Children of the Ghetto
Part 3 out of 12
the other. 'Woe, woe,' said the first. 'To-day was the Day of Atonement!
and we have eaten and gone on as usual.' 'Oh, don't take on so,' said
his friend. 'After all, Heaven will take into consideration that we lost
count of the Jewish calendar and didn't mean to be so wicked. And we can
make up for it by fasting to-morrow.'
"'Oh, no! Not for me,' said the first. 'To-day was the Day of
All laughed, the Reb appreciating most keenly the sly dig at his race.
He had a kindly sense of human frailty. Jews are very fond of telling
stories against themselves--for their sense of humor is too strong not
to be aware of their own foibles--but they tell them with closed doors,
and resent them from the outside. They chastise themselves because they
love themselves, as members of the same family insult one another. The
secret is, that insiders understand the limitations of the criticism,
which outsiders are apt to take in bulk. No race in the world possesses
a richer anecdotal lore than the Jews--such pawky, even blasphemous
humor, not understandable of the heathen, and to a suspicious mind
Pinchas's overflowing cornucopia of such would have suggested a prior
period of Continental wandering from town to town, like the
_Minnesingers_ of the middle ages, repaying the hospitality of his
Jewish entertainers with a budget of good stories and gossip from the
scenes of his pilgrimages.
"Do you know the story?" he went on, encouraged by Simcha's smiling
face, "of the old Reb and the _Havdolah_? His wife left town for a few
days and when she returned the Reb took out a bottle of wine, poured
some into the consecration cup and began to recite the blessing. 'What
art thou doing?' demanded his wife in amaze.' I am making _Havdolah_,'
replied the Reb. 'But it is not the conclusion of a festival to-night,'
she said. 'Oh, yes, it is,' he answered. 'My Festival's over. You've
The Reb laughed so much over this story that Simcha's brow grew as the
solid Egyptian darkness, and Pinchas perceived he had made a mistake.
"But listen to the end," he said with a creditable impromptu. "The wife
said--'No, you're mistaken. Your Festival's only beginning. You get no
supper. It's the commencement of the Day of Atonement.'"
Simcha's brow cleared and the Reb laughed heartily.
"But I don't seethe point, father," said Levi.
"Point! Listen, my son. First of all he was to have a Day of Atonement,
beginning with no supper, for his sin of rudeness to his faithful wife.
Secondly, dost thou not know that with us the Day of Atonement is called
a festival, because we rejoice at the Creator's goodness in giving us
the privilege of fasting? That's it, Pinchas, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's the point of the story, and I think the Rebbitzin had the
best of it, eh?"
"Rebbitzins always have the last word," said the Reb. "But did I tell
you the story of the woman who asked me a question the other day? She
brought me a fowl in the morning and said that in cutting open the
gizzard she had found a rusty pin which the fowl must have swallowed.
She wanted to know whether the fowl might be eaten. It was a very
difficult point, for how could you tell whether the pin had in any way
contributed to the fowl's death? I searched the _Shass_ and a heap of
_Shaalotku-Tshuvos_. I went and consulted the _Maggid_ and Sugarman the
_Shadchan_ and Mr. Karlkammer, and at last we decided that the fowl was
_tripha_ and could not be eaten. So the same evening I sent for the
woman, and when I told her of our decision she burst into tears and
wrung her hands. 'Do not grieve so,' I said, taking compassion upon her,
'I will buy thee another fowl.' But she wept on, uncomforted. 'O woe!
woe!' she cried. 'We ate it all up yesterday.'"
Pinchas was convulsed with laughter. Recovering himself, he lit his
half-smoked cigar without asking leave.
"I thought it would turn out differently," he said. "Like that story of
the peacock. A man had one presented to him, and as this is such rare
diet he went to the Reb to ask if it was _kosher_. The Rabbi said 'no'
and confiscated the peacock. Later on the man heard that the Rabbi had
given a banquet at which his peacock was the crowning dish. He went to
his Rabbi and reproached him. '_I_ may eat it,' replied the Rabbi,
'because my father considers it permitted and we may always go by what
some eminent Son of the Law decides. But you unfortunately came to _me_
for an opinion, and the permissibility of peacock is a point on which I
have always disagreed with my father.'"
Hannah seemed to find peculiar enjoyment in the story.
"Anyhow," concluded Pinchas, "you have a more pious flock than the Rabbi
of my native place, who, one day, announced to his congregation that he
was going to resign. Startled, they sent to him a delegate, who asked,
in the name of the congregation, why he was leaving them. 'Because,'
answered the Rabbi, 'this is the first question any one has ever asked
"Tell Mr. Pinchas your repartee about the donkey," said Hannah, smiling.
"Oh, no, it's not worth while," said the Reb.
"Thou art always so backward with thine own," cried the Rebbitzin
warmly. "Last Purim an impudent of face sent my husband a donkey made of
sugar. My husband had a Rabbi baked in gingerbread and sent it in
exchange to the donor, with the inscription 'A Rabbi sends a Rabbi.'"
Reb Shemuel laughed heartily, hearing this afresh at the lips of his
wife. But Pinchas was bent double like a convulsive note of
The clock on the mantelshelf began to strike nine. Levi jumped to his
"I shall be late for school!" he cried, making for the door.
"Stop! stop!" shouted his father. "Thou hast not yet said grace."
"Oh, yes, I have, father. While you were all telling stories I was
_benshing_ quietly to myself."
"Is Saul also among the prophets, is Levi also among the story-tellers?"
murmured Pinchas to himself. Aloud he said: "The child speaks truth; I
saw his lips moving."
Levi gave the poet a grateful look, snatched up his satchel and ran off
to No. 1 Royal Street. Pinchas followed him soon, inwardly upbraiding
Reb Shemuel for meanness. He had only as yet had his breakfast for his
book. Perhaps it was Simcha's presence that was to blame. She was the
Reb's right hand and he did not care to let her know what his left was
He retired to his study when Pinchas departed, and the Rebbitzin
clattered about with a besom.
The study was a large square room lined with book-shelves and hung with
portraits of the great continental Rabbis. The books were bibliographical
monsters to which the Family Bibles of the Christian are mere pocket-books.
They were all printed purely with the consonants, the vowels being
divined grammatically or known by heart. In each there was an island of
text in a sea of commentary, itself lost in an ocean of super-commentary
that was bordered by a continent of super-super-commentary. Reb Shemuel
knew many of these immense folios--with all their tortuous windings of
argument and anecdote--much as the child knows the village it was born
in, the crooked by-ways and the field paths. Such and such a Rabbi gave
such and such an opinion on such and such a line from the bottom of such
and such a page--his memory of it was a visual picture. And just as the
child does not connect its native village with the broader world
without, does not trace its streets and turnings till they lead to the
great towns, does not inquire as to its origins and its history, does
not view it in relation to other villages, to the country, to the
continent, to the world, but loves it for itself and in itself, so Reb
Shemuel regarded and reverenced and loved these gigantic pages with
their serried battalions of varied type. They were facts--absolute as
the globe itself--regions of wisdom, perfect and self-sufficing. A
little obscure here and there, perhaps, and in need of amplification or
explication for inferior intellects--a half-finished manuscript
commentary on one of the super-commentaries, to be called "The Garden of
Lilies," was lying open on Reb Shemuel's own desk--but yet the only true
encyclopaedia of things terrestrial and divine. And, indeed, they were
wonderful books. It was as difficult to say what was not in them as what
was. Through them the old Rabbi held communion with his God whom he
loved with all his heart and soul and thought of as a genial Father,
watching tenderly over His froward children and chastising them because
He loved them. Generations of saints and scholars linked Reb Shemuel
with the marvels of Sinai. The infinite network of ceremonial never
hampered his soul; it was his joyous privilege to obey his Father in all
things and like the king who offered to reward the man who invented a
new pleasure, he was ready to embrace the sage who could deduce a new
commandment. He rose at four every morning to study, and snatched every
odd moment he could during the day. Rabbi Meir, that ancient ethical
teacher, wrote: "Whosoever labors in the Torah for its own sake, the
whole world is indebted to him; he is called friend, beloved, a lover of
the All-present, a lover of mankind; it clothes him in meekness and
reverence; it fits him to become just, pious, upright and faithful; he
becomes modest, long-suffering and forgiving of insult."
Reb Shemuel would have been scandalized if any one had applied these
words to him.
At about eleven o'clock Hannah came into the room, an open letter in her
"Father," she said, "I have just had a letter from Samuel Levine."
"Your husband?" he said, looking up with a smile.
"My husband," she replied, with a fainter smile.
"And what does he say?"
"It isn't a very serious letter; he only wants to reassure me that he is
coming back by Sunday week to be divorced."
"All right; tell him it shall be done at cost price," he said, with the
foreign accent that made him somehow seem more lovable to his daughter
when he spoke English. "He shall only be charged for the scribe."
"He'll take that for granted," Hannah replied. "Fathers are expected to
do these little things for their own children. But how much nicer it
would be if you could give me the _Gett_ yourself."
