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Title: Children of Men
Author: Block, Rudolph Edgar
Language: English
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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.

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CHILDREN OF MEN


[Illustration: “‘_The sheep are coming! They’re coming over the hill!
Watch, Liebchen; watch, precious!_’”]


CHILDREN OF MEN

by

BRUNO LESSING


[Illustration: ALDI DISCIP AMERICANVS]


   “_For He doth not afflict willingly
   nor grieve the children of men._”



New York
Mcclure, Phillips & Co.
MCMIII

Copyright, 1903, by
McClure, Phillips & Co.

Copyright, 1903, by S. S. McClure Co.

Published, September, 1903

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                                                     PAGE

              THE END OF THE TASK,                      3

              THE SADER GUEST,                         33

              A RIFT IN THE CLOUD,                     43

              OUT OF HIS ORBIT,                        51

              THE POISONED CHAI,                       67

              URIM AND THUMMIM,                        81

              A YIDDISH IDYLL,                         91

              THE STORY OF SARAI,                      99

              THE AMERICANISATION OF SHADRACH COHEN,  107

              HANNUKAH LIGHTS,                        125

              A SWALLOW-TAILER FOR TWO,               139

              DEBORAH,                                155

              AN INTERRUPTION,                        167

              THE MURDERER,                           181

              UNCONVERTED,                            195

              WITHOUT FEAR OF GOD,                    207

              THE SUN OF WISDOM,                      217

              A DAUGHTER OF ISRAEL,                   231

              THE MESSAGE OF ARCTURUS,                245

              QUEER SCHARENSTEIN,                     259

              THE COMPACT,                            273

              A SONG OF SONGS,                        285

              A WEDDING IN DURESS,                    299



                          THE END OF THE TASK


                                   I

The sewing-machines whirred like a thousand devils. You have no idea
what a noise thirty sewing-machines will make when they are running at
full speed. Each machine is made up of dozens of little wheels and cogs
and levers and ratchets, and each part tries to pound, scrape, squeak
and bang and roar louder than all the others. The old man who went crazy
last year in this very same shop used to sit in the cell where they
chained him, with his fingers in his ears, to keep out the noise of the
sewing-machines. He said the incessant din was eating into his brains,
and, time and again, he tried to dash out those poor brains against the
padded wall.

The sewing-machines whirred and roared and clicked, and the noise
drowned every other sound. Braun finished garment after garment and
arranged them in a pile beside his machine. When there were twenty in
the pile he paused in his work—if your eyes were shut you would never
have known that one machine had stopped—and he carried the garments to
the counter, where the marker gave him a ticket for them. Then he
returned to his machine. This was the routine of his daily labour from
seven o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock at night. The only
deviation from this routine occurred when Lizschen laid the twentieth
garment that she had finished upon her pile and Braun saw her fragile
figure stoop to raise the pile. Then his machine would stop, in two
strides he would be at her side, and with a smile he would carry the
garments to the counter for her and bring her the ticket for them.
Lizschen would cease working to watch him, and when he handed her the
ticket she would smile at him, and sometimes, when no one was looking,
she would seize his hand and press it tightly against her cheek—oh! so
tightly, as if she were drowning, and that hand were a rock of safety.
And, when she resumed her work, a tear would roll slowly over the very
spot where his hand had rested, tremble for an instant upon her pale
cheek, and then fall upon the garment where the needle would sew it
firmly into the seam. But you never would have known that two machines
had stopped for a moment; there were twenty-eight others to keep up the
roaring and the rattling and the hum.

On and on they roared. There was no other sound to conflict with or to
vary the monotony. At each machine sat a human being working with hand,
foot, and eye, watching the flashing needle, guarding the margin of the
seams, jerking the cloth hither and thither quickly, accurately,
watching the spool to see that the thread ran freely, oiling the gear
with one hand while the other continued to push the garment rapidly
under the needle, the whole body swaying, bending, twisting this way and
that to keep time and pace with the work. Every muscle of the body
toiled, but the mind was free—free as a bird to fly from that
suffocating room out to green fields and woods and flowers. And Braun
was thinking.

Linder had told him of a wonderful place where beautiful pictures could
be looked at for nothing. It was probably untrue. Linder was not above
lying. Braun had been in this country six long years, and in all that
time he had never found anything that could be had for nothing. Yet
Linder said he had seen them. Paintings in massive gold frames, real,
solid gold, and such paintings! Woodland scenes and oceans and ships and
cattle and mountains, and beautiful ladies—such pictures as the
theatrical posters and the lithograph advertisements on the streets
displayed, only these were real. And it cost nothing to look at them!

Nineteen—twenty! That completed the pile. It had taken about an hour,
and he had earned seven cents. He carried the pile to the counter,
received his ticket, and returned to his machine, stopping only to smile
at Lizschen, who had finished but half a pile in that time, and who
looked so white and tired, yet smiled so sweetly at him—then on with his
work and thoughts.

He would take Lizschen to see them. It was probably all a lie, but the
place was far, far uptown, near Madison Square—Braun had never been
north of Houston Street—and the walk might do Lizschen good. He would
say nothing to her about the pictures until he came to the place and
found out for himself if Linder had told the truth. Otherwise the
disappointment might do her harm.

Poor Lizschen! A feeling of wild, blind rage overwhelmed Braun for an
instant, then passed away, leaving his frame rigid and his teeth tightly
clenched. While it lasted he worked like an automaton, seeing nothing,
hearing nothing, feeling nothing save a chaotic tumult in his heart and
brain that could find no vent in words, no audible expression save in a
fierce outcry against fate—resistless, remorseless fate. A few months
ago these attacks had come upon him more frequently, and had lasted for
hours, leaving him exhausted and ill. But they had become rarer and less
violent; there is no misfortune to which the human mind cannot
ultimately become reconciled. Lizschen was soon to die. Braun had
rebelled; his heart and soul, racked almost beyond endurance, had cried
out against the horror, the injustice, the wanton cruelty, of his
brown-eyed, pale-cheeked Lizschen wasting away to death before his eyes.
But there was no hope, and he had gradually become reconciled. The
physician at the public dispensary had told him she might live a month
or she might live a year longer, he could not foretell more accurately,
but of ultimate recovery there was no hope on earth. And Braun’s
rebellious outbursts against cruel fate had become rarer and rarer. Do
not imagine that these emotions had ever shaped themselves in so many
words, or that he had attempted by any process of reasoning to argue the
matter with himself or to see vividly what it all meant, what horrible
ordeal he was passing through, or what the future held in store for him.
From his tenth year until his twentieth Braun had worked in factories in
Russia, often under the lash. He was twenty-six, and his six years in
this country had been spent in sweatshops. Such men do not formulate
thoughts in words: they feel dumbly, like dogs and horses.


                                   II

The day’s work was done. Braun and Lizschen were walking slowly uptown,
hand in hand, attracting many an inquiring, half-pitying glance. She was
so white, he so haggard and wild-eyed. It was a delightful spring night,
the air was balmy and soothing, and Lizschen coughed less than she had
for several days. Braun had spoken of a picture he had once seen in a
shop-window in Russia. Lizschen’s eyes had become animated.

“They are so wonderful, those painters,” she said. “With nothing but
brushes they put colours together until you can see the trees moving in
the breeze, and almost imagine you hear the birds in them.”

“I don’t care much for trees,” said Braun, “or birds either. I like
ships and battle pictures where people are doing something great.”

“Maybe that is because you have always lived in cities,” said Lizschen.
“When I was a girl I lived in the country, near Odessa, and oh, how
beautiful the trees were and how sweet the flowers! And I used to sit
under a tree and look at the woods across the valley all day long. Ah,
if I could only——!”

She checked herself and hoped that Braun had not heard. But he had heard
and his face had clouded. He, too, had wished and wished and wished
through many a sleepless night, and now he could easily frame the
unfinished thought in Lizschen’s mind. If he could send her to the
country, to some place where the air was warm and dry, perhaps her days
might be prolonged. But he could not. He had to work and she had to
work, and he had to look on and watch her toiling, toiling, day after
day, without end, without hope. The alternative was to starve.

They came to the place that Linder had described, and, surely enough,
before them rose a huge placard announcing that admission to the
exhibition of paintings was free. The pictures were to be sold at public
auction at the end of the week, and for several nights they were on
inspection. The young couple stood outside the door a while, watching
the people who were going in and coming out; then Braun said:

“Come, Lizschen, let us go in. It is free.”

Lizschen drew back timidly. “They will not let people like us go in. It
is for nobility.” But Braun drew her forward.

“They can do no more than ask us to go out,” he said. “Besides, I would
like to have a glimpse of the paintings.”

With many misgivings Lizschen followed him into the building, and found
herself in a large hall, brilliantly illuminated, walled in with
paintings whose gilt frames shone like fiery gold in the bright light of
numerous electric lamps. For a moment the sight dazzled her, and she
gasped for breath. The large room, with its soft carpet, the glittering
lights and reflections, the confused mass of colours that the paintings
presented to her eyes, and the air of charm that permeates all art
galleries, be they ever so poor, were all things so far apart from her
life, so foreign not only to her experience, but even to her
imagination, that the scene seemed unreal at first, as if it had been
taken from a fairy tale. Braun was of a more phlegmatic temperament, and
not easily moved. The lights merely made his eyes blink a few times, and
after that he saw only Lizschen’s face. He saw the blood leave it and a
bright pallor overspread her cheeks, saw the frail hand move
convulsively to her breast, a gesture that he knew so well, and feared
that she was about to have a coughing spell. Then, suddenly, he saw the
colour come flooding back to her face, and he saw her eyes sparkling,
dancing with a joy that he had never seen in them before. Her whole
frame seemed suddenly to become animated with a new life and vigour.
Somewhat startled by this transformation he followed her gaze. Lizschen
was looking at a painting.

“What is it, dear?” he asked.

“The picture,” she said in a whisper. “The green fields and that tree!
And the road! It stretches over the hill! The sun will set, too, very
soon. Then the sheep will come over the top of the hill. Oh, I can
almost hear the leader’s bell! And there is a light breeze. See the
leaves of the tree; they are moving! Can’t you feel the breeze? Oh,
darling, isn’t it wonderful? I never saw anything like that before.”

Braun looked curiously at the canvas. To his eyes it presented a
woodland scene, very natural, to be sure, but not more natural than
nature, and equally uninteresting to him. He looked around him to select
a painting upon which he could expend more enthusiasm.

“Now, there’s the kind I like, Lizschen,” he said. “That storm on the
ocean, with the big ship going to pieces. And that big picture over
there with all the soldiers rushing to battle.”

He found several others and was pointing out what he found to admire in
them, when, happening to look at his companion’s face, he saw that her
eyes were still fastened upon the woodland picture, and he realised that
she had not heard a word of what he had said. He smiled at her tenderly.

“Ah, Lizschen,” he said, “if I were rich I would take that picture right
off the wall and give them a hundred dollars for it, and we would take
it home with us so that Lizschen could look at it all day long.”

But still Lizschen did not hear. All that big room, with its lights and
its brilliant colourings, and all those people who had come in, and even
her lover at her side had faded from Lizschen’s consciousness. The
picture that absorbed all her being had ceased to be a mere beautiful
painting. Lizschen was walking down that road herself; the soft breeze
was fanning her fevered cheeks, the rustling of the leaves had become a
reality; she was walking over the hill to meet the flock of sheep, for
she could hear the shepherd’s dog barking and the melodious tinkling of
the leader’s bell.

From the moment of their entrance many curious glances had been directed
at them. People wondered who this odd-looking, ill-clad couple could be.
When Lizschen became absorbed in the woodland scene and stood staring at
it as if it were the most wonderful thing on earth, those who observed
her exchanged glances, and several onlookers smiled. Their entrance,
Lizschen’s bewilderment, and then her ecstasy over the painting had all
happened in the duration of three or four minutes. The liveried
attendants had noticed them and had looked at one another with glances
that expressed doubt as to what their duty was under the circumstances.
Clearly these were not the kind of people for whom this exhibition had
been arranged. They were neither lovers of art nor prospective
purchasers. And they looked so shabby and so distressingly poor and
ill-nourished.

Finally one attendant, bolder than the rest, approached them, and
tapping Braun lightly upon the sleeve, said, quite good-naturedly:

“I think you’ve made a mistake.”

Braun looked at him and shook his head and turned to Lizschen to see if
she understood. But Lizschen neither saw nor heard. Then the man, seeing
that he was dealing with foreigners, became more abrupt in his
demeanour, and, with a grunt, pointed to the door. Braun understood. To
be summarily ordered from the place seemed more natural to him than to
be permitted to remain unmolested amid all that splendour. It was more
in keeping with the experiences of his life. “Come, Lizschen,” he said,
“let us go.” Lizschen turned to him with a smiling face, but the smile
died quickly when she beheld the attendant, and she clutched Braun’s
arm. “Yes, let us go,” she whispered to him, and they went out.


                                  III

On the homeward journey not a word was spoken. Braun’s thoughts were
bitter, rebellious; the injustice of life’s arrangements rankled deeply
at that moment, his whole soul felt outraged, fate was cruel, life was
wrong, all wrong. Lizschen, on the other hand, walked lightly, in a
state of mild excitement, all her spirit elated over the picture she had
seen. It had been but a brief communion with nature, but it had thrilled
the hidden chords of her nature, chords of whose existence she had never
dreamed before. Alas! the laws of this same beautiful nature are
inexorable. For that brief moment of happiness Lizschen was to submit to
swift, terrible punishment. Within a few steps of the dark tenement
which Lizschen called home a sudden weakness came upon her, then a
violent fit of coughing which racked her frail body as though it would
render it asunder. When she took her hands from her mouth Braun saw that
they were red. A faintness seized him, but he must not yield to it.
Without a word he gathered Lizschen in his arms and carried her through
the hallway into the rear building and then up four flights of stairs to
the apartment where she lived.

Then the doctor came—he was a young man, with his own struggle for
existence weighing upon him, and yet ever ready for such cases as this
where the only reward lay in the approbation of his own conscience—and
Braun hung upon his face for the verdict.

“It is just another attack like the last,” he was saying to himself.
“She will have to lie in bed for a day, and then she will be just as
well as before. Perhaps it may even help her! But it is nothing more
serious. She has had many of them. I saw them myself. It is not so
terribly serious. Not yet. Oh, it cannot be yet! Maybe, after a long
time—but not yet—it is too soon.” Over and over again he argued thus,
and in his heart did not believe it. Then the doctor shook his head and
said: “It’s near the end, my friend. A few days—perhaps a week. But she
cannot leave her bed again.”

Braun stood alone in the room, upright, motionless, with his fists
clenched until the nails dug deep into the skin, seeing nothing, hearing
nothing, feeling nothing. His eyes were dry, his lips parched. The old
woman with whom Lizschen lived came out and motioned to him to enter the
bedroom. Lizschen was whiter than the sheets, but her eyes were bright,
and she was smiling and holding out her arms to him. “You must go now,
_Liebchen_,” she said faintly. “I will be all right to-morrow. Kiss me
good-night, and I will dream about the beautiful picture.” He kissed her
and went out without a word. All that night he walked the streets.

When the day dawned he went to her again. She was awake and happy. “I
dreamt about it all night, _Liebchen_,” she said, joyfully. “Do you
think they would let me see it again?”

He went to his work, and all that day the roar of the machines set his
brain a-whirring and a-roaring as if it, too, had become a machine. He
worked with feverish activity, and when the machines stopped he found
that he had earned a dollar and five cents. Then he went to Lizschen and
gave her fifty cents, which he told her he had found in the street.
Lizschen was much weaker, and could only speak in a whisper. She
beckoned to him to hold his ear to her lips, and she whispered:

“_Liebchen_, if I could only see the picture once more.”

“I will go and ask them, darling,” he said. “Perhaps they will let me
bring it to you.”

Braun went to his room and took from his trunk a dagger that he had
brought with him from Russia. It was a rusty, old-fashioned affair which
even the pawnbrokers had repeatedly refused to accept. Why he kept it or
for what purpose he now concealed it in his coat he could not tell. His
mind had ceased to work coherently: his brain was now a machine,
whirring and roaring like a thousand devils. Thought? Thought had
ceased. Braun was a machine, and machines do not think.

He walked to the picture gallery. He had forgotten its exact location,
but some mysterious instinct guided him straight to the spot. The doors
were already opened, but the nightly throng of spectators had hardly
begun to arrive. And now a strange thing happened. Braun entered and
walked straight to the painting of the woodland scene that hung near the
door. There was no attendant to bar his progress. A small group of
persons, gathered in front of a canvas that hung a few feet away, had
their backs turned to him, and stood like a screen between him and the
employees of the place. Without a moment’s hesitation, without looking
to right or to left, walking with a determined stride and making no
effort to conceal his purpose, and, at the same time, oblivious of the
fact that he was unobserved, Braun approached the painting, raised it
from the hook, and, with the wire dangling loosely from it, took the
painting under his arm and walked out of the place. If he had been
observed, would he have brought his dagger into use? It is impossible to
tell. He was a machine, and his brain was roaring. Save for one picture
that rose constantly before his vision, he was blind. All that he saw
was Lizschen, so white in her bed, waiting to see the woodland picture
once more.

He brought it straight to her room. She was too weak to move, too worn
out to express any emotion, but her eyes looked unutterable gratitude
when she saw the painting.

“Did they let you have it?” she whispered.

“They were very kind,” said Braun. “I told them you wanted to see it and
they said I could have it as long as I liked. When you are better I will
take it back.”

Lizschen looked at him wistfully. “I will never be better, _Liebchen_,”
she whispered.

Braun hung the picture at the foot of the bed where Lizschen could see
it without raising her head, and then went to the window and sat there
looking out into the night. Lizschen was happy beyond all bounds. Her
eyes drank in every detail of the wonderful scene until her whole being
became filled with the delightful spirit that pervaded and animated the
painting. A master’s hand had imbued that deepening blue sky with the
sadness of twilight, the soft, sweet pathos of departing day, and
Lizschen’s heart beat responsive to every shade and shadow. In the
waning light every outline was softened; here tranquillity reigned
supreme, and Lizschen felt soothed. Yet in the distance, across the
valley, the gloom of night had begun to gather. Once or twice Lizschen
tried to penetrate this gloom, but the effort to see what the darkness
was hiding tired her eyes.


                                   IV

The newspapers the next day were full of the amazing story of the stolen
painting. They told how the attendants at the gallery had discovered the
break in the line of paintings and had immediately notified the manager
of the place, who at once asked the number of the picture.

“It’s number thirty-eight,” they told him. He seized a catalogue, turned
to No. 38, and turned pale. “It’s Corot’s ‘Spring Twilight!’” he cried.
“It cost the owner three thousand dollars, and we’re responsible for
it!”

The newspapers went on to tell how the police had been notified, and how
the best detectives had been set to work to trace the stolen painting,
how all the thieves’ dens in New York had been ransacked, and all the
thieves questioned and cross-questioned, all the pawnshops searched—and
it all had resulted in nothing. But such excitement rarely leaks into
the Ghetto, and Braun, at his machine, heard nothing of it, knew nothing
of it, knew nothing of anything in the world save that the machines were
roaring away in his brain and that Lizschen was dying. As soon as his
work was done he went to her. She smiled at him, but was too weak to
speak. He seated himself beside the bed and took her hand in his. All
day long she had been looking at the picture; all day long she had been
wandering along the road that ran over the hill, and now night had come
and she was weary. But her eyes were glad, and when she turned them upon
Braun he saw in them love unutterable and happiness beyond all
description. His eyes were dry; he held her hand and stroked it
mechanically; he knew not what to say. Then she fell asleep and he sat
there hour after hour, heedless of the flight of time. Suddenly Lizschen
sat upright, her eyes wide open and staring.

“I hear them,” she cried. “I hear them plainly. Don’t you, _Liebchen_?
The sheep are coming! They’re coming over the hill! Watch, _Liebchen_;
watch, precious!”

With all the force that remained in her she clutched his hand and
pointed to the painting at the foot of the bed. Then she swayed from
side to side, and he caught her in his arms.

“Lizschen!” he cried. “Lizschen!” But her head fell upon his arm and lay
motionless.

The doctor came and saw at a glance that the patient was beyond his
ministering. “It is over, my friend,” he said to Braun. At the sound of
a voice Braun started, looked around him quite bewildered, and then drew
a long breath which seemed to lift him out of the stupor into which he
had fallen. “Yes, it is over,” he said, and, according to the custom of
the orthodox, he tore a rent in his coat at the neck to the extent of a
hand’s breadth. Then he took the painting under his arm and left the
house.

It was now nearly two o’clock in the morning and the streets were
deserted. A light rain had begun to fall, and Braun took off his coat to
wrap it around his burden. He walked like one in a dream, seeing
nothing, hearing nothing save a dull monotonous roar which seemed to
come from all directions and to centre in his brain.

The doors of the gallery were closed and all was dark. Braun looked in
vain for a bell, and after several ineffectual taps on the door began to
pound lustily with his fist and heel. Several night stragglers stopped
in the rain, and presently a small group had gathered. Questions were
put to Braun, but he did not hear them. He kicked and pounded on the
door, and the noise resounded through the streets as if it would rouse
the dead. Presently the group heard the rattling of bolts and the
creaking of a rusty key in a rusty lock, and all became quiet. The door
swung open, and a frightened watchman appeared.

“What’s the matter? Is there a fire?” he asked.

A policeman made his way through the group, and looked inquiringly from
Braun to the watchman. Without uttering a word Braun held out the
painting, and at the sight of it the watchman uttered a cry of amazement
and delight.

“It’s the stolen Corot!” he exclaimed. Then turning to Braun, “Where did
you get it? Who had it? Do you claim the reward?”

Braun’s lips moved, but no sound came from them, and he turned on his
heel and began to walk off, when the policeman laid a hand on his
shoulder.

“Not so fast, young man. You’ll have to give some kind of an account of
how you got this,” he said.

Braun looked at him stupidly, and the policeman became suspicious. “I
guess you’d better come to the station-house,” he said, and without more
ado walked off with his prisoner. Braun made no resistance, felt no
surprise, offered no explanation. At the station-house they asked him
many questions, but Braun only looked vacantly at the questioner, and
had nothing to say. They locked him in a cell over night, a gloomy cell
that opened on a dimly lighted corridor, and there Braun sat until the
day dawned, never moving, never speaking. Once, during the night, the
watchman on duty in this corridor thought he heard a voice whispering
“Lizschen! Lizschen!” but it must have been the rain that now was
pouring in torrents.


                                   V

    “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at
    rest.

    “There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the
    oppressor.

    “The small and the great are there; and the servant is free from
    his master.”

It is written in Israel that the rabbi must give his services at the
death-bed of even the lowliest. The coffin rested on two stools in the
same room in which she died; beside it stood the rabbi, clad in sombre
garments, reading in a listless, mechanical fashion from the Hebrew text
of the Book of Job, interpolating here and there some time-worn,
commonplace phrase of praise, of exhortation, of consolation. He had not
known her; this was merely part of his daily work.

The sweatshop had been closed for an hour; for one hour the machines
stood silent and deserted; the toilers were gathered around the coffin,
listening to the rabbi. They were pale and gaunt, but not from grief.
The machines had done that. They had rent their garments at the neck, to
the extent of a hand’s breadth, but not from grief. It was the law. A
figure that they had become accustomed to see bending over one of the
machines had finished her last garment. Dry-eyed, in a sort of mild
wonder, they had come to the funeral services. And some were still
breathing heavily from the morning’s work. After all, it was pleasant to
sit quiet for one hour.

Someone whispered the name of Braun, and they looked around. Braun was
not there.

“He will not come,” whispered one of the men. “It is in the newspaper.
He was sent to prison for three years. He stole something. A picture, I
think. I am not sure.”

Those who heard slowly shook their heads. There was no feeling of
surprise, no shock. And what was there to say? He had been one of them.
He had drunk out of the same cup with them. They knew the taste. What
mattered the one particular dreg that he found? They had no curiosity.
In the case of Nitza, it was her baby who was dying because she could
not buy it the proper food. Nitza had told them. And so when Nitza cut
her throat they all knew what she had found in the cup. Braun hadn’t
told—but what mattered it? Probably something more bitter than gall. And
three years in prison? Yes. To be sure. He had stolen something.

    “_Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery_,” droned the
    rabbi, “_and life unto the bitter in soul_:

    “_Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more
    than for hid treasures_;

    “_Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the
    grave?_”

And the rabbi, faithful in the performance of his duty, went on to
expound and explain. But his hearers could not tarry much longer. The
hour was nearing its end, and the machines would soon have to start
again.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It is an old story in the Ghetto, one that lovers tell to their
sweethearts, who always cry when they hear it. The machines still roar
and whirr, as if a legion of wild spirits were shrieking within them,
and many a tear is stitched into the garments, but you never see them,
madame—no, gaze as intently upon your jacket as you will, the tear has
left no stain. There is an old man at the corner machine, grey-haired
and worn, but he works briskly. He is the first to arrive each morning,
and the last to leave each night, and all his soul is in his work. His
machine is an old one, and roars louder than the rest, but he does not
hear it. Day and night, sleeping and waking, there are a hundred
thousand machines roaring away in his brain. What cares he for one more
or one less?



                            THE SADER GUEST


Rosnofsky was explaining to me his theory of the lost blue with which
the ancient Hebrew priests dyed the talith, when the door opened and
lanky Lazarus entered, hat in hand. He entered cautiously, keeping one
hand on the doorknob, and one foot firmly planted for a backward spring.
He seemed rather embarrassed to find a third person present, but the
matter that he had on his mind was weighty—so weighty, in fact, that,
after a moment’s hesitation, he plunged right into the heart of it.

“Mr. Rosnofsky,” he said, “I love your daughter.”

Rosnofsky’s eyes opened wide, and his mouth shut tight.

“And she loves me,” Lazarus went on.

Rosnofsky’s eyes contracted, until they gleamed through the tiniest kind
of a slit between the lids. His hand fumbled behind his back among a
number of tailor’s tools that lay on the table.

“And I have come to ask your consent to our marriage.”

Crash! Rosnofsky’s aim was bad. The shears, instead of reaching Lazarus,
shattered the window pane. Lazarus was flying rapidly down the street.
Then Rosnofsky turned to me.

“And this mixture, as I was saying, will produce exactly the same blue
that the Talmud describes.”

It was worth while to become acquainted with Rosnofsky. When aroused, or
crossed, or seriously annoyed, he had a frightful temper, and the man
whose misfortune it had been to stir him up was the object of a
malediction as bitter as it was fierce, extending through all his family
for, usually, a dozen generations. Then, in startling contrast to this,
he was a devout son of Abraham, and, in moments of serious reflection,
would be almost overcome by a feeling of piety, and at such times all
that was good and noble in his nature asserted itself. It was a strange
blending of the prosaic with the patriarchal.

“How came the original colour to be lost?” I asked. Rosnofsky looked at
me for a moment. Then he shook his head.

“That scamp has upset me completely,” he said. “Some other time I will
tell you. Just now I can think of nothing but the effrontery of that
scoundrel.”

“What makes you so bitter toward him?” I ventured to ask.

