights."

The Governor, surprised at this unexpected and unique proposition, found
himself without a reply. He glanced significantly at the priest.

"What do you say, Mikail?" he asked.

Mikail, who had been apparently absorbed in writing, but who had not
lost a word of the discussion, now arose, and in his deep, sonorous
voice, answered:

"The _ukase_ is true, your excellency, and we have no right to render it
nugatory. For twenty years the Jews have enjoyed equal rights with the
Christians, and every endeavor has been made to assimilate them with the
other inhabitants. In vain. The Jews constantly abused their new
liberties, and by their acts brought upon themselves the ill-will of the
entire nation. They form a state within the State, governing themselves
by their own code of laws, which are often antagonistic to those of the
land. I need not recapitulate the acts of cruelty they have perpetrated
upon defenceless Christians, the wiles they have employed to defraud
their creditors, or the usury for which they are notorious. I need not
allude to the fact that they have driven the Catholic Russians from
profitable fields of labor, and have appropriated to themselves every
branch of trade. These acts and many others have now called forth the
protests of the people, and the result is violence and robbery. It would
be useless to control the mob, your excellency, for the wrongs under
which they smart have driven them to desperation."

While Mikail was speaking, Mendel gazed at him as though fascinated. He
could not take his eyes from the handsome features and commanding form
of the monk. He must have seen him before, he thought--but where?
Suddenly the priest's resemblance to his own father struck him as
remarkable.

Ordinarily, the priest's unjust accusations would have called forth a
vigorous protest from the Rabbi, but now he suddenly found himself
bereft of reasoning power; he could but look upon his adversary in awe
and wonder. The priest turned, and by the movement exposed his mutilated
ear. The lobe had been torn completely off. Where could he have seen
that ear before? Mendel stared as though in a dream. He struggled with
his memory, but it failed him; all appeared a perfect blank. Then the
priest, in the course of his denunciations, became more vehement than
before, and made a movement with his left hand. The arm was stiff at the
elbow, and the gesture appeared unnatural and restrained. Still Mendel
looked and tried to reflect. That arm awoke a strange train of thoughts.
His mind appeared sluggish to-day; he could remember nothing.

Suddenly the Rabbi uttered a piercing cry. Yes, it all came back to him
now.

"Jacob!" he cried, advancing towards the priest. "My brother Jacob
arrayed against his own people!"

The monk recoiled a step and looked at the Jew in surprise.

"Is the man mad?" he asked, addressing the Governor.

"No; I am not mad," cried Mendel, excitedly. "As true as there is a God
above us, you are my brother Jacob!"

The priest, fully believing that the Rabbi had suddenly become insane,
recoiled a step and drew his garments about him. The Governor glanced
significantly at his wife, who had become as pale as death.

The Rabbi was unable to control his excitement.

"Jacob, my brother," he cried again; "do you not remember me, Mendel? Do
you not remember our home in Togarog? Do you not recollect how we were
both stolen away from home on the night of my _bar-mitzvah_; how we were
taken to Kharkov by the soldiers, and how we escaped and fled into the
country? Do you not remember how we travelled along, weary and
foot-sore, until you could no longer walk, and I ran to a neighboring
village for assistance? When I returned, you had disappeared. Jacob, do
you remember nothing?"

Mikail stood with his head buried in his hands, drinking in every word
of the gesticulating Rabbi.

Yes; he did remember something; indistinctly, of course, but as each
event was recalled it evoked a corresponding picture in his brain. Many
things suddenly became clear which had been hitherto shrouded in
mystery. The secret of his birth, concerning which he had so often
questioned Countess Drentell without receiving a satisfactory reply, the
indistinct recollection of strange events, and, finally, the familiarity
of the ritual in the synagogue. When Mendel had ceased speaking, he
turned abruptly to the Countess, who, pale and agitated, was standing by
the side of her husband. Surprise, anger, passion were portrayed in the
priest's flashing eye and contracted features, and Louise shrank from
him as he approached her.

"Madam," he said, hoarsely, "what can I say in reply to this charge? You
have been my protectress from childhood. Tell this man that he lies,
that I am not the brother of a Jew."

The Countess' lips parted, but neither she nor the Count found a reply.

"See, their silence speaks for me!" cried Mendel, almost joyfully.
"Jacob, it is true! I could not be mistaken. Your image has never left
me since we parted on the highway, and I recognized you at once by your
resemblance to our father, and by your torn ear and crippled arm."

"Marks which I received at the hands of the accursed Jews," cried the
priest, fiercely.

"Not so, Jacob! Whoever told you that did not tell the truth. It was not
the Jews, but a Christian, who tortured you because you were a Jew."

Again Mikail confronted the Countess.

"Madam, I demand to know whether this man speaks the truth or not?" he
exclaimed, wildly.

"He does, Mikail," replied Louise, nervously. "For the sake of your own
happiness, we endeavored to keep you in ignorance of the facts. You were
a Jew when we found you insensible on the road near Poltava. I took you
to my home, and to save you from the misery and degradation of being a
Jew, and also to bring a new soul into our holy church, I had you
brought up in a convent as a Catholic priest."