"I would marry you with pleasure," said Reb Shemuel, "but divorce is
another matter. The _Din_ has too much regard for a father's feelings to
"And you really think I am Sam Levine's wife?"
"How many times shall I tell you? Some authorities do take the
_intention_ into account, but the letter of the law is clearly against
you. It is far safer to be formally divorced."
"Then if he were to die--"
"Save us and grant us peace," interrupted the Reb in horror.
"I should be his widow."
"Yes, I suppose you would. But what _Narrischkeit_! Why should he die?
It isn't as if you were really married to him," said the Reb, his eye
"But isn't it all absurd, father?"
"Do not talk so," said Reb Shemuel, resuming his gravity. "Is it absurd
that you should be scorched if you play with fire?"
Hannah did not reply to the question.
"You never told me how you got on at Manchester," she said. "Did you
settle the dispute satisfactorily?"
"Oh, yes," said the Reb; "but it was very difficult. Both parties were
so envenomed, and it seems that the feud has been going on in the
congregation ever since the Day of Atonement, when the minister refused
to blow the _Shofar_ three minutes too early, as the President
requested. The Treasurer sided with the minister, and there has almost
been a split."
"The sounding of the New Year trumpet seems often to be the signal for
war," said Hannah, sarcastically.
"It is so," said the Reb, sadly.
"And how did you repair the breach?"
"Just by laughing at both sides. They would have turned a deaf ear to
reasoning. I told them that Midrash about Jacob's journey to Laban."
"What is that?"
"Oh, it's an amplification of the Biblical narrative. The verse in
Genesis says that he lighted on the place, and he put up there for the
night because the sun had set, and he took of the stones of the place
and he made them into pillows. But later on it says that he rose up in
the morning and he took _the_ stone which he had put as his pillows.
Now what is the explanation?" Reb Shemuel's tone became momently more
sing-song: "In the night the stones quarrelled for the honor of
supporting the Patriarch's head, and so by a miracle they were turned
into one stone to satisfy them all. 'Now you remember that when Jacob
arose in the morning he said: 'How fearful is this place; this is none
other than the House of God.' So I said to the wranglers: 'Why did Jacob
say that? He said it because his rest had been so disturbed by the
quarrelling stones that it reminded him of the House of God--the
Synagogue.' I pointed out how much better it would be if they ceased
their quarrellings and became one stone. And so I made peace again in
"Till next year," said Hannah, laughing. "But, father, I have often
wondered why they allow the ram's horn in the service. I thought all
musical instruments were forbidden."
"It is not a musical instrument--in practice," said the Reb, with
evasive facetiousness. And, indeed, the performers were nearly always
incompetent, marring the solemnity of great moments by asthmatic
wheezings and thin far-away tootlings.
"But it would be if we had trained trumpeters," persisted Hannah,
"If you really want the explanation, it is that since the fall of the
second Temple we have dropped out of our worship all musical instruments
connected with the old Temple worship, especially such as have become
associated with Christianity. But the ram's horn on the New Year is an
institution older than the Temple, and specially enjoined in the Bible."
"But surely there is something spiritualizing about an organ."
For reply the Reb pinched her ear. "Ah, you are a sad _Epikouros_" he
said, half seriously. "If you loved God you would not want an organ to
take your thoughts to heaven."
He released her ear and took up his pen, humming with unction a
synagogue air full of joyous flourishes.
Hannah turned to go, then turned back.
"Father," she said nervously, blushing a little, "who was that you said
you had in your eye?"
"Oh, nobody in particular," said the Reb, equally embarrassed and
avoiding meeting her eye, as if to conceal the person in his.
"But you must have meant something by it," she said gravely. "You know
I'm not going to be married off to please other people."
The Reb wriggled uncomfortably in his chair. "It was only a thought--an
idea. If it does not come to you, too, it shall be nothing. I didn't
mean anything serious--really, my dear, I didn't. To tell you the
truth," he finished suddenly with a frank, heavenly smile, "the person I
had mainly in my eye when I spoke was your mother."
This time his eye met hers, and they smiled at each other with the
consciousness of the humors of the situation. The Rebbitzin's broom was
heard banging viciously in the passage. Hannah bent down and kissed the
ample forehead beneath the black skull-cap.
"Mr. Levine also writes insisting that I must go to the Purim ball with
him and Leah," she said, glancing at the letter.
"A husband's wishes must be obeyed," answered the Reb.
"No, I will treat him as if he were really my husband," retorted Hannah.
"I will have my own way: I shan't go."
The door was thrown open suddenly.
"Oh yes thou wilt," said the Rebbitzin. "Thou art not going to bury
ESTHER AND HER CHILDREN.
Esther Ansell did not welcome Levi Jacobs warmly. She had just cleared
away the breakfast things and was looking forward to a glorious day's
reading, and the advent of a visitor did not gratify her. And yet Levi
Jacobs was a good-looking boy with brown hair and eyes, a dark glowing
complexion and ruddy lips--a sort of reduced masculine edition of
"I've come to play I-spy-I, Solomon," he said when he entered "My,
don't you live high up!"
"I thought you had to go to school," Solomon observed with a stare.
"Ours isn't a board school," Levi explained. "You might introduce a
fellow to your sister."
"Garn! You know Esther right enough," said Solomon and began to whistle
"How are you, Esther?" said Levi awkwardly.
"I'm very well, thank you," said Esther, looking up from a little
brown-covered book and looking down at it again.
She was crouching on the fender trying to get some warmth at the little
fire extracted from Reb Shemuel's half-crown. December continued gray;
the room was dim and a spurt of flame played on her pale earnest face.
It was a face that never lost a certain ardency of color even at its
palest: the hair was dark and abundant, the eyes were large and
thoughtful, the nose slightly aquiline and the whole cast of the
features betrayed the Polish origin. The forehead was rather low. Esther
had nice teeth which accident had preserved white. It was an arrestive
rather than a beautiful face, though charming enough when she smiled. If
the grace and candor of childhood could have been disengaged from the
face, it would have been easier to say whether it was absolutely pretty.
It came nearer being so on Sabbaths and holidays when scholastic
supervision was removed and the hair was free to fall loosely about the
shoulders instead of being screwed up into the pendulous plait so dear
to the educational eye. Esther could have earned a penny quite easily by
sacrificing her tresses and going about with close-cropped head like a
boy, for her teacher never failed thus to reward the shorn, but in the
darkest hours of hunger she held on to her hair as her mother had done
before her. The prospects of Esther's post-nuptial wig were not
brilliant. She was not tall for a girl who is getting on for twelve; but
some little girls shoot up suddenly and there was considerable room for
Sarah and Isaac were romping noisily about and under the beds; Rachel
was at the table, knitting a scarf for Solomon; the grandmother pored
over a bulky enchiridion for pious women, written in jargon. Moses was
out in search of work. No one took any notice of the visitor.
"What's that you're reading?" he asked Esther politely.
"Oh nothing," said Esther with a start, closing the book as if fearful
he might want to look over her shoulder.
"I don't see the fun of reading books out of school," said Levi.
"Oh, but we don't read school books," said Solomon defensively.
"I don't care. It's stupid."
"At that rate you could never read books when you're grown up," said
"No, of course not," admitted Levi. "Otherwise where would be the fun of
being grown up? After I leave school I don't intend to open a book."
"No? Perhaps you'll open a shop," said Solomon.
"What will you do when it rains?" asked Esther crushingly.
"I shall smoke," replied Levi loftily.
"Yes, but suppose it's _Shabbos_," swiftly rejoined Esther.
Levi was nonplussed. "Well, it can't rain all day and there are only
fifty-two _Shabbosim_ in the year," he said lamely. "A man can always do
"I think there's more pleasure in reading than in doing something,"
"Yes, you're a girl," Levi reminded her, "and girls are expected to stay
indoors. Look at my sister Hannah. She reads, too. But a man can be out
doing what he pleases, eh, Solomon?"
"Yes, of course we've got the best of it," said Solomon. "The
Prayer-book shows that. Don't I say every morning 'Blessed art Thou, O
Lord our God, who hast not made me a woman'?"
"I don't know whether you do say it. You certainly have got to," said
"'Sh," said Solomon, winking in the direction of the grandmother.
"It doesn't matter," said Esther calmly. "She can't understand what I'm
"I don't know," said Solomon dubiously. "She sometimes catches more than
you bargain for."
"And then, _you_ catch more than you bargain for," said Rachel, looking
up roguishly from her knitting.
Solomon stuck his tongue in his cheek and grimaced.
Isaac came behind Levi and gave his coat a pull and toddled off with a
yell of delight.
"Be quiet, Ikey!" cried Esther. "If you don't behave better I shan't
sleep in your new bed."
"Oh yeth, you mutht, Ethty," lisped Ikey, his elfish face growing grave.
He went about depressed for some seconds.
"Kids are a beastly nuisance," said Levi, "don't you think so, Esther?"
"Oh no, not always," said the little girl. "Besides we were all kids
"That's what I complain of," said Levi. "We ought to be all born
"But that's impossible!" put in Rachel.
