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Title: Stories and Pictures
Author: Peretz, Isaac Loeb
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories and Pictures" ***

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produced from scanned images of public domain material


STORIES AND PICTURES

BY

ISAAC LOEB PEREZ

TRANSLATED FROM THE YIDDISH BY

HELENA FRANK

[Illustration: colophon]

PHILADELPHIA
THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA
1906

COPYRIGHT, 1906,
BY THE JEWISH PUBLICATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA



PREFACE


My heartfelt thanks are due to all those who, directly or indirectly,
have helped in the preparation of this book of translations; among the
former, to Professor Israel Abrahams, for invaluable help and advice at
various junctures; and to Mr. B. B., for his detailed and scholarly
explanations of difficult passages--explanations to which, fearing to
overload a story-book with notes, I have done scant justice.

The sympathetic reader who wishes for information concerning the author
of these tales will find it in Professor Wiener's "History of Yiddish
Literature in the Nineteenth Century," together with much that will help
him to a better appreciation of their drift.

To fully understand any one of them, we should need to know intimately
the life of the Russian Jews who figure in their pages, and to be
familiar with the lore of the Talmud and the Kabbalah, which colors
their talk as the superstitions of Slav or Celtic lands color the talk
of their respective peasants.

A Yiddish writer once told me, he feared these tales would be too
_tief-jüdisch_ (intensely Jewish) for Gentile readers; and even in the
case of the Jewish English-reading public, the "East (of Europe) is
East, and West is West."

Perez, however, is a distinctly modern writer, and his views and
sympathies are of the widest.

He was born in 1855, and these stories were all written, quite broadly
speaking, between 1875 and 1900. They were all published in Russia,
under the censorship--a fact to be borne in mind when reading such pages
as "Travel-Pictures" (which, by the way, is not a story at all), "In the
Post-Chaise," and others.

We may hope that conditions of life such as are depicted in "The Dead
Town" will soon belong entirely to history. It is for those who have
seen to tell us whether or not the picture is correct.

The future of Yiddish in a Free Russia is hard to tell. There are some
who consider its early disappearance by no means a certainty. However
that may be, it is at present the only language by which the masses of
the Russian Jews can be reached, and Perez's words of 1894, in which he
urges the educated writers to remember this fact, have lost none of
their interest:

     "Nowadays everyone must work for his own, must plough and sow his
     own particular plot of land, although, or rather _because_ we
     believe that the future will represent one universal store, whither
     shall be carried all the corn of all the harvests....

     "We do not wish to desert the flag of universal humanity.

     "We do not wish to sow the weeds of Chauvinism, the thorns of
     fanaticism, the tares of scholastic philosophy.

     "We want to pull up the weeds by the roots, to cut down the briars,
     to burn the tares, and to sow the pure grain of human ideas, human
     feelings, and knowledge.

     "We will break up our bit of land, and plough and sow, because we
     firmly believe that some day there will be a great common store,
     out of which all the hungry will be fed alike.

     "We believe that storm and wind and rain will have an end, that a
     day is coming when earth shall yield her increase, and heaven give
     warmth and light!

     "And we do not wish _our_ people, in the day of harvest, to stand
     apart, weeping for misspent years, while the rest make holiday,
     forced to beg, with shame, for bread that was earned by the sweat
     and toil of others.

     "We want to bring a few sheaves to the store as well as they; we
     want to be husbandmen also."

Whenever, in the course of translation, I have come across a Yiddish
proverb or idiomatic expression of which I knew an English equivalent, I
have used the latter without hesitation. To avoid tiresome
circumlocutions, some of the more important Yiddish words (most of them
Hebrew) have been preserved in the translation. A list of them with
brief explanations will be found on page 453. Nevertheless footnotes had
to be resorted to in particular cases.

To conclude: I have frequently, in this preface, used the words "was"
and "were," because I do not know what kaleidoscopic changes may not
have taken place in Russo-Jewish life since these tales were written.

But they are all, with exception of the legend "The Image," tales of the
middle or the end of the nineteenth century, and chiefly the latter.

HELENA FRANK

January, 1906



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE
PREFACE                                                                5

I. IF NOT HIGHER                                                      13

II. DOMESTIC HAPPINESS                                                21

III. IN THE POST-CHAISE                                               29

IV. THE NEW TUNE                                                      53

V. MARRIED                                                            59

VI. THE SEVENTH CANDLE OF BLESSING                                    89

VII. THE WIDOW                                                        95

VIII. THE MESSENGER                                                  101

IX. WHAT IS THE SOUL?                                                117

X. IN TIME OF PESTILENCE                                             135

XI. BONTZYE SHWEIG                                                   171

XII. THE DEAD TOWN                                                   185

XIII. THE DAYS OF THE MESSIAH                             201

XIV. KABBALISTS                                                      213

XV.  TRAVEL-PICTURES

      PREFACE                                                        223

      TRUST                                                          224

      ONLY GO!                                                       226

      WHAT SHOULD A JEWESS NEED?                                     229

      NO. 42                                                         231

      THE MASKIL                                                     237

      THE RABBI OF TISHEWITZ                                         241

      TALES THAT ARE TOLD                                            245

      A LITTLE BOY                                                   256

      THE YARTSEFF RABBI                                             259

      LYASHTZOF                                                      265

      THE FIRST ATTEMPT                                              266

      THE SECOND ATTEMPT                                             271

      AT THE SHOCHET'S                                               272

      THE REBBITZIN OF SKUL                                          276

      INSURED                                                        280

      THE FIRE                                                       284

      THE EMIGRANT                                                   289

      THE MADMAN                                                     291

      MISERY                                                         294

      THE LÀMED WÒFNIK                                               295

      THE INFORMER                                                   299

XVI. THE OUTCAST                                                     307

XVII. A CHAT                                                         313

XVIII. THE PIKE                                                      321

XIX. THE FAST                                                        329

XX. THE WOMAN MISTRESS HANNAH                                        337

XXI. IN THE POND                                                     385

XXII. THE CHANUKAH LIGHT                                             391

XXIII. THE POOR LITTLE BOY                                           401

XXIV. UNDERGROUND                                                    417

XXV. BETWEEN TWO MOUNTAINS                                           429

XXVI. THE IMAGE                                                      449

GLOSSARY                                                             453



I

IF NOT HIGHER


And the Rebbe of Nemirov, every Friday morning early at Sliches-time,
disappeared, melted into thin air! He was not to be found anywhere,
either in the synagogue or in the two houses-of-study, or worshipping in
some Minyan, and most certainly not at home. His door stood open, people
went in and out as they pleased--no one ever stole anything from the
Rebbe--but there was not a soul in the house.

Where can the Rebbe be?

Where _should_ he be, if not in heaven?

Is it likely a Rebbe should have no affairs on hand with the Solemn Days
so near?

Jews (no evil eye!) need a livelihood, peace, health, successful
match-makings, they wish to be good and pious and their sins are great,
and Satan with his thousand eyes spies out the world from one end to the
other, and he sees, and accuses, and tells tales--and who shall help if
not the Rebbe? So thought the people.

Once, however, there came a Lithuanian--and he laughed! You know the
Lithuanian Jews--they rather despise books of devotion, but stuff
themselves with the Talmud and the codes. Well, the Lithuanian points
out a special bit of the Gemoreh--and hopes it is plain enough: even
Moses our Teacher could not ascend into heaven, but remained suspended
thirty inches below it--and who, I ask you, is going to argue with a
Lithuanian?

What becomes of the Rebbe?

"I don't know, and I don't care," says he, shrugging his shoulders, and
all the while (what it is to be a Lithuanian!) determined to find out.

       *       *       *       *       *

The very same evening, soon after prayers, the Lithuanian steals into
the Rebbe's room, lays himself down under the Rebbe's bed, and lies low.

He intends to stay there all night to find out where the Rebbe goes, and
what he does at Sliches-time.

Another in his place would have dozed and slept the time away. Not so a
Lithuanian--he learned a whole treatise of the Talmud by heart!

Day has not broken when he hears the call to prayer.

The Rebbe has been awake some time. The Lithuanian has heard him sighing
and groaning for a whole hour. Whoever has heard the groaning of the
Nemirover Rebbe knows what sorrow for All-Israel, what distress of mind,
found voice in every groan. The soul that heard was dissolved in grief.
But the heart of a Lithuanian is of cast-iron. The Lithuanian hears and
lies still. The Rebbe lies still, too--the Rebbe, long life to him,
_upon_ the bed and the Lithuanian _under_ the bed!

       *       *       *       *       *

After that the Lithuanian hears the beds in the house squeak--the people
jump out of them--a Jewish word is spoken now and again--water is poured
on the fingers--a door is opened here and there. Then the people leave
the house, once more it is quiet and dark, only a very little moonlight
comes in through the shutter.

He confessed afterwards, did the Lithuanian, that when he found himself
alone with the Rebbe terror took hold of him. He grew cold all over, and
the roots of his ear-locks pricked his temples like needles. An
excellent joke, to be left alone with the Rebbe at Sliches-time before
dawn!

But a Lithuanian is dogged. He quivers and quakes like a fish--but he
does not budge.

At last the Rebbe, long life to him, rises in his turn.

First he does what beseems a Jew. Then he goes to the wardrobe and takes
out a packet--which proves to be the dress of a peasant: linen trousers,
high boots, a pelisse, a wide felt hat, and a long and broad leather
belt studded with brass nails. The Rebbe puts them on.

Out of the pockets of the pelisse dangles the end of a thick cord, a
peasant's cord.

On his way out the Rebbe steps aside into the kitchen, stoops, takes a
hatchet from under a bed, puts it into his belt, and leaves the house.
The Lithuanian trembles, but he persists.

       *       *       *       *       *

A fearful, Solemn-Day hush broods over the dark streets, broken not
unfrequently by a cry of supplication from some little Minyan, or the
moan of some sick person behind a window.

The Rebbe keeps to the street side, and walks in the shadow of the
houses.

He glides from one to the other, the Lithuanian after him. And the
Lithuanian hears the sound of his own heart-beats mingle with the heavy
footfall of the Rebbe; but he follows on, and together they emerge from
the town.

       *       *       *       *       *

Behind the town stands a little wood. The Rebbe, long life to him,
enters it. He walks on thirty or forty paces, and then he stops beside a
small tree. And the Lithuanian, with amaze, sees the Rebbe take his
hatchet and strike the tree. He sees the Rebbe strike blow after blow,
he hears the tree creak and snap. And the little tree falls, and the
Rebbe splits it up into logs, and the logs into splinters. Then he makes
a bundle, binds it round with the cord, throws it on his shoulder,
replaces the hatchet in his belt, leaves the wood, and goes back into
the town.

In one of the back streets he stops beside a poor, tumbledown little
house, and taps at the window.

"Who is there?" cries a frightened voice within. The Lithuanian knows it
to be the voice of a Jewess, a sick Jewess.

"I," answers the Rebbe in the peasant tongue.

"Who is I?" inquires the voice further. And the Rebbe answers again in
the Little-Russian speech:

"Vassil."

"Which Vassil? and what do you want, Vassil?"

"I have wood to sell," says the sham peasant, "very cheap, for next to
nothing."

And without further ado he goes in. The Lithuanian steals in behind
him, and sees, in the gray light of dawn, a poor room with poor, broken
furniture.

In the bed lies a sick Jewess huddled up in rags, who says bitterly:

"Wood to sell--and where am I, a poor widow, to get the money from to
buy it?"

"I will give you a six-groschen worth on credit."

"And how am I ever to repay you?" groans the poor woman.

"Foolish creature!" the Rebbe upbraids her. "See here: you are a poor
sick Jewess, and I am willing to trust you with the little bundle of
wood; I believe that in time you will repay me. And you, you have such a
great and mighty God, and you do not trust Him! not even to the amount
of a miserable six-groschen for a little bundle of wood!"

"And who is to light the stove?" groans the widow. "Do _I_ look like
getting up to do it? and my son away at work!"

"I will also light the stove for you," said the Rebbe.

       *       *       *       *       *

And the Rebbe, while he laid the wood in the stove, repeated groaning
the first part of Sliches.

Then, when the stove was alight, and the wood crackled cheerily, he
repeated, more gaily, the second part of Sliches.

He repeated the third part when the fire had burnt itself out, and he
shut the stove doors....

       *       *       *       *       *

The Lithuanian who saw all this remained with the Rebbe, as one of his
followers.

And later, when anyone told how the Rebbe early every morning at
Sliches-time raised himself and flew up into heaven, the Lithuanian,
instead of laughing, added quietly:

"If not higher."



II

DOMESTIC HAPPINESS


Chaïm is a street porter.

When he goes through the town stooping beneath his case of wares, one
can hardly make him out--it looks as if the box were walking along on
two feet of its own. Listen to the heavy breathing! One can hear it
quite a long way off.

But now he lays down his load, and is given a few pence. He straightens
himself, wipes the sweat off his face, draws a deep breath, goes to the
fountain and takes a drink of water, and then runs into the court.

He stands close to the wall, and lifts his huge head till the point of
his chin and the tip of his nose and the brim of his hat are all on a
level.

"Hannah," he calls.

A little window opens just below the eaves, and a small female head in a
white kerchief answers, "Chaïm!"

The two look at each other very contentedly.

The neighbors say they are "lovering."

Chaïm tosses up his earnings wrapped in a piece of paper, and Hannah
catches them in the air--not for the first time in her life, either!

"You're a wonder!" says Chaïm, and shows no disposition to go away.

"Off with you, Chaïm!" she says, smiling. "I daren't take my eyes off
the sick child. I have stood the cradle near the fire-place, and I skim
with one hand and rock with the other."

"How is it, poor little thing?"

"Better."

"God be praised! Where is Henne?"

"With the sempstress, learning to sew."

"And Yössele?"

"In Choder."

Chaïm lowers his chin and goes away. Hannah follows him with her eyes
till he disappears. Thursday and Friday it lasts longer.

"How much have you got there in the paper?" inquires Hannah.

"Twenty-two groschen."

"I am afraid it is not enough!"

"Why, what do you want, Hannah?"

"A sechser's worth of ointment for the baby, a few farthing dips--a
Sabbath loaf I have--oh! meat--a pound and a half--let me see--and
brandy for the Kiddush, and a few splinters."

"Those I can get for you. There are sure to be some in the market."

"And then I want," and she makes a calculation of all she needs for
Sabbath, and it comes to this: that one can say the Kiddush quite well
over a loaf, and that there are heaps of things one can do without.

The two important ones are: the candles to say the blessing over and the
salve for the child.

And if only the children, God helping, are well, and the metal
candle-sticks not in pawn, and supposing there is even a pudding, they
spend a cheerful Sabbath.

Hannah _is_ wonderful at puddings!

She is always short of something, either meal or eggs or suet, and the
end of it all is a sweet, succulent, altogether ravishing pudding--it
melts away into the very limbs!

"An angel's handiwork!" says Hannah, smiling delightedly.

"An angel's is it?" Chaïm laughs. "You think you are a little angel, do
you, because you put up with me and the children? Well, they worry you
enough, goodness knows! And I'm a regular crosspatch, _I_ am, at
times--and never a curse do I get--you're not like other women. And what
a comfort I must be to you, too! I'm no good at Kiddush or Havdoleh
either--I can't even sing the hymns properly!"

"You're a good husband and a good father," persists Hannah. "I ask no
better for myself or anyone else. God grant that we may grow old
together, you and I!"

And they gaze into each other's eyes so kindly and so affectionately as
it were from the very heart. It looks for all the world as if they were
newly married, and the party at table grows more and more festive.

But directly after his nap, Chaïm repairs to the little synagogue to
hear the Law--a teacher expounds Alshech[1] there to simple folk like
himself.

The faces still look sleepy.

One is finishing his doze, another yawns loudly. But all of a sudden,
when it comes to the right moment, when there is talk of the other
world, of Gehenna, where the wicked are scourged with iron rods, of the
lightsome Garden of Eden, where the just sit with golden crowns on
their heads and study the Torah, then they come to life again! The
mouths open, the cheeks flush, they listen breathlessly to be told what
the next world will be like. Chaïm usually stands near the stove.

His eyes are full of tears, he trembles all over, he is all there, in
the other world!

He suffers together with the wicked; he is immersed in the molten pitch,
he is flung away into hell; he gathers chips and splinters in gloomy
woods....

He goes through it all himself, and is covered with a cold sweat. But
then, later on, he also shares the bliss of the righteous. The Garden of
Eden, the angels, Leviathan, Behemoth, and all good things present
themselves so vividly to his imagination that when the reader kisses the
book previously to closing it, Chaïm starts as it were out of a dream,
like one called back from the other world!

"_Ach!_" he gasps, for wonder has held him breathless. "O Lord, just a
tiny bit, just a scrap, just a morsel of the world to come--for me, for
my wife, and for my little children!"

And then he grows sad, wondering: After all, because of what? as a
reward for what?

Once, when the reading was over, he went up to the teacher:

"Rabbi," he said, and his voice shook, "advise me! What must I do to
gain the world to come?"

"Study the Law, my son!" answered the teacher.

"I can't."

"Study Mishnayes, or some "Eye of Jacob," or even Perek."

"I can't."

"Recite the Psalms!"

"I haven't time!"

"Pray with devotion!"

"I don't know what the prayers mean!" The teacher looks at him with
compassion:

"What are you?" he asks.

"A street porter."

"Well, then, do some service for the scholars."

"I beg pardon?"

"For instance, carry a few cans of water every day toward evening into
the house-of-study, so that the students may have something to drink."

"Rabbi," he inquired further, "and my wife?"

"When a man sits on a chair in Paradise, his wife is his footstool."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Chaïm went home to say Havdoleh, Hannah was sitting there reciting
"God of Abraham." And when he saw her he felt a tug at his heart.

"No, Hannah," he flung his arms around her, "I won't have you be my
footstool! I shall bend down to you and raise you and make you sit
beside me. We shall sit both on one chair, just as we are doing now. We
are so happy like that! Do you hear, Hannah? You and I, we are going to
sit in a chair together ... the Almighty will _have_ to allow it!"



III

IN THE POST-CHAISE


He told me everything at once, in one breath. I learned in little over a
minute that he was Chaïm, Yoneh Krubishever's son-in-law, Beril
Konskivoler's son, and that the rich Meerenstein in Lublin was a
relation on his mother's side, peace be upon her! But this relation
lived almost like a Gentile; whether or not they ate forbidden food, he
could not tell, but that they ate with unwashed hands ... so much he had
seen with his own eyes.

They had other queer ways beside: long colored cloths were lying on
their stairs; before going in, one rang a bell; figured table-covers
were spread about the rooms where people sat as if in jail ... stole
across them like thieves ... altogether it was like being in a company
of deaf-mutes.

His wife has a family of a kind in Warsaw. But he never goes near them;
they are as poor as himself, so what is the good of them to him, _ha?_

In the house of the Lublin relation things are not as they should be,
but, at least, he is rich, and whoso rubs against fat meat gets shiny
himself; where they chop wood, there are splinters; where there is a
meal, one may chance to lick a bone--but those others--paupers!

He even counts on the Lublin relation's obtaining a place for him.
Business, he says, is bad; just now he is dealing in eggs, buys them,
in the villages, and sends them to Lublin, whence they are despatched to
London. There, it is said, people put them into lime-ovens and hatch
chickens out of them. It must be lies. The English just happen to _like_
eggs! However that may be, the business, for the present, is in a bad
way. Still, it is better than dealing in produce--produce is knocked on
the head. He became a produce dealer soon after his marriage; he had
everything to learn, and his partner was an old dealer who simply turned
his pockets inside out.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was dark in the post-chaise--I could not see Chaïm's face, and I
don't know to this day how he recognized a fellow-Jew in me. When he got
in, I was sitting in a corner dozing, and was only awakened by his
voice. I don't talk in my sleep--perhaps I gave a Jewish groan. Perhaps
he felt that _my_ groan and _his_ groan were _one_ groan?

He even told me that his wife was from Warsaw and did not fancy
Konskivòlye. That is, she was born in Krubisheff, but she was brought up
in Warsaw by that miserable family of hers--lost her parents.

There she learned to know about _other_ things. She could talk Polish
and read German addresses fluently. She even says that she can play, not
on a fiddle, but on some other instrument.

"And who are you?" and he seized me by the hand.

Sleep was out of the question, and he had begun to interest me. It was
like a story. A young man from a small provincial town; a wife brought
up in Warsaw--she is impatient of the small town. Something might be
made of it, I reflect; one must know exactly how it all is, then add a
little to it, and it will make a novel. I will put in a villain, a
convict, a bankruptcy or two, and rush in a dragon--I, too, will be
interesting!

I lean toward my neighbor, and tell him who I am.

"So it's you," he said, "is it? You yourself! Tell me, I beg of you, how
do you find the time and attention required for inventing stories?"

"Well, you see...."

"How can I see? You must have inherited a large fortune, and you are
living on the interest?"

"Heaven forbid! My parents are alive."

"Then you won in the lottery?"

"Wrong again!"

"Then, what?"

I really did not know how to answer.

"Do you make a living by _that_?"

I gave a genuinely Jewish reply--_Bê!_

"And that is your whole Parnosseh, without anything additional?"

"For the present."

"O _wa_! how much does it bring in?"

"Very little."

"A bad business, too?"

"Knocked on the head!"

"Bad times!" sighed my neighbor.

A few minutes' silence, but he could not be quiet long.

"Tell me, I beg of you, what is the good of the stories you write? I
don't mean to _you_," he amended himself. "Heaven forbid! A Jew must
earn a living, if he has to suck it out of the wall--that is not what I
mean--what will a Jew not do for a living? I am riding in the
post-chaise, and not in an 'opportunity,'[2] because I could not hear of
one. Heaven knows whether I'm not sitting on Shatnez.[3] I mean the
people--what is the good of the stories to _them?_ What is the object of
them? What do they put into story books?" Then, answering himself: "I
guess it's just a question of women's fashions, like crinolines!"

"And you," I ask, "have never dipped into a story-book?"

"I can tell _you_: I do know a _little_ about them, as much as that."

And he measured off a small piece of his finger, but it was dark in the
chaise.

"Did they interest you?"

"_Me?_ Heaven forbid! It was all through my wife! This, you see, is how
it happened: It must be five or six years ago--six--a year after the
wedding, we were still boarding with my father--when my wife grew
poorly. Not that she was ill; she went about as usual, but she was not
up to the mark.

"One day I asked her what was wrong.

"But, really--" he caught himself up. "I don't know why I should bother
you with all this."

"Please, go on!"

My neighbor laughed.

"Is straw wanted in Egypt? Do you want _my_ stories, when you can invent
your own?"

"Do, please, go on!"

"Apparently, you write fiction for other people and want truth for
yourself?"

It does not occur to him that one might wish to write the truth.

"Well," he said, "so be it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well," repeated my neighbor, "there's nothing to be ashamed of. We had
a room to ourselves, I was a young man then, more given to that sort of
thing--and I asked her what was the matter. She burst out crying!

"I felt very sorry for her. Besides being my wife, she was an orphan,
away from her home, and altogether much to be pitied."

"Why so much to be pitied?" I wonder.

"You see, my mother, peace be upon her, died about two years before the
marriage, and my father, peace be upon him, did not marry again.

"My mother, may her merits protect us, was a good woman, and my father
could not forget her. Well, a woman alone in the house! My father, peace
be upon him, had no time to spare--he was away nearly the whole week in
the villages--he traded in all sorts of things, whatever you
please--eggs, butter, rags, hogs' bristles, linen."

"And you?"

"I sat in the house-of-study and learned. Well, I reflected, a woman
gets frightened all by herself; but why cry? No, she said, she was dull.
Dull? What was that?

"I saw that she went about like one half asleep. Sometimes she did not
hear when spoken to, or she seemed absent-minded, and sat staring at the
wall--stared and stared--or else, her lips moved and never a sound to be
heard. But as to being dull--all a woman's fancy. An unaccountable folk,
women! A Jew, a man, is never dull. A Jew has no time to be dull, a Jew
is either hungry or full; either he has business on hand, or he is in
the house-of-study, or asleep; if one has _heaps_ of time one smokes a
pipe; but dull!----"

"Remember," I put in, "a woman has no Torah, no Kohol affairs, no six
hundred and thirteen religious obligations."

"That's just where it is! I soon came to the conclusion that being dull
meant having nothing to do--a sort of emptiness calculated to drive one
mad. Our sages saw that long ago. Do you know the saying, 'Idleness
leads the mind to wander?' According to the law, no woman may be idle. I
said to her: Do something! She said, she wanted to 'read'!

"'To read,' sounded very queer to me, too. I knew that people who know
how to write call 'learning' lehavdîl, reading books and newspapers, but
I did _not_ know then that she was so learned.... She spoke less to me
than I to her. She was a tall woman; but she kept her head down and her
lips closed as though she could not count two. She was quiet
altogether--quiet as a lamb; and there was always a look in her face as
if a whole ship full of sour milk had foundered at sea. She wanted to
read, she said. And what? Polish, German, even Yiddish--anything to
read.

"In all Konskivòlye there wasn't a book to be found. I was very sorry--I
couldn't refuse her. I told her I would get her some books when I went
to see my relative in Lublin.

"'And _you_ have nothing?' she asked.

"'_I?_ Preserve us!'

"'But what do you do all day in the house-of-study?'

"'I learn.'

"'I want to learn, too,' says she.

"I explained to her that the Gemoreh is not a story-book, that it is not
meant for women, that it had been said women should not study it, that
it is Hebrew....

"I gave her to understand that if the Konskivòlye people heard of such a
thing, they would stone me, and quite right, too! I won't keep you in
suspense, but tell you at once that she begged so hard of me, cried,
fainted, made such a to-do that she had her way. I sat down every
evening and translated a page of the Gemoreh for her benefit; but I knew
what the end of it would be."

"And what was it?"

"You need not ask. I translated a page about goring oxen, ditches,
setting on fire,[4] commentaries and all. I held forth, and she went to
sleep over it night after night. That sort of thing was not intended for
women. By good fortune, however, it happened that, during the great gale
that blew that year, a certain book-peddler wandered out of his way into
Konskivòlye, and I brought her home forty pounds' weight of
story-books. Now it was the other way about--_she_ read to _me_,
and--_I_ went to sleep.

"And to this day," he wound up, "I don't know what is the use of
story-books. At any rate, for men. Perhaps you write for women?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile it began to dawn; my neighbor's long, thin, yellow face became
visible--with a pair of black-ringed, tired-looking red eyes.

He was apparently anxious to recite his prayers, and began to polish the
window-pane, but I interrupted him.

"Tell me, my friend, don't take it amiss. Is your wife content _now_?"

"How, content?"

"She is no longer dull?"

"She has a stall with salt and herrings; one child at the breast and two
to wash and comb. She has a day's work blowing their noses."

Again he rubs the pane, and again I question:

"Tell me, friend, what is your wife like?"

My neighbor sat up, threw a side-glance at me, looked me down from head
to foot, and asked severely:

"Then you know my wife? From Warsaw, eh?"

"Not in the least," I answered; "I only mean, in case I am ever in
Konskivòlye, so that I may recognize her."

"So that you may recognize her?" he smiles, reassured. "I'll give you a
sign: she has a mole on the left side of her nose."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Jew got down from the chaise, giving me a cold and distant farewell
as he stood on the step. He evidently still suspected me of knowing his
wife and of belonging to her miserable family in Warsaw.

I was left alone in the chaise, but it was useless to think of sleep.
The cool morning had taken hold of me. My literary overcoat blew out in
the wind, and I felt chilly all over. I shrank together in the corner.
The sun began to shine outside. It may be that I was riding through
beautiful country; the early rays may have kissed hill-tops and green
trees, and slid down a glassy river; but I hadn't the courage to open
the little window.

A Jewish author fears the cold! I began, as the Jew put it, to "think
out" a story. But other thoughts came in between.

Two different worlds, a man's world and a woman's world--a world with
Talmudical treatises on goring oxen, and ditches, and incendiary fires,
and the damages to be paid for them, and a world with story-books that
are sold by weight!

If _he_ reads, _she_ goes to sleep; if _she_ reads, _he_ goes to sleep!
As if we were not divided enough, as if we had not already "French
noses," "English sticks," "Dutch Georges," "Lithuanian pigs," "Polish
beggars," "Palestinian tramps;" as though every part of our body were
not lying in a different place and had not a resounding nickname; as
though every part, again, had not fallen into smaller ones: Chassidîm,
Misnagdîm, "Germans;" as though all this were not, we must needs divide
ourselves into men and women--and every single, narrow, damp, and dirty
Jewish room must contain these two worlds within itself.

These two at least ought to be united. To strive after their unification
is a debt every Yiddish writer owes his public. Only, the writers have
too many private debts beside--one requires at least one additional
Parnosseh, as he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

My reflections about an additional Parnosseh were broken in upon by a
few sharp notes on the postillion's horn. But I did not leave the
chaise. I was just feeling a little warmer, and the sun had begun to
pour in his beams.

I got a new neighbor and, thanks to the bright daylight, I saw his face
plainly and even recognized him. It was an old acquaintance, we had
skated together as children, played at bakers--we were almost
comrades--then _I_ went to the dingy, dirty Cheder, and he, to the free,
lightsome "gymnasium."[5]

When _I_ did not know the lesson, I was beaten; when I answered right,
they pinched my cheek--it hurt either way.

_He_ was sometimes kept in and sometimes he got "fives;"[6] _I_ broke my
head over the Talmud; he broke his over Greek and Latin. But we stuck
together. We lived on neighborly terms; he taught me to read in secret,
lent me books, and in after years we turned the world upside down as we
lay on the green grass beside the river. I wanted to invent a kind of
gunpowder that should shoot at great distances, say one hundred miles;
he, a balloon in which to mount to the stars and bring the people "up
there" to a sense of order and enlightenment. We were dreadfully sorry
for the poor world, she was stuck in the mud--and how to get her out?
Ungreased wheels, lazy horses, and the driver--asleep!

Then I married, and he went to a university. We never corresponded. I
heard later that he had failed, and, instead of a doctor, had become an
apothecary somewhere in a small country town....

I all but cried for joy when my new neighbor entered the chaise, and my
heart grew warm; my hands stretched themselves out; my whole body leaned
toward him, but I held myself back--I held myself back with all my
strength.

There you are! I thought. It is Yanek Polnivski, our late sequestrator's
son. He was my playfellow, he had a large embrace and wanted to put his
arms round the whole world and kiss its every limb, except the ugly
growths which should be cut away. Only--there you are again! Present-day
times. Perhaps he is an anti-Semite, breathing death and destruction in
the newspapers; perhaps now we Jews are the excrescences that need
removing from Europe's shapely nose. He will measure me with a cold
glance, or he may embrace me, but tell me, at the same time, that I am
not as other Jews.

But I was mistaken. Polnivski recognized me, fell upon my neck, nor had
I spoken a word before he asked me how I liked "this vile
anti-Semitism."

"It is," he said to me, of course in Polish, "a kind of cholera--an
epidemic."

"Some say it is political."

"I don't believe it," said Polnivski. "Politicians invent nothing new,
they create no _facts_. They only use those which exist, suppress some,
and make the most of others. They can fan the flame of hell-fire, but
not a spark can they kindle for themselves. It is human nature, not the
politician, that weaves the thread of history. The politicians plait it,
twist it, knot it, and entangle it.

"Anti-Semitism is a disease. The politician stands by the patient's
bedside like a dishonest doctor who tries to spin out the sickness.

"The politician makes use of anti-Semitism--a stone flies through the
air and Bismarck's assistant directs it through the window of the Shool;
otherwise _other_ panes would be smashed. Does anyone raise a protesting
fist? Immediately a thin, shrinking Jewish shoulder is thrust beneath
it, otherwise _other_ bones would crack.

"But the stone, the fist, the hatred, and the detestation, these exist
of themselves.

"Who die of a physical epidemic? Children, old people, and invalids. Who
fall victims to a moral pestilence? The populace, the decadent
aristocrat, and a few lunatics who caper round and lead the dance. Only
the healthy brains resist."

"How many healthy brains have we?" I asked.

"How many? Unhappily, very few," replied Polnivski.

There was a short, sad silence. "I do not know what my neighbor's
thoughts may have been; it seemed to _me_ that the strongest and
best-balanced brains had not escaped infection. There are two different
phases in history: one in which the best and cleverest man leads the
mass, and one in which the mass carries the best and cleverest along
with it. The popular leader is a Columbus in search of new happiness, a
new America for mankind; but no sooner is there scarcity of bread and
water on board than the men mutiny, and _they_ lead. The first thing is
to kill somebody, the next, to taste meat, and still their hatred."

       *       *       *       *       *

"And don't suppose," said Polnivski, "that I am fishing for compliments,
that I consider myself an _esprit fort_, who runs no danger of
infection, an oak-tree no gale can dislodge.

"No, brother," he went on, "I am no hero. I might have been like the
rest; I also might have been torn like a decayed leaf from the tree of
knowledge, and whirled about in the air. I might have tried to think,
with the rest of the dead leaves, that it was a ball, and we were
dancing for our enjoyment; that the wind was our hired musician who
played to us on his flute.

"I was saved by an accident; I learned to know a Jewish woman. Listen!"

I leaned toward my neighbor. His face had grown graver, darker; he
rested his elbows on his knees and supported his head with his hands.

"But don't suppose," he said again, "that I discovered the heroine of a
romance, a strong character that breaks through bolt and bar, and goes
proudly on its way. Don't suppose that she was an 'exception,' an
educated woman full of the new ideas, or, in fact, any 'ideal' at all.
No; I learned to know a simple Jewish woman--one of the best, but one of
the best of those who are most to be pitied. I learned to love her, and
I'll tell you the truth: Whenever I read anything against Jews in
general, she comes hack to my mind with her soft, sad eyes; stands
before me and begs: 'Do not believe it. I am not like that.'"

He is lost in thought.

"The story is a simple one," he rouses himself and begins afresh. "We
have not written to one another the whole time, and you don't know what
has happened to me, so I'll tell you--briefly. I am only going as far as
Lukave.

"On leaving the gymnasium I entered the university and studied medicine.
I did _not_ finish the course; it was partly my comrades' fault, partly
the teachers', and most of all my own. I had to leave and become an
apothecary, had to marry, take my marriage portion, and set up a shop
full of cod-liver oil in a little out-of-the-way town. But I was
fortunate in many ways. I had a good father-in-law, who was prompt in
fulfilling the contract, a pretty wife--it was a little bit of a town.

"My wife's name was Maria--I see her before me now, turning round
helplessly from the looking-glass. Her golden curls refuse to submit to
the comb, they fly merrily in all directions; they will not be twisted
into the wreath which was just then the fashion.

"Slender--and such good, laughing, sky-blue eyes.

"We were not much disturbed by my professional duties. The town was too
poor and an apothecary shop where there is no doctor isn't worth much.
There was little doing, but we lived in a paradise, and we were always
on the veranda--it was summer-time--side by side, hand in hand.

"And what should have claimed our interest? We had enough to live on,
and as for going out, where were we to go? The veranda overlooked nearly
the whole town--the low, sagging houses, broad, black, wooden booths
that leaned, as though in pity, over the roll and apple sellers at their
wretched stalls before the house-doors, as though they wanted to protect
the old, withered, wrinkled faces from the sun.

"The town had once been rich, the booths full of all kinds of produce
and fruits, the market full of carts, peasants, and brokers; sometimes
even a great nobleman would be seen among the white peasant coats and
the gray kaftans (at least so they assured me in the town), but the
_chaussée_ and the railroad had thrown everything out. The streets were
empty, the booths filled with decayed onions and pieces of cheese--all
that was left of the good times.

"Poor as poor can be. Ten traders threw themselves on every cart-load of
corn brought in by the peasants, raised the price, then came to an
agreement, promised cession money, and bought it in common; but not one
of the ten could find in his pockets the wherewith to pay, and they
borrowed money on interest. There were one hundred tailors to a pair of
trousers; fifty cobblers to put in one patch. In all my born days I
never saw such poverty.

"We kept away from the town as much as possible--the happy are selfish.

"But somehow we could not help noticing a young housewife opposite, not
more than eighteen or twenty at most, and we could neither of us take
our eyes off her, and she, apparently, couldn't take hers off us. It was
an unusual sight. Imagine a beauty, a perfect picture, set in a frame as
dirty as only a Jewish window in a small town can be, beneath a
dreadfully bent roof. Imagine a pair of sad, soft, dreamy eyes in an
alabaster white face and under a hair-band.

"She made a terribly sad impression on us.

"For hours together she would stand leaning in the window, her fingers
twisted together, staring at us, or else at the stars, and swallowing
her tears. We saw that she was always alone (your men never have any
time to spare), always unhappy and wistful. Her face spoke for her. She
is a stranger here, we decided; she has come from a larger house, less
shut in, and she longs to be far away; her heart yearns after a freer
life. She also wanted to live, to live and to be loved. No, you may say
what you like, but you _do_ sometimes sell your daughters. It is true
that after a while they forget. They are pious and good and patient, but
who shall count the tears that fall over their saddened faces till the
store is exhausted? Or note what the heart suffers till it resigns
itself to its living death? And why should it be so? Just because they
are good and pious? You should have seen the husband--yellow, shrunk
together. I saw him twice a day--go out in the morning and come home at
night.

"A shame!"

You will believe that I had no answer ready.

We were both silent for a time, and then Polnivski went on:

"Once we missed her. She did not appear at the window all day.

"She must be ill, we thought.

"That evening the husband came in--the yellow creature--and asked for a
remedy.

"'What sort?'

"'I don't know,' he said; 'a remedy.'

"'For whom?'

"'You want to know that, too? For my wife.'

"'What is wrong with her?'

"'I'm sure I don't know. She says, her heart hurts her.'

"And that," said Polnivski, "was the occasion of our becoming
acquainted. I won't be long about it. I am a bit of a doctor, too, and I
went back with him."

Polnivski had begun to talk in broken sentences; he looked for
cigarettes; at last he broke off altogether, opened his travelling-bag
and commenced to hunt for matches.

Meantime I was tormented by suspicions.

I now looked at Polnivski with other eyes; his story had begun to pain
me.

Who can read a man? Who knows all that is in him? I began to think that
I might have before me a Christian weasel who stole into Jewish
hen-houses. He is too indignant about the fate of Jewish daughters; he
is too long looking for matches; he is ashamed of something. Why will he
"not be long about it?" Why won't he tell me the whole story in detail?
Who knows what part he played in it, if not the old part of the serpent
in Paradise? Why won't his conscience let him speak out? There it is
again--a Jewess--then, why not? At one time it was a merit to christen
her; now the approved thing is to incite her to rebel against her God,
her parents, her husband, her whole life!

It is called liberalism, entering a prison and letting in a breath of
fresh air, a few rays of sunlight; awaking the prisoner, giving him a
few gingerbreads and then going--not seeing the prisoner grind his teeth
as the rusty key turns in the lock, or how his face darkens, how
convulsively he breathes, how he tears his hair; or else, if he still
_can_ weep, how he waters with bitter tears the mouldy bread at which
the mice have been gnawing while he slept.

To waken the dark, slumbering, and oppressed heart of a Jewish woman
strikes a romantic chord; to fan the flame of unknown or smouldering
feelings; to kiss and then--good-bye! bolt the door! she must make the
best of it!

We have been slaked for so long with bitterness, gall, and hatred, that
now, when we are offered bread and salt, we feel sure it must be
poisoned--even though the hand that holds it out to us shakes with pity;
even though there are tears in the eyes, and words of comfort on the
lips.

It is so hard to believe in it all. For we also are infected; we also
have succumbed to the plague.

Meanwhile Polnivski had found his matches, and I unwillingly accepted a
cigarette. We smoked. The chaise was filled with blue, smoky rings. I
watched them, followed them with my eyes, and thought: Thus vanish both
good and evil.

       *       *       *       *       *

"We made each other's acquaintance," said my Christian neighbor, "but
nothing came of it in the way of closer friendship."

"Why not?" I asked, astonished.

"We went on looking at each other like the best of friends, but _she_
could not come to us, nor we, to her.

"She had but to try it! It was a most orthodox town, where everyone but
the Feldscher and the ladies' tailor wore kaftans. And there was
something besides, I don't know what, that kept us back.

"Then the worst misfortune befell me that can befall a man.

"The apothecary's shop brought in next to nothing, and my wife began to
fail in health.

"I saw more clearly every day that she was declining, and there was no
hope of saving her. She needed Italy, and I could not even provide her
with enough to eat; and, you know, when people are in that state of
health, they are full of hope and do not believe in their illness.

"The whole pain, the whole anguish has to be suppressed, buried deep in
the heart; and no matter how the heart is aching, _you_ have to smile
and wear a smooth brow. It dies within you every second, and yet you
must help to make plans for this time next year, settle about enlarging
the house, buying a piano."

His voice changed.

"I am not equal to describing, to living through those times again; but
_my_ sorrow and _her_ sorrow brought us nearer together."

Lukave appeared in the distance.

"I will tell you, in the few minutes I have left, that anyone so unhappy
as that woman, and at the same time so full of sympathy and compassion
for others, I never saw; and all so simple, so natural, without any
exaggeration.

"She never left Maria's bedside; she got round her husband to lend me
money at a lower rate of interest. She was our watcher, our housekeeper,
our cook, our most devoted friend, and when Maria died, it was almost
harder to comfort her than me.

"Then it was I became convinced that hatred between nations is _not_
natural. There's just a lot of trouble in the world, and the more
passionate would protest, only the false scribe, the political advocate,
drafts instead a denunciation of the Jews.

"I saw clearly that the Jews are not inimical to us--that we _can_ live
in peace."

Lukave draws nearer and nearer to us--or we to it--and still I am afraid
of the end. I interrupt him and ask:

"And what became of the woman?"

"How should I know? I buried my wife, sold the apothecary's shop, cried
when I said good-bye to my neighbor, and--that's all. Now I live in
Lukave. I am not doing well there, either."

"And what was the name of the little town you lived in before?"

"Konska-vola."[7]

"Your neighbor was tall and pale?"

"Yes."

"Thin?"

"Yes--you know her?" he asked, looking pleased.

"She has a mole on the left side of her nose?"

"A mole?" laughed Yanek. "What an idea!"

I think I must have made a mistake and say: "Perhaps on the right side?"

"My dear fellow, what are you talking about?"

"Perhaps you did not notice--and her husband is yellow-skinned?"

"Yes."

"Called Chaïm?"

"I think not, and yet--perhaps---- devil may care!"

"But _her_ name is Hannah?"

"_Ach_, nonsense! Sarah! I remember I called her Sòruchna. I shouldn't
have forgotten her name."

_I_ was the fool. Are there so few Jewish women leading similar
lives?



IV

THE NEW TUNE


The end of the Day of Atonement.

A blast on the Shofar, and the congregation stirred noisily: "Next year
in Jerusalem!" The boys made a dash at the candle-wax on the table, a
week-day reader was already at the desk, and the week-day evening prayer
was being recited to a week-day tune.

Full tilt they recited the prayers and full tilt they took off robes and
prayer-scarfs and began to put on their boots--who has time to spare?

Nobody--not even to remark the pale young man walking round and round
among the people, dragging after him a still paler child. It is his
third round; but nobody notices him. One is under a seat looking for his
boots, another finds somebody has taken his goloshes by mistake or
dropped candle-grease on his hat, and all are hungry.

He looks vainly into their faces; he cannot catch a single glance.

"Father, let us go home," begs the child.

"We will go round once more," he answers, "and look for uncle."

Meantime the congregation is preparing to leave. The last Kaddish is
said, the last Amen!

The congregation make a rush for the door, carrying along with them the
young man and the child.

In the court of the Shool the men begin to recite the blessing on the
moon. The women walk away down both sides of the street, forming two
white fillets.

On the way home, there is time to count how many women really fainted;
how many nearly fainted; and to discuss the reader, who grew hoarser
this year than he had ever done before. At every house-door two or three
people say good-bye to the rest and go in, while the majority are still
in the court of the Shool, gesticulating toward the moon. The pale young
man and the pale child still circulate among them. The crowd lessens,
and his face darkens; now the last has finished and gone. The young man
remains.

"Not one; well, we must do without. I am not going to beg into a new
year, just after the Day of Atonement,"[8] he murmured, with quivering
lips.

The child thinks he is saying the moon-prayer.

"Enough now, father," and he took hold of the man's coat. "Come home!"
His voice was full of tears.

"Silly child, why are you in such a hurry?"

"I want to eat; I'm hungry."

"I should think so! Of course, you are hungry, you rogue; you needn't
tell me that. Was I likely to think that you wouldn't be, after fasting
through a whole Day of Atonement?"

"Come home!" begs the child again.

"Look here, David'l, there's nothing to eat at home, either."

"Just a bit of bread!"

"There isn't a scrap!"

The child stands still in alarm.

"David'l," say the father, "you know what day this has been?"

The child only sobs quietly.

"To-day, David'l, was the Day of Atonement--a Yôm kodesh.[9] Do you know
what that means?"

Yes, the child just nodded.

"Well, tell me, David'l, what have we done all day?"

"Prayed," wept the child.

"Right! And He whose Name is blessed, what has _He_ done?"

"Forgiven us!" (sobbing).

"Well, do you know, David'l, if God, blessed be He, has forgiven us, I
think we ought to be cheerful, don't you?"

The child makes no reply.

"You remember, David'l, last year, when mother was alive, how we sang
after supper, to a new tune? Do you remember the tune?

"No."

"I will sing it to remind you, only you must join in."

And the young man began to sing in a weak, hoarse voice. It was not a
"Sinni" and not a "Wallach" tune, but it was a gruesome tune that went
to one's heart.

The child joined in and sang through his tears.



V

MARRIED

(Told by a Woman)


I remember myself at the time when I played marbles and made mud cakes
in the yard; in winter I sat all day indoors and rocked a little brother
who was born sickly, and who lingered on into his seventh year, when he
died of a decline.

In summer, whenever it was sunny, the poor little creature sat in the
yard, warmed itself in the sun, and watched me playing marbles.

In winter it never left its cradle, and I told it stories and sang to
it. The other boys all went to Cheder.

Mother was always busy, she had at least ten Parnossehs. Poor mother!
she peddled, she baked gingerbread, she helped at circumcisions and
weddings, she was a Tikerin, a grave-measurer,[10] recited prayers, and
bought in provisions for better-class households.

Father earned three rubles a week keeping accounts for Reb Zeinwill
Terkelbaum in the forest. And those were the good times; teachers were
paid, and the rent, too--almost on rent-day,--and we never had to eat
our bread dry.

Sometimes mother would bake a cake for supper; then there was quite a
feast. But that happened seldom.

Mother usually came home late and tired; often with red eyes and in a
bitter mood. She would complain that the well-to-do ladies owed her
money. They would get her to lay out her money for them, and then tell
her to come for the money to-morrow, the day after; meantime more
purchases were made, and when it came to a reckoning, the house-mistress
could not remember if she hadn't already paid for the day before
yesterday's quarter of a pound of butter--and she "put it aside" to ask
her husband about it, who was there at the time--he has a tenacious
memory, and will certainly remember how it was. Next morning it turns
out the husband came home too late from the house-of-study, and she
forgot to ask him. On the third day she says, with a pleased expression,
that she asked her husband about it, and he was angry with her for
bothering him, "as if he had nothing better to do than attend to the
affairs of a couple of women;" and it is settled that she, the madam,
shall try to remember herself.

Presently she begins to feel sure the butter was included in the account
after all; a little later, she is ready to build on it; and when poor
mother reminded her of the butter again, she was called a pert hussy,
who was trying to get an extra gulden by trickery--and she was assured
that if they heard any more about the butter, she need never show
herself there again.

Mother, who was herself the daughter of well-to-do parents, and would
have been a lady herself, were it not for the nobleman who took her
dowry, could not accept this meekly. She frequently came home with
swollen eyelids, threw herself on the bed with a burst of tears, and lay
there weeping bitterly till her heart was eased, when she stood up and
cooked us Kliskelech[11] with beans.

At other times she vented her anger on us; that is, on me; she never
scolded the sick Beril, and the other boys only very seldom--they, poor
things, used to come home from Cheder with their cheeks pinched brown
and blue and with swollen under-lids; I, on the other hand, came in for
many an undeserved tweak to my hair or else a slap.

"You were not so sick all this time, but you could have laid the fire,
put on a kettleful of water, were you?" And if I _had_ done it, I caught
it worse: "Look at my fine lady! Goes and makes a fire and lets the wood
burn away for nothing and nobody--never a thought of me toiling all day!
Shell be the ruin of us!"

Sometimes when father was at work in the woods, mother would sit down on
the bed with her face to the window and complain, as she stared before
her: "What does he care! There he sits out in the woods like a lord,
breathes fresh air, lies about on the grass, eats sour milk, perhaps
even cream, how do I know? and here am I, skin and bone!"

And with all that, those were good days. We never knew want, and after a
week of little worries came a cheerful, or at all events a peaceful,
Sabbath. Father often came home for it, and mother was busy all about
the house and smiled to herself in secret.

Friday evening, just before blessing the candles, she would often kiss
me on the head. I knew what that meant. Because if it so happened that
father did _not_ come home, then I was an idle hussy. Even when mother
pulled out half my hair while combing it, and gave me a few slaps on the
shoulders besides, I didn't cry. My childish heart felt that it was not
_me_ she meant, but her unhappy fate. When the wood was all cut down, my
father stayed at home, and then food began to grow scarce. It was my
father, my mother, and myself, really, who hadn't enough; the other
children knew very little about it. Beril wanted next to nothing--took a
cup of porridge when it was given him, and stared all the time at the
ceiling. The other poor children had to go to Cheder, "they _must_ have
something hot," but I often went hungry.

Father and mother were always recalling by-gone days with tears in their
eyes. I, on the contrary, was happier in the bad times than I had been
in the good. Now that bread was often lacking in the house, I received a
double portion of my mother's love; she never pulled a hair out of my
head when combing it, or hit my thin bones; my father would stroke my
head at supper and play with me, so that I should not observe the
smallness of my share of food; and I was quite proud whenever there came
a fast, because I fasted with my parents, like a grown-up girl.

It was about that time that Beril died. It happened this way: Mother
woke up one morning and said to father across the bed: "Do you know,
Beril must be better; he has slept the whole night through."

I heard it--I have always been a light sleeper--sprang joyfully from my
bed on the chest, and ran to look at my "pet of a brother" (that is how
I called him--I was so fond of him). I hoped to see a smile on the wan
little face, such as came over it once a year--but it was a dead face I
saw.

There was a week's mourning.

After that my father's health failed, and the Röfeh began to come to the
house.

So long as there was money to pay his fee, the old Röfeh came in person;
later on, when all the bed-clothes and the hanging-lamp, with father's
book-case, which for a while my mother wouldn't touch, had gone in
medicines, the Röfeh began to send his "boy," the assistant.

The "boy" displeased my mother dreadfully; he had merely a suspicion of
pointed whiskers, was dressed like a Gentile, and was continually
introducing Polish words into his speech.

_I_ was afraid of him, to this day I don't know why. But when I knew he
was to come, I ran and hid in the yard, and waited there till he had
gone.

One day a neighbor fell ill, also a poor man, and one whose furniture
had apparently gone, too, and the "boy" (to this day I don't know what
his name was) went to him straight from our house. Crossing the yard, he
found me sitting on a log.

I looked down. Aware of his approach, I felt a chill run through me, and
my heart began to beat faster.

He came up to me, took me by the chin, lifted my face and said:

"A pretty girl like you ought not to have untidy hair! And she ought not
to be ashamed before any lad in the world."

He let me go, and I ran into the house. I felt that all the blood had
rushed into my face at once. I squeezed into the darkest corner behind
the stove, under pretense of counting the soiled linen. That was on a
Wednesday.

On Friday, for the first time, I reminded my mother of my own accord
that my head needed washing, that it was frowzy.

"More shame to me!" exclaimed my mother, wringing her hands. "I haven't
combed her hair these three weeks."

Suddenly she grew angry: "Lazy thing!" she cried; "a great girl like you
and not able to comb her own hair! Another at your age would have washed
the other children."

"Sarah'le, don't scream," begged father; but her anger only grew more
violent.

"Lazy girl, you _shall_ comb your own hair, and this minute. Do you
hear?"

But I was afraid to go to the fire-place, where the hot water stood,
because I had to pass mother, who would have given me a slap. Father
saved me, as usual.

"Sarah'le," he moaned, "don't scream, my head does ache so."

That was enough. My mother's anger vanished. I ran freely across the
room to the hot water.

As I awkwardly combed my hair, I saw my mother go up to my father and
point at me with a heavy sigh:

"Lord of the world, the poor child grows taller every day," she
whispered to my father, but my ears caught every word. "Fine as
gold--and what's to be done with her?"

Father answered with a still heavier sigh.

The Röfeh assured us several times that father had nothing serious the
matter with him. Worry of mind had gone to his liver, and this had
swollen and pressed against the heart; nothing worse. He was to drink
milk and not trouble any more, walk out into the street, talk with his
friends, and find something to do; but father said his feet refused to
carry him. Why, I only knew later.

Early one summer morning I was awakened by the following conversation
between my parents:

"Did you knock yourself up in the woods?" asked my mother.

"Looks like it," answered my father. "They were cutting down in twenty
places at once. You see, the wood is the nobleman's, but the peasants
have certain privileges;[12] they get the twigs that fall and lie about
on the ground, and the wood of any tree that is struck by lightning.
Well, when the trees are cut down they lose their privileges, and have
to buy wood for building and for heating purposes. So, of course, they
wanted to stop it and bring down a commissioner. But they set about it
too late. Reb Zeinwill no sooner saw them scratching their heads than he
gave orders to put on forty axes. It was a Gehenna! They were felling in
perhaps twenty different places, and one had to be everywhere. Well,
what could you expect? My feet swelled like toadstools."

"Sinner that I am," sighed my mother. "And there was I fancying you had
nothing to do."

"Nothing at all," my father smiled sadly; "I was only on my feet from
dawn to dark."

"And three rubles a week wages," added my mother, angrily.

"He consented to raise them; meanwhile, you know, the timber raft was
sunk, and he told me he was a poor man."

"And you believe it?"

"It may be."

"He is always saying that" (angrily), "and yet the fortune goes on
increasing."

"With God's help," sighed father.

There was silence for a while.

"Do you know what he is doing now?" asked father, who had scarcely left
the house for a year.

"What should he? He trades in flax and eggs; he has a public-house."

"And she?"

"Sick, poor thing."

"A pity; she was a good woman."

"A jewel. The only lady who was not allowed to put up a groschen's worth
of preserves! _She_ would have paid me regularly, but she hadn't much to
say in the matter."

"I fancy she is his third wife," said my father.

"She is," my mother agreed.

"Well, Sarah, here we have a rich Jew, one who might live comfortably,
and, lo and behold, he has no luck with his wives--we all have our
troubles."

"Such a young woman, too," said my mother; "not more than two or three
and twenty."

"There's no accounting for these things; he must be seventy, and he's
solid as iron."

"You don't say so."

"And no spectacles."

"And when he walks, he shakes the planks."

"And here am I in bed."

These last words gave me a pang.

"God will help," mother consoled him.

"Only she--she--," sighed my mother, and glanced toward my box, "she is
growing taller and taller, do you see?"

"Of course, I see!"

"And a face--bright as the sun."

There is a silence.

"Sarah'le, we are not doing our duty."

"In what respect?"

"In respect to her. How old were you when you married?"

"I was younger than she is."

"Well?"

"Well--what?"

At that moment there were two raps at the shutter.

Mother sprang out of bed; in one minute she had torn down the string by
which the shutter was held to, and thrown open the window, which had
long been without a fastening.

"What is it?" she called into the street.

"Rebekah Zeinwill is dead!"

Mother left the window.

"Blessed be the righteous Judge!" said my father. "To die is nothing."

"Blessed be the righteous Judge!" said my mother. "We were just talking
about her."

       *       *       *       *       *

I was very restless in those days. I don't know myself what ailed me.

Sometimes I would lie awake all night. Hammers beat in my temples, and
my heart pained me as though filled with fear, or else with a longing
after something for which it had no name. At other times it grew so warm
and tender, I could have taken everything and everyone round me in my
arms and kissed them and hugged them.

Only whom? The little brothers wouldn't let me--even the five-year old
Yochanan butted and screamed; he wouldn't play with a girl. My mother,
besides my being afraid of her, was always cross and overdriven; my
father--growing from bad to worse.

In a short time he was as gray as a pigeon, his face shrivelled like
parchment, and his eyes had such a helpless, pleading stare, it needed
only one glance at them to send me out of the room crying.

Then I used to think of Beril. I could have told him everything, I could
have hugged and kissed him. Now he lay in the cold earth, and I cried
more bitterly than ever.

Indeed, the tears often came without any reason at all. Sometimes I
would be looking out of the window into the yard and see the moon
swimming nearer and nearer to the whitewashed fence opposite, and not
able to swim over it.

And I would be seized with pity for the moon and feel a sudden
contraction of the heart, and the tears flowed and flowed.