“Bitter! Bitter! He wants to marry Miriam. The audacity of the wretch!
My only child. And here he practically tells me to my face that he has
been making love to her, and that he has ascertained that she is in love
with him. And I never knew it. Never even suspected it. A curse on the
scamp! Sneaking into my home to steal my daughter from me. The
dishonourable villain! I trusted him. The viper. May he suffer a million
torments! May the fiends possess him!”

I ventured to suggest that it was the way of the world. I departed.
Somewhat hastily. I did not like the way he glared at me.

The next time I saw Rosnofsky he was walking excitedly up and down his
shop, tearing his hair _en route_. When he saw me he sprang forward and
clutched me by the shoulder.

“Here!” he cried. “I will leave it to you. You were here when he had the
audacity to confess his guilt to my face. Read this.” He thrust a
crumpled piece of paper into my hand. “Read it, and tell me if there is
another such villain upon this earth. Oh, I shall go mad!”

I read it. It was from Lazarus.

“I told you that I loved your daughter,” he wrote. “I told you that she
loved me. And, like an honest man, I asked you to consent to our
marriage. You refused. I now appeal to you again. You will make us both
very happy by giving your consent, as we would like you to be present at
the wedding. If you do not give your consent, we will not invite you.
But we will get married, anyway. We will elope at the first opportunity.
The only way to stop it is to keep Miriam locked in the house. Then I
shall call in the police.”

It was signed, “Lovingly, your son-in-law-to-be.”

“How can I punish him?” asked Rosnofsky. I promised to think it over. I
had called merely to tell Rosnofsky that I would accept his invitation
to supper on Sader night, and to thank him.

“You know the law,” he said. “When you come bring with you a plan to
punish this scoundrel.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

It was the eve of the Passover, and I stood in the gloomy hallway
tapping at Rosnofsky’s door. Dimly through the darkness I saw a
quivering shadow, but in the labyrinths of tenement corridors it is
unwise to investigate shadows. The door opened, and Rosnofsky, with
“praying cap” upon his head, welcomed me to the feast of the Sader.

Miriam was as sweet as a rose. I have not told you how pretty she was,
nor shall I begin now, for it is a very tempting subject, such as would
be likely to beguile a man into forgetting the thread of his story, and
it was too dangerous for me to enter upon. Suffice it that her eyes were
as glorious as—but there!

The table was arranged for four, Rosnofsky, Miriam, and myself, and
opposite Miriam’s seat was the chair for the Stranger.

Now the custom of celebrating this feast, according to the ritual, is
like this:

Holding aloft the unleavened bread, the head of the house must say:

“This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of
Egypt. Let all those who are hungry enter and eat thereof; and all who
are in distress come and celebrate the Passover.”

And the youngest-born must arise and open the door so that the Stranger
may enter and take his place at the table, and, even though he slew one
of their kin, that night he is a sacred guest.

And—as you have no doubt already opined—hardly had Miriam opened the
door when, with pale face, but with lips that were pressed in grim
determination, in walked Lazarus. Now, to this day I do not know whether
Miriam expected him, or what her feelings were when he entered. She has
refused to tell me. It needed but one glance to assure me that if there
was any secret Rosnofsky had not been in it.

With a cry of rage he sprang to his feet, and I feared that he would
hurl a knife at the intruder. But an instant later he recovered himself,
and with a gurgling, choking sound sank into his chair.

“The grace of God be with you all,” saluted Lazarus, still very pale.
Then,

“Am I a welcome guest?”

Rosnofsky seemed to be on the point of exploding with rage, but at this
question he started as if he had been struck. After a moment’s silence
he arose with great dignity—and holding out his hand—the strength of his
piety never more forcibly illustrated—said:

“Forgive my anger, my son. You are welcome to the Feast of the
Passover.”

And resuming his seat he chanted:

“Blessed art Thou, O Eternal, our God, King of the Universe, Creator of
the fruit of wine!”

It was the beginning of the service. Lazarus, with his eyes upon the
table, chanted the responses, and I, who knew nothing of the ritual,
looked at Miriam, who, I assure you, was delightful to behold,
particularly when her eyes twinkled as they did now.

By the time he had finished the Sader, Rosnofsky’s troubled spirit had
become soothed, and the final grace was delivered in a voice so calm and
with a manner so soothing, that when he looked up Lazarus was emboldened
to speak.

“You are angry with me, Father Rosnofsky,” he ventured.

“Let us not speak of unpleasant things this night,” replied the tailor,
gently. “This is a holy night.”

Lazarus, in no way abashed, deftly led the old man to expound some of
the intricate sayings of the rabbis upon the Passover, which Rosnofsky,
who was something of a theologian, did with great eagerness. Now, how it
came about I cannot tell, but Lazarus was so greatly interested in this
discussion, and Rosnofsky was so determined to prove that the old rabbis
were all in the wrong on this one point, that when the meal was over he
declared that if Lazarus would call the next night he would have a book
that would convince him. Lazarus had the discretion to take his
departure. When he had gone Rosnofsky puffed his pipe in silence for
some moments. Then, with a quaint smile, he turned to me and said:

“The young rogue!”

And then he gazed at Miriam until she grew red.



                          A RIFT IN THE CLOUD

  Though the sky be grey and dreary, yet will the faintest rift reveal
    a vision of the dazzling brightness that lies beyond.

  So does a word, a look, a single act of a human being often reveal
    the glorious beauty of a soul.


So is it written in the Talmud, and it needs no rabbi to expound it.
What I am about to tell you is not a rounded tale; it hardly rises to
the dignity of a sketch. There is a man who lives in the very heart of a
big city, and I once had a peep into his heart. His name is Polatschek.
He makes cigars during the day and gets drunk every night.

In that Hungarian colony which clusters around East Houston Street, the
lines that separate Gentile, Jew, and Gipsy are not more strictly drawn
than are the lines between the lines. And as the pedigree of every
member is the common property of the colony, the social status of each
group is pretty clearly defined.

Being an outcast, Polatschek has no social status whatever, and all that
the colony has ever known or has ever cared to know about him is this:

By a curious atavistic freak Polatschek was born honest. In the little
town in southern Hungary from which he came his great-grandfather had
been a highwayman, his grandfather had been executed for murder, his
father was serving a long sentence for burglary, and his two younger
brothers were on the black list of the police. And so, when it was
announced that one of the Polatscheks was coming to New York, Houston
Street society drew in its latch-string, and one of the storekeepers
even went so far as to tell the story to a police detective. This,
however, was frowned upon, for Goulash Avenue—as the Hungarians
laughingly call Houston Street—loves to keep its secrets to itself.

There is no need to describe the appearance of Polatschek; it is
extremely uninteresting. He has a weak chin, and when he is sober he is
very timid. A Hungarian does not easily make friends outside his own
people, and so it came to pass that Polatschek had no friends at all.

How Polatschek lived none but himself knew. Somewhere in Rivington
Street he had a room where, it was once said, he kept books, though no
one knew what kind of books they were. For a few hours every day he
worked at cigar-making, earning just enough money to keep body and soul
together. He was, in short, as uninteresting a man as you could find,
and all who knew him shunned him. Night after night he would sit in
Natzi’s café, where the gipsies play on Thursdays, drinking
slivovitz—which is the last stage. He would drink, drink, drink, and
never a word to a soul. On music nights he would drink more than usual
and his eyes would fill with tears. We all used to think they were
maudlin tears, but we had grown accustomed to Polatschek and his strange
habits, and nobody paid attention to him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It was music night at Natzi’s, and Polatschek was sitting close to the
gipsies with his eyes fixed upon the leader. He had been drinking a
little more than usual, and I marvelled that a man in his maudlin
condition should take such a deep interest in music.

They were playing the “Rakoczy March,” which only the Hungarians know
how to play, and Polatschek was swaying his head in time to the melody.

It seemed so strange, this friendless, hopeless man’s love for music, so
thoroughly foreign to his dreary, barren nature as I had pictured it in
my mind, that when the gipsies had finished I spoke to him.

“That was beautiful, was it not?”

He looked at me in surprise, his eyes wide open, and after gazing at me
for a moment he shook his head.

“No, that was not beautiful. The ‘Rakoczy March’ is the greatest march
in the world, but these gipsies do not know how to play it. They cannot
play. They have no life, no soul. They play it as if they were
machines.”

Startled by his vehemence, I could only murmur, “Oh!”

“Look!” he exclaimed, rising in agitation. He took up the leader’s
violin and bow. “Listen! This is the ‘Rakoczy’!”

The gipsy leader had sprung to his feet, but at the first tone of the
violin he stood as if petrified. A silence had fallen upon the room.
With his eyes fixed upon mine, his lips pressed firmly together,
Polatschek played the “Rakoczy March.” The guests were staring at him in
blank amazement. The gipsies, with sparkling eyes, were listening to
those magic strains, but Polatschek was unmindful of it all, and—I felt
proud because he was playing that march for me. I have heard Sarasate
play the “Rakoczy March.” I have heard Mme. Urso try it, and I have
heard Remenyi, who, being a Hungarian, played it best of them all. But I
had never heard it played as Polatschek played it.

As I saw the lines in that face grow sharper, saw the body quiver with
patriotic ardour, those ringing, rhythmic tones sang of the tramp,
tramp, tramp of armies, of cavalcades of horses, of the clash and
clangour of battle. Then it all grew fainter and fainter as if the
armies were vanishing in the distance, and the sad strains of the
undersong rose to the surface of the melody and I heard that sobbing
appeal which lies hidden somewhere in every Hungarian song. It died
away, there was a moment’s silence—Polatschek remained standing, looking
at me—then a mighty shout went up.

“Ujra! Ujra!” they cried. It was an encore they wanted.

But Polatschek had resumed his seat and his slivovitz, and in a few
moments he was very drunk.



                            OUT OF HIS ORBIT


In order to emphasise the moral of a tale, it is safer to state it at
the very beginning. The moral of the story of Rosenstein is this: Woe be
to the man who attempts to teach his wife a lesson! Woe be to him if he
fail! Woe be to him if he succeed! Whatever happens, woe be to him! In
witness whereof this tale is offered.

Mrs. Rosenstein wanted one room papered in red, and Mr. Rosenstein held
that the yellow paper that adorned the walls was good enough for another
year.

“But,” argued his wife, “we have laid by a little money in the past
years, and we can easily afford it. And I love red paper on the walls.”
Rosenstein, by the way, owned a dozen tenement houses, had no children,
and led a life of strict economy on perhaps one-fiftieth of his income.
Besides, Rosenstein owned a lucrative little dry-goods store that
brought in more money. And he had never smoked and had never drunk. But
the more his wife insisted upon the red paper the more stubborn he
became in his opposition, until, one morning after a heated discussion
in which he had failed disastrously to bring forth any reasonable
argument to support his side of the case, he suddenly and viciously
yielded.

“Very well,” he said, putting on his hat and starting for the door; “get
your red paper. Have your own way. But from this moment forth I become a
drinker.”

Mrs. Rosenstein turned pale. “Husband! Husband!” she cried entreatingly,
turning toward him with clasped hands. But Rosenstein, without another
word, strode out of the room and slammed the door behind him. Mrs.
Rosenstein sank into a chair, appalled. The pride of her life had been
that her husband had never touched liquor, and the one disquieting
thought that from time to time came to worry her was that some day he
might fall. And she felt that the first fall would mark the beginning of
ruin. She had known men whose habits of drink had undermined their
business capacity. Her husband, she knew, was close, and had a mania for
accumulating money. But once the demon of drink entered into his life
she felt that all this would change. He would become a spendthrift. He
would squander all that he had saved. They would be homeless—perhaps
they would starve. And he was about to take the first step. Her heart
was almost broken. To follow him she knew would be worse than useless.
He was stubborn—she had learned that—and there was nothing for her to do
but to accept the inevitable.

Rosenstein meanwhile walked to the nearest saloon. He had passed the
place a thousand times, but had never entered before. The bartender’s
eyes opened in mild surprise to see so patriarchal a figure standing in
front of the bar glaring at him so determinedly.

“Give me a drink!” demanded Rosenstein.

“What kind of a drink do you want?” asked the bartender.

Rosenstein looked bewildered. He did not know one drink from another. He
looked at the row of bottles behind the counter, and then his face lit
up.

“That bottle over there—the big black one.”

It was Benedictine. The bartender poured some of it into a tiny liqueur
glass, but Rosenstein frowned.

“I want a drink, I said, not a drop. Fill me a big glass.”

The wise bartender does not dispute with his patrons as long as they
have the means of paying for what they order. Without a word he filled a
small goblet with the thick cordial, and Rosenstein, without a word,
gulped it down. The bartender watched him in open-mouthed amazement,
charged him for four drinks, and then, as Rosenstein walked haughtily
out of the place, murmured to himself: “Well, I’ll be hanged!”

Rosenstein walked aimlessly but joyfully down the street, bowing to
right and to left at the many people who smiled upon him in so friendly
a fashion. When he came to the corner he was surprised to see that the
whole character of the street had changed over night. Then it seemed to
him that a regiment of soldiers came marching up, each man holding out a
flowing bowl to him, that he fell into line and joined the march, and
that they all found themselves in a brilliant, dazzling glare of several
hundred suns. Then they shot him from the mouth of a cannon, and when he
regained consciousness he recognised the features of Mrs. Rosenstein and
felt the grateful coolness of the wet towels she was tenderly laying
upon his fevered head. It was nearly midnight.

Rosenstein groaned in anguish.

“What has happened?” he asked.

“You have been a drinker,” his wife replied, “but it is all over now.
Take a nice long sleep and we will never speak of it again. And the
yellow paper will do for another year.”

Rosenstein watched the flaming pinwheels and skyrockets that were
shooting before his vision for a while; then a horrible idea came to
him.

“See how much money I have in my pockets,” he said. His wife counted it.

“One dollar and forty cents,” she said. A sigh of relief rose from
Rosenstein’s lips.

“It’s all right, then. I only had two dollars when I went out.” Then he
fell peacefully asleep. The next morning he faced his wife and pointed
out to her the awful lesson he had taught her.

“You now see what your stubbornness can drive me to,” he said. “I have
squandered sixty cents and lost a whole day’s work in the store merely
to convince you that it is all nonsense to put red paper on the walls.”
But his wife was clinging to him and crying and vowing that she would
never again insist upon anything that would add to their expenses. And
then they kissed and made up, and Rosenstein went to his store, somewhat
weak in the legs and somewhat dizzy, and with a queer feeling in his
head, but elated that he had won a complete mastery over his stubborn
spouse so cheaply.

The store was closed.

Rosenstein gazed blankly at the barred door and windows. It was the
bookkeeper’s duty to arrive at eight o’clock and open the store. It was
now nine o’clock. Where was the bookkeeper? And where were the three
saleswomen? And the office-boy? As quickly as he could, Rosenstein
walked to the bookkeeper’s house. He found that young man dressing
himself and whistling cheerfully. The bookkeeper looked amazed when he
beheld his employer.

“What is the meaning of this?” demanded Rosenstein. “Why are you not at
the store? Where are the keys?”

The young man’s face fell. He looked at Rosenstein curiously. Then,
“Were you only joking?” he asked.

“Joking?” repeated Rosenstein, more amazed than ever. “Me? How? When?
Are you crazy?”

“You told us all yesterday to close the store and go and have a good
time, and that we needn’t come back for a week.”

Rosenstein steadied himself against the door. He tried to speak, but
something was choking him. Finally, pointing to his breast, he managed
to gasp faintly:

“Me?”

The clerk nodded.

“And what else did I do?” asked Rosenstein, timidly.

“You gave us each five dollars and—and asked us to sing something
and—what is it, Mr. Rosenstein. Are you ill?”

“Go—go!” gasped Rosenstein. “Get everybody and open the store again.
Quickly. And tell them all not to speak of what happened yesterday.
They—they—can—they can (gulp) keep the money. But the store must be
opened and nobody must tell.”

He staggered out into the street. A policeman saw him clutching a
lamp-post to steady himself.

“Are you sick, Mr. Rosenstein?” he asked. “You look pale. Can’t I get
you a drink?”

Rosenstein recoiled in horror. “I am not a drinker!” he cried. Then he
walked off, his head in a whirl, his heart sick with a sudden dread. He
took a long walk, and when he felt that he had regained control of
himself he returned to the store. It was open, and everything was going
on as usual. And there was a man—a stranger—waiting for him. When he
beheld Rosenstein the stranger’s face lit up.

“Good-morning!” he cried, cheerfully. “Sorry to trouble you so early,
but this is rent day, and I need the money.”

Rosenstein turned pale. The saleswomen had turned their heads away with
a discretion that was painfully apparent. Rosenstein’s eyes blinked
rapidly several times. Then he said, huskily, “What money?”

The stranger looked at him in surprise.

“Don’t you remember this?” he asked, holding out a card. Rosenstein
looked at him.

“Yes, this is my card. But what of it?”

“Look on the other side.” Rosenstein looked. Staring him in the face
was: “I owe Mister Casey thirty-six dollars. I. Rosenstein.” The writing
was undeniably his. And suddenly there came to him a dim, distant,
dreamlike recollection of standing upon a mountain-top with a band of
music playing around him and a Mr. Casey handing him some money.

“I thought that was an old dream,” he muttered to himself. Then, turning
to the stranger, he asked, “Who are you?”

“Me?” said the stranger, in surprise; “why, I’m Casey—T. Casey, of
Casey’s café. You told me to come as soon as I needed the——”

“Hush!” cried Rosenstein. “Never mind any more.” He opened a safe, took
out the money, and paid Mr. Casey. When the latter had gone Rosenstein
called the bookkeeper aside, and, in a fearful tone, whispered in his
ear:

“Ach! I am so glad when I think that I didn’t, open the safe yesterday.”
The bookkeeper looked at him in surprise.

“You tried, sir,” he said. “Don’t you remember when you said, ‘The
numbers won’t stand still,’ and asked me if I couldn’t open it? And I
told you I didn’t know the combination?”

Rosenstein gazed upon him in horror. The room became close. He went out
and stood in the doorway, gasping for breath. In the street, directly in
front of the store, stood a white horse. A seedy-looking individual
stood on the curb holding the halter and gazing expectantly at
Rosenstein.

“Good-morning, boss!” he cried, cheerfully.

Rosenstein glared at him. “Go away!” he cried. “I don’t allow horses to
stand in front of my store. Take him somewhere else.”

“I’ll take him anywhere ye say, boss,” said the man, touching his cap.
“But ye haven’t paid for him yet.”

Rosenstein’s heart sank. Then suddenly a wave of bitter resentment
surged through him. He strode determinedly toward the man.

“Did I buy that horse?” he asked, fiercely.

“Sure ye did,” answered the man; “for yer milk store.”

“But I haven’t got a milk store,” answered Rosenstein. The man’s eyes
blinked.

“Don’t I know it?” he cried. “Didn’t ye tell me so yerself? But didn’t
ye say ye wuz going to start one? Didn’t ye say that this horse was as
white as milk, and that if I’d sell him to ye y’d open a milk store?
Didn’t ye make me take him out of me wagon and run him up and down the
street fer ye? Didn’t ye make me take all the kids on the block fer a
ride? Am I a liar? Huh?”

Rosenstein walked unsteadily into the store and threw his arm around the
bookkeeper’s neck.

“Get rid of him. For God’s sake get him away from here! Give him some
money—as little as you can. Only get him away. Some day I will increase
your salary. I am sick to-day. I cannot do any business. I am going
home.” He started for the rear door, but stopped at the threshold.

“Don’t take the horse, whatever you do,” he said. Then he went home.

Mrs. Rosenstein was sitting on the doorsteps knitting and beaming with
joy. When she saw her husband she ran toward him. The tears stood in her
eyes.

“Dearest husband! Dear, generous husband! To punish me for my
stubbornness and then to fill me with happiness by gratifying the
dearest wish of my heart! It is too much! I do not deserve it! One room
is all I wanted!”

Rosenstein’s heart nearly stopped beating. Upon his ears fell a strange
noise of scraping and tearing that came from the doorway of his house.

“Wh-wh-what is it?” he asked, feebly. His wife smiled.

“The paper-hangers are already at work,” she said, joyfully. “They said
you insisted that all the work should be finished in one day, and
they’ve sent twenty men here.”

Mr. Rosenstein sank wearily down upon the steps. The power of speech had
left him. Likewise the power of thought. His brain felt like a maelstrom
of chaotic, incoherent images. He felt that he was losing his mind. A
brisk-looking young man, with a roll of red wall-paper in his hand, came
down the steps and doffed his hat to Rosenstein.

“Good-morning!” he cried, cheerfully. (The salutation “Good-morning” was
beginning to go through Rosenstein like a knife each time he heard it.)
“I did it. I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. I tell you, sir,
there isn’t another paper-hanger in the city who could fill a job like
that at such short notice. Every single room in the house! And red
paper, too, which has to be handled so carefully, and makes the work
take so much longer. But the job will be finished to-night, sir.”

He walked off with the light tread and proud mien of a man who has
accomplished something. Rosenstein looked after him bewildered. Then he
turned to his wife, but when he saw the smile and the happy look that
lit up her face he turned away and sighed. How could he tell her?

“My love,” said Mrs. Rosenstein, after a long pause, “promise me one
thing and I will be happy as long as I live.”

Rosenstein was silent. In a vague way he was wondering if this promise
was based upon some deed of yesterday that had not yet been revealed to
him.

“Promise me,” his wife went on, “that, no matter what happens, you will
never become a drinker again.”

Rosenstein sat bolt upright. He tried to speak. A hundred different
words and phrases crowded to his lips, struggling for utterance. He
became purple with suppressed excitement. In a wild endeavour to utter
that promise so forcibly, so emphatically, and so fiercely as not only
to assure his wife, but to relieve his suffering feelings, Rosenstein
could only sputter incoherently. Then, suddenly realising the futility
of the endeavour, and feeling that his whole vocabulary was inadequate
to express the vehemence of his emotion, he gurgled helplessly:

“Yes. I promise.”

And he kept the promise.



                           THE POISONED CHAI


Bernstein sat in the furthest corner of the café, brooding. The fiercest
torments that plague the human heart were rioting within him, as if they
would tear him asunder. Bernstein was of an impulsive, overbearing
nature, mature as far as years went, yet with the untrained,
inexperienced emotions of a savage. To such natures the “no” from a
woman’s lips comes like a blow; the sudden knowledge that those same
lips can smile brightly upon another follows like molten lead.

That whole afternoon Bernstein had suffered the wildest tortures of
jealousy. Had Natzi been a younger man Bernstein’s resentment might not
have turned so hotly upon him. Yet Natzi was almost of his own age, a
weak-faced creature, with an eternal smile, incapable of intense
feeling, ignorant of even the faintest shade of that passion which he
(Bernstein) had laid so humbly, so tenderly at her feet—and it was Natzi
she loved! Bernstein’s hand darted to his inner pocket and came forth
clutching a tiny object upon which he gazed with the look of a fiend.

“I may not have her,” he murmured, “but she will never belong to him.”

He held the tiny thing in his lap, below the level of the table, so that
none other might see it, and looked at it intently. It was a small
phial; it contained some colourless liquid.

The thought entered his brain to drain the contents of that phial
himself and put an end to the fierce pain that was eating away his
heart. Would it not be for the best? There was no one to care. The world
held no one but her; perhaps his death would bring the tears to those
big brown eyes; she might even come and kiss his cold forehead. But
after that Natzi would be master of those kisses, upon Natzi’s lips hers
would be pressed all the livelong day.

The blood surged to his brain; he clutched the table as though he would
squeeze the wood to pulp; before his eyes rose a mist—a red mist—the red
of blood. Slowly this mist cleared away, and the face and form of Natzi
loomed up before him—Natzi, with patient, boyish eyes, smiling.

“It is the third time that I’ve said ‘Good-evening.’ Have you been
sleeping with your eyes open?”

“No. No. Just thinking,” said Bernstein, talking rapidly. “Sit down.
Here, opposite me. The light hurts my eyes. Come, let us have some chai.
Here, waiter! Two chais. Have them hot, with plenty of rum.”

“You seem nervous, Bernstein. Aren’t you well?” asked Natzi,
solicitously.

“Oh, smoking too much. But let us talk about yourself. How is the
wood-carving business? Any better?”

Natzi shook his head, ruefully. “Worse,” he answered. “They’re doing
everything by machinery these days, and the machines seem to be
improving all the time. The work is all mechanical now. The only real
pleasure I get out of my tools is at night when I am home. Then I can
carve the things I like—things that don’t sell.”

The waiter brought two cups of chai, with the blue flames leaping
brightly from the burning rum on the surface. Bernstein’s eyes were
intent upon the flames.

“I have not yet congratulated you,” he said.

He did not see the look that came into Natzi’s eyes—a look of
tenderness, of earnestness, a look that Bernstein had never seen there,
although he had known Natzi many years.

“Yes,” said Natzi, thoughtfully. “I am to be congratulated. It is more
than I deserve. I am not worthy.”

Bernstein’s gaze was fastened upon the flames. They were dancing
brightly upon the amber liquid.

“She is so beautiful, so sweet, so pure,” Natzi went on. “To think that
all that happiness is for me!”

The flames changed from blue to red. Bernstein’s brain whirled. He felt
a wild impulse to throw himself upon his companion and seize him by the
throat and strangle him, and cry aloud so that all could hear it: “You
shall never have that happiness. She belongs to me. She is part of my
life, part of myself. You cannot understand her. I alone of all men
understand her. Every thought of my brain, every impulse of my being,
every fibre of my body beats responsive to her. She was made for me. No
other shall have her!”

Then the thought of the phial in his hand recurred to his mind and he
became calm. The flames died out, and Natzi slowly drained his cup.
Bernstein watched him with bloodshot eyes. Looking up he met Natzi’s
gaze bent upon him anxiously.

“You are not well, Bernstein. Let us go home.”

“No, no,” Bernstein said, quickly. “It is just nervousness. I have
smoked too much.” He made a feeble attempt at a smile. “Come,” said he,
draining his cup. “Let us have another. The last. The very last. And
after that we will drink no more chai.”

Two more cups were set before them.

“Look,” said Bernstein, “is that lightning in the sky?”

Natzi turned his head toward the open doorway. Swiftly, yet stealthily,
Bernstein’s hand stretched forth until it touched the blue flames that
danced on Natzi’s cup, hovered there a moment, and then was withdrawn
just as Natzi turned around. His fingers had been scorched.

“No, I see no lightning. The stars are shining.”

“Let us drink,” said Bernstein. “The last drink.”

“I am not a fire-eater,” said Natzi, smiling. “Let us wait at least
until the rum burns out.”

Bernstein lowered the flaming cup that, in his eagerness, he had raised
toward his lips and looked at Natzi. Malice gleamed in his eyes.

“Yes. Let it cool. Then we will drink a toast.”

“With all my heart,” said Natzi. “It shall be a toast to her. A toast to
the sweetest woman in the world.”

There was a long pause. Once or twice Natzi glanced hesitatingly at his
companion, who sat with bowed head, his eyes intent upon the flames that
leaped so brightly from his cup. Then Natzi spoke, slowly at first, but
gradually more rapidly, and more animatedly as the intensity of his
emotion mastered him.