"And these injuries," asked Mikail, pale and trembling, "the marks of
which I shall carry to the grave, were they not the work of the Jews?"

"Of that I know nothing," answered the Countess, carelessly. "This man,"
pointing to Mendel; "can tell you more about that than I."

The face of the priest became livid. "I am a Jew," he cried; "I, a Jew!
Oh God," he moaned, convulsively, "why did you send me this agony? My
life has been one living falsehood, my whole existence a lie. My tongue
has been taught to execrate my religion, my mind to plan the destruction
of my father's people. Ha! ha! ha! you are right; the Jews are an
accursed race, and I am accursed with them!" The priest broke into a
wild laugh which sent a chill through the blood of his hearers.

Mendel endeavored to speak to him, to grasp his hand; but Mikail looked
at him with a meaningless stare, and turning, without another word, he
fled like a maniac from the apartment.

General Drentell turned furiously upon the Israelites.

"Go!" he cried; "leave the palace! You have done mischief enough!"

Mendel's strong form shook with emotion; he was weeping. He collected
himself for a final appeal.

"If your excellency would send us a regiment of soldiers," he said,
preparing to leave; "our lives and our property might still be saved."

"What care I for your property or your wretched lives?" shouted the
Governor, in a frenzy. "I shall not trouble my soldiers for a pack of
miserable Jews."[21]

The Rabbi and his fellows found themselves outside of the palace walls,
sad and disheartened.

"Friends," he said, in a broken voice, "you have been witnesses of this
terrible scene. Oh, God! to think that my brother, whom we mourned as
dead, should have become a Catholic priest and be plotting the
destruction of his people." Here Mendel's grief overcame him and he
remained silent for some moments. Recovering his composure with an
effort, he continued, in a subdued voice: "I have a favor to ask of you,
my friends. Speak to no one of this unfortunate meeting. If the news
came to my father's ears it would kill him."

The men promised and the little band walked silently back to their
homes.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 20: In the description of the outrages and acts of lawlessness
in this and succeeding chapters, the author has not drawn upon his
imagination, but has followed as closely as possible the narration of
the Russian refugees on their arrival in America, and the graphic
account sent by a special correspondent to the _London Times_, and
republished in pamphlet form in this country in 1883.]

[Footnote 21: Historical.]



CHAPTER XXXV.

MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN.


During that memorable Sabbath day, hundreds of refugees came in from the
surrounding villages where the outrages had already begun. They fled to
Kief as a place of refuge, vainly believing that a city with such
important mercantile interests centred in the Jewish population would be
exempt from serious danger. The poor Israelites feared to stir from
their homes; they sat in prayer during the entire day and fasted as on
the Day of Atonement.

Towards night, the door of Rabbi Winenki's house was suddenly thrown
open, and Joseph Kierson, haggard and travel-stained, entered.

"What are you doing here?" ejaculated both the Rabbi and Kathinka, in a
breath.

"Has there been a riot in Berditchef?" queried Mendel.

"No," answered Joseph, sinking into a chair; "not yet; but I heard that
there would be danger here, and I hurried back to share it with you."

"Unhappy man," said Kathinka. "Think of the peril of remaining here. If
you are recognized they will take you back to prison."

"I do not care," answered the young man. "I could not remain in
Berditchef, when I knew that you and my family were exposed to danger.
My place is at your side; come what may, I will live or die with you."

"You are a noble boy," exclaimed the Rabbi, grasping his hand,
affectionately. "Kathinka, get Joseph some supper; he must be hungry."

"You are right, Rabbi," returned Joseph. "I am hungry and tired, and yet
since I have seen Kathinka I am supremely happy."

It was a sad and fearful night. Sleep was out of the question for the
threatened Israelites. All night long the noise of hammering could be
heard; the Christians were attaching little wooden crosses to their
houses that they might be spared by the mob. The Jews gathered their
portable treasures and trinkets and conveyed them to places of safety.

The morning of the eighth of May dawned; a quiet serene Sunday morning,
the day on which is proclaimed throughout Christendom the golden rule:
"Love your enemies."

At an early hour armed gangs appeared on the streets, wandering hither
and thither, without any definite plan or object. Ringleaders, however,
were not long in making their appearance.

As in Elizabethgrad, the first act of the mob was to storm the
dram-shops; it needed the inspiration of _vodki_. Having broken in the
doors and windows, they rolled the barrels out into the street. _Vodki_
flowed in streams; the rioters waded, they bathed, they wallowed in
whiskey. The women carried it away by the pailful. From shop to shop
they went, becoming more hilarious, more boisterous as they proceeded.
Through the uproar could be heard their shouts: "The Jews have lorded it
over us long enough; it is our turn now! Down with the Jews!"

They came to the inn of a man named Rykelmann and here they met their
first resistance. Rykelmann refused to admit them. He had barricaded
himself and his family behind stout doors and stood guard over his
premises with a pistol. The mob besieged the place from all sides and
finally succeeded in forcing an entrance in the rear. The poor
proprietor was forced to accompany the rioters to his wine cellar, where
they amused themselves staving in the barrels and breaking the bottles,
while some of the drunken ruffians in the rooms above cut the throats of
his wife and six children. It was the first blood shed in Kief and it
served to stimulate the appetites of the vampires.