Other days I was listless. I hung round with no energy and a pale face
with drooping eyelids. There was a rushing in my ears, my head was
heavy, and life seemed so little worth living, it would be best to die.

At these times I envied Beril his lot. He lay in the earth, where it is
quiet.

And I often dreamt that I was dead; that I lay in the grave, or else
that I was flying about in heaven in a shift with my hair loose, and
that I looked down to see what people were about on the earth.

Just about then I lost all the companions with whom I used to play at
marbles in days gone by, and they were not replaced. One of them already
went out on Sabbath with a satin skirt and a watch and chain. It was
soon to be her wedding. Others were "Kallah-Mädlich";[13] match-makers
and future fathers-in-law were "breaking in the doors," and there was
combing and washing and dressing, when _I_ was still going barefoot, in
an old bodice and a short skirt and a faded cotton waist, which had
burst in several places right in front, and which I had patched with
calico of a different color. The "Kallah-Mädlich" avoided me, and I was
ashamed to play with younger children; besides, marbles amused me no
longer. So I never showed myself in the street by day. Mother never sent
me out on errands, and one day when I intended to go somewhere, she
prevented me. I often used to slip out after dark, and walk about behind
the house near the barns, or else sit down beside the river.

In summer time, I sat there till quite late at night.

Some evenings, mother would come out after me. She never came up to me,
but would stand in the gateway, look round--and I could almost hear the
sigh she gave as she watched me in the distance.

That also came to an end in time; I would sit by myself there for hours,
listening to the noise of the little mill stream, watching the frogs
jump out of the grass into the water, or following a cloud through the
sky.

At times I would fall half asleep with my eyes open.

One evening I heard a melancholy song. The voice was young and fresh,
and yet the song thrilled me with emotion; it was a Jewish song.

"That is the Röfeh-boy singing," I said to myself. "Another would have
sung hymns, not a song."

I also said to myself that one should go indoors, so as not to hear it
or meet the Röfeh-boy, and yet I remained sitting; I was in a dreamy
state, with no energy to move, and I sat on, though my heart was beating
anxiously.

The song drew nearer; it was coming from the opposite bank--across the
bridge.

Already I hear steps in the sand, I want to run away, but my limbs are
disobedient, and I remain sitting.

At last he comes to the spot where I am.

"Is it you, Leah?"

I do not answer.

The noise in my ears is louder than ever, the hammering in my temples,
busier, and it seems to me the kindest and sweetest voice I ever heard.

My not answering matters little to him, he sits down beside me on the
log, and looks me straight in the face.

I do not _see_ his look, because I dare not raise my eyes, but I feel
how it is scorching me.

"You are a pretty girl, Leah," he says, "it's a pity to hide yourself."

A dreadful crying fit seizes hold of me, and I run away.

The next evening I stayed at home, and the one after. On the third,
Friday night, my heart was so heavy, I _had_ to go out--I felt I should
suffocate indoors. He was apparently waiting for me in the shadow round
a corner of the house, for hardly had I sat down in my accustomed place
when he stood before me as though he had grown out of the ground.

"Don't run away from me, Leah," he begged gently. "Believe me, I will do
you no harm."

His gentle, earnest voice touched me. Then he began to sing a low, sad
song, and again the tears came into my eyes. I could not keep them back,
and began to cry quietly.

"Why are you crying, Leah," he broke off, and took my hand.

"You sing so sadly," I answered, and withdrew my hand from his.

"I am an orphan," he said, "unhappy--among strangers."

Someone appeared in the street and we fled in different directions.

I learned the song and used to hum it softly over to myself in bed; I
went to sleep with it, and I rose with it next morning. And yet I
frequently had remorse, and cried because I had made acquaintance with a
Röfeh-boy who dressed German fashion and shaved his chin. Had he dressed
like the old Röfeh, had he at least been pious! I knew that if my father
heard of it, the grief would kill him; my mother would do herself a
mischief, and the secret lay on my heart like a stone.

I go up to my father's bed to hand him something, and my mother comes in
from the street, and my sin overwhelms me, so that hands and feet shake,
and all the color goes from my face. And yet every night I consented to
come out again the next, and I felt no desire to run away from him now.
He never took my hand again and told me I was a pretty girl. He only
talked with me, taught me songs; but one day he brought me a bit of St.
John's Bread.

"Eat it, Leah."

I wouldn't take it.

"Why not?" he asked sadly. "Why will you not take anything from me?"

I blurted out that I would rather have a piece of bread.

       *       *       *       *       *

How long our sitting together and singing lasted, I don't know.

But one day he came sadder than usual; I saw it in his face and asked
him what was the matter.

"I have to go."

"Where to?" I asked faintly.

"To the recruiting station."

I caught hold of his hand.

"You are going into the army?"

"No," he replied, and pressed my fingers, "I am not strong. I suffer
from the heart. I shall not be taken for a soldier, but I must present
myself."

"Shall you come back?"

"Of course!"

We are both silent.

"It will only be for a few weeks," he said.

I was silent, and he looked at me pleadingly.

"Shall you miss me?"

"Yes." I scarcely heard my own reply.

Another silence.

"Let us say good-bye."

My hand still lay in his.

"Go in health," I said in a trembling voice.

He leaned over, kissed me, and vanished.

I stood there a long time like one tipsy.

"Leah!" It was mother's voice, but the old, gentle, almost singing voice
of the days when father was well.

"Leah'she!"

I had not been called that for a long time. One more quiver, and I ran
indoors with lips still burning from his kiss. I scarcely recognized the
room. On the table stood two strange candle-sticks with lighted candles,
and beside them, brandy and gingerbread. Father was sitting on a chair
propped up with cushions, joy smiling out of every wrinkle in his face.
And round the table were strange chairs with strange people--and mother
caught me in her arms and kissed me.

"Good luck to you, daughter, my little daughter, Leah'she! good luck to
you!"

I don't understand, but I am frightened, and my heart beats wildly. When
my mother let me loose, my father called me. I had no strength to stand,
and I dropped on my knees beside him, and laid my head in his lap. He
stroked my head, curled my hair with his fingers.

"My child you will never suffer want and hunger again, you will never go
barefoot--you will be a lady--you will be rich--you will pay for the
teaching of your little brothers--so that they shall not be turned out
of the Cheder--you will help _us_, too--I-shall get well."

"And do you know who the suitor is?" asked mother, excitedly. "Reb
Zeinwill! fancy, Reb Zeinwill! He sent the match-maker himself."

       *       *       *       *       *

I don't know what happened to me, but I woke to find myself on my bed in
broad daylight.

"God be praised!" cried my mother.

"Praised be His dear Name!" said my father.

And they continued to embrace and kiss me. They even offered me
preserves.... Would I like syrup in water?... Perhaps a sip of wine?

I shut my eyes again, and was choked with a terrible fit of crying.

"Never mind, never mind," said my mother, joyfully. "Poor child, let her
have her cry out. It is our fault for telling her the good news all at
once, so suddenly. She might have burst a vein, which heaven forbid.
But God be praised! Yes, cry your heart out. May all sorrow swim away
with the tears, and a new life begin for you--a new life."

Man has two angels, a good and a bad, and I felt convinced that the good
angel bade me forget my Röfeh-boy, eat Reb Zeinwill's preserves, drink
his syrup in water, and dress at his expense, while the bad angel urged
me to tell my parents, once and for all, that I would not consent, that
on no account would I consent.

I did not know Reb Zeinwill, unless I had seen him once and then
forgotten--or else not known who it was--but I disliked him.

The second night I dreamed that I stood under the wedding canopy.

The bridegroom is Reb Zeinwill, and they lead me round him seven times,
but my feet are as if paralyzed, and they carry me in their hands.

Then I am taken home.

My mother comes to meet me with a cake, and they are bringing the golden
broth.[14]

I am afraid to raise my eyes. I feel sure I shall see before me a blind
man, both eyes gone, with a dreadfully long nose--a cold shudder runs
through me--but someone whispers in my ear:

"Leah, what a pretty girl you are!" And the voice is not that of an old
man; it is _his_ voice. I open my eyes a little way; it is _his_ face:
"Sst!" he whispers; "don't tell! I enticed Reb Zeinwill into the wood,
put him into a sack, tied it up, and threw it into the river (this was
out of a story my mother once told me), and I am here in his place!"

I woke trembling.

Pale moonshine was lighting the whole room through a chink in the
shutter, and I noticed, for the first time, that the lamp was once more
hanging from the ceiling, and that my parents were sleeping in
bed-clothes. Father smiled in his sleep; mother breathed quietly, and
the good angel said to me:

"If you are obedient and pious, your father will recover his health;
your mother will not have to toil into her old age, and your little
brothers will become learned men--rabbis, authorities in the Law, great,
great Jews. Their school fees will be paid."

"Only," put in the bad angel, "Reb Zeinwill will kiss you with his damp
whiskers, and clasp you in his bony arms; and he will torment you as he
did the other wives, and send you to an early grave, and _he_ will come
back and grieve, and he will teach you no more songs, or sit with you
evening after evening--you will be sitting with Reb Zeinwill!"

No! not if the heavens should fall about the earth! Tear up the
contract!

I did not sleep again till morning. My mother was the first to wake. I
wanted to talk with her, but I was accustomed to go for help to my
father.

There, he wakes.

"Do you know, Sarah'le," are his first words, "I feel so well to-day.
You will see, I shall go out."

"Praise to His dear Name! It is all owing to our daughter's good
fortune, all thanks to her merit."

"And the Röfeh was quite right: the milk agrees very well with me."

They are silent, and the good angel repeats:

"If you are good and pious, your father will get well, while if your
lips let fall wicked words, he will decline and die."

"Listen, Sarah'le," continued my father, "you are not to go about
peddling any more."

"What do you mean?"

"What I say! I will go to-day to Reb Zeinwill; he will take me into a
business, or lend me a few rubles, and we will have a little shop; I
will serve a bit, and you a bit--and later I will deal in produce."

"God grant it."

"He _will_ grant it. If you want a dress for the wedding, buy it--even
_two_ dresses. Why not? He said we were to get what we wanted. You are
not going in your old clothes?"

"Go along with you! The thing is to have something made for the
children. Reuben has been going barefoot--last week he got a splinter in
his sole, and he is limping now. Winter is coming on, too, they want
coats and shirts and warm cloaks."

"Buy, buy!"

"You hear?" said the good angel. "If you speak out, your mother will
have no new dress, and you know the old one is falling to bits; the
little brothers will run barefoot to Cheder in the sharpest frost, and
in summer they will get splinters in their soles."

"I tell you what it is," said my mother, "everything ought to be talked
over and settled in detail, because he is not a _very_ good man.
Whatever settlement he intends to make on her ought to be put down in
writing. There will be any quantity to inherit. Even if it isn't a deed,
let him give a written promise, because how long is such a one likely to
live? Another year or so!"

"One can live a long time in comfort!" sighed my father.

"A long time! Remember, he's seventy, and sometimes he looks dead behind
his ears."

And the bad angel whispered: "If you keep silence, you will marry a dead
man; you will live with a corpse; they will lead you to the bridal
chamber with a lifeless body."

Mother sighed.

"Everything is in God's hands," said my father.

Mother sighed again, and father said:

"And what could we do? Anything better? If I only could have gotten
well, and earned something, and we had had at least dry bread in the
house----"

He broke off; I had a feeling that something wept within him.

"If she had been a year or two younger, I would have risked it
all--perhaps even bought lottery tickets."

And I said nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

My seventy-year-old bridegroom gave my father a few hundred gulden for
clothes for the wedding, and me a check for one hundred and fifty
gulden.

People said, "A fine match."

I recovered my companions. The one with the satin skirt and the watch
and chain came two or three times a day.

She was the happiest creature in the world, because I had caught her up,
and we were to be married in the same month. I had others, but this one
stuck to me like a leech. The others were "common girls, there was no
saying how long they wouldn't have to wait!"

Rivkah's _fiancé_ was a stranger, but she was to board at home for two
or three years. During that time we would be close friends; she would
run in to me for chicory-coffee; I to her on Sabbath, after the mid-day
rest, for chicken-broth and pear cider.

"And when I am expecting a baby," said Rivkah once, and her face shone,
"you will come and sit by me?"

I made no reply.

"Well," exclaimed Rivkah, "why so sad? There's no saying but you,
too.... Cheer up!" she went on, "if God will, one can fire off a broom.
Besides, how long do you suppose it will last? No one can live forever.
My word, what a young widow you will make, to be sure. Won't you be run
after!"

Rivkah wished Reb Zeinwill no harm.

"To be sure, he's a wretch; he tormented that other woman; but she was
sickly, and you are sound as a nut. He will treat _you_ well enough."

       *       *       *       *       *

He came back!

My father was better, but he fancied a little dry-cupping--he was
afraid, otherwise, of going out. He felt that after lying down so long,
and then sitting for so many weeks on end, the blood had all settled in
one place, and should be stirred. Also his shoulders ached, and
dry-cupping is the sovereign remedy for that.

I shook as with ague. When there was dry-cupping to be done, the "boy"
came, not the Röfeh himself.

"Will you go and fetch the Röfeh?" asked my father.

"The idea!" exclaimed my mother. "A Kallah-Mädel!"

She went herself.

"Why have you grown so pale?" asked my father, in alarm.

"Nothing."

"It's some days now," he persisted.

"You imagine it, Tate."[15]

"Your mother says the same."

"_Eh!_"

"To-day"--father wanted to cheer me up--"they are coming to measure you
for the wedding dress."

I was silent.

"Aren't you pleased?" he asked.

"Why shouldn't I be?"

"You don't even know _what_ they are making you!"

"But they've measured me once already."

Hereupon my mother came in with the Röfeh himself.

I felt relieved, and yet all the time something mourned within me:
"Perhaps you will never see him again."

"What a world it is!" Thus the Röfeh coming in panting and groaning.
"Reb Zeinwill marries a young girl, and the treasurer's Leezerl has
turned ascetic and run away from his wife."

"Leezerl!" cried mother, in astonishment.

"As I tell you; and here am I at sixty about early and late, and my
assistant goes to bed."

I began to tremble again.

"Don't keep such a Gentile!" said my mother.

"A Gentile?" said the Röfeh. "Why a Gentile?"

"What's all that to me?" interrupted father, impatiently. "You'd better
set to work."

Father was naturally good-tempered; he always seemed to me incapable of
hurting a fly, and yet his tone was so full of contempt for the Röfeh.

When he lay sick in bed, he was always glad if anyone came in to have a
chat with him, but he could never get on with the Röfeh; he always
interrupted him and told him to see to his own business, but this was
the first time he had spoken so strongly. It pained me, because how much
rougher would he not have been with the other, who was lying ill?

What is wrong with him?

He had said his heart was weak.

What that meant exactly, I did not know; it must be something for which
one had to go to bed, and yet _my_ heart told me that I had something to
answer for in the matter.

That night I cried in my sleep; my mother woke me, and sat down beside
me on my bed.

"Hush, my child," she said, "don't let us wake father." And our
conversation was whispered into each other's ears.

I noticed that mother was greatly disturbed; she looked at me
inquiringly, as though determined to get at the truth, and I resolved to
say nothing, at all events so long as my father slept.

"My child, why have you been crying?"

"I don't know, mother."

"Do you feel well?"

"Yes, Mamishe; only sometimes my head aches."

She sat on my bed, leaning half way over, and I drew nearer her and laid
my head on her breast.

"Mother," I asked, "why does your heart beat so loud?"

"For fear, Tochter'she."

"Are _you_ afraid at night, too?"

"Night and day; I am afraid all the time."

"What for are you afraid?"

"I am afraid for you."

"For me?"

No reply, but I felt a warm tear fall on my face.

"Mother, _you_ are crying now."

The tears fell faster.

I won't say! my resolve strengthened.

Suddenly she asked:

"Has Rivkah been telling you anything?"

"What about, mother?"

"About your intended?"

"How should _she_ know him?"

"If she really knew him, she would hold her tongue. I only mean, did she
repeat any gossip? Out of jealousy--when a rich man marries a young girl
in his old age, people always talk. I don't know--has no one told you
that his last wife died because of the life he led her?"

I answered coolly that I had heard something like it, but that I had
forgotten from whom.

"I'm sure it was Rivkah--I wish her mouth were in the back of her head!"
(angrily).

"Then why was it," I inquired, "that she died no suddenly?"

"Why? She had a weak heart."

"But--do people die of a weak heart?"

"Certainly."....

Something seemed to snap inside my brain.

       *       *       *       *       *

I became a "silken child," my praise was in everyone's mouth. Parents
could not understand it--neither could the tailor: I asked for nothing;
mother chose everything--material, color, and cut, just as she fancied.

Rivkah used to come in and pinch her own red cheeks.

"Who would trust a mother in matters of dress? An old-fashioned Jewess?
You won't dare to show yourself on Sabbath either in Shool or in the
street or anywhere else!

"You've done for yourself," she wound up.

It occurred to me that I had done for myself a long time, and I waited
indifferently for the Sabbath of Consolation, when Reb Zeinwill was to
be invited to supper.

Then there would follow the "calling up,"[16] and then the wedding.

Father was really better, he sometimes went out and began to inquire
about produce. He thought it too soon to speak to Reb Zeinwill about
anything further; he intended to ask him on Sabbath to come again for
the "third meal," and to put in a word for himself after that.

All being so well, it was time to dismiss the Röfeh; there was no
difficulty now about credit--he never reminded us of what was owing him,
never sent the "boy," but came himself. Still, it was time this should
end. I don't know how much they sent him, but the messenger was my
brother Avremele, who was to leave the money on his way to Cheder.

But the "boy" appeared a few days later.

"How, wasn't it enough?" said my father, on seeing him.

"Yes, Reb Yehùdah; I have come to say good-bye."

"To me?" asked my father in surprise.

I had dropped down, when he came in, on the nearest chair, but at these
words I stood up; it had flashed across me that I must protect him, not
let him be insulted. He hadn't come for that.

"I used to come to see you at one time," he said, with his gentle,
melancholy voice, which was like sweet oil to my heart, "now I am
leaving for good, so I thought--"

"Well, well, certainly," replied father, quite politely. "Take a seat,
young man. It was very nice of you to think of it, very nice, indeed."

"Daughter," he called to me, "we must offer him some refreshment."

He sprang up, pale, with quivering lips and burning eyes, but the next
instant his face had taken on its old melancholy expression.

"No, Reb Yehùdah, I want nothing, thank you. Farewell!"

He put out his hand to no one, and barely gave me a glance.

And yet, in that one glance, I read that he reproached me, that he would
never forgive me. For what? I hardly knew myself.

And again I fainted.

"The third time," I hear my mother say to my father. "It is of no
consequence--at her age it often happens--but heaven forbid that Reb
Zeinwill should hear of it. He would break off the match. He had enough
of that with the last one--the invalid."

I was not an invalid. And I only fainted once more--on the wedding-day,
when I saw Reb Zeinwill for the first time.

Never again.

Yesterday even, when the Röfeh, who cuts my Reb Zeinwill's nails every
month (otherwise they grow into his fingers), asked me, as he left, if I
remembered his "boy," because he had died in a hospital in Warsaw--even
then I didn't faint; I only shed one tear. And I was not aware of
_that_, only it seemed to please the Röfeh.

"You are a kind soul," he said, and then I felt it on my cheek.

Nothing more.

I am healthy; I have lived with Reb Zeinwill five years.

_How?_ Perhaps I shall tell another time.



VI

THE SEVENTH CANDLE OF BLESSING


The thirteen-year-old brow is puckered with anguish, the child-face pale
with dread, tear after tear falls from the innocent eyes. Only last
Friday, just a week ago, she was so happy, so full of glee. It was the
"short Friday."[17] Grandmother had woke her a little earlier than
usual, she had spent the day in preparation for the Sabbath.

In the late afternoon she had washed herself, plaited her long hair,
singing and dancing the while, dressed, and gone with grandmother to the
synagogue--and they had lighted each her candles. Bashe's first
candle--God bless grandmother! Her second--God bless Tatishe,[18] and
let him find lots of work and make heaps of money, and not sigh any more
and say that the times are bad. Her third--God bless Mamishe, and make
her strong.

And then--for the little sisters and the little brothers, a candle each.

It lasted till people began to come in for the prayers.

How she loves the synagogue! how she loves candle-blessing.

She has lived with grandmother two whole years.

She does not want to go home (there is no candle-blessing there, it is
not the custom), unless it were just to see her mother, to clasp her
father once round the neck and play awhile with his black, silky beard,
and to have a game with the little ones.

Grandmother must not be left alone. She is always so good to her; she
has taught her to bless the candles.

Bashe loves grandmother, and blessing the candles, too. She longs for it
the whole week through, she counts the days. But this is a miserable
Friday.

In the morning everything was the same as usual.

She had "made Sabbath"; grandmother had sat there and watched her
happily. They had dressed themselves, and grandmother had taken her
stick. Then, as ill-luck would have it, there came the postman.

Grandmother read the letter, threw herself on the bed, and there she has
lain for two hours with her face to the wall.

She is black as a coal, her eyes are shut; one hand holds the letter;
she foams at the mouth.

No one is to come near her; no one is to be sent for.

Bashe is pushed away, and whenever she tries to open the door,
grandmother hears and screams "No!"

Bashe stands by the bed and cannot make it out. Her heart beats wildly.
God only knows what they have written from home. Perhaps--perhaps....

She cannot think what has happened. She drops on to her knees and
clutches convulsively at grandmother's hand:

"Granny, granny, what is it? Speak to me! Tell me--what is it? Granny, I
think I shall die of fright!" She spoke involuntarily.

Grandmother has turned toward her; she moves her lips, opens her eyes,
gives her one look, and

"Die!" she says in a hard voice, and turns her face once more to the
wall. "And there wasn't his like!" she adds. "Die, Bashe, die!"

Bashe is silent. A blackness passes before her eyes, and her head falls
on grandmother's feet. Within her all is dark and cold. She has ceased
to puzzle herself, she is nearly unconscious.

And in this way another half-hour goes by.

She hears her grandmother's voice:

"Get up!"

Bashe obeys.

Grandmother has risen to her feet and taken up the stick which she
previously had flung away.

"How many candles have you?" she asks.

"Why, eight," is the trembling reply.

"Leave one out!"

Bashe does not move.

"Put one away!" screams grandmother, angrily.

Bashe trembles like a leaf, but does not move.

The old woman has gone to the table herself, undone the packet of
candles, taken out one, and tied the rest together again. She pushes
them into Bashe's hands:

"Come along!"

Bashe follows her automatically; neither has thought to fasten the door
behind her. Bashe does not know herself how she reached the platform
with her candles.

"Light them one at a time, for whom I shall tell you. Repeat my words.
Say: God bless Mamishe and grant her long life!"

Bashe shakes as with ague: the first candle has always been father's.

"Repeat!" screams grandmother.

Bashe does so.

"The second: God make Chaïmle a good Jew!"

Little Bashe shakes more and more--her limbs are giving way beneath
her--she does not hear her father's name. Her heart thumps, her temples
throb, her eyes burn.

Grandmother has no pity on her--she screams louder every time:

"Repeat, repeat what I say!"

Bashe is lighting the last candle.

"Say: God bless Sarah!" commands grandmother.

No--she will not say that--where is father? No, she cannot say it--her
whole being is in revolt against her wicked grandmother--no, no, no!

"Repeat, repeat!" screams grandmother with increasing violence.

Bashe refuses to obey--the last light _must_ be father's.

She begins: "God bless fa--"

"Hush!" in a terrible voice. "Hush, hush! Your father is no longer a
Jew. He has become an official!"[19]



VII

THE WIDOW


The gray, swirling mists have rolled themselves together into one black
cloud. It is warm and stifling; it is going to pour with rain; a few
drops are falling already. The little house stands just under the hill.
The low, thatched roof is full of holes--there is no one to mend it.

The clouds have hidden the sun, and the remaining light is intercepted
by the hill.

Inside the hut it is nearly dark; it is late--night is falling.

In the corner, on the chimney-shelf, stands a little empty lamp, with a
cracked globe; the naphthaline is exhausted, there is no one to go and
buy more. It is closer indoors than out.

The fire-place is not empty, it boasts two or three broken earthenware
pots, a handful of ashes, a fragment of polished slate, a little iron
stand on legs, but not a spark of fire.

Outside the door lies a log of rotten wood; there is no one to chop it.

The owner of the hut lay sick for a whole year, and with every day of it
their little hoard of money grew less. He had saved for a child's sake,
"scraped together one hundred rubles, to be lent on interest." God gave
a little girl: "It shall be her marriage portion!"

But there came the illness.

The little hoard dwindled and dwindled, and the man's strength likewise.
The household goods were disposed of one after another; the last to go
was the sewing-machine, and with the last penny out of the bag the soul
departed out of the body.

The soiled shred of linen that held the money hangs across a glass of
water beside the soul-light.[20]

A small, tin trunk stands near the door; it belongs to the servant-girl,
who has just gone out to look for another situation.

The dismantled room is now all but dark; a few scattered wisps of straw
shimmer on the floor; a nail-head stares here and there out of the four
walls.

On the wall used to hang a looking-glass (it is not wanted now. If the
widow were to see her reflection, she would be terrified). A Chanukah
lamp (for whom should it be lighted?) and clothes used to hang there,
too. They came and took each his own before he died.

In one corner stands a cradle; in the cradle lies a child, asleep. On
the floor beside the cradle sits the newly-made widow.

The thin hands hang helpless, the heavy head rests on the cradle; the
eyes, which look as if they had wept themselves out, stare fixedly at
the ceiling.

You might suppose she was dead, that she neither felt nor remembered any
longer. Her heart scarcely beats, her strength has left her.

And yet one thought is revolving ceaselessly in her brain; no other
seems able to drive it away--it is not to be dislodged.

"Hannah," he had once said to her, "hand me the scissors."

He had no use for them just then, and he had given a little artful
smile. What had he really wanted?

Did he wish me to go near to him? I was peeling potatoes. Did I give him
the scissors? No; just then someone came in--but who? She cannot
recollect, and goes puzzling herself--who?

The child sleeps on, and smiles; it is dreaming.



VIII

THE MESSENGER


He is on the road, and his beard and coat-tails flutter in the wind.

Every few minutes he presses a hand to his left side--he feels a pang;
but he will not confess to it--he tries to think he is only making sure
of his leather letter-bag.

"If only I don't lose the contract-paper and the money!" That is what he
is so afraid of.

"And if it _does_ hurt me, it means nothing. Thank God, I've got
strength enough for an errand like this and to spare! Another at my
years wouldn't be able to do a verst,[21] while I, thanks to His dear
Name, owe no one a farthing and earn my own living. God be praised, they
trust me with money.

"If what they trust me with were my own, I shouldn't be running errands
at more than seventy years old; but if the Almighty wills it so--so be
it."

It begins to snow in thick flakes; he is continually wiping his face.

"I haven't more than half a mile[22] to go now," he thinks. _"O wa!_
what is that to me? It is much nearer than further." He turns his head.
"One doesn't even see the town-clock from here, or the convent, or the
barracks; on with you, Shemaiah, my lad."

And Shemaiah tramps on through the wet snow; the old feet welter in and
out. "Thank God, there is not much wind."

Much wind, apparently, meant a gale; the wind was strong enough and blew
right into his face, taking his breath away with every gust; it forced
the tears out of his old eyes, and they hurt him like pins; but then he
always suffered from his eyes.

It occurred to him that he would spend his next earnings on
road-spectacles--large, round ones that would cover his eyes completely.

"If God will," he thought, "I shall manage it. If I only had an errand
to go every day, a long, long one. Thank God, I can walk any distance,
and I should soon save up enough for the spectacles."

He is also in want of a fur coat of some sort, it would ease the
oppression on his chest; but he considers that, meanwhile, he has a warm
cloak.

"If only it does not tear, it is an excellent one." He smiles to
himself. "No new-fangled spider-web for you. All good, old-fashioned
sateen--it will outlast me yet. And it has no slit--that's a great
point. It doesn't blow out like the cloaks they make nowadays, and it
folds over ever so far in front.

"Of course," he thinks on, "a fur coat is better; it's warm--beautifully
warm. But spectacles come first. A fur is only good for winter, and
spectacles are wanted all the year round, because in summer, when
there's a wind and it blows the dust into your eyes, it's worse than in
winter."

And so it was settled; first spectacles and then a fur coat. Please
God, he would help to carry corn--that would mean four gulden.

And he tramped on, and the wet snow was blown into his face, the wind
grew stronger, and his side pained him more than ever.

"If only the wind would change! And yet perhaps it's better so, because
coming back I shall feel more tired, and I shall have the wind in my
back. Then it will be quite different. Everything will be done; I shall
have nothing on my mind."

He was obliged to stop a minute and draw breath; this rather frightened
him.

"What is the matter with me? A Cantonist[23] ought to know something of
the cold," he thought sadly.

And he recalls his time of service under Nicholas, twenty-five years'
active service with the musket, beside his childhood as a Cantonist. He
has walked enough in his life, marching over hill and dale, in snow and
frost and every sort of wind. And what snows, what frosts! The trees
would split, the little birds fall dead to the ground, and the Russian
soldier marched briskly forward, and even sang a song, a _trepak_, a
_komarinski_, and beat time with his feet.

The thought of having endured those thirty-five years of service, of
having lived through all those hardships, all those snows, all those
winds, all the mud, hunger, thirst, and privation, and having come home
in health--the thought fills him with pride. He holds up his head and
feels his strength renewed.

"Ha, ha, what is a bit of a frost like this to me? In Russia, well, yes,
there it was something like."

He walks on, the wind has lessened a little, it grows darker, night is
falling.

"Call that a day," he said to himself. "Well, I never," and he began to
hurry, not to be overtaken by the night. Not in vain has he been so
regularly to study in the Shool of a Sabbath afternoon--he knows that
one should go out and come home again before the sun goes down.

He feels rather hungry. He has this peculiarity--that being hungry makes
him cheerful. He knows appetite is a good sign; "his" traders, the ones
who send him on errands, are continually lamenting their lack of it. He,
blessed be His Name, has a good appetite; except when he is not up to
the mark, as yesterday, when the bread tasted sour to him.

Why should it have been sour? Soldiers' bread? Once, perhaps, yes; but
now? Phonye[24] bakes bread that any Jewish baker might be proud of, and
he had bought a new loaf which it was a pleasure to cut; but he was not
up to the mark, a chill was going through his bones.

But, praised be He whose Name he is not worthy to mention, that happens
to him but seldom.

Now he is hungry, and not only that, but he has in his pocket a piece of
bread and cheese; the cheese was given him by the trader's wife, may
she live and be well. She is a charitable woman--she has a Jewish heart.
If only she would not scold so, he thinks, she would be really nice. He
recalls to mind his dead wife.

"There was my Shprintze Niepritshkes; she also had a good heart and was
given to scolding. Every time I sent one of the children out into the
world she wept like a beaver, although at home she left them no peace
with her scolding tongue. And when a death happened in the family!" he
went on remembering. "Why, she used to throw herself about on the floor
whole days like a snake and bang her head with her fists."

"One day she wanted to throw a stone at heaven.

"We see," he thought, "how little notice God takes of a woman's
foolishness. But with her there was no taking away the bier and the
corpse. She slapped the women and tore the beards of the men.

"She was a fine woman, was Shprintze. Looked like a fly, and was strong,
so strong. Yet she was a good woman--she didn't dislike _me_ even,
although she never gave me a kind word.

"She wanted a divorce--a divorce. Otherwise she would run away. Only,
when was that?"

He remembers and smiles.

It was a long, long time ago; at that time the excise regulations were
still in force, and he was a night watchman, and went about all night
with an iron staff, so that no brandy should be smuggled into the town.

He knew what service was! To serve with Phonye was good discipline; he
had had good teachers. It was a winter's morning before daybreak, he
went to have his watch relieved by Chaïm Yoneh--he is in the world of
truth now--and then went home, half-frozen and stiff. He knocked at the
door and Shprintze called out from her bed:

"Into the ground with you! I thought your dead body would come home some
time!"

Oho! she is angry still, because of yesterday. He cannot remember what
happened, but so it must be.

"Shut your mouth and open the door!" he shouts.

"I'll open your head for you!" is the swift reply.

"Let me in!"

"Go into the ground, I tell you!"

And he turned away and went into the house-of-study, where he lay down
to sleep under the stove. As ill-luck would have it, it was a charcoal
stove, and he was suffocated and brought home like a dead man.

Then Shprintze was in a way! He could hear, after a while, how she was
carrying on.

They told her it was nothing--only the charcoal.

No! she must have a doctor. She threatened to faint, to throw herself
into the water, and went on screaming:

"My husband! My treasure!"

He pulled himself together, sat up, and asked quietly:

"Shprintze, do you want a divorce?"

"May you be--" she never finished the curse, and burst into tears.
"Shemaiah, do you think God will punish me for my cursing and my bad
temper?"

But no sooner was he well again, there was the old Shprintze back. A
mouth on wheels, a tongue on screws, and strong as iron--she scratched
like a cat--ha, ha! A pity she died; and she did not even live to have
pleasure in her children.

"They must be doing well in the world--all artisans--a trade won't let a
man die of hunger. All healthy--they took after me. They don't write,
but what of that? They can't do it themselves, and just _you_ go and ask
someone to do it for you! Besides, what's the good of a letter of that
kind? It's like watered soup. And then young boys, in a long time they
forget. They _must_ be doing well.

"But Shprintze is dead and buried. Poor Shprintze!

"Soon after the excise offices were abolished, she died. That was before
I had got used to going errands and saying to the gentle folk 'your
lordship,' instead of 'your high nobility';[25] before they trusted me
with contracts and money--and we used to want for bread.

"I, of course, a man and an ex-Cantonist, could easily go a day without
food, but for her, as I said, it was a matter of life and death. A
foolish woman soon loses her strength; she couldn't even scold any more;
all the monkey was out of her; she did nothing but cry.

"I lost all pleasure in life--she grew somehow afraid to eat, lest I
shouldn't have enough.

"Seeing she was afraid, I grew bold, _I_ screamed, _I_ scolded. For
instance: 'Why don't you go and eat?' Now and then I went into a fury
and nearly hit her, but how are you to hit a woman who sits crying with
her hands folded and doesn't stir? I run at her with a clenched fist and
spit at it, and she only says: 'You go and eat first--and then _I_
will,' and I had to eat some of the bread first and leave her the rest.

"Once she fooled me out into the street: 'I _will_ eat, only _you_ go
into the street--perhaps you will earn something,' and she smiled and
patted me.

"I go and I come again, and find the loaf much as I left it. She told me
she couldn't eat dry bread--she must have porridge."

He lets his head drop as though beneath a heavy weight, and the sad
thoughts chase one another:

"And what a wailing she set up when I wanted to pawn my Sabbath
cloak--the one I'm wearing now. She moved heaven and earth, and went and
pawned the metal candle-sticks, and said the blessing over candles stuck
into potatoes to the day of her death. Before dying she confessed to me
that she had never really wanted a divorce; it was only her evil tongue.

"'My tongue, my tongue,' she cried, 'God forgive me my tongue!' And she
really died in terror lest in the other world they should hang her by
the tongue.

"'God,' she said to me, 'will never forgive me; I've been too great a
sinner. But when _you_ come--not soon, heaven forbid, but in over a
hundred and twenty years[26]--when you _do_ come, then remember and take
me down from the gallows, and tell the Heavenly Council that _you_
forgave me.'

"She began to wander soon after that, and was continually calling the
children. She fancied they were there in the room, that she was talking
to them, and she asked their pardon.

"Silly woman, who wouldn't have forgiven her!

"How old was she altogether? Perhaps fifty. To die so young! It was
worse than a person taking his own life, because every time a thing went
out at the door, to the pawn-shop, a bit of her health and strength went
with it.

"She grew thinner and yellower day by day, and said she felt the marrow
drying up in her bones; she knew that she would die.

"How she loved the room and all its furniture! Whatever had to go,
whether it were a chair or a bit of crockery or anything else, she
washed it with her tears, and parted from it as a mother from her child;
put her arms around it and nearly kissed it. 'Oho!' she would say, 'when
I come to die, you won't be there in the room.'

"Well, there; every woman is a fool. At one moment she's a Cossack in
petticoats, and the next weaker than a child; because, really, whether
you die with a chair or without a chair, what does it matter?

"_Phê_," he interrupted himself, "what shall I think of next? Fancy
letting one's thoughts wander like that, and my pace has slackened, too,
thanks to the rubbish!

"Come, soldier's feet, on with you!" he commanded.

He looks round--snow on every hand; above, a gray sky with black
patches--just like my under-coat, he thought, stuff patched with black
sateen. Lord of the world, is it for want of "credit" up there, too?

Meanwhile it is freezing. His beard and whiskers are ice. His body is
fairly comfortable and his head is warm, he even feels the drops of
sweat on his forehead; only his feet grow colder and weaker.

He has not walked so very far, and yet he would like to rest, and he
feels ashamed of himself. It is the first time he ever wanted to rest on
an errand of two miles. He will not confess to himself that he is a man
of nearly eighty, and his weariness not at all surprising.

No, he must walk on--just walk on--for so long as one walks, one is
walking, one gets on; the moment one gives way to temptation and rests,
it's all over with one.

One might easily get a chill, he says to frighten himself, and does all
he can to shake off the craving for rest.

"It isn't far now to the village; there I shall have time to sit down.

"That's what I'll do. I won't go straight to the nobleman--one has to
wait there for an hour outside; I'll go first to the Jew.

"It's a good thing," he reflected, "that I am not afraid of the
nobleman's dog. When they let him loose at night, it's dreadful. I've
got my supper with me, and he likes cheese. It will be better to go
first and get rested. I will go to the Jew and warm myself, and wash,
and eat something."

His mouth waters at the thought; he has had nothing to eat since early
this morning; but that's nothing, he doesn't mind if he _is_ hungry; it
is a proof that one is alive. Only his feet!

Now he has only two versts more to walk, he can see the nobleman's great
straw-covered shed, only his _feet_ cannot see it, and they want to
rest.

"On the other hand," he mused, "supposing I rested a little after all?
One minute, half a minute? Why not? Let us try. My feet have obeyed me
so long, for once I'll obey them."

And Shemaiah sits down by the road-side on a little heap of snow. Now
for the first time he becomes aware that his heart is beating like a
hammer and his whole head perspiring.

He is alarmed. Is he going to be ill? And he has other people's money on
him. He might faint! Then he comforts himself: "God be praised, there is
no one coming, and if anyone came, it would never occur to him that I
have money with me--that I am trusted with money. Just a minute, and
then on we go."

But his lids are heavy as lead.

"No, get up, Shemaiah, _vstavai_!"[27] he commands.

He can still give a command, but he cannot carry it out; he cannot move.
Yet he imagines he is walking, and that he is walking quicker and
quicker. Now he sees all the little houses--that is Antek's, yonder,
Basili's, he knows them all, he hires conveyances of them. It is still a
long way to the Jew's. Yet, best to go there first--he may find
Mezumen,[28] and it seems to him that he approaches the Jew's house; but
it moves further and further on--he supposes that so it must be. There
is a good fire in the chimney, the whole window is cheery and red; the
stout Mir'l is probably skimming a large potful of potatoes, and she
always gives him one. What so nice as a hot potato? And on he trudges,
or--so he thinks, for in reality he has not left his place.

The frost has lessened its grip, and the snow is falling in broad, thick
flakes.

He seems to be warmer, too, in his cloak of snow, and he fancies that he
is now inside the Jew's house. Mir'l is straining the potatoes, he hears
the water pouring away--_ziùch, ziùch, ziùch_--and so it drips, indeed,
off his sateen cloak. Yoneh walks round and hums in his beard; it is a
habit of his to sing after evening prayer, because then he is hungry and
says frequently: "Well, Mir'l!"

But Mir'l never hurries--"more haste, worse speed."

"Am I asleep and is it a dream?" He is seized with joyful surprise. He
thinks he sees the door open and let in his eldest son. Chonoh, Chonoh!
Oh, he knows him well enough. What is he doing here? But Chonoh does not
recognize _him_, and Shemaiah keeps quiet. Ha, ha, ha; he is telling
Yoneh that he is on his way to see his father; he inquires after him; he
has not forgotten; and Yoneh, sly dog, never tells him that his father
is sitting there on the sleeping-bench. Mir'l is busy; she is taken up
with the potatoes; she won't stop in her work; she only smiles and
mashes the potatoes with the great wooden spoon--and smiles.

_Ach!_ Chonoh must be rich, very rich! Everything he has on is whole,
and he wears a chain--perhaps it is pinchbeck? No, it is real gold!
Chonoh wouldn't wear a pinchbeck chain. Ha, ha, ha! he glances at the
stove.[29] Ha, ha, ha! he nearly splits with laughter. Yainkil, Beril,
Zecharyah--all three--ha, ha, ha! they were hidden on the stove. The
thieves! What a pity Shprintze is not there! What a pity! She would have
been so pleased. Meantime Chonoh is ordering two geese. "Chonoh! Chonoh!
don't you know me? I am he!" And he fancies they embrace him.

"Look you, Chonoh; what a pity your mother cannot see you! Yainkil,
Beril, Zecharyah, come down from the stove! I knew you at once! Make
haste! I knew you would come! Look, I have brought you some cheese, real
sheep's milk cheese. Don't you like soldier's bread? What? Perhaps not?
Yes, it is a pity about the mother."

And he fancies that all the four children have put their arms round him
and hold him and kiss and press him to them.

"Gently, children, gently; don't squeeze me too hard! I am no young
man--I am eighty years old! Gently, you are suffocating me; gently,
children! Old bones! Gently, there is money in the bag. Praise God, they
trust me with money! Enough, children, enough!"

And it was enough. He sat there suffocated, with his hand pressed to the
bag in his bosom.



IX

WHAT IS THE SOUL?


1

I remember, as in a dream, that there used to be about the house a
little, thin Jew, with a pointed beard, who often put his arms round me
and kissed me.

Then I remember how the same man lay ill in bed; he groaned a great
deal, and my mother stood and beat her head with her hands.

One night I woke up and saw the room full of people. Outside there was a
grievous noise; I was very frightened, and I began to scream.

One of the people came up to me, dressed me, and led me away to sleep at
a neighbor's.

When I saw our room next morning, I did not know it again. Straw lay
scattered on the floor, the glass on the wall was covered over, the
hanging-lamp wrapped in a table cover, and my mother sat on a low stool
in her socks.

She began to weep loudly at sight of me and cried: "The orphan! the
orphan!"

An oil-lamp burned in the window; beside it were a glass of water and a
piece of linen.

They told me that my father had died, that his soul washed itself in the
glass and dried itself with the linen; that when once I began to say the
Kaddish it would fly straight up into heaven.

And I fancied the soul was a bird.


2

One evening the "helper" was leading me home from Cheder. A few birds
flew past me, quite low.

"Neshome'lech fliehen, neshome'lech fliehen!"[30] I sang to myself. The
"helper" turned round upon me:

"You silly!" he said, "those are birds, ordinary birds."

Afterwards I asked my mother how one could tell the difference between
an ordinary bird and a soul.


3

At fourteen years old, I was studying Gemoreh with the commentaries,
and, as luck would have it, under Zerach Kneip.

To this day I don't know if that was his real name, or whether the boys
gave it him because he used to pinch (_kneipen_) without mercy.

And he did not wait till one had deserved a pinch; he gave it in
advance. "Remind me," he would say, "and by and by we shall settle up
our accounts."

He was a Mohel, and had one pointed, uncut finger nail, and every pinch
went to the heart.

And he used to say: "Don't cry; don't cry about nothing! I only pinch
your body! What is it to you if the worms have less to eat when you are
in your grave?"

"The body," said Zerach Kneip, "is dust. Rub one palm against the other,
and you will see."

And we tried, and saw for ourselves that the body is dust and ashes.

"And what is the soul?" I asked.

"A spirit," answered the rabbi.


4

Zerach Kneip hated his wife like poison; but his daughter Shprintze was
the apple of his eye.

_We_ hated Shprintze, because she told on us, and--we loved the
rebbitzin, who sold us beans and peas on credit, and saved us more than
once from the rabbi's hands. I was her special favorite. I was given the
largest portions, and when the rabbi had hold of me, she would cry:
"Murderer! what are you after, treating an orphan like that? His
father's soul will be revenged on you!"

The rabbi would let go of me, and the rebbitzin got what was left.

I remember that one winter's evening I came home from Cheder so pinched
by the rabbi and so penetrated by the frost that my skin was quite
parched.

And I lifted my eyes to heaven and cried piteously and prayed: "Tatishe,
do be revenged on Zerach Kneip! Lord of the world, what does he want of
my soul?"

I forgot that he only pinched the body. But a man is to be excused for
what he says in his distress.


5

On a school holiday, when Zerach Kneip shut the Gemoreh and began to
tell stories, he was a different person.

He took off his cap and sat in his bushy locks (the skull-cap was hidden
by them); he unbuttoned his kaftan, smoothed out his forehead. His lips
smiled, and even his voice was different.

He taught us in the hard, gruff, angry voice in which he spoke to the
rebbitzin; he told us stories in the gentle, small, kind voice in which
he addressed Shprintze, his dear soul.

And we used to implore him as though he were a brigand to tell us a
story. We were unaware of the fact that Zerach Kneip knew only one
chapter of the Talmud, with which his course for little boys began and
ended, and that he _had_ to fill up the time with stories, specially in
winter when there are no religious holidays. We little fools used to buy
stories of him with peas and beans, and once even we saved up to buy
Shprintze a red flannel spencer.

For the said spencer, Reb Zerach told us how the Almighty takes a soul
out of his treasure-house and blows it into a body.

And I pictured to myself the souls laid out in the Almighty's store-room
like the goods in my mother's shop, in boxes, red, green, white, yellow,
and blue, and tied with string.


6

"When God," said the rabbi, "has chosen a soul and decided that it is to
go down into the sinful world, it trembles and cries.

"In the nine months before birth an angel teaches it the whole Torah;
then he gives it a fillip under the nose, and the soul forgets
everything it has learned.

"That," added the rabbi, "is why all Jewish children have cloven upper
lips."

That same evening I was skating on the ice outside the town, and I
observed that the Gentile boys, Yantek, Voitek, and Yashek, had cloven
upper lips just like ours.

"Yashek," I risked my life and asked, "_ti tàkshé màyesh dùshé_?"[31]

"What does it matter to you, soul of a dog?" was the distinct reply.


7

Beside going to the rabbi, I had a teacher for writing. This teacher was
supposed by the town to be a great heretic, and the neighbors wouldn't
borrow his dishes.[32]

He was a widower, and people never believed that Gütele, his daughter, a
girl about my age, knew how to make meat kosher.

But he was exceedingly accomplished, and my mother was determined that
her only son should learn to write.

"I beg of you, Reb teacher," she said to him, "not to teach him anything
heretical, nothing out of the Bible, but teach him how to write a Jewish
letter, just a 'greeting to any friend' letter."

But I don't know if he kept his word. When I gave him the poser about
the cleft lips, he went into a fury; he jumped up from his chair,
overturned it with his foot, and began to caper about the room, crying
out:

"Blockheads! murderers! bats!" By degrees he grew calm, sat down again,
wiped his spectacles, and drew me to him:

"My child," he said, "never believe such rubbish. You took a good look
at the Gentile boys who were skating? What are their names?"

I told him.

"Well," he continued, "had any one of them a different kind of eye from
yours; different hands or feet or limbs? Don't they laugh just as you
do? And if they cry, do they shed another sort of tears? Why should they
not have a real soul as well as we? All men are alike, children of one
family, one God is their Father, one earth their home. It is true that
at present the nations hate each other, and each one persuades itself
that _it_ is the crown of creation, and occupies all God's thoughts; but
_we_ hope for a better day, better and brighter, when humanity will
acknowledge one God and one law, when the words of our holy prophets
will come true, when there shall be an end to all wars and jealousy and
hatred; when all will serve one Creator, and it will be as the verse
says: 'For out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord
from Jerusalem.'"

I knew that verse from the paragraph, "And it came to pass, when the Ark
set forward," in the prayer-book.[33]

The teacher went on talking for some time, but I understood little of
what he said; I could not believe that "a Gentile has brains, too," that
all men were equal. I knew that the teacher held heretical opinions; he
did not even believe in the transmigration of souls, as I saw for myself
after the death of Fradel Mifkeres (the heretic), when a black dog
appeared on the roof of the house where she had lived.

Then he pared his nails in order, and never cut a "witness"[34] to throw
out of the window.

I should very soon have run away from him; I should have told my mother
of the way he talked, only--

I am sure you guess what and whom I mean.


8

This alone remained fixed in my head, that there would be a time when
the other nations would come to us to learn Torah, and that it might be
to-morrow.

Times with us just then were quite Messianic; strong hints of it were
discovered in the Book of Daniel, and the word that stood for the
current year indicated it; besides, there was a passage in the Zohar,
and in the Midrash ha-Néelom, and it was whispered from ear to ear that
the Rebbe of Kozenitz had stopped reciting the Supplications; and there
was reliable news from Palestine that no fox had been seen near the
"western wall" all that year.

And people looked every day for Messiah the son of Joseph; Kohol gave
bribes to escape paying taxes; when Messiah came, who would trouble
about little things like that?

The women came off worst. A few years previously the steps of their bath
had fallen in. Goodness knows, it took asking enough before the money
was granted for new ones. And now the wood was there, ready and waiting,
only it seemed a pity, all the same, to hire a workman and spend those
few rubles. And I firmly believed that in a short time Yashek, who
pushed me when I was skating, just as I was doing a "cobbler," so that,
thanks to him, I all but broke my neck; that Voitek, who always made a
pig's ear at me, and Yantek, who counted us--_raz, dva, tshi_--that all
three, I say, would come and humbly ask me to explain a ritual question,
for instance, concerning things improper for the touch, as a stone on
Sabbath.

And I, "merciful and a son of the Merciful," would not remember against
them what they had done to me, but would tell them. I would be a friend
to them and explain to them the mystery of the iron and the paper
bridge; tell them not to venture on to the iron bridge--indeed, that it
would be best to keep away altogether, if they wished to save their
souls.


9

On the eve of New Year I completed the course with Zerach Kneip, and
felt as it were the relief of the exodus out of Egypt.

I had been told that my new teacher, Reb Yozel, never pinched; never
even hit you for nothing. I had been used to see Reb Yozel at prayers.
He was a tall Jew, with huge eyebrows, so that his eyes were quite
hidden. He wore his kaftan open, and the "little prayer-scarf" appeared
on each side of his long, pointed beard. He walked softly and talked
softly, as though of secrets. And while he talked, he nodded his head
slowly, lifted his brows, drew his forehead together, thrust out his
lips and whiskers, and slid both hands into his girdle; it seemed as
though every word he spoke were of the greatest importance.

Reb Yozel had been "messenger" for a time to one of the great
wonder-workers, and he had even now a certain amount of oils, coins,
amulets, salves, etc.,[35] to sell on commission; he was reckoned the
first exorcist in the town, and if the rabbi were poorly, he would
preach instead of him on the Great Sabbath and the New Year, and deliver
memorial addresses. The rabbi was a weak old man, and Reb Yozel looked
to filling his place when he had accomplished his one hundred and twenty
years.

Beside this, Reb Yozel was a celebrated blower of the Shofar, and when
he repeated the blessing before blowing--how goes the saying?--fish
trembled in the water.

And I was filled with pride at the thought of being his pupil.

We had not reached the Day of Atonement before I had an opportunity of
questioning Reb Yozel about the soul.

The soul, with me, had become a sort of _idée fixe_; it was never out of
my thoughts. The first thing Reb Yozel did was to empty my head of the
notion of other people being our equals, and to fill it up again with
"Thou hast chosen us."

"Not in vain," said he, "do we suffer exile, scorn, and other plagues
not mentioned in the denunciations of the Pentateuch. Were we like to
other nations, we should have _this_ world the same as they have it;
'the child whom the father loveth, he correcteth,' so that it may study
and enter the gates of knowledge.

"But even with us Jews," went on Reb Yozel, "souls are not all alike;
there are coarse, ordinary souls, like Zerach Kneip's, for instance;
your teacher, the heretic, has a soul like Korah; there are also very
great souls, some of which come from out the space under the Throne of
Glory; these belong to the category of _kémach sòlet_."[36]

I understood little, especially about the space under the Throne of
Glory; I only knew the meaning of _kémach sòlet_, and supposed the
difference between soul and soul was like that between rye-flour,
corn-flour, wheat-flour, and the flour which was used for the Sabbath
loaf. The greatest of all the souls must be mixed with saffron and
raisins.


10

"The great thing," said Reb Yozel, "is to suffer.

"No soul will be lost; they must all return to the state in which they
were previous to their stay on earth. And the souls can be cleansed only
by suffering. The Creator, in His great mercy, sends us suffering so
that we may remember we are but flesh and blood, a broken potsherd, mere
nothings, who fall into dust and ashes at His look; but in the other
world also the souls undergo purification."

And he told me all that was done to the poor souls in the seven
torture-chambers of Gehenna.


11

About the holiday times I had more leisure for looking round at home.
Just before Tabernacles, we had a great wash.

One night I dreamt that I was in the next world. I saw how the angels
stretched out their hands from heaven and caught hold of the souls who
were returning thither. The angels sifted them; those that were clean
and white as snow, flew up like doves out of their hands as though into
Paradise. The dirty ones were thrown into a heap, and the heap was
thrown into the sea of ice, beside which stood black angels with their
sleeves rolled up, who washed them. After that they were boiled in a
black pot over hell-fire.

And when the dirt was squeezed out of them and they were ironed, the
weeping of the souls was heard from one end of the world to the other.

There, in the soiled heap, I recognized the soul of my teacher; it had
his long nose, his hollow cheeks, his pointed beard, and it wore his
large, blue spectacles. They washed it, and it only looked the blacker.

And an angel called out: "That is the soul of the heretical teacher!"
Then the same angel said angrily to me:

"If you walk in his ways, your soul will be as black as his, and it will
be washed like this every evening, till it is thrown into Gehenna."

"I will not walk in his ways!" I cried out in my sleep.

My mother woke me and took my hand down from my breast.

"What is it, my treasure?" she asked in alarm. "You are bathed in
perspiration;" and she blew upon me--_fu_, _fu_, _fu!_

"Mother, I have been in the other world!"

Early next morning my mother asked me in all seriousness if I had seen
my father there. I said, "No."

"What a pity! What a pity!" she lamented. "He would certainly have given
you a message for me."


12

What was to be done, if the teacher even made game of dreams?

For his own sake, still more for Gütele's, I wished to save him, and I
described to him the whole of my dream. But he said dreams were foolish;
he paid no attention to such things.

He wanted to prove to me out of the Bible and the Talmud that dreams
were rubbish, but I stopped my ears with my little fingers and would not
listen.

I saw clearly that he was lost; that his sentence would be a terrible
one; that I ought to avoid him like the plague; that he was like to ruin
my soul, my young soul.

But, again, what was to be done? I made a hundred resolves to tell my
mother, and never kept one of them.

I had my mouth open to speak many a time, but it seemed to me that
Gütele stood behind her shoulders, held out her small hands to me in
supplication, and spoke with her eyes: "No," she begged, "no, don't
tell!"

And the prayer in her eyes overcame my piety; I felt that for her I
would go, not through fire and water only, but into hell itself.

And yet it seemed to me a great pity, for my mother and all my teachers
were sure that I had in me the making of something remarkable.


13

I was quit of Zerach Kneip and his long finger-nail, but I was not so
much the better off.

I was sixteen years old. The match-mongers were already catching at my
mother's skirts, and I preserved the childish habit of collecting wax
off the Shool table on the Day of Atonement and secretly moulding it in
Cheder under the table.

The beadle hated me for this with a deadly hatred, and I was well served
out for it besides.

"What have you got there?" asks Reb Yozel.

I am wool-gathering at the moment and lay my whole hand on the Gemoreh,
wax on all the five fingers.

Reb Yozel has grown pale with anger. He opens the drawer, takes out a
piece of thin string, and binds together my two thumbs, but so tight, a
pang goes through me.

That was only the beginning. He went to the broom and deliberately chose
and pulled out a thin, flexible twig. With this twig he whipped me over
my tied hands--for how long? It seemed to me forever. And strange to
say, I took the pain in good part; I felt sure God had sent it me that I
might repent of my sin and give up going to the teacher.

When my hands were pretty well swollen and the skin had turned all
colors, Reb Yozel put away the twig and said: "Enough! Now you'll let
the wax alone!"

I went on moulding wax all the same.

It gave me the greatest satisfaction to make whatever I pleased out of
it. I felt I had something to be busy about.

I would mould the head of a man, and then turn it into a cat or a mouse;
then I drew the sides out into wings, divided the head into two, and it
became an Imperial eagle. After that, out of the two heads and two
wings, I made a bun in four pieces.

I myself was just such another piece of wax. Reb Yozel, the teacher, my
mother, and anybody who pleased moulded me into shape. Gütele melted me.