“Do you know, dear friend,” he began, “there was a time when I thought
she loved you? We were together so much, the three of us, and she had so
many opportunities to know you—to know you as I knew you—to know your
great, strong mind, your tender heart, your steadfastness, your generous
nature, that could harbour no unworthy thought. You pose as a cynic, as
a man who looks down upon the petty things that make up life for most of
us, but I—I, who have lived with you, struggled with you, known so many
of the trials and heart-breakings of everyday life with you—I know you
better. True, you have no love for women, and I often wondered how you
could be so blind to her sweetness, and to the charm that seemed to fill
the room whenever we three were together. But I never took my eyes from
her face, and when I saw with what breathless interest she listened
whenever you spoke, whenever you told us of your plans for uplifting the
down-trodden, of your innermost thoughts and hopes and feelings, I read
in her eyes a fondness for you that filled me with despair.”

Bernstein was breathing heavily. His lips quivered; his face twitched;
the blood had mounted to his cheeks. His eyes were downcast, fastened
upon the blue flames of the chai, dancing and leaping in fantastic
shapes.

“That time you were sick—do you remember? When the doctor said there was
no hope on earth, when everyone felt that the end had come, when you lay
for days white and still, hardly breathing, with the pallor of death
upon your face—do you remember? And I nursed you—sat at your bedside
through four days and four nights without a minute’s rest. And then,
when the doctor said the crisis had passed and you would get well, I
fainted away from sheer weakness—do you remember?”

Perspiration in huge drops was trickling slowly down Bernstein’s
forehead. His lips were dry. His teeth were tightly clenched.

“And you thought I had done it all for friendship’s sake, and I listened
to your outpouring of gratitude, taking it all for myself, without a
word—without a word! Ah, my dear friend, it was hateful to deceive you;
but how could I tell the truth? But now I have no shame in telling it. I
did it for her. All for her. To save you for her. That was the only
thought in my poor, whirling brain during those long, weary days and
nights. I felt that if you died she would die. I knew the intensity of
her nature, and I knew that if aught happened to the man she loved she
would die of grief. And now to think you never cared for her, and that
it was I whom she always loved!”

Natzi looked at the bowed head before him with tender smile. Bernstein
was trembling.

“I am glad, though, that all happened as it did. Had I nursed you only
for your own sake, much as I loved you, I might have weakened, my
strength might not have held out. For a man can do that for his love
which he cannot do for himself. And, perhaps, after all, it was an
excellent lesson for me to learn to bear bitter disappointment.”

The flames in Bernstein’s cup were burning low. With every breath of air
they flickered and trembled. They would soon die out.

“Look,” said Natzi, reaching into his pocket. “Look at this little piece
that I carved during the hours that I sat at your bedside—to keep me
awake. I have carried it over my heart ever since.”

Bernstein looked up. His eyes were frightfully bloodshot. His face was
ashen. In Natzi’s hand he beheld a tiny carving in wood, fashioned with
exquisite skill and grace, of a woman’s head. The flame in Natzi’s cup
caught a light gust of air that stirred for a moment, leaped brightly,
as if on purpose to illumine the features of the carved image, then
flickered and went out. Bernstein had recognised the likeness. Those
features were burning in his brain.

“Every night since then I have set this image before me, and I have
prayed to God to always keep her as sweet, as pure, and as beautiful as
He keeps the flowers in His woods. And every morning I have prayed to
Him to fill her life with sunshine and gladness, and to let no sorrow
fall upon her. And every day I carried it pressed against my heart and I
felt sustained and strengthened. Ah, Bernstein, God is good! He gave her
to me! He brought about the revelation that her heart was mine, her
sweetness, her beauty—all were mine. Come, comrade, we have gone through
many a struggle together. Let us drink a toast—you shall name it!”

Natzi held his cup aloft. With a hoarse cry Bernstein half rose from his
seat, swiftly reached forward, and tore the cup from Natzi’s grasp.

“To her!” he cried. “To her! May God preserve her and forgive me!”

He drained the cup, stared wildly at the astonished countenance of
Natzi, and, after a moment, during which he swayed slightly from side to
side, fell forward upon the table, motionless.



                            URIM AND THUMMIM


The hall was packed to the point of suffocation, with thousands of
gaunt, hollow-eyed strikers, who hung upon the speaker’s impassioned
words with breathless interest. He was an eloquent speaker, with a pale,
delicate face, and dark eyes that shone like burning coals.

He had been speaking for an hour, exhorting the strikers to stand firm,
and to bear in patience their burden of suffering. When he dwelt on the
prospect of victory, and portrayed the ultimate moment of triumph that
would be theirs, if only they stood steadfast, a wave of enthusiasm
surged through the audience, and they burst into wild cheers.

“Remember, fellow-workmen,” he went on, “that we have fought before.
Remember that we have suffered before. And remember that we have won
before.

“How many are there of you who can look back to the famous strike of ten
years ago? Do you not remember how, for two months, we fought with
unbroken ranks, and after privation and distress far beyond what we are
passing through to-day, triumphed over our enemies and won a glorious
victory? It was but a pittance that we were striking for, but the life
of our union was at stake. With one exception, not a man faltered. The
story of our sufferings only God remembers! But we bore them without a
murmur, without complaint. There was one dastard—one traitor, recreant
to his oath—but we triumphed in spite of him. Oh, my fellow-workers, let
us——”

But now a mist gathered before my eyes; the sound of his voice died
away, and all that assemblage faded from my sight.

The speaker’s words had awakened in my mind the memory of Urim and
Thummim; all else was instantly forgotten.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Urim was a doll that had lost both legs and an arm, but its cheeks, when
I first saw it, were still pink, and, in spite of its misfortunes, it
wore a smile that never faded. Thummim was also a doll, somewhat more
rugged than Urim, but gloomy and frowning, in spite of its state of
preservation. Koppel and Rebecca agreed that Urim was by far the more
interesting of the two, but the two had come into the household
together, and to discard Thummim was altogether out of the question.

Koppel was a cloakmaker, and it was during the big strike that I first
met him. Of all the members of that big trades-union he alone had
continued to work when the strike was declared, and they all cursed him.
Pleading and threats alike were of no avail to induce him to leave the
shop; for the paltry pittance that he could earn he abandoned his union
and violated his oath of affiliation.

At every meeting he was denounced, his name was hissed, he was an
outcast among his kind.

When I tapped upon his door there was no response. I opened it and
beheld a child with raven hair, so busily occupied with undressing a
doll that she did not look up until I asked:

“Is Mr. Koppel in?”

She turned with a start and gazed at me in astonishment. Her big, brown
eyes were opened wide at the apparition of a stranger, yet she did not
seem at all alarmed. After a moment’s hesitation—the door was still
open—she approached me and held out the doll.

“Urim!” she said. I took it, and with a happy smile she ran to a corner
of the room, where, from under a table, she dragged another doll.

“T’ummim!” she said, holding it out to me.

Then Koppel entered the room. He knew me, although I had never seen him
before, and readily guessed the object of my errand.

“You are from the newspaper,” he said. “You want to know why I did not
strike.”

When the lamplight fell upon his countenance I saw that he was a
miserable-looking creature, servile in his manner, and repulsive to the
eye. He did not appear to be very strong, and the climb of the stairs
seemed to have exhausted him. He sat down, and the girl climbed upon his
knee. She threw her arm around his neck, and, looking up at me with a
pretty smile, said:

“Urim—T’ummim—mine!”

Koppel stroked her head, and a look of deep love came into his eyes, and
then I began to understand.

“She has no mother,” he said. “I must pay a woman to give her food. I—I
can’t strike—can I?”

One of the dolls slipped from my hand and fell to the floor.

“Urim!” cried the little one, slipping hastily from her father’s knee to
pick it up. Tenderly she examined the doll’s head; it was unscathed.
Then she looked up at me and held out her arms, and her mouth formed
into a rosebud. It was a charming picture, altogether out of
place—naïve, picturesque, utterly delightful.

“You must go to bed,” said her father, sternly. “The foolish thing wants
you to kiss her.”

We became friends—Koppel, Rebecca, Urim, Thummim, and I.

“I was reading the Pentateuch aloud one night,” explained Koppel, “and
she caught the words Urim and Thummim. They pleased her, and she has not
forgotten them.”

I have not said that Rebecca was pretty. She was more than pretty; there
was a light in her baby face that bespoke a glorious womanhood. There
was a quiet dignity in her baby manners that can be found only among the
children of the Orient. She was a winsome child, and during the day,
when her father was at work, the children from far and near would come
to make a pet of her.

The strike was at an end, and Koppel was discharged. When I came to the
house a few days later Rebecca was eating a piece of dry bread, saving a
few crumbs for Urim and Thummim. Koppel, in gloomy silence, was watching
her.

“She is not well,” he said. “She has had nothing to eat but bread for
three days. I must send her to an institution.”

The next morning the doctor was there, prescribing for her in a
perfunctory way, for it was merely a charity case. She smiled feebly
when she saw me, and handed me a doll that lay beside her.

“It’s Thummim,” I said. “Won’t you give me Urim?”

She shook her head and smiled. She was holding Urim against her breast.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It happened ten years ago, and it seems but yesterday. The day was warm
and sultry—almost as close as this crowded hall. The streets of the
Ghetto were filled with the market throng, and the air hummed with the
music of life. The whole picture rises clearly, now—as clearly as the
platform from which the enthusiastic speaker’s voice resounds through
the hall.

A white hearse stands before the house. The driver, unaided, bears a
tiny coffin out of the gloomy hallway into the bright sunshine. The
group of idlers make way for him, and look on with curiosity, as he
deposits his burden within the hearse.

There are no carriages. There are no flowers. Koppel walks slowly out of
the house, his eyes fastened upon the sidewalk, his lips moving as if he
were muttering to himself. In his hand he carries two broken dolls.
Without looking to right or left, he climbs beside the driver, and the
hearse rattles down the street.

I mounted the stairs to his home, and found everything as it had been
when I was there last—everything save Koppel and Rebecca, and Urim and
Thummim, and these I never saw again.



                            A YIDDISH IDYLL

                 _Die Liebe ist eine alte Geschichte._


In German they call it “Die Liebe.” The French, as every school-girl
knows, call it “L’Amour.” It is known to the Spanish and the Italians,
and, unless I am greatly mistaken, it was known even in Ur of the
Chaldeans, the city that was lost before the dawn of ancient Greece.

The sky has sung of it, the bright stars have sung of it, the birds and
the flowers and the green meadows have sung of it. And far from the
brightness and the sunshine of the world I can lead you to a dark room
where, night and day, the air is filled with the whirring and buzzing
and droning and humming of sewing machines, and if you listen intently
you can hear the song they sing: “Love! Love! Love!”

                 _Die Liebe ist eine alte Geschichte._

It is a foolish song, and somehow or other it has become sadly entangled
with the story of Erzik and Sarah, which is a foolish story that has
neither beginning nor end. Nor has it a plot or a meaning or anything at
all, for that matter, save the melody of spring and the perfume of
flowers.

You see, Sarah’s eyes were brown and Erzik’s were blue, and they sat
side by side in the sweatshop where the sewing machines whirred and
buzzed and droned and hummed. And side by side they had sat for almost a
year, speaking hardly a dozen words a day, for they are silent people,
those Eastern Jews, and each time that Sarah looked up she could see
that Erzik’s eyes were blue, and she saw a light in them that brought
the blood to her cheeks and filled her with a strange joy and a resolve
not to look up again.

And Erzik, wondering at the gladness in his heart, would smile, whereat
the sweater would frown, and the machines would whirr and buzz and drone
and hum more briskly.

It was the fault of the black thread—or was it the white thread? One of
them, at least, had become entangled in the bobbin of Sarah’s sewing
machine, and in disentangling it the needle’s point pierced her skin,
drawing—a tiny drop of blood. Erzik turned pale, and tearing a strip
from his handkerchief—a piece of extravagance which exasperated the
sweater beyond all bounds—hastened to bind it around the wound. Then
Sarah laughed, and Erzik laughed, too, and of course he must hold the
finger close to his eyes to adjust the bandage, and then, before the
whole room, he kissed her hand. Then she slapped him upon one cheek,
whereupon he quickly offered the other, and they laughed, and all the
room laughed, save Esther, whose face was always white and pinched.

Is it not a foolish story? That very night Erzik told Sarah that he
loved her, and she cried and told him she loved him, and then he cried,
and they both were happy. And on the next day they told the sweater that
they were soon going to be married, which did not interest him at all.

It was gossip for half a day, and then it fell into the natural order of
things. The machines went on whirring and buzzing and droning and
humming, and Erzik and Sarah frequently looked up from their work and
gazed smilingly into each other’s eyes. Of this they never tired, and
through the spring their love grew stronger and deeper, and the machines
in the room never ceased to sing of it; even the sparrows that perched
upon the telegraph wires close by the windows chirped it all day long.

Esther grew whiter and whiter, and her face became more and more
pinched. And one day she was not in her place. But neither Erzik nor
Sarah missed her. Another day and another, she was absent, and on the
following day they buried her. The rabbi brought a letter to Erzik.

“She said it was for your wedding.”

Carefully folded in a clean sheet of note paper lay three double eagles;
it was Esther’s fortune.

                 _Die Liebe ist eine alte Geschichte._

Erzik and Sarah have been married a year, and they still sit side by
side in the sweatshop. Spring has come again, and the sewing machines
whirr and buzz and drone and hum, and through it all you can hear that
foolish old song. When they look up from their work and their eyes meet,
they smile. They are content with their lot in life, and they love each
other.

The story runs in my head like an old song, and when the sky is blue,
and the birds sing, the melody is sweet beyond all words. Sometimes,
when the sky is grey and the air is heavy with a coming storm, it seems
as if there is a note of sadness in the song, as if a heart were crying.
But the sunshine makes it right again.



                           THE STORY OF SARAI


It was the idle hour of the mart, and the venders of Hester Street were
busy brushing away the flies. Mother Politsky had arranged her
patriarchal-looking fish for at least the twentieth time, and was
wondering whether it might not be better to take them home than to wait
another hour in the hope of a chance customer being attracted to her
stand. Suddenly a shadow fell across the fish. She looked up and beheld
a figure that looked for all the world as if it had just stepped out of
the pages of the Pentateuch. The venerable grey beard, the strong
aquiline nose, the grave blue eyes, and, above all, the air of
unutterable wisdom, completed a picture of one of Israel’s prophets.

“God be with the Herr Rabbi!” greeted Mother Politsky.

The rabbi poked a patriarchal finger into the fish, and grunted in
approbation of their firmness.

“Are they fresh?” he asked, giving no heed to her salutation.

“They were swimming in the sea this very day, Herr Rabbi. They could not
be fresher if they were alive. And the price is—oh, you’ll laugh at me
when I tell you—only twelve cents a pound.”

The rabbi laughed, displaying fine, wide teeth.

“Come, come, my good mother. Tell me without joking what they cost. This
big one, and that little one over there.”

“But, Herr Rabbi, you surely cannot mean that that is too much! Well,
well—an old friend—eleven cents, we’ll say. Will you take the big one or
the little one?”

The rabbi was still smiling.

“My dear mother, you remind me of Sarai.”

“And who was she?” asked Mother Politsky with interest.

“Sarai was the beautiful daughter of the famous Rabbiner Emanuel ben
Achad, who lived many hundreds of years ago. She was famed for her
beauty, and likewise for her exceeding shrewdness. Yes, Sarai was very,
very clever.”

“And I remind you of her? Well, well. What a beautiful thing it is to be
a rabbi and know so much about the past! Come, now, I’ll say ten cents,
and you can have your choice. Shall I wrap up the big——”

“This Sarai,” the rabbi went on, “had many lovers, but of them all she
liked only two. One of these was the favourite of her father; the other
was a poor but handsome youth who was apprenticed to a scribe. For a
long time Sarai hesitated between the two. Each was handsome, each was a
devoted lover, each was gifted with no ordinary intelligence, and each
was brave. Yet she was undecided upon which to bestow her heart and her
hand.”

The rabbi had picked up the big fish, and now paused to sniff at it.

“And what did she do?” asked Mother Politsky.

“Ten cents?” said the rabbi, and then, with a sigh, he laid down the
fish, as if it were hopelessly beyond his reach.

“Nine, then, and take it, but what did Sarai do?”

The rabbi looked long and intently at the fish, and then, shaking his
head sadly, resumed his narrative.

“Sarai pondered over the matter for many, many weeks, and finally
decided to put them to a test. Now the name of her father’s favourite
was Ezra, while the poor youth was called Joseph. ‘Father,’ she said one
day, ‘what is the most difficult task that a man can be put to?’ ‘The
most difficult thing that I know of,’ her father promptly replied, ‘is
to grasp the real meaning of the Talmud.’

“Thereupon Sarai called Ezra and Joseph before her, and said to them:
‘He that brings to me the real meaning of the Talmud shall have my
hand.’ Was that not clever of her?”

“Yes! Yes! But who brought the true answer?” asked Mother Politsky, with
breathless interest. The rabbi was looking longingly at the fish.

“How much did you say?”

“Eight cents, eight cents. I don’t want any profit, but who——”

“Neither of the young men,” the rabbi went on, with his eyes still upon
the fish, “knew anything about the Talmud, but Joseph, who was well
versed in Hebrew, began at once to study it, wherein he had the
advantage over Ezra, who knew not a word of Hebrew.”

“Poor Ezra!” murmured Mother Politsky.

“But Ezra was a shrewd young man, and, without wasting any time upon
studying, he went straight to Sarai’s father and said to him: ‘Rabbi,
you are the greatest scholar of the world to-day. Can you tell me the
real meaning of the Talmud?’”

“Poor Joseph!” murmured Mother Politsky.

“‘My son,’ said Rabbi ben Achad, ‘all the wisdom of the human race since
the days of Moses has not been able to answer that question!’”

The rabbi had taken up the big fish and the small one, and was carefully
balancing them.

“Eight, you say. I know a place where I can get them——”

“Seven, then. And Joseph?”

“——for six.”

“Seven is the lowest. But Jo——”

The rabbi turned to move away.

“All right. Six cents. But finish the story. What did Joseph do?”

“Joseph studied many years and came to the same conclusion. I’ll take
the small one.”

“But which of them married Sarai?”

“The story does not say. You’re sure it is fresh?”



                 THE AMERICANISATION OF SHADRACH COHEN


There is no set rule for the turning of the worm; most worms, however,
turn unexpectedly. It was so with Shadrach Cohen.

He had two sons. One was named Abel and the other Gottlieb. They had
left Russia five years before their father, had opened a store on Hester
Street with the money he had given them. For reasons that only business
men would understand they conducted the store in their father’s
name—and, when the business began to prosper and they saw an opportunity
of investing further capital in it to good advantage, they wrote to
their dear father to come to this country.

“We have a nice home for you here,” they wrote. “We will live happily
together.”

Shadrach came. With him he brought Marta, the serving-woman who had
nursed his wife until she died, and whom, for his wife’s sake, he had
taken into the household. When the ship landed he was met by two
dapper-looking young men, each of whom wore a flaring necktie with a
diamond in it. It took him some time to realise that these were his two
sons. Abel and Gottlieb promptly threw their arms around his neck and
welcomed him to the new land. Behind his head they looked at each other
in dismay. In the course of five years they had forgotten that their
father wore a gaberdine—the loose, baglike garment of the Russian
Ghetto—and had a long, straggling grey beard and ringlets that came down
over his ears—that, in short, he was a perfect type of the immigrant
whose appearance they had so frequently ridiculed. Abel and Gottlieb
were proud of the fact that they had become Americanised. And they
frowned at Marta.

“Come, father,” they said. “Let us go to a barber, who will trim your
beard and make you look more like an American. Then we will take you
home with us.”

Shadrach looked from one to the other in surprise.

“My beard?” he said; “what is the matter with my beard?”

“In this city,” they explained to him, “no one wears a beard like yours
except the newly landed, Russian Jews.”

Shadrach’s lips shut tightly for a moment. Then he said:

“Then I will keep my beard as it is. I am a newly landed Russian Jew.”
His sons clinched their fists behind their backs and smiled at him
amiably. After all, he held the purse-strings. It was best to humour
him.

“What shall we do with Marta?” they asked. “We have a servant. We will
not need two.”

“Marta,” said the old man, “stays with us. Let the other servant go.
Come, take me home. I am getting hungry.”

They took him home, where they had prepared a feast for him. When he
bade Marta sit beside him at the table Abel and Gottlieb promptly turned
and looked out of the window. They felt that they could not conceal
their feelings. The feast was a dismal affair. Shadrach was racking his
brains to find some explanation that would account for the change that
had come over his sons. They had never been demonstrative in their
affection for him, and he had not looked for an effusive greeting. But
he realised immediately that there was a wall between him and his sons;
some change had occurred; he was distressed and puzzled. When the meal
was over Shadrach donned his praying cap and began to recite the grace
after meals. Abel and Gottlieb looked at each other in consternation.
Would they have to go through this at every meal? Better—far better—to
risk their father’s displeasure and acquaint him with the truth at once.
When it came to the response Shadrach looked inquiringly at his sons. It
was Abel who explained the matter:

“We—er—have grown out of—er—that is—er—done away with—er—sort of fallen
into the habit, don’t you know, of leaving out the prayer at meals. It’s
not quite American!”

Shadrach looked from one to the other. Then, bowing his head, he went on
with his prayer.

“My sons,” he said, when the table had been cleared. “It is wrong to
omit the prayer after meals. It is part of your religion. I do not know
anything about this America or its customs. But religion is the worship
of Jehovah, who has chosen us as His children on earth, and that same
Jehovah rules supreme over America even as He does over the country that
you came from.”

Gottlieb promptly changed the subject by explaining to him how badly
they needed more money in their business. Shadrach listened patiently
for a while, then said:

“I am tired after my long journey. I do not understand this business
that you are talking about. But you may have whatever money you need.
After all, I have no one but you two.” He looked at them fondly. Then
his glance fell upon the serving-woman, and he added, quickly:

“And Marta.”

“Thank God,” said Gottlieb, when their father had retired, “he does not
intend to be stingy.”

“Oh, he is all right,” answered Abel. “After he gets used to things he
will become Americanised like us.”

To their chagrin, however, they began to realise, after a few months,
that their father was clinging to the habits and customs of his old life
with a tenacity that filled them with despair. The more they urged him
to abandon his ways the more eager he seemed to become to cling to them.
He seemed to take no interest in their business affairs, but he
responded, almost cheerfully, to all their requests for money. He began
to feel that this, after all, was the only bond between him and his
sons. And when they had pocketed the money, they would shake their heads
and sigh.

“Ah, father, if you would only not insist upon being so old-fashioned!”
Abel would say.

“And let us fix you up a bit,” Gottlieb would chime in.

“And become more progressive—like the other men of your age in this
country.”

“And wear your beard shorter and trimmed differently.”

“And learn to speak English.”

Shadrach never lost his temper; never upbraided them. He would look from
one to the other and keep his lips tightly pressed together. And when
they had gone he would look at Marta and would say:

“Tell me what you think, Marta. Tell me what you think.”

“It is not proper for me to interfere between father and sons,” Marta
would say. And Shadrach could never induce her to tell him what she
thought. But he could perceive a gleam in her eyes and observed a
certain nervous vigour in the way she cleaned the pots and pans for
hours after these talks, that fell soothingly upon his perturbed spirit.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As we remarked before, there is no rule for the turning of the worm.
Some worms, however, turn with a crash. It was so with Shadrach Cohen.

Gottlieb informed his father that he contemplated getting married.

“She is very beautiful,” he said. “The affair is all in the hands of the
Shadchen.”

His father’s face lit up with pleasure.

“Gottlieb,” he said, holding out his hand, “God bless you! It’s the very
best thing you could do. Marta, bring me my hat and coat. Come,
Gottlieb. Take me to see her. I cannot wait a moment. I want to see my
future daughter-in-law at once. How happy your mother would be if she
were alive to-day!”

Gottlieb turned red and hung back.

“I think, father,” he said, “you had better not go just yet. Let us wait
a few days until the Shadchen has made all the arrangements. She is an
American girl. She—she won’t—er—understand your ways—don’t you know? And
it may spoil everything.”

Crash! Marta had dropped an iron pot that she was cleaning. Shadrach was
red in the face with suppressed rage.

“So!” he said. “It has come to this. You are ashamed of your father!”
Then he turned to the old servant:

“Marta,” he said, “to-morrow we become Americanised—you and I.”

There was an intonation in his voice that alarmed his son.

“You are not angry——” he began, but with a fierce gesture his father cut
him short.

“Not another word. To bed! Go to bed at once.”

Gottlieb was dumbfounded. With open mouth he stared at his father. He
had not heard that tone since he was a little boy.

“But, father——” he began.

“Not a word. Do you hear me? Not a word will I listen to. In five
minutes if you are not in bed you go out of this house. Remember, this
is my house.”

Then he turned to Abel. Abel was calmly smoking a cigar.

“Throw that cigar away,” his father commanded, sternly.

Abel gasped and looked at his father in dismay.

“Marta, take that cigar out of his mouth and throw it into the fire. If
he objects he goes out of the house.”

With a smile of intense delight Marta plucked the cigar from Abel’s
unresisting lips, and incidentally trod heavily upon his toes. Shadrach
gazed long and earnestly at his sons.

“To-morrow, my sons,” he said, slowly, “you will begin to lead a new
life.”

In the morning Abel and Gottlieb, full of dread forebodings, left the
house as hastily as they could. They wanted to get to the store to talk
matters over. They had hardly entered the place, however, when the
figure of their father loomed up in the doorway. He had never been in
the place before. He looked around him with great satisfaction at the
many evidences of prosperity which the place presented. When he beheld
the name “Shadrach Cohen, Proprietor” over the door he chuckled. Ere his
sons had recovered from the shock of his appearance a pale-faced clerk,
smoking a cigarette, approached Shadrach, and in a sharp tone asked:

“Well, sir, what do you want?” Shadrach looked at him with considerable
curiosity. Was he Americanised, too? The young man frowned impatiently.

“Come, come! I can’t stand here all day. Do you want anything?”

Shadrach smiled and turned to his sons.

“Send him away at once. I don’t want that kind of young man in my
place.” Then turning to the young man, upon whom the light of revelation
had quickly dawned, he said, sternly:

“Young man, whenever you address a person who is older than you, do it
respectfully. Honour your father and your mother. Now go away as fast as
you can. I don’t like you.”

“But, father,” interposed Gottlieb, “we must have someone to do his
work.”

“Dear me,” said Shadrach, “is that so? Then, for the present, you will
do it. And that young man over there—what does he do?”

“He is also a salesman.”

“Let him go. Abel will take his place.”

“But, father, who is to manage the store? Who will see that the work is
properly done?”

“I will,” said the father. “Now, let us have no more talking. Get to
work.”

Crestfallen, miserable, and crushed in spirit, Abel and Gottlieb began
their humble work while their father entered upon the task of
familiarising himself with the details of the business. And even before
the day’s work was done he came to his sons with a frown of intense
disgust.

“Bah!” he exclaimed. “It is just as I expected. You have both been
making as complete a mess of this business as you could without ruining
it. What you both lack is sense. If becoming Americanised means becoming
stupid, I must congratulate you upon the thoroughness of your work.
To-morrow I shall hire a manager to run this store. He will arrange your
hours of work. He will also pay you what you are worth. Not a cent more.
How late have you been keeping this store open?”