Onward sped the rioters. They divided into groups, each, under a
self-appointed leader, attacking a different quarter. Here and there
houses were burning fiercely, and to the crackling of the flames was
added the piteous cries of women and children consigned to a fiery
death.

At this stage several companies of soldiers, headed by Loris Drentell,
appeared upon the scene. The Governor fearing that Christians might
suffer in the general massacre, had at length yielded to the
importunities of his counsellors and sent his son with a detachment of
men as a protection, not to the Jews, but to the Christians. Loris had
returned to Kief shortly after the assassination of the Czar.

For an hour the soldiers allowed the work of destruction to go on
unhindered, and then, no longer able to control their appetites, they
joined the mob.

The rioters came to the house of Hirsch Bensef.

"He is the richest of them all," shouted a Russian, who had once been
employed by him. "His house is a regular mine of wealth. I've been in
it."

"Down with the house!" shouted the mob. "His wealth belongs to us. Show
him no mercy!"

They battered down the door, and regardless of the piteous pleadings of
the aged man and his wife they pillaged and plundered from cellar to
attic. Nothing was left intact. What could not be carried away was
destroyed. Loris himself, stimulated by reports of the fabulous wealth
which Bensef was said to possess, led the charge and took an active part
in the attack. When he left the house it was because he could conceal no
more of the booty about his person. Valuable property was scattered upon
the ground by the rioters and lay in mud-bespattered heaps, to be picked
up by the crowds of women and children that followed in their wake.
Bensef and his wife escaped assault at the hands of the ruffians by
fleeing precipitately through a rear door and taking refuge in the house
of a Christian friend.

Haim Goldheim's dwelling, not far from that of Bensef, was next
attacked. Father, mother and children had fled at the approach of the
rioters, but the rich furniture and works of art which the well-to-do
banker had accumulated fell into the destroying hands of the mob. An
hour afterwards, hungry flames devoured all that remained of the once
luxurious home.

At the further end of the street was the house of one David Wienarski.

"He, too, is rich!" shouted a Russian, and the rabble attacked the place
without delay. A search failed to discover the wealth they expected to
find, for the poor man had buried his meagre possessions in the garden,
the night before. Disappointed in their search for plunder, they caught
up his three-year-old child and threw it out of the window. It fell dead
upon the pavement at the feet of Loris and his soldiers, and the poor
corpse was mercilessly thrust into the gutter, to be out of the way.

Still on they went! When their ardor slackened, the ringleaders
harangued them and stimulated their flagging energies.

"Leave nothing untouched!" they shouted. "The Czar has given it all to
you! Take what belongs to you! Let not a Jew escape!"

There were many among the ferocious gathering who really liked the Jews,
who had for years lived side by side with them in peace and amity. They
arose against their former friends, because the Czar, in a _ukase_,
desired it; and his imperial will must be fulfilled. In the heat of the
turmoil, the example set them by their leaders spurred them on; and on
they went, thoroughly regardless of consequences.

It would be impossible to describe all the outrages of that bloody day;
the pen refuses to depict the appalling scenes, the dire calamities,
the nameless atrocities that were visited upon the helpless Israelites.

The Jews performed prodigies of valor. Though unarmed, many made a
heroic resistance to the onslaught of the rioters.

Down near the Dnieper stood the house of David Kierson. It was one of
the earliest attacked during the day, and the rioters were crazed with
drink and passion. David and his son Joseph, without any other weapons
than their hands, kept the horde from entering their home. Joseph
engaged three of the rabble at one time, while his father disabled man
after man, until the drunken wretches desisted and turned their
attention to houses where they would find less resistance.

Suddenly there was a shout of terror, and the attention of the attacking
party was directed towards the river.

"A man overboard!" was the cry.

"Let him drown," answered the mob, derisively; "it is only a Jew!"

Joseph, who was still guarding the door of his father's house, saw the
struggling creature in the waves of the muddy river. In an instant he
had divested himself of his coat and shoes, and, edging his way through
the crowd that lined the banks, he sprang into the water. A few powerful
strokes brought him to the drowning man, whom he seized by the collar of
his coat and held above the surface of the water. Then he swam slowly
and laboriously to the shore, and, amid the silence of the spectators,
he landed the man upon the banks. It was a Russian he had saved; one of
the ringleaders of the men who had so recently besieged his home.

For a moment the crowd was hushed in admiration of the heroic deed, but
it was only for a moment.

"Forwards, we are losing time!" shouted one of the principals, and the
rioters rushed down the streets to continue their work of destruction.

Suddenly a priest, laboring under powerful excitement, appeared before
them. His features were deadly pale and a strange fire gleamed in his
eyes.

"Stop!" he cried; "in the name of the Madonna, I command you to stop!"

The mob, overawed by his aspect as well as by his words, paused in their
mad career. The ringleaders fell back for a moment in surprise.