14

They moulded me into shapes, but it hurt.

I remember very well that it hurt, but why? Why must _I_ torment myself
about the soul?

My comrades laughed at me; they nicknamed me the "soul-boy," and I
suffered as much from the name as it was foolish in itself.

I am lost in thought; I wonder what my end will be; when I shall have
the strength to tear myself out of Satan's grasp. I call my own soul to
account; I reproach it; I scold it. Suddenly I receive a fillip on the
nose, "Soul-boy." I wish to forget my troubles and plunge into a deep
problem of Rabbinical dialectics; I yoke together a difficult
explanation of the Tossafot with a hard passage in the Rambam, mix in a
piece from the P'ne Yehoshuah, and top it off with an argument from
Eibeschütz. I am in another world, forgotten are the teacher, Gütele,
the soul. Things are fitting one into the other in my brain; I nearly
"have it," the solution is at the tip of my tongue--a whistle in my
ear--"Soul-boy!" It rings through my head, something bursts in my brain.
Forgotten Tossafot, forgotten Rambam--I am back on the earth!

I stand repeating the Eighteen Benedictions, my heart and my eyes are
alike full of tears, "Heal us, O Eternal, and we shall be healed!" I say
with devotion, and I mean not the body, heaven forbid, I mean the soul:
"Heal me, Almighty; heal my poor soul!"

"That's the soul-boy," says one to another, pointing at me. And it is
all over with my devotion.

Thus I suffered day and night.


15

Gütele was held to be very clever; her father never called her anything
but "my little wisdom," and the neighbors said she was as bright as the
day, and that if she were as pious as she was clever, she would rejoice
the heart of her mother in Paradise. My mother, too, used to praise her
cleverness, and, if only Gütele had known more about koshering meat, she
would not have wished for a better daughter-in-law.

And one day, when I found the teacher out, and Gütele alone, it occurred
to me to ask her opinion about the soul.

My knees shook, my hands twitched, my heart fluttered; my eyes were
fixed on the floor, and yet I asked: "They all say, Gütele, that you are
so wise. Tell me, please, what is the soul?"

She smiled and answered:

"I'm sure, I don't know."

Then she grew suddenly sad and tears came into her eyes:

"I just remember," she said to me, "that when my mother was alive (on
whom be peace), my father always said, she was his soul--they loved one
another so dearly."

I don't know what came over me, but that same instant I took her hand
and said, trembling:

"Gütele, will you be my soul?" And she answered me quite softly:
"Yes!"



X

IN TIME OF PESTILENCE


1

THE TOWN TAKES FRIGHT

It is coming! _öi_, it is already near! In the villages round about
people are in peril of death! Lord of the world, what is to be done?
"Thou shalt not open thy mouth for Satan"--the name of the pestilence
may not cross the lips, but fear descends on every heart like a stone.

And every day there is worse news. In Apte a water-carrier, carrying his
cans, has fallen dead in the street. In Ostrovtze they have made
post-mortem examinations on two Jews. In Brotkoff there is a doctor with
a student from Warsaw. Racheff is isolated; they let nobody out or in.
Radom is surrounded by a chain of Cossacks; in Tzoismir, heaven defend
us, they say people are falling like flies. A terror!

Trade slackens, piousness increases. Dealers in produce are afraid to
leave the spot; big Yossil has already sold his horse and wagon--it's a
pity about the oats. The produce-brokers tighten the belt across their
empty stomachs, and there is daily more room in the dwellings, because
every Friday something more is taken to be pawned against Sabbath. A
workman, sometimes even a householder, will take an extra sip of brandy,
to put heart into him, but that doesn't go far to fill the innkeeper's
pocket, and a peasant is seldom to be seen. To make up for this, the
Röfeh's wife has removed her wig and put on a hair-band;[37] a secret
Maskil has burnt his "Love of Zion"[38] in public and taken to reciting
psalms; the bather's maid-servant has gone to the rabbi and asked him
how to do penance for having been in the habit of peeping into the men's
bath-house, on Fridays, through a chink in the door. A certain young
man, not to mention names, has been fasting a whole month and thinks of
becoming an ascetic--heaven only knows for what sin. Some of the tailors
now return remnants, butchers are more liberal in their cuts, only
Yeruchem Chalfen asks ten per cent. a month on a pawn ticket, and no
less with a security. His heart is of flint.

And faces grow yellow and livid, lips, blue-brown, eyes look large and
round, and heads droop; and the street is hushed. Small, scattered
groups, men and women apart, stand and hold voiceless conversation;
heads are shaken, hands thrown out, and eyes lifted to the leaden sky
spread out over the little town. It is quiet even in the house-of-study
between afternoon and evening prayers. On the other hand, the women's
gallery in the Shool is full. Every few minutes a piteous cry comes
through the grating, and the men feel their hair and nails tingle. There
is Kol Nidrei[39] every night, and people are bathed in tears.

What is to be done? Who can advise?

It is said that in Warsaw they have started tea-houses for the poor, and
cheap kitchens; they are giving away coal, clothes, and food for
nothing--all "_their_" precautions, all to imitate the nations of the
world, and perhaps to please the chief of police. Here other means are
employed--"Meïr Baal-Ness,"[40] wonder-workers, and famous charms.
Saturday evening, as soon as it is dark, "candles of blessing" are stuck
in the windows; outside the town, Vassil has a mill--the stakes shall be
conveyed away by night and buried in holy ground; an orphan boy shall be
married to an orphan girl--and every possible thing of the kind;
only--only, these charms have been from everlasting, and yet, when there
was the plague of 1829, the entire market-place was grass-grown with
only a pathway or two in the middle, trodden by those who carried the
dead.

Besides, and worse even than the plague itself, there is disinfection,
isolation, and, heaven have mercy on us, post-mortems. No man can live
forever, nor can he die more than once; but death and life are in the
hands of the All-Merciful. Weeping, prayer, and confession, these help;
almsgiving is a remedy; but the other things mean falling into the hands
of men. They suck the marrow out of your bones, it costs you a fortune,
treasure and blood--and they make post-mortems! They cut up a corpse,
heaven defend us, into little pieces, and bury it without a
winding-sheet, in pitch. In the hospital there is poisoning; they burn
innocent bedding, or they make a ring of Cossacks, and people may
starve to death or devour each other as they choose. Ha! one must be up
and doing and not let the enemy into the town.

"Candles of blessing" are already in the windows, side-glances are being
cast at Vassil's mill, and a marriage between two orphans is under
discussion. And the terror increases day by day. One had hoped that the
calamity would pass away with the summer, with the great heat....

These are all over, the Solemn Days, too. Now, thank God, it is after
Tabernacles. One feels the cold in one's bones; it snows a little, not
unfrequently, and the pestilence creeps on and on. May God watch over us
and protect us.


2

TWO ARE NOT AFRAID

And yet there are two persons in the place who are not afraid; and not
only that, but they are hoping for the plague.

The two persons are the young doctor, Savitzki, a Christian, and,
lehavdîl, Yössil, the beggar-student.

Savitzki came two years and a half ago, straight from the university; he
came a good Christian, a treasure, quite one of the righteous of the
nations of the world; people wished the town-justice were as good. There
wasn't a particle of pride in the man; he never gave himself airs; he
greeted everyone he passed, even a child, even a woman. For an old
person he would step aside. He loved Jewish fish as life itself, and the
householders treated him one and all with respect; they bowed to him
and took off as much as the whole hat; they sent him Sabbath cakes, and
often asked him in to fish. In fact, they wished him all that is good,
only--they never consulted him. Who wanted a doctor? Hadn't they a
Röfeh? And what a Röfeh! He has only to give the patient one look to
know what is the matter with him. So it's no wonder the apothecary is
willing to make up his prescriptions. It is possible that another doctor
might have got a practice quicker. For instance, if there had come an
old doctor with long experience and leaving a large practice somewhere
behind him, but there appears this popinjay, who cannot even twirl the
down on his upper lip, with a young, pale face like a girl's, dressed
like a dandy, a boy fresh from school. And just as the eggs always know
more than the hen, so must he think himself better than the old Röfeh,
who, as the saying goes, had eaten up his teeth at the work. So must he
say, that the sick take overmuch castor oil, that cupping was a mistake,
especially for a woman in child-bed; leeches he wanted put on the shelf,
that they might do no harm; dry-cupping he made fun of, and he had no
faith in salves. Did you ever hear of a doctor without salves and
without blood-letting? Who would consult him? An apothecary turns up his
nose at such an one's prescriptions--for twenty groschen apiece.

Thus it went on for six months; there was open war with the Röfeh and
hidden war with the apothecary, and yet he was on very good terms with
the householders.

Thus it went on, I say, till Savitzki came to the last of the few
gulden which he had brought with him from somewhere; after a bit he got
behindhand with his rent, and was in debt to the butcher and the grocer
and the tailor--he was in debt all round--and the creditors grew daily
more impatient.

And once, when the butcher had sent back the maid without any meat,
Savitzki let his wings droop, and confessed that blood-letting was
necessary, and that castor oil might be taken every minute; but this did
him no good at all, because, first, no one believed him, that he really
meant it--it was very likely only to take people in; secondly, supposing
it were so, and he had really given in to the Röfeh, then what was he
wanted for?

       *       *       *       *       *

Savitzki got another gulden or two from somewhere (Christians often
inherit things from rich uncles and aunts), and dragged on another six
months, at the end of which he had an inspiration: _he became an
anti-Semite_, and a real bitter one.

He left off saluting people, and now, if he stepped aside for a Jew, it
was to spit out before him.

He persuaded the town-justice, even though it was winter, to drive a few
Jewish families off the peasants' land, and when there came a new
inspector (the old ones had their hush-money), he would himself take him
round the courtyards and show him where there lurked uncleanliness. He
told the apothecary one day that in _his_ place he should give all the
Jews poison; and many, many more things of the kind.

_This_ idea really proved helpful. Certain of the householders began to
call him in and paid him for his visits, although they would afterwards
tear up his prescriptions, pour out his mixtures, throw away his
ointment. The enemy of Israel must have his mouth shut; that also was a
kind of "hush-money"; but Savitzki did not make a living by it.

He had no more inspirations, and there was no hope of things bettering
themselves.

In addition to this he had the following misfortunes: he was unable to
extract a pea out of a little boy's ear; a sick man risked his life by
taking one of Savitzki's prescriptions and in a week he was dead. But
the worst was that he forgot himself one day and declared that fever was
not in itself an illness, but a remedy, a weapon by means of which the
body would rid itself of the disease. Those who heard him all but split
with laughter; and still more did they pant for laughing when it
happened that he was called in to a woman in child-bed at the critical
moment, because the "town-grandmother" was away on business in a
village, and there was no help for it. The ridiculous things he did! He
called for a basin of water, a piece of soap. He poured something into
the basin out of a little bottle he had brought in his pocket. The
people stood and watched him, and concluded he made up his medicines at
home to annoy the apothecary--but heaven only knew what it was. Then he
just went and washed his hands; and yet his hands were as clean as clean
could be, as is the way with Christians. And as if that wasn't enough,
he took out a knife and cleaned his nails--really, lehavdîl, he might
have been a pious Jewess. Then he rubbed his hands and washed them
anew. What more shall I say about his conjuring tricks? Then to
business. The woman (it was not her first) said he certainly had smaller
hands than the "town-grandmother," and was quicker at it, too, except
for his fads.

But who could stand all that fuss?

And when there's no soap to be had? It just happened to have been
washing day, but otherwise?

The result of all this was that Savitzki went about like a wicked man in
the other world, and at the end of two years and a half he saw he would
not be able to hold on there; that his "inexpressibles" were getting too
big for him, that he was growing daily thinner, and might fall into a
decline; he was preparing to run away and leave his debts behind, and
now--_it_ was near.

No, this is not the time to leave a town of the kind; there are golden
days coming. They have already sent an order to build a "barrack" for
cholera patients and to set apart a house for their families; and
although the heads of the community have forked out and bribed the
town-justice and the inspectors, to set down the "expenditures" for the
barrack as though it had been built, and not alarm the town, everyone
felt it was on the move, that it was coming; that it meant peril of
death to everyone and good luck to Savitzki. He will get three to four
rubles a day from the government, the sick will pay him extra, and those
who are well will pay not to be put down as sick. All the Jews will pay,
for disinfection and no-disinfection, isolation and non-isolation, for
being let in and let out, for speaking and for being silent, and above
all, "burial money"--not to be made the subject of a post-mortem and be
buried in pitch.

Savitzki revived. His heart grew light within him.

He paced the streets whistling a merry air; he looked cheerily into
everyone's face, peeped in at all the doors and windows. Jews like to
hide themselves, ah! but he will not allow it. They shall pay him for
the past years--he will come into his own.

Then he will leave the dead-alive place and marry. Whom should he find
here? The apothecary's daughter--that ugly thing?


3

THE SECOND WHO IS NOT AFRAID

Yössil, the beggar-student, would also like to marry, and has equally
put his hope in the pestilence; he is the one orphan lad in the town.
The householders could get no other if they wished. They will _have_ to
marry him off.

And he wishes it very much, which is no wonder--it is in the family. His
father and his grandfather at his age had already buried children, and
he is eighteen years old. He is "a scorn and a derision." They call him
"bachelor" and "old maid," he has no peace at the academy all day. The
allusions made at his expense prick him like pins. At night, it's worse.
He lies all alone in the house-of-study on the hard bench, and does not
sleep whole nights--the bad dreams will not let him; he is ready to
crawl up the wall.

He begs and implores the neighbors to marry him. He asks mercy, and the
answer is always the same: "Unless it be the Queen of Sheba, who will
look at you, scab?"

That, as it happened, was something Yössil had not; but he had other
attractions. He had come to the place fourteen years before, with his
father, a book-peddler who fell ill on his way through and who--not of
you be it said!--died there.

He had never known his mother, and therefore had wandered about with his
father from babyhood.

Kohol was moved to pity, householders bought up all the books in order
to bury the father, which they did almost for nothing, and even gave him
a nice grave.

The orphan was taken into the Talmud Torah and told to sleep in the
house-of-study; he ate "days,"[41] as he was still doing when my story
begins.

In half a year's time he went through measles in the house-of-study, and
then small-pox, and got a face as pitted as a grater.

The next year brought a new misfortune. In the house-of-study was an old
split stove, of which Yössil was the official heater. This oven was a
useless old thing and gave out no heat. By day things were bearable; at
night the stove went down to freezing-point. Yössil's rags, given him by
the householders on some holiday, were hardly enough to clothe him,
never sufficient for extra covering at night.

One day Yössil thought the matter over, and stole the key of the wood
store-room. He commenced to steal wood, and every day he heated the
stove more, and sat by the fire and warmed himself. At last, as people
said, God punished him for his theft: the stove suddenly burst, and a
piece flew out and broke his foot. The town Röfeh cured it, but it
remained shorter than the other, and Yössil limped from that day
forward.

And he was no genius, not even specially diligent. Who would fix on him?
Whom was he likely to attract? Not even a water-carrier would take him
for a son-in-law. Meantime, as though to spite him, his eyes would burn
like hot coals, his heart beat and yearned and sickened after something.
He often felt dizzy, there was a sound as of bells in his ears, and he
shook as in a fever, hot and cold, hot and cold.

But who troubles about an orphan?

The householders feel they have done their part in giving him free
meals. What sort of meals? Well, what merit is there to be secured in
feeding a boy like that? A boy who won't learn, sits over a book, and is
all the time wool-gathering? You speak to him and he doesn't hear.

And all of a sudden he starts up and jumps away from his place, leaves
the book open, and runs about the house-of-study like a mad thing,
upsets the reading-desks, upsets the people, like one possessed.

A madcap, a scatter-brain. Tendons, bones, mouldy bread, the day before
yesterday's porridge--and _that's_ a waste! What's the use of him? He
may thank his stars that he's an orphan.

A boy of that sort in a family is apprenticed to a workman, but nobody
wants to undertake a strange child. Who would care to be responsible for
it? Besides, the father was a learned man, who recited Torah in his last
moments, and who died like a saint in the seventh month, after making a
very clear confession of sins; and who would dare apprentice the child
of such an one to a workman?[42] Who would undertake to answer for it to
the dead?

And so Yössil grew up alone in the house-of-study; by day he was
tormented by malicious observations and at night by bad dreams; it is
two or three years since he had rest.

But he would not let himself drift; he felt that these were bad
thoughts, evil dreams; but they grew stronger and stronger, and his will
grew weaker, and he began to fast, but this was of no avail; to recite
psalms--no use at all; to study--when he could not read the letters?
Fiery wheels circled before his eyes.

He saw that the seducer was stronger than he was, and he let his wings
droop and ceased to oppose him. He only consoled himself with the
thought that he, too, might be married some day. And he waited for the
match-mongers, and then, as they did not come to him, he put shame aside
and went to them. But that is not done so easily.

Months passed before he ventured to speak to a match-monger; first to
one, then to another, then to a third, until he had been to all there
were in the town. And when the last one had given him the same reply as
the others, that no one would look at him but the Queen of Sheba, he
fell into great despondency.

Life had become hateful to him. One night it occurred to him that it
would be better to die than to live thus.

He began to battle afresh with this new sinful thought, and again his
strength began to fail. The first time the thought came like a
lightning-flash and vanished. The following day it came again and stayed
longer; on the third day he had time to consider it; he remembered that
last week there had been a strong wind, a sign that some one had hanged
himself. Perhaps a Gentile? No; there would never be a wind because of a
Gentile; it must have been a Jew. A year ago, there was a Jew drowned in
the bath, Chaïm the tailor. Who knows, perhaps he drowned himself on
purpose? What should a tailor be doing in the bath in the middle of the
week? On the eve of the Day of Atonement everyone goes, but on a
Wednesday like any other?...

A few days later he felt drawn to the bath as though by pincers. Where
is the harm? I can go if I like. He went, but he did not even undress.
He felt that once in, he would never come out again, that he would
remain there. He stood some time leaning over the bath, he could not
tear himself away from it, but gazed at the dark water with a faint
reflection of himself trembling on the surface. Then it seemed to him,
that was not _his_ image, but Chaïm the tailor's, and that Chaïm the
tailor smiled and beckoned to him: "Come! come! It is so quiet here, so
cool--a delight!"

He grew hot all over and fled in terror. It was only in the street that
he collected himself again. Passing a rope-maker's, he observed that the
ropes lay tossed about anyhow; the rope-maker had gone away somewhere.
Why had he just gone away? Where to? A few other such silly questions
passed through Yössil's mind, while his hands, acting of themselves,
stole away a rope that happened to be lying on the door-step.

He was not aware of the theft till he found himself back in the
house-of-study. He was very much surprised--he could not think how the
cord had got into his pocket.

"It is God's doing," he thought, with tears in his eyes; "God Himself
wishes me to take my life, to hang myself!" and he felt a bitterly
piteous compassion for himself in his heart. God who had created him,
who had made him an orphan, who had sent him the small-pox, and had
thrown the piece of the stove at him, wishes him now to hang himself. He
has refused him _this_ world, and now he is to lose the other as well.
Why?

Because he had not mastered the seducer?

How could he? All by himself--without parents, without companions--and
the seducer is, after all, an angel, and has been under arms since the
Creation; and Yössil feels very wretched and unhappy. God Himself is
unjust to him, if He wishes him to hang himself. He sees it clearly,
there is no uncertainty about it. And what is the outcome? If God wills
it so, what can he do, he, the worm, the orphan?

He cannot withstand the seducer, then how shall he dare to think of
going against God? No; he will not attempt to go against God.

He takes the rope and goes up into the loft of the Shool. He will not
profane the house-of-study. He will not hang himself over against the
Ark.

In the loft there is a hook, equally provided by Him. How else should
there be a hook up there? Who knows how long the hook has been waiting
for him? God may have prepared it before he, Yössil, was born or thought
of.

Thus considering, he folded the rope. Something had occurred to him: And
suppose the contrary? Suppose it to be the work of Satan? Suppose the
same Satan who sends me the other thoughts had sent me this one, too?

And he let the rope be--it is a matter for consideration. He must think
it well over. To lose both this world and the world to come is no
trifle.

Thereupon the clock struck four--dinner-time and he became suddenly
aware that his stomach was cramped with hunger.

And he came down from the loft and left the rope folded up.

Every night he feels drawn to the rope. He does what he can to save
himself--he runs to the Ark, puts his head in among the holy scrolls,
and cries pitifully to them for help. He frequently clasps a desk, so
that it may be more difficult for him to leave the spot, or he clings
with all his might to the old stove.

And who knows what the issue of the struggle would have been but for the
pestilence?

Oh! now he drew a deep breath of relief. An end to hanging, an end to
melancholy. They will have to give him a companion, and _not_ the Queen
of Sheba; he is the _one_ orphan in the town.


4

SAVITZKI WITHDRAWS--YÖSSIL GOES INTO RETREAT

Since the dread of the pestilence had so increased, the townsfolk ran a
mile when they saw Savitzki coming. They were afraid of him--and no
wonder. After all, a man is only flesh and blood, he may suddenly become
indisposed any day, and Savitzki now is cock of the walk. He can have
people put to bed, smeared, rubbed, can pour drugs down their throats,
drive out the whole family, burn the furniture, poison people, and then
make post-mortems. What an outrage! When doctors want to know the nature
of an illness, they poison off the first patients and look for little
worms inside them. But what is to be done? When one is in exile--one
is!...

A Röfeh in Apte having declared that the doctor there poisoned his
patients, they imprisoned him for three months on bread and water. You
think I mean the doctor? No, mercy on us, the Röfeh!

That is why, when Savitzki appeared in the street, it grew suddenly
empty. If he looked up at a window, a blind was drawn, or the window was
filled up with a sheet, a cushion--anything.

One fine morning the street where Savitzki lived stood empty--all the
householders and the tenants had moved away overnight. No one wished to
come within his area. It was a real case of "woe to the wicked and woe
to his neighbor!"

Savitzki has remarked it, and he is silent. More than that, he has
withdrawn himself from the town for the time being--just as a cat will
spring aside from a mouse--it won't run away.

He sits the whole day at home, or goes for walks outside the town in the
mud. He is sure of his game, then why irritate the people by prying?
When the time comes, he will know; doors and windows won't keep the
thing in; there will be cries as on the Day of Atonement. The Jews have
little self-control. They are a people very much afraid of death, and
helpless when face to face with sickness.

Savitzki had lived through a typhus epidemic; he had seen the overflow
of feeling, heard the cries and commotion. He seemed to be in a sea of
lamentation and wailing. O no, they will never keep it to themselves.

He withdrew from the street. And Yössil withdrew from the street and the
house-of-study as well. One wished it, the other had to do it.

Since there was more talk of the pestilence, Yössil's whole melancholy
had vanished, as though brushed away by the hand. Indeed, he grew more
cheerful, merrier day by day, and would often, without meaning to do so,
burst out laughing. He could not help himself, it bubbled up within him;
he had to laugh. It tickled him in all his limbs. The paler the
householders grew, the ruddier grew he; the lower they hung their heads,
the higher he carried his; the more subdued grew their voices, the
clearer and fuller Yössil's, and--the more the house-of-study sighed,
the louder his laughter: ha-ha-ha! And it was not his fault, something
in him laughed of itself.

And at a time when all other eyes were dim and moist, his shone brighter
and brighter; they fairly sparkled. At a time when people stood and
looked at each other open-mouthed, not daring to move a limb, his feet
danced beneath him; he could have kissed every desk, the stove, the
walls.

"Is he mad?" people asked, "or what has possessed him?"

"He's most certainly mad," was the reply.

"Certainly! He ought to be sent to the asylum."

Yössil was not afraid even of the asylum; he knows that Kohol will not
spend money on that. A few years ago a mad woman was frozen to death in
the street, after running around a whole winter without clothes, and all
that time it never occurred to anyone to hire a conveyance and have her
taken to a refuge. People were extremely sorry for her. Another in her
case would have gone about the country and begged a few pence. She
hadn't even the wits to do so much. The householders only sighed, and
there it ended. Why should he, Yössil, be of more consequence? He is
anxious not to make Kohol angry; there is no other orphan, true, but--if
Kohol became angry, they might have one brought. And someone else might
become an orphan! Alarming thought! Anyhow, Kohol will have to give a
wedding-present. It is well to keep on terms with people.

Secondly, Yössil is afraid lest they should take him for a real lunatic
and _have_ to get another. They would never marry a _real_ lunatic.
There would be no use in that. Another thing--and this is the principal
one--he needs retirement. He must be alone with his thoughts, he must
reflect and consider, and dream by night and by day.

He finds rest now at night in the house-of-study; when the others go,
and he is left alone with the desks and chairs, he runs to the window,
presses his burning forehead against the cold pane; it grows cool in his
brain, his ideas move in order. If it is a clear night, he thinks the
moon is making signs to him, that is, that Joshua, the son of Nun,[43]
says to him, in pantomime, yes or no, as he thinks best.

By day he saunters about by himself outside the town. He does not feel
the creeping cold that makes its way in through the holes in his
garments; he does not feel the wet that enters boldly his half-open
boots; he makes gestures with his hand, talks to himself, to the leaden
clouds, or to the pale winter sun; he has so much to think about, so
much to say. He is the one orphan lad, but there are three orphan girls,
and he would like to know which of them is for him.

In the foreground stands Devosheh, daughter of Jeremiah, the shoemaker.

The latter was kind to Yössil before he died, and would sometimes call
him in and mend his boots; once he gave him a pair of cobbler's shoes;
he would spare him a piece of bread and dripping, or an onion. Yössil,
on these occasions, could not take his eyes off Devosheh--O, he
remembers her well. She stands before him now, a stout, healthy girl,
red-cheeked like a Simchas-Torah apple, and strong as they make them.
When she takes the hatchet, the splinters fly. If Jeremiah had not died,
Yössil would have proposed the match--he liked a fine, healthy girl of
the sort. When he thinks of her, his mouth waters. Once--he cannot
forget it--he met her on the stairs, and she attracted him like a
magnet. He went close and touched her dress, and she gave him a little
push which all but sent him rolling down. A good thing he caught hold of
the banisters. After that it was some time before he dared show himself
upstairs again; he was afraid, lest she should have told her father; and
later on when he would have risked it and gone with his life in his
hand, Jeremiah was already ill. He lay sick for about three weeks and
then died. Then his wife fell into a decline and died, too. Now Devosheh
is maid-servant at Saul the money-lender's. When he goes there for his
"day," he sometimes finds himself alone with her in the room; then he
hasn't the courage to say a word to her; she has a look in her eyes! But
if Kohol wishes it, she will _never_ dare to say _no_! Kohol is Kohol!
Devosheh, he thought longingly, would be good to have; he can imagine
_no_ better wife. He may possibly get a "pat on the cheek" from her, but
that's nothing unusual, and he will take it kindly. He will only hug and
kiss her for it. He would wash the dust off her feet and follow her
about like a child. He would obey her, stroke her, fondle her, and press
her tight to his heart--tighter still, though it should beat even
quicker than it was beating now, though it should burst, though it
should jump out of him; though his soul should escape, he would die at
her feet--and he _will_ press her to himself.

_Ach!_ if Kohol would only settle on Devosheh! Her little finger is
worth the whole of another woman. He asks for nothing more at present
than her little finger; he would take it and squeeze it with all his
might, to prove to her that she wanted a husband.

But Kohol may think of another orphan.

Yonder, at the burial ground, is a second; there she is, though he does
not know her name; she is only half an orphan, motherless, but she has a
father; only what a father! It were better to have none! A nice person
is Beril, the grave-digger. He spends the day in the public houses, and
leaves her alone among the graves. Sometimes he even goes home tipsy and
beats her; they say he even measures the graves with her, dragging her
along by the hair--the whole town says it--but nobody wants to
interfere, they are afraid of him; a drunkard and a strong man besides.
Some few years ago he gave Mösheh Gläser a poke in the side, just for
good fellowship, and the latter has had a lung trouble ever since; he
grows paler every day, and can hardly breathe. If the daughter were not
as hard as nails, she wouldn't be alive; the mother went down into an
early grave. And what does he want with the girl? Yössil feels a pang at
his heart. He saw her one day and will never forget it. He saw her at
the funeral of Jeremiah, the shoemaker, when he was afraid to go near to
the grave lest he should find himself close to Devosheh.

She was crying, and her tears would have fallen on his heart like molten
lead. So he turned away and walked round about the cemetery, and two or
three times he passed the window of Beril, the grave-digger. He saw her
standing with downcast eyes peeling potatoes--a pale, ethereal figure.
He could have clasped her with one hand; but she must be a good-hearted
girl, she has such eyes, such a look. Once she lifted her eyelids--and
Devosheh was nowhere. The whole funeral was nowhere--such was the
gentleness that beamed in her blue eyes and the sweetness in her face.
Only Queen Esther could have looked like that, and Queen Esther was
sallow,[44] while she is white like alabaster. Her hair is black as
coal, but then, once she was married, it would not be seen any more.
_Aï_, how beautiful she is! How she leads the heart captive! And she has
another merit in his eyes; when he sees Devosheh, it excites him, but
while he looked at her, it felt good, and light, and warm within him.

From that day forward he attended every funeral, and glanced in at the
window.

Yes, he wants her, too! Let it rather be her; he would just as soon, in
fact, it would be better so.

He would treat her like a toy, play with her all day, and do everything
for her. He would never let her dip a hand in cold water. He would do
all the chopping, cooking, baking, and washing, indeed, everything, upon
the one condition that she should stand and watch him and smile. When
there was time, he would take her and carry her about like a little
child. He would rise with the dawn, and, in winter time, soon have the
stove lighted; in summer, soon have set the kettle on for morning tea.
He would walk softly, on his toes, and quietly dust her dress and shoes;
he would quietly place the clothes beside her bed; and then only go
noiselessly and bend over her and look at her, and look at her, till the
sun rose, and it was broad day, till the sun shone in at the
window--then only wake her with a kiss. That would be a life worth the
name!

And a good match, too! _öi! öi!_ Devosheh may have a few gulden, she is
saving, but _she_ holds a Parnosseh, as it were, in her hand. Everyone
knows that Beril is being burnt up by brandy; the Röfeh says he eats
nothing and goes about, heaven defend us, with his inside full of holes.
In a hundred and twenty years to come, Yössil might take over the
grave-digging--why not? At first he would feel frightened of the
corpses, but one gets used to everything. With _her_ beside him he would
feel at home in Gehenna. It is not a nice Parnosseh, but then he would
be able to live outside the town, apart, no one could overlook him. That
would be a life--Paradise in the burial ground!

But if the lot should fall on "Lapei?" "Lapei" is the nickname of the
third orphan girl. When he remembers _her_, he grows cold in every limb.
She is a town orphan, who has been one ever since he can
remember--sickly, with a large head, hair that falls out, and somewhat
crooked feet. She doesn't walk on her soles, but on her toes, with her
heels in the air, and as she walks, she wobbles like a tipsy person. He
often meets _her_ in the street; she has no home of her own, but goes
from house to house, helping the servants--fetches water for one, wood
for another, helps a third to chop up a little resinous fir-wood,
carries a bucket, fills a tub. When she has no work, she begs. Once a
year she washes the floor of the house-of-study. Where she spends the
night, he does not know. Lapei, Lapei! he pictures her to himself and he
shudders.

He feels cold all over. She must be forty years old. She has looked so
much ever since he can remember.

"Lord of the world!" he cries out in terror, "that would be worse than
hanging!" and lifts his terrified eyes imploringly to heaven. On his
pale forehead are drops of perspiration as large as peas.

But he is moved to compassion in his heart. Poor thing! She would
certainly also like to be married, she is equally a blind sheep, equally
an orphan. She has nothing, either, beyond a God in heaven. He feels
inclined to weep over her lot and his together, and, on second thoughts,
he places himself in God's hands. If God wills it so, it shall be she!
He throws himself on God and on Kohol. The one destined by God and given
by Kohol shall be his mate, he will honor her and be true to her, and
will be to her a husband like any other, and he will forget the other
two.

Then a fresh anxiety rises within him: If the destined one be Lapei,
where are they to live? Where can they go? What will they do? She hasn't
a penny, and goes about tattered, a draggle-tail, and sells her
birthright for a handful of cold potatoes. She takes two gulden for
washing the floor of the house-of-study--not enough for dry bread--and
he, what can he do? Of what use is he?

Were he not lame, he would be a messenger. He knows no trade, unless (he
consoles himself) he became a teacher. All the householders will give
wedding-presents, and he will hire a room with the money and start
keeping school; he knows quite enough to teach, especially little
children. Let come what may if only he has a wife. There are Jews who
have uglier wives, and who are worse cripples ... but there they are! A
wife is a wife! Only not to live alone and eat "days!"

And he may yet succeed in getting one of the other two, and once more he
begins to invent a Paradise. And he smiles on at the mud and the leaden
clouds.

Hush! something has occurred to him. If he knew for certain that poor
Lapei was fated to die of the pestilence, he would gladly marry her. At
least, poor thing, she would have had a husband before she died. If only
for a month. Why not? Is she not a Jewish daughter? It wouldn't hurt
him, and it would be fair on the part of His blessed Name. He does not
wish her death, heaven forbid! On the contrary, he is sorry for her; he
feels and knows the meaning of "misery," of being all alone, always all
alone.


5

SAVITZKI AND YÖSSIL TOGETHER

One day, as Yössil, the beggar-student, was splashing through the mud,
lost in thought, he suddenly felt himself caught hold of by the sleeve.
He turned round in a fright and was still more alarmed on seeing before
him--Dr. Savitzki.

Savitzki and Yössil had often passed each other outside the town, and
Yössil had always taken off his torn cap and bowed low before the
Christian. Savitzki, the first time, had spat out; the second time, he
had thrown out an evil, anti-Semitic look; the third time, he had only
glanced into Yössil's face. Later he half smiled--and to-day, for the
first time, he had caught him by the sleeve.

They saw in each other's eyes that there was a link between them, that
they had a common interest, a common hope, that something bound them
together.

Savitzki was now quite alone in the town. At one time, he used to go in
to the apothecary, but the latter had lately given him to understand,
that he had done him harm; that people had grown afraid, on Savitzki's
account, of buying bitter-water and castor oil, the apothecary's great
stand-by.

The Christian townspeople had also begun to avoid him; they, too,
believed that doctors poison people, and Savitzki was probably no better
than the rest.

It was rumored that in some little place or other, a set of tramps had
burnt the "barrack" and stoned the doctor. There was occasionally a
gleam in the eyes of the townsfolk that boded no good.

Yössil got on without other people, Savitzki longed for someone to speak
to. He wondered himself how it was that the lame _Zhidlak's_[45] pitted
face seemed so pleasant to him. True, he had a little business with
him; it was possible the plague was already there, only people were
hiding it. One might be able to learn something from the said _Zhidlak_.

Yössil, on being caught by the sleeve, had given a start; but he soon
recovered himself, and did not even notice how quickly Savitzki let go
of his dirty coat; he only saw that Savitzki was no longer angry, but
smiling.

"Well," inquired Savitzki, in Polish, "no cholera?"

Yössil had once driven out with the town Dayan to a mill to guard wheat
for Passover, and had there learned a few Polish words. He understood
Savitzki's question; the word "cholera," in spite of the fact that it
represented all his hopes, gave him a pang "in the seventh rib," his
face twitched, but he composed himself and replied: "None, honored sir,
none!" And without his being conscious of it, the answer rang sadly.

They soon parted. The day following they met again, advancing toward one
another.

Yössil stood aside like a soldier saluting, but without putting his hand
to his cap; Savitzki stopped a moment to ask:

"Well, not yet?"

"Not yet, honored sir, not yet!" was Yössil's reply.

The third day they met again and remained longer together.

Savitzki questioned him as to whether there was no talk anywhere of
diarrhoea and sickness, cholereen, etc., or any other intestinal
trouble.

Yössil could not understand everything Savitzki said, but he made a good
shot, concluding that he was being asked about sicknesses of a
suspicious nature.

"Nothing, honored sir, nothing!" he kept answering. He knew that so far
all was quiet in the town.

"Nothing yet, but it will come!" was Savitzki's consoling observation as
he walked away.

A little time passed, and they had got into the habit, when they met, of
walking a few steps together; Savitzki continued to question and to
receive the same reply: "Nothing, sir, nothing," and still he consoled
himself and Yössil with: "It will come!"

"It must come!" he declared with assurance, and Yössil translated it
into Hebrew: "And although it tarry, I expect it,"[46] and his heart
expanded.

He wished the town no harm. Savitzki might wish for a great outbreak of
the pestilence, he only desired a little one, a little tiny one. No one
was to die, heaven forbid! A few householders should fall ill--nothing
more would be necessary. That is all he asks. He does not wish that his
greatest enemy should die.

This lasted a month. Savitzki even began to lose patience, and made
Yössil a proposal. He felt sure something must be happening, only that
people kept it hid. They were afraid of making it known--Jews are so
nervous. So he proposed that Yössil should pry, find out, and tell him
of only one hidden case, tell him of anything. He would be grateful to
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Savitzki talked too quick for Yössil and too "high Polish," but he
understood that Savitzki wished to make a spy of him and have him betray
the Jewish sick.

"No," he thought, "no, Yössil is not going to turn informer!" He is
resolved not to let out a word to Savitzki, and yet, in spite of
himself, and for politeness' sake, he nodded in affirmation, and
Savitzki walked away.

Yössil's determination not to tell tales strengthened, but there was no
reason why he should not find out for himself if they were not
concealing something, and he began to go in and out among the people
assembled for daily prayer, to see if no one were missing; if he
remarked any one's absence, he tried to discover the reason, but it came
to nothing. It always turned out to be that the person had risked his
life going out into a village to buy stores; or else he had quarrelled
with his wife, and was ashamed to come to the house-of-study with a
swollen cheek, or he had been to the Röfeh to have a tooth out and they
couldn't stop the bleeding; and other such trifles that had no
connection with the object of his interest. And every day he was able to
report honestly to Savitzki: "Nothing, honored sir, nothing!"

Every day now they waited one for the other, and every day they talked
longer together.

Yössil endeavored with all his might to make himself intelligible to
Savitzki; he worked his hands and his feet, and Savitzki, who had learnt
to understand the gestures, had often to save himself from Yössil's too
energetic demonstrations.

Savitzki could not make out what Yössil was after, why he kept at a
distance from Kohol, and why, as was clearly to be seen, he also wished
for the pestilence--but he had no time to busy himself with the
problem--to fathom the mind of a Jew. It was probably a matter of
business--perhaps he dealt in linen for winding-sheets. Perhaps he made
coffins. But when he remarked that Yössil was growing depressed, that he
was less sure than Savitzki that it must come to-morrow, he talked to
him freely, gave him courage, and made him confident once more that the
community would not escape.

To Savitzki it was clear as daylight that it would come. It was getting
nearer and nearer--was it not in all the papers?

Six weeks passed. The sharp frosts, for which the community was hoping,
had not been, but the pestilence desired by Savitzki and Yössil delayed
equally. Even Savitzki began to have his doubts, but encouraging Yössil,
he encouraged himself in the matter. It was simply impossible that it
should not come. Was there a less clean town anywhere? Where else did
people eat so many gherkins, so much raw fruit, and as many onions?
Where were they less well provided with cold water? There were perhaps
two or three well-to-do people in the place with metal samovars; three
to four houses where they made tea; in the rest they drank pear-drink
after the Sholent[47] and old, putrid fish was sold galore.

It must come!

There were towns over which the pestilence had no power: Aix,
Birmingham, and others whose names Yössil could not catch; but there
people ate no Sholent, and tea was made with distilled water--that was
different.

Meantime another week passed and nothing happened. On the contrary, it
was reported that in Apte it had decreased considerably; Racheff was
open again; in Tzoismir they had even closed the tea-house for poor
people, which had been started to please the governor. Yössil began to
think his sorry luck would make all his plans evaporate into thin air,
that his town was also a kind of Birmingham, over which the pestilence
had no power. He began to have his old bad nights and felt restless even
in the day-time. The brides seemed further off than ever, and, except
during the half-hour spent with Savitzki, he had no rest.

He saw the townsfolk growing unmistakably calmer; then it was said that
the villages round about had returned to their normal state. The whole
town revived; the women ceased to wail in the synagogue; the younger
ones gave up coming to prayers at all, except now and again on Sabbath
as before; the Röfeh's wife began to think of putting on her wig again.
The bather's maid-servant was in people's mouths, and they had even
reported her to the rabbi. The Maskil recommenced to write in Hebrew;
dealers in produce, to drive out into the country; brokers, to make
money; the Sunday market was crowded with peasants, the public-houses
filled; salt, naphthaline, and other household wares began to sell. The
town assumed its old aspect, window blinds disappeared; Savitzki's
street came to life again.

Yössil's condition grew daily worse. His former melancholy had returned
in part. Instead of brides, he had the rope in the loft continually
before his eyes. It beckons him and calls to him: Come, come! rid
yourself of Kohol, rid yourself of this wretched life. But he resisted:
Savitzki is a doctor, he must know. And Savitzki holds to his opinion.

One day Yössil did not meet Savitzki outside the town, and just the day
he wanted him most.

Hardly had Yössil awoke, early that morning--it was still dark--when the
beadle burst joyfully into the house-of-study, with "Do you hear,
Yössil? The doctor and the student have left Raeheff! And last night,
just at new moon, there was a hard frost, an iron frost. No fear of the
pestilence now!" he cried out and ran to call people to prayers with the
good news.

Yössil dressed quickly, that is, he threw round him the cloak he had
been using as a covering, and began to move jerkily to and fro across
the house-of-study, every now and then running to the window to see if
it were daylight, if it were time to hasten out after Savitzki. Hardly
had the day fairly broken, when he recited the morning prayers and ran,
without having breakfasted, outside the town. He felt that without
comfort from Savitzki his heart would burst.

He waited about, hungry, till midday; Savitzki did not come, he must
wait--it had happened before that Savitzki did not appear till the
afternoon.

He is hungry, very hungry, but it never occurs to him to go and buy
food; he must wait for Savitzki. Without having seen him and received
comfort from him, he could not swallow one bite. He will have another
bad night; he will be drawn to the rope. No, let him fast for once!
Another hour has passed, it begins to grow dark, the pallid spot of
winter sun behind the clouds sinks lower and lower, and will shortly
vanish behind Vassil's mill. He shivers with cold; he runs to warm
himself, claps his hands together, and Savitzki does not come. He has
never been so late before.

He began to think there must have been an accident; Savitzki must have
been taken ill, or else (Yössil grows angry) he is playing cards, the
Gentile! And the pale ball of sun sinks lower and lower, and in the
other, clearer half of the sky appears a second pale misty spot like a
sickle. That is the young moon, it is time for evening prayer.

Yössil loses all hope: Savitzki will not come now. The tears choke him.
He hurries back to the house-of-study, to be at least in time for
prayers.

He met scarcely anyone in the street, the men had all gone to pray, only
here and there a woman's voice sounded cheerfully through the doors of
the little shops and followed him to the steps of the house-of-study.
His limbs shook beneath him from exhaustion; there must be some very
good news to make the women laugh so loud.

He could hardly climb the stairs. Outside the door he stopped; he had
not the courage to turn the handle; the people were not praying, but
they were talking cheerily and all at once; heaven knows what the
householders were all so happy about.

Suddenly he grew angry and flung open the door.

"And Savitzki," were the first words he heard, "has also, thank heaven,
taken himself off."

"Really and truly?" someone asked.

"Saw it myself," said the other, "with my own eyes."

Yössil heard no more; his limbs gave way and his whole body was seized
with trembling; he just dragged himself to a bench and sat there like
one turned to stone, with great, staring eyes.


6

THE END

The happy assembly did not notice it. After Minchah and Maariv (some few
only after a page of Gemoreh, or a chapter of Mishnayes), they went away
and left Yössil alone as usual. Even the householder in whose house
Yössil should have eaten that day's meals never thought of going up to
him and asking why he had not been to breakfast, and why he was not
coming back with him to supper; he just hurried home along with the
rest, to tell his wife and children the good news, that Savitzki had
gone, that they were rid of _that_ treasure. It was not till the next
day that Yössil was missed; then they said, bother would _not_ have
taken him, and the beadle lighted the stove himself. The oven smoked and
Yössil was talked about the whole day; he was the only one who could
manage the stove. They began to wonder if he had gone to Palestine, or
else to Argentina? It was true, he had nothing with which to pay his
travelling expenses, but then he could always resort to begging.

It was only on the sixth day, when the town was looking for the arrival
of an inspector of licenses, that the first shop-keeper who climbed up
into the loft to hide a piece of imported velvet found Yössil hanging
and already stark.



XI

BONTZYE SHWEIG[48]


Down here, in _this_ world, Bontzye Shweig's death made no impression at
all. Ask anyone you like who Bontzye was, _how_ he lived, and what he
died of; whether of heart failure, or whether his strength gave out, or
whether his back broke under a heavy load, and they won't know. Perhaps,
after all, he died of hunger.

If a tram-car horse had fallen dead, there would have been more
excitement. It would have been mentioned in the papers, and hundreds of
people would have crowded round to look at the dead animal--even the
spot where the accident took place.

But the tramway horse would receive less attention if there were as many
horses as men--a thousand million.

Bontzye lived quietly and died quietly. He passed through _our_ world
like a shadow.

No wine was drunk at Bontzye's circumcision, no healths were proposed,
and he made no beautiful speech when he was confirmed. He lived like a
little dun-colored grain of sand on the sea-shore, among millions of his
kind; and when the wind lifted him and blew him over to the other side
of the sea, nobody noticed it.

When he was alive, the mud in the street preserved no impression of his
feet; after his death, the wind overturned the little board on his
grave. The grave-digger's wife found it a long way off from the spot,
and boiled a potful of potatoes over it. Three days after that, the
grave-digger had forgotten where he had laid him.

If Bontzye had been given a tombstone, then, in a hundred years or so,
an antiquarian might have found it, and the name "Bontzye Shweig" would
have echoed once again in _our_ air.

A shadow! His likeness remained photographed in nobody's brain, in
nobody's heart; not a trace of him remained.

"No kith, no kin!" He lived and died alone!

Had it not been for the human commotion, some one might have heard
Bontzye's spine snap under its load; had the world been less busy, some
one might have remarked that Bontzye (also a human being) went about
with two extinguished eyes and fearfully hollow cheeks; that even when
he had no load on his shoulders, his head drooped earthward as though,
while yet alive, he were looking for his grave. Were there as few men as
tramway horses, some one might perhaps have asked: What has happened to
Bontzye?

When they carried Bontzye into the hospital, his corner in the
underground lodging was soon filled--there were ten of his like waiting
for it, and they put it up to auction among themselves. When they
carried him from the hospital bed to the dead-house, there were twenty
poor sick persons waiting for the bed. When he had been taken out of the
dead-house, they brought in twenty bodies from under a building that had
fallen in. Who knows how long he will rest in his grave? Who knows how
many are waiting for the little plot of ground?

A quiet birth, a quiet life, a quiet death, and a quieter burial.

But it was not so in the _other_ world. _There_ Bontzye's death made a
great impression.

The blast of the great Messianic Shofar sounded through all the seven
heavens: Bontzye Shweig has left the earth! The largest angels with the
broadest wings flew about and told one another: Bontzye Shweig is to
take his seat in the Heavenly Academy! In Paradise there was a noise and
a joyful tumult: Bontzye Shweig! Just fancy! Bontzye Shweig!

Little child-angels with sparkling eyes, gold thread-work wings, and
silver slippers, ran delightedly to meet him. The rustle of the wings,
the tap-tap of the little slippers, and the merry laughter of the fresh,
rosy mouths, filled all the heavens and reached to the Throne of Glory,
and God Himself knew that Bontzye Shweig was coming.

Abraham, our father, stood in the gate, his right hand stretched out
with a hearty greeting, and a sweet smile lit up his old face.

What are they wheeling through heaven?

Two angels are pushing a golden arm-chair into Paradise for Bontzye
Shweig.

What flashed so brightly?

They were carrying past a gold crown set with precious stones--all for
Bontzye Shweig.

"Before the decision of the Heavenly Court has been given?" ask the
saints, not quite without jealousy.

"O," reply the angels, "that will be a mere formality. Even the
prosecutor won't say a word against Bontzye Shweig. The case will not
last five minutes."

Just consider: Bontzye Shweig!

       *       *       *       *       *

When the little angels had met Bontzye in mid-air and played him a tune;
when Abraham, our father, had shaken him by the hand like an old
comrade; when he heard that a chair stood waiting for him in Paradise,
that a crown lay ready for his head; and that not a word would be lost
over his case before the Heavenly Court--Bontzye, just as in the other
world, was too frightened to speak. His heart sank with terror. He is
sure it is all a dream, or else simply a mistake.

He is used to both. He often dreamt, in the other world, that he was
picking up money off the floor--there were whole heaps of it--and then
he woke to find himself as poor as ever; and more than once people had
smiled at him and given him a friendly word and then turned away and
spit out.

"It is my luck," he used to think. And now he dared not raise his eyes,
lest the dream should vanish, lest he should wake up in some cave full
of snakes and lizards. He was afraid to speak, afraid to move, lest he
should be recognized and flung into the pit.

He trembles and does not hear the angels' compliments, does not see how
they dance round him, makes no answer to the greeting of Abraham, our
father, and--when he is led into the presence of the Heavenly Court, he
does not even wish it "good morning!"

He is beside himself with terror, and his fright increases when he
happens to notice the floor of the Heavenly Courthouse; it is all
alabaster set with diamonds. "And my feet standing on it!" He is
paralyzed. "Who knows what rich man, what rabbi, what saint they take me
for--he will come--and that will be the end of me!"

His terror is such, he never even hears the president call out: "The
case of Bontzye Shweig!" adding, as he hands the deeds to the advocate,
"Read, but make haste!"

The whole hall goes round and round in Bontzye's eyes, there is a
rushing in his ears. And through the rushing he hears more and more
clearly the voice of the advocate, speaking sweetly as a violin.

"His name," he hears, "fitted him like the dress made for a slender
figure by the hand of an artist-tailor."

"What is he talking about?" wondered Bontzye, and he heard an impatient
voice break in with:

"No similes, please!"

"He never," continued the advocate, "was heard to complain of either God
or man; there was never a flash of hatred in his eye; he never lifted it
with a claim on heaven."

Still Bontzye does not understand, and once again the hard voice
interrupts: "No rhetoric, please!"

"Job gave way--this one was more unfortunate--"

"Facts, dry facts!"

"When he was a week old, he was circumcised...."

"We want no realism!"

"The Mohel who circumcised him did not know his work--"

"Come, come!"

"And he kept silent," the advocate went on, "even when his mother died,
and he was given a step-mother at thirteen years old--a serpent, a
vixen."

"Can they mean me after all?" thought Bontzye.

"No insinuations against a third party!" said the president, angrily.

"She grudged him every mouthful--stale, mouldy bread, tendons instead of
meat--and _she_ drank coffee with cream."

"Keep to the subject," ordered the president.

"She grudged him everything but her finger nails, and his black-and-blue
body showed through the holes in his torn and fusty clothes. Winter
time, in the hardest frost, he had to chop wood for her, barefoot, in
the yard, and his hands were too young and too weak, the logs too thick,
the hatchet too blunt. More than once he nearly dislocated his wrist;
more than once his feet were nearly frost-bitten, but he kept silent,
even to his father."

"To that drunkard?" laughs the accuser, and Bontzye feels cold in every
limb.

"He never even complained to his father," finished up the advocate.

"And always alone," he continued, "no playmates, no school, nor teaching
of any kind--never a whole garment--never a free moment."

"Facts, please!" reminded the president.

"He kept silent even later, when his father seized him by the hair in a
fit of drunkenness, and flung him out into the street on a snowy
winter's night. He quietly picked himself up out of the snow and ran
whither his feet carried him.

"He kept silent all the way--however hungry he might be, he only begged
with his eyes.

"It was a wild, wet night in spring time, when he reached the great
town; he fell like a drop into the ocean, and yet he passed that same
night under arrest. He kept silent and never asked why, for what. He was
let out, and looked about for the hardest work. And he kept silent.
Harder than the work itself was the finding of it--and he kept silent.

"Bathed in a cold sweat, crushed together under heavy loads, his empty
stomach convulsed with hunger--he kept silent.

"Bespattered with mud, spat at, driven with his load off the pavement
and into the street among the cabs, carts, and tramways, looking death
in the eyes every moment--he kept silent.

"He never calculated how many pounds' burden go to a groschen, how many
times he fell on an errand worth a dreier; how many times he nearly
panted out his soul going after his pay; he never calculated the
difference between other people's lot and his--he kept silent.

"And he never insisted loudly on his pay; he stood in the door-way like
a beggar, with a dog-like pleading in his eyes--Come again later! and he
went like a shadow to come again later, and beg for his wage more humbly
than before.

"He kept silent even when they cheated him of part, or threw in a false
coin.

"He took everything in silence."

"They mean me after all," thought Bontzye.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Once," continued the advocate, after a sip of water, "a change came
into his life: there came flying along a carriage on rubber tires drawn
by two runaway horses. The driver already lay some distance off on the
pavement with a cracked skull. The terrified horses foamed at the mouth,
sparks shot from their hoofs, their eyes shone like fiery lamps on a
winter's night--and in the carriage, more dead than alive, sat a man.

"And Bontzye stopped the horses. And the man he had saved was a
charitable Jew, who was not ungrateful.

"He put the dead man's whip into Bontzye's hands, and Bontzye became a
coachman. More than that--he was provided with a wife, and more
still--with a child.

"And Bontzye kept silent!"

"Me, they mean me!" Bontzye assured himself again, and yet had not the
courage to give a glance at the Heavenly Court.

He listens to the advocate further:

"He kept silent also when his protector became bankrupt and did not pay
him his wages.

"He kept silent when his wife ran away from him, leaving him a child at
the breast.

"He was silent also fifteen years later, when the child had grown up and
was strong enough to throw him out of the house."

"Me, they mean me!" Now he is sure of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"He kept silent even," began the angelic advocate once more in a still
softer and sadder voice, "when the same philanthropist paid all his
creditors their due but him--and even when (riding once again in a
carriage with rubber tires and fiery horses) he knocked Bontzye down and
drove over him.

"He kept silent. He did not even tell the police who had done for him."

       *       *       *       *       *

"He kept silent even in the hospital, where one may cry out.

"He kept silent when the doctor would not come to his bedside without
being paid fifteen kopeks, and when the attendant demanded another
five--for changing his linen.

"He kept silent in the death-struggle--silent in death.

"Not a word against God; not a word against men!

"_Dixi!_"

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more Bontzye trembled all over, he knew that after the advocate
comes the prosecutor. Who knows what _he_ will say?

Bontzye himself had remembered nothing of his life.

Even in the other world he forgot every moment what had happened in the
one before. The advocate had recalled everything to his mind. Who knows
what the prosecutor will not remind him of?

"Gentlemen," begins the prosecutor, in a voice biting and acid as
vinegar--but he breaks off.

"Gentlemen," he begins again, but his voice is milder, and a second time
he breaks off.

Then, from out the same throat, comes in a voice that is almost gentle:

"Gentlemen! _He_ was silent! I will be silent, too!"

There is a hush--and there sounds in front a new, soft, trembling voice:

"Bontzye, my child," it speaks like a harp, "my dear child Bontzye!"

And Bontzye's heart melts within him. Now he would lift up his eyes, but
they are blinded with tears; he never felt such sweet emotion before.
"My child!" "My Bontzye!"--no one, since his mother died, had spoken to
him with such words in such a voice.

"My child," continued the presiding judge, "you have suffered and kept
silent; there is no whole limb, no whole bone in your body, without a
scar, without a wound, not a fibre of your soul that has not bled--and
you kept silent.

"There they did not understand. Perhaps you yourself did not know that
you might have cried out, and that at your cry the walls of Jericho
would have shaken and fallen. You yourself knew nothing of your hidden
power.

"In the other world your silence was not understood, but _that_ is the
world of delusion; in the world of truth you will receive your reward.

"The Heavenly Court will not judge you; the Heavenly Court will not pass
sentence on you; they will not apportion you a reward. Take what you
will! Everything is yours!"

Bontzye looks up for the first time. He is dazzled; everything shines
and flashes and streams with light.

"_Taki?_" he asks shyly.

"Yes, really!" answers the presiding judge with decision; "really, I
tell you, everything is yours; everything in heaven belongs to you.
Because all that shines and sparkles is only the reflection of your
hidden goodness, a reflection of your soul. You only take of what is
yours."

"_Taki?_" asks Bontzye again, this time in a firmer voice.

"_Taki! taki! taki!_" they answer him from all sides.

"Well, if it is so," Bontzye smiles, "I would like to have every day,
for breakfast, a hot roll with fresh butter."

The Court and the angels looked down, a little ashamed; the prosecutor
laughed.