“Until six o’clock,” said Abel.

“H’m! Well, beginning to-day, you both will stay here until eight
o’clock. Then one of you can go. The other will stay until ten. You can
take turns. I will have Marta send you some supper.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

To the amazement of Abel and Gottlieb the business of Shadrach Cohen
began to grow. Slowly it dawned upon them that in the mercantile realm
they were as children compared with their father. His was the true
money-maker spirit; there was something wonderful in the swiftness with
which he grasped the most intricate phases of trade; and where
experience failed him some instinct seemed to guide him aright. And
gradually, as the business of Shadrach Cohen increased, and even the
sons saw vistas of prosperity beyond their wildest dreams, they began to
look upon their father with increasing respect. What they had refused to
the integrity of his character, to the nobility of his heart, they
promptly yielded to the shrewdness of his brain. The sons of Shadrach
Cohen became proud of their father. He, too, was slowly undergoing a
change. A new life was unfolding itself before his eyes, he became
broader-minded, more tolerant, and, above all, more flexible in his
tenets. Contact with the outer world had quickly impressed him with the
vast differences between his present surroundings and his old life in
Russia. The charm of American life, of liberty, of democracy, appealed
to him strongly. As the field of his business operations widened he came
more and more in contact with American business men, from whom he
learned many things—principally the faculty of adaptability. And as his
sons began to perceive that all these business men whom, in former days,
they had looked upon with feelings akin to reverence, seemed to show to
their father an amount of deference and respect which they had never
evinced toward the sons, their admiration for their father increased.

And yet it was the same Shadrach Cohen.

From that explosive moment when he had rebelled against his sons he
demanded from them implicit obedience and profound respect. Upon that
point he was stern and unyielding. Moreover, he insisted upon a strict
observance of every tenet of their religion. This, at first, was the
bitterest pill of all. But they soon became accustomed to it. When life
is light and free from care, religion is quick to fly; but when the sky
grows dark and life becomes earnest, and we feel its burden growing
heavy upon our shoulders, then we welcome the consolation that religion
brings, and we cling to it. And Shadrach Cohen had taught his sons that
life was earnest. They were earning their bread by the sweat of their
brow. No prisoner, with chain and ball, was subjected to closer
supervision by his keeper than were Gottlieb and Abel.

“You have been living upon my charity,” their father said to them: “I
will teach you how to earn your own living.”

And he taught them. And with the lesson they learned many things;
learned the value of discipline, learned the beauty of filial reverence,
learned the severe joy of the earnest life.

One day Gottlieb said to his father:

“May I bring Miriam to supper to-night? I am anxious that you should see
her.”

Shadrach turned his face away so that Gottlieb might not see the joy
that beamed in his eyes.

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “I, too, am anxious to see if she is worthy
of you.”

Miriam came, and in a stiff, embarrassed manner Gottlieb presented her
to his father. The girl looked in surprise at the venerable figure that
stood before her—a picture of a patriarch from the Pentateuch, with a
long, straggling beard, and ringlets of hair falling over the ears, and
clad in the long gaberdine of the Russian Ghettos. And she saw a pair of
grey eyes bent keenly upon her—eyes of shrewdness, but soft and tender
as a woman’s—the eyes of a strong man with a kind heart. Impulsively she
ran toward him and seized his hands. And, with a smile upon her lips,
she said:

“Will you not give me your blessing?”

                  *       *       *       *       *

When the evening meal had ended, Shadrach donned his praying cap, and
with bowed head intoned the grace after meals:

“We will bless Him from whose wealth we have eaten!” And in fervent
tones rose from Gottlieb’s lips the response:

“Blessed be He!”



                            HANNUKAH LIGHTS


Somewhere in transit he had lost all his letters, papers, credentials,
cards—all belongings, in fact, that might have established his identity.
He said he was David Parnes, and that he had come from Pesth. And, as he
was tall and straight, with fine black eyes and curling black hair, a
somewhat dashing presence, and the most charming manners, he soon made
friends, particularly among the women, for, in Houston Street, as
elsewhere, the fair sex rarely looks behind a pleasing personality for
credentials of character.

Eulie, the waitress and maid-of-all-work in Weiss’s coffee house, felt
the blood surge to her face when first she beheld him, and when, for the
first time, he gave her _Trinkgeld_ and a smile, all the blood rushed
back to her heart. After that Eulie was his slave. All day long she
waited for him to come. When he had gone the place seemed dark, and the
music of the gipsy band grated upon her. While he was there—usually
sitting alone and sipping coffee and staring into vacancy like a man
whose mind is busy with many schemes—her heart beat faster, and life
seemed glad. Eulie was plain—painfully plain—but there was a charm about
her that had won the admiration of many of the patrons of the place,
some of whom had even offered her marriage. But she had only laughed,
and had declared that she would never marry.

Sometimes these incidents came to the ear of Esther, the daughter of the
proprietor, and made her heart burn; for Esther was fair to look upon,
and yet had reached and passed her twentieth year without a single offer
of marriage. With all her beauty the girl was absolutely devoid of
charm; there was something even in the tone of her voice that repelled
men; probably a reflection of her arrogance and selfishness. Then, one
day, Eulie beheld her talking to David; saw that her face was animated,
and that David’s eyes were fastened intently upon her. In Esther’s eyes
she read that story which, between woman and woman, is an open book.
When her work was finished that night Eulie hastened to her room, and,
throwing herself upon the bed, burst into a flood of weeping.

The affair progressed rapidly. There were times when Eulie, after
serving him with coffee, would stand silently behind David, gazing upon
him intently, yearning to throw her arms around that curly head and cry,
“I love you! I am your slave!” But these became rarer and rarer, for
Esther demanded more and more of his presence, and it was seldom that he
sat alone in the coffee house. Eulie had never seen him manifest any of
those lover-like demonstrations toward Esther that might have been
expected under the circumstances, but she attributed this to his pride.
Probably, she thought, when they were alone, beyond the reach of prying
eyes, he kissed her and caressed her to her heart’s content. The thought
of it wore on her spirit. And when, one day, Esther told her that they
were to be married at the end of a month Eulie turned pale and trembled,
and then hurried to her room.

A few days after this announcement had been publicly made, and
congratulations had begun to pour in from the many patrons of the
establishment, who had known Esther from childhood, Eulie observed a
change in David’s demeanour. He seemed suddenly to have become worried.
He would come to the coffee house late at night, after Esther had
retired, and sit alone over his coffee, brooding. Eulie’s duties
permitted her to leave at nine o’clock, but if David had not come at
that hour, she continued to work, even until midnight, the closing time,
in the hope that she would see him enter. He rarely spoke to her, rarely
noticed her, in fact, but Eulie, in her heart, had established an
intimacy between them. An intimacy? Rather a world of love and devotion,
in which, alas! she lived alone with a shadow.

She was quick to see the change that had come over him, and she longed
to speak to him—to implore him to confide in her. Was it money? She had
led a frugal life, and had saved the greater part of her earnings for
years. She would not trust her pittance to the banks. It was all in a
trunk in her room, and he was welcome to it. Was it service that he
needed? She was a slave ready to do his bidding. The tears came into her
eyes to see that face upon which light and laughter sat so gracefully
now cast down with gloom. But David worried on in silence, and left the
place without a word.

Then, for several days, he did not come at all. Esther told her that he
had been called out of town on business.

“Did—did he not look worried when last you saw him?” Eulie asked,
timidly. Esther’s eyes opened in surprise.

“Why, no. I did not notice that he looked any different.”

Eulie sighed. That night there came to one of her tables a brisk,
sharp-eyed little man, whose manner and accent betokened a new arrival
from Hungary. He bowed politely to Eulie, praised her skill in waiting
upon him, and complimented her upon her hair, which she wore flat upon
her head after the fashion of the peasant girls of Hungary. He gave her
liberal _Trinkgeld_, and bowed courteously when he departed. The next
evening he returned and greeted her as a newly made acquaintance. They
chatted pleasantly a while—he had much news from the mother country that
interested her—and then, quite by-the-way—Did she happen to know a young
man, tall and straight—quite good-looking, black eyes and curling hair,
a very pleasant chap, extremely popular with the girls? A friend had
told him that he would find this young man somewhere in the Hungarian
colony—did she know anyone who answered that description? His eyes were
turned from her—he was watching the gipsies playing—it was all quite
casual.

It is said that love creates a sixth sense. In a flash Eulie’s whole
nature shrank from this man, and stood at arms ready for battle. This
was no friend in search of a boon companion. This was an enemy—a mortal
enemy of David. She felt it, knew it as positively as if she had seen
him fly at David’s throat. Fortunately the man had not observed the
pallor that overspread her countenance.

“No. I do not remember having seen such a man. He never comes here, or I
would have remembered him.”

That night was the beginning of the feast of Hanukkah—the only feast at
which the penitential psalms are omitted, lest they might mar the
joyfulness of the celebration. Esther was away, and it was Eulie’s duty
to light the candles in the living room overhead. The sun was fast
sinking, but the light of day still lingered in the sky. Eulie felt that
it might be sacrilegious to hasten so holy a function, but a sudden
nervous dread had come over her, and there was fear in her heart.

“I will light the candles now,” she said. “Then I will wait outside in
the street, and if he comes I will warn him.”

Swiftly, lightly, she sped up the stairs to the living room. The door
was open, and the light from the hall lamp shone dimly into the furthest
corner, where, with his back turned to the door, stood, or rather knelt,
David Parnes before a desk in which the coffee house proprietor kept his
money. Eulie recoiled, shocked, horrified. Then, swift as a lightning
stroke came full revelation. He was a thief! She had always suspected
something like that. And she loved him—adored him more than ever at this
moment! Eulie was an honest girl, an honest peasant girl, descended from
a long line of peasants, all as honest as the day. But the world was
against the man she loved. Honesty? To the winds with honesty! With a
rush she was at his side.

“Listen!” she whispered, excitedly. “There is the key. Over there on the
wall. The money is in the top drawer. Take it and fly. There is a man
below from Hungary looking for you. I told him you did not come here.
You can get away before he finds you. I will never tell. I swear I will
never tell. Quick! You must fly!”

The young man had turned quickly when she entered, but after that he had
not moved. He was still upon one knee. Had a thunderbolt fallen from the
ceiling he could not have been more astonished. He looked at Eulie in
bewilderment.

“Wait!” she cried. “I will be back in a second. Open the desk and take
all the money, and then I will be back.”

It seemed to him but an instant—Eulie had gone and had returned. He was
still kneeling—almost petrified with amazement. Eulie held out an old,
stained, leather pocketbook.

“It is all mine,” she whispered. “Take it. Run! You must not wait!”

Slowly he rose to his feet. Once or twice he passed his hand over his
eyes as if he feared he was dreaming.

“Eulie?”

There was a world of incredulity, of bewilderment, of questioning in his
voice.

“Oh, do not stay!” cried the poor girl. “They will be looking for you.
Go, before it is too late. Go far away. They will never find you.”

“I do not understand,” he said, slowly. “What does it mean?”

A sudden weakness overcame Eulie, and she burst into tears. He advanced
toward her.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked. Eulie could not speak. Her frame was
convulsed with sobbing; the tears were streaming down her cheeks; David,
open-mouthed, stood gazing at her. The pocketbook had fallen from her
hand, and a small heap of bank notes had slipped from it. David looked
at them; then at her. Slowly he advanced to where she stood. As gently
as he could he drew her hands from her face and turned her head toward
the light in the hall.

“Eulie?”

The blood coursed to her cheeks. Her gaze fell. She tore herself from
his clasp.

“For God’s sake, go!” she cried. He restored the money to the pocketbook
and placed it in her hands. Then he started toward the door.

“You will not take it?” she asked, piteously. “It is all mine. I give it
to you freely. Borrow it if you like. Some day you can send it back.”

He shook his head, stood irresolute for a moment, then returned to her.

“Eulie,” he whispered. “My mother is dead. But in heaven she is blessing
you!”

Then he kissed her upon the forehead and walked determinedly out of the
room. Eulie stood swaying to and fro, for a moment, then tottered and
fell to the floor. David stood on the stairs a full minute, breathing
heavily, like a man who has been running. Then his teeth clicked tightly
together, he drew a long breath, walked briskly down the steps, and
strode into the brilliantly lighted coffee house.

He knew the man at once. He had never seen him before, but unerring
instinct pointed out his pursuer. He walked straight toward him.

“When do we start for Pesth?” he asked.

The man eyed him narrowly, gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, then
his face lit up.

“By the next steamer, if you like,” was all he said.

David nodded.

“Good,” he said. Then, after a moment’s hesitation:

“Will you come upstairs with me for a moment?”

Without a word the man accompanied him. They found Eulie, pale as a
ghost, standing at the mantel, lighting the Hannukah candles. When she
beheld David with his captor, she screamed, and would have fallen had
not David sprung forward and caught her in his arms.

“Listen,” he said, speaking rapidly. “I am going back. My name is not
David Parnes. I will write in a few days and tell you everything. They
will send me to prison. In two or three years I shall be free. Then I am
coming back for you.”

He held her in his arms for one brief moment, kissed her again on the
forehead, and was gone. Then the tears came afresh to Eulie’s eyes. But
through her veins coursed a tumult of joy.



                        A SWALLOW-TAILER FOR TWO


“Isidore? Bah! Never again do I want dot name to hear!

“Isidore? A loafer he iss! Sure! Ve vas friends vunce, unt don’t I know
vot a loafer he iss? Ven a man iss a loafer nobody knows it better as
his best friend.

“Don’t you remember by der night uf der two Purim balls? Vot? No? Yes!
Dere vas two Purim balls by der same night; der one vas across der
street from der odder. Yes. Der one, dot vas der Montefiore Society. I
vas der president. Der odder, dot vas der Baron Hirsch Literary
Atzociation. Isidore vas der vice-president.

“Isidore unt I lived together. Oh, ve vas such friends! David unt
Jonathan dey vas not better friends as me unt Isidore. Everyt’ing vot
Isidore had could belong also to me. Unt if I had somet’ing I always
told Isidore dot I had it. I did not know vot a loafer he vas.

“So it comes der day of der Montefiore ball, unt I ask Izzy if he iss
going. ‘No, Moritz,’ he says, ‘I am going by der Baron Hirsch ball.’
‘But anyway,’ I says, ‘let us go by der tailor unt hire for rent our
evening-dress swallow-tails.’ ‘Sure,’ he says. Unt ve vent by der
tailor’s. But dot vas such a busy times dot every tailor ve vent to said
he vas so sorry but he had already hired out for rent all der
swallow-tails vot he had, unt he didn’t haf no more left. Ve vent from
every tailor vot ve know to every odder tailor. Der last vun he vas a
smart feller. He says: ‘Gents, I got vun suit left, but it iss der only
vun.’ Den Izzy unt me looked into our faces. Vot could ve do?

“‘Id iss no use,’ I says, unt Izzy says it vas no use, unt ve vas just
going away, ven der smart tailor says: ‘Vy don’t you take der suit unt
each take a turn to wear it?’ So Izzy says to me, ‘Moritz, dot’s a idea.
You can wear der suit by der Montefiore ball, unt I can wear it by der
Baron Hirsch ball. Der dancing vill be all night. You can have it from
nine o’clock until it is elefen o’clock. Dot iss two hours. Den you can
excuse yourself. Den I put on der suit und wear it by der Baron Hirsch
ball from elefen o’clock until id iss vun o’clock in der morning. Den I
excuse myself. Den, Moritz, you can haf it again by der Montefiore ball
until id iss t’ree o’clock. Dot iss two more hours, unt if I want it
after t’ree o’clock I can haf it for two hours more.’

“Say! Dot Izzy iss a great schemer. He has a brain like a Napoleon. He
iss a loafer, but he iss a smart vun. So, anyvay, ve took der suit. Der
tailor charged us two dollars—oh, he vas a skin!—unt Izzy unt I said ve
would each pay half, unt ve each gave der tailor a gold watch to keep
for der security uv der suit. Unt den—I remember it like if it vas
yesterday—I looked into Isidore’s eye unt I said: ‘Isidore, iss it your
honest plan to be fair unt square?’ Because, I vill tell you, der vas
somet’ing in my heart dot vas saying, he vill play some crooked
business! But Isidore held out his hand unt said, ‘Moritz, you know
_me_!’ Unt I trusted him!

“So ve went to der room ve lived in unt I put der suit on. It fitted me
fine. I look pretty good in a evening swallow-tail unt Isidore says I
looked like a regular aritztocrat.

“‘Be careful, Moritz,’ he says, ‘unt keep der shirt clean.’ I forgot to
tell you dot ve hired a shirt, too, because it vas cheaper as two
shirts. ‘Come, Moritz,’ he says, ‘let us go!’ ‘Us!’ I says, astonished.
‘Are you coming by der Montefiore ball, too?’ ‘Sure,’ he says. ‘You are
der president, unt you can get me in without a ticket. I don’t have to
wear a swallow-tail evening dresser because I ain’d a member.’

“It took me only a second to t’ink der matter over. I am such a qvick
t’inker. If he comes to my ball, I says to myself, I vill come by his!
‘Sure, Izzy,’ I says. ‘As my friend you are velcome.’ So ve vent to der
Montefiore ball.

“Der moment ve got into der ballroom I seen vot a nasty disposition
Isidore got. ‘Izzy,’ I says, ‘go get acqvainted mit a nice lady, unt
dance unt enjoy yourself unt I vill see you again at elefen o’clock.’
‘No, Moritz,’ he says. ‘I vill stick by you.’ I am a proud man, so I
said, very dignified, ‘All right, if you vill have it so.’

“Unt Isidore stuck. Efry time I looked around me I seen his eyes keepin’
a look-out on der swallow-tail evening dress. Such big eyes Isidore had
dot night! ‘Don’t vatch me like dot, Izzy,’ I said. ‘Dey vill t’ink you
are a detectif, unt dot I stole somet’ing.’ Efrytime I drops a leetle
tiny bit from a cigar ashes on my swallow-tail shirt Izzy comes running
up mit a handkerchief unt cleans it off. Efry time I sits down on a
chair Izzy comes up unt vispers in my ear, ‘Moritz, please don’t get
wrinkles in der swallow-tail. Remember, I got to wear it next.’ Efry
time I took a drink Moritz comes unt holds der handkerchief under der
glass so dot der beer should not drop on der swallow-tail shirt. ‘Izzy,’
I says to him, ‘I am astonished.’

“So a hour vent by unt den comes in Miss Rabinowitz. Ven I see her I
forget all about Isidore, unt about everyt’ing else. Oh, she is nice! I
says, ‘Miss Rabinowitz, can I haf der pleasure uv der next dance?’ ‘No,’
she says, ‘I ain’d dancing to-night because my shoes hurts me. But ve
can haf der pleasure of sidding out der next dance togedder.’ Den she
says to her mamma, ‘Mamma, I am going to sid out der next dance mit dis
gentleman friend of mine. You can go somevere else unt enjoy yourself.’
Dot gave me a idea. ‘Isidore,’ I says—Isidore was right on top uv my
heels—‘gif Miss Rabinowitz’s mamma der pleasure of your company for a
half-hour, like a good friend.’

“Isidore looks a million daggers in my eye, but he couldn’t say nodding.

“He had to do it. Unt I found a qviet place where it vas a little dark,
unt Miss Rabinowitz sat close by me unt I vas holding her hand unt I vas
saying to myself, ‘Moritz, dis is der opportunity to tell her der secret
of your life—to ask her if she vill be yours! Her old man has a big
factory unt owns t’ree houses!’ Unt den I looked up, unt dere vas
Isidore.

“‘V’y did you leave Mrs. Rabinowitz?’ I asked. He gafe me a terrible
look. ‘Moritz,’ he says, ‘Id iss elefen o’clock unt der time has come.’
‘Vot time?’ asked Miss Rabinowitz. ‘Oh, Moritz knows vot I mean,’ he
says. So I excused myself for a minute unt I vispered in Izzy’s ear,
‘Izzy,’ I says, ‘if you love me, if you are a friend of mine, if you
vant to do me der greatest favour in der vorld—I ask you on my knees to
gif me a extra half-hour! Dis iss der greatest moment uv my life!’ But
Isidore only shooked his head. ‘Elefen o’clock,’ he said. ‘Remember der
agreement!’ ‘A qvarter of a hour,’ I begged. I had tears in my eyes. But
Isidore only scraped a spot off my swallow-tail shirt unt den he said,
‘Moritz, I vill tell you vot I’ll do. I vouldn’t do dis for nobody else
in der, vorld except my best friend. You can wear der suit ten minutes
longer for fifty cents. Does dot suit you?’ Vot could I do? I looked at
him mit sorrow. ‘Isidore,’ I said, awful sad, ‘I didn’t know you could
be such a loafer! But you haf der advantage. I will do it.’

“He even made me pay der fifty cents cash on der spot, unt den he vent
off to a corner where he could keep his eyes on der clock unt vatch me
at der same time. Dose fifty cents vas wasted. How could I ask a lady to
marry me mit dem big eyes of Isidore keeping a sharp watch on der
clothes I had on?

“‘Id iss no use, Miss Rabinowitz,’ I says. ‘I had a matter uv terrible
importance vot I vanted to tell you, but my friend iss in great trouble,
unt ven Isidore has troubles in his heart, my heart iss heavy!’ ‘Oh,’
she says, so sveet, ‘you are such a nobleman! It makes der tears come to
my eyes to hear of such friendships!’

“Dot vill show you vot a prize she vas. I hated to tell her a lie, but
vot could I do? So I says I haf to go out mit Izzy unt get him out of
his trouble, but at der end of two hours I come back. ‘I will wait for
you,’ she says. Unt den, mit a cold, murder eye, I goes to Isidore unt
says to him, ‘Come, false friend! I keep der agreement!’

“So Isidore dusts off my coat unt says he found a room upstairs where ve
could change der clothes. Ven ve got to der room I took der swallow-tail
evening-dress coat off, unt der vest off, unt der pants off, unt der
shirt off, unt I says to Isidore, ‘Dere iss not a spot on dem! I shall
expect you to gif dem back to me in der same condition ven der two hours
iss up. Remember dot!’ Unt den a horrible idea comes into my head. ‘Vot
am I going to wear?’ I says. ‘I don’t know,’ says Isidore. He had
already put der pants on. ‘Unt I don’t care,’ he says. ‘But if you vant
to put my clothes on, for friendship’s sake I lend dem to you.’

“You know how little unt fat dot Isidore iss. Unt you see how tall unt
skinny I am. But vot could I do? If I vent home to put on my own clothes
I know it would be good-bye Isidore unt der swallow-tail evening suit. I
would never see dem again. I couldn’t trust dot false face. ‘Moritz,’ I
says to myself, ‘don’d leave dot swallow-tailer out uv your sight. No
matter how foolish you look in Isidore’s short pants, put dem on. You
aint a member uv der Baron Hirsch Literary Atzociation. You don’d care
if your appearances iss against you. Stick to Isidore!’ So I put on his
old suit. My! It vas so shabby after dot fine swallow-tailer! Unt I felt
so foolish! But, anyvay, dere vas vun satisfaction. Der swallow-tailer
didn’t fit Isidore a bit. He had to roll der pants up in der bottom. Unt
der shirt vouldn’t keep shut in front—he vas so fat—unt you could see
his undershirt. I nearly laughed—he looked so foolish. But I didn’t say
anyt’ing—nefer again I vould haf no jokes mit Isidore. Only dot vun
night—unt after dot our friendships vas finished.

“So ve vent to der Baron Hirsch’s across der street. Ven ve got by der
door Isidore asked me, astonished-like, ‘Haf you got a ticket, Moritz?’
‘No,’ I says, ‘but you are der vice-president, unt you can pass in your
friend.’ But Isidore shooked his head. ‘Der rules,’ he said, ‘uv der
Baron Hirsch Literary Atzociation is different from der rules uv der
Montefiore Society. Efrybody vot ain’d a member has got to pay.’

“Say, vasn’t dot a nasty vun, vot? But vot could I do? It cost me a
qvarter, but I paid it. Unt as soon as ve got in by der ballroom Isidore
got fresh. ‘Moritz,’ he says, ‘ve vill let gone-bys be gone-bys, unt no
monkey business. I vill introduce you to a nice young lady vot got a
rich uncle, unt you can sit unt talk mit her while I go unt haf a good
time. At vun o’clock sharp I vill come back unt keep der agreement.’

“‘Isidore,’ I says, awful proud, ‘vit your nice young ladies I vill got
nodding to do. But to show you dot I ain’d no loafer I vill sit out in
der hall unt trust you.’

“So I took a seat all by myself. My! I felt so foolish in Izzy’s
clothes! Unt Izzy vent inside by der wine-room, where dey was all
drinking beer. ‘Moritz,’ I says to myself, ‘you make a mistake to haf so
much trust in dot false face. Maybe he iss getting spots on der shirt.
Maybe he is spilling beer on der swallow-tailer. He iss not der kind uv
a man to take good care vit a evening dresser. ‘Moritz,’ I says it to
myself, ‘be suspicious!’ Unt dot made me so nervous dot I couldn’t sit
still. So I vent unt took a peek into der wine-room.

“Mein Gott, I nearly vent crazy! Dere vas dot loafer mit a big beer spot
on my shirt in der front, unt drinking a glass of beer unt all der foam
dropping in big, terrible drops on der pants uv der swallow-tailer. I
vent straight to his face unt said, ‘Loafer, der agreement is broke. You
haf got spots on it. You are a false vun!’ Unt den Isidore—loafer vot he
iss—punched me vun right on der nose. Vot could I do? He vas der
commencer. I vas so excited dot I couldn’t say nodding. I punched him
vun back unt den ve rolled on der floor.

“Ve punched like regular prize-fighters. I done my best to keep der
swallow-tailer clean, unt Izzy done der best to keep his suit vot I had
on clean, but dere vas a lot of beer on der floor unt ven der committee
come unt put us out in der street—my! ve looked terrible! But nobody
could make no more monkey business vit me dat night. ‘Izzy,’ I says—I
vas holding him in der neck—‘take dot evening dresser off or else gif up
all hopes!’ I vas a desperate character, unt he could read it in der
tone uv my voice. He took der swallow-tailer off—right out on der
sidewalk uv der street. Den I put it on unt I vas getting all dressed
while he vas standing in his underclothes, trying to insult me. Unt just
ven I got all dressed unt he vas standing mit der pants in his hands
calling me names vot I didn’t pay no attention to, but vot I vill get
revenge for some time, dere comes up a p’liceman. Ve both seen him
together, but I vas a qvicker t’inker as Isidore, so I says, ‘Mister
P’liceman, dis man iss calling me names.’ He vas a Irisher, dot
p’liceman, unt he hit Izzy vun mit his club, unt says, ‘Vot do you mean
by comin’ in der street mitout your clothes on? You are a prisoner!’ So
I says, ‘Good-night, Isidore!’ unt I run across der street to der
Montefiore ball. Dey all looked at me ven I got in like if dey wanted to
talk to me, but I vas t’inking only uv Miss Rabinowitz. I found her by
her mamma.