"It isn't impossible at all," said Esther. "Look at Adam and Eve!"
Levi looked at Esther gratefully instead. He felt nearer to her and
thought of persuading her into playing Kiss-in-the-Ring. But he found it
difficult to back out of his undertaking to play I-spy-I with Solomon;
and in the end he had to leave Esther to her book.
She had little in common with her brother Solomon, least of all humor
and animal spirits. Even before the responsibilities of headship had
come upon her she was a preternaturally thoughtful little girl who had
strange intuitions about things and was doomed to work out her own
salvation as a metaphysician. When she asked her mother who made God, a
slap in the face demonstrated to her the limits of human inquiry. The
natural instinct of the child over-rode the long travail of the race to
conceive an abstract Deity, and Esther pictured God as a mammoth cloud.
In early years Esther imagined that the "body" that was buried when a
person died was the corpse decapitated and she often puzzled herself to
think what was done with the isolated head. When her mother was being
tied up in grave-clothes, Esther hovered about with a real thirst for
knowledge while the thoughts of all the other children were sensuously
concentrated on the funeral and the glory of seeing a vehicle drive away
from their own door. Esther was also disappointed at not seeing her
mother's soul fly up to heaven though she watched vigilantly at the
death-bed for the ascent of the long yellow hook-shaped thing. The
genesis of this conception of the soul was probably to be sought in the
pictorial representations of ghosts in the story-papers brought home by
her eldest brother Benjamin. Strange shadowy conceptions of things more
corporeal floated up from her solitary reading. Theatres she came across
often, and a theatre was a kind of Babel plain or Vanity Fair in which
performers and spectators were promiscuously mingled and wherein the
richer folk clad in evening dress sat in thin deal boxes--the cases in
Spitalfields market being Esther's main association with boxes. One of
her day-dreams of the future was going to the theatre in a night-gown
and being accommodated with an orange-box. Little rectification of such
distorted views of life was to be expected from Moses Ansell, who went
down to his grave without seeing even a circus, and had no interest in
art apart from the "Police News" and his "Mizrach" and the synagogue
decorations. Even when Esther's sceptical instinct drove her to inquire
of her father how people knew that Moses got the Law on Mount Sinai, he
could only repeat in horror that the Books of Moses said so, and could
never be brought to see that his arguments travelled on roundabouts. She
sometimes regretted that her brilliant brother Benjamin had been
swallowed up by the orphan asylum, for she imagined she could have
discussed many a knotty point with him. Solomon was both flippant and
incompetent. But in spite of her theoretical latitudinarianism, in
practice she was pious to the point of fanaticism and could scarce
conceive the depths of degradation of which she heard vague
horror-struck talk. There were Jews about--grown-up men and women, not
insane--who struck lucifer matches on the Sabbath and housewives who
carelessly mixed their butter-plates with their meat-plates even when
they did not actually eat butter with meat. Esther promised herself
that, please God, she would never do anything so wicked when she grew
up. She at least would never fail to light the Sabbath candles nor to
_kasher_ the meat. Never was child more alive to the beauty of duty,
more open to the appeal of virtue, self-control, abnegation. She fasted
till two o'clock on the Great White Fast when she was seven years old
and accomplished the perfect feat at nine. When she read a simple little
story in a prize-book, inculcating the homely moralities at which the
cynic sneers, her eyes filled with tears and her breast with unselfish
and dutiful determinations. She had something of the temperament of the
stoic, fortified by that spiritual pride which does not look for equal
goodness in others; and though she disapproved of Solomon's dodgings of
duty, she did not sneak or preach, even gave him surreptitious crusts of
bread before he had said his prayers, especially on Saturdays and
Festivals when the praying took place in _Shool_ and was liable to be
prolonged till mid-day.
Esther often went to synagogue and sat in the ladies' compartment. The
drone of the "Sons of the Covenant" downstairs was part of her
consciousness of home, like the musty smell of the stairs, or Becky's
young men through whom she had to plough her way when she went for the
morning milk, or the odors of Mr. Belcovitch's rum or the whirr of his
machines, or the bent, snuffy personality of the Hebrew scholar in the
adjoining garret, or the dread of Dutch Debby's dog that was ultimately
transformed to friendly expectation. Esther led a double life, just as
she spoke two tongues. The knowledge that she was a Jewish child, whose
people had had a special history, was always at the back of her
consciousness; sometimes it was brought to the front by the scoffing
rhymes of Christian children, who informed her that they had stuck a
piece of pork upon a fork and given it to a member of her race.
But far more vividly did she realize that she was an English girl; far
keener than her pride in Judas Maccabaeus was her pride in Nelson and
Wellington; she rejoiced to find that her ancestors had always beaten
the French from the days of Cressy and Poictiers to the days of
Waterloo, that Alfred the Great was the wisest of kings, and that
Englishmen dominated the world and had planted colonies in every corner
of it, that the English language was the noblest in the world and men
speaking it had invented railway trains, steamships, telegraphs, and
everything worth inventing. Esther absorbed these ideas from the school
reading books. The experience of a month will overlay the hereditary
bequest of a century. And yet, beneath all, the prepared plate remains
most sensitive to the old impressions.
Sarah and Isaac had developed as distinct individualities as was
possible in the time at their disposal. Isaac was just five and
Sarah--who had never known her mother--just four. The thoughts of both
ran strongly in the direction of sensuous enjoyment, and they preferred
baked potatoes, especially potatoes touched with gravy, to all the joys
of the kindergarten. Isaac's ambition ran in the direction of eider-down
beds such as he had once felt at Malka's and Moses soothed him by the
horizon-like prospect of such a new bed. Places of honor had already
been conceded by the generous little chap to his father and brother.
Heaven alone knows how he had come to conceive their common bed as his
own peculiar property in which the other three resided at night on
sufferance. He could not even plead it was his by right of birth in it.
But Isaac was not after all wholly given over to worldly thoughts, for
an intellectual problem often occupied his thoughts and led him to slap
little Sarah's arms. He had been born on the 4th of December while Sarah
had been born a year later on the 3d.
"It ain't, it can't be," he would say. "Your birfday can't be afore
"'Tis, Esty thays so," Sarah would reply.
"Esty's a liar," Isaac responded imperturbably.
"_Tatah_ dunno. Ain't I five?"
"And ain't you four?"
"And ain't I older than you?"
"And wasn't I born afore you?"
"Then 'ow can your birfday come afore mine?"
"'Cos it doth."
"It doth, arx Esty," Sarah would insist.
"Than't teep in my new bed," Ikey would threaten.
"Thall if I like."
Here Sarah would generally break down in tears and Isaac with premature
economic instinct, feeling it wicked to waste a cry, would proceed to
justify it by hitting her. Thereupon little Sarah would hit him back and
develop a terrible howl.
"Hi, woe is unto me," she would wail in jargon, throwing herself on the
ground in a corner and rocking herself to and fro like her far-away
ancestresses remembering Zion by the waters of Babylon.
Little Sarah's lamentations never ceased till she had been avenged by a
higher hand. There were several great powers but Esther was the most
trusty instrument of reprisal. If Esther was out little Sarah's sobs
ceased speedily, for she, too, felt the folly of fruitless tears. Though
she nursed in her breast the sense of injury, she would even resume her
amicable romps with Isaac. But the moment the step of the avenger was
heard on the stairs, little Sarah would betake herself to the corner and
howl with the pain of Isaac's pummellings. She had a strong love of
abstract justice and felt that if the wrongdoer were to go unpunished,
there was no security for the constitution of things.
To-day's holiday did not pass without an outbreak of this sort. It
occurred about tea-time. Perhaps the infants were fractious because
there was no tea. Esther had to economize her resources and a repast at
seven would serve for both tea and supper. Among the poor, combination
meals are as common as combination beds and chests. Esther had quieted
Sarah by slapping Isaac, but as this made Isaac howl the gain was
dubious. She had to put a fresh piece of coal on the fire and sing to
them while their shadows contorted themselves grotesquely on the beds
and then upwards along the sloping walls, terminating with twisted necks
on the ceiling.
Esther usually sang melancholy things in minor keys. They seemed most
attuned to the dim straggling room. There was a song her mother used to
sing. It was taken from a _Purim-Spiel_, itself based upon a Midrash,
one of the endless legends with which the People of One Book have
broidered it, amplifying every minute detail with all the exuberance of
oriental imagination and justifying their fancies with all the ingenuity
of a race of lawyers. After his brethren sold Joseph to the Midianite
merchants, the lad escaped from the caravan and wandered foot-sore and
hungry to Bethlehem, to the grave of his mother, Rachel. And he threw
himself upon the ground and wept aloud and sang to a heart-breaking
melody in Yiddish.
Und hei weh ist mir,
Wie schlecht ist doch mir,
Ich bin vertrieben geworen
Junger held voon dir.
Whereof the English runs:
Alas! woe is me!
How wretched to be
Driven away and banished,
Yet so young, from thee.
Thereupon the voice of his beloved mother Rachel was heard from the
grave, comforting him and bidding him be of good cheer, for that his
future should be great and glorious.