XII

THE DEAD TOWN


When travelling in the provinces after Jewish statistics, I one day met
with a Jew dragging himself step by step through the heavy sand. He
looks ill, can hardly walk, hardly put one foot before the other. I feel
sorry for him and take him into my conveyance. He gets in, gives me a
"peace be with you," and asks me every sort of question. I answer, and
end by inquiring:

"And you, friend, whence are you?"

"From the dead town," he answers calmly.

I thought he was joking.

"Where is it?" I ask. "Behind the hills of darkness?"

"Where?" he smiles. "It's just in Poland!"

"In our country, a town like that?"

"There it is!" he said; "there it is! Although the nations of the world
do not know of it, and have never given it a Gentile name, it is a
genuinely Jewish town."

"What do you mean?"

"What I say! You know geography, and you think everything is down in it;
not at all. We Jews live without geography. We are not 'down,' and yet
they come to us from far and near. What is the good of geography? Every
driver knows the way.

"You don't believe me?" he asks.

I am silent.

"And yet it's true; our rabbi corresponds with all the Geonim[49] in the
world. Questions and answers concerning the most important matters come
and go--everything is arranged somehow--it just depends. Not long ago,
for instance, an elderly grass-widow was released from the marriage-tie.
Well, of course, the main thing is not the grass-widow, but the
dialectics!"[50]

He goes on:

"All the Einiklich[51] know of our town. They come, praise God,
often--and, praise God, not in vain."

"It is the first time I ever heard of a dead town."

"That's rather strange! I suppose you keep yourself rather aloof.....
And yet it is a truly Jewish town, a real Jewish metropolis. It has
everything a town needs, even two or three lunatics! And it has a
reputation for commerce, too!"

"Is anything taken in or out?"

"What? What do you say?" asks the Jew, not quite clear as to my meaning.
"Are you speaking of articles of trade?"

I nod my head.

"Certainly!" he answers. "They take away prayer-scarfs and leather
belts, and bring in Corfu Esrogîm and earth of Palestine. But that isn't
the chief thing, the chief thing is the business done in the town
itself! Drink-shops, lodging homes for travellers, old clothes--according
to custom--"

"A poor town?"

"What do you mean by rich and poor? There is Parnosseh! The very poor go
about begging either in the place or in the neighborhood--mostly in the
place itself! Whoever holds out a hand is given something! Others try
for some easy work, they do broker-business, or pick up things in the
streets and earn an honest crust. The Almighty is faithful! The orphans
are given free meals by the householders and study in the Talmud Torah.
The orphan girls become maid-servants, cooks, or find a living
elsewhere. Widows, divorced women, and grass-widows (there have been a
lot of grass-widows lately[52]) sit over charcoal braziers, and when the
fumes go to their head, they dream that rolls hang on the trees ready
baked. Others live _quite_ decently!"

"On what?"

"On what? What do other people live on? A poor man hopes; a trader
swallows air, and the one who digs--graves, I mean--is never out of
employment--"

Is he joking, the dried-up, little, old Jew, the bag-of-bones with the
odd gleam in his deeply sunken eyes? On his bony face, covered with a
skin like yellow parchment, not the trace of a smile! Only his voice has
something odd about it.

"What sort of a town _is_ it, anyway?" I ask again.

"What do you mean? It's a town like any other! There's a Shool, and they
say that once there were all sorts of animals painted on the walls,
beasts and birds--out of Perek Shirah[53]--and on the ceiling all sorts
of musical instruments, such as were played upon by King David, on whom
be peace. I never saw it so, but the old men tell of it."

"And nowadays?"

"Nowadays? Dust and spider-webs. There's only a wooden chain, carved out
of one piece, that hangs from the beam, and falls very prettily to one
side of the Ark to the right of the curtain, which was itself the gift
of pious women. Nobody remembers who made the chain, but it was an
artist, there's no doubt! Such a chain!

"In the Shool," he continued, "you see only the common people, artisans,
except tailors, who form a congregation apart, and butchers and drivers,
who have hired a place of their own to pray in. The Shool can hardly
read Hebrew! The well-to-do householders--sons of the Law--assemble in
the house-of-study, a large one with piles of books! The Chassidîm,
again, pray in rooms apart!"

"And are there dissensions?"

"Many men, many minds! In the grave, on the other hand, there is peace;
one burial ground for all; and the men's bath--the women's bath--are
there for all alike."

"What else have you in your town?"

"What more would you have? There was a refuge for wayfarers, and it was
given up; wayfarers can sleep in the house-of-study--at night it's
empty--and we have a Hekdesh."

"A hospital, you mean?"

"Not a hospital at all, just a Hekdesh, two rooms. At one time they were
occupied by the bather, then it was arranged that the bather should
content himself with one room, and that the other should be used for the
Hekdesh; there are not more than three sick women in it altogether: one
poor thing, an old woman with paralyzed legs, who lies all of a heap; a
second with all her limbs paralyzed, and beside these, a crazy
grass-widow. Three corners are taken up with beds, in the fourth stands
a chimney-stove; in the middle there is a dead-house, in case of need!"

"You are laughing at me, friend," I break in, "that is Tziachnovke!
Tziachnovke itself with its commerce and charities and good works! Why
do you call it the dead town?"

"Because it is a dead town! I am speaking of a town which, from the day
it was built, hung by a hair, and now the hair has snapt, it hangs in
the air. It hangs by nothing at all. And because it hangs by nothing and
floats in mid-air, it is a dead town; if you like, I will tell you about
it."

"By all means--most interesting!"

Meanwhile night is falling, one half of the sky grows blood-red and
fiery, over there is the sunset. On our other hand, the moon is swimming
into view out of a light mist, like the face of a bride peeping out of
her white veil. The pale beams, as they spread over the earth, mix with
the quivering shadows of the sad, still night.

Uncanny!--

We drive into a wood. The moon-rays steal in after us between the
trembling leaves.

On the ground, among the fallen leaves and twigs, there dance little
circles of light, like silver coins. There is something magical in the
illumination, in the low breathing of the wood.

I glance at the wayfaring Jew, his appearance has changed. It is
melancholy and serious, and his expression is so simple and honest. Can
it all be true?

_Ha!_ I will listen to what he has to say.

"The town hung by a hair from the first," said the narrator, "because it
was started in a part where no Jewish town was allowed to be! It was not
till the first Minyan was complete that people held a meeting and
decided to reckon themselves as belonging to a town in the neighborhood.
On this pretense they built a bath, a Shool, and after that, a men's
bath, and bought a piece of land for a burial ground.

"And when all that was finished, they sent people of backstair influence
to have it all endorsed."

"Head downward?"

"Isn't that always the way with us? How should it be otherwise?"

"I don't know!"

"However, that's how it was! And the thing was not so underhand as you
suppose.

"There was a Jew who was very rich, and this rich Jew, as is usually
the case, was a little, not to say very much, in with the authorities,
and everything was in his name; it was _his_ Shool, _his_ bath, _his_
women's bath--even to _his_ burial ground--and nothing was said; as I
tell you, he was a person of influence!

"And when the paper came from high quarters, he was to transcribe it in
the name of the community and stop paying sop-money to the local
police."

"And then the rich man said: 'To my account'?"

"No, my dear sir, such rich people didn't exist in those days. 'To my
account' was a thing unknown; but hear what happened, what things may
come to pass!

"It was not the Gevir, but the envoy who caused the trouble. He made
off, half-way, with the money and the papers, and left the freshly-baked
community like a grass-widow with a family."

"Did they send another?"

"Not so soon as all that! Before it was known that the first had
absconded, or anything about it, the Gevir died and left, among other
things, an heir who was a minor; he couldn't sign a paper till he was
twenty-one!"

"So they hurried up?"

"Of course, as soon as he was twenty-one, they meant to send another
envoy, and perhaps two."

"And meanwhile it was entered in the communal records?"

"That's where it is! The records remembered and the people forgot! Some
say the record was burnt, that the trustee took the record, said
Havdoleh over it, set fire to a little brandy, and--good-bye!

"The community, meanwhile, was growing; Jews, praise God, soon
multiply. And they come in from other places; one person brings in a
son-in-law, another a daughter-in-law, in a word, it grew. And the
Gevir's heirs disappeared as though on purpose! The widow married again
and left, one son after another went to seek his fortune elsewhere, to
take a look 'round. The youngest remained. Kohol appointed him a
guardian and married him, and gave him an experienced partner."

"Who led him about by the nose?"

"According to the law of Moses and of Israel!

"He had trouble with the partner and more still with the wife; and he
signed a forged check and took himself off, bankrupt; townspeople and
strangers collected and made a great noise, the case was heard in court,
down came an inspector, no money to be seen anywhere, the wife hid the
furniture, the inspector took possession of the Shool and the burial
ground!

"The little town was thunderstruck, it was a bolt from the blue with a
vengeance! Because, you see, the whole thing had been kept dark to the
last minute!

"And all of a sudden, the community was seen hanging, as it were, by a
hair!

"What was to be done? They drove to lawyers. What could they advise in a
case like that? The best thing would be to have an auction, the
inspector would sell the things and the community buy them at any cost.
The community was no community? The papers had been lost by the way?
They must find another Gevir, and buy in his name! The great thing was
not to wait till the Gevir should die or go away!

"The advice seemed good, Kohol was quite used to loss of money; but
there was not only _one_ Gevir, there were several! And heaps willing to
act as diplomatic envoys. Whose name should they use? Who should be
taken for an envoy? All were willing and might be offended. So they held
a meeting and talked it over. And they talked it over till the talk
became a dispute, and when _we_ have a dispute, it isn't settled in a
hurry. Now and again it looks like peace, the flame of discord burns
low, comes a peacemaker and pours oil on it, and it blazes up again
and--blazes on!"

The Jew wiped his pale forehead and continued:

"Meanwhile something happened, something not to be believed!

"Only," he added with a smile, "it is night and the creature who walks
the sky at night (he points at the moon) is called 'truth,' and at
night, specially in such a quiet one, everything is credible."

"Well, yes"--I allow unwillingly.

"The story is a dreadful one.

"The inspector put his foot on the 'holy ground,' the corpses heard and
must have grown angry--the tombstones move--the corpses rise up from
beneath them--you believe me?"

"I am no heretic," I replied, "heaven forbid! And I believe in the
immortality of the soul, only--"

"Only, friend, only?"

"I always thought, that only the soul remained--the soul that flies into
heaven; but the body that goes into the grave, the image that
decays--anyhow, it cannot move without the soul--cannot rise again."

"Well said!" he praises me. "May I ever hear the like!

"I am glad," he said, "that you are book-learned; but, my friend, you
have forgotten the world of illusion! You say the soul goes to heaven,
into the sky--very well--but to which part? One goes into Paradise, the
other into Gehenna. Paradise is for the souls of the righteous, Gehenna
for the souls of the wicked. The one, for his good deeds, receives a
share of Leviathan, of Behemoth, wine of the ages,--the other, for his
sins, boiling pitch; but that only means reward and punishment, and why
reward and punishment? Because so long as a man lives, he has a free
choice. If he wishes to do what is good, he does it, if to do evil, he
does evil, and as he makes his bed, _ha?_ so he lies.

"But what is the sentence passed when a man was no man, when his life
was no life, and he did nothing, neither good nor evil, because he could
not do anything? He had no choice, and he slept away his life and lived
in a dream. What is such a soul entitled to? Gehenna? What for? It never
so much as killed a fly. Paradise? For what? It never dipped a hand in
cold water to gain it."

"What _does_ become of such a soul?"

"Nothing! It goes on living in a world of illusion, it does not detach
itself from the body; but just as it dreamt before that it lived _on_
the earth, so it dreams now that it lives _in_ the earth!

"No one in our town ever really died, because no one ever really lived!
No one did either good or evil, there were no sinners and no
righteous--only sleepy-heads and souls in a world of illusion. When
such a sleepy-head is laid in the grave, it remains a sleepy-head--only
in another lodging--that's all.

"And so dying with us was a perfect comedy! Because if a feather was put
under the nose of a _live_ man, would he stir to brush it away? Not he!
And the same with a fly. They left off troubling about Parnosseh--they
simply left off troubling about anything at all!

"So it went on.... There are many towns like it, and when it happens, as
it has happened with us, that a corpse creeps out of its grave, it
doesn't begin to remember that it has made its last confession of sins
and drawn its last breath. No sooner have the potsherds fallen from its
eyes than it goes straight to the house-of-study, to the bath, or else
home to supper--it remembers nothing about having died!"

I do not know if it is the moon's fault, or whether I am not quite
myself, but I hear, believe, and even ask:

"Did all the corpses rise? All?"

"Who can tell? Do they keep a register? There may have been a few
heretics who thought it was the final resurrection and lay low; but
there rose a whole community; they rose and fled before the inspector
into the nearest wood!"

"Why into a wood?"

"They couldn't go into the town, because it was daylight, and it is not
the thing to appear in winding-sheets by daylight--they might have
frightened the young mothers."

"True. And the inspector?"

"You ask about a Gentile? He saw nothing. Perhaps he was
tipsy--nothing--he did his work, made his inventory."

"And sold the things?"

"Nothing, there was as yet no one to buy."

"And the corpses?"

"Ah--the corpses!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He rests for a moment and then goes on:

"Hardly had night fallen, when the corpses came back into the town; each
one went to his home, stole in at the door, the window, or down the
chimney--went hastily to the wardrobe, took out some clothes, dressed
himself, yawned, and lay down somewhere to sleep.

"Next morning there was a whole townfull of corpses."

"And the living said nothing?"

"They never remarked; they were taken up with the dispute; their heads
were full of it, they were all at sixes and sevens! And really, when you
come to think of it, how much difference is there between a dead-alive
person and a walking corpse in winding-sheets? When a son saw his
father, he spat out three times, indignant with himself: 'To think of
the dream I had--I dreamt I said Kaddish for my father and inherited
him! May such dreams plague my enemies.'

"A widow saw her husband, and gave him a hearty slap. He had deceived
her, the wretch! made game of her! and she, foolish woman that she was,
had made him new winding-sheets!"

"And supposing she had married again?"

"How should she have? In the course of the dispute some one set fire to
the Shool and to the house-of-study and to the wedding canopy;
everything, you may say, was burnt. They accused pretty well everybody
in turn--"

"And after that?"

"Nothing; the corpses had come to life and the living began to die out,
for want of room, for want of air--but specially of hunger--"

"Was there a famine?"

"No more than anywhere else! But there _was_ one for all that. The
corpses took their place at the prayer-meetings and at the table at home
as well. People didn't know why, but there were suddenly not enough
spoons. All ate out of one dish, and there were not enough spoons. Every
house-mistress knows that she has as many spoons as there are people in
the house, so she thinks there has been a robbery! The pious say:
Witchcraft! But as they came to see the spoons were missing everywhere,
and there was not food to go round, then they said: A famine! and they
hungered, and they are hungering still."

       *       *       *       *       *

"And in a short time the corpses outnumbered the living; now they are
the community and the leaders of the community! They do not beget
children and increase naturally--not that, but when anyone dies, they
steal him away off his bed, out of the grave--and there is a fresh
corpse going about the town.

"And what is lacking to them? They have no cares, no fear of
death--they eat for the purpose of saying grace--they don't want the
food, they have no craving for it--let alone drink and lodging; a
hundred corpses can sleep in one room--they don't require air!

"And they have no worries, because whence do worries spring? From
knowing! 'The more knowledge, the more sorrow, but the dead man does not
trouble.' It's not his affair! He doesn't wish to know and he _needn't_
know--he wanders in a world of illusion.

"He keeps away from living concerns; he has no questions, no anxieties,
no heart-ache, no one is conscious of his liver!

"Who do you think is our rabbi? Once it was a live man and a man of
action; now he, too, is a corpse; he wanders in a world of illusion, and
goes on giving decisions by rote as in a dream.

"Who are his assistants? People like him--half-decayed corpses.

"And they solve ritual questions for the living and the dead, they know
everything and do everything; they say blessings, unite in wedlock. Who
is it stands at the platform? A corpse! He has the face of a corpse, the
voice of a corpse; if it happen that a cock crows suddenly, he runs
away.

"And the Gevirîm, the almsgivers, the agitators, the providers, the
whole lot--what are they? Dead men, long dead and long buried!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"And you, friend? What are you?"

"I? I am half-dead," answers the Jew. He jumps down from the conveyance
and disappears among the trees.



XIII

THE DAYS OF THE MESSIAH


As in all the Jewish towns in Galicia, big and little, so in the one
where my parents lived, there was a lunatic.

And as in most cases, so in this one, the lunatic was afraid of nobody,
neither of Kohol, nor of the rabbi or his assistants, not even of the
bather or the grave-digger, who are treated with respect by the richest
men. On the other hand, the whole of the little town, Kohol with all the
Jewish authorities and the bather and the grave-digger, trembled before
the lunatic, closed door and window at his approach. And although the
poor lunatic had never said an abusive word, never touched any one with
his little finger, everybody called him names, many people hit him, and
the street boys threw mud and stones at him.

I always felt sorry for the lunatic. He attracted me, somehow, I wanted
to talk to him, to console him, to give him a friendly pat; but it was
impossible to approach him; I should have received part of the stones
and mud with which he was bombarded by the others. I was quite a little
boy, and I wore a nice suit from Lemberg or Cracow, and I wished to
preserve my shoulders from stones and my suit from mud; so I remained at
a distance.

The little town in which my parents lived and where I spent my
childhood, dressed in clothes made by the tailors of Lemberg and Cracow,
was a fortress, surrounded by moats, water, earthworks, and high walls.

On the walls were batteries, and these were protected by soldiers with
muskets, who marched up and down, serious and silent. Hardly had
darkness fallen, when the iron drawbridge was raised from over the moat,
all the gates were closed, and the little town was cut off from the rest
of the world till early next morning. At every gate stood a watchman,
fully armed.

A short while ago, in the day-time, we were all free, we could go in and
out without applying for leave to the major in command; one might bathe
in the river outside the town, and even lie stretched out on the green
bank and gaze into the sky or out into the wide world, as one chose. No
one made any objection, and even if one did not return, no questions
were asked. But at night all was to be quiet in the town, no one was to
go out or to come in. "Lucky," I used to think to myself, "that they let
in the moon."

And as long as I may live, I shall never forget the twilights there, the
fall of night. As the shades deepened, a shudder went through the whole
town, men and houses seemed suddenly to grow smaller and cower together.
The bridge was raised, the iron chains grated against the huge blocks;
and the rasp of the iron, the harsh, broken sounds, went through one's
very bones. Then gate on gate fell to. Every evening it was the same
thing, and yet every evening people's limbs trembled, a dull apathy
overspread their faces, and their eyes were as the eyes of the dead.
Eye-lids fell heavy as lead; the heart seemed to stop beating, one
scarcely breathed. Then a patrol would march down the streets, with a
clatter of trailing swords and great water-boots; the bayonets
glistened, and the patrol shouted: "_Wer da?_" To which one had to
reply: "A citizen, an inhabitant," otherwise there was no saying what
might not happen. Many preferred to remain behind lock and key--they
were afraid of being seen in the street.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day I had the following adventure: I had been bathing in the river,
and either I lost myself in thought, or in staring about, or I simply
forgot that after day comes night. Suddenly I see them raise the bridge;
there is a grating in the ears, the gates swing to, and my heart goes by
leaps and bounds. No help for it! I must pass the night outside the
walls--and strange to say, night after night, as I lay in my warm bed at
home, I had dreamt of the free world outside the fortress; and now that
my dreams had come true, I was frightened. There ensued the usual
dispute between head and heart. The head cried: Steady! Now, for once,
you may enjoy the free air and the starry sky to the full! And the
heart, all the while, struggled and fluttered like a caged bird. Then
from heart to head rose as it were a vapor, a mist, and the clear
reasoning became obscured, and was swallowed up in the cloud.

There was a rushing noise in my ears, a flickering before my eyes. Every
sound, however light, every motion of a twig or a blade of grass made me
shudder, and threw me on to the ground with fright.

I hid my face in the sand. Whether or not I slept, and how long I lay
there, I cannot tell! But I suddenly heard someone breathing close to
me; I spring up and--I am not alone! Two well-known, deep, black eyes
are gazing at me in all candor and gentleness.

It is the lunatic.

"What are you doing here?" I ask in smothered tones.

"I never sleep in the town!" he answers sadly, and his glance is so
gentle, the voice so brotherly, that I recover myself completely and
lose all fear.

"Once upon a time," I reflected, "lunatics were believed to be
prophets--it is still so in the East--and I wonder, perhaps he is one,
too! Is he not persecuted like a prophet? Don't they throw stones at him
as at a prophet? Don't his eyes shine like stars? Doesn't his voice
sound like the sweetest harp? Does he not bear the sorrows of all, and
suffer for a whole generation? Perhaps he also knows what shall be
hereafter!"

I have a try and begin to question him, and he answers so softly and
sweetly, that I think sometimes it is all a dream, the dream of a
summer's night outside the fortress.

"Do you believe in the days of the Messiah?" I ask him.

"Of course!" he answers gently and confidently, "he _must_ come!"

"He must?!"

"O, surely! All wait for him, even the heavens and the earth wait! If it
were not so, no one would care to live, to dip a hand in cold water--and
if people live as they do and show they _want_ to live, it is a sign
they all feel that Messiah is coming, that he must come, that he is
already on the way."

"Is it true," I question further, "that first there will be dreadful
wars, and false Messiahs, on account of whom people will tear one
another like wild beasts, till the earth be soaked with blood? Is it
true that rivers of blood will flow from east to west and from north to
south, and all the animals and beasts drink human blood, all the fields
and gardens and wild places and roads be swamped with human blood, and
that in the middle of this bloody time the _true_ Messiah will come--the
_right_ one? Is that true?"

"True!"

"And people will know him?"

"Everyone will know him. Nobody will be mistaken. He will be Messiah in
every look, in every word, in every limb, in every glance. He will have
no armies with him, he will ride on no horse, and there will be no sword
at his side--"

"Then, what?"

"He will have wings--Messiah will have wings, and then everyone will
have wings. It will be like this: suddenly there will be born a child
with wings, and then a second, a third, and so it will go on. At first
people will be frightened, by degrees they will get used to it, until
there has arisen a whole generation with wings, a generation that will
no longer struggle in the mud over a Parnosseh-worm."

He talked on like this for some time, but I had already ceased to
understand him. Only his voice was so sadly-sweet that I sucked it up
like a sponge. The day was breaking when he ceased--they had opened the
gates and were letting down the bridge.

Since the night spent outside the fortress, the life within it had grown
more unbearable still. The old walls, the rasping iron drawbridge, the
iron doors, the sentinels and patrols, the hoarsely-angry "_Wer da?_"
the falsely-servile: "A citizen, an inhabitant!" the eternal quivering
of the putty-colored faces, the startled, half-extinguished eyes, the
market with its cowering, aimlessly restless shadows of men--the whole
thing weighed on me like lead--not to be able to breathe, not to feel
free! And my heart grew sick with a great longing. And I resolved to go
to meet the Messiah.

       *       *       *       *       *

I got into the first conveyance that presented itself. The driver turned
round and asked:

"Where to?"

"Wherever you please," I answered, "only a great way--a great way off
from here!"

"For how long?"

"For as long as the horse can go!"

The driver gathered up the reins, and we set off.

We drove on and on. Other fields, other woods, other villages, other
towns, everything different; but the difference was only on the surface,
below that everything was the same. When I looked into things, I saw
everywhere the same melancholy, every face wore a look of frightened
cunning, speech was everywhere broken and halting--the world seemed
overspread with a mournful mist that hid every gleam of light and
extinguished every joy. Everything shrank together and stifled. And I
kept shouting: "Go on!" But I depended on the driver, and the driver, on
the horse--the horse wants to eat, and we are obliged to stop.

I step into the inn. A large room, divided into two by means of an old
curtain, reaching from one wall to the other. On my side of the curtain,
three men sit round a large table. They do not remark me, and I have
time to look them over. They represent three generations. The oldest is
gray as a pigeon, but he sits erect and gazes with sharp eyes and
without spectacles into a large book, lying before him on the table. The
old face is grave, the old eyes unerring in their glance, and the old
man and the book are blent into one by the white beard, whose silver
points rest on the pages. At his right hand sits a younger man, who must
be his son; it is the same face, only younger, less unmoved, more
nervous, at times more drawn and weary. He also gazes into a book, but
through glasses. The book is smaller, and he holds it nearer to his
eyes, resting it against the edge of the table. He is of middle age;
beard and ear-locks just silvered over. He rocks himself to and fro. It
seems every time as if his body wished to tear itself away from the
book, only the book draws it back. He rocks himself, and the lips move
inaudibly. Every now and then he glances at the old man, who does not
notice it.

To the old man's left sits the youngest, probably a grandson, a young
man with glossy black hair and a burning, restless glance. He also is
looking at a book, but the book is quite small, and he holds it close
to his bright, unquiet eyes. He continually lowers it, however, and
throws a glance of mingled fear and respect at the old man, another,
with a half-ironic smile, at his father, and then leans over to hear
what is going on, on the further side of the curtain. And from the
further side of the curtain come moans as of a woman in child-birth--

I am about to cough, so that they may be aware of me. At this moment a
fold of the curtain is pushed aside and there appear two women: an old
one with a sharp, bony face and sharp eyes, and one of middle age with a
gentle, rather flabby face and uncertain glance. They stand looking at
the men, and waiting to be questioned. The oldest does not see them--his
soul has melted into the soul of the book. The middle-aged man has seen
them, and is wondering how best to rouse his father; the youngest starts
up--

"Mother! Grandmother! Well?"

The father rises anxiously from his chair; the grandfather only pushes
the book a little away from him, and lifts his eyes to the women.

"How is she?" inquires the young one further, with a trembling voice.

"She is over it!"

"Over it! over it!" stammers the young one.

"Mother, won't you say, Good luck to you?" asks the second. The old one
reflects a moment and then asks:

"What has happened? Even if it is a girl--"

"No!"--the grandmother speaks for the first time--"it is a boy."

"Still-born?"

"No, it lives!" answers the old woman, and yet there is no joy in her
tone.

"A cripple? Defective?"

"It has marks! On both shoulders--"

"What sort of marks?"

"Of wings--"

"Of wings?"

"Yes, of wings, and they are growing--"

The old man remains sitting in perplexity, the second is lost in wonder,
the youngest fairly leaps for joy.

"Good, good! Let them grow, may they grow into wings, big, strong ones!
Good, good!"

"What is there to be glad about?" inquires his father.

"A dreadful deformity!" sighs the old man.

"Why so?" asks the grandson.

"Wings," said the old man, sternly, "raise one into the height--when one
has wings one cannot keep to the earth."

"Much it matters!" retorts the grandson, defiantly. "One is quit of
living here and wallowing in the mud, one lives in the height. Is heaven
not better than earth?"

The old man grows pale, and the son takes up the word:

"Foolish child! What is one to live on in the height? Air doesn't go
far. There are no inns to hire up there, no 'contracts' to sign.
There's no one of whom to buy a bit of shoe-leather--in the height--"

The old man interrupts him: "In the height," he says in hard tones,
"there is no Shool, no house-of-study, no Kläus to pray and read in; in
the height, there is no pathway, trodden out by past generations--in the
height, one wanders and gets lost, because one does not know the road.
One is a free bird, but woe to the free bird in the hour of doubt and
despondency!"

"What do you mean?" and the young man starts up with burning cheeks and
eyes.

But the grandmother is beforehand with him:

"What fools men are," she exclaims, "how they talk! And the rabbi? Do
you suppose the rabbi is going to let him be circumcised? Is he likely
to allow a blessing to be spoken over a child with wings?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I give a start. The night spent outside the town, the drive, and the
child with wings were all a dream.



XIV

KABBALISTS


When times are bad, even Torah, "the best ware,"[54] loses in value.

In the Lashewitz "academy," there remain only the head, Reb Yainkil, and
one pupil.

The head of the academy is on old, thin Jew, with a long, pointed beard
and old, extinguished eyes; Lemech, his beloved pupil, is a young man,
likewise thin, tall, and pale, with black, curling ear-locks, dark,
glowing eyes, heavily-ringed, dry lips, and sharp, quivering throat;
both with garments open at the breast, with _no_ shirts, and both in
rags; the teacher just drags about a pair of peasant boots; the pupil's
shoes drop from his sockless feet.

That is all that remains of the celebrated academy!

The impoverished little town sent less and less food, gave fewer and
fewer free meals to the poor students, and these crept away elsewhere!
But Reb Yainkil intends to die here, and his pupil remains to close his
eyelids!

And these two are often hungry. Eating little means sleeping little, and
whole nights without sleep or food incline one to the Kabbalah! If one
has to wake whole nights and hunger whole days, one may as well get
something by it, if only fasting and flagellations, so long as these
open the door to the world of mystery, of spirits, and of angels!

And they have been studying the Kabbalah for some time!

Now they are sitting at the one long table. With everyone else it is
"after dinner," with them still "before breakfast." They are used to
that. The teacher rolls his eyes and holds forth; the pupil sits with
both hands supporting his head and listens.

"Therein," said the teacher, "are many degrees of attainment: one knows
a bit of a tune, another half a one, another a whole. The Rebbe of
blessed memory knew a whole one with the accompaniment. I," he added
sadly, "have only been found worthy of a bit like that!"

He measured off a tiny piece of his bony finger and went on:

"There is one kind of tune that must have words, that is a low order of
tune. But there is a higher kind: a tune that sings itself, but without
words--a pure melody! But _that_ melody must have a voice--and lips,
through which the voice issues! And lips, you see, are material things!

"And the voice itself is refined matter, certainly, but matter none the
less. Let us say, the voice stands mid-way between the spiritual and the
material.

"However that may be, the tune that finds expression through a voice and
is dependent on lips is not pure, not entirely pure, not yet really
spiritual!

"The real tune sings itself without a voice--it sings itself inside one,
in the heart, in the thoughts!

"There you have the meaning of the words of King David: 'All my bones
shall say,' etc. It ought to sing in the marrow of the bones, that is
where the tune should be--that is the highest praise we can give to God.
That is no human tone that has been _thought out_! It is a fragment of
the melody to which God created the world, of the soul He breathed into
it. Thus sings the Heavenly Family, thus sang the Rebbe, whose memory be
blessed!"

The teacher was interrupted by a shock-headed lad with a cord round his
waist--a porter. He came into the house-of-study, put down on the table,
beside the teacher, a dish of porridge with a piece of bread, said
gruffly: "Reb Tebil sends the teacher some food," turned his back, and
added, as he went out: "I'll come back presently for the dish."

Recalled by the rough tone from the divine harmonies, the teacher rose
heavily, and went to the basin to wash, dragging his great boots.

He continued to speak as he went, but with less assurance, and the pupil
followed him with greedy ears and glowing, dreaming eyes.

"But I," repeated Reb Yainkil, sadly, "was not even worthy of
understanding to what category it belongs, of knowing under what heading
it is classified. However," he added with a smile, "the initiatory
mortifications and purifications, those I _do_ know, and perhaps I will
teach them you to-day."

The pupil's eyes seem about to start from their sockets with eagerness;
he keeps his mouth open so as to catch every word. But the teacher is
silent, he is washing his hands; he repeats the ritual formula, comes
back to the table and says "Thou who bringest forth,"[55] with trembling
lips.

He lifts the dish with shaking fingers, and the warm steam rises into
his face; then he puts it down, takes the spoon in his right hand, and
warms the left at the dish's edge; after which he masticates the rest of
the bread with some salt between his tongue and his toothless gums.

Having warmed his face with his hands, he wrinkles his forehead, purses
his thin lips, and begins to blow the porridge.

The pupil has not taken his eyes off him the whole time, and when the
teacher's trembling mouth met the spoonful of porridge, something came
over him, and he covered his face with both hands and withdrew within
himself.

A few minutes later another boy came in with a bowl of porridge and some
bread:

"Reb Yòsef sends the pupil some breakfast!"

But the pupil did not remove his hands from his face.

The teacher laid down his spoon and went up to the pupil. For a while he
gazed at him with affectionate pride, then he wrapped his hand in the
skirt of his kaftan, and touched him on the shoulder:

"They have brought you something to eat," he said gently, by way of
rousing him. Slowly and sadly the pupil uncovered his face. It was paler
than ever, and the black-ringed eyes had grown wilder.

"I know, Rebbe," he answered, "but I will not eat anything to-day."

"The fourth fast?" asked the teacher, wondering, "and without me?" he
added, with a playful pretense at being hurt.

"It is another kind of fast," answered the pupil, "it is a penance."

"What do you mean? _You_ and a penance?"

"Yes, Rebbe! A penance. A minute ago, when you began to eat, I was
tempted to break the commandment: 'Thou shalt not covet!'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Late that night the pupil woke the teacher. They slept on the benches in
the Kläus, opposite to one another.

"Rebbe, Rebbe!" he called in a weak voice.

"What is it?" and the teacher started up in alarm.

"Just now I attained to a higher degree!"

"How so?" inquired the teacher, still half asleep.

"It sang within me!"

The teacher sat up:

"How so? how so?"

"I don't know myself, Rebbe," replied the pupil in his feeble tones, "I
couldn't sleep, and I thought over what you told me. I wanted to get to
know the tune--and I was so sorrowful, because I could not, that I began
to weep--everything in me wept; all my limbs wept before the Creator.

"Then I made the invocations you taught me--and, wonderful to say, not
with my lips, but somehow inside me--with my whole self. Suddenly it
grew light; I shut my eyes, and still it was light to me, very light,
brilliantly light."

"There!" and the teacher sat bending toward him.

"And I had such pleasant feelings as I lay in the light, and I seemed to
weigh nothing at all, no more than if my body had been a feather, I felt
as if I could fly."

"You see, you see, you see!"

"Then I felt merry and lively, I wanted to laugh--my face never moved,
nor my lips either, and yet I laughed--and so heartily."

"You see, you see, you see!"

"Then there was a humming inside me like the beginning of a melody."

The teacher sprang down from his bench, and was across the room.

"Well, well?"

"Then I heard something begin to sing within me."

"What did you feel like? Tell me quick!"

"I felt as though all the doors of sense in me were shut, and as though
something sang within me--as it ought to do--without any words, like ...
like...."

"How was it? How was it?"

"No, I can't! I knew, before--and then the singing turned into--into--"

"Into what? What became of it?"

"A kind of playing--as though (lehavdîl) there were a fiddle inside
me--or as if Yoneh, the musician, were sitting there and playing hymns,
as he does at the Rebbe's dinner-table. Only it was better, more
beautiful, more spiritual. And without a voice, without any voice at
all--it was _all_ spiritual."

"Happy, happy, happy, are you!"

"Now it's all gone (sadly), the doors of sense are reopened, and I am so
tired, I am so--so--_tired_, that I--

"Rebbe!" he called out suddenly, clapping a hand to his heart, "Rebbe,
say the confession of sins with me! They have come for me! They have
come for me! There is a singer wanted in the Heavenly Family! An angel
with white wings! Rebbe, Rebbe! Hear, O Israel! Hear, O Is--"

       *       *       *       *       *

The entire little town wished as one man that it might die as blessed a
death; but the Rebbe was not satisfied.

"Another fast or two," he groaned, "and he would have died beneath the
Divine kiss!"[56]



XV

TRAVEL-PICTURES


PREFACE

It was at the end of the good, and the beginning of the bad, years.
Black clouds had appeared in the sky, but it was believed that the
wind[57]--the spirit of the times, I mean--would soon disperse them,
that they would pour out their heart somewhere in the wilderness.

In Europe's carefully-tended vineyard the bitter root was already
cleaving the sod and sending out prickly, poisonous shoots, but look,
look! now the gardener will see it and tear it out root and all. That
was the idea. It was supposed that the nineteenth century had caught a
cold, a feverish chill, in its old age. That it would end in a serious
illness, a fit of insanity, never occurred to anyone.

How far away America was for us in those days! Not a Jew troubled
himself as to what a plate of porridge looked like over there, or
wondered whether people wore their skull-caps on their feet. Palestinian
Esrogîm were as seldom mentioned as Barons Hirsch and Edward de
Rothschild.[58]

Astronomy calculates beforehand every eclipse of the sun or moon.
Psychology is not so advanced. The world-soul grows suddenly dark, the
body is seized with a sort of convulsion, and science cannot foretell
the hour--the thing is difficult enough to believe in after it has
happened--it is not to be explained. And yet people were uneasy--rumor
followed rumor from every side.

It was resolved, among other things, to inquire into the common,
workaday Jewish life, to find out what went on in the little towns, what
men were hoping for, how they made a living, what they were about, what
the people said.


TRUST

My first halting-place was Tishewitz. I took lodgings with an
acquaintance, Reb Bòruch. He sent for the beadle and a few householders.

While I was waiting for them, I stood by the window and looked at the
market-place. The market-place is a large square bounded on each side by
a row of grimy, tumbledown houses, some roofed with straw, but the
majority, with shingle. All are one-storied with a broad veranda
supported by rotten beams.

Pushing out from the veranda and not far apart, one from the other,
stand the huckstresses over the stalls with rolls, bread, peas, beans,
and various kinds of fruit.

The market-women are in a state of great commotion. I must have
impressed them very much.

"Bad luck to you!" screams one, "don't point at him with your finger; he
can see!"

"Hold your tongue!"

The women know that I have come to take notes in writing. They confide
the secret one to another so softly that I overhear every word, even
inside the house.

"They say it is he himself!"

"It is a good thing the poor sheep have shepherds who are mindful of
them. All the same, if _that_ Shepherd[59] did not help, much good it
would be!"

"One cannot understand why _that_ Shepherd should require such
messengers" (in allusion to my shaven beard and short-skirted coat).

Another is more liberal in her views, and helps herself out of the
difficulty by means of the Röfeh.

"Take a Röfeh," she says, "he is likewise a heretic, and yet he also is
permitted--"

"That is another thing altogether, he is a private individual, but is it
so hard to find good Jews for public affairs?"

"They'd better," opines another, "have sent a few hundred rubles. They
might let the writing be and welcome, even though my son were _not_ made
a general!"[60]

Sitting at the table, I saw without being seen. I was hidden from the
street, but I could see half the market-place. Meantime, mine host had
finished his prayers, put off Tallis and Tefillin, poured out a little
brandy, and drunk my health in it.

"Long life and peace to you!" he said.

I answer, "God send better times and Parnosseh!"

I envy my host--Parnosseh is all he wants.

He adds impressively:

"And there will _have_ to be Parnosseh! Is there not a God in the world?
And the 'good Jews' will pray and do what they can."

I interrupt him and ask why, although he has confidence in his own
business, although he knows quite well "He who gives life gives
food"--why he exerts himself so, and lies awake whole nights thinking:
To-morrow, later, this time next year. Hardly has a Jew put on his
wedding garments, when he begins to think how to buy others for his
children--and then, when it comes to All-Israel, his trust is so great
that it does not seem worth while to dip one's hand in cold water for
it--why is this?

"That," he says, "is something quite different. All-Israel is another
thing. All-Israel is God's affair--God is mindful of it, and then, in
case there should be forgetfulness before the throne of His glory, there
are those who will remind Him. But as for private affairs, that's a
different matter. Besides, how much longer can the misery of Israel
last? It _must_ come to an end some time, either because the measure of
guilt is full, or the measure of merit is full. But Parnosseh is quite
another thing!"


ONLY GO!

I forgot to tell you that the rabbi of the little town would neither
come to see me nor allow me to visit him.

He sent to tell me that it was not his business, that he was a poor,
weakly creature, besides which he had been sitting now for several weeks
over a knotty question of "meat in milk," and then, the principal thing,
he was at loggerheads with Kohol, because they would not increase his
salary by two gulden a week.

There came, however, three householders and two beadles.

I began with mine host. He has no wife, and before I could put in a
word, he excused himself for it by asking, "How long do you suppose she
has been dead?" lest I should reproach him for not having found another
to fill her place.

Well, to be brief, I set him down a widower, three sons married, one
daughter married, two little boys and one little girl at home.

And here he begs me at once to put down that all the sons--except the
youngest, who is only four years old "and Messiah will come before _he_
is liable to serve"--that all the others are defective[61] in one way or
other.

With the exception of the two eldest sons, I already know the whole
family.

The married daughter lives in her father's house and deals in tobacco,
snuff, tea, and sugar; also, in foodstuffs; also, I think, in rock-oil
and grease. I had bought some sugar of her early that morning. She is
about twenty-eight years old. A thin face, a long hooked nose that seems
to be trying to count the black and decaying teeth in her half-opened
mouth, cracked, blue-gray lips--her father's image. Her sister, a young
girl, is like her; but she has "Kallah-Chen,"[62] her face is fresher
and pinker, the teeth whiter, and altogether she is not so worn and
neglected-looking. I also see the two little boys--pretty little
boys--they must take after their mother: red cheeks, and shy, restless
eyes; their twisted black curls are full of feathers; but they have ugly
ways: they are always shrugging their little shoulders and writhing
peevishly. They wear stuff cloaks, dirty, but whole.

The mother cannot have died more than a short time ago, long enough for
the cloaks to get dirty, not long enough for them to be torn. Who is
there to look after them now? The eldest sister has four children, a
husband who is a scholar, and the shop--the little Kallah maiden serves
her father's customers at the bar; the father himself has no time.

"What is your business?" I ask him.

"Percentage."

"Do you mean usury?"

"Well, call it usury, if you like. It doesn't amount to anything either
way. Do you know what?" he exclaims, "take all my rubbish and welcome,
bills of exchange, deeds--everything for twenty-five per cent, only pay
me in cash. I will give up the usury, even the public house! Would to
God I could get away to Palestine--but give me the cash! Take the whole
concern and welcome! You imagine that we live on usury--it lives on us!
People don't pay in, the debt increases. The more it increases, the less
it's worth, and the poorer am I, upon my faith!"

Before going out to take further notes, I witness a little scene. While
I was taking up all my things, paper, pencil, cigarettes, Reb Bòruch was
buttering bread for the children to take with them to Cheder. They had
each two slices of bread and butter and a tiny onion as a relish.

"Now go!" he says; he does not want them in the public house. But the
little orphan is not satisfied. He hunches his shoulders and pulls a wry
face preparatory to crying. He feels a bit ashamed, however, to cry
before me, and waits till I shall have gone; but he cannot tarry so long
and gives vent to a wail:

"Another little onion," he wants. "Mother always gave _me_ two!"

The sister has come running into the tap-room, she has caught up another
onion and gives it to him. "Go!" says she also, but much more gently.

The mother's voice sounded in her words.


WHAT SHOULD A JEWESS NEED?

We go from house to house, from number to number. I can see for myself
which houses are inhabited by Jews and which by non-Jews; I have only to
look in the window. Dingy windows are a sure sign of "Thou hast chosen
us," still more so broken panes replaced by cushions and sacking. On the
other hand, flower-pots and curtains portray the presence of those who
have no such right to poverty as the others.

One meets with exceptions--here lives, _not_ a Jew, but a drunkard--and
here again--flowers and curtains, but they read _Hazefirah_.[63]

The worst impression I receive is that made upon me by a great, weird,
wooden house. It is larger, but blacker and dirtier than all the other
houses. The frontage leans heavily over and looks down upon its
likeness--also an old, blackened ruin--upon an old, dried up, bent and
tottering Jewess, who is haggling with her customer--a sallow, frowzy
maid-servant--over an addition to a pound of salt. The beadle points the
old woman out to me:

"That is the mistress of the house."

I was astonished: the Jewess is too poor for such a house.

"The house," explains the beadle, "is not exactly hers. She pays only
one-sixth of the rent--she is a widow--but the heirs, her children, do
not live here--so she is called the mistress."

"How much does the house bring in?"

"Nothing at all."

"And it's worth?"

"About fifteen hundred rubles."

"And nothing is made by it?"

"It stands empty. Who should live there?"

"How do you mean, who?"

"Well, just who? Nearly everybody here has his own house, and if any one
hires a lodging, he doesn't want to have to heat a special room. The
custom here is for a tenant to pay a few rubles a year for the heating
of a corner. Who wants such large rooms?"

"Why did they build such a house?"

"_Ba!_--once upon a time! It isn't wanted nowadays."

"Poor thing."

"Why 'poor thing?' She has a stall with salt, earns a few rubles a week.
Out of that she pays twenty-eight rubles a year house-tax and lives on
the rest--what should a Jewess need? What can she want more? She has her
winding-sheet."

I gave another look at the old woman, and really it seemed to me that
she was not in need of anything. Her wrinkled skin appeared to smile at
me: What should a Jewess need?


NO. 42

I went from house to house in their order of number, with a note-book in
my hand. But from No. 41 the beadle led me to 43.

"And 42?" I ask.

"There!" and he points to a ruin in a narrow space between 43 and 41.

"Fallen in?"

"Pulled down," answers the beadle.

"Why?"

"On account of a fire-wall."

I did not understand what he meant.

We were both tired with walking, and we sat down on a seat at the street
side.

The beadle explained:

"You see--according to law, if one house is not built far enough away
from another, the roofs must be separated by a fire-wall. What the
distance has to be, I don't know; _their_ laws are incomprehensible; I
should say, four ells or more.

"A fire-wall is with them a charm against fire. Well, this house was
built by a very poor man, Yeruchem Ivànovker, a teacher, and he couldn't
afford a fire-wall.

"Altogether, to tell the truth, he built without a foundation, and out
of that, as you will hear presently, there came a lawsuit, at which his
wife (peace be upon her) told the whole story, beginning after the
custom of women-folk with the sixth day of creation. This is how it
happened:

"Malkah had not spoken to her husband for about fifteen years. She was
naturally a sour-tempered woman,--God forgive me for talking against the
dead,--tall and thin, dark, with a pointed nose like a hook. She rarely
said a word not relating to Parnosseh--she was a huckstress--and nobody
wanted her to do so. Her look was enough to freeze you to the bone. All
the other huckstresses trembled before her--there was an expression in
her eye. So, you see, Yeruchem was quite content that she should be
silent--_he_ never said a word to _her_, either.

"For all this silence, however, they were blessed with two boys and
three girls.

"But the desire to become householders made them conversational. The
conversation was on this wise:

"'Malke!' (No answer.)

"'Malke!' (No answer.)

"He Malke's and she doesn't stir.

"But Yeruchem stands up and gives a shout:

"'Malke, I am going to build a house!'

"Malke could resist no longer, she raised an eye, and opened her mouth.

"'I thought,' she said afterward, 'that he had gone mad.'

"And it _was_ a madness. He had inherited the narrow strip of land you
have seen from a great-grandfather, and not a farthing in money. The
wife's trash, which was afterwards sold for fifty-four gulden, used to
be in pawn the whole year round, except on Sabbaths and holidays, when
Yeruchem took them out on tick.

"When the desire calls the imagination to its help--who shall withstand?

"No sooner has he a house, than all good things will follow.

"People will place confidence in him, and he will borrow money to buy a
goat, and there will be plenty in the home. He will let out one room as
a drink-shop, and he, God helping, will keep it himself. Above all, the
children will be provided for. The little boys shall be sent one way or
the other to a rabbinical college, the girls shall be given a deed as
their dowry, promising them, after his death, half as much as the boys
will get, and the thing's done.

"'And how is the building to be paid for?'

"He had an answer ready:

"'I,' said he, 'am a teacher, and thou art a huckstress, so we have two
Parnossehs: let us live on one Parnosseh, and build on the other.'

"'Was there ever such an idiot! We can't make both ends meet as it is!'

"'God helps those who help themselves,' said he, 'here's a proof of it:
the teacher, Noah, our neighbor, has a sickly wife, who earns nothing,
and six little children, and it seems they are well and strong--and he
lives on nothing but his teaching,'

"'There you are again! He is a great teacher, his pupils are the
children of gentlefolk.'

"'And why do you think it is so? What is the reason? Can he "learn"
better than I do? Most certainly not. But God, blessed be His Name,
seeing that he has only one Parnosseh, increases it to him. And then,
another example: Look at Black Brocheh! A widow with five children and
nothing but a huckstress--'

"'Listen to him! _That_ one (would it might be said of me!) has a
fortune in the business, at least thirty rubles--'

"'That is not the thing,' he gives her to understand, 'the thing is that
the blessing can only reach her through the apples. The Creator governs
the world by the laws of nature.'

"And he manages also to persuade her that they can economize in many
ways--one can get along--

"And so it was decided: Yeruchem gave up taking snuff, and the entire
household, sour milk in particular and supper in general--and they began
to build.

"They built for years, but when it came to the fire-wall, Malkah had no
wares, Yeruchem had no strength left in him, the eldest son had gone
begging through the country, the youngest had died, and there was a
fortune wanting--forty rubles for a fire-wall.

"Well, what was to be done? A coin or two changed hands, and they moved
into the new house without building a fire-wall."

He took possession with rejoicing. He was a member of the Burial
Society, and the community gave him a house-warming. They drank, without
exaggeration, a whole barrel of beer, besides brandy and raisin-wine. It
was a regular flare-up, a glorification.

But the bliss was short-lived.

A certain householder quarrelled with a neighbor of Yeruchem, with Noah
the teacher. Now Noah the teacher had once been a distinguished
householder, a very rich man. Besides what he had inherited from his
father, he disposed of a few tidy hundreds. He had carried on a business
in honey. Afterwards, when there was the quarrel relating to the
Lithuanian rabbi, they got his son taken for a soldier (he is serving in
the regiment to this day, with a bad lung), and he himself got involved
in a lawsuit for having burnt out the rabbi.

Well, it was a great crime. One is used to denouncing, but to heap
sticks round a house on all sides and set fire to it, that's a wicked
thing.

Whether or not he had anything to do with it, the lawsuit and the son
together impoverished him completely, and he became a teacher. Being so
new to the work, he hadn't the knack of getting on with the parents, one
of them took offense at something, removed his child, and sent him to
Yeruchem instead.

Noah was deeply wounded, but he was a man of high courage; he hung day
and night about the office of the district commissioner, and used both
his tongue and his pen. Well, in due time, up came the matter of the
fire-wall, and down came the senior inspector.

Noah meantime had been seized with remorse. He did all he could to
prevent the affair from being carried on. A coin or two changed hands,
and the affair was hushed up.

All might yet have been well, but for a fresh dispute about "blue."
Yeruchem was a Radziner,[64] and wore blue "fringes,"[65] and Noah, a
rabid Belzer,[66] called down vengeance.

The dispute grew hotter, up crops the fire-wall, and the law was called
in a second time.

There was a judgment given in default, and the court decided that
Yeruchem should erect a fire-wall within a month's time, otherwise--the
house was to be taken to pieces.

There wasn't a dreier. This time Noah had no remorse; on the contrary,
the quarrel was at its height, and there was nothing to be done with
him. Yeruchem sent to call him before the rabbi, and he sent the beadle
flying out of the house.

When Malkah saw that there was no redress to be had, she seized Noah by
the collar in the street, and dragged him to the rabbi like a murderer.

There was a marketful of Belzers about, but who is going to fight a
woman? "He who is murdered by women," says the Talmud, "has no judge and
no avenger." Noah's wife followed cursing, but was afraid to interfere.
At the rabbi's, Malkah told the whole story from beginning to end, and
demanded either that Noah should build the fire-wall, or else that the
matter should be dropped again.

Our rabbi knew very well that whichever party he declared to be right,
the Chassidîm on the _other_ side would be at him forthwith, and he
wormed himself out of the difficulty like the learned Jew that he was.
_He_ couldn't decide--it was a question of the impulse to do
harm--_bê-mê_. There was no decision possible--the case must be laid
before the Rebbes.[67]

Noah naturally preferred the Belzer Rebbe, Yeruchem had no choice, and
to Belz they went.

Yeruchem, before he left, made his brother-in-law his representative,
and trusted him with a few rubles which he had borrowed (people lent
them out of pity).

But it all turned out badly.

The brother-in-law spent the money on himself, or (as he averred) lost
it--Malkah fell ill of worry.

Yeruchem, it is true, gained his fire-wall with "costs," before the
Rebbe, but he and Noah were both caught on the frontier,[68] and brought
home with the _étape_.[69]

When Yeruchem arrived, Malkah was dead, and the little house pulled
down.


THE MASKIL

And don't imagine Tishewitz to be the world's end. It has a Maskil, too,
and a real Maskil, one of the old style, of middle age, uneducated and
unread, without books, without even a newspaper, in a word a mere
pretense at a Maskil.

He lets his beard grow. To be a Maskil in Tishewitz it is enough only to
trim it, but they say "he attends to his hair during the ten Days of
Penitence!"

He is not dressed German fashion, and no more is the Feldscher, also a
Jew in a long coat and ear-locks.

Our Maskil stops at blacking his boots and wearing a black ribbon round
his neck. He has only sorry remnants of ear-locks, but he wears a peaked
cap.

People simply say: "Yeshurun waxed fat and kicked."

He does well, runs a thriving trade, has, altogether, three
children--what more can he want? Being free of all care, he becomes a
Maskil.

On the strength of what he is a Maskil, it is hard to tell--enough that
people should consider him one!

The whole place knows it, and he confesses to it himself. He is chiefly
celebrated for his "Wörtlech," is prepared to criticise anything in
heaven or on earth.

As I heard later, the Maskil took me for another Maskil, and was sure
that I should lodge with him, or, at any rate, that he would be my first
entry.

"For work of that kind," he said to the others, "you want people with
brains. What do you suppose he could do with the like of _you_?"

And as the mountain did not go to Mohammed, because he had never heard
of him, Mohammed went to the mountain.

He found me in the house of a widow. He came in with the question of
the wicked child in the Haggadah: "What business is this of yours?"

"_Mòi Pànyiye!_[70] what are you doing here?"

"How here?" I ask.

"Very likely you think I come from under the stove? That because a
person lives in Tishewitz, he isn't civilized, and doesn't know what is
doing in the world? You remember: "I have sojourned with Laban?"[71] I
do live here, but when there's a rat about, I soon smell him."

"If you can smell a rat, and know all that is going on, why do you want
to ask questions?"

The beadle pricked up his ears, and so did the half-dozen loungers who
had followed me step by step.

There was a fierce delight in their faces, and on their foreheads was
written the verse: "Let the young men arise"--let us see two Maskilîm
having it out between them!

"What is the good of all this joking?" said the Maskil, irritated. "My
tongue is not a shoe-sole! And for whose benefit am I to speak? That of
the Tishewitz donkeys? Look at the miserable creatures!"

I feel a certain embarrassment. I cannot well take up the defense of
Tishewitz, because the Tishewitz worthies in the window and the door-way
are smiling quite pleasantly.

"Come, tell me, what does it all mean, taking notes?"

"Statistics!"

"_Statistic-shmistik!_ We've heard that before. What's the use of it?"

I explained--not exactly to _him_, but to the community, so that they
should all have an idea of what statistics meant.

"Ha-ha-ha!" laughs the Maskil loudly and thickly, "you can get the
Tishewitz donkeys to believe that, but you won't get me! Why do you want
to put down how a person lives, with a floor, without a floor! What does
it matter to you if a person lives in a room without a floor? _Ha?_"

It matters, I tell him, because people want to show how poor the Jews
are; they think--

"They think nothing of the kind," he interrupted, "but let that pass!
Why should they want to know exactly how many boys and how many girls a
man has? and what their ages are, and all the rest of the bother?"

"They suspect us of shirking military duty. The books, as of course you
know, are not correct, and we want to prove--"

"Well, that may be so, for one thing--I'll allow that--but--about
licenses! Why do you note down who has them--and what they are worth?"

"In order to prove that the Jews--"

But the Maskil does not allow me to finish my sentence.

"A likely story! Meantime, people will know that this one and the other
pays less than he ought to for his license, and he'll never hear the
last of it."

Scarcely had he said so, when the heads in the window disappeared; the
beadle in the door-way took himself off, and the Maskil, who had really
meant well all along, stood like one turned to stone.

The population had taken fright, and in another hour or two the town was
full of me.

I was suspected of being commissioned by the excise. And why not,
indeed? The excise knew very well that a Jew would have less difficulty
in getting behind other people's secrets.

I was left to pace the market-square alone. The town held aloof. It is
true that the Maskil dogged my footsteps, but he had become antipathetic
to me, and I couldn't look at him.

The faces in the Gass became graver and darker, and I began to think of
escaping. There are too many side-glances to please me--there is too
much whispering.

It occurred to me to make a last effort. I remembered that the rabbi of
Tishewitz had once been our Dayan, and would remember me, or at least
witness to the fact that I was not what they took me for.

"Where does the rabbi live?" I inquire of the Maskil.

He is pleased and says: "Come, I will show you!"


THE RABBI OF TISHEWITZ

No one who has not seen the rabbi of Tishewitz's dressing-gown would
ever know the reason why the rebbitzin, his third wife, though hardly
middle-aged, already wears a large pair of spectacles on her nose. The
dressing-gown looks as if it were simply _made_ of patches.

"If only," complains the rabbi, "the town would give me another two
gulden a week, I could get along. _Asö is gor bitter!_ But I shall get
my way. Their law-suits they can decide without me; when it is a
question of pots and pans, any school-teacher will do; questions
regarding women, of course, cannot be put off; and yet I shall get my
way, I'm only waiting for the election of the elders; they can't have an
election without a rabbi. Imagine a town--no evil eye!--a metropolis in
Israel, without elders! And if that won't do it, I shall refuse to try
the slaughtering-knives--I've got them fast enough!"