“‘Miss Rabinowitz,’ I says, ‘I haf kept my word. I promised to come
back, unt here I am!’ She gafe me a look vot nearly broked my heart.
‘You are a drunker,’ she says.

“‘Miss Rabinowitz,’ I says, ‘dem iss hard words.’ ‘Go away,’ she says.
‘You look like a loafer. Instead of helping your friend you haf been
drinking.’ Den her mamma gafe me a look unt says, ‘Drunken loafer, go
‘way from my daughter or I will call der police.’

“Vot could I do? As proud as I could I left her. Den a committee comes
up to me unt says, ‘Moritz, go home. You look sick.’ Dey vas all
laughing. Den somebody says, ‘He smells like a brewery vagon.’ Vot could
I do? I vent home.

“Der next morning Isidore comes home. ‘Moritz,’ he says, ‘you are a
fool.’ I gafe him vun look in his eye. ‘Isidore,’ I says, ‘you are der
biggest loafer I haf efer seen.’ Ve haf never had a conversation since
dot day.

“My! Such a loafer!”



                                DEBORAH


Her name was Deborah. When Hazard first saw her she was sitting on the
steps of a tenement with Berman at her side, Berman’s betrothal ring on
her finger, Berman’s arm around her waist. “Beauty and the beast!”
Hazard murmured as he stood watching them. He was an artist, and a
search for the picturesque had led him into Hester Street—where he found
it.

Presently Hazard crossed the street, and, with a low bow and an air of
modest hesitation that became him well, begged Berman to present his
compliments to the young lady at his side and to ask her if she would
allow an enthusiastic artist to make a sketch of her face. Hester Street
is extremely unconventional. Deborah looked up into the blue eyes of the
artist, and, with a faint blush, freed herself from her companion’s
embrace. Then she smiled and told the artist he could sketch her. In a
twinkling Hazard produced book and pencil. While he sketched they
chatted together, ignoring Berman completely, who sat scowling and
unhappy. When the sketch was finished the artist handed it to Deborah
and begged her to keep it. But would she not come some day to pose for
him in his studio? Her mother or sister or—with a jerk of his thumb—this
sturdy chap at her side could accompany her. And she would be well paid.
Her face fitted wonderfully into a painting he was working on, and he
had been looking for a model for weeks. His mother lived at the studio
with him—the young lady would be well cared for—five or six visits would
be sufficient—a really big painting. Yes. Deborah would go.

When Hazard had departed, Deborah turned to her lover and observed, with
disappointment, that he looked coarse and ill-favoured.

“It is getting late,” she said. “I am going in.”

“Why, _Liebchen_,” Berman protested. “It is only eight o’clock!”

“I am very tired. Good-night!”

Berman sat alone, gazing at the stars, struggling vainly to formulate in
distinct thoughts the depth and profundity of his love for Deborah and
the cause of that mysterious feeling of unrest, of unhappiness, of
portending gloom that had suddenly come over him. But he was a
simple-minded person, and his brain soon grew weary of this unaccustomed
work. It was easier to fasten his gaze upon a single star and to marvel
how its brightness and purity reminded him so strongly of Deborah.

In the weeks that followed he saw but little of Deborah, and each time
he observed with dismay that a change had come over the girl. In the
company of her mother she had been visiting Hazard’s studio regularly,
and the only subject upon which Berman could get her to talk with any
degree of interest was the artist and his work.

“Oh, it is a wonderful picture that he is painting!” she said. “It is
the picture of a great queen, with a man kneeling at her feet, and I am
the queen. I sit with a beautiful fur mantle over my shoulder, and,
would you believe it, before I have been sitting five minutes I begin to
feel as though I really were a queen. He is a great artist. Mamma sits
looking at the picture that he is painting hour after hour. It is a
wonderful likeness. And his mother is so kind to me. She has given me
such beautiful dresses. And not a day goes by but what I learn something
new and good from her. I am so ashamed of my ignorance.”

“Each time I see her,” thought Berman, “she grows more beautiful. How
could anyone help painting a beautiful picture of her? She is growing
like a flower. She is too good, too sweet, too beautiful for me!”

The blow came swiftly, unexpectedly. She came to his home while he sat
at supper with his parents.

“Do not blame me,” she said. “I prayed night after night to God to make
me love you, but it would not come. It is better to find it out before
it is too late. You have been so kind, so good to me that it breaks my
heart. Is it not better to come to you and to tell the truth?”

Berman had turned pale. “Is it the painter?” he whispered. A flood of
colour surged to Deborah’s cheeks. Her eyes fell before his.

“He is a Christian, Deborah—a Christian!” he murmured, hoarsely. Then
Deborah’s colour left her cheeks, and the tears started to her eyes.

“I know it! I know it! But——” Then with an effort she drew herself up.
“It is better that we should part. Good-bye!”

“Good-bye!” said Berman. And his father arose and called after the
departing figure:

“The peace of God go with you!”

With an artist’s eye Hazard had been quick to perceive the beauty of
Deborah, and the possibilities of its development, and, with an artist’s
temperament, he derived the keenest pleasure from watching that beauty
grow and unfold. Her frequent presence, the touch of her hand and cheek
as he helped her to pose, her merry laughter, and, above all, those big,
trusting brown eyes in which he read, as clear as print, her love, her
adoration for himself, all began to have their effect upon him. And, one
day, when they were alone, and suddenly looking up, he had surprised in
her eyes a look of such tenderness and sweetness that his brain reeled,
he flung his brush angrily to the floor and cried:

“Confound it, Deborah, I can’t marry you!”

Deborah, without surprise, without wonderment, began to cry softly: “I
know it! I have always known it!” she said. And when he saw the tears
rolling down her cheeks he sprang to her side and clasped her in his
arms, and whispered words of love in her ear, and kissed her again and
again.

An old story, is it not? Aye, as old as life, as old as sin! And always
the same—so monotonously the same. And always so pitiful. It is such a
tempting path; the roses bloom redder here, and sweeter than anywhere
else in the wide world. But there is always the darkness at the end—the
same, weary darkness—the poor eyes that erstwhile shone so brightly grow
dim in the vain endeavour to pierce it.

Like a flower that has blossomed to full maturity Deborah began to wilt
and fade. Her beauty quickly vanished—beauty in Hester Street is rarely
durable—Deborah grew paler and paler, thinner and thinner. To do him
full justice Hazard was greatly distressed. It was a great pity, he
thought, that Deborah had not been born a Christian. Had she been a
Christian he could have married her without blasting his whole future
career. As it was—Fate had been cruel. Let Hazard have full justice.

But it fell like a thunderbolt upon Berman when Deborah’s mother sent
for him.

“She has been raving for two days, and she keeps calling your name!
Won’t you sit by her bedside for a while? It may calm her!”

His heart almost stopped beating when he beheld how frail and fever-worn
were the features that he had loved so well. When he took her hand in
his the touch burned—burned through to his heart, his brain, his soul.

“Berman will not come!” she cried. “He was kind to me, and I was so
cruel. He will not come!”

Berman tried to speak, but the words stuck in his throat. Then, with
that sing-song intonation of those who are delirious with brain fever,
Deborah spoke—it sounded like the chanting of a dirge: “Ah, he was so
cruel! What did it matter that I was a Jewess! What did it matter that
he was a Christian! I never urged him, because I loved him so! He said
it would ruin his career! But, oh, he could have done it! We would have
been so happy! Once he made the sign of the Cross on my cheek. But I
told him I would become a Christian if he wanted me to. What did I care
for my religion? I cared for nothing but him! But he was so cruel! So
cruel! So cruel!”

It was more than blood could stand. With a cry of anguish Berman fled
from the room. In the dawn of the following day Deborah’s mother, grey
and worn, came out of the tenement. She saw Berman sitting on the steps.
“It is over!” she said. Berman looked at her and slowly nodded. “All
over!” he said.

When Hazard awoke that morning his servant told him that a
strange-looking man wished to see him in the studio. “A model,” thought
Hazard. “Tell him to wait.” Berman waited. He waited an hour. Then the
Oriental curtains rustled, and Hazard appeared. He had walked halfway
across the room before he recognised Berman. He recognised him as the
man who sat beside Deborah when he had first seen her. The man who had
his arm around her waist. The man whom he had referred to as a sturdy
chap—who had, indeed, looked strong and big on that starry night. And
who now loomed before his eyes in gigantic proportions. He recognised
him—and a sudden chill struck his heart. Berman walked toward him.
Without a word, without the faintest warning, he clutched the artist by
the throat, stifling every sound. The artist struggled, as a mouse
struggles in the grasp of a cat. From his pocket Berman drew a penknife.
He could hold his victim easily with one hand. He opened the blade with
his teeth. As a man might bend a reed, Berman bent the artist’s back
until his head rested upon his knee. Then, quickly, he slashed him twice
across the cheek, making the sign of a cross.

“You might have married her!” he whispered, hoarsely. Then he threw the
helpless figure from him and slowly walked out of the room.

The newspapers told next day, how a maniac had burst into the studio of
Hazard, the distinguished young painter, and without the slightest
provocation had cut him cruelly about the face. The police were on the
slasher’s trail, but Hazard doubted if he could identify the man again
if he saw him. “It was so unexpected,” he said. To this day he carries a
curious mark on his right cheek—exactly like a cross.



                            AN INTERRUPTION


In the story books the tragedies of life work themselves out to more or
less tragic conclusions. In real life the most tragic tragedies are
those that have no conclusion—that can have no conclusion until death
writes “Finis!” From which one might argue that many of us would be
better off if we lived in novels. Chertoff, however, lived in Hester
Street, and therefore had to abide by his destiny.

Chertoff was a hunchback. He had a huge head and tremendously long arms
and features of waxen pallor. Children who saw him for the first time
would run from him with fright and would hide in doorways until he had
passed. Yet those who knew him loved him, for under his repellent
exterior throbbed a warm heart, and his nature was kindly and cheering.
In Gurtman’s sweatshop, where he toiled from dawn to nightfall, he was
loved by all—that is, all save Gurtman—for when the day’s task seemed
hardest and the click and roar of the machines chanted the song of
despair that all sweatshop workers know so well, Chertoff would burst
into a lively tune and fill the room with gladness. Then he would gossip
and tell interesting stories and bandy jests with anyone in the room who
showed the slightest disposition to contribute a moment’s gaiety to the
dreary, heart-breaking routine.

It was before the days of the factory inspectors, and conditions were
bad—so bad that if anyone were to tell you how bad they were you would
never believe it. In those days a bright spirit in a sweatshop was no
common thing. One day Gurtman announced that there would be a reduction
of three cents on piece-work, and a great silence fell upon the room. A
woman gasped as if something had struck her. And Chertoff struck up a
merry Russian tune:

                   “_The miller in his Sunday clothes
                   Came riding into Warsaw._”

“Why do you always sing those silly tunes?” Gurtman asked, peevishly.

And then Chertoff closed his eyes and answered:

“Perhaps to save your life! Who knows?”

Then he opened his eyes and laughed, and many laughed with him at the
very silliness of the retort, but the sweater only disliked him the more
for it. It was a curious habit of Chertoff’s to close his eyes when
something stung him, and it worked a startling transformation in his
expression. It was as if a light had been extinguished and a sudden
gloom had overspread his features. The lines became sharp, and something
sinister would creep into his countenance. But in a moment his eyes
would open and a light of kindness would illumine his face.

Twice this transformation had come upon him and had lingered long enough
to make the room uneasy. The first time was when Chertoff’s mother, who
had worked at the machine side by side with her son for five years, was
summarily dismissed. Chertoff had asked the sweater for the reason. In
the hearing of all the room Gurtman had curtly replied:

“She’s too old for work. She’s too slow. I don’t want her.”

They thought that Chertoff was fainting, so ashen and so haggard did his
features become. But when he opened his eyes and smiled the iron rod
that he held in his hands was seen by all to have been bent almost
double. The other time—and oh! how this must have rankled!—was when
Gurtman jestingly taunted Chertoff with being enamoured of Babel. For it
was true. Chertoff, in addition to his skill as a workman, was an expert
mechanic, and was quite valuable in the shop in keeping the sewing
machines in repair. He was sitting under a machine with a big
screw-driver in his hand when Gurtman, in a burst of pleasantry, asked
him if it were true that he loved Babel. For a long time no answer came.
Then the screw-driver rolled to the sweater’s feet, crumpled almost into
a ball, and Chertoff’s merry voice rang out:

“Of course I love Babel! Who does not?”

And then all laughed—all save Babel, who reddened and frowned, for, with
all her poverty and with all the struggle for existence that had been
her lot since she was old enough to tread a pedal, Babel was a sensitive
creature, and did not like to hear her name flung to and fro in the
sweatshop. Was Babel pretty? “When a girl has lovely eyes,” says the
Talmud, “it is a token that she is pretty.” Babel had lovely eyes, and
must, therefore, have been pretty. Yet what matters it? Chertoff was
eating out his heart with vain longing for Babel, suffering all the
tortures of unrequited passion, all the agonies that he suffers who
yearns with all the strength of his being to possess what he knows can
never be his. Is not that the true tragedy of life? So what matters it
if Babel be not to your taste or mine? Chertoff loved her.

He had never told Babel that he loved her; never had asked her whether
she cared for him. He had spared himself added misery. Content to
suffer, he did his best to conceal his hopeless passion, and strove with
all his might to lighten the burden of gloom that was the lot of his
fellow-workers. He never could understand, however, why the sweater had
taken so strong a dislike to him. Surely Gurtman could envy him nothing.
Why should a strong, fine-looking man—a rich man, too, as matters went
in Hester Street—take pleasure in tormenting an ugly, good-natured
cripple? It was strange, yet true. Perhaps it was that Chertoff’s cheery
disposition grated upon the brooding, gloomy temperament of the sweater,
or perhaps the cripple’s popularity in the sweatshop was an offence in
his employer’s eyes, or perhaps it was merely one of those unreasoning
antipathies that one man often feels toward another and for which he can
give not the slightest explanation. It was an undeniable fact, however,
that the sweater hated his hunchback employee, and would never have
tolerated him had Chertoff not been so valuable a workman, and, deeming
it unprofitable to discharge him, vented his dislike in baiting and
tormenting Chertoff whenever an opportunity offered itself. And had it
not been for Babel, Chertoff would have gone elsewhere. Hopeless though
he knew his longing to be, he could not bring himself to part from her
presence.

And so matters went until a summer’s night brought an interruption, and
this interruption is the only excuse for this tale. It had been a busy
day, and the sweatshop was working late into the night to finish its
work. It had been a hot day, too, and men and women were nigh exhausted.
The thermometer was ninety-five in the street, but in this room, you
know, were four tremendous stoves at full blast to keep the irons hot.
And the machines had been roaring almost since daybreak, and the men and
women were pale and weary and half suffocated. Chertoff had been
watching Babel anxiously for nearly an hour. She had lost her pallor and
her face had become slightly flushed, which is a bad sign in a
sweatshop. He feared the strain was becoming too great, and the thoughts
that crowded one upon another in his wearied brain were beginning to
daze him. He made a heroic effort.

“Come, Babel,” he said, “if you will stop work and listen I’ll sing that
song you like.”

“Sing it! Sing it!” cried fifty voices, although no one looked up.

“Not unless Babel stops working,” said Chertoff, smiling.

“Stop working, Babel! Stop working! We want a song!” they all cried. So
Babel stopped working and, with a grateful nod to Chertoff, folded her
hands in her lap and settled herself comfortably in her chair and
fastened her eyes upon the door that led into the rear room. Gurtman was
in this rear room filling the benzine cans.

Chertoff began to sing. It was an old Russian folk-song, and it began
like this:

                   “_Sang a little bird, and sang,
                       And grew silent;
                   Knew the heart of merriment,
                       And forgot it.
                   Why, O little songster bird,
                       Grew you quiet?
                   How learned you, O heart, to know
                       Gloomy sorrow?_”

He had sung this far when the door of the rear room was flung open and
Gurtman, in angry mood, cried:

“In God’s name stop! That singing of yours is making my back as crooked
as yours!”

Chertoff turned swiftly, with arm upraised, but before he could utter a
word a huge flame of fire shot from the open doorway and enveloped the
sweater, and a crash, loud as a peal of thunder, filled the room.

The benzine had exploded. In a twinkling bright flames seemed to dart
from every nook and cranny, and the wall between the two rooms was torn
asunder. Then a panic of screams and frenzied cries arose, and the
workers ran wildly, some to the door, some to the windows that looked
down upon the street four stories below, some trying frantically to tear
their way through the solid walls. The voice of Chertoff rose above the
tumult. “Follow me!” he cried. “Don’t be afraid!” He seized Babel, who
had fainted, laid her gently upon his misshapen shoulder, and led the
way into an adjoining room where the windows opened upon a fire escape.
“Take your time,” he cried. “Follow me slowly down the ladders. There is
no danger.”

Once out of sight of the flames calmness was soon restored, and one by
one they slowly descended the iron ladders, following the lead of the
hunchback with his burden. Babel soon regained consciousness. She looked
wildly from face to face and then, clutching Chertoff’s arm, asked
hoarsely, “Gurtman! Where is he? Is he safe?”

Chertoff smiled. “Do not worry, Babel. He probably will never torment a
human being again!”

Babel relaxed her hold and every drop of blood left her face. She began
to moan pitifully: “I loved him! I loved him!” She buried her face in
her hands and burst into a fit of weeping. Chertoff’s eyes closed. A
look of hatred, unutterable, venomous hatred, flashed into his face. He
swayed to and fro with clenched fists, as though he would fall. Then
swiftly he raised his head, his eyes opened, and a smile overspread his
face. “Wait, Babel,” he whispered. “Wait!” With the agility of a gorilla
he sprang upon the iron ladder and climbed swiftly upward. The bright
moon cast a weird, twisting shadow upon the wall of the house, as of
some huge, misshapen beast. He reached the fourth story and disappeared
through the open window, whence the smoke had already begun to creep.
Presently he reappeared with the form of Gurtman upon his shoulder, and
slowly descended. With the utmost gentleness he laid his burden upon the
ground and placed his hand over the heart. Then he looked up into
Babel’s face.

“He is alive. He is not hurt much.” Then Babel cried as though her heart
would break, and Chertoff—went home.

Gurtman lived. He lived, and in a few days the sweatshop was running
again exactly as it had run before, and everything else went on exactly
as it had gone on before. Perhaps Chertoff’s pale face became a trifle
whiter, but that only brought out his ugliness the more vividly. He was
a splendid workman, and Gurtman could not afford to lose him. Sometimes
when the task was hard he sang that old song:

                   “_Sang a little bird, and sang,
                       And grew silent;
                   Knew the heart of merriment,
                       And forgot it.
                   Why, O little songster bird,
                       Grew you quiet?
                   How learned you, O heart, to know
                       Gloomy sorrow?_”



                              THE MURDERER


When Marowitz arrived at the station-house to report for duty, the
sergeant gazed at him curiously.

“You’re to report at headquarters immediately,” he said. “I don’t know
what for. The Chief just sent word that he wants to see you.”

Marowitz looked bewildered. Summons to headquarters usually meant
trouble. Rewards usually came through the precinct Captain. Marowitz
wondered what delinquency he was to be reprimanded for. He could think
of nothing that he had done in violation of the regulations.

Half an hour later he stood in the presence of the Chief.

“You sent for me,” he said.

The Chief looked at him inquiringly. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Marowitz.”

The Chief’s face lit up. “Oh, yes,” he said. “From the Eldridge Street
station. Do you speak the Yiddish jargon?”

Marowitz drew a long breath of relief.

“Yes, sir,” he answered. “I live in the Jewish quarter.”

“Good,” said the Chief. “I want you to lay aside your uniform and put on
citizen’s clothes. Then go and look for a chap named Gratzberg. He is a
Russian, and is wanted in Odessa for murder. He is supposed to be hiding
somewhere in the Jewish quarter here. You’ll have no trouble in spotting
him if you run across him. Here,”—the Chief drew a slip of paper from
his desk—“here is the cabled description: Height, five feet seven;
weight, about 150 pounds. Has a black beard. Blue eyes. Right ear marked
on top by deep scar.”

He handed the paper to Marowitz.

“Keep your eyes open,” he said, “for marked ears. It’ll be a big thing
for you if you catch him. When I was your age I would have given the
world for a chance like this.”

When Marowitz left headquarters he walked on air. Here was a chance,
indeed. He had been a policeman for nearly six years, and in all that
time there had come no opportunity to distinguish himself through
heroism or skill, or through any achievement, save the faithful
performance of routine duty. His heart now beat high with hope. How
pleased his wife would be! His name would be in all the newspapers. “The
Murderer Caught! Officer Marowitz Runs Him to Earth!” Officer Marowitz
already enjoyed the taste of the intoxicating cup of fame.

In mounting the stairs of the tenement where he lived Marowitz nearly
stumbled over the figure of a little boy who was busily engaged in
playing Indian, lurking in the darkness in wait for a foe to come along.
The next moment the little figure was scrambling over him, shouting with
delight:

“It’s papa! Come to play Indian with Bootsy!”

“Hello, little rascal!” cried the policeman. “Papa can’t play to-day.
Got to go right out after naughty man.”

Suddenly an idea came to him.

“Want to come along with papa, little Boots?” he asked. The little
fellow yelled with joy at the prospect of this rare treat. He was six
years old, and had blue eyes and a winsome face. His real name was
Hermann, but an infantile tendency to chew for hours all the shoes and
boots of the household had fastened upon him the name of “Boots,” by
which all the neighbourhood knew him and loved him. An hour later, and
all that day, and all the next day, and the day after for a whole week,
Marowitz and his little son wandered, apparently in aimless fashion, up
and down the streets of the East Side. The companionship of the boy was
as good as a thousand disguises. It would have been difficult to imagine
anything less detective-like or police-like than this amiable-looking
young father taking his son out for a holiday promenade.

Occasionally they would wander into one or another of the Jewish cafés,
where little Boots ascended to the seventh heaven of joy in sweet drinks
while Marowitz gazed about him, carelessly, for a man with a dark beard
and a marked ear. In one of these cafés, happening to pick up a Russian
newspaper, he read an account of the crime with which this man Gratzberg
was charged. It appeared that Gratzberg, while returning from the
synagogue with his wife, had accidently jostled a young soldier. The
soldier had struck him, and abused him for a vile Jew, and Gratzberg,
knowing the futility of resenting the insult, had edged out of the
soldier’s way, and was passing on when he heard a scream from his wife.
The soldier, attracted by the woman’s comeliness, had thrown his arms
around her, saying, “I will take a kiss from those Jewish lips to wipe
out the insult to which I have been subjected.” In sudden fury Gratzberg
rushed upon the soldier, and, with a light cane which he carried, made a
swift thrust into his face. The soldier fell to the ground, dead. The
thin point of the cane had entered his eye and pierced through into the
brain. Gratzberg turned and fled, and from that moment no man had seen
him.

Marowitz laid down the paper and frowned. He sat for a long time,
plunged in thought. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders, he muttered,
“Duty is duty.” And, taking little Boots by the hand, he resumed his
search for the man with the black beard and the marked ear.

It was a long and tedious search, and almost barren in clues. Two men
whom he approached—men whom he knew—remembered having seen a man who
answered the description, but their recollection was too dim to afford
him the slightest assistance. In the course of the week he had made a
dozen visits to every café, restaurant, and meeting place in the
neighbourhood, had conscientiously patrolled every street, both by day
and by night, had gone into many stores, and followed the delivery of
nearly all the Russian newspapers that came into that quarter. But
without a glimpse of the man with the marked ear.

There came a night when the heat grew so intense, and the atmosphere so
humid and suffocating that nearly every house in the Ghetto poured out
its denizens into the street to seek relief. Numerous parties made their
way to the river, to lounge about the docks and piers, where a light
breeze brought grateful relief from the intense heat.

“Want to go down to the river, Boots?” asked Marowitz.

The lad’s eyes brightened. He was worn out with the heat, and too weary
to speak. He laid his little hand in his father’s, and they went down to
the river. Marowitz walked down a long pier, crowded with people, and
peered into the face of every man he saw. They were all peaceful
workingmen, oppressed by the heat, and seeking rest, and none among them
had marked ears. The cool breeze acted like a tonic upon little Boots.
In a few minutes he had joined a group of children who were running out
and screaming shrilly at play, and presently his merry voice could
plainly be distinguished above all the rest. Marowitz seated himself on
the string-piece at the end of the pier, and leaned his head against a
post in grateful, contented repose. His mind went ruefully over his
week’s work.

“He cannot be in this neighbourhood,” he thought, “else I would have
found some trace of him. I have left nothing undone. I have worked hard
and faithfully on this assignment. But luck is against me. To-morrow I
will have to report—failure.”

It was a depressing thought. He had had his chance and had failed.
Promotion—the rosy dawn of fame—became dimmer and dimmer. Now suddenly
rose a scream of terror, followed instantly by a loud splash. Then a
hubbub of voices and cries. Then, out of the black water, a wild cry,
“Papa! Papa!” Even before the people began to run toward him Marowitz
realised that Boots had fallen into the river. A swift, sharp pang of
dread, of horrible fear, shot through him. He saw the white, upturned
face floating by—sprang swiftly, blindly into the water. And not until
the splash, when the shock of the cold water struck him, at the very
moment when he felt the arms of little Boots envelop him, and felt the
strong current sweeping them along—not until then did Marowitz remember
that he could not swim a stroke.

“Help! Help!” he cried, at the top of his voice. But the lights of the
pier had already begun to fade. The cries of the people were rapidly
dying out into a low hum. It was ebb tide, swift and relentless as
death. A twist in the current carried them in toward another
pier—deserted—and dark—save for a faint gleam of light that shone
through an aperture below the string-piece and threw a dancing trail of
dim brightness upon the water.

“Help! Help!” cried Marowitz, in despair. He heard an answering cry. The
faint light had suddenly been cut off; the opening through which it had
shone had suddenly been enlarged; Marowitz saw the figure of a man
emerge.

“Help! For God’s sake!” he cried.

The man climbed quickly to the top of the pier, shouting something which
Marowitz could not distinguish—seized a great log which lay upon the
pier, and, holding it in his arms, sprang into the water. A few quick
strokes brought him to Marowitz’s side. He pushed forward the log so
that the policeman could grasp it. Then, allowing the current to carry
them down the stream, yet, by slow swimming guiding the log nearer and
nearer toward the shore, the man was finally able to grasp the rudder of
a ship at anchor in a dock. A few moments later they stood upon the
deck, surrounded by the crew of the ship; the loungers of the wharf
alongside gazing down upon them in curiosity. Boots was safe and
uninjured. The moment he felt his feet firmly planted on the ship’s deck
he burst into wild wailing, and Marowitz, with his hand upon his heart,
murmured thanks to God. Then he turned to thank his rescuer, who stood,
with the water dripping from him, under a ship’s lantern. The next
moment Marowitz’s outstretched hand fell, as if stricken, to his side,
and he stood stock still, bewildered. The lantern’s rays fell upon the
man’s ear, illuminating a deep red scar. The water was dripping from the
man’s long black beard. And when he saw Marowitz draw back, and saw his
gaze fastened as if fascinated upon that scarred ear, a ghastly pallor
overspread the man’s face. For a moment they stood thus, gazing at each
other. Then Marowitz strode forward impetuously, seized the man’s hand,
and carried it to his lips, and in the Yiddish jargon said to him:

“You have saved my boy’s life. You have saved my life. May the blessing
of the Lord be upon you!”