"Hush!" said one; "it is Mikail the priest who appointed us to our posts
and gave us our instructions. Let us hear what he has to say."

"You have been deceived," cried the priest, wildly. "Stop your mad
slaughter. The Jews are innocent of the wrongs that have been imputed to
them. Do you hear me? The Jews must not be persecuted! The _ukase_
giving you their property does not exist; it was but an invention!"

"Nonsense," answered one of the leaders; "I saw it with my own eyes. On,
friends! We want the wealth of the Jews; we want their blood! Down with
them!"

Mikail endeavored to bar the way.

"You shall not do further harm, I tell you! Hear me! In the name of the
Czar, I command you to halt!"

The monk's incoherent sentences fell upon deaf ears. Like an avalanche,
the mighty mob swept down upon him, carrying him along upon the
resistless tide.

When Joseph found his street deserted, he uttered a fervent prayer of
gratitude.

"We are safe for the moment, father," he said; "it will be some time
before the rabble returns this way. I shall change my wet clothing, and
while you guard the house, I will go to Rabbi Winenki's. Perhaps he
needs my assistance."

"Go, my boy," answered the old man; "and God be with you."

A frightful scene had in the meantime been enacted at the Rabbi's
dwelling, whither many an unprotected woman and child had hastened in
the belief that it would be safe from the mob. The detachment of rioters
under the leadership of Loris had already attacked it and the crying and
pleading of the inmates could be heard above the confusion of the mob.
But they pleaded in vain. Had anyone but Loris been in command, the
house of the beloved and honored Rabbi might have been spared, for his
many acts of kindness had endeared him to the _moujiks_ as well as to
his own people. When Loris arrived before the humble dwelling, however,
there was but one sentiment in his heart--revenge. Too well he
remembered the ignominious defeat he had experienced within those walls,
and at the recollection of Kathinka, the base passion which absence had
not subdued broke forth again and transformed the man into a savage.
There was no pity, no mercy to be expected from him.

At the windows of Winenki's house stood the women, their faces blanched
with fear as they looked upon the blood-thirsty army without.

"Down with the door!" shouted Loris, and a dozen ready hands shook the
door upon its fastenings.

Suddenly the men stopped in their mad work. Mikail the monk had rushed
into their midst. His priestly robes were torn and covered with mud, his
eyes were bloodshot, his face the picture of wild despair; his bosom
heaved and his clenched hands gyrated madly in an effort to command
silence.

"Men of Kief!" he cried, hoarsely, "this bloody work must cease. In the
name of the Czar I command you to go to your homes and molest the Jews
no further! They are innocent of the charges brought against them."

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Loris. "Since when has Mikail turned protector of
the Jews?"

"They are innocent, I tell you!" cried the priest. "Leave them in
peace!"

"Down with the Jews!" cried one of the band. "The Czar has given us
their property and we will have it!"

"It is false!" shouted Mikail. "The _ukase_ is a forgery. I myself wrote
it and had it circulated. It never had the Czar's sanction."

"The priest is mad!" cried Loris. "For three years he has incited us to
enmity against the Jews and now he pleads their cause. On with the work!
We have much to do before night."

"In the name of his majesty, I command you to cease!" yelled the priest,
in a hoarse voice.

"In the name of the Governor of Kief, I command you to go on!" shouted
Loris. "Down with Rabbi Winenki and his family! Down with the miserable
race that killed our Saviour!"

The battering at the door was resumed with renewed vigor. A cry of
triumph announced to the crowd that the barrier was down, and a portion
of the infuriated mob rushed into the house.

In vain did Mikail circulate among the men, by turns commanding and
pleading, to induce them to desist from their work of destruction.

They looked at him askance and then at each other, significantly. But
yesterday this same priest spurred them on to vengeance, filling them
with passion against the people whose cause he now espoused.

"He is mad," they whispered, and turning their backs upon him, they
continued their excesses.

Loris had in the meantime entered the room in which he had kneeled to
the beautiful Kathinka.

The Rabbi with his aged father and a number of beardless youths, pupils
of his school, guarded the door leading to the inner room, in which the
women and girls had taken refuge. They had armed themselves with chairs
and whatever happened to be within reach, and with these primitive
weapons they expected to hold the enemy in check. As well endeavor to
stay the flood of the mighty Dnieper with a net drawn across its stream!
The mob charged upon them with an impetus that could not be resisted.
The Rabbi, single-handed, felled two powerful _moujiks_; then he himself
fell bleeding to the floor. His gray-bearded father was dealt a blow on
the head from a stout cudgel, and he lay upon the ground in the agonies
of death. The young men seeing that resistance but increased their
peril, threw down their weapons and fled, leaving the inner room with
its helpless inmates in the hands of the rioters.

Loris was the first to enter, and his companions were not slow in
following his example. A number of maidens, crazed with horror, sprang
from the windows, only to fall into the arms of the rabble without.
Three of the women were killed in the heroic struggle for their honor
and not less than twenty suffered indignities worse than death.