It was no easy matter to divert the rabbi's thoughts from his own
grievances, but on the Maskil's promising to do his utmost to induce the
community to raise his salary, he begged us to be seated, and listened
to our tale.

"Nonsense!" he said, "I know you! Tell the fools I know you."

"They run away from me!"

"_Ett!_[72] They run away! Why should they run away? Who runs away?
After what? Well, as you say they run away, I will go out with you
myself."

"In what will you go?" calls out a woman's voice from behind the stove.

"Give me my cloak," answers the rabbi.

"Give you your cloak! I've this minute taken it apart."

"Well," says the rabbi, "the misfortune is happily not great. We will go
to-morrow."

I give him to understand that it is only noon, that I should be sorry to
waste the day.

"_Nu_, what shall I do?" answers the rabbi, and folds his hands. "The
rebbitzin has just started mending my cloak."

"Call them in here!"

"Call them? It's easy enough to call them, but who will come? Are they
likely to listen to me? Perhaps I had better go in my dressing-gown?"

"It wouldn't do, rabbi!" exclaimed the Maskil, 'the inspector is going
about in the Gass.

"For my part," said the rabbi, "I would have gone, but if you say
no--no!"

It is settled that we shall all three call the people together from the
window. But opening the window is no such easy matter. It hasn't been
opened for about fifteen years. The panes are cracked with the sun, the
putty dried up, the window shakes at every step on the floor. The frame
is worm-eaten, and only rust keeps it fastened to the wall. It is just a
chance if there are hinges.

And yet we succeeded. We opened first one side and then the other
without doing any damage.

The rabbi stood in the centre, I and the Maskil on either side of him,
and we all three began to call out.

The market was full of people.

In a few minutes there was a crowd inside the room.

"Gentlemen," began the rabbi, "I know this person."

"There will be no writing people down!" called out several voices
together.

The rabbi soon loses heart.

"No use, no use," he murmurs, but the Maskil has got on to the table and
calls out:

"Donkeys! They _must_ be written down! The good of the Jews at large
demands it!"

"The good of the Jews at large," he says, and he goes on to tell them
that he has gone through the whole chapter with me, that there is no
question of a joke, that I have shown him letters from the Chief Rabbis.

"From which Chief Rabbis?" is the cry.

"From the Chief Rabbi in Paris," bellows the Maskil, "from the Chief
Rabbi in Paris (no other will do for him), from the Chief Rabbi in
London--"

"Jews, let us go home!" interrupted someone, "_nisht unsere Leut!_"[73]

And the crowd dispersed as quickly as it had come together. We three
remained--and the beadle, who came close to me:

"Give me something," he said, "for the day's work."

I gave him a few ten-kopek pieces, he slipped them into his pocket
without counting them, and was off without saying good-bye.

"What do _you_ say, Rabbi?" I asked.

"I don't know what to say, how should I? I am only dreadfully
afraid--lest it should do me harm--"

"_You?_"

"Whom else? _You?_ If you don't get any statistics, it will be of no
great consequence, for 'He that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor
sleep!' I mean the two extra gulden a week."

The rebbitzin with the large spectacles has come out from behind the
stove.

"I told you long ago," she says, "not to interfere in the affairs of the
community, but when did you ever listen to me? What has a rabbi to do
with _that_ sort of thing? Kohol's business!"

"_Nu_, hush, Rebbitzin, hush!" he answers gently; "you know what I am, I
have a soft heart, it touched me, but it's a pity about the two gulden a
week."


TALES THAT ARE TOLD

Sad and perplexed in spirit, I came down from the rabbi, with the
Maskil, and into the street. There we came across the beadle, who
assured us that, in his opinion, we should be able to go on with the
work to-morrow.

The whole Tararam[74] had been stirred up by two impoverished
householders, who were now in great misery; one, a public-house keeper,
and the other, a horse-dealer.

The Maskil, for his part, promises to talk the matter over with the
townspeople between Minchah and Maariv, and if he doesn't turn the place
upside down, then his name is not Shmeril (such a name has a Maskil in
Tishewitz!). They may stand on their heads, he said, but the notes must
be taken. "The very authorities that forbade will permit."

Well done! It is evident that the Maskil had studied in a Cheder, in the
great world one meets with other Maskilîm.

I go back to the inn; the beadle comes, too. At my host's they still
have services, the mourning for his wife not being ended. Between
Minchah and Maariv, we get on to politics; after Maariv, on to the Jews.
The greater part are dreadfully optimistic. In the first place, it's not
a question of _them_, secondly, plans will not prosper against
"Yainkil,"[75] he has brains of his own; thirdly, it's like a see-saw,
now it goes up and now it goes down;[76] fourthly, God will help;
fifthly, "good Jews" will not allow it to happen.

The old song!

"Believe me," exclaims one, with small, restless eyes under a low
forehead, "believe me, if there were unity among all 'good Jews,' if
they would hold together, as one man, and stop repeating Tachanun,[77]
Messiah would _have_ to come!"

"But the Kozenitz Rebbe, may his memory be blessed, _did_ stop,"
suggested another.

"'One swallow,' replied the young man, 'does not make a summer.' Who
talks of their imposing a prohibition on All-Israel?"

There are times when one must set one's self against things--defend
one's self.

"If they were to issue a prohibition," says someone, ironically, and
with a side-glance at me, "the heretics would take to praying, if only
for the sake of saying Tachanun, so that Messiah should _not_ come."

The company smile.

"But where is the harm," asks someone else, "if the great people don't
agree among themselves?"

The company gave a groan. Doubtless each remembered how many times he
had suffered unjustly on account of the want of unity, and the surest
proof of Tishewitz having greatly suffered by reason of dissensions is,
that no clear explanation was given as to who was at fault that the
great were not at one, so fearful were they of provoking a fresh
disagreement.

I put forward that poverty had more to do with the differences than
anything.

There is nothing to trade with, people go about empty-handed, seeking
quarrels to while away the time with; the proof is that in larger towns,
where each goes about his own business, there is quiet.

If someone, I opine, would throw into Tishewitz a few thousand rubles,
everything would be forgotten.

"To be sure, we know wealth is everything!" exclaims somebody. "If I had
only had _so_ much brains, I could put all Tishewitz into my pocket
to-day. It was just a toss-up--I had only to say the word."

"True! True!" was heard on all sides. "It is an actual fact."

The man who had only required to have _so_ much brains, or a little
determination, to become rich, looked like poverty itself: lean, yellow,
shrunk, "wept out," and in a cloak that had its only equal in the
dressing-gown of the Tishewitz rabbi.

Thereupon came the Maskil.

Of course, he laughed.

"Reb Elyeh, you must have bought the lucky number an hour before the
drawing!"

"Listen to his cheek!" says Reb Elyeh. "As if he couldn't remember the
story!"

"May my head not ache," swears the Maskil, "for so long as I have
forgotten--if ever I heard the lies at all."

"Lies!" retorts Reb Elyeh, much hurt, "is that so? Lies? According to
you, other things are lies as well."

I interfere and ask what the story may be.

"You've heard of the Tsaddik of Vorke of blessed memory?" begins Reb
Elyeh.

Of course!

"Naturally, _Kind und Keit_[78] knew of him. And you will have heard
that there came to him not only the pious men of the nations of the
world, but even 'German' Jews, even Lithuanians, knowing fellows that
they are. May I have as much money as I have seen Lithuanians at his
house! There is even a story about a discussion a Lithuanian had with
him. A Lithuanian must always be showing off his acumen! He asks a
question about the Tossafot on _Vows_. The Rebbe, of blessed memory,
explains a bit of the Mishnah to him upside down.

"'Well, I never, Rebbe!' exclaims the Lithuanian, 'why, the Tossafot on
_New Year_ dealing with the same subject says exactly the opposite of
your words.' Well, what do you say to that? It was a miracle the Rebbe
did not seize and strangle him on the spot. But that is not what I was
driving at. The 'Vorker' treated the Almighty like a good comrade.

"'Lord of the world (and he sat down in the middle of the room)! Would
it not have been enough to torment the Jews with persecutions? Now one
cannot even sit and study in peace.'

"Someone, it would appear, answered him from 'up there.'

"'So,' he said, 'that is another thing altogether! I give in; good pay
puts everything straight. But, Lord of the world! a little of it here as
well!'

"Again one could see in his face that he heard a response, and he
answered:

"'Well, if not--not! You are solvent, we will wait!'

"But that is not what I was after. His chief concern was whatever was
connected with circumcision. In the matter of circumcision he was steel
and iron. In that he would take no denial from the Powers above. And,
indeed, they waited for his word up there! Scarce had he given a sign,
when the thing he wanted was done and established. He said, that before
going to a circumcision, when he merely began to think of the
Mohel-knife, the quality of _Fear_[79] straightway diffused itself
through his being, and then there could be no doubt all would go as he
wanted, for 'the will of those who _fear_ Him He executeth.'

"He was very sorry that people had become aware of this peculiarity of
his. He knew that on this account he would not perform the ceremony here
much longer, that he would be called to join the Heavenly Academy. His
relations to the upper world having become known, the very stability of
the world was endangered. It ought to have remained a secret.

"Well, people had become aware of it. I, too. And even sooner than
others, because the treasurer, Mösheh, was my first wife's
brother-in-law, and he it was who let out the secret. For this he was
deprived of his place for half a year, but his distress was so great,
the Rebbe had compassion on him, and restored him to his office. But
that doesn't belong to the story either.

"Enough that I knew it.

"Well, 'and he kept the thing in his heart.' I waited, for I was not
going to plague the Rebbe about a trifle. I waited. I was living just
then a mile outside Vorke. My first wife was alive, and she did not fare
badly, though it was difficult to make both ends meet. But I earned
whatever it was by my match-making, and my wife supported us by means of
her stall. And not only us, but also she provided for a married couple,
my eldest daughter and her husband, who was an excellent scholar. What,
then, was lacking?

"And it came to pass on a day that my son-in-law was away at the Ger
Rebbe's, there was a fair in the town, and my daughter was in child-bed.
It went hard with her, a first baby. Beile Bashe, the midwife, was at
her wit's end, and this was the third day of her pains. No cupping, no
blood-letting seemed to help--things were very bad. And I hear that the
Rebbe is coming to a circumcision.

"What do you think? 'There sprang up light for the Jews!' We were all
overjoyed. It put new life into us. We pray that God will preserve her
another day and a half, because people were only let in an hour before
the ceremony. But meanwhile things got worse and worse, she was near
death.

"An hour or two before the ceremony, however, she grew easier, or so it
seemed to me. She came to herself, opened her eyes, urged her mother to
go to the fair, and called me to her bedside. A foolish woman, they are
all alike--they blame us for it.

"She doesn't like Shmülek, she says, she never liked him, she didn't
want him from the very first. She can't stand him and had better die.
She had sent her mother out on purpose, because she was afraid of her.
She, peace be upon her, was a terror to the children--she wanted to slap
her daughter on her wedding-day.

"I, of course, gave her to understand that all women are the same, that
some even make a vow never to live with their husbands again; that the
sin-offering is there on that account--some even swear that--'but no one
may be held responsible for what he utters in pain and grief.' But she
keeps to it, she bids me farewell, she needs no vows, no oaths, she
says, smiling. I am going out, she says, like a candle.

"Well, I listen to her and can see all the while that she is better. She
is quite clear again in her mind, and it only wants half an hour to the
circumcision. And she looked quite pretty again.

"I sit by the bed and talk to her--even the midwife had gone to buy a
cradle at the fair. I look at the clock--it is time to go. I look at
her. Upon my word! Quite well! And yet I do not want to go and leave her
all alone, and nearly alone in the town.

"The fair, you see, comes once a year, and lasts three days, and it
means Parnosseh for the whole twelve months. So, you see, there was no
one left at the Rebbe's even--every soul was off to the fair.

"Well, I wait a bit.

"But in half an hour things got suddenly worse. She snatches at my hand,
falls back on the pillows, makes grimaces. Bad!

"She begins to moan. I call for help, no one answers. There is a great
noise from the fair--nobody hears _me_. Among a thousand men and
women--and we might have been in a wilderness. I want to pull away my
hands, go and call somebody, but she holds them tight.

"Two, three minutes pass, it grows late, things are bad. I tear away my
hands and I run thither. The circumcision was at the further end of the
town. I fly along roads, over bales of merchandise, I fly and fly! It is
all too long to me. It was July and yet I shivered with cold as I
ran--there, there is Tsemach's house, where the ceremony has taken
place."

       *       *       *       *       *

"My heart beats as though I were a malefactor; I feel that _there_, at
home, a soul is about to escape. There I am at the first window! I will
not wait for the door, I will break a pane and get in that way. I run up
to the window, I see the Rebbe is really in the room, he is walking up
and down, I am about to enter like a housebreaker. I gather my remaining
strength--there is a cry in my ears: Father, father! I leap."

The narrator was out of breath. He takes a rest, lowers his eyes, which
are full of large tears, and ends quietly with a broken voice:

"But it was not to be! There was a heap of manure and stones before the
window--I fell, and nearly broke my neck. I have a mark on my forehead
to this day. When they brought me in to the Rebbe, he motioned me away
with his hand.

"When I got home (_how_ I got there, I don't know), she was lying on the
floor--either she fell out of bed dying, or I pulled her out tearing
away my hands."

The listeners were silent, a stone weighed on our hearts.

The Maskil soon recovered himself.

"Well," he said, "blessed be the righteous Judge! Where are the riches?"

The narrator wiped his eyes with his sleeve, gave a sad smile and
continued:

"Yes, I only wanted to show you what one means when one says, it was not
to be. There came trouble after trouble--my wife died--the stall went to
the bad because it was kept by a man--I was left alone with the
children, and there wasn't a crust--I married again--I took an elderly
woman on purpose, because I thought she would do for the stall, but I
was taken in. There was a baby a year. Meanwhile our fairs fell off, and
for a whole twelvemonth the stall wasn't worth a pinch of powder.

"I determined to make an end of it--to give up the match-making, grow
rich, and sit and study. _Aï_--how does one grow rich? I wrote to the
brother-in-law of my first wife, to the treasurer, and asked him for
God's sake to tell me when next there was a circumcision.

"I got a message before the month was out, and hastened to Vorke. I stop
nowhere, but go straight to the Rebbe."

"And--a larger manure heap?" laughs the Maskil. The narrator gives him a
vicious look.

"The Vorke Tsaddik," he said, "went in for ritual cleanliness, his whole
religion was ritual cleanliness."

"Only see," remarked the Maskil, "how he looks at me! Rascal! When you
came here first, who helped you? A Vorke Chossid? or perhaps your cousin
the Tsaddik? or was it I? _ha!_ You would have died of hunger long ago
if it hadn't been for me!"

And he turns to me:

"And what do you suppose he is now? He teaches my children, and if I
were to take them away from him, he would have no Parnosseh left!... not
a crust of bread...."

The other stands silent with downcast eyes.

The Maskil disgusts me more and more, although he made a sign to me with
his eyes a little while ago, to the effect that he had exerted himself
on my behalf, and with his hands, that to-morrow there will be taking of
notes.

I turn to the other:

"Well, my friend?"

"See for yourself," says he to the Maskil, "our note-taker is more of a
Maskil than you, on the face of him, and _he_ doesn't make game of
things ... one might say, on the contrary. Rambam[80] (lehavdîl) did not
believe in magic ... but at any rate, he answers seriously ... a Jew
should have manners ... to make fun of things is not fair ... man, it
cuts to the heart!"

"Well, well," says the Maskil, more gently, "let us have the rest!"

"I will make it short," says the poor Jew. "I come in without a ticket
of admission, nothing to speak for me, without even a money-offering,
but that would have been no help at such a time, only his face was
terrible! My feet shook under me! I stood there without opening my
mouth. He, may his merits protect us, took great strides up and down.

"Suddenly he saw me and gave a roar like a lion.

"'What do you want?'

"I was more terrified than ever and scarcely answered:

"'Riches!'

"It seemed as though the Rebbe had not quite understood.

"'Riches?' he asked, and his voice was like thunder.

"'If only ... Parnosseh!' I answer in a lower tone.

"'What, Parnosseh!' he cried as before.

"'Only not to die of hunger!'

"The Rebbe hurried up and down, stopped suddenly and asked:

"'What else?'

"I thought I should drop dead! It seemed to me (I don't know, but it
seemed to me) as if someone else, and not I, had control of my tongue,
and it replied:

"'I want Yòsef to be a learned man!'

"'What besides?' I hardly escaped alive, and he, may his merits protect
us, died the following week.

"Well? What lay between me and the riches? A hair's breadth! it was my
own fault. If I had stood up to him and kept to it! Well!"

"At least," I inquire, "is your son learned?"

"He _would_ have been," he replies in a broken voice, "only he won't
learn ... even a Rebbe can't help that ... he _won't_ learn--what can
one do?"

"And the moral," interposes the Maskil, "is that one shouldn't keep
rubbish heaps under the window, that you can do nothing without money,
and, above all, that one shouldn't be frightened of any Rebbe!"

In one second the livid-faced Jew had flushed scarlet, his eyes shot
fire, his person lengthened, and the room resounded with two slaps
received by the Maskil.

       *       *       *       *       *

I fear that his first request will equally go unfulfilled: he will yet
die of hunger.


A LITTLE BOY

The innkeeper's pretty little boy, with his shrugs and pouts, and his
curls full of feathers, haunts me.

Now he stands before me with a small onion in his hand, and he cries--he
wants two; or I hear him at evening prayer, repeating the Kaddish in his
plaintive child-voice, so tearfully earnest that it goes to my very
heart. When the Chossid slapped the Maskil, the child turned pale and
green with fright, so that I took him by the hand and led him out of the
room.

"Come for a walk."

"A walk?" he stammers.

The pale face flushes.

"Do you never go out for a walk?"

"Not now. When my mother, peace be upon her, was alive, she used to
take me out walking Sabbaths and holidays. My father, long life to him,
says it's better to sit at one's book."

We were already in the long entrance passage. A "Shield of David" shone
redly from a lamp some way off. I could not see his face, but the thin
little hand trembled as it lay in mine.

We stepped out into the street.

The sky that hung over Tishewitz resembled a dark blue uniform with dim
steel buttons.

My companion found it like a curtain[81] sewn with silver spangles.

Perhaps he is dreaming of just such a blue satin "prayer-bag," with
spangles, some day to be his own. In five or six years he may receive it
as a gift from his bride.

The little town looks quite different by night. The rubbish heaps and
the tumbledown houses are hidden in the "poetical and silent lap of
darkness."

The windows and door-panes look like great, fiery, purple eyes. By the
hearth-sides pots of boiling water must be standing ready for the
potatoes or the dumplings.

The statistics give an average annual expenditure of thirty-seven and a
half rubles a head--about ten kopeks a day. Now calculate: school fees,
two sets of pots and pans, Sabbaths and holidays, an illness, and a
wonder-working Rebbe--besides extras. You see now why there is not
always a meal cooking, why the dumplings are of buck-wheat without an
egg, and why the potatoes are not always eaten with dripping. Many of
the houses are stone-blind. In these it is a question of a bit of bread
with or without a herring, and perhaps grace without meat. In one of
those houses must live the widow who requires so little, beating her
hollow chest through the long confession. Perhaps she measures her
winding-sheet, or thinks of her wedding dress of long ago with its gold
braid, and from her old eyes there drops a tear, and she whispers,
smiling, into the night: "After all, what does a Jewess need?"

My motherless companion is thinking of something else. Hopping on one
little foot, he lifts his face to the moon, swimming with a silly,
aristocratic air in and out of the light clouds.

He sighs. Has he seen a star fall? No.

"_Öi_," he says, "_wollt ich gewollt, Meshiach soll kimmen!_" (How I do
wish the Messiah would come!)

"What is the matter?"

"I want the moon to be made bigger again. It is so dreadfully sad about
her! She committed a sin, but to suffer so long! It will soon be six
thousand years."

Altogether, two requests! one of his earthly father for a second little
onion, and one of his Father in Heaven, for the enlargement of the moon.

A wild impulse seized me to say: "Let alone! Your father will soon marry
again, you will soon have a step-mother, become a step-child, and have
to cry for a bit of bread! Spare the little onion, forget about the moon
..."

It was all I could do to refrain.

We left Tishewitz behind, the spring airs blew toward us from the green
fields. He drew me to a tree, we sat down.

He must have sat here, it occurs to me, with his mother. She must have
pointed out to him the different things that grew in the narrow plots
belonging to the townspeople. He recognizes wheat, rye, potatoes.

And those are briars.

Nobody eats briars, do they?

Donkeys eat briars.

"Why," he asks, "did God make all creatures to eat different things?"

He does not know that if they ate the same, they would be all alike.


THE YARTSEFF RABBI

The Yartseff rabbi is a man who has all that heart desireth. He gets
four rubles a week, and that is really more than enough. How? Are they
not an old couple without children? He used to be Dayan in a larger
town. There also he had four rubles a week, and nearly cut his fingers
to bits over dried herring from week's end to week's end.

Here it's different. He goes through his daily fare for my benefit. For
breakfast, what shall he say? a little milk-gruel; for dinner,
sometimes, half a pound of meat; and in the evening, a glass of hot tea
with stale rolls--he really cannot hold more! When one lives in the
country, one must follow country customs, and they are much the best!...
Dinner in the large towns is a ruination and a misery!... If there
should happen not to be any meat for dinner, well, he can afford to
wait to eat till supper-time. Sometimes, early in the day, there is a
little vegetable soup with dripping--that is how one lives in Yartseff
and one does very well. In the large town it was often difficult to get
on. Not that _he_ cared! He really doesn't like meat. On week-days it is
heavy food; on week-days he likes an onion with a little sour milk, he
prefers sour milk even to Purim herbs, it is his nature, but the
rebbitzin, she wouldn't look at it (he smiles as he glances at her)--her
feelings used to get hurt. It was jealousy! _How_ was that? Well, the
Shochet's wife had sausage, and she, the Dayan'te, not so much as a
bone--wasn't that humiliating, _ha_? Now he has done with all that; in
Yartseff, thank God, they all eat meat every Sabbath and even mutton,
and week-days all fare much alike, too. So long as the rebbitzin has no
one to envy, it's all right!

"To envy!" throws in the rebbitzin. "I know, I know!" laughs the rabbi's
head with the tiny wrinkles, the beard with the soft end quivers, the
old eyes grow moister. "I know, it was not the sinful body you were
thinking of, but the honor of the Law. Of course, a Shochet sausage and
a Dayan--no, that was very wrong! A Dayan is distinctly greater than a
Shochet! Well, well, anyhow, here I am quit of all that--where they
don't kill for a whole week at a time."

He is still better pleased with the fresh country air. In the large
towns, the householders must live in large houses. The rich householders
live in the middle; below, in the cellars, and above, in the attics,
poor people, including paid officials of the community like himself.

In summer he had felt suffocated there. It went so far that the
rebbitzin stole away his snuff-box, so that he might at any rate not
stuff snuff up his nose, but she had to give it him back--without snuff
he was nowhere; he cannot even sit and read without it; even when not
taking any, he must have the root snuff-box to finger while he studies,
and even as now, when talking, he would lose the train of his thought
and not find suitable words in which to express himself if he had not
got it.

What do you think? When he first saw Yartseff with the wide, grass-grown
market-place, he would have liked a band to play--and a band _played_!
On that day all Kohol was at home, and they came to meet him with
chamber-music! And he was charmed by the little, tiny houses, like
pieces of root tobacco; there is one walled in, the big one in the
centre of the market-place--it is the lord's.

And the stairs he got away from when he left the large town! He is
naturally weak in the legs, in another year he would have been without
feet! Then--the restfulness of it here!... quiet!... not a dog barks,
and the children (lehavdîl) don't shout. There are thirty boys and
perhaps six teachers, so they're kept well in hand, not as in the large
towns. At Purim and Chanukah, then they shout, yes! they make a fearful
noise! But otherwise you don't hear a sound.

Above all, a blessing from His dear Name, there are no quarrels! Two or
three Chassidîm with blue fringes,[82] but he prays for their life,
because when they die, may it not be for a hundred years, there will be
a to-do over their burial.[83] Meanwhile there is peace. The inhabitants
of the place are all peddlers or "messengers." Even the artisans do not
remain at home, but go and work in the villages, even the Feldscher goes
about the district with the "cuppers." Early on Sunday you can see the
whole male population coming out of the little houses. Outside the town
they take off their boots, hang them upon a stick across their shoulder
and start off in all directions. Friday evening they return. Even the
Shochet sometimes goes away for a whole week, so when should they find
time to quarrel? Sabbath and holidays are the time for disputes, and
every now and again they get up a discussion, start a hare ... but it is
not their line! The thing halts. People are sleepy and tired.

He just sits and studies. Occasionally (he smiles) there is a
dispute--only it is for the honor of God--between him and the Shochet.
You understand, it is seldom a ritual question arises. All the week the
people use milk dishes, Sabbath--meat dishes. They don't stand at the
fire-place together. Questions about the fitness of slaughtered animals
happen along once a year! But on that very account, they make the most
of it, turn over the whole Talmud, all the codes, and there you have a
quarrel. The Shochet is very obstinate and pig-headed, and has a way of
shifting his bundle of faults on to other people's shoulders; says, the
rabbi is obstinate and pig-headed! Even here he had terrible bother
with two things: the yeast and the house, and all (he smiles again)
through the rebbitzin. With the yeast it befell in this wise; he had
agreed with Kohol for four rubles a week. The previous rabbi got four
rubles with the yeast, but they cheated _him_ out of the yeast--he got
none!

On the first Great Sabbath he preached a long sermon on leaven at
Passover. "The town was beside itself with delight. Everyone knows a
good thing, when he hears it, even the most ignorant. I say it is
because all the souls were present at Mount Sinai, and there everything
was revealed, even what scholars in time to come will deduce from what
was explicitly given, so that even when the soul has forgotten, she
recognizes whence things are ... and soon the town gave me the yeast.

"Just at the moment I felt a little exultation, for which His dear Name
quickly punished me. I had trouble with the yeast! I had disputes to
settle all week between the housewives and the rebbitzin; one found her
Sabbath loaf too hard, another too heavy, a third said her yeast ran,
and people suspected the rebbitzin watered it. What could I do? I hadn't
seen her do it, and she said no!

"Well, it was all such nonsense! I can't pass a decision in a case
between the rebbitzin and the housewives, and I arbitrate; if they come
on Friday, I exchange their loaf for mine, and a whole week I give a
little extra yeast for Kliskelech.[84] Altogether a dreadful worry! God
be praised, a tailor brought some dried yeast, and there was an end of
it."

Then as to the house: he observed the rebbitzin was saving money--let
her save! Was it his affair? The children are doing well, but may-be she
wishes to buy a present for a grandchild--so be it! He is not much in
favor of that himself, but he is not going to fight a woman. Perhaps (he
reflects) she means differently; he knows, many prepare for later. He
doesn't. He says, Blessed be His Name, day by day! When they die, there
will be a winding-sheet, but he does not concern himself about it.

The affair of the yeast was just going on. To cut a long matter short,
one day someone told him a fine tale--the rebbitzin had bought some
timber. He came home, and sure enough, it was true. She had even engaged
some workmen, she was beginning to build a house. What is it? She won't
live in lodgings any longer. He interfered no further--let her build!
And she built, she took possession, he--he just carried over his Talmud.

"Now, I am a householder, too."

But it was a long way for him to go to the house-of-study.

"Not of you be it said, my feet have grown weak in my old age. I have
not many books of my own. They have a rule in the house-of-study not to
lend out any book, not to the rabbi, not to any head of the community.
When a question arose, I had nothing to lay my hand on. This gave me a
deal of trouble.

"But God helped me. There was a fire and several houses were burned
down, mine among them. God be praised! The other householders had no
great loss; they were insured. I was not, and Kohol, as you see, set
aside for me a little corner of the house-of-study."


LYASHTZOF

I arrived in Lyashtzof on a dark summer night, between eleven and twelve
o'clock. Another market-place with various buildings and little,
walled-in houses round about.

In the middle of the market-place, a collection of large, white stones.
I drive nearer--the stones move and grow horns; they become a herd of
milk-white goats.

The goats show more sense than the heads of the community of Tishewitz:
they are not frightened. One or two out of the whole lot have lifted
their heads, looked at us sleepily, and once more turned their attention
to the scanty grass of the Gass, and to scratching one the other.

Happy goats! No one calumniates you, _you_ needn't be afraid of
statisticians. It is true, people kill you, but what then? Does not
everyone die before his time? And as far as troubles go, you certainly
have fewer.

I recall what I was told in Tishewitz: "In Lyashtzof you will get on
better and faster. The people are sensible, quieter; no one will run
after you."

Kohol and the goats seem to be equally admirable; one like the other.
But my host, an old friend, is not encouraging. He says it will not be
so easy as people think.

"What will you do?" he asks. "Go from house to house?"

"What else?"

"I wish they may be civil."

"Why shouldn't they be?"

"A Jew hates having his money-box opened and the contents counted."

"Why so? Won't the blessing enter in afterwards?"

"No, it isn't that--the misfortune is that the credit will go out."


THE FIRST ATTEMPT

Early in the morning, before the arrival of the beadle, there come some
Jews--they want to see the note-taker.

My fame has preceded me.

I make a beginning, and turn to one of them:

"Good morning, friend!"

"Good morning, _Sholom Alechem_."[85]

He gives me his hand, quite lazily.

"What is your name, friend?"

"Levi Yitzchok."

"And your German name?"[86]

"Why do you want to know?"

"Well, is it a secret?"

"Secret or no secret, you may as well tell me why you want to know. I'll
be bound _that's_ no secret!"

"Then you don't know it?"

"Not exactly."

"Make a shot at it--just for fun!"

"Bärenpelz," he answers, a little ashamed.

"A wife?"

"_Ett!_"

"What does _ett_ mean?"

"He wants a divorce!" another answers for him.

"How many children?"

He has to think, and counts on his fingers: "By the first wife--mine:
one, two, three; hers: one, two; by the second wife...." He is tired of
counting: "Let us say six!"

"'Let us say' is no good. I must know exactly."

"You see, 'exactly' is not so easy. 'Exactly!' Why do you want to know?
_Wos is?_ Are you an official? Do they pay you for it? Will somebody
follow and check your statements? 'Exactly!'"

"Tell, blockhead, tell," the rest encourage him, "now you've begun,
tell!"

They want to know what the next questions will be.

Once again he has counted on his fingers and, heaven be praised, there
are three more.

"Nine children, health and strength to them!"

"How many sons, how many daughters?"

He counts again:

"Four sons and five daughters."

"How many sons and how many daughters married?"

"You want to know that, too? Look here, tell me why?"

"Tell him, then, tell him!" cry the rest, impatiently.

"Three daughters and two sons," answers someone for the questioned.

_"Taki?"_ says the latter. "And Yisrolik?"

"But he isn't married yet."

"Horse! They call him up next Sabbath![87] What does a week and a half
matter?"

I make a note and ask further: "Have you served in the army?"

"I bought exemption from Kohol, for four hundred rubles![88] Where
should I find them now?" and he groans.

"And your sons?"

"The eldest has a swelling below his right eye, and has besides--not of
you be it said!--a rupture. He has been in three hospitals. It cost more
than a wedding. They only just sent him home from the regiment! The
second drew a high number.[89] ... The third is serving his time now."

"And the wife?"

"At home with me, of course. Need you ask?"

"She might have been at _her_ father's."

"A pauper!"

"Have you a house?"

"Have I a house!"

"Worth how much?"

"If it were in Samoscz, it would be worth something. Here it's not worth
a dreier, except that I have a place to lay my head down in."

"Would you sell it for one hundred rubles?"

"Preserve us! One's own inheritance! Not for three hundred."

"Would you give it for five hundred?"

"_Mê!_ I should hire a lodging and apply myself to some business!"

"And what is your business now?"

"What business?"

"What do you live on?"

"_That's_ what you mean! One just lives."

"On what?"

"God's providence. When He gives something, one has it!"

"But He doesn't throw things down from heaven?"

"He does so! Can I tell how I live? Let us reckon: I need a lot of
money, at least four rubles a week. The house yields, beside my own
lodging, twelve rubles a year--nine go in taxes, five in repairs, leaves
a hole in the pocket of two rubles a year! That's it."

He puts on airs:

"Heaven be praised, I have no money. Neither I, nor any one of the Jews
standing here, nor any other Jews--except perhaps the 'German' ones[90]
in the big towns. We have no money. I don't know any trade, my
grandfather never sewed a shoe. Therefore I live as God wills, and have
lived so for fifty years. And if there is a child to be married, we have
a wedding, and dance in the mud."

"Once and for all, what are you?"

"A Jew."

"What do you do all day?"

"I study, I pray--what else should a Jew do? And when I have eaten, I go
to the market."

"What do you do in the market?"

"What do I do? Whatever turns up. Well, yesterday, for example, I heard,
as I passed, that Yoneh Borik wanted to buy three rams for a gentleman.
Before daylight I was at the house of a second gentleman, who had once
said, he had too many rams. I made an agreement with Yoneh Borik, and,
heaven be praised, we made a ruble and a half by it."

"Are you, then, what is called a commission-agent?"

"How should I know? Sometimes it even occurs to me to buy a bit of
produce."

"Sometimes?"

"What do you mean by 'sometimes'? When I have a ruble, I buy."

"And when not?"

"I get one."

"How?"

"What do you mean by 'how'?"

And it is an hour before I find out that Levi Yitzchock Bärenpelz is a
bit of a rabbinical assistant, and acts as arbiter in quarrels; a bit of
a commission-agent, a fragment of a merchant, a morsel of a match-maker,
and now and again, when the fancy takes him, a messenger.

Thanks to all these "trades," the counted and the forgotten ones, he
earns his bread, although with toil and trouble, for wife and
child--even for the married daughter, because her father-in-law is _but_
a pauper.


THE SECOND ATTEMPT

I am taken into a shop.

A few packets of matches, a few boxes of cigarettes; needles, pins,
hair-pins, buttons, green and yellow soap, a few pieces of home-made,
fragrant soap, a few grocery wares.

"Who lives here?" I ask.

"You can see for yourself!" answers a Jewish woman, and goes on combing
the hair of a little girl about ten years old, who has twitched her head
from under the comb and stares with great, astonished eyes, at the
Goï[91] who talks Yiddish.

"Lay your head down again!" screams the mother.

"What is the name of your husband?" I inquire.

"Mösheh."

"And his 'German' name?"

"May his name come home!" she scolds suddenly. "He has been four hours
getting a dish from the neighbor's!"

"Stop scolding," says the beadle, "and answer when you're spoken to!"

She is afraid of the beadle. He is beadle and bailiff together, and
collects the taxes, besides being held in great regard by the
town-justice.

"Who was scolding? who? what? Can't I speak against my own husband?"

"What is his 'German' name?" I ask again.

The beadle remembers it himself, and answers, "Jungfreud."

"How many children have you?"

"I beg of you, friend, come later on, when my husband is here; that's
his affair! I've enough to do with the shop and six children. Go away,
for goodness' sake!"

I make a note of six children, and ask how many are married.

"Married! I wish any of them were married, I should have fewer gray
hairs."

"Are they all girls?"

"Three are boys."

"What are they doing?"

"What should they be doing? Plaguing my life out with their open
mouths!"

"Why not teach them a trade?"

She turns up her nose, gives me a black look, and refuses to give any
further answers.

I have an idea: I buy a packet of cigarettes. She looks less
disagreeable, and I ask:

"How much does your husband earn?"

"_He?_ He earn anything? What use do you suppose _he_ is, when I can't
even send him to fetch a dish from a neighbor's? He's been four hours
already. It won't be thanks to _him_ if we get any supper to-night!"

She goes off into another fury. I have to go outside and catch the
husband in the street. I knew him--he was carrying a dish!


AT THE SHOCHET'S

I am greeted by a mixture of different voices. A hero of a cock gives a
proud crow, as though there were no such thing as a slaughter-knife in
the world. Contrariwise, a calf lows sadly--it would seem to be hungry,
while between the boards under the holes in the tall roof chirp
quantities of small birds. They have wings and laugh at the Shochet. It
is summer, the air is full of insects, men, even the poorest and
stingiest, leave crumbs about. Zip! zip! and zip! and zip! zip! zip! The
bed in the nest is made, the "he" is decked out in bright colors, the
"she" is modest and silent, and the children have had enough to eat!
They are warm, and are not "down" in someone's note-book for military
service or in connection with the matter of a license.

But ask them what is the meaning of a "blemish in the holy offerings!"
This question is being discussed by two young men, barefoot, in
skull-caps, and undressed to their "little prayer-scarfs."[92]

The young men are only unfit for inspecting licenses or wares in the
shop, but calves for the altar--as fast as you please!

When God portioned out the world, the peasant took the soil, the fisher
the river, the hunter the forest, the gardener the fruit-trees, the
merchant the weights and measures, and so on; but the poet lingered in a
wood. The nightingale sang to him, the trees whispered all sorts of
wood-gossip into his ear, and his eyes, the poetical eyes, could not
look away from the girl kneeling by the stream, from the tadpole in her
hand. And he came too late for everything! The world, when he arrived,
was already divided up. God had nothing left for him but clouds,
rainbows, roses, and song-birds. He did not even find the young
washerwoman on his way back, she had engaged herself somewhere as nurse.

You have fancy! Create a world for yourself, said God.

And people envied the poet--his world was the best! The peasant tilled
his land with sweat and toil. The fisher is not idle--breaking ice in
winter time is no joke. The hunter wearies hunting and pursuing. Pippins
are not so easily made out of crab-apples! The merchant must bestir
himself, if only about falsifying the weights and measures, else he dies
of hunger. _One_ is the poet, who lies on his stomach and creates
worlds!

But it was a mistake. It turned out that his soul was only a
camera-obscura that reflected the outside world with all its mud and
pigs. So long as the pig keeps its place, it is not so bad, but when the
pig gets into the foreground, the poet's world becomes as piggish as
ours.

The only people who remain to be envied are our two young men, the
Shochet's son with the Shochet's son-in-law. Our world with its pigs
doesn't fit in with their world of "blemish in the sacrifice." There is
no connection between the two, no bridge, no link whatever.

And as I have come into _their_ world out of _our_ world, the Gemorehs
are shut, while the young faces express fear and wonder.

The Shochet is not at home, he has gone to a neighboring village; that
is why the calf is still lowing in the house. The wife has a little
draper's shop.

The daughter and a daughter-in-law stand by the fire and their faces are
triply red.

First, from pride in their husbands with their Torah; secondly, from
the crackling fire, and thirdly, with confusion before a stranger, a
man, and a "German" to boot. One caught a corner of her apron in her
mouth, the other moved a few steps backward, as in the synagogue at the
end of the Kedushah. Both look at me in astonishment from under low
foreheads with hairbands of plaited thread.

The young men, however, soon recover themselves. They have heard of the
note-taker, and have guessed that I am he!

The note-taking goes quickly. The Shochet gets four rubles a week,
besides what he earns in the villages; were it not for the meat brought
in from the villages round about, he would be doing very well.

The shop does not bring in much, but always something. Parnosseh, thank
God, they have! As for the children, they will live with the parents,
and when, in God's good time, the parents shall have departed this life,
they will inherit, one, the father's profession, the other, the shop;
the house will be in common.

They look better off than any in the town; better off than the traders,
householders, workmen, better off even than the public-house keeper and
the Feldscher together. There will come a time--I think as I go
out--when even teaching will be one of the best paid professions.

It is all not so bad as people think: besides being a rabbi, a Shochet,
a beadle, and a teacher, there is yet another good way of getting a
living.

In the Shochet's house there is a female lodger; she pays fifteen rubles
a year. The door is locked; through the window, which looks into the
street, I see quite a nice little room. Two well-furnished beds with
white pillows, red-painted wooden furniture; copper utensils hang on the
wall by the fire-place; there is a bright hanging-lamp. The room is full
of comfort and household cheer.

She has silver, too, they tell me. I see a large chest with brass
fittings. There must be silver candle-sticks in it, and perhaps
ornaments.

What do you think? they say. She has a lot of money, the whole town is
in her pocket. She is a widow with three children. The door is locked
all through the week, because she only comes home every Sabbath,
excepting Shabbes Chazon.[93] She spends the whole week going round the
villages in the neighborhood, begging, with all three children.


THE REBBITZIN OF SKUL

Esther the queen was sallow,[94] but a gleam of graciousness lighted up
her countenance. Esther, the Skul rebbitzin, was also plain-featured,
but it was not a gleam, rather a sun, of kindliness that shone in her
face. An old, thin woman, her head covered with a thin, wrinkled, pale
pink skin, droops like a fine Esrog over her red kerchief. Only this
Esrog has two kind, serious eyes.

She is a native of the place, and lives by herself; she has married all
her children in various parts of the country, but nothing would induce
her to live with any one of them.

It is never advisable to let oneself be dependent on a son-in-law or
daughter-in-law. The husband stands up for the wife--the wife for the
husband (not without reason saith the holy Torah: "And therefore a man
shall leave his parents, etc."). She will not give them occasion to
transgress the command to honor a mother, that is a real case of "thou
shalt not cause the blind to stumble."

"God, blessed be His Name, created man so that he should not see the
faults of those nearest him, otherwise the world would be as full of
divorces as of marriage contracts!"

Secondly--as the rabbi of Skul observed more than once--a widow who
depends on her children is a double grass-widow, and "the words of the
rabbi of Skul should be framed in gold and worn about the neck as an
_Öibele_." True, she says with a low sigh, _Öibeles_ are not worn
nowadays, imitation pearls are considered prettier!

She could not stay on in Skul. Since her husband the rabbi died, the
place has become hateful to her. "Really," she says, "'its glory has
departed, its splendor, and its beauty.'" She goes there once a year,
for the anniversary of his death, but she cannot remain long--"it has
grown empty."

She lived with the Skul rabbi forty years. Those that knew him say that
she grew to be his second self.

He, may he forgive me! was a Misnagid; so she thinks nothing of "good
Jews!" His "service" was the Torah in its plain meaning. She sits all
day over the Pentateuch in Yiddish, or learns the Shulchan Aruch;[95]
she quotes the Skul rabbi at every second word and it is his voice, his
motions, his customs!

After the Skul rabbi's Kiddush and Havdoleh, she will listen to no
other; she says her own over cake or currant wine. And _her_ Kiddush is
_his_ Kiddush--the same low, dignified chant, the same sweetness. She
eats "just kosher" and is very learned.

She can answer ritual questions! Forty years running she has stood by
the hearth with her kind face turned to the table at which her husband
sat and studied; her dove's eyes took in his every movement, her ears,
half hidden under the head-kerchief, his every word, she was his true
helpmeet, she hid his every thought in her brain and his goodness in her
heart.

A river may have lain a hundred years in another bed, and all its
previous twists and bends are wrought into the rocks of its first one.
The Skul rabbi's life may have run more peacefully than a river, but the
rebbitzin was no rock to him, rather a sponge that absorbed the whole of
him.

She is not satisfied with the world as it is to-day. "If it is no longer
pious, the Almighty must have a care; if His people behave so, it is
doubtless because He wishes it. Only, there is no 'purpose' in it all;
the present-day stuffs are spider-webs, and people don't sew as they
used to, they cut it all up into seams!

"Don't talk to me of the curtains before the Ark, you can't make so much
as a frock for a child out of them! The old-fashioned head-dresses get
dearer every day, a head-kerchief ought to last forever, and even out of
a bosom-kerchief you can always draw a gold or silver thread, but
imitation pearls and glass spangles are good for nothing. And, believe
me, it is all much uglier, in my opinion!"

But she bears no one a grudge: "My husband, the Skul rabbi, was a
Misnagid, but he never persecuted a Chossid, heaven forbid!"

She remembers how the householders once came crying out that the
Chassidîm of the place were late in reciting the Shema,[96] and she
heard from his own lips the reply: "There are," he said to them,
"different armies, and they have different weapons, different customs,
but they all serve the same kingdom. Even boots," he added with his
smile, "are not all made by the same pattern."

She remembers all his sayings and lives according to his ideas.

He used to get very angry if a workman rose and stood before him as a
sign of respect, for he was greatly in favor of people working with
their hands, therefore when she came here with her few hundred rubles,
she set up soap-making--sooner than live on others.

She knows that even a woman is under the law bidding every one do
something for his own support--it is not one of the laws bound to a
certain time, from which women are exempt. When they "kept" her money,
she remained dependent on the soap only. "It wouldn't be a bad
business," she says, "blessed be His Name! I make three to four rubles a
week before a holiday. My soap, may His Name be praised! has a
reputation in the whole neighborhood, only--just now it's all on credit.
Some day the business will fail."

I look round on all sides, I see no utensils, no instruments for the
work.

Nothing extra is wanted for it, she gives me to understand: "You take
some ashes from the hearth, potatoes, and other vegetables, work them
together in water, let them steam and then simmer over the fire; in that
way you get 'unclear' soap, and if you do the same thing over again, you
get _liter_, that is, good soap!" When I leave, she asks a little
troubled and ashamed:

"Tell me, I beg of you, when your writings come into the hands of the
great people, will they not say I must take out a license?"


INSURED

A quiet summer night. Over there the celebrated wood shows black on the
sky-line; our forefathers engraved in its trees the names of the
divisions of the Talmud they completed as they went along. Yonder, not
far off, they halted, and the "head of the dispersion" said "Pöh lîn!"
(here abide!), and the land has ever since been called "Pöhlin;"[97] but
the other nations cannot make out the reason.

And the wood has a short cut to Jerusalem. There was once a goat
belonging to one of the native Làmed-Wòfniks, and the goat knew the
road; she used to trot every morning to pasture on the Temple Mount, and
return with three pitcherfuls of milk for the holy man.

To the right of the wood, beside a river, lies the town. It is divided
into two parts. One part is a long strip--a straight, paved street with
walled-in houses under sheet-metal roofs, quite substantial, fastened to
the earth with foundations. The inhabitants of the street know for
certain that they will live and die in them; that all the winds of
heaven may blow without causing them to move an inch.

Then comes the second part, another world, quite spiritual: flimsy
"hen-houses" entirely built of straw and fir planks, with only an
occasional slate-roof. A breeze blows over them, and they are gone. Do
their dwellers hope to find the short cut to the Temple Mount, like the
immortal goat, or do they speculate on the fire-insurance?

And how like are the houses to their inhabitants! These are
narrow-chested, with darkened eyes, and crouch under crooked straw caps.

Cocks crow out of the huts, ducks quack, and geese cackle. From out the
marsh, which licks the threshold with seventy tongues, croak well-fed,
portly frogs. A Jewish calf frequently contributes a bleat, and is
answered out of the long street by a Gentile dog. I shall begin to take
notes early in the morning.

I know beforehand what it will be: if not thirty-six rubles a year, it
will be thirty-three or thirty-two.... I shall find "many trades and
few blessings,"[98] more soap factories, any number of empty houses....
The beadle will reckon up for me: _he_ is a messenger, _she_, a
huckstress; two daughters are out in service in Lublin, in Samoscz....
one son is a "helper" in a Cheder, the other serving his time in the
army, and the daughter-in-law with three, four, five children has gone
home to her father and mother....

I shall find neglected children tumbling about in the swamp with the
ducks and geese; mites of babies screaming their throats out in the
cradles; sick people left alone in bed; boarded-out children sitting
over Gemorehs; young women in furry wigs and with or without shyness; I
hardly shut my eyes, before these same weary, livid, pale, twisted
faces, walking sorrows, rise before me ... there is seldom one who
smiles, one with a dimple ... all the men so unmanly, so mummy-like,
women with running eyes, carrying a load of fruit, a sack of onions, or
else an unborn child together with the onions. I know I shall come
across an unlicensed third-rate public-house, two or three
horse-stealers, and more than two or three receivers of stolen goods.
But what about the statistics? Can they answer the question, how many
empty stomachs, useless teeth? how many people whose eyes are drawn out
of their sockets as with pincers at the sight of a piece of dry bread?
how many people who have really died of hunger?

All you gain by statistics is that you find out about an unlicensed
public-house, or a horse-thief, or a receiver of stolen goods.

Scientific medicine has invented a machine for checking heart-beats, one
by one; the foolish statistics play with figures. Do statistics record
the anxious heart-beats that thumped in the breast of the grandson of
the descendant from Spanish ancestors, or the son of the author of the
_Tevuas Shor_, before they committed their first illegality? Do they
measure how their hearts bled _after_ they committed it? Do they count
the sleepless nights before and after?

Can they show how many were the days of hunger? How many times the
children flung themselves about in convulsions, how often hands and feet
shook when the first glass was filled by the unlicensed brandy-seller?
Livid, ghastly, blue faces float before me in the empty air, and
blue-brown, parched lips whisper: "There has been no fire in my chimney
for twenty-four days."

"We have eaten potato peelings for ten."

"Three died without a doctor or a prescription; I _had_ to save the
fourth!"

The hoarse voices cut me to the heart, like a blunt knife; I leave the
window where I have been standing; but the room is full of ghosts.

By the stove stands a red Jew, well-nourished: "Hee, hee!" he laughs.
"Steal? buy stolen things? a business like any other ... not less than a
month's imprisonment ... in a month I would have lost a fortune ... all
the noblemen will bear me witness ... honestly! honestly!"

That voice is worse; it saws ... I throw myself on the bed, I shut my
eyes, and there appears to me the good old rebbitzin of Skul.

"Well," she says with her childlike, silvery voice, "and suppose the
result of your inquiries were not favorable for the Jews, shall you he
able to say: 'Thy people are all righteous?'" I feel as if her kind,
blue, dove-like eyes rested soothingly on my hot forehead.

I fell asleep beneath them, and I dreamt of the two angels, the good
inclination and the evil one. I saw them flying earthward before
day-break, enveloped in a thin, pink mist. The evil inclination carried,
in one hand, a blue paper with a large, black eye in the top left-hand
corner, evidently a deed relating to a house or some property ...
expensive dresses, besides fur caps, braided kaftans, silk sashes, also
a top-hat and frock-coat as if for one person; also handkerchiefs,
head-kerchiefs, kerchiefs with tinsel, pearl necklaces, as well as silk
and satin trains of all colors--all that in one hand, and in the
other--potato peelings....

The good inclination--naked, without clothes or things to carry, as God
made him....

Both fly ... it seems as if the good inclination wanted to tell me
something, he opens his pretty mouth ... but not his voice, a cry of
alarm wakes me. Fire! I spring out of bed, there is a fire just
opposite!

A long tongue of flame stretches out toward me and seems to say:

"Don't be frightened: it's insured!"


THE FIRE

The fiery tongue was put out at me by Reb Chaïm Weizensang's house. The
tongue grew larger and the house smaller till it fell in, into a sea of
wails and screams of terror. There was fortunately no wind at the time
of the conflagration.

When the sun rose from out the mist, blushing red like a beautiful and
innocent maiden after the bath, she saw nothing but long, black, male
heads turning over the ruins with sticks. They were looking for the
remnants of Weizensang's riches in the remnants of his house.

Groups of yellow-faced women are already standing around it. The brown
shawls are held with washed fingers over their unwashed heads, and pale
lips lament and bewail the house.

With the morning came a fresh wind. A little sooner, and it would have
played havoc. Now it just shakes the remaining old chimney over the
women's heads as though it were a palm. The chimney rocks and groans
sadly, as though it felt deserted, and perhaps it listens to the
inn-keeper telling me the tale of the destruction of the house, and
affirms with a nod: "True, true!"

You would sooner pick up every thread, every dust-grain of life out of
which the sleep-angel has woven you a fantastic dream, than discover all
the devices a Jew must resort to before he hears the clink of copper
coin.

If I were to describe everything, you would think I had been dreaming
myself.... Who shall read the Divine countenance when a wretched
creature stands before Him, lifts its head with its racked brain,
extinguished eyes, and trembling voice, and pressing its empty stomach
with cracked and bony hands, prays without a voice, without a language;
the tongue will not move, but the blood cries: "Lord of the world, I
have done my part, now--Thou must help! Lord of the world, feed me like
the ravens! In what am I more worthless than they are? Lord of the
world, where are _my_ crumbs? When will it be _my_ 'Sabbath of
Song?'"[99]

And for all the body he has, he might very well be a bird; nothing is
wanting but the wings, and the nest with the crumbs.

And therefore the Jewish Parnossehs are so specialized that their like
will only be in the twenty-first century, when one specialist will lift
the upper eye-lid, a second press down the lower, and a third examine
the sick eye.

If a dish of roast veal, a rag in a paper-factory, or an exported egg
had a mouth to speak with and the rabbi Reb Heshil's memory, they would
still be unable to say how many Jewish hands had taken them out and put
them in, from the peasant's shed into the roasting-pan, from the
manure-box into the "Holländer,"[100] from servitude into freedom....
And a Jewish Parnosseh is just such a ladder as Jacob our father saw in
a dream, the night when all stones united into one stone for his head, a
ladder standing on the earth, and the top of it reaches into the sky.

How deep it is chained into the earth, is known only to the worm at its
foot, and how high it reaches--to the star only that shines above it.

_We_ grow giddy gazing up the height; and when we peer down into the
depths, our stomach turns, and we look green forever after.

Angels ascend and descend the ladder; men, alas, _climb_ it with their
last remaining strength, and fall down it when their strength is
exhausted. And even if he can thank his stars his neck is not broken,
the Jew has no strength left to begin climbing again.

Such is the ladder that was partly climbed by our "burnt-out" one. First
he travelled between the villages as a "runner," on business for other
people; the earth was hot to his bare feet. It was not the cry of a
brother's blood this Cain heard, it was the cry of wife and children for
bread.

Heaven came to his assistance; he bought very cheaply for two or three
years on end, and then he was promoted from a "runner" to a "walker."
There was already provision at home for a week at a time, and he only
came back Fridays with the result of a week's bargaining; the brain was
more composed, and had time to take in the fact that the feet were
becoming swollen, that the father of six children ought always to walk
and not run, if he wishes his feet to carry him till at least one of
them is confirmed. And God helped further; he is now, blessed be the
Name, a village peddler, that is, he walks only when there is no
"opportunity"[101] to ride in from one village to another for a kopek;
if the "opportunity" is there, he rides.

God helped him on again; another year or two, and he has his own horse
and cart!

Time does not stand still, and he took no rest, and God helped. The one
horse turned into two, the cart into a trap, and it even came to a
driver! And he is now a produce dealer; first he deals with peasants and
then with gentlemen.

And, God helping, he gets into favor first with the head of the dairy
farm, then with the manager, after that with the bailiff, after that
again with the steward, and at last with the count himself. O, by that
time he is an inhabitant, settled in the place, the driver becomes a
domestic servant, horse and carriage are sold, and pockets are lined
with the count's receipts....

What is he now?

He is like the sun round which circle the stars--smaller traders, and
little stars--brokers.

He shines and illumines the whole place with credit. Yelenskin compared
him to a spider sitting in his web, and the count to one of the flies
entangled in it. After a while our "sun-spider," or "spider-sun,"
enlarged his house, wrote marriage contracts for his children, settled
dowries on them; bought his wife pearls and himself a sealskin coat,
engaged better teachers for his boys, and for the girls someone to teach
them if only how to write a Jewish letter.

Suddenly (at least, for the town), the count was declared bankrupt, and
our "spider-sun," or "sun-spider," lost everything at once.

If I had passed through a month earlier, I should have put down:

A house, fifteen hundred rubles, a propination,[102] a business in
timber and produce, a money-lender. He has lent the count fifteen
thousand rubles at ten per cent., not as a mortgage, but for
"hand-receipts."

Now I write one word:

"Burnt-out."

I might add:

A man of eighty-two, swollen feet, a household of seventeen persons.


THE EMIGRANT

I open a door.

A room without beds, without furniture, carpeted with hay and straw. In
the middle of the room stands a barrel upside down. Round the barrel,
four starved-looking children, with frowzy hair, hang over a great
earthenware dish of sour milk, out of which they eat, holding a greenish
metal spoon in their right hand and a bit of bran-bread in their left.

In one corner, on the floor, sits a pale woman, and the tears fall from
her eyes on the potatoes she is about to peel. In the second corner lies
"he," also on the floor, and undressed.

"It was no good your coming, neighbor," he says to me, without rising,
"no good at all! I don't belong here now!"

But when he sees that I have no intention of going away, he raises
himself slowly.

"_Nu_, where am I to seat you?" he asks sadly.

I assure him that I can write standing.

"You will get nothing out of me! I am only waiting for a boat
ticket--you see, I have sold everything, even my tools...."

"You are a mechanic?" I ask.

"A tailor."

"And what obliges you to emigrate?"

"Hunger."

And there was hunger in _his_ face, in _her_ face, and still more in the
gleaming eyes of the children round the barrel.

"No work to be had?"