Marowitz then took his son in his arms and walked briskly homeward.

“What luck?” asked the Chief next day, when he reported at headquarters.
Marowitz shook his head.

“They must be mistaken. He is not in the Jewish quarter.”

The Chief frowned. Then Marowitz, with heightened colour, said:

“I want to resign. I—I don’t think I’m cut out for a good detective.”

“H’m!” said the Chief. “I guess you’re right.”



                              UNCONVERTED


The Reverend Thomas Gillespie (it may have been William—I am not sure of
his first name) noticed a tall old man with fierce brown eyes standing
in the front of the crowd. Then a stone struck the Reverend Gillespie in
the face. The crowd pressed in upon him, and it would have gone ill with
the preacher if the tall, brown-eyed man had not turned upon the crowd
and, in a voice that drowned every other sound, cried:

“Touch him not! Stand back!”

The crowd hesitated and halted. The tall man had turned his back upon
the Reverend Gillespie, and now stood facing the rough-looking group.

“Touch him not!” he repeated. “He is an honest man. He means us no harm.
He is but acting according to his lights. He is only mistaken. Whoever
throws another stone is an outcast. ‘Before me,’ said the Lord, ‘there
is no difference between Jew and Gentile; he that accomplishes good will
I reward accordingly.’ Friends, go your way!”

In a few minutes the entire crowd had dispersed; the tall man was
helping the clergyman to his feet, and the first “open-air meeting” of
the Reverend Gillespie’s “Mission to the East Side Jews” had come to an
end. The Reverend’s cheek was bleeding, and the tall man helped him
staunch the flow of blood with the aid of a handkerchief that seemed to
have seen patriarchal days.

“Friend,” he then said to the clergyman, “can you spare a few moments to
accompany me to my home? It is close by, and I would like to speak to
you.”

The clergyman’s head was in a whirl. The happenings of the past few
minutes had dazed him. He was a young man and enthusiastic, and this
idea of converting the Jews of the East Side to Christianity was all his
own idea—all his own undertaking, without pay, without hope of reward.
He knew German well, and a little Russian, and it had not taken him long
to acquire sufficient proficiency in the jargon to make himself clearly
understood. Then began this “open-air meeting,” the sudden outburst of
derisive cries and hooting before he had uttered a dozen words of the
solemn exhortation that he had so carefully planned, then the rush and
the stone that had cut his cheek, and—he was only dimly conscious of
this—the sudden interference of the tall man. He was glad to accompany
his rescuer—glad to do anything that would afford a moment’s quiet rest.
The Reverend Gillespie wanted to think the situation over.

The tall man led him into a tenement close by, through the hall, and
across a filthy court-yard into a rear tenement, and then up four foul,
weary flights of stairs. He opened a door, and the clergyman found
himself in a small dark room that seemed, from its furnishings, as well
as from its odours, to serve the purpose of sitting-, sleeping-,
dining-room, and kitchen. In one corner stood a couch, upon which lay an
old man, apparently asleep. His long, grey beard rose and fell upon the
coverlet with his regular breathing; but his cheeks were sunken, and his
hands, that clutched the edge of the coverlet, were thin and wasted.

“Rest yourself,” said the tall man to the clergyman. “You are worn out.”

The clergyman seated himself and drew a long breath of relief. He was
really tired, and sitting down acted like a tonic. He began to thank his
rescuer. It was the first word he had spoken, and his voice seemed to
arouse a sudden fire in the eyes of his rescuer.

“Listen!” he cried, leaning forward, and pointing a long, gaunt finger
at the clergyman. “Listen to me. I have brought you here because I think
you are an honest man. You are like a man who walks in the midst of
light with his eyes shut and declares there is no light. You have come
here to preach to Jews, to beseech them to forsake the teachings of the
Prophets and to believe that the Messiah has come. But to preach to Jews
you must first find your Jews. You were not speaking to Jews. It was not
a Jew who threw that stone at you. It is true the Talmud says, ‘An
Israelite, even when he sins and abandons the faith, is still an
Israelite.’ But you have not come to convert the sinners against Israel.
You have come to convert Jews. And I have brought you here to show you a
Jew.

“That old man whom you see there—no, he is not sleeping. He is dying.
You are shocked? No, he has no disease. Medical skill can do nothing for
him. He is an old man, tired of the struggle of life, worn out, wasting
away. Oh, he will open his eyes again, and he will eat food, too, but
there is no hope. In a few days he will be no more.

“He is a Jew. We came from Russia together, he and I, and we struggled
together, side by side, for nearly a quarter of a century. It did not
take me long to forget many of the things the rabbis had taught me, and
to become impatient of the restraints of religion. But he remained
steadfast, oh, so steadfast! His religion was the breath of life to him;
he could no more depart from it than he could accustom himself to live
without breathing. It was a bitter struggle, year after year, slaving
from break of day until dark, with nothing to save, no headway, no
future, no hope. I often became despondent, but he was always cheerful.
He had the true faith to sustain him; a smile, a cheerful word, and
always some apt quotation from the Talmud to dispel my despondent mood.

“He argued with me, he pleaded with me, he read to me the words of the
law, and the interpretations of the learned rabbis, day after day, month
after month, year after year—always so kind, so gentle, so patient, so
loving. And all the while we struggled for our daily living together and
suffered and hungered, and many times were subjected to insult and even
injury. And he would always repeat from the Talmud, ‘Man should accustom
himself to say of everything that God does that it is for the best.’

“Then Fortune smiled upon him. An unexpected piece of luck, a bold
enterprise, a few quick, profitable ventures, and he became independent.
He made me share his good fortune. We started one of those little
banking houses on the East Side, and so great was the confidence that
all who knew him possessed in him, that in less than a year we were a
well-known, reliable establishment, with prospects that no outsider
would ever have dreamed of. Through all the days of prosperity he
remained a devout Jew. Not a feast passed unobserved. Not a ceremony
went unperformed. Not an act of devotion, of kindness, or of charity
prescribed by the Talmud was omitted by my friend.

“Then came the black day—the great, panic of six years ago—do you
remember it? It came suddenly, on a Friday afternoon, like a huge
storm-cloud, threatening to burst the next morning.

“They came to him—all his customers—in swarms, to ask him if he would
keep his banking place open the next day. ‘No!’ he said. ‘To-morrow is
the Sabbath!’ ‘You will be ruined!’ they cried. ‘We will be ruined!’
‘Friends,’ he said, in his quiet way, ‘I have enough money laid aside to
guard you against ruin, even if all my establishment be wiped from the
face of the earth. But to-morrow is the Sabbath. I have observed the
Sabbath for nearly sixty years. I must not fail to-morrow.’

“And when the morrow came the bank failed, and they brought the news to
him in the synagogue. But he gave no heed to them; he was listening to
the reading of the law. They came to tell him that banks were crashing
everywhere, that the bottom had fallen out of the world of business and
finance. But he was listening to the words that were spoken by Moses on
Sinai.

“And,” the narrator’s eyes filled, and the tears began to roll down his
cheeks, “on the Monday that followed he gave, to every man and to every
woman and to every child that had trusted him, every penny that he had
saved, and he made me give every penny that I had saved. And when all
was gone, and the last creditor had gone away, paid in full, he turned
to me and said, ‘Man should accustom himself to say of everything that
God does that it is for the best!’

“And the next day—yes, the very next day—we applied for work in a
sweater’s shop, and we have been working there ever since.

“We were too old to begin daring ventures over again. I would have clung
to the money we had saved, but he—he was so good, so honest, that the
very thought of it filled me with shame. And now he is worn out.

“In a few days he will die, and I will be left to fight on alone.

“But, oh, my friend, there, lying on that couch, you see a Jew!

“Would you convert him? What would you have him believe? To what would
you change his faith? Ah, you will say there are not many like him. No!
Would to God there were! It would be a happier world.

“But it was faith in Judaism that made him what he was. If I—if all Jews
could only believe in the religion of their fathers as he believed—what
an example to mankind Israel would be!

“My friend, I thank you. You have come with me—you have listened to my
story. I must attend to my friend. May the peace of God be with you!”

The Reverend Thomas Gillespie (although, as I said, it may have been
William) bowed, and, without a word, walked slowly out of the room. His
lips trembled slightly.

The “second outdoor meeting of the Reverend Gillespie’s Mission to the
East Side Jews” has never taken place.



                          WITHOUT FEAR OF GOD

  The thread on which the good qualities of human beings are strung
    like pearls, is the fear of God. When the fastenings of this fear
    are unloosed the pearls roll in all directions and are lost, one
    by one.

                                                —_The Book of Morals._


Be pleased to remember that this tale points no moral, that there is
absolutely nothing to be deduced from it, and that in narrating it I am
but repeating a curious incident that belongs to the East Side. It is a
strange place, this East Side, with its heterogeneous elements, its
babble of jargons. Its noise and its silence, its impenetrable mystery,
its virtues, its romance, and its poverty—above all, its poverty! Some
day I shall tell you something about the poverty of the East Side that
will tax your credulity.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There lived on the East Side once a man who had no fear of God. His name
was Shatzkin, and there had been a time when he was a learned man,
skilled in the interpretation of Talmudic lore, fair to look upon and
strong.

Like many another outcast he had come with his story and his mystery out
of the “poisonous East,” and there was no tie between him and his
neighbours save the tie of Judaism. It is a wonderful bond between men,
this tie of Judaism, a bond of steel that it has taken four thousand
years of suffering and death to forge, and its ends are fastened to
men’s hearts by rivets that are stronger than adamant, and the rabbis
call these rivets “The fear of God.”

The heat of summer came on. You who swelter in your parlour these sultry
days—do you know what the heat of summer means to two families chained
by poverty within a solitary room in a Ghetto tenement, where there is
neither light nor air, where the pores of the walls perspire, where the
stench of decay is ever present, where there is nothing but heat, heat,
heat? You who have read with horror the tale of the Black Hole of
Calcutta—have you seen a child lie upon a bare floor, gasping, and
gasping and gasping for breath amid the roomful of silent people who are
stitching for bread? I would give a year of my life to wipe out a
certain memory that is awakened each time I hear a child cry—it was
terrible.

But I was telling you the story of Shatzkin.

The heat of summer came on, and his youngest-born died in his arms for
lack of nourishment. And while his wife sat wringing her hands and the
other children were crying, Shatzkin laid the lifeless body upon the
bare floor, and, donning his praying cap, raised his voice and chanted:

“Great is my affliction, O God of Israel, but Thou knowest best!”

And it grew hotter, and the other children succumbed.

“You had better send them to the country,” said the doctor, and, seeing
Shatzkin staring at him dumbly, “Don’t you understand what I mean?” he
asked. Shatzkin nodded. He understood full well and—and that night
another died, and Shatzkin bowed his head and cried:

“Great is my affliction, O God of Israel, but Thou knowest best!”

Within a week the Shatzkins were childless—it was a terrible summer—and
when the congregation B’nai Sholom assembled upon the following Sabbath
and the rabbi spoke words of comfort, Shatzkin, with his face buried in
his hands, murmured:

“My sorrow is nigh unbearable, O God of Israel, but Thou knowest best!”

And now the heat grew greater, and the sweatshops, with all their
people, were as silent as the grave. The men cut the cloth and ironed
it, and the women stitched, stitched, stitched, with never a sound, and
there was no weeping, for their misery was beyond the healing power of
tears.

Shatzkin’s wife fell to the floor exhausted, and they carried her to her
room above, and sent for a doctor.

“The sea air would do her good,” said the doctor.

“The sea air,” repeated Shatzkin, stupidly. “The sea air.”

“Keep her as cool as you can. I will call again in the morning.”

“The sea air,” was all that Shatzkin said. “The sea air.”

In the middle of the night the woman cried, “Shatzkin! Shatzkin!”

He looked down, for her head lay upon his lap.

“Shatzkin!” She was smiling feebly. “The baby—Aaron—Esther—dear
Shatzkin——”

                  *       *       *       *       *

The congregation of B’nai Sholom had assembled for Sabbath eve worship.
The rabbi was in the midst of the service.

“Blessed be God on high!” he read from the book. “Blessed be the Lord of
Israel, who holds the world in the palm of His hand. For He is a
righteous God——”

“Ho! ho!” shouted a derisive voice. The startled worshippers hastily
turned their heads. They beheld a gaunt figure that had risen in the
rear of the room, and seemed to be shaking with laughter. It was
Shatzkin, but so pale and worn that few recognised him.

“Who are you that disturb this holy service?” cried the rabbi. “Have you
no fear of God in your heart?”

The man ceased laughing and stared the rabbi in the eyes. “No,” he said,
slowly. “I have no fear of God.”

A terrible hush had fallen upon the assemblage, and the man, looking
vacantly from one to another of the faces that were turned to him, said,
in a hollow voice:

“I am Shatzkin. Does no one remember Shatzkin? I sat here only last
week,” and, slowly, “my—wife—went—to—the—seashore!”

The rabbi’s face softened.

“Good, brother Shatzkin,” his voice was trembling. “God has tried——”

“You lie!” cried Shatzkin, fiercely. “Do not speak to me of God! I have
no fear of Him! He killed my youngest-born, and I prayed to Him—on my
knees I prayed and cried, ‘Thou knowest best!’ And He killed the
others—all the others, and I blessed Him and on my knees I prayed, ‘Thou
knowest best!’ And He killed my wife—my darling wife—in my arms He
killed her. And I am alone—alone—alone, and I fear no God!
Curse—curse—curse! Ha! ha! ha! ho! ho! ho! Why should I fear God?”

And throwing a prayer-book to the floor he trampled it under foot, and
rushed out into the street.

                  *       *       *       *       *

For many years there worked in one of the sweatshops on the East Side a
shrivelled little man, with keen blue eyes, who was always laughing.
From sunrise until midnight he toiled, sometimes humming an old melody,
but always with a smile upon his lips. The other workers laughed and
chatted merrily in the winter time, and became grave and silent in the
summer, but rarely did they pay attention to the old man who seemed
always happy. Strangers that visited the place were invariably attracted
by the cheerful aspect of the man, but when they spoke to him he would
smile and answer:

“I must earn money to send my wife to the sea air!”

And if they asked, “Who is this man?” they would be told in a whisper of
awe:

“He has no fear of God!”

And then a significant shake of the head.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The heat of summer is here again. Shatzkin has been dead a long time,
and the story is almost forgotten. But in the Ghetto each day his cry is
repeated, and through the heat and the foul air there arises from a
thousand hearts the tearless murmur:

“Great is my affliction, O God of Israel, but Thou knowest best!”



                           THE SUN OF WISDOM


“And therefore,” concluded Salvin, stroking his long, grey beard, “we
are forced to accept the belief that the object of life is toil. We are
the advance guard cutting out the road down which the next generation
will travel, who, in turn, will carry the road further along. Our work
done—our usefulness ends. We have accomplished our mission, and nothing
remains but to make way for our successors.”

Young Levine smiled, and rose to go.

“You are wrong, my pessimistic brother,” he said, fondly laying his hand
upon the old man’s shoulder. “You are wrong. Some day the sun of wisdom
may shine upon you and you will learn the truth.”

Salvin had been the friend of Levine’s father, and, despite the
inequality of their ages, a firm friendship existed between him and the
son. He now blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling, and with a smile of
amusement gazed at the young man.

“And what, O Solomon,” he asked, “may the sun of wisdom have taught
you?”

Levine’s face lit up.

“The object of life,” he said, speaking swiftly and earnestly, “is love.
It begins with love; it ends with love. Without love life has no object.
It is, then, mere aimless, wondering, puzzling existence during which
the mind—like yours—struggles vainly to solve the riddle of why and
wherefore. But those who have once had the truth pointed out to them are
never in doubt. To them love explains all. Without love you cannot know
life.”

Salvin smiled, and then, as the young man departed, his face grew
serious. He sat for a long time plunged in deepest thought. Strange
memories must have crowded upon him, for his eyes softened, and the
lines of his face relaxed their tension.

But at the end of it he only sighed and shook his head gently and
muttered, “It is toil! Not love! Toil!”

Levine, meanwhile, was walking back to his work. He was a compositor in
the printing-shop of the _Jewish Workingman_, and it had been his
custom, for years, to meet his friend Salvin at the noonday meal in
Weiss’s café, where they discussed those problems of life that perplex
the minds of thinking men. One problem, Levine felt, had been solved—had
been finally and definitely made clear. And the magic had all been
worked by Miriam’s eyes—coal-black eyes that now seemed the alpha and
omega of all his existence. For Levine, the object of life was Miriam.
The sun rose in order that he might look upon her. It set in order that
night might bring her sweet repose.

The seasons—what were they but a varying background against which the
panorama of love could unfold itself? He toiled—for Miriam. He lived—for
Miriam. He thought—always of Miriam. Could there be a simpler
explanation of the mysteries of existence? Poor old Salvin! Poor, blind
pessimist! After so much pondering to achieve nothing better than that
hopeless creed! Toil? Yes, but only as a step toward love—as a means
toward the higher end. If man were created for toil, then man were
doomed to everlasting animal existence. Whereas love raised him to
higher planes, transformed him into a higher, nobler being. Could life
desire a sublimer object?

Levine trod on air. In his workshop the walls, the lights, the
papers—all that surrounded him—sang to him of love. The presses chanted
the melody of Miriam’s eyes all the livelong day. The very stones in the
street seemed to him to sing it: “She is fair! She is fair! She is
fair!” and “Love is all! Love is all! Love is all!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

One day they were married. Salvin was there, with a hearty clasp of the
hand for his friend, and a kiss and a blessing for the bride. And
laughingly Levine whispered into his ear, “It is love!” But Salvin was
stubborn. He smiled and shook his head playfully. But what he whispered
in return was, “It is toil!”

They were married, and the universe joined with them in their pæan of
love—love that, like the wind, “bloweth where it listeth, and thou
hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and
whither it goeth.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Do you know that kind of woman whose temperament is like the smiling
sunshine? Miriam was one of these. A light, happy heart—a nature that
gloried in the joy of existence—ever ready to sing, to smile, to
frolic—sympathetic to all woe, yet realising sorrow only as an external
affliction, whose sting she could see, but had never felt—the soul of
merriment was Miriam. Her lot in life was an humble one; her task had
been severe; but through it all that sunshiny nature had served as a
shield to ward off the blows of life. Once—there was a man. For a few
hours Miriam’s brow had puckered in deep thought. But the man had been
foolish enough to ask for a capitulation—for unconditional surrender—ere
the battle had been half fought, and Miriam had shaken her head and had
passed him by. Then Levine had come. There was a delicate, poetic strain
in his nature that had immediately appealed to her, and his soft words
fell upon willing ears. He had wooed her gently, tenderly,
caressingly—in marked contrast to the tempestuous courtship that had
failed—and he had won. It “bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it
goeth!”

Love’s eyes are keen, and Levine was quick to see the change that slowly
came over his wife. He could not have explained it; there was no name
for it; it baffled analysis. The first time he spoke to her about it she
laughed and threw her arms around his neck, saying, “Can’t you see that
I am growing older? You cannot expect your wife to remain a silly,
giggling girl all her life.”

The second time he spoke to her about it she gave the same answer. She
did not embrace him, however. And when she had answered him her face
became thoughtful. He spoke to her about it a third time. She looked at
him a long time before speaking. Then she said, slowly:

“Yes. I feel like a different woman. But I don’t understand it.” He did
not offer to kiss her that night, as was his custom, but waited for her
to make the first advance. She did not seem to notice the omission.

He never spoke to her about the matter again. He never kissed her again.

The marvels of a woman’s mind, the leaps and bounds of the emotions, the
gamut of passion upon which her fancy plays and lingers—all these are
the despair of psychology. Yet their manifestation is sufficiently
clear. How it came or whence it came, or why it came, even Miriam
herself could not tell. But as a flash of lightning on an inky night
reveals with vivid clearness what the darkness conceals, so the sudden
revelation that she adored the man whom she had rejected lit up, for a
brief moment, the gloom that had fallen upon her heart and laid bare the
terrible dreary prospect of her life. It came like a thunderbolt. She
loved him. She had always loved him. He was the lord and master whom her
heart craved. The fire had been smouldering in her heart. Now it leaped
into devouring flame. He loved her! He had fallen upon his knees and had
tried to drag her toward him. He had sworn that his life would be
wretched without her. And now that she was married he had thrown all the
energies of his heart and soul into incessant toil in order that he
might forget her. Married? She, the wife of Levine? A cry of despair
broke from her lips.

Ah, yes. The lightning flash had passed. But she remembered what its
brightness had revealed. She knew now!

For a long time—for many weeks—she often felt an almost irresistible
impulse to scream aloud, so that her husband—so that all the world might
hear: “I love him! Him only! No one but him.” But the heart learns to
bear even agony in silence. Miriam settled down into the monotonous
groove that fate had marked out for her. The revelation that had come to
her so suddenly developed into a wall that rose between her and her
husband. An invisible wall, yet each felt its presence, and after many
ineffectual attempts to surmount this barrier, to woo and win her heart
anew, Levine abandoned the effort and yielded to despair. She never told
him, and he never knew—never even suspected. But after that they lived
in different worlds—each equally wretched. For there is only one other
lingering misery on earth that can compare with the lot of a woman who
is married to one man with her heart and soul bound up in another. It is
the lot of her husband.

For Miriam there was no consolation. Her secret was buried in her inmost
soul; she was doomed to live out her life brooding over it. During the
day she often cried. When her husband came home she met him with a calm
face—often with a smile—and then they would sit and talk over trivial
matters the while that her agony was eating into her heart.

And Levine—the torments that he endured were beyond all description! Of
a sensitive temperament, yet endowed with a clear, critical, philosophic
intellect, he sought for an explanation and a remedy in a scrutiny of
every incident of their married life, in self-analysis, in the keenest
introspection, and found nothing but that insurmountable wall. Nothing
seemed credible or tangible save that dull gnawing pain in his heart.
Once or twice the thought of self-destruction entered his head. Why he
thrust it aside he could not say. He was not a coward. The prospect of
fighting his way through life with that burden of misery upon his soul
possessed infinitely more terrors for him than the thought of suicide.
Nor did he pursue the suggestion sufficiently to come to the conclusion
that it was unworthy. It was an alien thought, foreign to his nature,
and could find no lodgment. That was all. He lived on and suffered.

Have you ever heard of Levine, the poet? He is a compositor in the
printing-shop of the _Jewish Workingman_ by day—he writes poetry, and,
occasionally, short prose articles at night. He is not a genius. He is
not a born singer. But his work is strong in its sincerity, and through
it all runs a strain—that world-old strain of pleading—of weakness
pleading for strength, of the oppressed pleading for justice. He is not
a great poet, but among the readers of the _Jewish Workingman_, and
among the loiterers in the East Side cafés, he is looked upon as a
“friend of the masses.” And what they all marvel at is his prodigious
industry. A day’s work in the composing-room of the _Jewish Workingman_
is a task calculated to sap a man’s vitality to its last drop. Yet, this
task completed, Levine throws himself with feverish activity into the
composition of verse, and writes, and writes, and writes, until the lamp
burns low. Sometimes, when he tires, he pauses to listen to the gentle
breathing of his wife, who sleeps in the next room. It acts like a spur
upon him; with renewed energy he plunges into his work.

The poem which the readers of the _Jewish Workingman_ like best of all
Levine’s writings is “Phantoms.” It ends—roughly translated from the
Yiddish—like this:

            _And when the deepening gloom of night descends
            Upon the perilous path and towering heights,
            And wild storm phantoms crowd each rocky pass—
            Love sinks exhausted, but grim Toil climbs on!_



                          A DAUGHTER OF ISRAEL


There was a young man with a Christian heart and blue eyes—eyes that
made you look at him again and smile at his earnestness—who went among
the lowly Jews of the East Side to convert them to the faith of the
Messiah whom they disowned. Those blue eyes fell, one day, upon a head
of hair that gleamed like gold, fiery, red hair, silken and carelessly
tangled, and shining in the sunlight. Then the head turned and the young
man beheld the face of Bertha, daughter of Tamor, the rabbi. And Bertha
opened her eyes, which were brown, and gazed curiously at this young man
who seemed out of place in the Ghetto, and smiled and turned away.

A year went by and the Jews still disowned the Messiah, but a great
change had come over this young man. In the vague future he still hoped
to carry out his daring scheme, but now all his heart and all his soul
and all his hopes of earthly happiness were centred upon Bertha,
daughter of Tamor, the rabbi.

In the beginning she had been amused at him, but his persistence and his
earnestness won their reward, as those qualities always will, and when
this first year was at an end it came to pass that this Jewish maiden
wept, as a loving woman will weep, for sheer joy of being loved; she a
rabbi’s daughter, bred in the traditions of a jealous faith, he a
Christian lad.

She had kept the secret of her growing love locked in her heart, but now
it became a burden too heavy to be borne, and one night—it was shortly
before the fast of Yom Kippur—she poured out her confession into her
father’s ear. She told it in whispers, hiding her face in her father’s
long beard, and with her arms around his neck. When the full meaning of
the revelation dawned upon him, the Rabbi Tamor, ashen pale, sprang from
his feet and thrust her from him.

“A Christian!” he cried. “My daughter marry a Christian!”

He was an old man—so old and feeble that in a few days the synagogue had
planned to retire him and install a younger rabbi in his place. But now
fury gave him strength. His whole frame trembled, but his eyes were
flashing fire, and he had raised his arm as if he were about to strike
his daughter to the floor. But she did not move. Her eyes were raised to
his, tearfully but undismayed.

“Do not strike me, father,” she said. “I cannot help it. I love him. I
have promised to marry him. Will you not give me your blessing?”

“Blessings?” cried the infuriated old man. “My curses upon you if you
take so foul a step! Your mother would rise from her grave if you
married a Christian! How dare you tell such a thing to me—to me, who
have devoted so many years to bringing you up in the faith to which I
have devoted my life? Is there no son of Israel good enough for you?
Must you bring this horrible calamity upon me in my old age? Would you
have me read you out of the congregation? If it were the last act of my
rabbinate—aye, if it were the last act of my life, I would read out
aloud, so that all the world would know my shame, the ban of
excommunication that the synagogue would impose upon you! Have I brought
you up for this?”

But Bertha had swooned, and his rage fell upon ears that did not hear.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The cup of bitterness was full. Rabbi Tamor knew his daughter, knew the
full strength of her nature, the steadfastness of her purpose. He had
pleaded, expostulated, argued, and threatened, but all in vain. And to
add to his misery he saw in all his daughter’s passionate devotion to
her lover something that reminded him more and more vividly of the wife
whom he had courted and loved and cherished until death took her from
him. Many years had gone by, but whenever his memory grew dim, and her
features began to grow indistinct, he had only to look at his daughter
to see them before him again, in all their youthful beauty. His
daughter, the image of his dead wife, to marry a Christian! It was the
bitterness of gall!