Esther could not sing this without the tears trickling down her cheeks.
Was it that she thought of her own dead mother and applied the lines to
herself? Isaac's ill-humor scarcely ever survived the anodyne of these
mournful cadences. There was another melodious wail which Alte
Belcovitch had brought from Poland. The chorus ran:
Man nemt awek die chasanim voon die callohs
Hi, hi, did-a-rid-a-ree!
They tear away their lovers from the maidens,
Hi, hi, did-a-rid-a-ree!
The air mingled the melancholy of Polish music with the sadness of
Jewish and the words hinted of God knew what.
"Old unhappy far-off things
And battles long ago."
And so over all the songs and stories was the trail of tragedy, under
all the heart-ache of a hunted race. There are few more plaintive chants
in the world than the recitation of the Psalms by the "Sons of the
Covenant" on Sabbath afternoons amid the gathering shadows of twilight.
Esther often stood in the passage to hear it, morbidly fascinated, tears
of pensive pleasure in her eyes. Even the little jargon story-book which
Moses Ansell read out that night to his _Kinder_, after tea-supper, by
the light of the one candle, was prefaced with a note of pathos. "These
stories have we gathered together from the Gemorah and the Midrash,
wonderful stories, and we have translated the beautiful stories, using
the Hebrew alphabet so that every one, little or big, shall be able to
read them, and shall know that there is a God in the world who forsaketh
not His people Israel and who even for us will likewise work miracles
and wonders and will send us the righteous Redeemer speedily in our
days, Amen." Of this same Messiah the children heard endless tales.
Oriental fancy had been exhausted in picturing him for the consolation
of exiled and suffering Israel. Before his days there would be a wicked
Messiah of the House of Joseph; later, a king with one ear deaf to hear
good but acute to hear evil; there would be a scar on his forehead, one
of his hands would be an inch long and the other three miles, apparently
a subtle symbol of the persecutor. The jargon story-book among its
"stories, wonderful stories," had also extracts from the famous
romance, or diary, of Eldad the Danite, who professed to have
discovered the lost Ten Tribes. Eldad's book appeared towards the end of
the ninth century and became the Arabian Nights of the Jews, and it had
filtered down through the ages into the Ansell garret, in common with
many other tales from the rich storehouse of mediaeval folk-lore in the
diffusion of which the wandering few has played so great a part.
Sometimes Moses read to his charmed hearers the description of Heaven
and Hell by Immanuel, the friend and contemporary of Dante, sometimes a
jargon version of Robinson Crusoe. To-night he chose Eldad's account of
the tribe of Moses dwelling beyond the wonderful river, Sambatyon, which
never flows on the Sabbath.
"There is also the tribe of Moses, our just master, which is called the
tribe that flees, because it fled from idol worship and clung to the
fear of God. A river flows round their land for a distance of four days'
journey on every side. They dwell in beautiful houses provided with
handsome towers, which they have built themselves. There is nothing
unclean among them, neither in the case of birds, venison nor
domesticated animals; there are no wild animals, no flies, no foxes, no
vermin, no serpents, no dogs, and in general, nothing which does harm;
they have only sheep and cattle, which bear twice a year. They sow and
reap; there are all sorts of gardens, with all kinds of fruits and
cereals, viz.: beans, melons, gourds, onions, garlic, wheat and barley,
and the seed grows a hundred fold. They have faith; they know the Law,
the Mishnah, the Talmud and the Agadah; but their Talmud is in Hebrew.
They introduce their sayings in the name of the fathers, the wise men,
who heard them from the mouth of Joshua, who himself heard them from the
mouth of God. They have no knowledge of the Tanaim (doctors of the
Mishnah) and Amoraim (doctors of the Talmud), who flourished during the
time of the second Temple, which was, of course, not known to these
tribes. They speak only Hebrew, and are very strict as regards the use
of wine made by others than themselves, as well as the rules of
slaughtering animals; in this respect the Law of Moses is much more
rigorous than that of the Tribes. They do not swear by the name of God,
for fear that their breath may leave them, and they become angry with
those who swear; they reprimand them, saying, 'Woe, ye poor, why do you
swear with the mention of the name of God upon your lips? Use your mouth
for eating bread and drinking water. Do you not know that for the sin of
swearing your children die young?' And in this way they exhort every one
to serve God with fear and integrity of heart. Therefore, the children
of Moses, the servant of God, live long, to the age of 100 or 120 years.
No child, be it son or daughter, dies during the lifetime of its parent,
but they reach a third and a fourth generation, and see grandchildren
and great-grandchildren with their offspring. They do all field work
themselves, having no male or female servants; there are also merchants
among them. They do not close their houses at night, for there is no
thief nor any wicked man among them. Thus a little lad might go for days
with his flock without fear of robbers, demons or danger of any other
kind; they are, indeed, all holy and clean. These Levites busy
themselves with the Law and with the commandments, and they still live
in the holiness of our master, Moses; therefore, God has given them all
this good. Moreover, they see nobody and nobody sees them, except the
four tribes who dwell on the other side of the rivers of Cush; they see
them, and speak to them, but the river Sambatyon is between them, as it
is said: 'That thou mayest say to prisoners, Go forth' (Isaiah xlix.,
9). They have plenty of gold and silver; they sow flax and cultivate the
crimson worm, and make beautiful garments. Their number is double or
four times the number that went out from Egypt.
"The river Sambatyon is 200 yards broad--'about as far as a bowshot'
(Gen. xxi., 16), full of sand and stones, but without water; the stones
make a great noise like the waves of the sea and a stormy wind, so that
in the night the noise is heard at a distance of half a day's journey.
There are sources of water which collect themselves in one pool, out of
which they water the fields. There are fish in it, and all kinds of
clean birds fly round it. And this river of stone and sand rolls during
the six working days and rests on the Sabbath day. As soon as the
Sabbath begins fire surrounds the river and the flames remain till the
next evening, when the Sabbath ends. Thus no human being can reach the
river for a distance of half a mile on either side; the fire consumes
all that grows there. The four tribes, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher,
stand on the borders of the river. When shearing their flocks here, for
the land is flat and clean without any thorns, if the children of Moses
see them gathered together on the border they shout, saying, 'Brethren,
tribes of Jeshurun, show us your camels, dogs and asses,' and they make
their remarks about the length of the camel's neck and the shortness of
the tail. Then they greet one another and go their way."
When this was done, Solomon called for Hell. He liked to hear about the
punishment of the sinners; it gave a zest to life. Moses hardly needed a
book to tell them about Hell. It had no secrets for him. The Old
Testament has no reference to a future existence, but the poor Jew has
no more been able to live without the hope of Hell than the poor
Christian. When the wicked man has waxed fat and kicked the righteous
skinny man, shall the two lie down in the same dust and the game be
over? Perish the thought! One of the Hells was that in which the sinner
was condemned to do over and over again the sins he had done in life.
"Why, that must be jolly!" said Solomon.
"No, that is frightful," maintained Moses Ansell. He spoke Yiddish, the
"Of course, it is," said Esther. "Just fancy, Solomon, having to eat
toffy all day."
"It's better than eating nothing all day," replied Solomon.
"But to eat it every day for ever and ever!" said Moses. "There's no
rest for the wicked."
"What! Not even on the Sabbath?" said Esther.
"Oh, yes: of course, then. Like the river Sambatyon, even the flames of
Hell rest on _Shabbos_."
"Haven't they got no fire-_goyas_?"; inquired Ikey, and everybody
"_Shabbos_ is a holiday in Hell," Moses explained to the little one.
"So thou seest the result of thy making out Sabbath too early on
Saturday night, thou sendest the poor souls back to their tortures
before the proper time."
Moses never lost an opportunity of enforcing the claims of the
ceremonial law. Esther had a vivid picture flashed upon her of poor,
yellow hook-shaped souls floating sullenly back towards the flames.
Solomon's chief respect for his father sprang from the halo of military
service encircling Moses ever since it leaked out through the lips of
the _Bube_, that he had been a conscript in Russia and been brutally
treated by the sergeant. But Moses could not be got to speak of his
exploits. Solomon pressed him to do so, especially when his father gave
symptoms of inviting him to the study of Rashi's Commentary. To-night
Moses brought out a Hebrew tome, and said, "Come, Solomon. Enough of
stories. We must learn a little."
"To-day is a holiday," grumbled Solomon.
"It is never a holiday for the study of the Law."
"Only this once, father; let's play draughts."
Moses weakly yielded. Draughts was his sole relaxation and when Solomon
acquired a draught board by barter his father taught him the game. Moses
played the Polish variety, in which the men are like English kings that
leap backwards and forwards and the kings shoot diagonally across like
bishops at chess. Solomon could not withstand these gigantic
grasshoppers, whose stopping places he could never anticipate. Moses won
every game to-night and was full of glee and told the _Kinder_ another
story. It was about the Emperor Nicholas and is not to be found in the
official histories of Russia.