He shrugged his shoulders as much as to say, he and work had long been
strangers.

"Where are you going to?"

"To London. I was there once already, and made money. I sent my wife ten
rubles a week, and lived like a human being. The bad luck brought me
home again."

I wondered if the "bad luck" were his wife.

"Why not have sent for your family to join you?"

"It drew me back! It's black as night over there. As soon as ever I
closed an eye, I dreamt of the little town, the river round it, ... I
felt suffocated there, and it drew me and drew me...."

"This is certainly," I remark, "a beautiful bit of country."

"The air costs nothing, and we have been living on air, heaven be
praised, these three years. This time I am going with wife and child. I
mean to put an end to it."

"You will miss the wood again!"

"The wood!"--he gives himself a twist with a bitter smile--"my wife
went into the wood the evening before last, to gather berries, and they
marched her out and treated her to the whip."

"There is the river,"--I want to take him away from his sad thoughts.

His pale face grew paler.

"The river? In the summer it took one of my children."

I hurried away from the luckless home.


THE MADMAN

I returned to my lodgings quite unnerved, and lay a long time on the
hard sofa without closing an eye.... A noise wakes me. Something is
stealing in to me through the window. I see on the window ledge two
long, bony, dirty hands, and there raises itself from behind them an
unkempt head with two gleaming eyes in a livid face.

"Won't you enter _me_?" asks the head, softly.

I do not know how to answer. He, meanwhile, has taken silence for
consent, and stands in the middle of the room.

Alarmed, and still more astonished, I keep my eye on him.

"Write!" he says impatiently. "Shall I give you the ink and a pen?"

Without waiting for an answer, he pushes up to my sofa the little table
with the writing materials.

"Write, please, write!"

And his voice is so soft and gentle, it finds its way into my heart, and
I am no longer frightened.

I sit up to write. I question him, and he answers me.

"Your name?"

"Jonah."

"Your surname?"

"When I was a little boy, they called me Jonah Zieg. After my wedding,
Jonah Drong, but since the misfortune happened to me, Mad Jonah."

"What is your German name?"

"O, you mean _that_?... Directly, directly. Perelmann. You see my
pearls?"

He points to a torn, red kerchief round his neck, and says: "Real
pearls, _ha_? But that's what I'm called. How can I help it?"

"A wife?"

"You had better _not_ put her down: she doesn't live with me. Since the
misfortune, she doesn't live with me ... a nice wife, too. I would
gladly have given her a divorce, but the rabbi wouldn't allow it. He
said I mustn't. A nice little wife!"

And his eyes grew moist.

"She even took the child with her. It's better off with her--what should
_I_ do with it? Carry it about? They throw stones at me, and would have
hurt it."

"One child is it you have?"

"One."

"What was your misfortune?"

"May you know trouble as little as I know that! Folk say a devil. The
Röfeh says, a stone fell into my head, and the soul, or, as he calls it,
the life, into my belly. I don't remember the stone, but I have a bruise
on my head."

He takes off his hat and cap together, bends his head, and shows me a
bare bump in the hair.

"It may have been from a stone, but I _am_ mad--that's certain."

"What is your eccentricity?"

"Two or three times a day I have my soul in my belly, and then I speak
out of my belly, and crow like a cock. I can't stop myself, I really
can't!"

"What were you _before_ the misfortune?"

"I hadn't got to be anything. It happened to me early in the Köst.[103]
That is why I have only one child, health and strength to it!"

"Have you any money?"

"I had a few gulden dowry. A lot of it went in remedies--on 'good Jews'
... the rest I gave _her_."

"What do you live on?"

"On trouble. The boys throw stones at me. I daren't go about in the
market-place, else I might have earned something near a stall. At one
time people were sorry for me and gave me things. Now times are bad--I
have to go begging. I beg before dinner, while the children are still in
Cheder. And it's little enough I get by it! The town is small; there are
two mad people in it beside me. And now they say that yesterday the
'Lokshiche'[104] threw a saucepan at her servant's head. The servant is
sure to go mad, quite sure! Only I don't know yet if she will crow as I
do, or trumpet into her fist, like the rabbi's Shlom'tzie, or be silent
like Hannah the Tikerin."


MISERY

I shall not call the little town by its name, but if I come across
another such, I, too, shall begin to crow, like the madman....

He was an excellent shoemaker, who supported wife and children (rarely
less than four or five) respectably. He won a large sum of money in a
lottery, took to drink, drank it all up, left his wife and children to
shift for themselves, disappeared, and must have died since somewhere or
other beneath a hedge.

But that is not specifically Jewish. Take another one of us, his partner
in the lottery ticket. He was a teacher, won some money, hired a mill
together with the Rebbe. The mill failed, now he is beadle in a
Chassidic meeting-house, gets nothing for it, but he sells the "bitter
drop." The wife is a "buyer-in," takes round eggs and butter to the
houses. She doesn't earn much, because she is lame. One son is away, the
second works somewhere at a carpenter's; one is at home, scrofulous.

The widow Beile Bashe, surname unknown, lives with a daughter-in-law, a
soldier's wife. The husband disappeared in the Turkish war. The
daughter-in-law plucks feathers--she is a Tikerin, and watches beside
women in child-bed, or else by the sick. In summer, so long as the
nobleman allowed it, she gathered berries in the forest; a sickly woman,
she does a little bit of begging besides.

Zeinwill Graf has only lately become a skinner. Last year he was a great
fisher, rented a river which the nobleman wished to let to a Christian;
he paid a lot of cession-money, caught only "forbidden fish" the whole
summer, and is now in dire poverty.

Shmerke Bentzies, formerly a Dantzig trader ... it is twenty years since
he came home empty-handed. Since then he trades in currant-wine for
Kiddush. The wife is a sempstress, has suffered a year or two with her
eyes. "They haven't _no_ children," but competition in the currant-wine
trade is very keen, and they struggle.

Melach Berils, a fine young man, only lately boarding with his
father-in-law ... he was in business together with a cattle-dealer and
lost his money; meantime the father-in-law died in poverty. It is
uncertain what he will do. There are three little children, not more.

I was also asked to put down a man (they had forgotten the name), a man
with a wife, and children (nobody remembers how many, but a lot), who
may arrive at any moment. The nobleman has refused to renew his lease;
no one can tell what he will take to, but--"you may as well put him
down!"


THE LÀMED-WÒFNIK

"We (the story is told me by a teacher of small children) once had a
real Làmed-Wòfnik!"

"He said so himself?" I ask.

"Well, he would have been a fine Làmed-Wòfnik if he had! He denied it
'stone and bone.' If he were questioned about it, he lost his temper and
fired up. But, of course, people got wind of it, they knew well enough!
yes, 'kith and kin,' the whole town knew it! As if there could be any
doubt! People talked, it was clear as daylight! In the beginning, there
were some who wouldn't believe--they came to a bad end!

"For instance: Yainkef-Yosef Weinshenker, a man of eighty and much
respected, I can't quite explain, but he sort of turned up his nose at
him. Did he _say_ anything? Heaven forbid! but there! Like that....
Turned up his nose as much as to say: Preserve us! Nothing worse! Well,
what do you think? Not more than five or six years after, he was dead.
Yainkef-Yosef lay in his grave. Poor Leah, the milkwoman! One was sorry
for her. It was muddy, and she did not step off the stone causeway to
make room for him. Would you believe it, the milk went wrong at all her
customers' for a month on end! And there was no begging off! When
approached on the subject, he pretended to know nothing about it, and
scolded into the bargain!"

"Of course,"--I wish to show off my knowledge--"though a scholar decline
the honor due to him...."

"A scholar? _Is_ a Làmed-Wòfnik a scholar? And you think he knew even
how to read Hebrew properly? He could manage to make seven mistakes in
spelling Noah. Besides, Hebrew is nothing. Hebrew doesn't count for much
with us. He could not even read through the weekly portion. And his
reciting the Psalms made nevertheless an impression in the highest! The
last Rebbe, of blessed memory, said that Welvil (that was his name, the
Làmed-Wòfnik's) cleft the seventh heaven! And you think his
Psalm-singing was all! Wait till I tell you!

"Hannah the Tikerin's goat (not of you be it said!) fell sick, and she
drove it to the Gentile exorcist, who lives behind the village. The goat
staggered, she was so ill.

"On the way--it was heaven's doing--the goat met the Làmed-Wòfnik, and
as she staggered along, she touched his cloak. What do you think? Cured,
as I live! Hannah kept it to herself, only what happened afterwards was
this: A disease broke out among the goats; literally, 'there was not a
house in which there was not one dead;' then she told. The Làmed-Wòfnik
was enticed into the market-place, and all the goats were driven at
him."

"And they all got well?"

"What a question! They even gave a double quantity of milk."

"The Tikerin got a groschen a goat--she became quite rich!"

"And he?"

"He? nothing! Why, he denied everything, and even got angry and
scolded--and such an one _may_ not take money, he is no 'good Jew'--he
must not be 'discovered!'"

"How did he live?"

"At one time he was a shoemaker (a Làmed-Wòfnik has got to be a workman,
if only a water-carrier, only he must support himself with his hands);
he used to go to circumcisions in a pair of his own shoes, but in his
old age he was no longer any good for a shoemaker, he could no longer so
much as draw the thread, let alone put in a patch--his hands shook: he
just took a message, carried a canful of water, sat up with the dead at
night, recited Psalms, was called up to the Tochechoh,[105] and in
winter there was the stove to heat in the house-of-study."

"He carried wood?"

"Carry wood? Why, where were the boys? The wood was brought, laid in the
stove, he gave the word, and applied the light. People say: A stove is a
lifeless thing. And yet, do you know, the house-of-study stove knew him
as a woman (lehavdîl) knows her husband! He applied a light and the
stove burnt! The wind might be as high as you please. Everywhere else it
smoked, but in the house-of-study it crackled! And the stove, a split
one, such an old thing as never was! And let anyone else have a try--by
no means! Either it wouldn't burn, or else it smoked through every
crack, and the heat went up the chimney, and at night one nearly froze
to death! When he died, they had to put in another stove, because nobody
could do anything with the old one.

"He was a terrible loss! So long as he lived there was Parnosseh, now,
heaven help us, one may whistle for a dreier! There was no need to call
in a doctor."

"And all through his Psalms?"

"You ask such a question? Why, it was as clear as day that he delivered
from death."

"And no one died in his day?"

"All alive? Nobody died? Do you suppose the death-angel has no voice in
the matter? How many times, do you suppose, has the 'good Jew' himself
of blessed memory wished a complete recovery, and he, Satan, opposed him
with all his might? Well, was it any good? An angel is no trifle! And
the Heavenly Academy once in a while decides in the death-angel's
favor. Well, then! There was no doctor wanted; not one could get on
here. Now we have _two_ doctors!"

"Beside the exorcist?"

"He was taken, too!"

"_Gepegert?_"[106]

"One doesn't say _gepegert_ of anyone like that--the 'other side'[107]
is no trifle, either."


THE INFORMER

If Tomàshef had a Làmed-Wòfnik, it had an "informer" too! This also was
told me by the primary school teacher. Neither is it long since he--only
I don't know how it should be expressed--departed, died, was taken.

Perhaps you think an ordinary informer, in the usual sense of the word;
he saw a false weight, an unequal balance, and went and told? Heaven
forbid! Not at all! It was all blackmail, all frightening people into
paying him not to tell--see, there he goes, he runs, he drives, he
writes, he sends! And he sucked the marrow from the bones--

"And he was badly used himself," continued the teacher. "I remember when
Yeruchem first brought him here! A very fine young man! Only Yeruchem
promised 'dowry and board,' and hadn't enough for a meal for himself.
And Yeruchem had been badly used, too. His brother Getzil (a rich miser
as ever was), he had the most to answer for!

"It is a tale of two brothers, one clever and good, the other foolish
and bad; the good, clever one, poor, and the bad fool, a rich man. Of
course, the rich brother would do nothing for the poor one.

"Well, so long as it was only a question of food, Yeruchem said nothing.
But when his daughter Grüne had come to be an overgrown girl of nineteen
or twenty, Yeruchem made a commotion. The town and the rabbi took the
matter up, and Getzil handed over a written promise that he would give
so and so much to be paid out a year after her marriage. Not any sooner;
the couple might change their minds, Yeruchem would spend the money, and
there would be the whole thing over again.

"He, Getzil, wished to defer the payment until the end of three years,
but they succeeded in getting him to promise to pay it in one year. When
the time came, Getzil said: 'Not a penny! Anyhow, according to _their_
law, the paper isn't worth a farthing,' and meanwhile it became
impossible to settle it within the community. The old rabbi had died;
the new rabbi wouldn't interfere, he was afraid of the crown-rabbi, lest
he send it up to the regular courts--and there it ended! Getzil wouldn't
give a kopek, Yeruchem disappeared either on the way to a 'good Jew,' or
else he went begging through the country ... and Beinishe remained with
Grüne!

"Truly, the ways of the Most High are past finding out! It seems
ridiculous! He was a lad and she was a girl, but it was all upside down.
The woman, an engine, a Cossack, and the husband, a misery, a bag of
bones! And what do you think! She took him in hand and made a man of
him!

"She was always setting him on Getzil, he was to prevent the
congregation from taking out the scrolls until the matter was settled,
prevent Getzil from being called up to the Law.... it made as much
impression as throwing a pea at a wall. Getzil cuffed him, and after
that the young fellow was ashamed to appear in the house-of-study. Once,
just before Passover, when all devices had failed, Grüne again drove
Beinishe to his uncle, and drove him with a broom! Beinishe went again,
and again the uncle turned him out. I tell you--it was a thing to
happen! My second wife (to be) had just been divorced from her first
husband, and she was Grüne's lodger; and she saw Beinishe come home with
her own eyes; he was more dead than alive, and shook as if he had the
fever; and my good-woman was experienced in that sort of thing (she had
been the matron of the Hekdesh before it was burnt down), and she saw
that something serious had happened.

"It was just about the time when Grüne was to come home (she sold rolls)
from market, and she would have knocked him down; and my good-wife
advised him, out of compassion, to lie down and rest on the stove; and
he, poor man, was like a dummy, tell him to do a thing and he did it; he
got up on the stove.

"Grüne came home, my good-woman said nothing; Beinishe lay and slept, or
pretended to sleep, on the stove![108] And perhaps he was not quite
clear in his head, because, when Getzil was turning him out of the
house, he cried out that he would tell where they had hidden Getzil's
son, and if he had been clear in the head, he would not have said a
thing like that.

"However that may be, the words made a great impression on Getzil's
wife. May my enemies know of their life what Beinishe knew of the
whereabouts of Jonah-Getzil's! But there, a woman, a mother, an only
son!... so, what do you think? She had a grocery shop, got a porter and
a bag of Passover-flour, and had it carried after her to Grüne.

"She goes in ... (such a pity, my wife isn't here! she was an
eye-witness of it, and when she tells the story, it is enough to make
you split with laughter); she goes in, leaves the porter outside the
room.

"'Good morning, Grüne!' Grüne makes no reply, and Getzil's wife begins
to get frightened.

"'Where,' she asks, 'is Beinishe?' 'The black year knows!' answers
Grüne, and turns to the fire-place, where she goes on skimming the soup.
He must have gone to inform, she thinks. She calls in the porter, the
sack of meal is put down, Grüne does not see, or pretends she doesn't,
devil knows which! Getzil's wife begins to flush and tremble, 'Grünishe,
we are relatives ... one blood--call him back! Why should he destroy
himself and my soul with him?'

"Then only Grüne turned round. She was no fool, and soon took in the
situation. She got a few more rubles out of them, and made believe to go
after Beinishe.... It was soon rumored in the town that Beinishe was an
informer ... and Grüne was glad of it ... she kept Beinishe on the
stove, and bullied and drew blood at every householder's where there was
anything wrong."

"At that rate, _she_ was the informer?"

"First she, and then he himself. In his misery, he took to drink, hung
about at night in the public-houses, threatened to 'inform' all on his
own account. He never gave Grüne a penny, and spent all he had in
dissipation. It was sad--a man like that to end so!"

"What happened?"

"He burnt up his inside with drink. First he went mad, and ran about in
the streets, or lay out somewhere for weeks under a hedge. But home to
Grüne--not for any money!

"Even when he was quite a wreck, ten men couldn't get him back into his
house. He fought and bit. He had to be brought into the house-of-study
(the Hekdesh was no longer in existence), and there he died! They tried
to save him, called in a specialist, recited Psalms."

"The Làmed-Wòfnik, too?"

"Certainly!"

"Well?"

"A man with no inside--what could you expect?"



XVI

THE OUTCAST


May had been cold and wet from beginning to end. People began to feel as
if summer would never come, as if it would go on freezing and raining
forever. At last, the day before Pentecost, the sun shone out.

"Torah is light!" said my father, with proud satisfaction, and began to
look for the Tikun[109] for the night of Pentecost.

"In honor of the holy feast-day!" exclaimed my mother, joyfully, and
went back with fresh courage to her cake-making.

"I am going to bake Gelle Challeh!"[110] she called to us.

Soon the house was filled with the smell of freshly-kneaded dough,
saffron, cinnamon and cloves, sugared cheese and melted butter.

My younger sister Hannah took no part in what was going forward.

She sat by the window over a book, but she read nothing, and her eyes
stared anxiously out into the street.

Our mother called on her several times for help, but Hannah did not even
answer....

The pale face wears a scornful smile ... the delicate lips open, she is
about to speak! But she remains silent, and fastens her eyes upon her
book.

"Lazy thing!" grumbles our mother, "always poring over books!
Working-day or holiday, it's all the same to her!"

Our father, who rarely interferes in household matters, having found the
book and dusted it, lies down to sleep before bathing, to prepare for
being up at night.

Our mother stops complaining, lest she should wake him. She calls me
quietly to her, gives me a few pennies, and tells me to go down-stairs
and buy a bit of green, and some colored paper with which to festoon the
windows.

Heaven knows, I am unwilling enough to leave the room wherein stands a
bowl of sweet cream, another of sugared cheese, and where packets of
currants and raisins lie all about. At the same time, going to buy, to
bargain over, and to pay for greenery and paper, was still more
seductive, and away I run.

And it turned out to be such a dreadful Pentecost!

       *       *       *       *       *

Hannah, my sister, ran away!

We had gone to prayers, and my mother had lain down to rest before
blessing the lights.... It was then they gave a signal--my mother
remembered afterwards hearing a terrible whistle in her sleep. And she
left us, and went over to our enemies! And the time she chose was
Pentecost, the season of the giving of our Law!... It was then she left
us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Everything passes away, joy and sorrow, good and evil, and still we go
forward on our way to the land where all things are forgotten--or
remembered anew.

Everything we have lived through lies beneath our feet like stones in a
beaten track, like gravestones under which we have buried our friends,
good and bad.

But I cannot forget Hannah!

       *       *       *       *       *

The life she had sought so eagerly spurned her from it, the vision of
happiness faded into thin air, the flowers turned to sharp thorns in her
grasp!

There was no return possible.

In her way stood the Law and two graves: her father's grave and her
mother's.

Where is she?

Once every year, on the eve of Pentecost, she shows herself to me again.

She appears in the street, she stands outside at the window, as if she
were afraid, as if she had not the power to enter a Jewish home.

She gazes with staring eyes into the room, and sees me there alone.

She looks at me with dismay, supplication, and anger. I understand her.

"Where are they?" she asks in dismay. "Have pity on me!" she says,
imploring. And then, in anger, she lays the whole blame of the disaster
on us:

       *       *       *       *       *

"What could I know of your bitter feud with _them_? _You_ knew, you
learned all about it in school, _my_ books told me nothing, not a word!

"Living in the same house with you, I led a separate life. My
story-books were like mirrors filled with the bright reflection of
other women's lives, and, as I read, my own appeared there in all its
dreariness!

"I have betrayed something?

"I have been false? To what?

"I only exchanged saffron cakes for cakes of another sort, the tales in
Mother's books of legends for others far more vivid and entrancing--a
bit of green in the window for the free, fresh green of the woods and
fields--litanies for romances--the narrow, stifling routine of my daily
life for sunshine and flowers, for gladness and love! I never betrayed
_you_--I never knew you!

"I knew nothing of your sorrow, you never spoke to me of yourselves. Why
did you not tell me of _your_ love, of the love which is your very
being, why did you not tell me of your _beauty_--of the terrible,
blood-stained beauty of Israel?

"The beautiful, the precious, the exalted in our religion, you hid it in
yourselves, you men, you kept it from me, you kept it from us.

"Of me, of us, with our flesh and blood, with the strength of our youth
struggling and crying out for _life_--of us you asked only butter-cake
and Gelle Challeh!

"You cast us out!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He who is high above all peoples, who alone can see clearly through
their tangled web of prejudice and hatred--_He_ shall judge her.



XVII

A CHAT


It is warm, real holiday weather, and Reb Shachneh, a tall, thin Jew,
one of the last old Kotzkers,[1] and Reb Zerach, one of the few
remaining old Belzers,[111] are taking a stroll outside the town.

As young men they had been enemies, hating each other heart and soul.
Reb Shachneh led the Kotzkers against the Belzers, and Reb Zerach, the
Belzers against the Kotzkers.

But now that they are old, and Kotzkers are "not what they were," and
Belzers have lost their "go," they have separated themselves from their
former associates, and left the meeting-rooms where less pious, but
younger and stronger, men have taken the lead.

They made peace in the synagogue, in winter time, beside the stove, and
now, on this intermediate day of Passover, on the first fine afternoon,
they have come out together for a walk.

The sun shines in a wide, blue sky. The little grasses are springing up
through the mould, and one can distinctly see the angel who stands
beside each blade, and cries: grow, grow!

Little birds fly about in flocks, looking for last year's nests, and Reb
Shachneh says to Reb Zerach:

"A Kotzker, you see, I mean a real Kotzker--the present ones don't
count--never thought much of the Haggadah."[112]

"But only of the dumplings?" smiles Reb Zerach.

"Never mind about the dumplings!" answers Reb Shachneh, gravely, "and
don't laugh. You know the meaning of 'thou shalt not deliver up a slave
to his master?'"

"For me," says the Belzer with humble pride, "it is enough to know the
hidden meaning of the prayers!"

Reb Shachneh pretends not to have heard, and continues:

"The literal interpretation is simple enough: If a slave, or a servant,
or a serf, run away, one may not, according to the Law, catch him, bind
him, and give him up to his master--it is evident, if a man runs away,
his very life was endangered. But the hidden meaning is also quite
clear: the body here below is a slave--it is the servant of the soul.
The body is sinful, it sees a piece of pork, an idol, a woman, what not,
and is ready to jump out of its skin. But when the soul says, thou shalt
not! it must desist.

"On the other hand, suppose the soul desires to perform a religious act.
The body must be up and doing, however tired and harassed. The hands
must work, the feet must run, the lips move--and why? The soul, the
lord, commands! And therefore it is written: 'Thou shalt not deliver
up!'

"The body may not be handed over unconditionally to the soul. The fiery
soul would speedily burn it to ashes. Had the Creator wished for souls
without bodies, he would not have made the world.

"The body also has its rights. 'He who fasts much is a sinner.' The body
must eat. He who would ride must feed his horse! Comes a feast, a
holiday--be merry, too! Take a sip of brandy, rejoice, body, likewise!
And the soul rejoices and the body rejoices--the soul in the
benediction, and the body in the glass!

"Passover, the season of our deliverance--here, body, catch a dumpling!
And it is inspirited and cheered, and rejoices to fulfil the
commandment.

"Farewell, dumpling! Brother, do not laugh."

Reb Zerach opines that the matter is a deep one and worth consideration;
but he himself does not eat Sheruyah?[113]

"Do you _enjoy_ Passover cakes dry?"

"For dessert?" smiles Reb Zerach. "And where are my teeth to eat them
with?"

"How then do you observe the precept: 'And thou shalt rejoice in thy
feasts,' as regards the body?"

"All sorts of ways. If it likes currant wine--well and good. I myself
revel in the Haggadah. I sit and repeat and count the plagues, and count
and double them and multiply."

"Materialism!"

"Materialism? After all the misery and the hard labor--after the long
exile of the Divine Presence? In my opinion, there ought to be a custom
introduced of repeating the plagues seven times, and seven times 'Pour
out thy wrath!' But the great thing is the plagues! I delight in them.
I wish I could open the door at the plagues--let _them_ hear! Why should
I be afraid? Do you suppose _they_ understand Hebrew?"

Reb Shachneh is silent for a while, and then he relates the following:

"Listen! This is what happened one day with us. I assure you I won't
exaggerate. In perhaps the tenth house from the Rebbe's of blessed
memory, there lived a Shochet who was (may I be forgiven for saying
so--he is no more of this world) a mad butcher, a butcher among
butchers, one in a thousand. A neck like a bull's, eyebrows like
bristles, hands like logs, and a voice, a voice! When he spoke, it
sounded like distant thunder, or musketry. He must have been at one time
or another a Belzer."

"Well, well," growls Reb Zerach.

"Well, and," continues Reb Shachneh, coolly, "he used to pray with the
most extravagant gestures, with shouts and whispers.

"His 'they shall remember' reminded one of sprinkling fire with water."

"Let that pass!"

"You can fancy the uproar when a fellow like this sat down to the
Haggadah. In the Rebbe's chamber we could hear every word. He read, of
course, like a butcher, and the laugh went round.

"The Rebbe of blessed memory scarcely moved his lips, and yet everyone
could see that he was smiling. Later, however, when the butcher began to
count the plagues, so that they shot from his mouth like bullets, and
brought his fist down on the table, so that the glasses rang again, the
Rebbe of blessed memory became melancholy."

"Melancholy? On a feast-day? Passover? What do you mean?"

"Well, we asked him the reason why!"

"And what did he answer?"

"God Himself," was his reply, "became melancholy on the occasion of the
Exodus."

"Where had he found that?"

"It's a Midrash![114] When the children of Israel had crossed the Red
Sea, and the water had covered up and drowned Pharaoh and all his host,
then the angels began to sing songs, seraphim and ophanim flew into all
the seven heavens with hymns and glad tidings, all the stars and planets
danced and sang, and the celestial bodies--you can guess what
rejoicings! But the Creator put an end to them. A Voice issued from the
Throne:

"'My children are being drowned in the sea, and you rejoice and sing?'

"Because God created even Pharaoh and all his host, even the devil
himself, and it is written: 'His tender mercies are over all His
works.'"

"Certainly!" sighs Reb Zerach.

He says nothing more for a while, and then asks:

"And if it _is_ a Midrash, what has he added to it to deserve praise?"

Reb Shachneh stands still, and says gravely:

"First, Belzer fool, no one has the duty to be original; there is no
chronological order in the Law--the new is old, the old is new.
Secondly, he showed us why we recite the Haggadah, even the plagues in
the Haggadah, to a mournful "Sinni" tune, a tune that is steeped in
grief.

"Thirdly, he translated the precept: _Al tismàch Yisroel el Gil
ko-Ammim_: Materialist, rejoice not in a coarse way--you are no boor!
Revenge is not for Jews."



XVIII

THE PIKE[115]


In honor of the feast-day, live fish have been bought.

Two large pike are lying in a great, green glass bowl filled with water,
and a little further off, in one of blackened earthenware, two or three
small carp. These are no sea-folk, but they come out of a fairly wide
river, and they are straightened for room in the bowls.

The poor little carp, in the one of black glaze, have been aware of its
confines for some time past.

They have lain for a good hour by the clock, wondering what sort of a
prison this may be.

And there is plenty of leisure for thinking. It may be long before the
cook comes home from market with good things for the feast-day long
enough for even a carp to have an idea.

But the pike in the glass bowl have not taken in the situation yet. Time
after time they swim out strongly and bang their heads against the hard
glass.

Pike have iron heads but dull wits. The two captive heroes have received
each a hundred knocks from every part of the bowl, but they have not yet
realized that all is closed to them.

They _feel_ the walls, but the weak pike-eyes do not _see_ them.

The glass is green--it is just like river water--and yet there is no
getting out.

"It is witchcraft!" says one pike to the other.

The other agrees with him.

"To-morrow there is an auction. The other bidders have bewitched us."

"Some crayfish or frog has done this."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is only a short time since the net drew them out of the water. When
they got into the air they had fainted, to recover consciousness inside
a barrel of which the lid had been hammered down.

"How the days are drawing in!" they had observed both at once.

There was very little room in the barrel, scarcely sufficient to turn
in, and hardly water enough for anyone to breathe. What with having
fainted before, and now this difficulty in breathing, they had fallen
into a doze, and had dreamt of all sorts of things, of the fair, and
even of the opera and the ballet. But the dream-angel never showed them
any kind of barrel.

They heard nothing, not even the opening of the barrel and the hubbub of
the market.

Neither perceived they the trembling of the scales in which they
oscillated whilst the cook haggled over them with the fish-wife--or
remarked the click-clack of the pointer that spoke their doom.

They slept still more soundly in the cook's basket, starting into life
again only in the bowl, beneath the rush of cold water. And now, after
doing unwilling penance for an hour against the glass, they have only
just hit upon witchcraft.

"What are we to do?" says one to the other.

The carp know themselves to be in prison.

They, too, have had experience of a long night, and awoke in a bowl.

"Someone," say they, "had palmed off counterfeit bank-notes on us!"

It will be proved, they are sure, if only one could get hold of someone
who will take the matter up properly.

They give a little leap into the air, catch sight of the pike, and fall
back more dead than alive.

"They are going to eat us!" they say, trembling. Not until they realize
that the pike are likewise in prison do they feel somewhat reassured.

"They, they certainly have been passing counterfeit notes, too!" says
one carp to the other.

"Yes, and therein lies our salvation. _They_ will not keep silence, and,
with God's help, we shall all be set free together."

"And they will see us, and, with God's help, will eat us up!"

And the carp nestle closer against the bowl.

They can just see a tub full of onions on the kitchen floor.

"If we signed the contract, we might receive a golden order," observes
one of the pike.

"Please God, we shall be decorated yet," answers the other. "It is a
case of witchcraft, but--"

"But what?"

"There is one thing."

"Well?"

"It sounds almost absurd--but--I wanted to tell you--we ought to
_pray_," he stammers, "it is the best thing against sorcery!"

"To pray? Perhaps so!!" Whereupon the two pike discover that it is years
since they prayed last.

They cannot remember a word.

"Ashrè,"[116] begins one.

"Ashrè," repeats the other, and comes to a standstill.

"Oh, I want to pray!" moans the first.

"So do I!" chimes in the second, "for when all is said and done, we are
but fish!"

A door opens in the wall, a little way, and two heads are seen in the
aperture--a tipsy-looking man's head, and a woman's with curl papers.

"Ah," exclaims the man's head, joyously, "this is something like!
Pike--carp--and all the other good things."

"I should hope so! And I have sent for meat besides."

"My knowing little wife," chuckles the man's head.

"There, there, that will do."

And the heads disappear.

"Did you hear?" says a pike, "there are carp, too."

"They have the best of it."

"How is that?"

"To begin with, they have made no contracts, they are free agents.
Secondly, they can leap."

"If they would only give a _good_ leap, they would find themselves back
in the river."

"Quite true."

"And something good might come of it for us. Wait a bit--let's try!
Carp!"

The carp have suddenly swum to the surface of the water, and are poking
their noses over the edge of the bowl.

The pike, face to face with the carp:

"Bad luck, brothers?" he exclaimed.

"Bad," answer the carp.

"Bitter?"

"Bitter!"

"Very little water?"

"Oh, very little!"

"And it smells?"

"Ugh!"

"Not fit to live in?"

"Not fit!"

"We must get home, back to the river!"

"We--must!"

"We have forgotten what it was like in the river."

"Forgotten!"

"A sin!"

"A mortal sin!"

"Let us beat our head against the wall and do penance."

The carp flatten their bellies against the bowl. The pike run their head
against the glass till it rings again.

"One should leap away home!" continues the pike.

"One should leap!"

"Well--leap!"

The pike commands, and the carp are out of the bowl and on the
floor--lying there more dead than alive.

"I never knew," says the second pike, "that you were such an
orator--your lips drop honey!"

The carp meanwhile are moaning.

"Hurry up!" orders the pike.

The carp give another little spring.

"Oh," they moan, "we do not see any river--and our bones are
breaking--and we cannot breathe."

"On with you--make an effort! It is not much further--give a jump!"

But the carp are past hearing.

The carp lie dying on the floor, and the pike are having a dispute.

Both opine that any proper leap would carry one into the river, but one
says that other fish are wanted, not stupid carp, who can only leap in
the water, who cannot exist for an hour without food, and that what are
wanted are--electric fish!

And the other says: "No, carp--only, lots and lots of carp. If one
hundred thousand carp were to leap, _one_ would certainly fall into the
river, and if _one_ fell in, why, then--ha, ha!"



XIX

THE FAST


A winter's night; Sarah sits by the oil-lamp, darning an old sock. She
works slowly, for her fingers are half-frozen; her lips are blue and
brown with cold; every now and then she lays down her work and runs up
and down the room to warm her icy feet.

In a bed, on a bare straw mattress, sleep four children--two little
heads at each end--covered up with some old clothes.

Now one child and now another gives a start, a head is raised, and there
is a plaintive chirp: "Hungry!"

"Patience, dears, patience!" says Sarah, soothingly.

"Father will be here presently, and bring you some supper. I will be
sure to wake you."

"And something hot?" ask the children, whimpering. "We have had nothing
hot to-day yet!"

"And something hot, too!"

But she does not believe what she is saying.

She glances round the room--perhaps, after all, there is something left
that she can pawn. Nothing! Four bare, damp walls--split
stove--everything clammy and cold--two or three broken dishes on the
chimney-piece--on the stove, an old, battered Chanukah lamp--over-head,
in the beam, a nail--sole relic of a lamp that hung from the ceiling;
two empty beds without pillows--and nothing, nothing else!

The children are some time getting to sleep.

Sarah's heart aches as she looks at them.

Suddenly she turns her eyes, red with crying, to the door--she has heard
footsteps, heavy footsteps, on the stairs leading down into the
basement--a clatter of cans against the wall, now to the right, now to
the left.

A gleam of hope illumines her sunken features.

She rubs one foot against the other two or three times, rises stiffly,
and goes to the door.

She opens it, and in comes a pale, stoop-shouldered Jew, with two empty
cans.

"Well?" she whispers.

He puts away the cans, takes off his yoke, and answers, lower still:

"Nothing--nothing at all; nobody paid me. To-morrow! they said. Everyone
always says to-morrow--the day after to-morrow--on the first day of the
month!"

"The children have hardly had a bite all day," articulates Sarah.
"Anyway, they're asleep--that is something. O, my poor children!"

She can control herself no longer, and begins to cry quietly.

"What are you crying for?" asks the man.

"O, Mendele, the children are so hungry." She is making desperate
efforts to gulp down her tears.

"And what is to become of us?" she moans. "Things only get worse and
worse!"

"Worse? No, Sarah! It is a sin to speak so. We are better off than we
were this time last year. I had no food to give you, and no shelter. The
children were all day rolling in the gutter, and they slept in the
dirty courts. Now, at least, they sleep on straw, they have a roof over
their head."

Sarah's sobs grow louder.

She has been reminded of the child that was taken from her out there in
the streets. It caught cold, grew hoarse, and died--and died, as it
might have died in the forest, without help of any kind--no tearing open
the Ark[117]--no measuring of graves--nothing said over it to exorcise
the evil eye--it went out like a candle.

He tries to comfort her:

"Don't cry, Sarah; don't cry so! Do not sin against God!"

"Oh, Mendele, if only He would help us!"

"Sarah, for your own sake don't take things so to heart. See what a
figure you have made of yourself. Do you know, it is ten years to-day
since we were married? Well, well, who would think you were the beauty
of the town!"

"And you, Mendele; do you remember, you were called Mendele the
strong--and now you are bent double, you are ill--and you don't tell me!
O, my God, my God!"

The cry escapes her, the children are startled out of their sleep, and
begin to wail anew: "Bread! Hungry!"

"Who ever heard of such a thing! Who is going to think of eating
to-day!" is Mendele's sudden exclamation.

The children sit up in alarm.

"This is a fast-day!" continues Mendele with a stern face.

Several minutes elapse before the children take in what has been said to
them.

"What sort of fast is it?" they inquire tearfully.

And Mendele with downcast eyes tells them that in the morning, during
the Reading of the Law, the Scroll fell from the desk. "Whereupon," he
continues, "a fast was proclaimed, in which even sucking-children are to
take part." The children are silent, and he goes on to say:

"A fast like that on the Day of Atonement, beginning overnight."

The four children tumble out of bed; bare-footed, in their little ragged
shirts, they begin to caper round the room, shouting: "We are going to
fast, to fast, to fast!"

Mendele screens the light with his shoulders, so that they shall not see
their mother's tears:

"There, that will do, children, that will do! Fast-days were not meant
for dancing. When the Rejoicing of the Law comes, then we will dance,
please God!" The children get back into bed. Their hunger is forgotten.

One of them, a little girl, starts singing: "Our Father, our King,"
etc., and "On the High Mountain," etc.

Mendele shivers from head to foot.

"One does not sing, either," he says in a choked voice.

The children are silent, and go off to sleep, tired out with singing and
dancing. Only the eldest opens his eyes once more and inquires of his
father:

"Tate, when shall I be Bar-Mitzwah?"[118]

"Not yet, not for a long time--in another four years. You must grow and
get strong."

"Then you will buy me a pair of phylacteries?"

"Of course."

"And a little bag to hold them?"

"Why, certainly!"

"And a little, tiny prayer-book with gilt edges?"

"With God's help! You must pray to God, Chaïmle!"

"Then I shall keep all the fasts!"

"Yes, yes, Chaïmle, all the fasts," adding, below his breath: "Lord of
the world, only not any like this one--not like to-day's."



XX

THE WOMAN MISTRESS HANNAH


A PACKET OF LETTERS


1

Two letters which Hannah received from her brother Menachem Mendil, and
one letter from her sister-in-law, Eva Gütel; altogether, three letters.


FIRST LETTER

Life and peace to my worthy sister, Mistress Hannah.

I have received your letter, and I can tell you, I wept tears enough
over it, and lay sighing and groaning one whole night long. But what was
the good, seeing God in heaven is witness that I can do nothing to help
you? And as to what you write about the inheritance, I must tell you,
dear sister, there is no sense in it. According to the Jewish law, you
have no claim upon any part. Ask your husband, he is learned, he will
tell you the same thing. But you need not wait for him to tell you: a
clever woman like you can open the "German Pentateuch" and see for
herself that Zelophehad's daughters only inherited because there were no
sons. As soon as there are sons, the daughters inherit nothing, and our
father left no deed directing you were to inherit half as much as his
male descendants.

And all you say about our father, peace be upon him, not having given
you the whole of your dowry, has nothing in it, because, if you come to
think, who _does_ get the whole? You know _I_ did not, and yet I have no
claim on anyone.

Besides, common sense will tell you that if our father, peace be upon
him, did not keep to his engagement, neither did the other side, and so
the matter rested. The two parties forgave each other, as is the custom
among us Jews.

I would not trust my own judgment, but talked the matter over with our
rabbi and his assistants, and we were all agreed that so it should be.

Further, as regards your contention that you boarded at home only half a
year instead of a whole one--I know nothing about it. Our father, peace
be upon him, never told me. And you know quite well that just then I was
living separated from my family and spent the whole time at the Rebbe's,
long life to him! and Eva Gütel tells me it was this way: there was a
bit of a dispute between you over our mother's seat in the women's Shool
(peace be upon her), and you tore each other's hair, and our mother
(peace be upon her) was greatly distressed. And one Sabbath evening you
picked up your bundle and your husband and were off to his native town.
If so, what do we owe you?

Whom do you mean in your letter? Who asked you to run away? When people
want to board, they should board.

But heaven forbid that I should distress you with reproaches! I only
wish to show you how unjust you are. Of course, right or wrong, one has
to act according to law, specially in the case of a sister. Only--what
is the good of wishing? If one can't, one can't! You must know, dear
sister, that before our father of blessed memory departed, he made a
will, by which he left the large Talmud to the large house-of-study and
the small edition to the small house-of-study; the Mishnayes and the
Bible were to be sent to the meeting-room where he used to recite the
prayers--the funeral cost two hundred gulden, and I distributed alms to
the amount of fifty gulden--what am I saying? a great deal more than
fifty. I divided our father's clothes among the poor, except the silk
cloak, which I am keeping, agreeably to the will, for my little Mösheh,
so that in a propitious hour he may walk in it to the marriage canopy,
and may it be soon, even in our days, amen! What remains?

Nothing remains but the house. Well it isn't worth insuring. Even the
roof, not of you be it said, has the falling-sickness--it hangs by a
hair. The town-justice says, the old fire-wall must be taken down, and
altogether it's in a dangerous state.

You fancy, dear sister, that I am doing well for myself! When our father
died and there was an end of board, I let the three little rooms to the
left to Grunem, the dealer, called Grunem Tzop (you must have known him
and his wife Zlate). I worry along with the money, and can only just pay
the taxes and other duties that grow from day to day. Meantime I try
dodges, give the collector a sip of brandy--come later, come to-morrow!
and so on, but the rope round my neck tightens every day, and what the
end of it will be, heaven only knows!

I live in the three rooms to the right, that are one with the inn and
the public room. Times are very bad, the villages round about have taken
the pledge not to drink brandy. Beside this, the land-owner has opened
cheap eating shops and tea houses for the peasants--what more need I
say? It's despair! One may stare one's eyes out before one sees a
peasant come.

You say in your letter that everyone from here tells you I am
flourishing. The fact is, people see the possessions of others with
bigger eyes. One has to struggle for every dreier, and meanwhile there
is Beile-Sasha's wedding coming, and I am getting old and gray with it
all! The expenses are endless; they will lend you nothing; there is
still a silk over-robe wanting for the wedding outfit, and as soon as
the wedding is over, my Eva Gütel must consult a doctor. If Shmüel, the
Röfeh, advises her to go, you can imagine the condition she must be in.
I consulted the Rebbe (long life to him), and he also advised her going
to Warsaw. Her cough gets worse every day--you would think people were
chopping wood in the room.

And as to your trying to frighten me by saying that if I don't behave
myself, you will write to our relative in Lublin, and she will go to her
lawyer, and have me handed over to the Gentiles--you know, my dear
sister, that I am not the least afraid. First, because a pious woman
like you, my sister, knows very well what a Jewish court is and
(lehavdîl) what a Gentile court is. You wouldn't do anything so stupid!
No Jewish woman would do that! And, even if you wanted to, you have a
husband, and he would never allow such a shameful proceeding. He would
never dare to show himself to his Rebbe or at the Stübel again.

Besides that, I advise you not to throw away money on lawyers, they are
incredible people; you give and give, and the moment you stop giving,
they don't know who you are.

And I must remind you of the Tomàshef story which our father, on whom be
peace, used to tell. You may have forgotten it, so I will tell it you
over again. In Tomàshef there died a householder, and his daughter, a
divorced woman, fell upon the assessor--he was to give her a share in
the inheritance, according to _their_ custom. As she stood talking with
the assessor, a coal sprang out of the hearth in her room at home, the
room took fire, and a child of hers (not of you or any Jew be it said
again) was burned.

And I advise you, sister Hannah, to be sorry, and do penance for what
you have written. Trouble, as they say, steals a man's wits--but it
might, heaven forbid, be brought against you, and you ought to impose
something on yourself, if only a day's fasting.

I, for my part, forgive you with my whole heart, and if, please God, you
come to my daughter's wedding, everything will be made up, and we shall
all be happy together. Only forbear, for heaven's sake, to begin again
about going to law.

And I am vexed on account of your husband, who says nothing to me about
his health; if he is angry with me, he commits a sin; he must know what
is written about the sinfulness of anger, besides which there is a rumor
current that he was not once at the Rebbe's during the Solemn Days, but
prayed all the while in the house-of-study, and they also say that he
intends to abandon study and take up something or other else. He says he
intends to work with his hands. You can imagine the grief this is to me.
Because what shall become of the Torah? And who shall study if not a
clever head like him?

He must know that our father, on whom be peace, did not agree to the
marriage on _that_ condition. And especially nowadays, when the
"nations-of-the-world" are taking to trade, and business decreases
daily, it is for the women to do business and for the men to devote
themselves to the Torah, and then God may have mercy on us. It would be
better for him to get a diploma as a rabbi, or let him become a Shochet
or a teacher--anything--only not a trader! If I were only sure that he
wouldn't turn my child's heart away from _my_ Rebbe, I would send him my
Mösheh'le for teaching and board.

See to it that your husband gives up those silly notions, and do you buy
a shop or a stall--and may the merits of the fathers on your side and on
his be your help and stay!

Further, I advise you to throw off the melancholy with which your letter
is penetrated, so that it is heart-breaking to read. A human being
without faith is worse than a beast. He goes about the world like an
orphan without a father. We have a God in heaven, blessed be He, and He
will not forsake us.

When a person falls into melancholy, it is a sign that he has no faith
and no trust. And this leads, heaven forbid, to worse things, the very
names of which shall not pass my lips.

Write me also, sister Hannah, how peas are selling with you. Our two
great traders--you remember them? the lame Yochanan and the blind
Yoneh--have raised the price, and our nobleman cannot get any for
seed--one might do a little business. It may be heaven's will that I
should make a trifle toward wedding expenses. Of course, I don't mean
you to do me a kindness for nothing. If anything comes of it, I will
send you some money, so that you and your husband may come to
Beile-Sasha's wedding--and I will give a present for you--a wedding
present from the bride's family.

Eva Gütel sends you her very friendly greetings; she does not write
herself because it is fair-day; there are two produce dealers here of
the Samoscz gluttons, and they insist on having stuffed fish. The bride
has gone to the tailor's to be measured for a dress, and I am left alone
to keep an eye on the Gentile cooks.

Try now, dear sister, for heaven's sake, not to take things to heart and
to have faith. He who feeds the worm in the earth and the bird in its
nest, will not forsake you.

Greet your husband.

From me, your brother

MENACHEM MENDIL.


SECOND LETTER

Life and peace to my sister Mistress Hannah.

I have received your second letter. It was soaked with tears and full of
insults directed against me, my wife Eva Gütel, and even the bride,
Beile-Sasha, and it has upset me very much, for why? You say, sister
Hannah, that I am a bandit, that I met you, heaven forbid, in a wood,
and, heaven forbid, murdered you; that it was I and my wife, Eva Gütel,
who drove you from the house; that Beile-Sasha, in your opinion, is a
hussy, because she is ordering silk dresses--what am I to say? I must
listen in silence, knowing the trouble you are in--that it is not you
that speak, but your heavy heart.

But it is not as you think. I am no murderer, thank heaven! And were any
one to come from the street and declare that the cloak I am wearing is
his, and that he is going to law about it, I should go with him to the
rabbi's without a word. And if, God willing, you come to the wedding, we
will go together and have it out.

And see here: About the board you did not eat, you confess yourself in
your letter that it came about through a quarrel between you and my wife
(it's not my affair who began it), and all I see is, that your husband
was a great booby--"that he followed after his wife." They say that you
ran away in the evening following Sabbath, and made yourselves a
laughing-stock. Our father was greatly distressed, and it shortened his
days (he said so plainly--neighbors heard it), and you put it all on Eva
Gütel! It's a calumny!

But what is done, is done! Our father lies in his grave. There can be no
more question of board or anything else.

And you know very well that Beile-Sasha, the bride, is no hussy. She,
poor thing, is quite innocent in the matter. Her future father-in-law,
the Takif,[119] forced me to order the silk dresses. Once even she
cried, and said it would ruin us, but what am I to do, when the contract
says "in dresses of silk and satin," and he will hear of no
alteration--it's take it or leave it. And there would be no choice but
to see my daughter an old maid.

And you know the dowry will not be given entirely in cash. I have
promised six, and given three, hundred rubles; I have mortgaged the
house for two hundred rubles, and you know the house stands in our
father's name, so that I had to pay extra--and now I am so short of
money that may God have mercy on me.

But what is the use of telling that to a woman! Our sages were right
when they said: "Women are feather-brained," and there is the proverb:
"Long hair (in girls, of course) and short wits." I shall write
separately to your husband; he is a man learned in the Law, and he will
know that one human being should not lean upon another, because, as we
are told, a human being can only just support himself. One must have
faith.

And I am convinced that God will not forsake you. He does not forsake
the weakest fly. The Almighty alone can help you, you must pray to Him,
and I, for my part, when next I am, God willing, at _his_ house[120]
(long life to him), I shall make a special offering in your behalf. That
_must_ help.

As to the peas, the business is off. Before there was time to turn,
Gabriel, the tenant, had brought several cartloads from your part of the
country--he has made a fortune. He is about to marry a son and has
actually given a dowry! It so pleased God that you should not be able
to afford a stamp, your answer was belated, and Gabriel is the winner.

And as to what you write about your child being poorly, you must consult
the Röfeh. Don't fancy it in danger. Keep up your spirits. I have done
my part: I got up quite early, went to the great house-of-study, dropped
a coin into the collecting box of Meïr Baal-Ness, wrote on the east wall
"for complete recovery," in big letters, and as soon as we have made a
little money I will send some candles to the Shool. I will also tell the
Rebbe, and _not_ explain that your husband is no follower of _his_. And
you know that I am quite a son of the house.

From me, thy brother

MENACHEM MENDIL.

My wife, Eva Gütel, sends you a very friendly greeting; the bride,
another. One of these days, God willing, you will receive an invitation
to the wedding, and may it bring us all good luck.

MENACHEM MENDIL, the above.


THIRD LETTER

To my beloved sister-in-law and worthy relative, the excellent woman,
Mistress Hannah.

I beg to inform you that from this time on _I_ shall receive your
letters, and not my tender-hearted husband, and _I_--I will burn them.

Secondly, my dear sister-in-law, between ourselves, it was great
forwardness on your part to fall upon us just before the wedding,
turning our days into nights, and now you wish to blight our married
life with discord. You must fancy that you are still boarding with my
father-in-law, a spoiled only daughter that has never learned manners;
and just because you can't have the moon to play with, you are ready to
scratch people's eyes out, turn the world upside down, and your cries
pierce the heavens. I can hear you now, tapping with your feet, and the
bang of your fist on the table, while your ninny of a husband goes into
the corner, wags his sheep's head, and his ear-locks shake like Lulavim;
and father-in-law, may he forgive me, lets the spoiled child have her
way.

Dear sister-in-law Hannah! It is time to awaken from sleep, to forget
the empty dreams, and to realize the kind of world one is in. My
father-in-law of blessed memory has long lain in his grave--there is an
end to boarding. You can only be spoiled by your husband now, and
I--show you twice five fingers.

And I have told the postman to deliver your letters to me, not to my
husband, my innocent lamb. You know, dear sister-in-law, that people are
scandalized at the way you go on. Whoever hears of it thinks you are
possessed. Soril the Neggidah[121] told me plainly, she thought you
deserved to be crimped like a fish. And I cannot make out what it is you
want of me. It was not I, Eva Gütel, who wrote the Torah; it was not I,
Eva Gütel, who descended on Sinai, with thunder and lightning, to
deprive you of a share in the inheritance. And if my father-in-law was
as great an idler as your husband is a ninny, and no document made
special provision for you, am I to blame? It is not for me to advise the
Almighty, the keys of the Gate of Mercy are not in my pocket. There is a
Somebody whom to implore. Have you no prayer-book, no Supplications?
Pray, beg for mercy! And if your child is really ill, is there no Ark to
tear open--are there no graves to measure--no pious offerings to make?
But the only idea you have is: Eva Gütel! Eva Gütel, and once more, Eva
Gütel! If you haven't Parnosseh, whose fault? Eva Gütel's, and you pour
out upon her the bitterness of your heart. If the child is ill, whose
fault? Of course, Eva Gütel's, and you scream my head off. God in heaven
knows the truth, I am a sick woman; I struggle for breath, and if I am
vexed, I am at death's door. And when the cough seizes me, I think it's
all over--that I am done for. I live, as they say, with one foot in the
house and one in the grave. And if the doctors order me abroad to drink
the waters, I shall be left, heaven forbid, without so much as a
chemise. And who is to look after the house, and the housekeeping, and
the sick children, _wos_?

I think you know that the whole house depends on me, that Menachem
Mendil has only to move to cause a disaster. Of all putty-fingers! A man
that's no use to heaven or earth, can't put a hand into cold
water--nothing! And now, as if I hadn't troubles enough, the doctor must
needs come and say my liver is enlarged, the danger great, and, in fact,
that may heaven have mercy on me! And _you_ insisting that I am a rich
woman who can help you!

Dear sister-in-law, I tell you, you have the heart of a Tartar, not that
of a Jewish daughter; you are without compassion! It is time you left
off writing those affectionate letters of yours. And, for heaven's sake,
come to the wedding, which, please God, will be soon. _When_, I don't
exactly know, and I will not be responsible for the day. Menachem Mendil
shall go to the holy man and consult with him, so that it take place in
a propitious hour. I will be sure to tell you. And you are not to bring
presents, and if your husband, as I hope, comes with you, you will be
among the privileged guests, and I will seat you at the top of the
table. And the bride also begs very much that you will come to her
wedding. Only you must behave well, remember where you are, and not put
us to shame and confusion.

Greet your husband and wish the child a complete recovery.

From me, your sister-in-law

EVA GÜTEL.


2

Four letters which Hannah received from her husband, Shmùel Mösheh.


FIRST LETTER

To my beloved wife Mistress Hannah:

When my letter is given into your hands, I, Shmùel Mösheh, shall be
already far away. And I beg you with my whole heart to forgive me for
that same. I left you not of my own good will: I couldn't bear it any
longer, I saw plainly that there was no help for it, that the trouble
was not to be borne. We have eaten up the dowry, the inheritance has
been swallowed by your bandit of a brother. He used the time when the
letters were passing between you to have the house entered in the name
of his son-in-law's father. I couldn't set up any kind of business, I
hadn't the wherewithal. There was nothing left for me but to hang
myself, which heaven forbid, like Leezer, the tailor, or to run away to
America. I chose America, so as at least not to lose the other world as
well. And I shall not be idle there. With God's help and with the sweat
of my brow and with my ten fingers, I will earn my bread, and perhaps
God will have mercy and send a blessing into my ten fingers, and perhaps
he will also bless your trade in onions, and bring us together again;
either me to you or you to me. Amen, thus may it seem good in His sight.

And I beg of you, dear, good Hannah, not to take it to heart, not to cry
so much! You know, I only go away for the sake of Parnosseh--a "bit of
bread." You are my wife Hannah, and I am your husband, Shmùel Mösheh,
and we are both bound to the child, life and health to it. If there had
only been a piece of dry bread, I wouldn't have done it. Perhaps He
whose Name is blessed may meantime have compassion, and that, when your
brother the bandit, hears that I, heaven forbid, have left you a
grass-widow, he will be touched, his stony heart will soften, and he
will perhaps send you a few rubles.

My precious Hannah, what am I to say to you? I must tell you that the
idea of going away and leaving you with the child came into my head many
and many a time. I saw long ago that I had no other choice. I thought
it over day and night, at prayer and at study.

I only waited till the child should be well. And when it got better, I
hadn't the heart to tell you I wanted to go away, whither my eyes should
take me. I was afraid you would say you wouldn't allow it, and that I
should not be able to act against your will. So I kept everything to
myself, ate my heart out in silence. But the day before yesterday, when
you brought home a pound of bread, and divided it between me and the
child, and said, you had eaten at our neighbor's, and I saw in your
face, which turned all colors--because you cannot tell a lie--that you
were fooling me, that you hadn't had a bite, then I felt how I was
sinning against you. Eating the bread, I felt as if it were your flesh,
and afterward, drinking a glass of tea, as if it were your blood. My
eyes opened, and I saw, for the first time, what a sinner in Israel I
was. And yet I was afraid to speak out. I ran away without your knowing.

I pawned my outer cloak and prayer-scarf to Yechiel the
money-lender--but don't, for the love of heaven, let anyone know--and
paid for my journey. And if I should be in need, Jews are charitable and
will not let me fall dead in the street; and I have made a vow that
later on, when His Name shall have had mercy, and I have earned
something, to give it in charity, not only what I got, but more, too, if
God so please.

You must understand, my precious Hannah, how hard and bitter it is for
me to go away. When our dear only child was born, it never occurred to
me that I should have to leave it fatherless, even for a time.

The night I left I must have stood over your bed an hour by the clock.
You were asleep. And I saw in the moonlight, for the first time, what
you, poor thing, have come to look like; and that the child was as
yellow as wax. My heart choked me for terror and pity--I nearly burst
out crying, and I left the room half-dead. I knocked at the baker's and
bought a loaf, stole back into the house and left it with you, and stood
and looked at you a little while longer, and it was all I could do to
drag myself away. What more am I to tell you? A man can go through the
suffering of a hundred years in one minute.