The Rabbi's wife, Recha, succeeding in escaping the vigilance of the
invading party and hurried into the outer room. Suddenly her eyes
encountered the form of her husband lying upon the floor, bathed in
blood and apparently dead. With a shriek she threw herself upon his
prostrate body. When her friends attempted to move her after the danger
had passed, they found that terror and grief had done their work. Recha
had lost her reason.

On his entrance into the room, Loris gazed about him, and soon singled
out Kathinka, standing among her friends, silently praying. With a cry
of mingled joy and rage, he threw himself upon her and put his arms
firmly around her.

"Ha! beautiful Kathinka!" he said, ironically; "so we meet again. How
happy you must be to see me! Yes, I love you still, and you shall be
mine, all mine! Don't struggle, sweet one; I shall remove you to my
dwelling, far from all this noise and tumult. Ho, there! make room there
for me and my prize!"

Lifting the struggling maiden in his arms, he pressed through the crowd,
out into the street. There he set down his precious burden and paused to
regain his breath.

Kathinka looked hastily about her. There were many in the crowd who had
known her since her childhood, many whom her father had befriended, but
they stood passively by and abstained from offering her either
assistance or sympathy. Then, as Loris again wound his arms about her;
she cried loudly for help:

"Come to my aid," she cried, imploringly. "Do none of you know me; will
none lend me a helping hand? I am Kathinka, the daughter of Rabbi
Winenki! Will no one raise his arm in my defence?"

There was no reply to her appeal; the rioters had no mercy for the
despised Jewess.

Of a sudden the crowd parted. Thank God, there was a champion for
Kathinka. Mikail the priest elbowed his way through the dense mass of
maddened humanity and with eyes wilder and face more haggard than
before, he approached the shrieking girl. With a cry of fury, he fell
upon Loris and endeavored to tear him from his victim. Loris was for a
moment too astonished to offer any resistance.

"What do you want with me, priest?" he cried, angrily, when he
recognized his assailant.

"I am here to remind you of your honor, of your manhood; to plead with
you in behalf of that poor maiden. You shall not harm a hair of her head
while I have strength to defend her."

"This is, indeed, wonderful!" laughed Loris, mockingly. "The arch
Jew-hater has become the champion of innocence! Go to your monastery,
priest, and leave the battle-field to soldiers!" and pushing Mikail
contemptuously aside, he renewed his hold upon the girl, who,
overpowered by her terror and despair, had become insensible.

At that moment another form pushed its way through the crowd. It was
Joseph, who after great difficulties, had at length succeeded in
reaching the spot. He, too, had heard Kathinka's despairing cry, and had
hastened to protect her. A rapid glance made the situation clear to him
and he at once prepared to attack the Governor's son. But the priest had
forestalled him. With a yell of rage, Mikail threw himself upon the
young ruffian and the two were instantly engaged in a desperate combat.
Loris was inspired by passion and revenge; the priest was moved by a
feeling which he could not himself analyze. The hatred which he bore
Loris broke out in unreasoning fury; he had heard Kathinka's cry of
distress, had heard her assert that she was the daughter of his own
brother, and in the strange revulsion of feeling which had overcome him
since yesterday, he determined to effect her release at all hazards.

The men twined and twisted about each other, swayed to and fro in their
endeavor to gain the mastery, while the crowd, forgetting its own
passions, formed a circle about them, applauding now the one, now the
other.

Meanwhile Joseph had raised the helpless form of his betrothed from the
ground and endeavored to carry her through the mob. A score of brawny
arms barred the way.

Fear for his beloved gave the young man almost superhuman strength.
Seizing in his right hand a cudgel which was lying on the ground, while
his left arm still supported Kathinka, he hewed a passage through the
ranks. Eight men lay sprawling upon the ground and their companions
retreated before the telling blows of Joseph's club. When he found
himself unembarrassed by the rioters, he lifted Kathinka in both his
arms and ran as fast as his feet would bear him to his father's house,
which, having already been attacked, he hoped would escape a second
visit.

The combat between Loris and Mikail was short. The priest labored under
a manifest disadvantage in being crippled in one arm, while Loris,
driven to desperation by seeing Kathinka carried off, gathered all his
strength and with a mighty blow hurled the monk to the ground. There was
a dull crash. The priest's head had struck the pavement with such force
that his skull was crushed and a crimson stream of blood gushed from his
lips and nostrils, his body quivered, his maimed arm fell heavily at
his side. Mikail, the Jew-hater, had ceased to exist.

For a moment Loris was dazed and conscience-stricken. To kill a priest
was a serious crime. Moreover, that priest had been his father's friend
and favorite adviser, and Loris had much to fear from parental wrath.
The mischief was done, however, and bestowing upon the dead body a
parting glance of ineffable hatred, he set to work to reunite his
scattered band.

The outrages in the Jewish quarter had been duly reported to the
Governor, who shrugged his shoulders, rubbed his palms and smiled with
secret satisfaction.

"Revenge is sweet," he muttered, and he placed himself at the window,
where he could witness the burning of the houses.

About noon the body of Mikail was carried past the palace to the
Petcherskoi convent, and at the same time exaggerated accounts reached
Drentell's ears of the dangers to which his beloved son had been
exposed.