"Nicholas, was a wicked king, who oppressed the Jews and made their
lives sore and bitter. And one day he made it known to the Jews that if
a million roubles were not raised for him in a month's time they should
be driven from their homes. Then the Jews prayed unto God and besought
him to help them for the merits of the forefathers, but no help came.
Then they tried to bribe the officials, but the officials pocketed their
gold and the Emperor still demanded his tax. Then they went to the
great Masters of Cabalah, who, by pondering day and night on the name
and its transmutations, had won the control of all things, and they
said, 'Can ye do naught for us?' Then the Masters of Cabalah took
counsel together and at midnight they called up the spirits of Abraham
our father, and Isaac and Jacob, and Elijah the prophet, who wept to
hear of their children's sorrows. And Abraham our father, and Isaac and
Jacob, and Elijah the prophet took the bed whereon Nicholas the Emperor
slept and transported it to a wild place. And they took Nicholas the
Emperor out of his warm bed and whipped him soundly so that he yelled
for mercy. Then they asked: 'Wilt thou rescind the edict against the
Jews?' And he said 'I will.' But in the morning Nicholas the Emperor
woke up and called for the chief of the bed-chamber and said, 'How
darest thou allow my bed to be carried out in the middle of the night
into the forest?' And the chief of the bed-chamber grew pale and said
that the Emperor's guards had watched all night outside the door,
neither was there space for the bed to pass out. And Nicholas the
Emperor, thinking he had dreamed, let the man go unhung. But the next
night lo! the bed was transported again to the wild place and Abraham
our father, and Isaac and Jacob, and Elijah the prophet drubbed him
doubly and again he promised to remit the tax. So in the morning the
chief of the bed-chamber was hanged and at night the guards were
doubled. But the bed sailed away to the wild place and Nicholas the
Emperor was trebly whipped. Then Nicholas the Emperor annulled the edict
and the Jews rejoiced and fell at the knees of the Masters of Cabalah."
"But why can't they save the Jews altogether?" queried Esther.
"Oh," said Moses mysteriously. "Cabalah is a great force and must not be
abused. The Holy Name must not be made common. Moreover one might lose
"Could the Masters make men?" inquired Esther, who had recently come
"Certainly," said Moses. "And what is more, it stands written that Reb
Chanina and Reb Osheya fashioned a fine fat calf on Friday and enjoyed
it on the Sabbath."
"Oh, father!" said Solomon, piteously, "don't you know Cabalah?"
A year before we got to know Esther Ansell she got to know Dutch Debby
and it changed her life. Dutch Debby was a tall sallow ungainly girl who
lived in the wee back room on the second floor behind Mrs. Simons and
supported herself and her dog by needle-work. Nobody ever came to see
her, for it was whispered that her parents had cast her out when she
presented them with an illegitimate grandchild. The baby was fortunate
enough to die, but she still continued to incur suspicion by keeping a
dog, which is an un-Jewish trait. Bobby often squatted on the stairs
guarding her door and, as it was very dark on the staircase, Esther
suffered great agonies lest she should tread on his tail and provoke
reprisals. Her anxiety led her to do so one afternoon and Bobby's teeth
just penetrated through her stocking. The clamor brought out Dutch
Debby, who took the girl into her room and soothed her. Esther had often
wondered what uncanny mysteries lay behind that dark dog-guarded door
and she was rather more afraid of Debby than of Bobby.
But that afternoon saw the beginning of a friendship which added one to
the many factors which were moulding the future woman. For Debby turned
out a very mild bogie, indeed, with a good English vocabulary and a
stock of old _London Journals_, more precious to Esther than mines of
Ind. Debby kept them under the bed, which, as the size of the bed all
but coincided with the area of the room, was a wise arrangement. And on
the long summer evenings and the Sunday afternoons when her little ones
needed no looking after and were traipsing about playing "whoop!" and
pussy-cat in the street downstairs, Esther slipped into the wee back
room, where the treasures lay, and there, by the open window,
overlooking the dingy back yard and the slanting perspectives of
sun-decked red tiles where cats prowled and dingy sparrows hopped, in an
atmosphere laden with whiffs from a neighboring dairyman's stables,
Esther lost herself in wild tales of passion and romance. She frequently
read them aloud for the benefit of the sallow-faced needle-woman, who
had found romance square so sadly with the realities of her own
existence. And so all a summer afternoon, Dutch Debby and Esther would
be rapt away to a world of brave men and fair women, a world of fine
linen and purple, of champagne and wickedness and cigarettes, a world
where nobody worked or washed shirts or was hungry or had holes in
boots, a world utterly ignorant of Judaism and the heinousness of eating
meat with butter. Not that Esther for her part correlated her conception
of this world with facts. She never realized that it was an actually
possible world--never indeed asked herself whether it existed outside
print or not. She never thought of it in that way at all, any more than
it ever occurred to her that people once spoke the Hebrew she learned to
read and translate. "Bobby" was often present at these readings, but he
kept his thoughts to himself, sitting on his hind legs with his
delightfully ugly nose tilted up inquiringly at Esther. For the best of
all this new friendship was that Bobby was not jealous. He was only a
sorry dun-colored mongrel to outsiders, but Esther learned to see him
almost through Dutch Debby's eyes. And she could run up the stairs
freely, knowing that if she trod on his tail now, he would take it as a
mark of _camaraderie_.
"I used to pay a penny a week for the _London Journal_," said Debby
early in their acquaintanceship, "till one day I discovered I had a
dreadful bad memory."
"And what was the good of that?" said Esther.
"Why, it was worth shillings and shillings to me. You see I used to save
up all the back numbers of the _London Journal_ because of the answers
to correspondents, telling you how to do your hair and trim your nails
and give yourself a nice complexion. I used to bother my head about that
sort of thing in those days, dear; and one day I happened to get reading
a story in a back number only about a year old and I found I was just
as interested as if I had never read it before and I hadn't the
slightest remembrance of it. After that I left off buying the _Journal_
and took to reading my big heap of back numbers. I get through them once
every two years." Debby interrupted herself with a fit of coughing, for
lengthy monologue is inadvisable for persons who bend over needle-work
in dark back rooms. Recovering herself, she added, "And then I start
afresh. You couldn't do that, could you?"
"No," admitted Esther, with a painful feeling of inferiority. "I
remember all I've ever read."
"Ah, you will grow up a clever woman!" said Debby, patting her hair.
"Oh, do you think so?" said Esther, her dark eyes lighting up with
"Oh yes, you're always first in your class, ain't you?"
"Is that what you judge by, Debby?" said Esther, disappointed. "The
other girls are so stupid and take no thought for anything but their
hats and their frocks. They would rather play gobs or shuttlecock or
hopscotch than read about the 'Forty Thieves.' They don't mind being
kept a whole year in one class but I--oh, I feel so mad at getting on so
slow. I could easily learn the standard work in three months. I want to
know everything--so that I can grow up to be a teacher at our school."
"And does your teacher know everything?"
"Oh yes! She knows the meaning of every word and all about foreign
"And would you like to be a teacher?"
"If I could only be clever enough!" sighed Esther. "But then you see the
teachers at our school are real ladies and they dress, oh, so
beautifully! With fur tippets and six-button gloves. I could never
afford it, for even when I was earning five shillings a week I should
have to give most of it to father and the children."
"But if you're very good--I dare say some of the great ladies like the
Rothschilds will buy you nice clothes. I have heard they are very good
to clever children."
"No, then the other teachers would know I was getting charity! And they
would mock at me. I heard Miss Hyams make fun of a teacher because she
wore the same dress as last winter. I don't think I should like to be a
teacher after all, though it is nice to be able to stand with your back
to the fire in the winter. The girls would know--'" Esther stopped and
"Would know what, dear?"
"Well, they would know father," said Esther in low tones. "They would
see him selling things in the Lane and they wouldn't do what I told
"Nonsense, Esther. I believe most of the teachers' fathers are just as
bad--I mean as poor. Look at Miss Hyams's own father."
"Oh Debby! I do hope that's true. Besides when I was earning five
shillings a week, I could buy father a new coat, couldn't I? And then
there would be no need for him to stand in the Lane with lemons or
'four-corner fringes,' would there?"
"No, dear. You shall be a teacher, I prophesy, and who knows? Some day
you may be Head Mistress!"
Esther laughed a startled little laugh of delight, with a suspicion of a
sob in it. "What! Me! Me go round and make all the teachers do their
work. Oh, wouldn't I catch them gossiping! I know their tricks!"
"You seem to look after your teacher well. Do you ever call her over the
coals for gossiping?" inquired Dutch Debby, amused.
"No, no," protested Esther quite seriously. "I like to hear them
gossiping. When my teacher and Miss Davis, who's in the next room, and a
few other teachers get together, I learn--Oh such a lot!--from their
"Then they do teach you after all," laughed Debby.
"Yes, but it's not on the Time Table," said Esther, shaking her little
head sapiently. "It's mostly about young men. Did you ever have a young
"Don't--don't ask such questions, child!" Debby bent over her
"Why not?" persisted Esther. "If I only had a young man when I grew up,
I should be proud of him. Yes, you're trying to turn your head away. I'm
sure you had. Was he nice like Lord Eversmonde or Captain Andrew
Sinclair? Why you're crying, Debby!"