The Rabbi Tamor’s father and grandfather had been rabbis before him, and
in his veins surged the blood of devotion to Israel’s cause. He had been
in this country many years, but the roots of his life had been planted
in Russia, in a Ghetto where the traditions of thousands of years still
survived in daily life, and in spirit he still dwelt there. To him
Christianity meant oppression, persecution, torture. His nature was
stern and unbending; there could be no compromise, no palliation; the
sinner against Israel was like a venomous serpent that must be crushed
without argument. And now his duty was clear.

When the officials of the synagogue met, a few days before Yom Kippur,
the Rabbi Tamor, pale and trembling, but firm in his determination, laid
before them the case of a young woman who had resolved to marry outside
her faith. The officials listened, horror-stricken, but turned to him
for the verdict. He was a wise man, they knew, learned in Mishna and
Thora, and they had become accustomed to abide by his decisions.

“The warning!” he said, in a low voice. “Let us read aloud the warning
of the ban!”

The new rabbi, who by courtesy had been invited to the meeting, and who
had listened with interest to Rabbi Tamor’s narrative, raised his hand
and leaned forward as if he were about to speak. But when he heard the
clerk ask for the girl’s name, and heard Rabbi Tamor, in a hoarse,
stifling voice, answer, “Bertha Tamor, my—my daughter!” his hand fell
and the words died upon his lips. But he frowned and sat for a long time
plunged in deep thought.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Upon the Day of Atonement Bertha fasted. She, too, had gone through a
bitter struggle. For a nature like hers to abandon the faith of her race
meant a racking of every fibre of soul and body. She had not slept for
three nights. Her face was pale, and her eyes were encircled with black
shadows. But through all her misery, through all the distress that she
felt over her father’s grief, she could not subdue the throbbing of
exulting joy that pulsed through her veins, nor blot out from her mind
the blue eyes of her lover or the ardour of his kisses. But grief and
joy only combined to wear out her vitality; she felt despondent,
depressed.

The sun began to sink below the housetops. The day’s fasting and prayer
were slowly coming to an end. Bertha went to the synagogue, where, all
that day, since sunrise, her father had been praying. The news of the
proposed reading of the warning had spread, and when Bertha entered the
gallery set aside for women in the synagogue, she felt every eye upon
her.

The Yom Kippur service is long, and to him who knows the story of
Israel, intensely impressive. When it drew near its close the Rabbi
Tamor slowly rose, and with trembling hands unfolded a paper. Several
times he cleared his throat as if to speak, but each time his voice
seemed to fail him. The silence of death had fallen upon the
congregation.

“Warning!” he began. He was clutching the arm of the man who stood
nearest him to steady himself.

“Warning of the ban of excommunication upon the daughter of——”

“Stop!”

The new rabbi, seated among the congregation, had risen, and was walking
rapidly toward the platform. A wave of excitement swept through the
hall. Rabbi Tamor’s hand fell to his side. For a moment a look of relief
came into his face. His duty was a terrible one, and any interruption
was welcome. When the new rabbi reached the platform he began to speak.
His voice was low and musical, and after the harsh, strident tones of
their old rabbi, fell gratefully upon every ear. He was a young man, of
irregular, rather unprepossessing features, and looked more like an
energetic sweatshop worker than a learned rabbi. But when he began to
speak, and the congregation beheld the light that came into his eyes,
every man in that hall felt, instinctively, “Here is a teacher of
Israel!”

“It is irregular,” he began, in his soft voice. “I am violating every
law and every rule. But this is the Day of Atonement, and I would be
untrue to my faith, to my God and to you, my new children, were I to
keep silent.”

When Bertha, in her place in the gallery, realised what her father was
about to do she had become as pale as a ghost, and had clutched the
railing in front of her, and had bitten her lip until the blood came to
keep from crying aloud in her anguish. And she had sat there motionless
as a statue, seeing nothing but her father’s pale face and the misery in
his eyes. When the new rabbi arose and began to speak, she became dazed.
The platform, the ark, and all the people below and around her began to
swim before her eyes. She felt faint, felt that she was about to become
unconscious, when a sudden passionate note that had come into the
speaker’s voice acted like a tonic upon her, and then, all at once, she
became aware that the vigorous, magnetic personality of the new rabbi
had taken possession of the whole synagogue, and after that her eyes
never left his face while he was speaking.

“‘The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is
my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation; my father’s God, and I will
exalt Him!’

“So sang Moses unto the Lord, and so year after year, century after
century, through the long, weary dragging-out of the ages, have we, the
children of Israel, sung it after him. Our temples have been shattered,
our strength has been crushed, all the force, all the skill, all the
cunning of man have been used to scatter us, to persecute us, to torture
us, to wipe us off the face of the earth. But through it all arose our
steadfast song. He was our fathers’ God! We will exalt Him!”

And then the speaker launched upon the story of Israel’s martyrdom. In a
voice that vibrated with intense emotion he recited that world-tragedy
of Israel’s downfall, her shame, her sufferings throughout the slow
centuries. The sorrow of it filled Bertha’s heart. She was following
every word, every gesture, as if the recital fascinated her. It is a sad
story—there is none other like it in the world. Bertha felt the pain of
it all in her own heart. And then he told how, through it all, Israel
remained steadfast. How, under the lash, at the point of the knife, in
the flames of the stake, Israel remained steadfast. How, in the face of
temptation, with the vista of happiness, of wealth, of empire opening
before her, if only she would renounce her faith—Israel remained
steadfast. And he told of the great ones, the stars of Israel, who had
chosen death rather than renounce their faith, who had preferred
ignominy, privation, torture before they would prove untrue to their
God.

“He is our fathers’ God!” he cried. “Is there a daughter of Israel who
will not exalt Him?”

There was a moment of breathless silence. Then arose a piercing cry from
the gallery. Bertha had sprung to her feet.

“I will be true!” she cried. “I will be steadfast! He is my fathers’ God
and I will exalt Him!”

A commotion arose, and men and women ran forward to seize her by the
hand. But she brushed them all aside and walked determinedly toward the
new rabbi. She seized his hand and carried it to her lips.

“He is my fathers’ God,” she said. “I will exalt Him!”

And repeating this, again and again, she hurried out of the synagogue.
The elders crowded around her father and congratulated him.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It is but a short distance from the heart of the Ghetto to the river,
and in times of poverty and suffering there are many who traverse the
intervening space. The river flows silently. Occasionally you hear the
splash of a wave breaking against the wharf, but the deep, swift current
as it sweeps resistlessly out to sea makes no sound.

They brought to Rabbi Tamor, many hours afterward, the shawl which she
had left behind her on the wharf. They took him to the spot, and stood
near him, lest in his grief he might attempt to throw himself into the
water. But he only stood gazing with undimmed eyes at the dark river,
babbling incoherently. Once he raised his hand to his ear.

“Hark!” he whispered. “Do you hear?”

They listened, but could hear nothing.

“It is her voice. She is crying, ‘I will exalt Him!’ Do you hear it?”

But they turned their heads from him to hide the tears.



                        THE MESSAGE OF ARCTURUS


David Adler sat at the open window gazing contemplatively at the sea of
stars whose soft radiance filled the heavens. He was lonely. The stars
were his friends. Particularly one bright star whose steadfastness,
throughout his many night vigils, had arrested his attention. It seemed
to twinkle less than the others, seemed more remote and purer. It was
Arcturus.

To a lonely person, fretting under the peevish worries of life, the
contemplation of the stars brings a feeling of contentment that is often
akin to happiness. Beside this glorious panorama, with its background of
infinity and eternity, its colossal force, its sublime grandeur, the
ills of life seem trivial. And David, who had been lonely all his life,
would sit for hours upon each bright night, building castles along the
Milky Way and pouring out his soul to the stellar universe—particularly
to Arcturus, who had never failed him. Upon this night there was a faint
smile of amusement upon his face. He was thinking of the queer mission
that Mandelkern, his employer, had asked him to undertake that day.

Mandelkern was old and crabbed and ugly, but very rich, and when that
morning he had said to David, “I am thinking of marrying,” David felt an
almost uncontrollable desire to laugh. Then, in his wheezy voice,
Mandelkern had outlined his plan.

“The Shadchen has arranged it all. She is younger than I—oh, a great
many years younger, David—and she does not know me. We have only seen
each other once. Of course she is marrying me for my money, but I know
that when once we are married she will love me. But the trouble is,
David, that I cannot find out for myself, positively, whether she is the
kind of girl I want to marry. You see, if I were to go and see her
myself, she would be on her good behaviour all the time. They always
are. And I would not know, until after we were married, whether she is
amiable, dutiful, studious, modest—in short, whether she is just what a
girl should be. And then it would be too late. So I want you, like the
good David that you are, to see her—don’t you know?—and get acquainted
with her—don’t you know?—and er—question her—er—study her—don’t you
know?” David had promised to do what he could and they had shaken hands,
and the firm, hearty pressure of his employer’s grasp had told him, more
than words could convey, how terribly earnest he was in his curiosity.

By the light of the stars David now sat pondering over this droll
situation and smiling. And as he gazed at his friend Arcturus it seemed
to him, after all, a matter of the smallest moment whether Mandelkern
married the right girl or not—or married at all—or whether anybody
married—or lived—or died.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On the pretext of a trivial errand David set out to study the
personality and character of his employer’s chosen bride. The moment his
eyes fell upon her the pretext that he had selected fled from his mind.
In sheer bewilderment he stood looking at her. And when her face lit up
and she began to laugh merrily, David was ready to turn and run in his
embarrassment. He beheld a mere girl. She could not have been more than
eighteen or nineteen at the most, and, although her figure was mature,
her face and bearing were girlish. And she was exquisitely pretty. At
the very first impression it seemed to David that he perceived a cold
gleam in her eye that betokened sordidness or meanness, but in a
twinkling he perceived that he had been mistaken. A winsome sweetness
rested upon her lovely features. It was probably the unconscious memory
of Mandelkern that had given that momentary colour to his thoughts. And
now, even before he had completed his admiring inventory of her physical
charms, she stood laughing at him.

“You look so funny,” she said. “I cannot help laughing.”

Then David began to laugh, and in a moment they were friends. To his
delight he found that she was clever, a shrewd observer, an entertaining
companion. Many things that she said awakened no response in him. It was
not until later that he discovered the reason; she had lived all her
young years in the active world, in touch with the struggle, the stir of
life; he had lived in dreamland with the stars.

When Mandelkern asked David what impression the girl had made upon him,
he found, to his amazement, that he was unable to give a satisfactory
reply.

“She is charming, Mr. Mandelkern,” he said. His employer nodded assent,
but added:

“I know that, but is she amiable?”

David pondered for a long time. Then he said:

“Of course, Mr. Mandelkern, I have had no more opportunity of judging
what her qualities are than you have. I will have to see more of her.
But I will go to see her several times, and probably in a week or two
weeks I shall be able to give you a clear idea of her character.”

Mandelkern nodded approvingly.

“You are a good David,” he said. “I have confidence in your judgment.”

And the stars that night seemed brighter, particularly his friend
Arcturus, who shone with wonderful splendour and filled David’s heart
with deep content—and the pulsing joy of living.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When the revelation came to him David felt no shock, experienced no
surprise. She had been so constantly in his thoughts, had drifted so
quietly into his life, that, when suddenly he realised that she had
become a part of his being, it seemed but the natural order of events.
It could have been nothing else. He had been born into the world for
this. Through all their many talks the name of Mandelkern had never been
mentioned. In the beginning the thought of this sweet, girlish nature
being doomed to mate itself with grey, blear-eyed Mandelkern had haunted
him like a nightmare. But in the sunshine of her presence David quickly
forgot both his employer and the scheming Shadchen, and when it dawned
upon him that he loved her, that she was necessary to him, that it was
in the harmonious plan of the universe that they should be united
forever, the thought of Mandelkern came only as a reminder of the
unpleasant duty of revealing the truth to him.

Not a word of love had he spoken. Upon a basis of close friendship there
had sprung up between them a spirit of camaraderie in which sentiment
played no part. Now, suddenly, David felt toward her a tenderness that
he had never known before—a desire to protect her, to cherish her—he
loved her.

It dawned upon Mandelkern that David’s answers to his questions were
becoming more and more vague and unsatisfactory. And one night the
Shadchen, becoming alarmed at David’s frequent visits to the girl, urged
Mandelkern to make haste.

“It makes me uneasy,” he said, “to see you sitting idle while a young
man has so many opportunities of courting your promised bride.”

Mandelkern’s watery eyes narrowed to a slit and his teeth closed tightly
together. Then he answered firmly:

“Have no fear. She will be mine. The lad is, young.” And after a moment
he repeated, “The lad is young!”

Aye, David was young! His pulses throbbed with the vigour of youth, with
the joy of hope, with the deep torrent of a heart’s first love. Glorious
youth! Thou art the richest heritage of the children of men! Canst thou
not tarry? Down the bright beam of Arcturus there came to David a light
that illumined his soul. Sitting at his window with gaze upturned to the
starry heavens, there came to him the soft, sweet realisation that the
secret of the universe was love, that life’s cup of happiness was at his
lips, that Arcturus had been but waiting all these millions upon
millions of years to see the veil lifted from his eyes, and the bliss of
love revealed. Golden youth! Canst thou not tarry?

                  *       *       *       *       *

They were walking along the street as night was falling. They were
laughing and chatting gaily, discussing a droll legend of the Talmud
that David had recited to her.

“It reminds me,” said David, “of a story about the Rabbi ben Zaccai,
who——”

A sudden moan and faint cry made him pause and quickly turn. A woman
whom they had just passed was staggering with her hands pressed to her
breast. David sprang toward her, but before he could reach her side she
had fallen to the sidewalk, and lay there motionless. In an instant he
had raised her to her knees, and was chafing her wrists to restore her
to consciousness. She recovered quickly, but as soon as David had helped
her to her feet she began to cry weakly, and would have fallen again had
he not supported her.

“What is the matter?” he asked. “Are you ill?”

The woman’s sobs increased, and David repeated his question. Then, with
the tears streaming down her face, she answered:

“I have eaten nothing for three days. I am starving. I cannot beg. I
cannot die. Oh, I am so miserable!”

David assisted her to the steps of the tenement in which she lived, and
summoned her neighbours. He gave them what little money he had in his
pocket, urged them to make haste and bring the poor woman food and
stimulants, and, promising to return the next day, rejoined his
companion.

“My God!” he said, “wasn’t that terrible!”

“Yes. It was terrible!” she said. There was an expression in her voice
that caused him to look at her, quickly, wonderingly. Her face had
paled. Her lips were tightly pressed together. She was breathing
rapidly. Her whole frame seemed agitated by some suppressed emotion. It
was not pity. Her eyes were dry and gleaming. It was not shock or
faintness. There was an expression of determination, of emphatic resolve
in her features. David felt amazed.

“Look at me!” he said. “Look me full in the face!”

She gave a short, harsh laugh. In her eyes David saw that same gleam of
sordid selfishness that he had observed when first he met her. But now
it was clear, glittering, unmistakable.

“Of what are you thinking?” he asked, slowly. Her glance never wavered.
David felt the beating of his heart grow slower.

“I don’t mind telling you,” she said. She hesitated for a moment, gave
another short laugh, and then went on:

“I was thinking that that poor woman would not have starved if she had
married Mandelkern. I was also thinking that I am going to marry
Mandelkern. I was also thinking how terrible it would be if I did not
marry Mandelkern, and would, some day, have starvation to fear—like that
woman.”

Having unburdened her mind, she seemed relieved, and, in a moment became
her old self. With a playful gesture she seized David’s arm and shook
him.

“Come, sleepyhead, wake up!” she cried gaily. “Don’t stand there staring
at me as though I were a ghost. What were you saying about the Rabbi ben
Zaccai?”

                  *       *       *       *       *

David Adler sat at the open window gazing at the swarming stars, whose
radiance had begun to pale. The dawn of day was at hand. Even now a
faint glow of light suffused the eastern sky. But David saw it not. His
eyes were fastened upon Arcturus, whose brightness was yet undimmed,
whose lustre transcended the brightness of the myriads of stars that
crowded around. Travelling through the immeasurable realms of space,
straight to his heart, streamed that bright ray, the messenger of
Arcturus, cold, relentless—without hope.



                           QUEER SCHARENSTEIN


“Scharenstein?” they would say. “Oh, Scharenstein is queer! He is
good-hearted, poor fellow, but——”

Then they would tap their foreheads significantly and shake their heads.
He had come from a hamlet in Bessarabia—a hamlet so small that you would
not find it on any map, even if you could pronounce the name. The whole
population of the hamlet did not exceed three hundred souls, of whom all
but three or four families were Christians. And these Christians had
risen, one day, and had fallen upon the Jews. Scharenstein’s wife was
stabbed through the heart, and his son, his brown-eyed little boy, was
burned with the house. Upon Scharenstein’s breast, as a reminder of an
old historical episode, they hacked a crude sign of a cross; then they
let him go, and Scharenstein in some way—no one ever knew how—found his
way to this country. When the ship came into the harbour he asked a
sailor what that majestic figure was that held aloft the shining light
whose rays lit up the wide stretch of the bay. They told him it was the
statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.

“It is good,” he said.

He found work in a sweatshop. An immigrant from a neighbouring hamlet
came over later and told the story, but when they came to Scharenstein
with sympathy he only laughed.

“He is queer,” they said.

In all that shop none other worked as diligently as Scharenstein. He was
the first to arrive, and the last to leave, and through all the day he
worked cheerfully, almost merrily, often humming old airs that his
fellow-workers had not heard for many years. And a man who worked harder
than his fellows in a sweatshop must surely have been queer, for in
those days the sweatshop was a place where the bodies and souls of men
and women writhed through hour after hour of torment and misery, until,
in sheer exhaustion, they became numb. Scharenstein went through all
this with a smile on his lips, and even on the hottest day, when there
came a few moments’ respite, he would keep treading away at his machine
and sing while the others were gasping for breath. And at night, when
the work was done, and the weary toilers dragged themselves home and
flung themselves upon their dreary beds, Scharenstein would trudge all
the way down to the Battery and stand for hours gazing at the statue of
Liberty Enlightening the World. And as he gazed, the tense lines of his
face would relax, and a bright light would come into his eyes, perhaps a
tear would trickle down his cheek. Then, after holding out both arms in
a yearning farewell, he would turn and walk slowly homeward.

There was one day—it was in summer, when the thermometer stood at
ninety-five in the shade—that the burden of life seemed too heavy to be
borne. The air of the sweatshop was damp from the wet cloth, and hot
from the big stove upon which the irons were heating. The machines were
roaring and clicking in a deafening din, above which, every now and
then, rose a loud hissing sound as a red-hot goose was plunged into a
tub of water. The dampness and heat seemed to permeate everything; the
machines were hot to the touch. Men sat stripped to their undershirts,
the perspiration pouring from them. The sweater sat as far from the
stove as he could get, figuring his accounts and frowning. The cost of
labour was too high. Suddenly Marna, the pale, fat old woman who sat at
a machine close by the ironers, spat upon the floor and cried:

“A curse on a world like this!”

Some looked up in surprise, for Marna rarely spoke, but the most of them
went on without heeding her until they heard the voice of Scharenstein
with an intonation that was new to them.

“Right, Marna,” he said. “A terrible world. A terrible world it is. Ho!
ho! ho!”

They all looked at him. He was smiling, and turning around to look from
face to face. Then, still smiling and speaking slowly and hesitatingly,
as if he found it hard to select the right word, he went on:

“An awful world. They come and take the woman—hold her down under their
knees—hold her throat tight in their fingers—like I hold this
cloth—tight—and stick a dagger into her heart. And they set fire to the
house—to the big house—all the smoke comes out of the windows—and
flames—bigger and hotter than in the stove there—oh, terrible
flames!—and the little boy’s face comes to the window—and they all
laugh. Ho! ho! ho! Then the whole house falls in—and the little boy’s
face disappears—and oh, how high the flames go up!”

He looked around him, smiling. A chill struck the heart of every one of
his hearers. He shook his head slowly and said to Marna:

“Right, Marna! It is a terrible world.”

The sweater was busy with his accounts and had not heard. But the sudden
cessation of work made him look up, and hearing Scharenstein address the
woman, and seeing others looking at her, he turned upon Marna.

“Confound it! Is this a time to be idling? Stop your chattering and back
to work. We must finish everything before——”

There was something harsh and grating in his voice that seemed to
electrify Scharenstein. Dropping his work, he sprang between the sweater
and Marna and held out his arms beseechingly.

“Oh, spare her! For God’s sake spare her! She is an innocent woman! She
has done you no harm!”

And as he stood with outstretched arms, his shirt fell open, and every
eye saw plainly upon his breast the red sign of a crude cross. The
sweater fell back in amazement. Then a sudden light dawned upon him,
and, in an altered tone, he said: “Very well. I will do her no harm. Sit
down, my friend. You need not work to-day if you are not feeling well. I
will get someone to take your place, and—and—” (it required a heroic
effort) “you will not lose the day’s pay. You had better go home.”

Scharenstein smiled and thanked the sweater. Then he started down the
stairs. Marna followed him, and with her arm around him helped him down
the steps.

“My little boy is playing in the street,” she said. “Why don’t you take
him for a walk to the park where you took him before? It will do you
good, and he will be company for you.”

Scharenstein’s face lit up with pleasure. Marna’s little boy had
frequently accompanied him on his walks to the Battery, and to see the
little fellow romping about and hear him screaming with delight at the
harbour sights had filled Scharenstein’s heart with exquisite pleasure.
He now sought the boy. He found him playing with his companions, all of
them running like mad through all that fierce heat.

“Boy!” cried Scharenstein. “Look!” The boy turned and saw Scharenstein
standing erect with one arm held straight over his head, the other
clasped against his breast as though he were hugging something—the
attitude of the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. With a shout
of delight he ran toward his friend, crying, “Take me with you!” And
hand in hand they walked down to the sea-wall.

The boy watched the ships. Scharenstein, seated in the shade of a tree,
feasted his eyes upon that graceful bronze figure that stood so lonely,
so pensive, yet held aloft so joyfully its hopeful emblem.

He sat like one entranced, and now and then his lips would move as
though he were struggling to utter some of the vague thoughts that were
floating in his brain. His face, however, was serene, and his whole
frame was relaxed in a delightful, restful abandon.

The boy played and ran about, and asked Scharenstein for pennies to buy
fruit, and slowly the hours slipped by. As the sun sank, and the
coolness of night succeeded the painful heat of the afternoon,
Scharenstein moved from his seat and stood as close to the water’s edge
as he could. Then it grew dark, and the boy came and leaned wearily
against him.

“I am tired,” he said. “Let us go home now.”

Scharenstein took the little fellow in his arms and perched him upon one
of the stone posts.

“Soon, boy,” he said. “Soon we will go. But let us wait to see the
statue light her torch.”

They gazed out into the gathering darkness. Scharenstein’s hand caressed
the boy’s curly hair; the little head rested peacefully against his
breast,—against the livid cross that throbbed under his shirt,—and the
pressure stirred tumultuous memories within him.

“You are a fine boy,” he said. “But you are not my boy.”

“I’m mamma’s boy,” murmured the lad, drowsily.

“Yes. Very true. Very true. You are mamma’s boy. But I have a little
boy, and—dear me!—I forgot all about him.”

“Where is he?” asked the boy.

“Out there,” answered Scharenstein, pointing to the dim outlines of the
statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. “She is keeping him for me!
But listen!” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “When I see him again I
will ask him to come and play with you. He often used to play with me.
He can run and sing, and he plays just like a sweet little angel. Oh,
look!”

The bright electric light flashed from the statue’s torch, lighting up
the vast harbour with all its shipping, lighting up the little head that
rested against Scharenstein’s breast, and lighting up Scharenstein’s
face, now drawn and twitching convulsively.

“Do you see him?” he whispered hoarsely. “Boy! Do you see my little boy
out there? He has big brown eyes. Do you see him? He is my only boy. He
wants me. He is calling me. Wait here, boy. I will go out and bring him
to you. He will play with you. He loves to play.”

Gently he lowered his little companion from the post and carried him to
a bench.

“Wait here, boy,” he said. “I will soon be back.”

In sleepy wonderment the little fellow watched Scharenstein take off his
hat and coat and climb over the chain. The moment he disappeared from
view the little fellow became thoroughly awake and ran forward to the
sea-wall. Scharenstein was swimming clumsily, fiercely out into the bay.

“Come back!” cried the boy. “Come back!”

He heard Scharenstein’s voice faintly, “I am coming.” Then again, more
faintly still, “I am coming.” Then all became silent except the lapping
of the waves against the sea-wall, and the boy began to cry.

It was fully an hour before the alarm was given and a boat lowered, but
of Scharenstein they found no trace. The harbour waters are swift, and
the currents sweep twistingly in many directions. The harbour clings
tenaciously to its dead—gives them up only with reluctance and after
many days. And the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World looks down
upon the search and holds out hope. But it gives no help.



                              THE COMPACT


The paper lies before me as I write. The bitterness has all passed. As a
matter of fact it was Sorkin who told it to me as a good story. The
paper read thus:

    “_Agreement between Ignatz Sorkin and Nathan Bykowsky, made in
    Wilna, Russia, December 10, 1861: Sorkin goes to Germany and
    Bykowsky goes to America, in New York. In twenty years all the
    money they have is put together and each takes half because the
    lucky one loves his old friend. We swear it on the Torah._

                                                  “_Ignatz Sorkin._
                                                  “_Nathan Bykowsky._”

It is Sorkin’s story:

“The twenty years went by and I came to New York. My heart was heavy. I
had not heard from Bykowsky for five years. Why had he not written? If
he was poor, surely he must have heard that I was rich, and that half of
all I had belonged to him. And if he was rich, did he mean to break the
agreement? In either case it was bad for me. If it had not been for that
last clause—‘we swear it on the Torah’! I cannot say. Perhaps I would
not have come. For things had gone well with me in Germany. I owned
twelve thousand dollars. And I might have forgotten the agreement. But I
had sworn it on the Torah! I could not forget it.

“Still, what was the use of taking too many chances? I brought only
three thousand dollars with me. The rest I left in government bonds on
the other side. If Bykowsky was a poor man he should have half of three
thousand dollars. Surely that was enough for a poor man. I had not sworn
on the Torah to remember the nine thousand dollars.

“So I came here. I looked for Bykowsky, but could not find him. He had
worked as a tailor, and I went from one shop to another asking
everybody, ‘Do you know my old friend Bykowsky?’ At last I found a man
who kept a tailor shop. He was a fine man. He had a big diamond in his
shirt. Bykowsky? Yes, he remembered Bykowsky. Bykowsky used to work for
him. And where was he now? He did not know. But when Bykowsky left his
shop he went to open one for himself and became a boss. A boss? What was
a boss? ‘I am a boss,’ the man said. Then I took a good look at his
diamond. ‘Maybe,’ I thought, ‘if Bykowsky is a boss, he too has a
diamond like that.’ So I went out to look for Bykowsky the boss.

“Then I thought to myself, ‘Why shall I be stingy? I will tell Bykowsky
that I have five thousand dollars and I will give him half. He was a
good friend of mine. I will be liberal.’ So I looked and looked
everywhere, but nobody seemed to remember Bykowsky the boss. At last I
met a policeman. He knew Bykowsky. He did not know where he lived, but
he knew him when he was a tailor boss. ‘Is he not a tailor boss any
more?’ I asked him. ‘Oh, no,’ he said. ‘He sold his tailor shop and
opened a saloon.’ ‘Is that a better business than a tailor shop?’ I
asked him. The policeman laughed at me and said, ‘Sure. A good saloon is
better than a dozen tailor shops.’