"It is time to put an end to the attack," thought the Governor, and
another detachment of soldiers was sent out to assist the first in
quelling the riot and to arrest all disorderly persons found upon the
streets. This order was vigorously enforced. About two thousand people
were made prisoners, nearly half of them Jews, arrested for protecting
their lives and property.

The scenes in the Jewish quarter at the close of the riot, beggar
description. Dust and feathers filled the air, for one of the mob's
chief amusements consisted in tearing open feather-beds and pillows and
scattering their contents. Broken furniture, dishes and stoves strewed
the pavements. Not a pane of glass or door was left entire. It was as
though an army had invaded the place. Nearly three thousand Israelites
were without shelter, their houses having been burned or otherwise
demolished. Many hundreds more were reduced to poverty, having been
despoiled of everything. The destruction of human life was appalling,
many corpses being recovered from the river, days after the occurrence;
and the number of people who were driven to insanity by the atrocities
committed will probably never be known.[22]

Rabbi Winenki, who had received a dangerous wound, recovered slowly. His
grief at the apparently hopeless insanity of his wife and the death of
his father were indescribable; they were in a slight measure mitigated
by the knowledge that his daughter had been spared the barbarous fate
that had befallen so many of Israel's women.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

WHAT THE PRIEST HAD ACCOMPLISHED.


The horrible crimes which have been described in preceding chapters were
insignificant compared with those to be committed. Mikail the priest,
the Jew-hater, was dead, but the evil of which he had been the author,
lived after him. His ghost stalked through the Empire, converting it
into one vast charnel-house.

Simultaneously with the riots in Kief, there were outbreaks in every
town and village throughout the province. At Browary, the synagogue in
which the terrified people had congregated was attacked and destroyed.
The mob attacked the Jewesses, and assaulted many of them. Three of the
poor victims died and a number of others found their only escape in the
river.

Scenes like these occurred daily throughout Southern Russia. Whole towns
and districts were ablaze with riot and violence. The story that the
Czar had handed Jewish property over to his Catholic subjects spread
upon the breath of the wind, and the populace was not slow to
appropriate its new possessions. The Governors of the various provinces
looked on with folded arms at the barbarities enacted under their eyes.
Occasionally the pleadings of the poor Jews appeared to prevail and the
military was called out; but it was not to protect the Hebrews, but to
prevent them from defending themselves.

The riots were invariably announced for days, often weeks, beforehand,
the police frequently stimulating the people to hatred and violence.

The municipalities, with the consent of the provincial government, had
taken every means to add to the misery of the situation. Mikail's book,
"The Annihilation of the Jews," became the bible of the fanatical
masses. Its sentences were distorted and exaggerated and then read to
the intoxicated wretches at the village _kretschmas_. Petitions were
circulated in the provinces to devise means to drive the Jews out of the
towns in which they had no legal right to live. In other places where no
such restrictions existed, petitions were sent to the authorities
requesting the adoption of measures to prevent the increase of Jewish
residents.

At Kief, the day after the riot, Governor Drentell called an assembly of
his counsellors to form a plan for expelling the Jews. Old documents
were unearthed and a rigid scrutiny instituted to discover what were
the restrictions upon the Jewish population of the city. The laws
enacted under the tyrannical reign of Nicholas were examined and the
discovery was made that nine thousand of the Jews in Kief had no legal
right to live there. For twenty years these laws had slumbered
unenforced. With a cruelty without parallel in the history of the world,
Drentell determined to enforce these ancient edicts and to expel all
Jews in excess of the legal number.

The Jews were accordingly notified that before August the number in
excess of the lawful population would be expected to seek another
domicile.

Wailing and lamentations broke out afresh in Israel. Many families did
not possess the means of departing, having lost everything in the recent
attacks. Others did not know in what direction to turn their weary
steps, for persecutions were reported all through Russia and in Germany
as well. Others again mourned at the thought of leaving behind them aged
relatives, beloved friends, the graves of their cherished dead and the
thousand memories that hallowed their old homes.

In their extremity, the Jews again petitioned the Governor to temper his
authority with mercy, and one of Drentell's counsellors, moved by the
piteous appeal, recommended leniency in dealing with the stricken race.

"Gentlemen," replied Drentell, rising in anger; "either I or the Jews
must go! Russia is not large enough for both. I insist upon a strict
enforcement of these regulations."

The Governor's word prevailed. By the beginning of July, over eight
thousand Jews had been expelled from Kief alone.

It was a sultry day towards the end of June. The air was unusually
oppressive, the reapers in the fields moved listlessly under the
scorching sun, the leaves on the trees were motionless and the birds had
ceased their warbling.

The Jewish quarter was quiet, almost deserted. A pall hung over the
dismal homes; there were no children in the streets to stir the air with
their merry voices. As men passed each other their greetings were short
and formal; they scarcely stopped to bid each other good-day. The entire
Jewish population was in mourning. Hearts were bleeding for some
departed soul cut off in the midst of life by the lawless mob, or
throbbing with suppressed sorrow at the enforced departure of relatives
or friends for the distant shores of America.