"Don't be a little fool, Esther! A tiny fly has just flown into my
eye--poor little thing! He hurts me and does himself no good."
"Let me see, Debby," said Esther. "Perhaps I shall be in time to save
"No, don't trouble."
"Don't be so cruel, Debby. You're as bad as Solomon, who pulls off
flies' wings to see if they can fly without them."
"He's dead now. Go on with 'Lady Ann's Rival;' we've been wasting the
whole afternoon talking. Take my advice, Esther, and don't stuff your
head with ideas about young men. You're too young. Now, dear, I'm ready.
"Where was I? Oh yes. 'Lord Eversmonde folded the fair young form to his
manly bosom and pressed kiss after kiss upon her ripe young lips, which
responded passionately to his own. At last she recovered herself and
cried reproachfully, Oh Sigismund, why do you persist in coming here,
when the Duke forbids it?' Oh, do you know, Debby, father said the other
day I oughtn't to come here?"
"Oh no, you must," cried Debby impulsively. "I couldn't part with you
"Father says people say you are not good," said Esther candidly.
Debby breathed painfully. "Well!" she whispered.
"But I said people were liars. You _are_ good!"
"Oh, Esther, Esther!" sobbed Debby, kissing the earnest little face with
a vehemence that surprised the child.
"I think father only said that," Esther went on, "because he fancies I
neglect Sarah and Isaac when he's at _Shool_ and they quarrel so about
their birthdays when they're together. But they don't slap one another
hard. I'll tell you what! Suppose I bring Sarah down here!"
"Well, but won't she cry and be miserable here, if you read, and with
no Isaac to play with?"
"Oh no," said Esther confidently. "She'll keep Bobby company."
Bobby took kindly to little Sarah also. He knew no other dogs and in
such circumstances a sensible animal falls back on human beings. He had
first met Debby herself quite casually and the two lonely beings took to
each other. Before that meeting Dutch Debby was subject to wild
temptations. Once she half starved herself and put aside ninepence a
week for almost three months and purchased one-eighth of a lottery
ticket from Sugarman the _Shadchan_, who recognized her existence for
the occasion. The fortune did not come off.
Debby saw less and less of Esther as the months crept on again towards
winter, for the little girl feared her hostess might feel constrained to
offer her food, and the children required more soothing. Esther would
say very little about her home life, though Debby got to know a great
deal about her school-mates and her teacher.
One summer evening after Esther had passed into the hands of Miss Miriam
Hyams she came to Dutch Debby with a grave face and said: "Oh, Debby.
Miss Hyams is not a heroine."
"No?" said Debby, amused. "You were so charmed with her at first."
"Yes, she is very pretty and her hats are lovely. But she is not a
"Why, what's happened?"
"You know what lovely weather it's been all day?"
"Well, this morning all in the middle of the Scripture lesson, she said
to us, 'What a pity, girls, we've got to stay cooped up here this bright
weather'--you know she chats to us so nicely--'in some schools they have
half-holidays on Wednesday afternoons in the summer. Wouldn't it be nice
if we could have them and be out in the sunshine in Victoria Park?'
'Hoo, yes, teacher, wouldn't that be jolly?' we all cried. Then teacher
said: 'Well, why not ask the Head Mistress for a holiday this
afternoon? You're the highest standard in the school--I dare say if you
ask for it, the whole school will get a holiday. Who will be
spokes-woman?' Then all the girls said I must be because I was the first
girl in the class and sounded all my h's, and when the Head Mistress
came into the room I up and curtseyed and asked her if we could have a
holiday this afternoon on account of the beautiful sunshine. Then the
Head Mistress put on her eye-glasses and her face grew black and the
sunshine seemed to go out of the room. And she said 'What! After all the
holidays we have here, a month at New Year and a fortnight at Passover,
and all the fast-days! I am surprised that you girls should be so lazy
and idle and ask for more. Why don't you take example by your teacher?
Look at Miss Hyams." We all looked at Miss Hyams, but she was looking
for some papers in her desk. 'Look how Miss Hyams works!' said the Head
Mistress. '_She_ never grumbles, _she_ never asks for a holiday!' We all
looked again at Miss Hyams, but she hadn't yet found the papers. There
was an awful silence; you could have heard a pin drop. There wasn't a
single cough or rustle of a dress. Then the Head Mistress turned to me
and she said: 'And you, Esther Ansell, whom I always thought so highly
of, I'm surprised at your being the ringleader in such a disgraceful
request. You ought to know better. I shall bear it in mind, Esther
Ansell.' With that she sailed out, stiff and straight as a poker, and
the door closed behind her with a bang."
"Well, and what did Miss Hyams say then?" asked Debby, deeply
"She said: 'Selina Green, and what did Moses do when the Children of
Israel grumbled for water?' She just went on with the Scripture lesson,
as if nothing had happened."
"I should tell the Head Mistress who sent me on," cried Debby
"Oh, no," said Esther shaking her head. "That would be mean. It's a
matter for her own conscience. Oh, but I do wish," she concluded, "we
had had a holiday. It would have been so lovely out in the Park."
Victoria Park was _the_ Park to the Ghetto. A couple of miles off, far
enough to make a visit to it an excursion, it was a perpetual blessing
to the Ghetto. On rare Sunday afternoons the Ansell family minus the
_Bube_ toiled there and back _en masse_, Moses carrying Isaac and Sarah
by turns upon his shoulder. Esther loved the Park in all weathers, but
best of all in the summer, when the great lake was bright and busy with
boats, and the birds twittered in the leafy trees and the lobelias and
calceolarias were woven into wonderful patterns by the gardeners. Then
she would throw herself down on the thick grass and look up in mystic
rapture at the brooding blue sky and forget to read the book she had
brought with her, while the other children chased one another about in
savage delight. Only once on a Saturday afternoon when her father was
not with them, did she get Dutch Debby to break through her retired
habits and accompany them, and then it was not summer but late autumn.
There was an indefinable melancholy about the sere landscape. Russet
refuse strewed the paths and the gaunt trees waved fleshless arms in the
breeze. The November haze rose from the moist ground and dulled the blue
of heaven with smoky clouds amid which the sun, a red sailless boat,
floated at anchor among golden and crimson furrows and glimmering
far-dotted fleeces. The small lake was slimy, reflecting the trees on
its borders as a network of dirty branches. A solitary swan ruffled its
plumes and elongated its throat, doubled in quivering outlines beneath
the muddy surface. All at once the splash of oars was heard and the
sluggish waters were stirred by the passage of a boat in which a heroic
young man was rowing a no less heroic young woman.
Dutch Debby burst into tears and went home. After that she fell back
entirely on Bobby and Esther and the _London Journal_ and never even
saved up nine shillings again.
A SILENT FAMILY.
Sugarman the _Shadchan_ arrived one evening a few days before Purim at
the tiny two-storied house in which Esther's teacher lived, with little
Nehemiah tucked under his arm. Nehemiah wore shoes and short red socks.
The rest of his legs was bare. Sugarman always carried him so as to
demonstrate this fact. Sugarman himself was rigged out in a handsome
manner, and the day not being holy, his blue bandanna peeped out from
his left coat-tail, instead of being tied round his trouser band.
"Good morning, marm," he said cheerfully.
"Good morning, Sugarman," said Mrs. Hyams.
She was a little careworn old woman of sixty with white hair. Had she
been more pious her hair would never have turned gray. But Miriam had
long since put her veto on her mother's black wig. Mrs. Hyams was a
meek, weak person and submitted in silence to the outrage on her deepest
instincts. Old Hyams was stronger, but not strong enough. He, too, was a
"P'raps you're surprised," said Sugarman, "to get a call from me in my
sealskin vest-coat. But de fact is, marm, I put it on to call on a lady.
I only dropped in here on my vay."
"Won't you take a chair?" said Mrs. Hyams. She spoke English painfully
and slowly, having been schooled by Miriam.
"No, I'm not tired. But I vill put Nechemyah down on one, if you permit.
Dere! Sit still or I _potch_ you! P'raps you could lend me your
"With pleasure," said Mrs. Hyams.
"I dank you. You see my boy, Ebenezer, is _Barmitzvah_ next _Shabbos_ a
veek, and I may not be passing again. You vill come?"
"I don't know," said Mrs. Hyams hesitatingly. She was not certain
whether Miriam considered Sugarman on their visiting list.
"Don't say dat, I expect to open dirteen bottles of lemonade! You must
come, you and Mr. Hyams and the whole family."
"Thank you. I will tell Miriam and Daniel and my husband."
"Dat's right. Nechemyah, don't dance on de good lady's chair. Did you
hear, Mrs. Hyams, of Mrs. Jonas's luck?"
"I won her eleven pounds on the lotter_ee_."
"How nice," said Mrs. Hyams, a little fluttered.
"I would let you have half a ticket for two pounds."
"I haven't the money."
"Vell, dirty-six shillings! Dere! I have to pay dat myself."
"I would if I could, but I can't."