“H’m! I was very sorry that he did not know where Bykowsky kept his
saloon. I made up my mind that I would go to every saloon in the city
until I found him. And when I found him I would say, ‘Bykowsky, I have
come to keep the agreement. I have saved seven thousand dollars. Half is
yours.’ Because I liked Bykowsky. We were the very best of friends.

“I went from saloon to saloon. I am not a drinking man. But as I did not
like to ask so many questions for nothing I bought a cigar in every
place. Soon I had all my pockets full of cigars. I do not smoke. I kept
the cigars for Bykowsky. He is a great smoker. Then I met a man who had
once been in Bykowsky’s saloon. He told me what a place it was. Such
looking-glasses! Such fancy things! And he was making so much money that
he had to hire a man to do nothing but sit at a desk all day and put the
money in a drawer. So I says to myself, ‘Ah, ha! Dear friend Bykowsky,
you are playing a joke on your dear old friend Sorkin. You want to wait
until he comes and then fill him with joy by giving him half of that
fine saloon business!’ So I asked the man where that saloon was. ‘Oh,’
he said, ‘that was several years ago. Bykowsky made so much money that
he gave up the saloon and went into the real-estate business.’

“H’m! I began to understand it. Bykowsky had been making money so fast
that he never had time to write to me. But never mind. I would go to
him. I would grasp him by the hand and I would say, ‘Dearest friend of
my boyhood, I have come to you with ten thousand dollars that I have
saved. Half is yours. My only hope is that you are poor, so that I can
have the pleasure of sharing with you all my wealth.’ Then he will be
overcome and he will get red in the face, and he will tell me that he
has got many hundreds of thousands of dollars to share with me. Ah, yes!

“There are not so many people in the real-estate business as in the
saloon business. And soon I found a man who knew all about my friend
Bykowsky. ‘The last I heard of him,’ he said, ‘he went out of the
real-estate business. He took all his money and bought a fine row of
houses. And he said he was not going to work any more.’

“That was just like dear old Bykowsky. He was a regular aristocrat. As
long as he had enough money to live on he did not care to work. But he
would be glad to see his dear old friend. I would pretend that I did not
know how rich he was. I would be open and honest with him. I would keep
the letter and the spirit of the agreement. I would not keep back a
single cent. ‘Bykowsky,’ I would say, ‘dear, good, old Bykowsky. Here I
am. I have three thousand dollars in my pocket. I have nine thousand
dollars in good government bonds in Germany. I also have a fine gold
watch, and a gold chain and a ring, but the ring is not solid gold. Half
of what I have is yours.’ And we will fall on each other’s shoulders and
be, oh, so glad!

“I found Bykowsky. He was not at home where he lived. But I found him in
a café. He was playing pinochle with the proprietor. I took a good long
look at him. He did not know me, but I recognised him right away. I went
over and held out my hand. ‘It is my old friend Bykowsky!’ I said. He
looked at me and got very red in the face. ‘Ah, ha!’ I said to myself.
‘I have guessed right.’ Then he cried, ‘Sorkin!’ and we threw our arms
around each other. ‘Bykowsky,’ I said, ‘I have come many thousand miles
to keep our boyhood agreement. Maybe you and I might have forgotten it,
but we swore on the Torah, and I know that you could not forget it any
more than I could. I have three thousand dollars in my pocket. I have
nine thousand dollars in good government bonds in Germany. I have a fine
gold watch and a gold chain and a ring, but the ring is not solid gold.
Half of what I have is yours. I hope—oh, Bykowsky, I am so selfish—I
hope that you are poor so that I can have the pleasure of dividing with
you.’ Then Bykowsky said, ‘Let me see the ring!’

“I showed him the ring, and he shook his head very sadly. ‘You are
right, Sorkin,’ he said. ‘It is not solid gold.’

“‘Well, dear friend,’ I said, ‘how has the world gone with you?’

“‘Very badly,’ he said. ‘Let me see the watch and the chain.’

“Something told me he was joking. So I said, ‘Please keep the watch and
chain as a token of our old friendship. We will not count it in the
division. But I am sorry to hear that things have gone badly with you.
Why did you not’ (this was only a sly hint) ‘go into the real-estate
business? I hear so many people are getting rich that way.’

“Then he sighed—and I felt that something was wrong.

“‘Dear friend Sorkin,’ he said. ‘Dearest comrade of my boyhood days, I
have a sad story to tell you. A year ago I owned a fine row of houses. I
had nearly two hundred thousand dollars. I was looking forward to the
time when I would write to you, dear, kind old friend, and ask you to
come over to share with me all my wealth. But alas! The wheel of fortune
turned! I began to speculate. It is a long, sad story. Two months ago I
sold the last of my houses. To-day I have three hundred dollars left.
Dear, sweet Sorkin, you come as a Godsend from heaven. My luck has
turned!’”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Here there was a long pause in Sorkin’s story. Then he said:

“My son, even to this day when I think of that moment, I feel the
sensation of choking.”

“But did you keep the compact?”

And, in a flash, I regretted the question.

“I had sworn on the Torah,” Sorkin replied.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The firm of Sorkin & Bykowsky has recently changed its name to Sorkin,
Bykowsky & Co. The Co. is young Ignatz Sorkin Bykowsky. There is also a
young Nathan Bykowsky Sorkin. But he is still at school.



                            A SONG OF SONGS


I know a story that runs almost like a song—like that old song, “Behold,
thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair!”

In the heart of the Jewish quarter stood an old Catholic church, relic
of those bygone days ere the oppressed Jews of Russia and Austria had
learned that this land was a haven of refuge, and had come to settle in
this neighbourhood by the hundreds of thousands. Close by this church
lived the Rabbi Sarna, one of the earliest of the immigrants—an honest,
whole-souled man who knew the Talmud and the Kabbala by heart, and who
had a daughter. Her name was Hannah—and there the story and the song
began.

It began in the days when Hannah was a young girl, who would sit for
hours on her father’s doorstep with a school-book in her lap, and when
Richard Shea was altar boy in the Catholic church close by, and would
spend most of his time on the doorstep beside Hannah. And they lived a
life of dreams, those happy dreams that abound in the realm of
childhood, where no thought is darkened by the grim monsters of reality,
the sordid facts of life.

In those days Richard’s tasks in the service of the Holy Roman Church
possessed but little significance for him. It was his duty to swing the
censer, to light the candles, and to carry the Book at Mass, and when
the task was done Richard’s only thought was of Hannah, who was sitting
on her father’s doorstep waiting for him. Father Brady, the rector of
the Catholic church, who was Richard’s guardian—for the lad was an
orphan, and had been left entirely in the priest’s care—was very
exacting in all affairs that pertained to his parish, and insisted that
Richard should perform his duties carefully and conscientiously. But
when the service was over his vigilance relaxed, and, so long as there
was no complaint from the neighbours, the lad might do as he pleased.
And it was Richard’s greatest pleasure to be with Hannah.

They would sit for hours in the long summer nights, hand in hand,
building those wonderful fabrics of childish imagination, looking
forward hopefully, enthusiastically, to a future whose basis, whose
essence was an eternal companionship of their two souls. There came a
night—perhaps it was because the stars were brighter than usual, perhaps
because the night was balmy, or perhaps because the spirit of spring was
in the air—at any rate, that fatal night came when, in some
unaccountable manner, their lips came together, came closely, tightly
together, in a long, lingering kiss, and the next moment they found
themselves flooded in a stream of light. Hastily, guiltily they looked
up. The door had been opened, and the Rabbi Sarna was looking down upon
them.

Hannah’s father kissed her that night as usual, and she went to bed
without hearing a word of reproach or of paternal advice. Whether he had
gained his wisdom from the Kabbala or the Talmud I do not know, but the
Rabbi Sarna was a wise man. He took a night to think the matter over.
Perhaps he felt that the bringing-up of a motherless daughter was no
trivial matter, and that there were times when, being a man, his
instinct was sure to be wrong, and that only the most careful
consideration and deliberate thought could guide him into the right
path. For a whole day he said nothing.

The following evening, however, when the grace after meal had been said,
and “Hear, O Israel!” had been recited, he laid his hand fondly upon his
daughter’s head and spoke to her, kindly.

“Remember, Hannah,” he said, “the lad is not one of our people. He is a
good lad, and I like him, but you are a daughter of Israel. You come of
a race, Hannah, that has been persecuted for thousands of years by his
people. If your mother were alive, she would forbid you ever to see him
again. But I do not feel that I ought to be so harsh. I only ask you, my
daughter, to remember that you are of a race that was chosen by Jehovah,
and that he comes from a race that has made us suffer misery for many
ages.”

Hannah went to bed and cried, and rebelled at the injustice of an
arrangement that seemed to her all wrong and distorted. Why were not the
Jewish lads that she knew as tall and straight as her Richard? And why
had they not blue eyes like his? And curly, golden hair? And that
strength? And she cried herself to sleep.

In some unaccountable manner—it may have been that the rabbi told the
butcher and the butcher told the baker—the matter reached the ears of
Richard’s guardian, who promptly took the lad to task for it.

“Remember, Richard,” he said, “she is a Jewess. You need not look so
fierce. I know that she is a nice little girl, but, after all, her
father is a Jew, and her mother was a Jewess. They have always been the
enemy of our religion. You know enough of history to know what suffering
they have caused. I have not the slightest objection to your seeing her
and talking to her, but things seem to have gone a little too far. You
must remember that you cannot marry her. So what is the use of wasting
your time?”

And, of course, Richard went to bed very glum and disheartened. For a
long time he did not see Hannah, and when, after several weeks, they
came face to face again, each bowed, somewhat stiffly, and promptly felt
that the bottom had dropped out of life.

So the years passed, and the dreams of childhood passed, and many
changes came. Hannah grew to be a young woman, and her beauty increased.
Her eyes were dark and big, her cheeks were of the olive tint that
predominates in her race, but enlivened by a rosy tinge; she grew tall
and very dignified in her carriage—and Richard, each time he saw her,
was reminded of the canticle, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold,
thou art fair!”

He, too, had grown older, had grown taller and manlier; the boldness and
audacity that had captivated the fancy of the Jewish lass had developed
into manly strength and forceful personality; but his heart had not
freed itself from that early attachment. While the service lasted, and
the odour of incense rose to his nostrils, and the pomp and ceremony of
his religion thrilled his whole being, Hannah was only a memory, a dim
recollection of a life-long past. But when, from time to time, he met
her and saw the look of joy that lit up her eyes, Hannah became a vivid,
stirring, all-absorbing reality. And Richard was troubled.

Father Brady sent Richard to the seminary to prepare for the priesthood.
For two winters Richard pursued his theological studies, pursued them
with zeal, and devoted himself heart and soul to the career his fond
guardian had selected for him. And for two summers, during which he
helped his guardian in the parish work, the young man struggled and
fought and battled manfully with the problem of Hannah. They had spoken
but little to each other. The dream of childhood had passed, and they
had grown to realise the enormity of the barrier that rose between
them—a barrier of races, of empires, of ages—a monstrous barrier before
whose leviathan proportions they were but insignificant atoms. And yet——

It came like one of those levantine storms, when one moment the sky is
blue and the air is still, and the next moment the floodgates of heaven
are open, and the air is black with tempest. The Rabbi Sarna came
rushing to the house of Father Brady. They had known each other for
years, and a certain intimacy, based upon mutual respect for each
other’s learning and integrity, had grown up between them. And the rabbi
poured forth his tale of woe.

“I begged, I implored her,” he ran on, “to tell me the cause of her
stubbornness. The finest young men you ever saw, one after another,
handsome, strong, well-to-do, have asked her, and have come to me to
intercede for them. And at last I went to her and begged her, beseeched
her to tell me why she persisted in refusing them all. I am an old man.
I cannot live many years longer. The dearest wish of my heart is to see
her happily married and settled in life. And she persists in driving
every suitor from the house. And what do you think she told me?”

A horrible suspicion came into the priest’s head, but all he said was,
“I cannot guess.” The rabbi was gasping with excitement.

“She loves that Richard of yours. If she cannot marry him she will not
marry anyone else. I told her she was crazy. Her only fear was that I
would tell you—or him. She does not even realise the enormity of it! The
girl is out of her head!”

The priest held out his hand.

“I thank you,” he said, “for warning me in time. It was an act of
kindness. I will see that an end is put to the matter at once. At least,
so far as Richard is concerned. If he is to blame for that feeling on
your daughter’s part I will see that he does whatever is necessary to
remedy the harm he has done. His course in life has been laid out. He
will be a priest. I am very thankful to you for coming to me.”

The rabbi was greatly troubled. “I do not know what to do,” he said. “I
am all in a whirl. I felt that it was only right that you should know.
But I cannot imagine what can be done.”

“Leave it to me,” said Father Brady. As soon as the rabbi had departed
he sent for Richard.

“What is this I hear about that Jewish girl?” he demanded, sternly.
Richard turned pale.

“What!” cried the priest. “Is it possible that you are to blame?”

“To blame?” asked Richard. “I? For what?”

“Only this minute,” the priest went on, “her father was here with a
story that it made my blood boil to hear. The girl has rejected all her
suitors, and tells her father that she will marry no one but you or——”

With a loud cry Richard sprang toward the door. There was a chair in the
way, but it went spinning across the room.

“Richard!” roared his guardian. “What is all this?”

But Richard, bareheaded and coatless, was tearing down the stairs,
three, four, five at a time, and the next moment there was a crash that
made the house tremble to its foundation. Richard had gone out, and had
shut the door behind him. The rabbi, homeward bound, was nearing his
door when a young whirlwind, hatless and coatless, rushed by him. The
rabbi stood still, amazed. His amazement grew when he beheld this
tornado whirl up the steps of his house and throw itself violently
against the door. As he ran forward to see what was happening the door
opened and Hannah stood on the threshold, the light behind her streaming
upon her shining hair. And, the next instant, all the wisdom that he had
learned from the Talmud and the Kabbala deserted him. In after years he
confessed that at that moment he felt like a fool. For the tempestuous
Richard had seized Hannah in his arms and was kissing her cheeks and her
lips and her eyes, and pouring out a perfect torrent of endearing
phrases. And Hannah’s arms were tightly wound around his neck, and she
was crying as though she feared that all the elements were about to try
to drag the young man from her. A glint of reason returned to the rabbi.

“Hold!” he cried. “Foolish children! Stand apart! Listen to me!”

They turned and looked at him. The Rabbi Sarna looked into the eyes of
Richard. But what he saw there troubled him. He could not bear the young
man’s gaze. Almost in despair he turned to his daughter. “Hannah,” he
began. Then he looked into her eyes, and his gaze fell. He sighed and
walked past them into the house. In an instant he was forgotten.

“Oh, thou art fair, my love!” cried Richard. “Thou art fair!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

When “the traveller from New Zealand” stands upon the last remaining
arch of London Bridge and gazes upon the ruins of St. Paul’s, the
Catholic Church will still flourish. And when the nations of the earth
have died and their names have become mere memories, as men to-day
remember the Phœnicians and the Romans, then will there still rise to
heaven that daily prayer, “Hear, O Israel!” And in the chronicles of
neither of these religions will there ever be found mention of either
Richard Shea or his wife Hannah. But, if that story be true of the Great
Book in which the lives of all men are written down, and the motives of
all their deeds recorded in black and white, then surely there is a page
upon which these names appear. And perhaps, occasionally, an angel peeps
at it and brushes away a tear and smiles.



                          A WEDDING IN DURESS


In the days when the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim were divided by walls
of sentiment and pride, as difficult to surmount as the walls that
separated patrician from plebeian in ancient Rome, an Ashkenazi youth
married a Sephardi maiden. It happened some four hundred or five hundred
years ago. Youth and maiden are dust, their romance is forgotten, and we
owe them an apology for disturbing their memory. Let us only add that
the youth’s name was Zalman. May Mr. and Mrs. Zalman rest in peace!

                  *       *       *       *       *

Zalman, the tailor, lived in Essex Street on the same floor with the
Rabbi Elsberg. Zalman possessed two treasures, each a rarity of
exquisite beauty, each vying with the other for supremacy in his
affections. The one was a wine glass of Venetian make, wonderful in its
myriad-hued colouring, its fragile texture, and its rare design. The
mate of it rests in one of the famous museums of Italy, and the
connoisseurs came from far and near to feast their eyes upon Zalman’s
piece. Money, in sums that would have made Zalman a rich man in that
neighbourhood, had been offered to him for this treasure, but he always
shook his head.

“It has been in my family for hundreds of years,” he would say, “and I
cannot part with it. Years ago—many, many years ago—our family was
wealthy, but now I have nothing left save this one wine glass. I would
rather die than lose it.”

His visitors would depart with feelings of mingled wonder and rage;
wonder that so priceless a gem should be in the possession of a
decrepit, untidy, poverty-stricken East Side tailor; and rage that he
should be so stubborn as to cling to it in spite of the most alluring
offers that were made to him. Zalman’s other treasure was his daughter
Barbara, whose name, like the wine glass, had descended from some
long-forgotten Spanish or Italian ancestress. All the lavish praise that
the most enthusiastic lover of things beautiful had ever lavished upon
that wonderful wine glass would have applied with equal truth to
Barbara. Excepting that Barbara was distinctly modern.

Reuben sat in the Rabbi Elsberg’s sitting-room, frowning and unhappy;
the rabbi, puffing reflectively at a long pipe, gazing at him in
silence. Through the walls they could hear Barbara singing. Barbara
always sang when she was merry, and Barbara was merry, as a rule, from
the moment she left her bed until she returned to it. The rabbi took a
longer puff than usual, and then asked Reuben:

“What said her father?”

Reuben gulped several times as if the words that crowded to his lips for
utterance were choking him.

“It is well for him that he is her father,” he finally said. “I would
not have listened to so much abuse from any other living man.” (Reuben,
by the way, had a most determined-looking chin, and there was something
very earnest in the cut of his features.)

“He gave me to understand,” he went on, “that he knew perfectly well it
was his wine glass I was after, and not his daughter. That I was
counting on his dying soon, and already looked forward to selling that
precious glass to spend the money in riotous living. And when I told him
that Barbara and I loved each other, he said ‘Bosh!’ and forbade me to
speak of it again.”

The rabbi puffed in silence for a moment.

“He evidently has not a flattering opinion of you, my young friend.”

“He knows nothing against me!” Reuben hurriedly exclaimed. “It is only
because I want Barbara. He would say the same to anyone else that asked
for his daughter. You know me, rabbi; you have known me a long time,
ever since I was a child. I do not pretend to be an angel, but I am not
bad. I love the girl, and I can take good care of her. I don’t want to
see his old wine glass again. I’d smash it into a——”

Reuben’s jaw fell, and his eyes stared vacantly at the wall. The rabbi
followed his gaze, and, seeing nothing, turned to Reuben in surprise.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Nothing,” replied Reuben, with a sheepish grin. “I—I just happened to
think of something.”

The rabbi frowned. “If you are often taken with such queer ideas that
make you look so idiotic, I don’t think I can blame Zalman so very
much.” But Reuben’s contrite expression immediately caused him to regret
his momentary annoyance, and holding out his hand, he said,
affectionately:

“Come, Reuben, I will do what I can for you. You are a good boy, and if
you and the girl love each other I will see if there is not some way of
overcoming her father’s objections.”

Taking Reuben by the arm he led him into Zalman’s shop. Zalman was not
alone. A little shrivelled old man, evidently a connoisseur of _objets
d’art_, was holding the wonderful wine glass to the light, gloating over
the bewildering play of colours that flashed from it, while Zalman
anxiously hovered about him, eager to receive the glass in his own hands
again, yet proudly calling the old man’s attention to its hidden
beauties.

Barbara stood in the doorway that led to the living-rooms in the rear.
When she saw Reuben she blushed and smiled.

Zalman looked up and saw the rabbi and smiled; saw who was with him and
frowned.

“I just dropped in to have a little chat,” said the rabbi, “but there is
no hurry. I will wait until you are disengaged.”

The connoisseur carefully set the glass upon the counter, and heaved a
long, painful sigh.

“And no price will tempt you to part with it?” he asked. Zalman shook
his head and grinned. What followed happened with exceeding swiftness.

Zalman had got as far as, “It has been in our family for hundreds of
years——” when a shadow caused him to turn his head. He saw Barbara throw
up her hands in amazement, saw the rabbi start forward as though he were
about to interfere in something, and saw the precious wine glass in
Reuben’s hand. Mechanically he reached forward to take it from him, and
then instantly felt Reuben’s other hand against his breast, holding him
back, and heard Reuben saying, quite naturally, “Wait!”

It had not taken ten seconds—Zalman suddenly felt sick.

The connoisseur hastily put on his glasses. The situation seemed
interesting.

“Mr. Zalman,” said Reuben, speaking very slowly and distinctly, yet
carefully keeping the tailor at arm’s length, “I told you this very day
that your daughter Barbara and I love each other. We will not marry
without your consent. So you must consent. If I cannot marry Barbara I
do not care what happens to me. I will have nothing to live for. I can
give her a good home, and we will be very happy. You can come to live
with us, if you like, and I will always be a good son to you. I swear by
the Torah that this glass is nothing to me. I want Barbara because I
love her, and you can throw this glass into the river for all I care.
But if you do not give your consent I also swear by the Torah that I
shall fling this glass to the floor and smash it into a thousand
pieces.”

Zalman, who had been clutching Reuben’s outstretched arm throughout this
speech, and had followed every word with staring eyes and open mouth,
dropped his arms and groaned. Barbara had listened in amazement to
Reuben’s first words, but when his meaning dawned upon her she had
clapped her kerchief to her mouth and fled precipitately through the
doorway whence now came faint sounds which, owing to the distance, might
have been either loud weeping or violent laughter. The rabbi’s face had
reddened with indignation. The connoisseur alone was smiling.

“Reuben,” said the rabbi sternly, “you have gone too far. Put the glass
down!” He advanced toward the young man.

“Hold!” cried Reuben. “If anyone in this room touches me or attempts to
take this glass from me, I shall quickly hurl it to the floor. Look,
everybody!” He held the glass aloft. “See how fragile it is! I have only
to hold it a little tighter and it will break into a dozen pieces, and
no human skill will ever be able to put them together again!”

Zalman was in agony.

“I yield,” he cried. “Give me the glass. You shall marry Barbara
to-morrow. Do not hold it so tightly. Put it down gently.”

He held out his hand. His lips were twitching with repressed curses on
Reuben’s head. But Reuben only smiled.

“No, good father,” he said. “Not to-morrow. You might change your mind.
Let it be now, and your glass is safe.”

(“What a pertinacious young man!” thought the connoisseur.)

“May the fiends devour you!” cried Zalman.

“Now look you,” said Reuben, twirling the delicate glass in a careless
way that sent chill shudders down the tailor’s spine; “it is you who are
stubborn. Not I. If you knew how devotedly I loved Barbara you would
not, you could not be so heartless as to keep us apart.”

“The foul fiends!” muttered Zalman. Beads of perspiration stood out upon
his forehead; he was very pale.

“You were young yourself once,” Reuben went on. “For the sake of your
own youth, cast aside your stubbornness and give us your consent.
Barbara! Barbara! Where are you?”

The young woman, blushing like a rose, came out and stood beside him
with lowered head and downcast eyes.

“You see,” said Reuben, gently encircling her waist, “we love each
other.”

“The foul fiends!” muttered Zalman.

“Help me, Barbara! Help me to plead with your father,” urged Reuben. But
Barbara, abashed, could not find courage to raise her voice. Besides,
she kept her kerchief pressed tightly against her lips.

“Would you make your own daughter unhappy for the rest of her life?”
Reuben went on. (At every sentence Zalman murmured as far as “The foul
fiends!” then stopped.) “Everything is ready save your consent. The good
Rabbi Elsberg is here. He can marry us on the spot. We can dispense with
the betrothal. Our hearts have been betrothed for more than a year. I
want no dowry. I only want Barbara. Can you be so cruel as to keep us
apart?”

The glass slipped from his fingers as if by accident, but deftly his
hand swooped below it and caught it, unharmed. The tailor almost
swooned.

“Take her!” he cried, hoarsely. “In the foul fiend’s name take her! And
give me the glass!” He held out his trembling hands. With a joyful cry
Reuben pressed the girl tightly against his heart, and was about to kiss
her when the rabbi’s voice rang out:

“This is outrageous! I refuse to have anything to do with marrying
them!”

Reuben turned pale. To be so near victory, and now to lose everything
through the desertion of his old friend, was an unexpected,
disheartening blow. The tailor’s face brightened. Barbara, who had
looked up quickly when the rabbi spoke, began to cry softly.

“I have consented,” said Zalman. “That was what you asked, was it not?
Now give me back my wine glass. I can do no more.”

A faint smile had come into his face. It must have been his evil
guardian who prompted that smile, for it gave Reuben heart.

“If the rabbi will not marry us immediately,” said Reuben, “then I have
lost everything, and have nothing more to live for.” With the utmost
deliberation he raised an enormous iron that lay upon the counter,
placed the glass carefully upon the floor, and held the iron directly
over it.

“I shall crush the glass into a million tiny bits beneath this ponderous
weight!”

“Hold!” screamed the tailor. “He shall marry you! Please, oh, please!
Marry them, rabbi! For my sake, marry them! I beg it of you! I cannot
bear to see my precious glass under that horrible weight! Don’t let it
fall! For God’s sake, hold it tight! Oh, rabbi, marry them, marry them,
marry them! Let me have my glass!”

The rabbi glared at Reuben, then at the tailor, who was almost on his
knees before him, and then at the face of the connoisseur, who, somewhat
embarrassed at finding himself observed in that exciting moment, said,
apologetically, “I—I don’t mind being a witness.”

The rabbi married them.

“It is not for either of you that I am doing this,” he said, in stern
accents. “You have disgraced yourselves—both of you. But for the sake of
this old man, my friend, who holds that bauble so high that I fear he
will lose his reason if any harm befall it, I yield.”

They were married. And then—and not until then—Reuben raised the
precious wine glass, glittering and sparkling with multi-coloured fire,
gently from the floor and placed it upon the counter. But he held fast
to the iron. Zalman pounced upon his heirloom, examined it carefully to
see whether the faintest mishap had marred its beauty, held it tightly
against his breast, and with upraised arm turned upon his daughter and
her husband. With flashing eyes and pallid lips, he cried:

“May the foul fiends curse you! May God, in His righteousness——”

There was a sound of crashing glass. Whether in his excitement the
tailor’s fingers had, for one instant, relaxed their grip; whether
mysterious Fate, through some psychic or physical agency had playfully
wrought a momentary paralysis of his nerves; whether—but who may
penetrate these things? The glass had slipped from his hand. That
exquisite creation of a skill that had perished centuries ago, that
fragile relic of a forgotten art which, only a moment ago, had sparkled
and glittered as though a hundred suns were imprisoned within its frail
sides, now lay upon the floor in a thousand shapeless fragments.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



Transcriber’s note:

 1. Silently corrected typographical errors.

 2. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.





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