One by one a number of our old acquaintances and some of their friends
entered the dwelling of Rabbi Winenki, glancing furtively behind them as
though in fear of being watched. In the Rabbi's house there was some
show of festivity, although the attempt was half-hearted and conveyed an
impression far from joyous.

It was the long anticipated wedding day of Kathinka and Joseph. All
their bright prospects and pleasant anticipations of a professional life
at home were at an end. Their one desire was to be married before
seeking a new existence in America. The guests spoke in subdued voices,
as though fearful of exciting the animosity of their gentile neighbors.

Rabbi Mendel, who had but recently risen from a bed of pain, was wan and
pale; his tall and stately form had shrunk, his massive head was bowed,
his raven locks had become gray.

Quietly and without ostentation, the good man performed the ceremony
according to the Jewish rites. The ring was given, the glass broken, the
blessings pronounced, and the couple stood hand in hand to receive the
congratulations of their assembled friends. Smiles and merry laughter
gave way to tears and sobs. It was a touching spectacle! The young
couple were to remain in Kief until the following Sunday, and then, with
two thousand other unfortunates, to leave the place in which they had
lived and loved, prospered and suffered.

On the Sabbath, the synagogue was crowded; for many of the worshippers
it would be the last service they would attend in their native land.
Tearful and heartfelt were the prayers that ascended to Jehovah's
throne. The service for the dead was as impressive as scalding tears and
broken hearts could make it. Mendel ascended the pulpit, that place from
which he had so often instructed his people in wisdom and godliness, and
with streaming eyes bid the wanderers farewell.

He spoke briefly but impressively, concluding by giving them much good
advice as to their conduct in their new homes in America.

"Lead irreproachable lives," he said. "And remember one thing more:
stoop not to deceit or to crime. In America, as in Russia, every evil
act of the individual Jew will rebound upon the entire race. If the
gentile sins, he alone bears the brunt of the punishment. If a Jew
transgresses the law of the land, his religion is heralded to the world
and the wrong he has committed brings odium upon the entire household of
Israel. It has been so in the past, it will continue so for generations
to come. Does not this admonish you to avoid evil, to make your conduct
exemplary, and to be models of virtue and righteousness?"

While the Rabbi was speaking, it seemed as though an angel of comfort
and hope had entered the holy place. Tears were dried and the
unfortunates whose destiny was hurrying them far from all that earth
held dear, no longer dreaded the approaching journey.

The rest of that memorable Sabbath was spent in bidding farewell to
friends and relatives. There was grief in every household.

We have seen how Mordecai Winenki perished, a victim of the infuriated
mob. His wife, Leah, died a short time afterward, broken-hearted at the
separation from her life-long companion. Hirsch Bensef and his wife
declared they were too old to brave the rigors of a journey to America,
and, though broken in spirit as well as in fortune, they preferred to
remain in Kief. The Rabbi would have gladly accompanied his daughter to
the New World, but devotion to duty bound him to his old home. The
Kiersons accompanied their son and his bride upon their long voyage. The
refugees who left Kief consisted chiefly of the poorer classes, who,
being without means, were assisted by their more fortunate
co-religionists to emigrate. There were many sturdy young people among
the group, who, like Joseph Kierson and his wife, hoped for better
opportunities than were possible in their own intolerant land. The
wealthier classes, those who still had important mercantile interests in
Russia, as a rule, remained at home, in expectation of a speedy end of
the persecutions.

On the next day a sad and sorrowful procession moved slowly out of Kief.
They were accompanied part of the way by grieving friends, and trudged
bravely along on foot to Brody, on the Austrian frontier, where they
arrived after many days, foot-sore and weary. A pitiful state of affairs
confronted them here. Nearly six thousand refugees from Russian villages
had assembled in Brody and were in a completely helpless state. Huddled
in cellars, stowed away in sheds, in boxes, under lumber, lay the
unfortunate people, many of whom but a few weeks before had been rich
and prosperous. The travellers from Kief did what they could to mitigate
the horrible condition of these wretches, but the trouble was of such
magnitude that they could do little to relieve it.

On to Hamburg went our friends, on foot, in wagons, or by rail, as their
means warranted; on to Hamburg, there to take ship for the haven of
their hopes, the free and hospitable shores of America.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 22: For the corroboration of these facts, see the account of
the _London Times_ special correspondent; also, Mr. Evarts' speech
delivered in Chickering Hall, New York, in March, 1882.]



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE LAND OF THE FREE.


A letter from Kathinka Kierson to her father:

                                                         JULY 1, 1887.