"But you can have an eighth for nine shillings."
Mrs. Hyams shook her head hopelessly.
"How is your son Daniel?" Sugarman asked.
"Pretty well, thank you. How is your wife?"
"And your Bessie?"
"Tank Gawd! Is your Daniel in?"
"Tank Gawd! I mean, can I see him?"
"It won't do any good."
"No, not dat," said Sugarman. "I should like to ask him to de
"Daniel!" called Mrs. Hyams.
He came from the back yard in rolled-up shirt-sleeves, soap-suds drying
on his arms. He was a pleasant-faced, flaxen-haired young fellow, the
junior of Miriam by eighteen months. There was will in the lower part of
the face and tenderness in the eyes.
"Good morning, sir," said Sugarman. "My Ebenezer is _Barmitzvah_ next
_Shabbos_ week; vill you do me the honor to drop in wid your moder and
fader after _Shool_?"
Daniel crimsoned suddenly. He had "No" on his lips, but suppressed it
and ultimately articulated it in some polite periphrasis. His mother
noticed the crimson. On a blonde face it tells.
"Don't say dat," said Sugarman. "I expect to open dirteen bottles of
lemonade. I have lent your good moder's corkscrew."
"I shall be pleased to send Ebenezer a little present, but I can't come,
I really can't. You must excuse me." Daniel turned away.
"Vell," said Sugarman, anxious to assure him he bore no malice. "If you
send a present I reckon it de same as if you come."
"That's all right," said Daniel with strained heartiness.
Sugarman tucked Nehemiah under his arm but lingered on the threshold. He
did not know how to broach the subject. But the inspiration came.
"Do you know I have summonsed Morris Kerlinski?"
"No," said Daniel. "What for?"
"He owes me dirty shillings. I found him a very fine maiden, but, now he
is married, he says it was only worth a suvran. He offered it me but I
vouldn't take it. A poor man he vas, too, and got ten pun from a
marriage portion society."
"Is it worth while bringing a scandal on the community for the sake of
ten shillings? It will be in all the papers, and _Shadchan_ will be
spelt shatcan, shodkin, shatkin, chodcan, shotgun, and goodness knows
"Yes, but it isn't ten shillings," said Sugarman. "It's dirty
"But you say he offered you a sovereign."
"So he did. He arranged for two pun ten. I took the suvran--but not in
"You ought to settle it before the Beth-din," said Daniel vehemently,
"or get some Jew to arbitrate. You make the Jews a laughing-stock. It is
true all marriages depend on money," he added bitterly, "only it is the
fashion of police court reporters to pretend the custom is limited to
"Vell, I did go to Reb Shemuel," said Sugarman "I dought he'd be the
very man to arbitrate."
"Why?" asked Daniel.
"Vy? Hasn't he been a _Shadchan_ himself? From who else shall we look
"I see," said Daniel smiling a little. "And apparently you got none."
"No," said Sugarman, growing wroth at the recollection. "He said ve are
not in Poland."
"Yes, but I gave him an answer he didn't like," said Sugarman. "I said,
and ven ve are not in Poland mustn't ve keep _none_ of our religion?"
His tone changed from indignation to insinuation.
"Vy vill you not let me get _you_ a vife, Mr. Hyams? I have several
extra fine maidens in my eye. Come now, don't look so angry. How much
commission vill you give me if I find you a maiden vid a hundred pound?"
"The maiden!" thundered Daniel. Then it dawned upon him that he had said
a humorous thing and he laughed. There was merriment as well as
mysticism in Daniel's blue eyes.
But Sugarman went away, down-hearted. Love is blind, and even
marriage-brokers may be myopic. Most people not concerned knew that
Daniel Hyams was "sweet on" Sugarman's Bessie. And it was so. Daniel
loved Bessie, and Bessie loved Daniel. Only Bessie did not speak because
she was a woman and Daniel did not speak because he was a man. They were
a quiet family--the Hyamses. They all bore their crosses in a silence
unbroken even at home. Miriam herself, the least reticent, did not give
the impression that she could not have husbands for the winking. Her
demands were so high--that was all. Daniel was proud of her and her
position and her cleverness and was confident she would marry as well as
she dressed. He did not expect her to contribute towards the expenses of
the household--though she did--for he felt he had broad shoulders. He
bore his father and mother on those shoulders, semi-invalids both. In
the bold bad years of shameless poverty, Hyams had been a wandering
metropolitan glazier, but this open degradation became intolerable as
Miriam's prospects improved. It was partly for her sake that Daniel
ultimately supported his parents in idleness and refrained from
speaking to Bessie. For he was only an employe in a fancy-goods
warehouse, and on forty-five shillings a week you cannot keep up two
Bessie was a bonnie girl and could not in the nature of things be long
uncaught. There was a certain night on which Daniel did not
sleep--hardly a white night as our French neighbors say; a tear-stained
night rather. In the morning he was resolved to deny himself Bessie.
Peace would be his instead. If it did not come immediately he knew it
was on the way. For once before he had struggled and been so rewarded.
That was in his eighteenth year when he awoke to the glories of free
thought, and knew himself a victim to the Moloch of the Sabbath, to
which fathers sacrifice their children. The proprietor of the fancy
goods was a Jew, and moreover closed on Saturdays. But for this
anachronism of keeping Saturday holy when you had Sunday also to laze
on, Daniel felt a hundred higher careers would have been open to him.
Later, when free thought waned (it was after Daniel had met Bessie),
although he never returned to his father's narrowness, he found the
abhorred Sabbath sanctifying his life. It made life a conscious
voluntary sacrifice to an ideal, and the reward was a touch of
consecration once a week. Daniel could not have described these things,
nor did he speak of them, which was a pity. Once and once only in the
ferment of free thought he had uncorked his soul, and it had run over
with much froth, and thenceforward old Mendel Hyams and Beenah, his
wife, opposed more furrowed foreheads to a world too strong for them. If
Daniel had taken back his words and told them he was happier for the
ruin they had made of his prospects, their gait might not have been so
listless. But he was a silent man.
"You will go to Sugarman's, mother," he said now. "You and father. Don't
mind that I'm not going. I have another appointment for the afternoon."
It was a superfluous lie for so silent a man.
"He doesn't like to be seen with us," Beenah Hyams thought. But she was
"He has never forgiven my putting him to the fancy goods," thought
Mendel Hyams when told. But he was silent.
It was of no good discussing it with his wife. Those two had rather
halved their joys than their sorrows. They had been married forty years
and had never had an intimate moment. Their marriage had been a matter
of contract. Forty years ago, in Poland, Mendel Hyams had awoke one
morning to find a face he had never seen before on the pillow beside
his. Not even on the wedding-day had he been allowed a glimpse of his
bride's countenance. That was the custom of the country and the time.
Beenah bore her husband four children, of whom the elder two died; but
the marriage did not beget affection, often the inverse offspring of
such unions. Beenah was a dutiful housewife and Mendel Hyams supported
her faithfully so long as his children would let him. Love never flew
out of the window for he was never in the house. They did not talk to
each other much. Beenah did the housework unaided by the sprig of a
servant who was engaged to satisfy the neighbors. In his enforced
idleness Mendel fell back on his religion, almost a profession in
itself. They were a silent couple.
At sixty there is not much chance of a forty year old silence being
broken on this side of the grave. So far as his personal happiness was
concerned, Mendel had only one hope left in the world--to die in
Jerusalem. His feeling for Jerusalem was unique. All the hunted Jew in
him combined with all the battered man to transfigure Zion with the
splendor of sacred dreams and girdle it with the rainbows that are
builded of bitter tears. And with it all a dread that if he were buried
elsewhere, when the last trump sounded he would have to roll under the
earth and under the sea to Jerusalem, the rendezvous of resurrection.
Every year at the Passover table he gave his hope voice: "Next year in
Jerusalem." In her deepest soul Miriam echoed this wish of his. She felt
she could like him better at a distance. Beenah Hyams had only one hope
left in the world--to die.
THE PURIM BALL.
Sam Levine duly returned for the Purim ball. Malka was away and so it
was safe to arrive on the Sabbath. Sam and Leah called for Hannah in a
cab, for the pavements were unfavorable to dancing shoes, and the three
drove to the "Club," which was not a sixth of a mile off.