Hannah Krön,[122] I know that I am a bandit, a murderer, not to have got
you a divorce, or at all events a conditional divorce--but God in heaven
is my witness: I hadn't the heart! I felt that if I left you a divorce,
I should die of grief on the way. We are a true and faithful couple. God
Himself was present at our union, and I am bound to you with my whole
heart, we are one soul in two bodies, and I do not know how I shall live
without you and without the child, may it be well, even for a minute.
And should anyone say I have left you a grass-widow, don't believe it;
for I, Shmùel Mösheh, am your husband, and I have only done what I _had_
to do. What will misery not drive a man to? Hannah'li Krön, if I could
lay my heart open before you, you would see what is going on there, and
I should feel a little happier. As it is, dear soul, I am very wretched,
the tears are pouring from my eyes so that I cannot see what I am
writing, and my heart aches and my brain goes round like a
mill-wheel--and my teeth chatter, and the letter-carrier, the
illiterate boor, stands over me and bangs on the table and cries: "I
must go! I must go!"

Lord of the world, have pity on me now and on my wife Hannah, health to
her, and on the child, so that I may have joy of it yet.

From me, your dear husband, who writes in the inn on the way,

SHMÙEL MÖSHEH.


SECOND LETTER

My precious and beloved wife:

What am I to say to you? I see clearly that my idea of going away was
heaven-sent, that God Himself put the thought of America into my head;
everything He does is for the best.

My dear Hannah, whenever I shut my eyes I fancy myself at home again,
and the dream comes from the other end of the world. For who would have
thought that an idler like me, such a nincompoop as I am, such a born
fool, should ride on a railway, cross the sea in a ship, and arrive safe
in America? The finger of God! "I will praise the Lord"--it was God's
disposing--His will alone enabled me to leave you and the child, and may
we be counted worthy to rear it for the Torah, the marriage canopy, and
all good works.

Hannah'li Krön, I have seen great wonders on dry land, but nothing to
what I saw on the sea. While I was at sea, I forgot everything I had
seen on dry land, and now, among the wonders of America, I begin to,
forget about the sea.

At first I was so miserable on board ship, there are no words for it.
But all ended well, and I am sure it was for your sake and the child's.

Hannah'li, I am sure you remember Leeb the reader,[123] who came to our
town once a few years ago, and recited the prayers in our Shool during
the Solemn Days. I remember that after the Day of Atonement you told me
you had never heard such davenen[124] in your life. I even recall the
very words you used: Leeb the reader "roars like a lion and weeps like a
child."

Next morning there was something of a commotion in the town; people had
forgotten Leeb the reader, hadn't paid him properly, and he, poor man,
went from house to house collecting money--with a little girl, you
remember, whose name was Genendil. She accompanied her father's singing
with her childish voice. When they came to our house, you were very
sorry for her, took her into your lap, kissed her on the head, and gave
her something, I forget what. And you cried for compassion over the
motherless child. Perhaps you wonder at my remembering all this?

You see, Hannah'li Krön, I remember all the kind things you said and all
your actions, for they were full of charm. You are continually before
me. I fancied sometimes, crossing the sea, that you stood beside me, and
that the child had hold of your apron, and I heard your voices, and they
sounded in my ears with a sweetness beyond all description.

And I have come across Leeb the reader, by the way.

Heaven forgive me, but Leeb the reader has sunk very low.

He paid no attention on board ship as to whether the food were kosher or
not, and he drinks as is not the way with Jews. I never once saw him in
prayer-scarf and phylacteries the whole time, or saying grace after
meat. He goes about all day without a hat--and not content with this, he
leads his daughter into the same paths. The Genendil of those days is
now about seventeen. You should see her--a picture! And he made her sing
and dance before the passengers on board ship--and she sings in
different languages. The people listened and clapped their hands with
delight and cried out goodness knows what. And it was all so boisterous
that really--....

At first--why deny it?--I was very pleased to see them. It's always
somebody from home, I thought. I won't have to hang about so lonely and
wretched. But afterward I felt greatly distressed. I couldn't bear to
watch his goings-on with his daughter. And now and again it cut me to
the heart to hear a Jew, who used to stand at the reading-desk, a
messenger of Israel to the Almighty, talk such disgusting nonsense. And
his voice is burned with brandy.

And they must take me in hand and try to make me presentable. They made
fun of me on board. It was always: "Idler!" "Fool!" He tweaked my
ear-locks; she pulled the fringe off my "little prayer-scarf," and the
whole ship took it up.

And what ailed them at me? That I avoided forbidden food and preferred
to fast rather than touch it.

You know, I dislike quarrelling, so I edged away, hid in a corner, and
wept my heart out in secret.

But they discovered me and made a laughing-stock of me, and I thought it
would be my death.

It is only here, in America, that I see it was all a godsend; that God,
in His great goodness, had sent Leeb the reader before me into America,
as He sent Joseph before his brothers into Egypt.

Because, what should I have done without them? A man without the
language of the country, without a trade, not knowing at which door to
knock? And Leeb the reader is quite at home here, talks English
fluently, and he got me straight away into a cigar-factory, and I am at
work and earning something already.

Meanwhile we are in the same lodging, because how should I set about
finding one for myself?

And they behave quite differently to me now. Genendil has given over
quizzing me about my beard and ear-locks, and keeps at a distance, as
beseems a Jewish daughter. She cooks for us, and that is very important,
although I eat no meat, only eggs, and I drink tea without milk.[125]
She washes for us, too.

There is a lesson to be learned from this, namely, that what the Lord
does is for the best.

And do you know _why_ it has all turned out for the best? For _your_
sake!

On the boat, already, when I began to feel I could bear it no longer, I
plucked up my courage and went to Genendil and told her I was your
husband. I recalled to her memory the time after the Day of Atonement
when they were in our house, how good you were to her, how you took her
on your knee, and so on.

Her manner changed at once, she had compassion on me, and her eyes
filled with tears. Then she ran to her father, and talked it over with
him, and we made peace.

They immediately asked the captain to treat me better, and he agreed to
do so.

I was given bread as much as I could eat, and tea as much as I could
drink. The crew stopped tormenting me, and I began to breathe again.

You should have seen what a favorite Genendil was on board. And no
wonder: first, she is a great beauty, and for a beauty people will jump
into the sea; secondly, she is really good-natured, and people are
simply charmed by her.

And now, my precious wife, I will give you some good news:

Leeb the reader tells me I shall earn at least ten dollars a week.

I reckon to do as follows: the half, five dollars, I will send to you,
and keep five for myself. I will live on this and save up to buy a
Talmud. The Mishnah books I brought with me. I have settled to read at
least ten pages of the Gemoreh a week. I won't buy a prayer-scarf,
because so far I have prayed in Leeb the reader's--for Leeb the reader
had one with him.

To what end, I don't know, because, as to praying--never a word!

I persuade myself, this is also heaven-sent; he was made to bring a
prayer-scarf on my account.

Perhaps he means to pray at the reading-desk during the Solemn Days. Who
knows? They are drawing near. Anything is possible in America. The world
here is topsy-turvy. And the Lord knows best what is good for a man.

Do you know what? I am not angry with your brother, the bandit, any
longer. It's the same thing again: I tell you, that also was a godsend;
it couldn't otherwise be possible that a man should treat his sister so.

That was all brought about in order that I should run away to America,
and send for you to come to me. And when, God helping, I have made some
money, I will assist your brother, too. I tell you, he also is a pauper.
I see now--what _we_ call a rich man is a beggar in America.

I end my letter, and this time briefly, although I have heaps and heaps
more to say, because I am afraid Leeb the reader and Genendil may come
in, and I don't want them to see what I have written to you. And I beg
of you very much not to show my letters to a living soul. Why need a
stranger know of our doings? And I hug and kiss the child, long life to
it. Give it ten thousand loving kisses from me--do you hear?

From me, your husband

SHMÙEL MÖSHEH.


THIRD LETTER

My beloved wife:

I can remember when Yoneh the shoemaker went to America, and people
began to talk about it for the first time, wondering what it was like
there, how things were done.

They asked, whether people walked on their heads, and it is true that
everything here is upside down. No sort of order, only a great shouting
and noise, as in the butchers' meeting-house at home.

Imagine, for instance, Paltiel the wadding-maker and Yössil the tanner
coming and saying that our rabbi is not learned; that he is not
experienced enough in the application of the Law, or that they are not
satisfied with the head of the community--that they want another rabbi,
another communal head. Well, wouldn't one hold one's sides laughing?

And here, in America, workmen, cigar-cutters, for instance like me, have
a word to say in everything. They share in the elections, take part in
the voting, and choose--a President.

And what do you think that is? A President is nothing more nor less than
the supreme head of the whole country. And America, so I have heard, is
ten times as large as the whole of Europe. You see what that means? Now
imagine my surprise, as I sit in my room one evening, thinking of home,
and suddenly the door opens, and there come in two workmen, ordinary
workmen, who stand with me at the same machine, and are _Achènu Benè
Yisroèl_.[126] And they laid two names before me, I don't even recollect
what they were, and tell me, I also am a workman, and must see to the
election of a President who shall favor our class.

And they told me that _one_ President was all for the rich people and
trod down all those who lived by their ten fingers; while the second,
the one they wanted to have elected, was a jewel; he stood for the
workingman like a flint, and pursued the bloated upper classes with a
fierce hatred. And more such foolishness, which I did not understand.

Inwardly I laughed at them. But for the sake of peace--it is not seemly
to be rude to people--I did them the favor and nodded yes.

All I wanted was to get rid of them, so as to sit down and write to you.

But--isn't it a madness?

They say, if the President is elected according to their wish, I shall
earn ten dollars a week, and if not, only nine or perhaps eight.

And Leeb the reader says he understands politics--that there is sense in
it all--and that if I remain here some time, I shall get to know
something about it, too. Well, perhaps so--I nod my head. And I think to
myself, he has taken a drop too much and is talking nonsense. But he
swore that during election-time he lived on it, and had a little money
over for later. I'm sure I don't see how.

But, joking apart, it's not our affair whether one or the other is
President; it won't make much difference to us.

The fact is, I often feel very depressed, the tears fall from my eyes on
the tobacco leaves that I am cutting, and I don't sleep well at night.
Sometimes there is a noise in my ears, and my head aches whole days
together--and there is no better remedy for all this than to take
paper, pen, and ink, and write a letter to my dear Hannah.

My precious wife, I cannot keep anything from you. I have to tell you
everything: I am still reading the Mishnah--I have got no Talmud yet.
And do you know why? Because I have had to make another outlay.

You know that it is everywhere the same world. Although here they cry
without stopping, "Liberty! liberty!" it isn't worth an onion. Here,
too, they dislike Jews. They are, if possible, more contemptuous of
their appearance. There are no dogs that bark at them in the street and
tear their skirts, but there are plenty of hooligans here also. As soon
as they catch sight of a "capote"[127] there is a cry: "Jew, Jew!" which
is the same as _Zhidd_[128] with us. And they throw stones and
mud--there is no lack of mud here, either. So what could I do? I did
what all the Jews do here--I tucked away my ear-locks behind my ears,
and I bought (to be paid for by degrees--a custom they have) "German"
clothes. There was an end to the money. And you, too, Hannah'li, when
you come, will have to dress differently, for a custom stultifies a
law--and it is their custom.

And as to your writing that you don't like Genendil, I cannot see why.
What ails you at her? It is not for me to set other people right.
Besides, I am sure she only does it all for Parnosseh. She is as modest
by nature as any other Jewish daughter. All day long, while Leeb the
reader and I are at the factory, she cooks and washes and sweeps out the
rooms. It is only in the evening that she goes with her father to
_their_ places of amusement, where she sings and plays and dances before
the public. I sit by myself at home, read Torah, and write to you.
Towards midnight they come home, we drink tea together, and we go to
bed.

And as to your saying, you think Genendil stole the spoon which was
afterwards missing--that is nonsense!

Genendil may not be very pious as regards the faith, but she would never
think of touching other people's property. For goodness' sake, don't
ever let her hear of it. She treats me like her own child, and is always
asking me if I don't need a clean shirt or a glass of tea.

She is really and truly a good girl. She gives all her earnings to her
father, and treats him in a way he doesn't deserve, although at times he
comes home very cheerful and talks nineteen to the dozen.

And Leeb the reader has told me that he is collecting a dowry for her,
and that, as soon as he has the first thousand dollars, he will find her
a bridegroom and marry her according to the law of Moses and of Israel,
and she will not have to strain her throat for the public any more. I
don't know if he really means it--but I hope so. God grant he may
succeed and rid her of the ugly Parnosseh.

Genendil was there when he said this and blushed for shame, as a Jewish
girl should do; so she is evidently agreed.

I implore you, dearest Hannah, to put away calumny and evil-speaking.
That is not right, it only does for gossips in a small town. And you,
Hannah dear, must come to America. Here the women are different--less
flighty, more serious, and as occupied as the men.

To return to the subject, your Shmùel Mösheh is no tailor or shoemaker,
to throw over his wife for another woman. You mustn't imagine such a
thing! It is an insult! You know that your words pierce my heart like
knives, and if Leeb the reader and his daughter knew of it, they would
forsake me, and I should be left alone in a desert! It would be a
calamity, for I don't know the language, only a few words, and I should
be quite helpless.

And now I beg of you, my dear Hannah, I beg very much, take the child's
hand and guide it across the paper, so that it may write me
something--let me see at least a mark or two it has made! Lord of the
world, how often I get away into a corner and have a good cry! And why?
Because I was not found worthy to teach my child the Law! And as if I
were not suffering enough, there come your letters and strew salt on my
wounds. Look here, to-day Leeb the reader asked me, and Genendil, too
(here she is called Sophie), nodded her head, to go with them and hear
her sing and see her dance, and I wouldn't. Leeb the reader said,
"Foolish Chossid!" _She_ turned up her nose. But I don't care! I shall
go my own ways and not a hair's breadth will I turn aside!

Keep well, you and our child. Such is the wish of your husband

SHMÙEL MÖSHEH.

Please don't let on about the clothes! Not a soul in our town must know
of it, or I would be ashamed to lift my eyes.

S. M.


FOURTH LETTER

To my worthy wife Mistress Hannah:

I have written ten letters without mentioning Genendil's name. I have
not even mentioned her father, Leeb the reader. After a great deal of
trouble, I have gone into another lodging, at a Shochet's, and haven't
seen her for weeks, and yet you go on writing nothing but Genendil and
Genendil, and Sophie and Sophie! And what is it you want of her? What?
May I be well, and may you be well, and may it be granted us to meet
again in peace, with the child, as surely as I saw Sophie come into the
factory to see her father--and the director himself went up to her and
began to talk to her and to pay her compliments; and although I did not
understand what he said, I know he meant no good by it. And he wanted to
stroke her cheek. Well, what do you think? She gave him such a slap
across the hand that I was dumbfounded! And you should have seen the way
she turned away from him and went out! I was just delighted.

So you see that, in spite of everything, Genendil is a good girl, and
that you are unjust to her. You tell me I shall be caught like a fish in
a net and such-like rubbish. I swear to you, as it were by the Torah on
the Day of Atonement, that it is a lie; that for your sake I have gone
away from her and avoid her as far as possible. If we do meet, I answer
a hundred words with a nod. Once more: Upon my faith, you are unjust to
her! Heaven forbid, you sin before God! But that is nothing, I would
have passed it over as usual, only it has led to something so dreadful,
that, God help us! I would rather the earth had swallowed me up than
that I had lived to endure the shame.

Last week I was taken poorly while at work; I grew giddy and fainted.
When I came to myself, I was in bed in my own room. Beside the bed stood
a doctor. He said it was a fever. I was laid up for ten days. And Leeb
the reader never left me the whole time, and nursed me as if I had been
his own child. Afterward, when I had recovered full consciousness, I
learnt that while I lay in the fever, Sophie used to come in, too, and
visit me--and it was just then there came one of your post-cards in
which you pour out upon her the bitterness of your heart--they most
certainly read it, because I was lying in a fever.

And while you were writing your ugly words and calumnies, they, so to
say, were risking their lives for me--they sent for doctors, made up my
bed and re-made it, gave me medicine, and even pawned a few of their
treasures, so that help should be there. They even brought me a bottle
of wine. I never touched a drop, upon my word! but they meant it well.
Besides that they measured the height of the fever three times a day
with a little glass tube--the doctors here order it to be done. And who
told me all this? The butcher and his wife. Had it not been for Leeb the
reader and Sophie, you would be a widow. And at the very same time, you
write such foolish things. _Phê_, it is a shame! I really don't know how
you are to come to America, how you are to live in America! I hope, dear
Hannah'li, that you will throw off this foolishness, and not darken my
life with any more such letters.

I often don't sleep at night. I imagine I see you plainly sitting at the
table writing to me. You write and scratch out, and write and scratch
out, and I see the letter, but I cannot read the words at the distance,
and it grieves me very much that I cannot read the letter so far off.
And you take the pen and put it into the child's hand--the child is in
your lap--and guide its fingers!

And you see, my dear wife, that I send you five dollars every week, that
I manage with very little. And I have only three shirts altogether. I
cannot ask Sophie to buy me any, and the Shochet's wife has given birth
to a baby, and is not yet about again. The circumcision, please God,
will be to-morrow. Yes--but that is not to the point. What I mean is, be
reasonable, for your own sake, and for the sake of me, your husband

SHMÙEL MÖSHEH.

A postscript, written sideways down the whole length of the letter:

I have this minute received another letter from you. And now, my
Hannah'li, I tell you once and for all, it is enough to make one's hair
stand on end, and hardly to be believed! You write that you may as well
let your hair grow and talk with gentlemen, that you also can dance and
sing--and that you will go to the Rebbe's and get him to send a "special
death" to both of us.

What do you mean? What words are these?

Lord of the world, what has come to you?

I think and think, till I don't know _what_ to think! This is my advice:
Put away your evil-speaking and calumnies and curses! They are not for
such as you! And I tell you simply this, that if you do not soon write
the letter a good Jewess ought to write, I shall send and fetch the
child away without you--do you hear? Otherwise--I shall throw myself
into the sea. It is enough, heaven forbid, to drive one mad!

Your husband

S. M.


3

Two letters which Hannah received from her relative in Lublin, and one
from her brother.


FIRST LETTER

To my friend, the excellent lady and esteemed and worthy woman, Mistress
Hannah:

Dear Hannah, you were a whole fool and half a prophet, when you wrote me
a second letter. Because the first one fell into the hands of my
husband, and he put it into his pocket and forgot to give it me. Such is
his little way--he cares for nothing except eating and drinking. But
when I got the second letter, it occurred to me to look in his pocket,
and whoso seeks, finds.

Hannah'li Krön, I felt, reading your bitter words, as if I were being
struck on the head with an axe. I was stunned with grief. But I soon
composed myself and thought, for instance: If my scatterbrain of a
husband ran away to America--well? I should just let him run, and pay
the piper into the bargain!

Now think: my whole Parnosseh, as you know, is tar,[129] and I don't
require _his_ assistance! Indeed, I can't stand his coming into the
shop, with the airs he gives himself!

If the customer is a woman, he won't answer her, the Chossid! Won't take
the money from her hand, and if it's a man, likely as not he asks too
little! If he takes the money, they palm off false coins on him. And if
he is so kind, once in a while, as to take up a piece of chalk, and make
out a bill for me, it is a bill! May they add up my sins, in the other
world, as he adds up my wares!

And as to your husband not having left you a divorce, I am not so very
surprised; my husband has no such easy time of it, and yet he doesn't
divorce me, and why should he? Does he want for anything? He has a nice
lodging, and when he comes home, supper is ready and the bed made at the
proper time, and every Sabbath he gets a clean white shirt! Many's the
time I've begged and prayed of him to go to all devils--not he! Do you
think he'd budge an inch? And when I scold him and throw things at his
head, he gets into a corner, makes a pitiful face, brings crocodile
tears into his eyes, and I am so foolish as to relent, I give him food
and drink, and off he goes.

And as to what you say about your lawsuit, you know, sister Hannah, I
have quite a celebrated lawyer, because, for my sins, I have a
never-ending case against cooks, the hussies! I assure you, Hannah'li,
servants such as we have in Lublin are not to be found anywhere! How
shall I describe them? Always swilling and stuffing--and they steal
anything they can lay hands on, and run away before the quarter is out;
and then they lodge a complaint against me, because I haven't paid them
a quarter's wages, and in court, nowadays, they don't make a particle of
difference between a servant-girl and a mistress, and I have to stand
with her side by side! I mayn't open my mouth to say a word, otherwise
the judge rings a bell and imposes a fine up to three rubles. So I never
go into court alone, but have engaged an excellent lawyer, whose mouth
drops sulphur and pitch, and he sees me through.

He once told me himself that the judge had frequently wished to imprison
me on some ridiculous pretext, such as tearing a girl's hair or giving
her a slap! But he cannot do it, because my advocate has all the
law-books in his head, knows all the laws, every single one, chooses out
the best for me, and flings them in the judge's face, so that he sits
there like a dummy and, willy-nilly, has to write "Acquitted!"

And no sooner had I read your letter, and found the first one in my
husband's pocket, than I hastened to my lawyer, and he received me most
politely, and asked me to be seated on the plush sofa.

I told him your whole story from Aleph to Taw, down to every detail; and
he listened attentively to it all, although the anteroom was crowded
with people waiting. He listened and walked up and down the room.

Then he sighed and said that according to the laws a daughter had equal
rights with a son and should inherit a share! So far, good! But there is
the following hitch: A wife cannot summons anyone without her husband's
knowledge, because she is under his jurisdiction, and must be given
power of attorney by him.

And when I told him that you, unhappily, were a grass-widow, that your
husband had deserted you, and that, in my opinion, you were free to do
as you pleased, he planted himself in front of me and shook his
head--that meant: By no means!

And he went to a book-case, took out one book after the other, looked
in, put it down, looked in and put it down, and so on with any number of
books, little and big and bigger. One, heaven forgive me, was as fat as
a pig. And in this one he apparently found what he was in search of, for
he stood over it a long time.

And then he told me, that if, after five years from the date of your
desertion, you bring him a paper from the justice of your town to
certify that your husband has not once shown himself in those five
years, he, the lawyer, will put in a plea for you in court, and the
court will give you permission to summons your brother.

This is what he said--I give it you word for word.

I offered him a ruble, and he made a wry face--evidently, not enough;
but he took it. Send me the ruble, Hannah'li Krön, as soon as you can,
for trade is slack, and tar is a drug in the market.

To return to the matter in hand:

It is what I always said and I say it again: the holy Torah (and _their_
law, lehavdîl, of course, also) has handed us over to the mercy of
bandits! A man, a dummy, a bolster, can divorce his wife when he likes,
either in person or by proxy; and a worthy woman, like myself, for
instance, cannot get rid of an idler like mine for love or money!

If we go together to a family gathering, he is stuffed with fish and
meat and all good things, and I--get a cup of chicory and milk!

When he sits in the booth at Tabernacles, one has to send him the best
of everything, and I live on bones!

I share the three weeks, nine days, and all the fasts, but the Rejoicing
of the Law is _his_!

He goes to a Rebbe, and they give him honey with apples! And what will
Paradise, when it comes to that, mean for _me_? I shall be the idiot's
footstool! He will sit in a grandfather's chair, and I shall be his
footstool!

In this world he is a feeble creature and is afraid of me, but how it
will be in the other world, don't ask me! I tell you plainly, if he
gives me the least shove with his foot, the Almighty alone knows what
will happen!

To return: What would you get by a divorce? Believe me, all dogs have
the same face! Not one of them is worth a dreier! You know my sister
Miriam suffered through her husband ten years before she could obtain a
divorce, and then she had to leave him her money and her clothes--in a
word, all she had! A nice thing, wasn't it?

She married again and was out of the frying-pan into the fire: another
idler to feed! She wanted a second divorce, he was satisfied, but she
couldn't afford to pay for it!

In short, dear Hannah, our mother Eve sinned and we suffer for it! And
we always shall suffer! For there is no escape from a husband, even in
the grave.

We have been sold to be servants and slaves in the other world, too! So
it was aforetime, so it is now, and so it will be in the future world!
One has to suffer! For what is to be done, if the Almighty wills it so?

Therefore, dear Hannah, have faith in God, blessed is He! Keep well and
forget your husband, who has probably forgotten you. That is always the
way when they go to America.

At first they write honeyed letters and send money; then, less and less;
then they write and send money once a year--then, once in seven
years--they don't need their wives out there, they have other women,
better, livelier!

May I be forgiven for saying so, but in Lublin, in the Jewish quarter,
there isn't a house without a grass-widow! Wash your hands of him, I
tell you, and forget! Imagine yourself a real widow or a divorced woman!
Turn your attention to the onions. May His blessed Name send you success
in business and preserve you whichever way you turn. Such is the wish of
your relative.

(The signature is undecipherable.)

I beg of you to send me the ruble as soon as possible, because my
husband, gorger and tippler that he is, is angry with me for having
given it.

(The same undecipherable signature.)


SECOND LETTER

To my sister Hannah:

First, my dear sister, I let you know that we are all well, except my
wife, Eva Gütel, who (not of you be it said!) is never free from cough
for an instant, and who, no sooner is the wedding over, must go to
Warsaw to consult a doctor.

I send you enclosed an invitation to the wedding. Mind you come and
enjoy yourself! Only do not, for mercy's sake, spoil my daughter's
happiness, and keep all contentions till the wedding is over.

You need not feel called upon to bring any present. If, however, you are
troubled about appearances, you are sure to find something in the house
that will do. I shall not take it amiss. Blood is thicker than water and
a sister is a sister.

And as to what you say about having no clothes to come in, that is
nonsense. You can borrow a dress of some one or other either there or
here.

And as to what you say about not being able to comfort yourself for the
child that has died--you know, dear sister, "He gave and He hath taken
away!"

Children are a pledge from God, and if God wishes to take back the
deposit, we must not even brood over it and try to think why. God
forbid!

And as to your being afraid of your husband finding out that the child
is dead and breaking with you altogether, that is another useless
anticipation. Believe me, sister, it is quite foolish, because if it is
true, as people say, that Shmùel Mösheh is Shmùel Mösheh no longer--he
is treading other paths--it will be all the same, child or no child. He
doesn't want you and you cannot hold to him!

And if, as I trust, that is all an invention, a calumny, and if, as I
firmly believe, Shmùel Mösheh is still Shmùel Mösheh, the learned and
pious Jew, then you have nothing to fear! On the contrary, with half the
expense it will be much easier to have you out to join him, and you will
live in peace and plenty.

And as to your having had no news of him for so long, is it a wonder? I
believe it is across the sea! How many ships, preserve us, are wrecked
on the way; how many postmen lose their lives on such an errand! And
perhaps the ships have to pass the spot where, as the Book of the
Covenant says, the waters stand on an heap, and there is peril of death.
Thank His dear Name that your Shmùel Mösheh crossed in safety! I
consider this fleeing to lands beyond the sea a disgrace and a shame, it
is a sign of want of trust, because he who trusts knows that God helps
whom He will, and he shrinks from endangering both body and soul. For
they say that America is as dangerous to the soul as the sea to the
body. They say, people throw off their Jewishness on board ship as soon
as the sea gives them a toss. They soon begin to eat bread baked by
Gentiles, forbidden food, to dress German fashion, women wear wigs,
even, it has been said, their own hair. And the proof that America is
dangerous to the soul is that there is not one "good Jew" in all
America! And I cannot imagine how one would exist there, where one could
get advice in questions of Parnosseh, or if one were ill, or anything
else happened to one. I tell you that the man who goes into Satan's
domain of his own accord is responsible for his soul, for he is like a
foolish bird flying into a net. And particularly a learned Jew, because
the greater the man, the greater the danger, the more is the Evil One
set on his destruction, and decoys him with either riches or beautiful
women; the Evil One has tools for the work at hand.

And, therefore, my advice to you is, so long as you do not know what is
happening there, forget! If you earn your livelihood with the onions,
well and good, and if, heaven forbid, you cannot, I can give you other
advice. If you come to the wedding, I will make it all right between you
and my wife. We are, after all, one family, and you know that my wife,
Eva Gütel, is really very good-natured; she is sure to forgive you, and
when all is smooth again and she goes to Warsaw, after the wedding, then
you will remain here and be house-mistress. And when, please God, she
comes back cured, she will still find a place for you at the table and a
bed in the house. Times are bad, but a sister is a sister, and one cuts
the herring into thinner slices.

But beside all that we have a mighty God--shall He not be able to feed
one of His creatures?--and that a woman!

Nonsense!

And, for goodness' sake, come to the wedding in time, so that you may be
able to lend Eva Gütel a hand. It is no more than one has a right to ask
a sister-in-law. You would not wish, as things are nowadays, to have us
hire extra help? Only, be sure and let everything I have said to you
about the future remain between ourselves. Eva Gütel is not to know what
I have written to you. The thing ought to come of itself, quite of
itself. You know, Eva Gütel does not like one to interfere in domestic
concerns--and I am sure, the thing _will_ arrange itself. A woman is a
woman even if she wears a top-hat.

That is why I write to you when Eva Gütel is not at home. She has gone
to engage the Badchan[130] and the musician; I shall not even tell her I
sent you an invitation: let her imagine you were so good and so
right-thinking as to come of your own accord! And may He whose Name is
blessed comfort you together with all that mourn in Israel, and spread
the wings of His compassion over all abandoned women. Amen, may it seem
good in His sight.

Sister Hannah, whether you stay where you are or remain with us for
good, come to the wedding! You simply _must_! And you shall not repent
it! It will be a fine wedding! It may be that he himself, may his days
and years increase, will be present. It will cost me a fortune, but it
is worth it! You see that such a wedding is not to be missed?

From me, your brother

MENACHEM MENDIL.

My wife Eva Gütel has just come in from market and--a token that heaven
wills it so--she tells me that I am not to hide my letter from her, that
she bears you no grudge. She advises you to sell the onions, buy a
dress, and come to the wedding looking like other people, as befits the
bride's aunt.

She also says that no present is necessary, and that one can trade in
onions here, too.

I repeat that my wife Eva Gütel is both kind-hearted and wise, and that,
if you will only not be obstinate, everything will come right.

You will see!

Your brother

M. M.


4

An unfinished letter from Hannah to her husband.

Good luck to you, my dear, faithful husband, good luck to you!

Here's good news from us, and may I ever hear the like from you. Amen,
may it be His will! We are, indeed, as you say, united for all time, in
this world and the other!

I let you know, first, dear husband, that my brother Menachem Mendil and
his wife Eva Gütel (may they live to see the days of the Messiah!)
forgave me everything, and sent for me in a lucky hour to their
daughter's wedding--Beile-Sasha's wedding.

It was a very fine one, fine as fine can be! Praise God that I was found
worthy to see it! There was every kind of meat, birds and beef; and
fish--just fish, and stuffed fish--and all sorts of other dishes, beside
wine and brandy--something of everything.

And the whole thing was such a success--so elegant! And I myself cooked
the meat, stuffed the fish, made the stew, sent up the dinner, and also
saw to the marketing beforehand.

I was house-mistress! I was waitress! I did not go merely to enjoy
myself!

I sold my stock of onions, made myself a dress of sorts, and went to my
relations, agreeably to their wish, a whole week before the wedding;
because there was no one to do the work; the bride was taken up with her
clothes, she spent the time with the tailor, the shoemaker, and even the
jeweller up to the very last minute.

And poor Eva Gütel, my sister-in-law, has a cough. And they say her
liver is not what it should be.

So I was everybody--_before_ the wedding and _after_ the wedding, only
not at the wedding, during which I felt very tired and done up. I sat in
a corner and cried for joy, because I had been counted worthy to marry
my brother's child, and--because she had such an elegant wedding! And I
was not turned out in a hurry when it was over, either.

Directly after it, my sister-in-law, health and strength to her, started
to consult a doctor in Lublin as to which doctor she ought to see in
Warsaw.

Then she left for Warsaw and went the round of all the celebrated
doctors. Thence she travelled to some other place to drink the
waters--mineral waters they are called--and during the whole six months
of her absence, I was mistress of the house.

May the Almighty remember it to them for good and reward them!

There was no cook--I did the cooking. And I drank delight out of it as
from a well!

In the first place, I had no time for thinking and brooding, and was
thereby saved from going mad, or even melancholy! And where, indeed,
should I have found it?

Business, thank heaven, was brisk. The public-house is always full and
the counter strewn with the gold and silver of Jews and Gentiles,
lehavdîl.

And my sister-in-law Eva Gütel's stuffed fish are celebrated for miles
round, and there the people sit and eat and drink.

And if ever I _began_ to think, and _wanted_ to think, Beile-Sasha, long
life to her, soon reminded me of where I was! And she has sharp eyes,
bless her, nothing escapes them!

And so it went merrily on--and I was so overjoyed at being
house-mistress there that once I spat blood--but only once.

Menachem Mendil saw it, and he told me to be sure and behave as if
nothing had happened, because, if people knew of it, they would avoid
his house. Yössil the inn-keeper over the way would soon cry:
Consumption! and there would be an end of it, and grass growing down our
side of the street.

But Beile-Sasha is the cleverer of the two, she soon discovered that it
was not consumption, but that I had swallowed a fish-bone, and it
scratched my throat, and so, that I should not suffocate, she gave me a
blow between the shoulders to loosen it, and, all for love's sake, such
a blow that the fish-bone went down--only _my_ bones ached a bit.

But all's well that ends well--and Eva Gütel has come back from drinking
the waters!

She has come back, thank God, in the best of health and spirits--a sight
for sore eyes!--and she has brought presents, the most beautiful
presents, for herself, for her husband, for her daughter and her
son-in-law--lovely things! But there was nothing for me; she said that
I, heaven forbid, was no servant to be given presents and wages. Had I
not been house-mistress?

Had not Eva Gütel herself told me fifty times that I was mistress, and
could do as I liked?

And no sooner was Eva Gütel back, than she discovered that Menachem
Mendil had not been near the Rebbe the whole time, and she wrung her
fingers till the bones cracked, and immediately sent me out to the
market-place to hire a conveyance.

Menachem Mendil drove to the holy man that same day.

And next morning, Eva Gütel gave me some good advice, which was to make
up my bundle and go--because she was there again and had Beile-Sasha to
help her. I should be fifth wheel to the cart and might go mad from
having nothing to do. She advised me to go back whence I came or to stay
in the place and do as I thought best. She would not be responsible,
either way.

I had slept my last night in her house.

The next one I spent walking the streets with my bundle under my arm.

You see, my dear husband, that I am doing very well. You need send me no
more money, as you used to do. You had better give it to Leeb the reader
to buy you a Talmud, or to Genendil-Sophie to buy you some shirts. And
mind she tries them on you herself, to see how they fit--is it not
America?

You see, my dear, good husband, I harbor no more unjust suspicions. I
never say now that Genendil stole either the spoon or my husband. I
know it is not her fault, and I am convinced that His blessed Name only
meant to do us a kindness when He brought you and Leeb the reader
together on the ship, so that he should take care of you--it is all just
as you wrote. There is only one thing that will never be as you think.
You may jump out of your skin, but you will never send for the child, to
take it away from me to America. Because our child, for your sake and
for that of your pious forefathers, has been gone this long time; it has
been hidden somewhere in the burial ground, in a little room without a
door, without a window. You may cry to heaven, but you shall not know
where its little bones lie! No tombstone, nothing to mark it--nothing at
all! Go, look for the wind in the fields!

Askerah[131] has taken it under her wing.

And since you have such a wonderful memory, and remember everything I
said and everything I did, I will tell you a story which you may
recollect. It is a story about a shawl I did not know what to do with.
Should I put it on and run for the doctor for the child, or stop up the
broken pane with it to keep the snow from blowing in, or wrap it round
the child, because the poor thing was suffocating with its throat? And
it was cold, bitterly cold. I ran to and fro several times, from the
window to the cradle, to the door, and back from the door to the
window--I tell you, I ran! I think, my dear husband, you will not forget
that moment, because, as you say, we are bound one to the other, you to
me and both of us to the child, and now the child is not there, we two
may as well go, too. Well, what will Genendil say? To tell the truth, I
have decided to let my hair grow and dress as they dress in America, and
do you know that, beside this, I have a sweet voice and can chant all
the prayers, and now, since I have been at my brother Menachem Mendil's,
I have heard drunken peasants sing all sorts of songs--and I have
learned them and I sing every whit as well as Genendil, if not better;
and at night, when I slept under the open sky, the Queen of Sheba came
and taught me to dance--and a whole night long I danced with the Queen
of Sheba in the eye of the moon.

And you, my dear Shmùel Mösheh, have made a bad bargain, for I am better
than Genendil. Because I remember quite well that she had two moles, one
on the left ear and one on the right cheek--and rather a crooked nose.
And I, you know, have a perfectly clear skin, without a mole anywhere.
You thought that only Genendil could sing and dance every Friday night,
and let her hair grow, that other people were not up to that! But I am
not angry with you, heaven forbid! Hold to her! It is enough for me to
have the child's grave. I shall go and build myself a little house
there, and sit in it through the night till the cock crows. I shall talk
to the child, very low and softly, about his father Shmùel Mösheh, and
that will delight him! And if you come yourself, or send anyone, to
fetch the child, I shall scratch out his eyes with my nails, because the
child is mine, not Genendil's--may her name and her remembrance perish,
and may you and she.....

       *       *       *       *       *

The letter is unfinished; it was found together with the other letters
in the pocket of the mad Hannah.



XXI

IN THE POND


Once upon a time there was a pond. It had a corner to itself, and lay
quite apart from the rest of the field where beasts were wont to graze
and herd-boys to fling stones.

A high bank, set with briars, screened it from the wind, and it had a
slimy, shiny green covering, in which the breeze tore a hole once in
twelve months. In the pond there dwelt (according to the order of
nature) a colony of quite small worms which fed on still smaller ones.

The pond was neither long nor wide, not even deep, and if the little
worms could neither discover a bottom nor swim to shore, they had only
the thick slime and the water-weeds and the fallen twigs to thank for
it.

The geography of the pond was in its infancy.

Conceit, on the other hand, flourished, and fancy had it all her own way
beneath the green covering--and the two together sat spinning and
weaving.

And they wove between them a legend of the beginning of things, a truly
worm-like tradition.

The pond is the great sea, and the four streams of Paradise flow into
it. Hiddekel brings gold (that is the slime in which they find their
nourishment), and the other three bring flowers (the water-weeds among
which they play hide-and-seek on holidays), pearls (frog-pawn), and
corals (the little orange fungi on the rotting twigs).

The green cover, the slimy cap on the surface of the pond, is the heaven
stretched out over the ocean, a special heaven for their own particular
world. Fragments of egg-shell, which have fallen into it, play the part
of stars, and a rotten pumpkin does duty for the sun.

The chance stones flung into the pond by the herd-boys are, of course,
hailstones flung by heaven at the head of sinners!

And when their heaven opened, and a few beams of the real sun penetrated
to a wormy brain, then they believed in hell!

But life in the pond was a pleasant thing!

People were satisfied with themselves and with one another.

When one lives in the great sea, one is as good as a fish oneself.

One worm would call another "Tench," "Pike;" "Crocodile" and "Leviathan"
would be engraved on tombstones.

"Roach" was the greatest insult, and "Haddock" not to be forgiven, even
on the Day of Atonement.

Meanwhile, astronomy, poetry, and philosophy blossomed like the rose!

The bits of egg-shell were counted over and over again, till everyone
was convinced of the absurdity of the attempt.

Romantic poets harped on the Heavenly Academy in a thousand different
keys.

Patriots were likened to the stars, stars to ladies' eyes, and the
ladies themselves to Paradise--or else to Purgatory! Philosophy
transferred the souls of the pious to the rotten pumpkin.

In short, nothing was wanting!

Life had all the colors of the rainbow. In due time a code of law was
framed with hundreds of commentaries, they introduced a thousand rules
and regulations, and if a worm had the slightest desire to make a
change, he had but to remember what the world would think, blush,
regret, and do penance!

Once, however, there was a catastrophe! It was caused by a herd of
swine. Dreadful feet crashed through the heaven, stamped down the slime,
bruised the corals, made havoc of the flowers, and plunged the entire
little "world" back into chaos.

Some of the worms were asleep under the slime (and worms sleep fast and
long).

These escaped.

When they rose out of the mud, the heavens had already swum together
again and united; but whole heaps of squeezed, squashed, and suffocated
worms were lying about unburied, witnesses in death of the past awful
event!

"What has happened?" was the cry, and search was made for some living
soul who should know the cause of the calamity.

But such a living soul was not easy to find!

It is no light thing to survive a heaven!

Those who were not stamped upon had died of fright, and those who were
not killed by fright had died of a broken heart.

The remainder committed suicide. Without a heaven, what is life?

One had survived, but, when he had declared to them that the heaven they
now saw was a new heaven, fresh, as it were, from the shop, and that the
former heaven had been trodden in of beasts; when he asserted that a
worm-heaven is not eternal--that only the universal heaven is, perhaps,
eternal--then they saw clearly that his mind had become deranged.

He was assisted with the deepest compassion, and conveyed to an asylum
for lunatics.



XXII

THE CHANUKAH LIGHT


My top-coat was already in my hand, and yet I could not decide: to go,
or not to go--to give my lesson! O, it is so unpleasant outside, such
horrible weather!--a mile's trudge--and then what?

"Once more: pakád, pakádti"[132]--once more: the old house-master, who
has got through his sixty and odd years of life without knowing any
grammar; who has been ten times to Leipzig, two or three times to
Dantzig; who once all but landed in Constantinople--and who cannot
understand such waste of money: Grammar, indeed? A fine bargain!

Then the young house-master, who allows that it is far more practical to
wear ear-locks, a fur-cap, and a braided kaftan, to consult with a "good
Jew," and not to know any grammar ... not that he is otherwise than
orthodox himself ... but he is obliged, as a merchant, to mix with men,
to wear a hat and a stiff shirt; to permit his wife to visit the
theatre; his daughter, to read books; and to engage a tutor for his
son....

"My father, of course, knows best! But one must move with the times!" He
cannot make up his mind to be left in the lurch by the times! "I only
beg of you," he said to me, "don't make an unbeliever of the boy! I will
give you," he said, "as much as would pay for a whole lot of grammar,
if you will _not_ teach him that the earth goes round the sun!"

And I promised that he should never hear it from, me, because--because
this was my only lesson, and I had a sick mother at home!

To go, or not to go?

The whole family will be present to watch me when I give my lesson.

_She_ also?

She sits in the background, always deep in a book; now and again she
lifts her long, silken lashes, and a little brightness is diffused
through the room; but so seldom, so seldom!

And what is to come of it?

Nothing ever _can_ come of it, except heart-ache.

"Listen!" My mother's weak voice from the bed recalls me to myself. "The
Feldscher says, if only I had a pair of warm, woollen socks, I might
creep about the room a little!"

That, of course, decides it.

Except for the lady of the house, who has gone to the play, as usual
without the knowledge of her father-in-law, I find the whole family
assembled round the pinchbeck samovar. The young house-master
acknowledges my greeting with a negligent "a good year to you!" and goes
on turning over in his palm a pack of playing cards. Doubtless he
expects company.

The old house-master, in a peaked cap and a voluminous Turkish
dressing-gown, does not consider it worth while to remove from his lips
the long pipe with its amber mouthpiece, or to lift his eyes from off
his well-worn book of devotions. He merely gives me a nod, and once more
sinks his attention in the portion appointed for Chanukah.

_She_ also is intent on her reading, only _her_ book, as usual, is a
novel.

My arrival makes a disagreeable impression on my pupil.

"O, I say!" and he springs up from his seat at the table, and lowers his
black-ringed, little head defiantly, "lessons to-day?"

"Why not?" smiles his father.

"But it's Chanukah!" answers the boy, tapping the floor with his foot,
and pointing to the first light, which has been placed in the window,
behind the curtain, and fastened to a bit of wood.

"Quite right!" growls the old gentleman.

"Well, well," says the younger one, with indifference, "you must excuse
him for once!"

I have an idea that _she_ has become suddenly paler, that she bends
lower over her book.

I wish them all good night, but the young house-master will not let me
go.

"You must stay to tea!"

"And to 'rascals with poppy-seed!'"[133] cries my pupil, joyfully. He is
quite willing to be friends, so long as there is no question of "pakád,
pakádti."

I am diffident as to accepting, but the boy seizes my hand, and, with a
roguish smile on his restless features, he places a chair for me
opposite to his sister's.

Has he observed anything? On _my_ side, of course, I mean....

_She_ is always abstracted and lost in her reading. Very likely she
looks upon me as an idler, or even worse ... she does not know that I
have a sick mother at home!

"It will soon be time for you to dress!" exclaims her father,
impatiently.

"Soon, very soon, Tatishe!" she answers hastily, and her pale cheeks
take a tinge of color.

The young house-master abandons himself once more to his reflections; my
pupil sends a top spinning across the table; the old man lays down his
book, and stretches out a hand for his tea.

Involuntarily I glance at the Chanukah light opposite to me in the
window.

It burns so sadly, so low, as if ashamed in the presence of the great,
silvered lamp hanging over the dining-table, and lighting so brilliantly
the elegant tea-service.

I feel more depressed than ever, and do not observe that she is offering
me a glass of tea.

"With lemon?" her melancholy voice rouses me.

"Perhaps you prefer milk?" says her father.

"Look out! the milk is smoked!" cries my pupil, warningly.

An exclamation escapes her:

"How can you be so ...!"

Silence once more. Nothing but a sound of sipping and a clink of spoons.
Suddenly my pupil is moved to inquire:

"After all, teacher, what _is_ Chanukah?"

"Ask the rabbi to-morrow in school!" says the old man, impatiently.

"Eh!" is the prompt reply, "I should think a tutor knew better than a
rabbi!"

The old man casts an angry glance at his son, as if to say: "Do you
see?"

"_I_ want to know about Chanukah, too!" she exclaims softly.

"Well, well," says the young house-master to me, "let us hear your
version of Chanukah by all means!"

"It happened," I begin, "in the days when the Greeks oppressed us in the
land of Israel. The Greeks--" But the old man interrupts me with a sour
look:

"In the Benedictions it says: 'The wicked Kingdom of Javan.'"

"It comes to the same thing," observes his son, "what _we_ call Javan,
_they_ call Greeks."

"The Greeks," I resume, "oppressed us terribly! It was our darkest hour.
As a nation, we were threatened with extinction. After a few ill-starred
risings, the life seemed to be crushed out of us, the last gleam of hope
had faded. Although in our own country, we were trodden under foot like
worms."

The young house-master has long ceased to pay me any attention. His ear
is turned to the door; he is intent on listening for the arrival of a
guest.

But the old house-master fixes me with his eye, and, when I have a
second time used the word "oppressed," he can no longer contain himself:

"A man should be explicit! 'Oppressed'--what does that convey to me?
They forced us to break the Sabbath; they forbade us to keep our
festivals, to study the Law, even to practice circumcision."

"You play 'Preference'?" inquires the younger gentleman, suddenly, "or
perhaps even poker?"

Once more there is silence, and I continue: "The misfortune was
aggravated by the fact that the nobility and the wealthy began to feel
ashamed of their own people, and to adopt Greek ways of living. They
used to frequent the gymnasiums."

She and the old gentleman look at me in astonishment.[134]

"In the gymnasiums of those days," I hasten to add, "there was no
studying--they used to practice gymnastics, naked, men and women
together--"

The two pairs of eyes lower their gaze, but the young house-master
raises his with a flash.

"_What_ did you say?"

I make no reply, but go on to speak of the theatres where men fought
wild beasts and oxen, and of other Greek manners and customs which must
have been contrary to Jewish tradition.

"The Greeks thought nothing of all this; they were bent on effacing
every trace of independent national existence. They set up an altar in
the street with an 'Avodeh zoroh,'[135] and commanded us to sacrifice to
it."

"What is that?" she asks in Polish.

I explain; and the old man adds excitedly:

"And a swine, too! We were to sacrifice a swine to it!"

"And there was found a Jew to approach the altar with an offering.

"But that same day, the old Maccabeus, with his five sons, had come down
from the hills, and before the Greek soldiers could intervene, the
miserable apostate was lying in his blood, and the altar was torn down.
In one second the rebellion was ablaze. The Maccabees, with a handful of
men, drove out the far more numerous Greek garrisons. The people were
set free!

"It is that victory we celebrate with our poor, little illumination,
with our Chanukah lights."

"What?" and the old man, trembling with rage, springs out of his chair.
"_That_ is the Chanukah light? Come here, wretched boy!" he screams to
his grandson, who, instead of obeying, shrinks from him in terror.

The old man brings his fist down on the table, so that the glasses ring
again.

"It means--when we had driven out the unclean sons of Javan, there was
only one little cruse of holy olive-oil left...."

But a fit of coughing stops his breath, and his son hastens up, and
assists him into the next room.

I wish to leave, but she detains me.

"You are against assimilation, then?" she asks.

"To assimilate," I reply, "is to consume, to eat, to digest. We
assimilate beef and bread, and others wish to assimilate _us_--to eat us
up like bread and meat."

She is silent for a few seconds, and then she asks anxiously:

"But will there always, always be wars and dissensions between the
nations?"

"O no!" I answer, "one point they _must_ all agree--in the end."

"And that is?"

"Humanity. When each is free to follow his own bent, then they will all
agree."

She is lost in thought, she has more to say, but there comes a tap at
the door--

"Mamma!" she exclaims under her breath, and escapes, after giving me her
hand--for the first time!

       *       *       *       *       *

On the next day but one, while I was still in bed, I received a letter
by the postman.

The envelope bore the name of her father's firm: "Jacob Berenholz."

My heart beat like a sledge-hammer. Inside there were only ten
rubles--my pay for the month that was not yet complete.

Good-bye, lesson!



XXIII

THE POOR LITTLE BOY

(Told by a "man" on a "committee")


"Give me five kopeks for a night's shelter!"

"No!" I answer sharply and walk away. He runs after me with a look of
canine entreaty in his burning eyes, he kisses my sleeve--in vain!

"I cannot afford to give so much every day...."

The poor, I reflect, as I leave the soup-kitchen, eat their fill
quickly....

The first time I saw the dirty, wizened little face with the sunken
eyes, darkly-burning, sorrowful, and yet intelligent eyes, it went to my
heart.

I had not even heard his request before an impulse seized me and a
groschen flew out of my pocket into his thin little hands. I remember
quite well that my hand acted of its own accord, without waiting to ask
my heart for its pity, or my reason whether with a pension of forty-one
rubles, sixty-six kopeks a month, I could afford to give five kopeks in
charity.

His entreaty was an electric spark that fired every limb in my body and
every cell in every limb, and my reason was not informed of the fresh
outlay till later, when the little boy, with a hop, skip, and a jump,
had left the soup-kitchen.

Busy with my own and other people's affairs, I soon forgot the little
boy.

And yet not altogether. Somewhere inside my head, and without my knowing
anything about it, there must have been held a meeting of practical
thoughts.

Because the very next evening, when the little boy stopped me again, the
same little boy with the broken, quavering accents, and asked me once
more for a night's shelter and bed, the following considerations rose up
from somewhere, ready prepared, to the surface of my mind:

A boy seven or eight years old ought not to beg--he ought not to hang
about soup-kitchens; feeding on scraps, before the plates are collected
and removed, would make a vagabond of him, a beggar--he would never come
to any good if he went on like that.

My hand had found its way into my pocket, but _I_ caught it there and
held it fast.

Had I been "pious," I should have reasoned thus: "Is the merit I shall
acquire really worth five kopeks? Should I not gain just as much by
repeating the evening prayers? or by giving a hoarse groan during their
recital?"

Not being "pious," I thought only of the boy's good: "My five kopeks
will only do him harm and make a hopeless beggar of him." And I gave
them to him after all!

My hand forced its way out of my pocket, and this time I did not even
try to hold it back. Something pained me in the region of my heart, and
the tears were not far from my eyes. Once more the little boy ran
joyfully out of the soup-kitchen, my heart grew light, and I felt a
smile on my face. The third time it lasted longer--much longer.

I had calculated betimes that my means will _not_ allow of my giving
every day in charity. Of course, it is a pleasure to see the poor little
wretch jump for joy, to notice the gleam of light in his young eyes, to
know that, thanks to your five kopeks, he will _not_ pass the night in
the street, but in the "refuge," where he will be warm, and where,
to-morrow morning, he will get a glass of tea and a roll. All that is a
pleasure, certainly, but it is one that I, with my income, cannot allow
myself--it is out of the question.

Of course, I did not say all that to the little boy, I merely gave him
some good advice. I told him that if he begged he would come to a bad
end--that every man (and he also must some day grow into a man) is in
honor obliged to work--work is holy, and he who seeks work, finds, and
such-like wise things out of books, that could not make up to the little
boy for the night-refuge, that could not so much as screen him till
daylight from the rain and the snow.

And all the while there he stood and kissed my sleeve, and lifted his
eyes to mine, on the watch for some gleam of pity to prove that his
words were not as peas thrown against a wall.

And I felt all the time that he was not watching in vain, that my cold
reasonings were growing warmer, that his beseeching, dog-like eyes had a
power I could not withstand, and that I must shortly surrender with my
whole battery of reproofs and warnings.

So I resolved as follows: I will give him something, and then tell him
once and for all that he is not to beg any more, tell him sharply and
decidedly, so that he may remember.

I had not enough in coppers, so I changed a silver coin and gave him
five kopeks.

"There--but you are not to come begging from me again, do you hear?"

Whence the "from me?"

As far as I knew, I had no such words in my mind, anyway I certainly did
not intend to say them, and perhaps I would gladly have given a few
kopeks not to have done so! I felt a sudden chill at my heart, as if I
had torn away a bit of covering and left a part of it naked. But it was
all over like a flash. My stern face, the hard metallic ring of my
voice, my outstretched right hand and outward-pointing left foot had
done their work.

I had a great attraction for that little boy! He stood there as if on
hot coals, he wanted to run off so as to get earlier to the lodging
house, and yet he stayed on and listened, growing paler and paler, while
a tear trembled on his childish lashes.

"There! and now don't beg any more," I wound up, "do you hear? This is
to be the very last time."

The little boy drew a deep breath and ran away.

To-day, to-day I have given him nothing--I will not break my word. I
will know nothing of "evasions,"[136] a given word is precious. One must
be firm, otherwise there would be an end to everything.

I think over again what I have just been saying, and feel quite pleased
with myself. I _cannot_ afford to give five kopeks in charity every day,
and yet that was not the reason. It was the boy's own good I was
thinking of, indeed, the good of all! What is the use of unsystematic
charity--and how can there be system without a strict rule?

With the little boy I had spoken simple Yiddish, with myself, somewhat
more learnedly. As I left the soup-kitchen, I reflected: The worst
microbe in the body of the community is begging. The man who will not
work has no right to eat, and so on.

I had no sooner shut the door of the soup-kitchen behind me than my feet
sank deep into the mud, I ran my head against a wall, and then plunged
into the dark night. There was a dreadful wind blowing, the flames of
the gas lamps trembled as with cold, and their flickering shine was
reflected a thousandfold in the puddles in the street, so that the eyes
were dazzled. It wails plaintively, as though a thousand souls were
praying for Tikun,[137] or a thousand little boys for five kopeks for a
night's shelter.... Bother that little boy!...

It would be a sin to drive a dog into the street on such a night, and
yet the poor little boy will have to sleep out of doors.

But what can _I_ do?

I have given him something three times--does that go for nothing?

Let somebody else give him five kopeks for once!

I have done quite enough, coming out to the soup-kitchen in this
weather, with my sick chest and a cough, and without a fur coat. Were I
"pious," it would have been self-interest on my part. I should have done
it with a view to acquiring merit, I should have hastened home, turned
into bed, and gone to sleep, so that my soul might quickly fly to heaven
and enter the good deed to her account.

The good deed is the "credit," and the "debit" a fat slice of Leviathan.

I, when I went to the soup-kitchen, had no reward in view, it was my
kind nature that prompted me.

As I walked and praised myself thus, my heart felt warm again. If other
people had been praising me, I must needs have been ashamed, and
motioned them away with my hand, but I can listen to myself without
blushing, and I should perhaps have gone on praising myself and have
discovered other amiable traits in my character, had I not stepped with
my half-soles--heaven knows, I had worn away the other half on the road
to the soup-kitchen--stepped with my half-soles right into the mud.

"Those who are engaged in a religious mission come to no hurt!..." but
that is probably on the way out. On the way home, when the newly-created
angel is hastening heavenward, one may break one's neck.

My feet are wet, and I feel chilled all through. I know to a certainty
that I shall catch cold, that I have caught cold already. Presently I
shall be coughing my heart out, and I feel a sting in my chest. A terror
comes over me. It is not long since I spent four weeks in bed.

"It's not a thing to do," I say to myself by way of reproach; "no,
certainly not! It's all very well as far as _you_ are concerned, but
what about your wife and child? What right have you to imperil their
support?"

If the phrase had been a printed one, and I the reader of it with my
pencil in my hand, I should have known what to do--but the phrase was my
own.

I feel more and more chilled, and home is distant, and my goloshes are
full of water, cold and heavy. The windows of a confectioner gleam
brightly in front of me--it is the worst in all Warsaw--their tea is
shocking--but since there is no choice!