DEAR FATHER:--We grieved and rejoiced on the receipt of your
last letter: grieved that the Jews of Russia are still smarting under
the lash of persecution, that outbreaks of intolerance still continue;
and we rejoice to learn that dear mother has almost entirely recovered
her reason. We trust that her cure will be permanent, and that the
evening of your life will be as happy as you so richly deserve. It is
truly as you so often said: "Sorrow is essential in bringing out the
best there is in man." As a severe storm in nature purifies the elements
and the earth, reviving the plants, clarifying the air, causing the sun
to shine more gloriously, so, too, do the storms which beset the soul
and wring from it its groans and sighs, purify the spiritual man and
place him nearer to the throne of his Maker. I cannot but thank the
Lord, when I contrast our present position with what would have been our
lot had we remained in Kief. I know we have been favored by a kind
Providence above many of our fellow-refugees, and we do not forget to
thank God for his blessings.

After the trials we experienced on coming to America, the desperate
struggle with poverty, the difficulties Joseph experienced in securing
work, the drifting from city to city in hopes of bettering our
condition, and the reverses which almost drove us to despair, the sun of
prosperity is at length beginning to shine for us. Our experience is but
another illustration of the adage, that "opportunities come to him who
seeks them."

It is now nearly a year since a combination of circumstances brought us
to Chicago. I have already written how Joseph obtained employment in a
large furniture factory, and by indomitable energy and close attention
to business, worked his way up from a simple laborer to be the overseer
of the entire works. I now have more good news for you, news which your
kind heart will be glad to hear.

About six months ago we met an old gentleman, named Pesach Harretzki,
or, as he calls himself, Philip Harris. He is a large manufacturer of
cloth, and had business transactions with the factory in which Joseph
was employed. When he heard that my husband was from Kief, he evinced
the liveliest interest and eagerly inquired after the welfare of a man
whom he remembered as a boy of fourteen, one Mendel Winenki. When Joseph
told him that he had married the daughter of Rabbi Winenki, Mr. Harris
could scarcely restrain his impatience until he saw me. He called at our
home that same evening and whiled away the time with anecdotes of you,
dear father. He told us how ambitious you were to study, and that he
gave you the first German books you ever possessed. He said that his
conscience frequently smote him when he thought of the terrible risk to
which he had exposed you in giving you those books. Altogether, he is a
most agreeable man, and, having known you as a boy, he naturally took a
paternal interest in me. One day he made Joseph a tempting offer to take
a position in his factory. He was getting old, he said, and needed a
young assistant upon whom he could rely. Joseph at once accepted and
entered Mr. Harris' employ. My husband has a wonderful mind. I would not
tell him so to his face, for fear of making him vain, but he is
undoubtedly a genius. He had been in his new position scarcely a month
before he had so revolutionized and improved upon the hitherto neglected
establishment that the business of the house increased materially.
Yesterday, Mr. Harris offered to take him into partnership with him,
and, as he is getting old and is very wealthy, the probabilities are
that he will eventually retire and leave the business entirely in
Joseph's hands. We are, therefore, on the high road to prosperity.

And now, dear father, we have but one desire, namely, to have you with
us. Leave your onerous duties in Kief, take passage in a good vessel for
mother and yourself, and spend the remainder of your life with us in
contentment and peace. You need not pass your time in idleness. There
are many of our countrymen here and your talents will be appreciated in
America as well as in Kief. Joseph unites with me in hoping that you
will not decline our invitation.

It will interest you to learn that David Kierson and his wife are
prominent members of the Hebrew colony at Vineland, New Jersey, founded
by a number of benevolent Jews of Philadelphia. They are prospering and
happy. Both the children are well and send their kisses to you and
mother. Little Mordecai (we call him Morris, as it sounds more American)
is a very bright little fellow, with more questions in an hour than I
can answer in a day. Will he ever resemble his grandfather?



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Letter from Rabbi Mendel Winenki to his daughter:

                                                KIEF, August 16, 1887.

I cannot attempt, my dear children, to describe the feelings of joy and
gratitude with which I read your letter. God be praised for his love and
goodness. I will write to Pesach Harretzki at once. Whatever I am or
have been I owe to the inspiration of those two books he gave me.

I am sorry to disappoint you, my dear ones, by not accepting your
invitation to come to America.

I have a great and holy duty to perform in my native land. The misery
here is acute, active persecution still continues, the poverty of our
people increases every day, and with such misfortunes they would fast
fall into mental and moral stupor were there not some one constantly
with them to cheer and instruct them. My mission, while difficult, is a
glorious one. I have not an idle moment. I must visit the sick, console
the bereaved, assist the poor, instruct the ignorant and sympathize with
the unfortunate. By my own example I must seek to inculcate such moral
lessons as will tend to elevate them above the condition into which
their misfortunes might degrade them. To desert my post at such a time
would be cowardly.

Moreover, your mother, while sufficiently well to resume her household
duties, is still suffering, is often melancholy and requires constant
attention. In the company of her old friends and associates she may
entirely recover, but removed to a strange land, among a strange people,
she might suffer a relapse. No, believe me, my children, I am happier
here than I could be in America.

Over a thousand of our towns-people will emigrate this week. Under the
new laws, which deprive us of every right and liberty, these
unfortunates find it impossible to live at home and are bound for the
promising land of America. Should any of them find their way to your
city, receive them cordially, for "all Israel is one family." In your
prosperity forget not those who are less fortunate than you, and give
praise to the Lord for the blessings he has bestowed upon you.





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