I rush across the street and plunge into a warm mist. I order a glass of
tea and take up a comic paper.

The first illustrated joke that caught my eye was like a reflection of
the state of things outside. The joke was called: "Which has too much?"

The weather in the picture is the weather out of doors.

Two persons are advancing toward each other on the pavement. From one
side comes a stout, middle-aged woman, well-nourished, in a silk dress,
a satin cloak, and a white hat with feathers. She must have started on
her walk, or to make a visit, in fine weather, and now she has been
caught by the rain. Her face is one of dismay. She dreads the rain and
the wind, if not for herself, at least for her hat. She hastens--drops
of perspiration appear on her white forehead--she hastens, but her steps
are unsteady: both her hands are taken up. In the left she holds the end
of her silken train, already spattered with mud, and in the right, a
tiny silk parasol that scarcely covers the feathered hat on her head.
She _only_ requires a larger umbrella. To make up for that she has
enough and to spare of everything else, her face is free from care, it
tells only of an abundance of all good things.

Coming to meet her is a little girl, all skin and bone. She has perhaps
long and beautiful hair, but no time to attend to it. It is matted and
ruffled, and the wind tears round and round and seizes whole locks with
which he whips her narrow shoulders. She wears a thin, tattered frock,
and the wind clings round her, seeking a hole through which to steal
into her puny body.

On her feet she wears a pair of top boots--of mud. She also walks
unsteadily, first, because she is meeting the wind, and, secondly,
because _her_ hands, too, are taken up.

In her left one she carries a pair of big boots, a man's boots (her
father's most likely), taking them to be mended. I need not suppose that
they are going to the inn to be pawned for a bottle of brandy, because
of the split soles.

Her father has probably come home tired out with his work, her mother is
cooking the supper, and she, the eldest daughter, has been sent out with
the boots. They must be ready by to-morrow morning early--she hurries
along--she knows that if her father does not get his boots by to-morrow,
there will be no fire in the oven all day. She pants--the great boots
are too heavy for such a little child. But the weight in her right hand
is heavier, for she carries an immense journeyman's umbrella--and she
carries it proudly--her father has trusted her with it!

The child needs a lot of things: in winter, warmth--winter and summer,
clothing, and all the year round, enough to eat. By way of compensation,
there is excess in the size of her umbrella. I am sure that at this
moment the rich lady with the parasol envies her.

The little half-starved girl with the merry, roguish eyes, although the
wind threatens to upset her every minute, smiles at me from out the
picture:

There, you see, we have our pleasures, too!

As to that lady, I am laughing at her!

On paying for my unfinished glass of tea, however, I am again reminded
of my little beggar boy.

He has no umbrella at all, no home awaits him, not even one with dry
potatoes without butter, no little bit of a bed at the foot of father's
or mother's.

Even the unhappy lady would not find anything to envy him for.

What made me think of him again? Aha, I remember! It flashed across me
that for the ten kopeks which I paid for the scarcely-tasted tea, the
poor little boy would have had a half-portion of soup or a piece of
bread and a corner to sleep in. Why did I order the tea? At home the
samovar is steaming, somebody sits waiting for me with a "ready" smile,
on the table there is something to eat.

I was ashamed not to order tea. Well, there is something in that, I say
to console myself.

There is an even stronger wind blowing outside than before. It tears at
the roofs as if it were an anti-Semite, and the roofs, Jews.

But the roofs are of iron, and they are at home.

It descends with fury on the lamps in the street, but they remain erect
like hero-sages at the time of the Inquisition.

It sweeps down on the pavement, but the flags are set deep in the earth,
and the earth does not let go of her dwellers so easily. Then he raises
himself in anger up, up into the height, but the heavens are far, and
the stars look down with indifference--or amusement.

The passers in the street bend and bow themselves and huddle together to
take up as little room as possible, turn round to catch their breath,
and pursue their certain way.

But the poor, helpless little boy, I think of him with terror, what will
become of _him_?

All my philosophy has deserted me, and all my pity is awake.

If it were _my_ child? If I thought my own flesh and blood were in the
grip of this wind? If _my_ child were roaming the streets to-night? If,
even supposing that later on he had managed to beg a groschen, he were
going, in this hurricane, toward Praga[138]--over the Vistula, over the
bridge?

And just because he is _not_ mine, is he any the less deserving? Does he
feel the wind less, shiver the less with cold, because _his_ parents are
lying somewhere in a grave under a tombstone? I lose all inclination to
go home. I feel as if I had no right to a warm room, to the boiling
samovar, to the soft bed and, above all, to the smile of those who are
awaiting me.

It seems to me that "murderer" or some such word must be written on my
forehead, that I have no business to be seen by anyone.

And once more I begin to think about "piousness."

"Why the devil am not I 'pious'?" I mutter. "Why need I have been the
worse for believing that the One who dwells high above all the stars,
high above the heavens, never lets our world out of His sight for a
single instant? That not for a single instant will He forget the little
boy? Why need he lie so heavy on my heart? Why cannot I leave him
frankly and freely to the great heart of the universe? He would trouble
me no more, I should feel him safe under the great eye of the
cosmos--the eye, which, should it withdraw itself for an instant, leaves
whole worlds a prey to the devil; the eye which, so long as it is open,
assures to the least worm its maintenance and its right? As it is, I,
with my sick chest, and my wet feet, and in this weather, must go back
to the soup-kitchen and _look_ for that little boy. It is a disgrace and
a shame!"

Wherein the shame and the disgrace consisted, why and before whom I felt
ashamed, to this day I do not know. And yet, on account of the shame and
the disgrace, I did not take the shortest way back to the soup-kitchen,
but I went round by several streets.

At last I arrived.

The first room, the dining-room, was empty.

The Gehenna of day-time is cooling down, the steam rises higher and
higher from the damp floor, and creates a new "heaven" and a new
"firmament" between the waters below (from off the feet of the poor
people) and the waters above (the drops formed by the vapor). Here and
there the drops come raining through.

Thanks to a little window, I can see into the kitchen.

The drowsy cook with the untidy head leans with her left hand on the
great kettle and lifts the big soup-spoon lazily to her mouth.

The second, the kitchen-maid, is shredding macaroni for to-morrow noon.
She, too, looks sleepy. The superintendent is counting meal tickets
distributed by the committee.

There is no one else visible. I cast a look under the tables--no trace
of the little boy. I am too late!

"But at least," I think, as I leave the kitchen, "nobody saw me!"

Suddenly I remember that I have been walking the streets for several
hours.

Whatever is the matter with me? I mutter, and begin to pace homeward.

I am quite glad to find everyone asleep.

I throw off my goloshes in the entrance, steal up to my room and into
bed.

But I had a bad night. Tired out, chilled, and wet through, it was long
before I ceased coughing and got warm--a continual shiver ran through my
bones. I did not get really to sleep till late in the morning, and then
my dreams began to torment me in earnest.

I started out of sleep bathed in cold perspiration, sprang out of bed,
and went to the window. I look out; the sky is full of stars--the stars
look like diamonds set in iron--they roll on so proudly, so calmly, and
so high.

There is a tearing wind blowing at the back--the whole house shakes.

I went back to bed, but I slept no more, I only dozed. My dreams were
broken, but the little boy was the centre of them all.

Every time I saw him in a new place: there he lies asleep out in the
street--there he crouches on some steps in an archway--once, even,
devils are playing ball with him--he flies from hand to hand through
the air--later on I come across him lying frozen in a rubbish-box.

I held out till morning and then I flew to the soup-kitchen.

He is there!

Had I not been ashamed, I should have washed the grime off his face with
tears of thankfulness. Had I not been afraid of my wife, I should have
led him home as my own child. He is there--I am _not_ his murderer!

Well!

And I held out a ten kopek piece.

He takes it wondering; he does not know what a kindness he has done me.

Long life to him!

And next day, when he begged me for another groschen, I did _not_ give
it him, but this time I uttered no word of reproof--what is more, I went
away ashamed, not satisfied with myself.

I can really and truly not afford it, but my heart is sore: why can I
not afford it?

       *       *       *       *       *

My grandfather, on whom be peace, was not so far wrong when he used to
say:

"Whoever is not pious, lives in sorrow of heart and dies without
consolation."



XXIV

UNDERGROUND


A big underground lodging room full of beds.

Freude, the tatterdemalion, has been asleep for some time on her chest,
in her corner between the stove and the wall.

To-day she went to bed early, because to-morrow is fair-day in a
neighboring town, and she will have to be astir betimes in order to
drive there with the grease. But she lies uneasy--there is trouble and
worry in store.

She had arranged with the driver to take her, Freude, and the _small_
barrel, and now, just as she was going to sleep, it occurred to her that
it would be better to take the big one.

She tosses from side to side on her couch.

"Plague take a woman's tongue!" she mutters then, exclaiming against
herself:

"The _small_ barrel! Whatever for? To please the driver? Driver be
blessed! Can't he give his horses a few more oats for once?"

Grumbling thus over the stupidity of a woman's tongue, she has just
managed to doze off. From beneath the counterpane appears a red kerchief
that falls dangling round about her face and her pointed red and blue
nose.

She breathes heavily, and presses one bony hand to her old heart. Who
knows what she is dreaming? Perhaps that the driver has broken his
word, and she is left for a whole year without Parnosseh.

The opposite corner belongs to Yoneh the water-carrier.

The wife and two children sleep in one bed, and Yoneh with the elder
Cheder boy in another.

Now and then a sigh issues from the beds. Here also people have lain
down in sorrow.

The little Cheder boy has been crying for money to pay the rabbi his
fee.

And the eldest daughter was left without a situation. She had been doing
well, as servant to a couple without children. Suddenly her mistress
died. So she came home--she could not stay on alone with the widower.

There were a few rubles owing to her in wages--they would have been just
enough to pay the rabbi--but the widower says it is no concern of his,
his wife never mentioned it, and he doesn't know--he never mixes himself
up with the affairs of women.

They quarrelled a little before going to sleep. The mother advised going
to the Jewish court, the daughter was in favor of writing a petition
either to the _natchàlnik_[1] or to the _mirovòi_.[139]

Yoneh will not hear of doing one or the other.

The widower will take his revenge, and get Yoneh a bad name among the
householders: "He has only to snap his fingers and there's an end of
me!" How many water-carriers are there already loafing about with
nothing to do since they started the new water-supply?

Beril, the porter, all by himself in an upper bed, is snoring away like
a broken-winded horse. The two children sleep together in another place.
His wife is a cook, and this evening she has a wedding supper on hand.

Here, too, rest is broken.

Beril has an ache going through his bones, one after the other, and the
eldest son sighs frequently in his sleep. He works in a lime-kiln and
has burnt his foot.

Further on lies another snorer alone in a bed: Tzirel, the
street-seller. In the second bed sleep all three children. Her husband
is a watchman. No sooner has _he_ come in than _she_ will go out, with
bread and fresh rolls.

We are already in the third corner, where stands another--this time an
iron bedstead.

A flushed, unhealthy-looking woman's head is set off by a bundle of rags
that serve as pillow.

Her prematurely parched lips open frequently, and a heavy sigh escapes
them. Her husband's profession is a hard one, and he has no luck. Last
week, at the risk of his life, he conveyed away a copper kettle and
buried it in the sand outside the town--and it was discovered. Who knows
what he will bring home to-night? Perhaps he is already in jail. It is
three weeks since she set on to boil so much as a kettleful of
water--and they are clamoring for the rent.

"A hard life and no luck!" sigh the parched lips. "And one has to be on
one's guard against neighbors. They are always asking: 'What is your
husband's trade? What keeps him out so late?'"

Over all the beds flickers a pale light from the centre of the room. It
rises from between four canvas walls that bound the kingdom of a young
married couple.

Treine, the young housewife, is still awake. She has only been married
two months, and she is waiting for her husband, who will presently
return from the house-of-study.

The oil lamp is burning and throws pale patches on to the blackened
ceiling. A few feeble rays come through the rents in the canvas walls
and dance upon the beds with the poor, worn-out faces.

In Treine's kingdom all is brighter and cleaner.

Between the two beds, on a little white table, lies a prayer-book
flanked by two little metal candle-sticks, her wedding gifts. Wedding
garments hang on the wall, also a Tallis bag with the Shield of David
embroidered on it.

But there are no chairs in the kingdom. Treine sits on one of the beds,
making a net to hold the onions which are lying beside her, scattered
over the sheet. The soup for supper is keeping hot under the
bed-clothes.

The door of the big room opens softly. Treine's cheeks flush, she lets
the net fall out of her hands, and springs off the bed. But then she
remains standing--it would never do before all the neighbors. One of
them might wake, and she would never hear the last of it. The neighbors
are bad enough as it is, especially Freude. Freude cannot understand a
wife not beginning to scold her husband the very next day after the
wedding. "Just you wait," she says, the old cat, "you'll see the life
he'll lead you--when it's too late." Freude leaves her no peace.

"A husband," she says, "who is not led by the nose is worse than a wolf.
He sucks the marrow out of your bones, the blood out of your veins!"

It is ten years now since Freude had a husband, and she has not got her
strength back yet. And Freude is a clever woman, she knows a lot.

"Anything that he has a right to," she says, "fling it out to him as you
would a bone to a dog, and--"

Treine has time to recollect all this, because it is some minutes before
Yössele manages to steal on tiptoe past all the beds. Every step he
takes echoes at her heart, but as to going out to meet him--not for any
money. There--he nearly fell! Now he is just outside the partition
walls. She breathes again.

"Good evening!" he says in a low voice, with downcast eyes.

"A good year to you!" she answers lower still. Then: "Are you hungry?"
she asks.

"Are _you_? Wait."

He slips out between the partitions and returns with washed and dripping
hands.

She gives him a towel.

On a corner of the table there is some bread and some salt and the now
uncovered soup.

He sits down on his bed, on the top of all the bed-clothes, she on hers,
with the onions.

They eat slowly, talking with their eyes--what about, do you think?--and
with their lips about the way to earn a living.

"Well, how are you getting on?"

"Oh," he sighs, "three pupils already!"

"And that is all we have to depend on?" she asks sadly.

"_Ma!_" he answers with gentle reproach.

"God be praised!" she is consoling herself and him together.

"God be praised; but that only makes one hundred and twenty rubles," he
sighs.

"Well, why do you sigh?"

"Add it up," he answers; "one ruble a week rent, that's twenty-six
rubles a season. And then I'm in debt--there were wedding expenses."

"What do you mean?" she asks astonished.

He smiles.

"Silly little thing! My father couldn't afford to give us anything more
than his consent."

"Well, what do they come to altogether?" she interrupts.

"Altogether," he goes on, "twelve rubles. That makes thirty-eight. What
remains over for food?"

She calculates:

"Eighty-two, I suppose."

"For twenty-six weeks."

"Well, after all," she says, "it's over three rubles a week."

"And what," he asks sadly, "what about wood--and candles--Sabbaths and
holidays?"

"_Ett_, God is faithful," she tries to cheer him, "and I can do
something, too. Look, I have bought some onions. Eggs are very cheap. I
will buy some eggs, too. In a week or so, perhaps, five dozen eggs will
yield a little profit."

"But just calculate," he persists, "what we must spend on firing and
lights."

"Why, next to nothing. Perhaps one ruble a week. That leaves us--"

"And Sabbaths and holidays! Child, what are you thinking of?" And the
word "child" falls so softly, so kindly, from his lips, that she must
needs smile.

"Come, say the Blessing, quick!" she says, "and let other things be till
to-morrow. It's time to go to sleep."

Then she feels ashamed, lowers her eyelids, and says as if she were
excusing herself:

"You come so late!" with a yawn that is half a sham.

He leans toward her across the little table.

"Silly child," he whispers, "I come in late on purpose, so that we may
eat together, do you see? For a teacher, you know, it's not the thing."

"Well, well, say the Blessing!" she repeats, shutting her eyes tighter.
He closes his, he _wants_ to say it seriously. But his eyes keep opening
of themselves. He presses down his eyelids, but there remains a chink
through which he sees her, in a strangely colored light, so that he
cannot do otherwise than look at her. She is tired--he feels sorry for
her. He sees her trying to sit further back on the bed and letting her
head rest against the wall. She will go to sleep like that, he thinks.

"Why not take a pillow?" he would like to say, almost crossly, but he
cannot--ahem, ahem--

But she doesn't hear. He hurries through the Blessing, finishes it,
stands up, and there remains, not knowing what to do next.

"Treine," he calls, but so low, it could not wake her. He goes up to her
bed and bends over her.

Her face smiles, it looks so sweet--she must be dreaming of something
pleasant--how beautifully she smiles--it would be a shame to wake her!
Only her little head will hurt--_öi_, what hair she must have had--he
has looked at her curls, long, black hair--all shorn now[140]--her cap
is a thin embroidered one, with holes--she _is_ a beauty! He smiles,
too.

But she must be woke. He bends lower and feels her breath--he draws it
in hastily--she attracts him like a magnet--half-unconsciously he
touches her lips with his own.

"I wasn't asleep at all!" she says suddenly, and opens a pair of
mischievous, laughing eyes. She throws her arms round his shoulders and
pulls him down to her. "Never mind," she whispers into his ear, and her
voice is very sweet, "never mind! God is good and will help us--was it
not He who brought us together? He will not forsake us. There will be
firing and lights--there will be enough to live on--it will be all
right--everything will be right--won't it, Yössele? Yes, it will!"

He makes no reply. He is trembling all over.

She pushes him a little further away.

"Look at me, Yössele!" it occurs to her to say.

Yössele wishes to obey, and cannot.

"Poor wretch," she says gently, "not accustomed to it yet--ha?"

He wants to hide his head in her breast, but she will not allow him to.

"Why are you ashamed, wretch? You can kiss, but you won't look!"

He would rather kiss her, but she will not allow him.

"_Please_, look at me!"

Yössele opens his eyes wide, but not for long.

"Oh, please!" she says, and her voice is softer, "silkier" than ever.

He looks. This time it is _her_ lids that fall.

"Just tell me," she says, "only please tell me the truth, am I a pretty
woman?"

"Yes!" he whispers, and she feels his breath hot on her cheek.

"Who told you?"

"Can't I see for myself? You are a queen--a queen!"

"And tell me, Yössele," she continues, "shall you be always just
as--just the same?"

"What do you mean by that, Treine?"

"I mean," her voice shakes, "just as fond of me?"

"What a question!"

"Just as dear?"

"What next?"

"Always?"

"Always!" he is confident.

"Shall you always eat with me?"

"Of course," he answers.

"And--and you will never scold me?"

"_Never._"

"Never make me unhappy?"

"Unhappy? I? You? What do you mean? Why?"

"_I_ don't know, Freude says...."

"_Wa_--the witch!"

He draws nearer to her. She pushes him back.

"Yössele?"

"What is it?"

"Tell me--what is my name?"

"Treine!"

"_Phê!_" the small mouth makes a motion of disgust.

"Treinishe," he corrects himself.

She is not pleased yet.

"Treininyu!"

"No!"

"Well then--Treine my life, Treine my crown, Treine my heart--will that
do?"

"Yes," she answers happily, "only--"

"What now, my life, my delight?"

"Only--listen, Yössele,--and--" she stammers.

"And what?"

"And when--if you should be out of work any time--and when I am not
earning much--then perhaps, perhaps--you will scold."

The tears come into her eyes.

"God forbid! God forbid!"

He forces his head out of her hands, and flings himself upon her parted
lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Plague take you altogether, head and hands and feet!" a voice comes
from beneath the partition. "Honey-mooning, as I'm alive! There's no
closing an eye--"

It is the husky, acidly-spiteful voice of Freude, the tatterdemalion.



XXV

BETWEEN TWO MOUNTAINS

(Between the Rabbi of Brisk and the Rebbe of Byàle)

A Simchas Torah Tale

TOLD BY AN OLD TEACHER


I

Of course you have heard of the Brisk Rabbi and the Byàle Rebbe, but it
is not everyone who knows that the holy man of Byàle, Reb Nòach'ke, was
at one time the Brisk Rabbi's pupil, that he studied a good couple of
years with him, then disappeared for another two, and finally emerged
from his voluntary exile as a distinguished man in Byàle.

And he left for this reason:

They studied Torah, with the Brisk Rabbi, only the Rebbe felt that it
was _dry_ Torah. For instance, one learns about questions regarding
women, or about "meat in milk," or else about a money matter--very well.
Reuben and Simon come with a dispute, or there comes a maid-servant or a
woman with a question of ritual, and that very moment the study becomes
a delight, it is all alive and is there for a purpose.

But like this, without them, the Rebbe felt the Torah, that is, the body
of the Torah, the explanation, what lies on the surface, is dry. That,
he felt, is not the Law of life. Torah must live! The study of Kabbalah
books was not allowed in Brisk. The Brisk Rabbi was a Misnagid, and by
nature "revengeful and relentless as a serpent;" if anyone ventured to
open a Zohar, a Pardes, he would scold and put him under a ban. Somebody
was caught reading a Kabbalah-book, and the Rabbi had his beard shaven
by Gentiles! What do you think? The man became distraught, fell into a
melancholy, and, what is more wonderful, no "good Jew" was able to help
him. The Brisk Rabbi was no trifle, I can tell you! And how was anyone
just to get up and go away from his academy?

Reb Nòach'ke couldn't make up his mind what to do for a long time.

Then he was shown a dream. He dreamed that the Brisk Rabbi came in to
him and said: "Come, Nòach, I will take you into the terrestrial Garden
of Eden." And he took his hand and led him away thither. They came into
a great palace. There were no doors and no windows in this palace,
except for the door by which they came in. And yet it was light, for the
walls, as it seemed to the Rebbe, were of crystal and gave out a
glittering shine.

And so they went on, further and further, and one saw no end to it.

"Hold on to my skirt," said the Brisk Rabbi, "there are halls without
doors and without number, and if you let go of me, you will be lost
forever."

The Rebbe obeyed, and they went further and further, and the whole way
he saw no bench, no chair, no kind of furniture, nothing at all!

"There is no resting here," explained the Brisk Rabbi, "one goes on and
on!" And he followed, and every hall was longer and brighter than the
last, and the walls shone now with this color and now with that, here
with several, and there with all colors--but they did not meet with a
single human being on their way.

The Rebbe grew weary walking. He was covered with perspiration, a cold
perspiration. He grew cold in every limb, beside which his eyes began to
hurt him, from the continual brilliancy.

And there came over him a great longing, a longing after Jews, after
companions, after All-Israel. It was no trifle, not meeting a single
soul.

"Long after no one," said the Brisk Rabbi, "this is a palace for me and
for you--you will also, some day, be Rabbi of Brisk."

And the other was more terrified than ever, and laid his hand against
the wall to help himself from falling. And the wall burnt him. Only not
as fire burns, but as ice burns.

"Rabbi!" he gave a cry, "the walls are ice, simply ice!"

The Brisk Rabbi was silent. And the other cried again:

"Rabbi, take me away hence! I do not wish to stay alone with you! I wish
to be with All-Israel!"

And hardly had he said it when the Brisk Rabbi disappeared, and he was
left alone in the palace.

He knew of no way, no in and no out; a cold terror struck him from the
walls; and the longing for a Jew, to see a Jew, if only a cobbler or a
tailor, waxed stronger and stronger. He began to weep.

"Lord of the world," he begged, "take me away from here. Better in
Gehenna with All-Israel than here one by himself!"

And immediately there appeared before him a common Jew with the red sash
of a driver round him, and a long whip in his hand. The Jew took him
silently by the sleeve, led him out of the palace--and vanished. Such
was the dream that was sent him.

When he woke, before daylight, when it had scarcely begun to dawn, he
understood that this had been no ordinary dream. He dressed quickly, and
hastened toward the house-of-study to get his dream interpreted by the
learned ones who pass the night there. On his way through the market,
however, he saw a covered wagon standing, and beside it--the driver with
a red sash round the waist, a long whip in his hand, and altogether just
such a Jew as the one who had led him out of the palace in his dream.

Nòach (it struck him there was something behind the coincidence) went up
to him and asked:

"Whither drives a Jew?"

"Not _your_ way," answered the driver, very roughly.

"Well, tell me anyway," he continued. "Perhaps I will go with you!"

The driver considered a little, and then answered:

"And can't a young fellow like you go on foot?" he asked. "Go along with
you, _your_ way!"

"And whither shall I go?"

"Follow your nose!" answered the driver, "it's not my business."

The Rebbe understood, and now began his "exile."

A few years later, as before said, he emerged into publicity in Byàle.
How it all happened I won't tell you now, although it's enough to make
anyone open his mouth and ears. And about a year after this happened, a
Byàle householder, Reb Yechiel his name was, sent for me as a teacher.

At first I would not accept the post of teacher in his house.

You must know that Reb Yechiel was a rich man of the old-fashioned type,
he gave his daughters a thousand gold pieces dowry, and contracted
alliances with the greatest rabbis, and his latest daughter-in-law was a
daughter of the Rabbi of Brisk.

You can see for yourselves that if the Brisk Rabbi and the other
connections were Misnagdîm, Reb Yechiel had to be a Misnagid, too--and I
am a Byàle Chossid, well--how could I go into a house of that kind?

And yet I felt drawn to Byàle. You can fancy! The idea of living in the
same town as the Rebbe! After a good deal of see-sawing, I went.

And Reb Yechiel himself turned out to be a very honest, pious Jew, and I
tell you, his heart was drawn to the Rebbe as if with pincers. He was no
learned man, himself, and he stared at the Rabbi of Brisk as a cock
looks at a prayer-book.[141] He made no objections to my holding to the
Byàle Rebbe, only he would have nothing to do with him himself. When I
told anything about the Rebbe, he would pretend to yawn, and yet I
could see that he pricked up his ears, but his son, the son-in-law of
the Brisk Rabbi, would frown and look at me with mingled anger and
contempt, only he never argued; he was silent by nature.

And it came to pass on a day that Reb Yechiel's daughter-in-law, the
Brisk Rabbi's daughter, was expecting the birth of her first
child--well, there is nothing new in that, you say? But "thereby hangs a
tale." It was well known that the Brisk Rabbi, because he had shaved a
Chossid, that is, caused him to be deprived of beard and ear-locks, was
made to suffer by the prominent Rebbes. Both his sons (not of you be it
said!) died within five or six years, and not one of his three daughters
had a boy, beside which every child they bore nearly cost them their
life.

Everyone saw and knew that it was a visitation of the great Rebbes on
the Brisk Rabbi, only he himself, for all his clear-sightedness, did not
see it. He went on his way as before, carrying on his opposition by
means of force and bans.

I was really sorry for Gütele (that was the name of the Rabbi's
daughter), really sorry. First, a Jewess; secondly, a good Jewess, such
a good, kind soul as never was known.

Not a poor girl was married without her assistance--a "silken creature!"
And she was to be punished for her father's outburst of anger! And
therefore, as soon as I heard the midwife busy in the room, I wanted to
move heaven and earth for them to send to the Byàle Rebbe--if only a
note without a money-offering--after all, it wasn't as if _he_ needed
money.

The Byàle Rebbe never thought much of money.

But whom was I to speak with?

I try it on with the Brisk Rabbi's son-in-law--and I know very well that
his soul is bound up with her soul, that he has never hid from himself
that domestic happiness shone out of every corner, out of every word and
deed--but he is the Brisk Rabbi's son-in-law, he spits, goes away, and
leaves me standing with my mouth open.

I go to Reb Yechiel himself, and he answers: "It is the Brisk Rabbi's
daughter. I could not treat him like that, not even if there were peril
of death, heaven forbid!" I try his wife--a worthy soul, but a simple
one--and she answers:

"If my husband told me to do so, I would send the Rebbe my holiday
head-kerchief and the ear-rings at once; they cost a mint of money; but
without his consent, not a copper farthing--not a tassel!"

"But a note--what harm could a note do you?"

"Without my husband's knowledge, nothing!" she answers, as a good Jewess
should answer, and turns away from me, and I see that she only does it
to hide her tears--a mother--"the heart knows," her heart has felt the
danger.

But when I heard the first cry, I ran to the Rebbe myself.

"Shemaiah," he answered me, "what can I do? I will pray!"

"Give me something for her, Rebbe," I implore, "anything, a coin, a
trifle, an amulet!"

"It would only make matters worse, which heaven forbid!" he replied.
"Where there is no faith, such things only do harm, and she would have
none."

What could I do? It was the first day of Tabernacles, there was nothing
I could do for her, I might as well stay with the Rebbe. I was like a
son of the house. I thought, I will look imploringly at the Rebbe every
minute, perhaps he will have compassion.

One heard things were not going on well--everything had been
done--graves measured, hundreds of candles burnt in the synagogue, in
the house-of-study, and a fortune given away in charity. What remains to
be told? All the wardrobes stood open; a great heap of coins of all
sorts lay on the table, and poor people came in and took away--all who
wished, what they wished, as much as they wished!

I felt it all deeply.

"Rebbe," I said, "it is written: 'Almsgiving delivers from death.'"

And he answered quite away from the matter:

"Perhaps the Brisk Rabbi will come!"

And in that instant there walks in Reb Yechiel. He never spoke to the
Rebbe, any more than if he hadn't seen him, but:

"Shemaiah," he says to me, and catches hold of the flap of my coat,
"there is a cart outside, go, get into it and drive to the Brisk Rabbi,
tell him to come."

And he was evidently quite aware of what was involved, for he added:

"Let him see for himself what it means. Let him say what is to be done!"

And he looked--what am I to say? A corpse is more beautiful than he was.

Well, I set off. And thinking, I thought to myself, if my _Rebbe knows
that the Brisk Rabbi expects to come here_, something will result.
Perhaps they will make peace. That is, not the Brisk Rabbi with the
Byàle Rebbe, for they themselves were not at strife, but their
followers. Because, really, if he comes, he will see us; he has eyes in
his head!

But heaven, it seems, will not suffer such things to come to pass so
quickly, and set hindrances in my way. Hardly had I driven out of Byàle
when a cloud spread itself out over the sky, and what a cloud! A heavy
black cloud like soot, and there came a gust of wind as though spirits
were flying abroad, and it blew from all sides at once. A peasant, of
course, understands these things, he crossed himself and said that the
journey, might heaven defend us, would be hard, and pointed with his
whip to the sky. Just then came a stronger gust of wind, tore the cloud
as you tear a piece of paper, and began to blow one bit of it to one
side, and one to the other, as if it were parting ice-floes on a river;
I had two or three piles of cloud over my head. I wasn't at all
frightened at first. It was no new thing for me to be wet through, and I
am not alarmed at thunder.

In the first place it never thunders at Tabernacles, and secondly, after
the Rebbe's Shofar-blowing! We have a tradition that after the
Shofar-blowing thunder has no power to harm for a whole year. But when
the rain suddenly gave a lash across the face like a whip--once, twice,
thrice--my heart sank into my shoes. I saw that heaven was against me,
driving me back.

And the peasant, too, begged, "Let us go home!"

But I knew there was peril of death. I sat on the cart and heard
through the storm the moans of the woman and the crack of the husband's
finger-joints: he wrings his hands; and I see Reb Yechiel's dark face
with the sunken, burning eyes: "Drive on," he says, "drive on!" And we
drive on.

And it pours and pours, it pours from above and splashes from below,
from underneath the wheels and the horse's feet, and the road is
swamped, literally covered with water. The water frothed, the cart
seemed to swim--what am I to tell you? Besides that we lost our way--but
I lived through it!

I brought back the Brisk Rabbi by the Great Hosanna.[142]


II

I must tell you the truth, that no sooner had the Brisk Rabbi taken his
seat in the cart than it grew still! The cloud broke up and the sun
shone through the rift, and we drove into Byàle quite dry and
comfortable. Even the peasant remarked it, and said in his own language:
"A great Rabbi! a powerful Rabbi!"

But the main thing was our arrival in Byàle.

The women who were in the house crowded to the Rabbi like locusts--they
nearly fell on their faces before him and wept--the daughter in the
inner room was not heard, either because of the women's weeping, or else
because she had no strength left to complain--Reb Yechiel did not see
us, he was standing with his forehead pressed against a window-pane, as
though his head were burning hot.

The Brisk Rabbi's son-in-law did not turn round to greet us, either. He
stood with his face against the wall, and I could see plainly how his
whole body shook, and how his head knocked against the wall.

I thought I should have fallen. Anxiety and terror had taken such hold
on me that I was cold in every limb, I felt that my soul was chilled.

Well, did you know the Brisk Rabbi? That was a man--a pillar of iron, I
tell you!

A tall, tall man, "from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any
of the people;" he cast awe round him like a king.

A long white beard, one point of it, I remember now, had tucked itself
under his girdle, the other point quivered over it. His eyebrows were
white, thick, and long, they seemed to cover part of his face. When he
raised them--Lord of the world! The women fell back as though they were
thunderstruck, he had such eyes! There were daggers in them, glittering
daggers! And he gave a roar like a lion: "Women, be gone!"

Then he asked in a lower and gentler voice:

"And where is my daughter?"

They showed him.

He went in, and I remained standing quite upset: Such eyes, such a
voice! It is quite another sort another world! The Byàle Rebbe's eyes
are so kind, so quiet, they do one's heart good; he gives you a look,
and it's like a shower of gold--and his voice--that sweet voice--soft as
velvet--Lord of the world! it goes to your heart and soothes it and
comforts it--one isn't afraid of _him_, heaven forbid! The soul just
melts for love of him, she desires to escape from the body and unite
herself to _his_ soul--she is drawn as a butterfly (lehavdîl) to a
bright flame! And here--Lord of the world, fear and trembling! A Gaòn, a
Gaòn of the old days! And he has gone in to a woman in child-bed!

"He will turn her into a heap of bones!" I think in terror.

I run to the Byàle Rebbe. And he met me in the door with a smile:

"Have you seen," he said to me, "the majesty of the Law? The very
majesty of the Law?"

I felt relieved. If the Rebbe smiles, I thought, all will be well.

       *       *       *       *       *

And all was well. On Shemini Atseres[143] she was over it.

And on Simchas Torah the Brisk Rabbi presided at table. I would have
liked to be at table somewhere else, but I did not dare go away,
particularly as I made up the tenth man needed to recite grace.

Well, what am I to tell you? How the Brisk Rabbi expounded the Torah? If
the Torah is a sea, he was Leviathan in the sea--with one twist of his
tail he swam through ten treatises, with another he mixed together the
Talmud and the codes, so that it heaved and splashed and seethed and
boiled, just as they say the real sea does--he made my head go
round--but "the heart knoweth its own bitterness," and my heart felt no
holiday happiness! And then I remembered the Rebbe's dream--and I felt
petrified. There was sun in the window and no want of wine at table, I
could see the whole company was perspiring. And I? I was cold, cold as
ice! Over yonder I knew the Torah was being expounded differently--there
it is bright and warm--every word is penetrated and interwoven with love
and rapture--one feels that angels are flying through the room, one
seems to hear the rustle of the great, white wings--_aï_, Lord of the
world! Only, there's no getting away!

Suddenly he stops, the Brisk Rabbi, and asks:

"What kind of rabbi have you got here?"

"A certain Nòach," they reply.

Well, it cut me to the heart. "A certain Nòach!" O, the flattery, the
flattery of it!

"Is he a wonder-worker?"

"Not very much of one, one doesn't often hear about him--the women talk
of him, but who listens to them?"

"Then he just takes money and does nothing wonderful?"

They tell him the truth: that he takes little money, and gives away a
great deal.

The rabbi muses.

"And he is a scholar?"

"They say, a great one!"

"Whence is he, this Nòach?"

Nobody knows, and _I_ have to answer. A conversation ensues between me
and the Brisk Rabbi:

"Was he not once in Brisk, this Nòach?" he asks.

"Was not the Rebbe once in Brisk?" I stammered. "I think--yes!"

"Ah," says he, "a follower of his!" and it seems to me he looks at me as
one looks at a spider.

Then he turns to the company:

"I once had a pupil," he says, "Nòach--he had a good head, but he was
attracted to the other side[144]--I spoke to him once, twice--I would
have spoken to him a third time, to warn him, but he disappeared--is it
not he? Who knows!"

And he began to describe him: thin, small, a little black beard, black,
curly ear-locks, a dreamer, a quiet voice, and so on.

"It may be," said the company, "that it is he; it sounds very like!"

I thanked God when they began to say grace.

But after grace something happened that I had never dreamt of.

The Brisk Rabbi rises from his seat, calls me aside, and says in a low
voice:

"Take me to _your_ Rebbe and _my_ pupil! Only, do you hear? no one must
know!"

Of course, I obeyed, only on the way I asked in terror:

"Brisk Rabbi, tell me, with what purpose are you going?"

And he answered simply:

"It occurred to me at grace, that I had judged by hearsay--I want to
see, I want to see for myself, and perhaps," he added, after a while,
"God will help me, and I will save a pupil of mine.

"Know, rascal," he said to me playfully, "that if your Rebbe is _that_
Nòach who studied with me, he may some day be a great man in Israel, a
veritable Brisk Rabbi!"

Then I knew that it was he, and my heart began to beat with violence.

And the two mountains met--and it is a miracle from heaven that I was
not crushed between them.

The Byàle Rebbe of blessed memory used to send out his followers, at
Simchas Torah, to walk round the town, and he himself sat in the balcony
and looked on and had pleasure in what he saw.

It was not the Byàle of to-day: it was quite a small place then, with
little, low-built houses, except for the Shool and the Rebbe's Kläus.
The Rebbe's balcony was on the second floor, and you could see
everything from it as if it all lay in the flat of your hand: the hills
to the east and the river to the west. And the Rebbe sits and looks out,
sees some Chassidîm walking along in silence, and throws down to them
from the balcony the fragments of a tune. They catch at it and proceed
on their way singing, and batches and batches of them go past and out of
the town with songs and real gladness, with real Rejoicing of the
Law--and the Rebbe used not to leave the balcony.

But on this occasion the Rebbe must have heard other steps, for he rose
and came to meet the Rabbi of Brisk.

"Peace be with you, Rabbi!" he said meekly, in his sweet voice.

"Peace be with you, Nòach!" the Brisk Rabbi answered.

"Sit, Rabbi!"

The Brisk Rabbi took a seat, and the Byàle Rebbe stood before him.

"Tell me, Nòach," said the Brisk Rabbi, with lifted eyebrows, "why did
you run away from my academy? What was wanting to you there?"

"Breathing-space, Rabbi," answered the other, composedly.

"What do you mean? What are you talking about, Nòach?"

"Not for myself," explained the Byàle Rebbe in a quiet tone, "it was for
my soul."

"Why so, Nòach?"

"Your Torah, Rabbi, is all justice! It is without mercy! There is not a
spark of grace in your Torah! And therefore it is joyless, and cannot
breathe freely--it is all chains and fetters, iron regulations, copper
laws!--and all higher Torah for the learned, for the select few!"

The Brisk Rabbi is silent, and the other continues:

"And tell me, Rabbi, what have you for All-Israel? What have you, Rabbi,
for the wood-cutter, for the butcher, for the artisan, for the common
Jew?--specially for the simple Jew? Rabbi, what have you for the
_un_learned?"

The Brisk Rabbi is silent, as though he did not understand what was
being said to him. And still the Byàle Rebbe stands before him, and goes
on in his sweet voice:

"Forgive me, Rabbi, but I must tell the truth--your Torah was _hard_,
hard and dry, for it is only the body and not the soul of the Law!"

"The soul?" asks the Brisk Rabbi, and rubs his high forehead.

"Certainly, as I told you, Rabbi, your Torah is for the select, for the
learned, not for All-Israel. And the Torah _must_ be for All-Israel! The
Divine Presence must rest on All-Israel! because the Torah is the soul
of All-Israel!"

"And _your_ Torah, Nòach?"

"You wish to see it, Rabbi?"

"Torah--_see_ it?" wonders the Brisk Rabbi.

"Come, Rabbi, I will show it you!--I will show you its splendor, the joy
which beams forth from it upon all, upon All-Israel!"

The Brisk Rabbi does not move.

"I beg of you, Rabbi, come! It is not far."

He led him out on to the balcony, and I went quietly after. "You may
come too, Shemaiah," he said to me, "to-day you will see it also--and
the Brisk Rabbi will see--you will see the Simchas Torah--you will see
_real_ Rejoicing of the Law!"

And I saw what I had always seen, only I saw it differently--as if a
curtain had fallen from my eyes.

A great wide sky--without a limit! The sky was so blue! so blue! it was
a delight to the eye. Little white clouds, silvery clouds, floated
across it, and when you looked at them intently, you saw how they
quivered for joy, how they danced for Rejoicing in the Law! Away behind,
the town was encircled by a broad green girdle, a dark green one, only
the green lived, as though something alive were flying along through the
grass; every now and then it seemed as if a living being, a sweet smell,
a little life, darted up shining in a different place; one could see
plainly how the little flames sprang up and danced and embraced each
other.

And over the fields with the flames there sauntered parties and parties
of Chassidîm--the satin and even the satinette cloaks shine like glass,
the torn ones and the whole alike--and the little flames that rose from
the grass attached themselves to the shining holiday garments and seemed
to dance round every Chossid with delight and affection--and every
company of Chassidîm gazed up with wonderfully thirsty eyes at the
Rebbe's balcony--and I could see how that thirsty gaze of theirs sucked
light from the balcony, from the Rebbe's face, and the more light they
sucked in, the louder they sang--louder and louder--more cheerfully,
more devoutly.

And every company sang to its own tune, but all the different tunes and
voices blended in the air, and there floated up to the Rebbe's balcony
_one_ strain, _one_ melody--as though all were singing _one_ song. And
everything sang--the sky, the celestial bodies, the earth beneath, the
soul of the world itself--everything was singing!

Lord of the world! I thought I should dissolve away for sheer delight!

But it was not to be.

"It is time for the afternoon prayers!" said the Brisk Rabbi, suddenly,
in a sharp tone; and it all vanished.

Silence ... the curtain has fallen back across my eyes; above is the
usual sky, below--the usual fields, the usual Chassidîm in torn
cloaks--old, disconnected fragments of song--the flames are
extinguished. I glance at the Rebbe; his face is darkened, too.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were not reconciled; the Brisk Rabbi remained a Misnagid as before.

But it had one result! He never persecuted again.



XXVI

THE IMAGE


Great people have been known to do great wonders; witness the time when
they attacked the Ghetto in Prague, and were about to assault the women,
roast the children, and beat the remainder to death. When all means of
defense were exhausted, the Maharal[145] laid down the Gemoreh, stepped
out into the street, went up to the first mud-heap outside the door of a
school-master, and made a clay image.

He blew into its nostril, and it began to move; then he whispered a name
into its ear, and away went the image out of the Ghetto, and the Maharal
sat down again to his book. The image fell upon our enemies who were
besieging the Ghetto, and threshed them as it were with flails--they
fell before him as thick as flies.

Prague was filled with corpses--they say the destruction lasted all
Wednesday and Thursday; Friday, at noon, the image was still at it.

"Rabbi," exclaimed Kohol, "the image is making a clean sweep of the
city! There will be no one left to light the fires on Sabbath or to take
down the lamps!"[146]

A second time the Maharal shut his book; he took his stand at the desk
and began to chant the psalm, "A Song of the Sabbath Day."

Whereupon the image ceased from work, came back to the Ghetto, entered
the synagogue, and approached the Maharal.

The Maharal whispered into its ear as before, its eyes closed, the
breath left it, and it became once more a clay image.

And to this day the image lies aloft in the Prague synagogue, covered up
with cobwebs that stretch across from wall to wall, and spread over the
whole arcade, so that the image shall not be seen, above all, not by the
pregnant women of the "women's court." And the cobwebs may not be
touched: whoever touches them, dies!

No man, not the oldest there, recollects having seen the image; but the
Chacham Zebî, the Maharal's grandson, sometimes wonders, whether, for
instance, such an image might not be included in one of the ten males
required to form a congregation?

The image, you see, is not forgotten--the image is there still.

But the name with which to give it life in the day of need has fallen as
it were into a deep water!

And the cobwebs increase and increase, and one may not touch them.

What is to be done?



GLOSSARY

(ALL WORDS GIVEN BELOW, UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED, ARE HEBREW.)


CHANUKAH Feast of Dedication, or Feast of Lights, commemorating the
victory of Judas Maccabeus.

CHASSIDÎM _See_ Chossid.

CHEDER Private religious school.

CHOSSID (pl. Chassidîm). Briefly, a mystic. _See_ the article Hassidîm,
in the Jewish Encyclopedia, V.

DAYAN Assistant to the rabbi of a town.

DREIER (Ger.). A small coin.

ESROG (pl. Esrogîm). The "fruit of the tree Hadar," used with the Lulav
on the Feast of Tabernacles. _See_ Lev. xxiii. 40.

FELDSCHER (Ger.). Assistant army surgeon; the successor to the
celebrated Röfeh of twenty or thirty years ago.

GEHENNA The nether world; hell.

GEMOREH The Rabbinical discussion and elaboration of the Mishnah. _See_
Talmud.

GEVIR (pl. Gevirîm). Influential rich man.

GROSCHEN (Ger.). A small coin.

GULDEN (Ger.). A florin.

GÜTER YÜD (Ger., "Good Jew"). Chassidic wonder-worker. _See_ Rebbe.

HAVDOLEH Division; the ceremony ushering out the Sabbath or a holiday.

HEKDESH Free hospital.

KABBALAH A mystical religious philosophy, much studied by the
Chassidîm.

KADDISH Sanctification; a doxology. Specifically, the doxology recited
by a child in memory of its parents during the first eleven months
after their death, and thereafter on every anniversary of the day of
their death.

KEDUSHAH Sanctification; an important part of the public service in the
synagogue.

KISSUSH Sanctification; the ceremony ushering in the Sabbath or a
holiday.

KLÄUS (Ger.). House of study; lit., hermitage.

KOHOL The community; transferred to the heads of the community.

KOPEK (Russian). Small Russian coin, the hundredth part of a ruble.

KOSHER Ritually permitted.

LÀMED-WÒFNIK. One of the thirty-six hidden saints, whose merits are said
to sustain the world. Làmed is thirty; wòf is six; and nik is a Slavic
termination expressing "of the kind."

LEHAVDÎL Lit. "to distinguish." Elliptical for "to distinguish between
the holy and the secular." It is equivalent to "excuse the comparison";
"with due distinction"; "pardon me for mentioning the two things in the
same breath"; etc.

LULAV (pl. Lulavîm). The festal wreath used with the Esrog on the Feast
of Tabernacles. _See_ Lev. xxiii. 40.

MAARIV The evening service.

MASKIL An enlightened one; an "intellectual."

MINCHAH The afternoon service.

MINYAN A company of ten men, the minimum for a public service.

MISHNAH A code of laws. _See_ Talmud.

MISHNAYES Plural of Mishnah; specifically, the volumes containing the
Mishnah.

MISNAGID (pl. Misnagdîm). One opposed to the mystical teaching of the
Chassidîm.

MOHEL The one who performs the rite of circumcision.

PARNOSSEH Means of livelihood; sustenance.

RABBI Teacher of the Law; the religious guide and arbiter of a
community; also teacher, as at a Cheder.

REB Mr.

REBBE The acknowledged leader of the Chassidîm, usually a
wonder-worker; called also "Güter Yüd." and Tsaddik.

REBBITZIN Wife of a rabbi.

RÖFEH Jewish physician.

RUBLE (Russian). Russian coin worth about half a dollar.

SECHSER (Ger.). A small coin.

SHOCHET Ritual slaughterer.

SHOFAR Ram's horn, used on New Year's Day, etc. _See_ Lev. xxiii. 24.

SHOOL (Ger., Schul'). Synagogue.

SIMCHAS TORAH. The Festival of Rejoicing in the Law, the ninth day of
the Feast of Tabernacles.

SLICHES Penitential prayers. Applied to the week, more or less, before
the New Year, when these prayers are recited at the synagogue.

STÜBELE (Ger.). Chassidic meeting-house.

TAKI (Russian). Really.

TALLIS Prayer-scarf.

TALMUD The traditional lore of the Jews, reduced to writing about 500
of the present era. It consists of the Mishnah and the Gemoreh.

TALMUD TORAH. Free communal school.

TEFILLIN Phylacteries.

TIKERIN Assistant at the women's bath.

TORAH The Jewish Law in general, and the Pentateuch in particular.

TOSSAFOT An important commentary on the Talmud, composed chiefly by
Franco-German authorities.

TSADDIK Lit. "righteous man"; specifically, a Rebbe, a wonder-worker, a
"Güter Yüd."

The Lord Baltimore Press BALTIMORE, MD., U. S. A.

       *       *       *       *       *

Changes made in the text
(not of the etext transcriber):

staid longer=>stayed longer

       *       *       *       *       *


FOOTNOTES:

[1] A Bible commentator of the sixteenth century.

[2] Conveyance opportunely going the same way.

[3] Shatnez, mixture of wool and linen, forbidden in the Pentateuch.

[4] From the Talmudical treatise on damages.

[5] College.

[6] Five good marks, the highest number given in the Russian schools.

[7] The correct name of the town.

[8] The tenth of Tishri. New Year is Tishri 1.

[9] Holy day. Hebrew.

[10] In desperate cases of illness, people vow to supply the synagogue
with candles equal to the length of certain parts of the cemetery.

[11] Small lumps of dough dropped into the soup while it is cooking.

[12] _Servituty._ These are of different kinds.

[13] Bride-maidens--girls of marriageable age.

[14] Thick chicken soup with balls of flour.

[15] Father.

[16] Of the bridegroom in Shool to the Reading of the Law.

[17] The Friday nearest December 21.

[18] Diminutive of Tate = Father.

[19] No unbaptized Jew may become an official in the courts in Russia.

[20] For the soul of the dead, to wash and dry itself.

[21] A verst is .663 of a mile.

[22] A Lithuanian mile = 5.56 English miles.

[23] A Jew taken from his home as a child, under Nicholas I, estranged
from his family and his faith, and made to serve in the army.

[24] Jewish name for the typical Russian.

[25] Addressing them in Polish instead of Russian.

[26] "When you are a hundred and twenty years old"--the ideal age for
the Jew, the age reached by Moses.

[27] Get up! Russian.

[28] Three men necessary for a certain form of grace.

[29] Pièkalik--built on to the stove.

[30] Little souls fly, little souls fly!

[31] "You also have a soul?" Polish.

[32] Because he was suspected of not keeping the dietary laws.

[33] Our little Talmud student would not be familiar with much of the
Prophets' writings beyond what is contained in the prayer-book. The
study of the Prophets savored rather of free-thinking.

[34] A tiny bit of wood tied up and thrown away with the nails. The
superstitions behind this practice are not confined to the Jews.

[35] Which had been invested with wonder-working powers.

[36] "Fine meal," as in Gen. xviii. 3; used also figuratively.

[37] Head-dress with broad ribbon to hide the hair of a married woman.

[38] A celebrated Hebrew novel by Mapu.

[39] Eve of the Day of Atonement.

[40] Pious offerings dropped into the collecting-box of "Meïr
Baal-Ness," to be found in every orthodox Jewish house. The money is for
the poor Jews in Palestine.

[41] Free meals given to poor students at the tables of different
householders.

[42] Instead of bringing him up to the study of the Law.

[43] The man in the moon is sometimes identified with Joshua in Jewish
legend.

[44] According to the Talmudical legend.

[45] Little Jew.

[46] Adapted from the twelfth principle of the Jewish faith, relating to
the Messiah.

[47] Sabbath dish prepared the day before, and kept in a heated oven
overnight.

[48] Bontzye "mum."

[49] Men of great learning in the Law.

[50] By which the law is made applicable to an elderly woman.

[51] Grandsons. A celebrated Rebbe would have "sons" and "grandsons"
among his adherents. The former would remain, the latter would come and
go in companies and more or less respectable conveyances.

[52] Owing to the emigration of the younger men to America in the "bad
times."

[53] "Chapter of Song," a Midrash, found in some editions of the
prayer-book.

[54] "Töre is die beste S'chöre." From a Yiddish cradle-song.

[55] Hebrew blessing before eating bread.

[56] According to the Talmudic legend like Moses and other saints.

[57] Rúach, Hebrew for wind and spirit both.

[58] Who stand for colonization in Argentina and Palestine,
respectively.

[59] God.

[60] They have understood that the writer's mission is connected with
the matter of Jewish recruits.

[61] Unfit for military service.

[62] "Bride"-grace, girlish charm.

[63] A Hebrew newspaper

[64] Followers of the Rebbes of Radzin and Belz, respectively.

[65] To his prayer-scarf. See Num. xv. 38.

[66] Followers of the Rebbes of Radzin and Belz, respectively.

[67] The plaintiff must take action in the place of domicile of the
defendant.

[68] Belz being in Austrian Poland. There were two famous Rebbes of Belz
in the last century; the second died in 1894. It has been asserted that
thirty thousand Jews followed him to his grave.

[69] For having no passports.

[70] Sir, my lord. Polish.

[71] And still Jacob did not become like Laban. A Midrash, a rabbinical
amplification of the Biblical text.

[72] An exclamation corresponding to the Italian _che!_

[73] Not our people!

[74] Commotion.

[75] Nickname for a Jew, diminutive of Jacob.

[76] Anti-Semitism.

[77] Prayer of supplication.

[78] Kith and kin.

[79] A Kabbalistic allusion.

[80] Maimonides.

[81] The curtain hung in front of the Ark.

[82] To their prayer-scarfs.

[83] Opponents might deny them burial in a choice place.

[84] See note p. 61.

[85] Peace be upon you! Hebrew.

[86] Surname.

[87] Special calling-up of a bridegroom to the Reading of the Law.

[88] Up to the time when universal conscription was introduced in Russia
in 1874, every Jewish community, Kohol, had to furnish a given number of
recruits, the Government asking no questions as to how these were
obtained.

[89] Which exempts him from military service.

[90] Who have adopted German = Western ways of life.

[91] Gentile.

[92] Worn beneath the outer garments.

[93] The "Sabbath of the Vision," preceding the Ninth of Ab (fast in
memory of the destruction of the Temple), when the lesson from the
prophets is Isaiah I, beginning, "The Vision of Isaiah." At this period
there is much almsgiving.

[94] According to the Talmudic legend.

[95] The standard code of laws.

[96] "Hear, O Israel, etc." The Chassidîm are not punctilious about
observing the prescribed time limits for the recitation of the Shema.

[97] Pölen = Poland.

[98] "A sach melòches un wenig bròches."

[99] So called from Moses xv. 1, read on the day when--it is not far
from the "New Year for trees"--children place food for birds in the
windows.

[100] Machine for making paper out of rags.

[101] See note p. 32.

[102] Right of a land-owner to keep a distillery--which was frequently
let out to a Jew.

[103] Boarding with the wife's parents.

[104] Macaroni-seller.

[105] The rebukes and threats in Lev. xxvi and Deut. xxviii.

[106] Used when speaking of animals.

[107] "Beyond the Good"--the powers of darkness. We touch here on
Kabbalistic lore relating to the origin of evil.

[108] See note p. 112.

[109] Order of service.

[110] Bread made with saffron.

[111] Followers of the Kotzk and Belz Rebbes, respectively.

[112] The service read in the home on the first (and the second)
Passover eve.

[113] Passover cakes soaked in broth or other liquid.

[114] Rabbinical amplification of the Biblical text.

[115] This is an allegory referring to certain aspects of Zionism.

[116] "Happy, etc.," Ps. lxxxiv. 5, three times dally in the prayers.

[117] When the weeping female relatives of the sick force their way
through the male congregation to the Ark, throw it open, and bedew the
scrolls with their tears.

[118] Confirmed.

[119] A man of influence. Hebrew.

[120] The Rebbe's.

[121] Rich man's wife. Hebrew.

[122] Hannah my crown.

[123] Chazan, the reader or reciter of the prayers in the synagogue

[124] Reciting of prescribed prayers.

[125] Lest the meat and milk should not be ritually permitted.

[126] Our brothers, the children of Israel.

[127] Kind of cloak.

[128] Russian term of contempt, in contradistinction to _Yevrèi_ =
Hebrew.

[129] This was an important article of trade, required for the peasants'
carts, etc.

[130] Wedding jester and improvisatore.

[131] Croup.

[132] He visited, I visited. Hebrew.

[133] A kind of cake.

[134] Gymnasium, in Russia as in Germany, is a college.

[135] Idol. Hebrew.

[136] As of those religious precepts which it is not possible to carry
out literally.

[137] Qualification for eternal bliss.

[138] A suburb of Warsaw.

[139] Russian officials.

[140] As beseemed an orthodox, married Jewess.

[141] Allusion to the ceremony performed on the eve of the Day of
Atonement, when a cock or hen is twirled round the head, and a prayer is
read.

[142] The seventh day of Tabernacles.

[143] The eighth day of Tabernacles.

[144] To the teaching of the Chassidîm.

[145] "The great Rabbi Loeb" who lived in the sixteenth century, and who
became the central figure of many a legend.

[146] No Gentile to be hired for that purpose.





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