"The Club" was the People's Palace of the Ghetto; but that it did not
reach the bed-rock of the inhabitants was sufficiently evident from the
fact that its language was English. The very lowest stratum was of
secondary formation--the children of immigrants--while the highest
touched the lower middle-class, on the mere fringes of the Ghetto. It
was a happy place where young men and maidens met on equal terms and
similar subscriptions, where billiards and flirtations and concerts and
laughter and gay gossip were always on, and lemonade and cakes never
off; a heaven where marriages were made, books borrowed and newspapers
read. Muscular Judaism was well to the fore at "the Club," and
entertainments were frequent. The middle classes of the community,
overflowing with artistic instinct, supplied a phenomenal number of
reciters, vocalists and instrumentalists ready to oblige, and the
greatest favorites of the London footlights were pleased to come down,
partly because they found such keenly appreciative audiences, and partly
because they were so much mixed up with the race, both professionally
and socially. There were serious lectures now and again, but few of the
members took them seriously; they came to the Club not to improve their
minds but to relax them. The Club was a blessing without disguise to the
daughters of Judah, and certainly kept their brothers from harm. The
ball-room, with its decorations of evergreens and winter blossoms, was a
gay sight. Most of the dancers were in evening dress, and it would have
been impossible to tell the ball from a Belgravian gathering, except by
the preponderance of youth and beauty. Where could you match such a
bevy of brunettes, where find such blondes? They were anything but
lymphatic, these oriental blondes, if their eyes did not sparkle so
intoxicatingly as those of the darker majority. The young men had
carefully curled moustaches and ringlets oiled like the Assyrian bull,
and figure-six noses, and studs glittering on their creamy shirt-fronts.
How they did it on their wages was one of the many miracles of Jewish
history. For socially and even in most cases financially they were only
on the level of the Christian artisan. These young men in dress-coats
were epitomes of one aspect of Jewish history. Not in every respect
improvements on the "Sons of the Covenant," though; replacing the
primitive manners and the piety of the foreign Jew by a veneer of cheap
culture and a laxity of ceremonial observance. It was a merry party,
almost like a family gathering, not merely because most of the dancers
knew one another, but because "all Israel are brothers"--and sisters.
They danced very buoyantly, not boisterously; the square dances
symmetrically executed, every performer knowing his part; the waltzing
full of rhythmic grace. When the music was popular they accompanied it
on their voices. After supper their heels grew lighter, and the laughter
and gossip louder, but never beyond the bounds of decorum. A few Dutch
dancers tried to introduce the more gymnastic methods in vogue in their
own clubs, where the kangaroo is dancing master, but the sentiment of
the floor was against them. Hannah danced little, a voluntary
wallflower, for she looked radiant in tussore silk, and there was an air
of refinement about the slight, pretty girl that attracted the beaux of
the Club. But she only gave a duty dance to Sam, and a waltz to Daniel
Hyams, who had been brought by his sister, though he did not boast a
swallow-tail to match her flowing draperies. Hannah caught a rather
unamiable glance from pretty Bessie Sugarman, whom poor Daniel was
trying hard not to see in the crush.
"Is your sister engaged yet?" Hannah asked, for want of something to
"You would know it if she was," said Daniel, looking so troubled that
Hannah reproached herself for the meaningless remark.
"How well she dances!" she made haste to say.
"Not better than you," said Daniel, gallantly.
"I see compliments are among the fancy goods you deal in. Do you
reverse?" she added, as they came to an awkward corner.
"Yes--but not my compliments," he said smiling. "Miriam taught me."
"She makes me think of Miriam dancing by the Red Sea," she said,
laughing at the incongruous idea.
"She played a timbrel, though, didn't she?" he asked. "I confess I don't
quite know what a timbrel is."
"A sort of tambourine, I suppose," said Hannah merrily, "and she sang
because the children of Israel were saved."
They both laughed heartily, but when the waltz was over they returned to
their individual gloom. Towards supper-time, in the middle of a square
dance, Sam suddenly noticing Hannah's solitude, brought her a tall
bronzed gentlemanly young man in a frock coat, mumbled an introduction
and rushed back to the arms of the exacting Leah.
"Excuse me, I am not dancing to-night," Hannah said coldly in reply to
the stranger's demand for her programme.
"Well, I'm not half sorry," he said, with a frank smile. "I had to ask
you, you know. But I should feel quite out of place bumping such a lot
There was something unusual about the words and the manner which
impressed Hannah agreeably, in spite of herself. Her face relaxed a
little as she said:
"Why, haven't you been to one of these affairs before?"
"Oh yes, six or seven years ago, but the place seems quite altered.
They've rebuilt it, haven't they? Very few of us sported dress-coats
here in the days before I went to the Cape. I only came back the other
day and somebody gave me a ticket and so I've looked in for auld lang
An unsympathetic hearer would have detected a note of condescension in
the last sentence. Hannah detected it, for the announcement that the
young man had returned from the Cape froze all her nascent sympathy. She
was turned to ice again. Hannah knew him well--the young man from the
Cape. He was a higher and more disagreeable development of the young man
in the dress-coat. He had put South African money in his purse--whether
honestly or not, no one inquired--the fact remained he had put it in his
purse. Sometimes the law confiscated it, pretending he had purchased
diamonds illegally, or what not, but then the young man did _not_ return
from the Cape. But, to do him justice, the secret of his success was
less dishonesty than the opportunities for initiative energy in
unexploited districts. Besides, not having to keep up appearances, he
descended to menial occupations and toiled so long and terribly that he
would probably have made just as much money at home, if he had had the
courage. Be this as it may, there the money was, and, armed with it, the
young man set sail literally for England, home and beauty, resuming his
cast-off gentility with several extra layers of superciliousness. Pretty
Jewesses, pranked in their prettiest clothes, hastened, metaphorically
speaking, to the port to welcome the wanderer; for they knew it was from
among them he would make his pick. There were several varieties of
him--marked by financial ciphers--but whether he married in his old
station or higher up the scale, he was always faithful to the sectarian
tradition of the race, and this less from religious motives than from
hereditary instinct. Like the young man in the dress-coat, he held the
Christian girl to be cold of heart, and unsprightly of temperament. He
laid it down that all Yiddishe girls possessed that warmth and _chic_
which, among Christians, were the birthright of a few actresses and
music-hall artistes--themselves, probably, Jewesses! And on things
theatrical this young man spoke as one having authority. Perhaps, though
he was scarce conscious of it, at the bottom of his repulsion was the
certainty that the Christian girl could not fry fish. She might be
delightful for flirtation of all degrees, but had not been formed to
make him permanently happy. Such was the conception which Hannah had
formed for herself of the young man from the Cape. This latest specimen
of the genus was prepossessing into the bargain. There was no denying
he was well built, with a shapely head and a lovely moustache. Good
looks alone were vouchers for insolence and conceit, but, backed by the
aforesaid purse--! She turned her head away and stared at the evolutions
of the "Lancers" with much interest.
"They've got some pretty girls in that set," he observed admiringly.
Evidently the young man did not intend to go away.
Hannah felt very annoyed. "Yes," she said, sharply, "which would you
"I shouldn't care to make invidious distinctions," he replied with a
"Odious prig!" thought Hannah. "He actually doesn't see I'm sitting on
him!" Aloud she said, "No? But you can't marry them all."
"Why should I marry any?" he asked in the same light tone, though there
was a shade of surprise in it.
"Haven't you come back to England to get a wife? Most young men do, when
they don't have one exported to them in Africa."
He laughed with genuine enjoyment and strove to catch the answering
gleam in her eyes, but she kept them averted. They were standing with
their backs to the wall and he could only see the profile and note the
graceful poise of the head upon the warm-colored neck that stood out
against the white bodice. The frank ring of his laughter mixed with the
merry jingle of the fifth figure--
"Well, I'm afraid I'm going to be an exception," he said.
"You think nobody good enough, perhaps," she could not help saying.
"Oh! Why should you think that?"
"Perhaps you're married already."
"Oh no, I'm not," he said earnestly. "You're not, either, are you?"
"Me?" she asked; then, with a barely perceptible pause, she said, "Of
course I am."
The thought of posing as the married woman she theoretically was,
flashed upon her suddenly and appealed irresistibly to her sense of fun.
The recollection that the nature of the ring on her finger was concealed
by her glove afforded her supplementary amusement.
"Oh!" was all he said. "I didn't catch your name exactly."
"I didn't catch yours," she replied evasively.
"David Brandon," he said readily.
"It's a pretty name," she said, turning smilingly to him. The infinite
possibilities of making fun of him latent in the joke quite warmed her
towards him. "How unfortunate for me I have destroyed my chance of
It was the first time she had smiled, and he liked the play of light
round the curves of her mouth, amid the shadows of the soft dark skin,
in the black depths of the eyes.
"How unfortunate for me!" he said, smiling in return.
"Oh yes, of course!" she said with a little toss of her head. "There is
no danger in saying that now."
"I wouldn't care if there was."
"It is easy to smooth down the serpent when the fangs are drawn," she
"What an extraordinary comparison!" he exclaimed. "But where are all the
people going? It isn't all over, I hope."
"Why, what do you want to stay for? You're not dancing."
"That is the reason. Unless I dance with you."
"And then you would want to go?" she flashed with mock resentment.
"I see you're too sharp for me," he said lugubriously. "Roughing it
among the Boers makes a fellow a bit dull in compliments."
"Dull indeed!" said Hannah, drawing herself up with great seriousness.
"I think you're more complimentary than you have a right to be to a
His face fell. "Oh, I didn't mean anything," he said apologetically.
"So I thought," retorted Hannah.
The poor fellow grew more red and confused than ever. Hannah felt quite
sympathetic with him now, so pleased was she at the humiliated condition
to which she had brought the young man from the Cape.
"Well, I'll say good-bye," he said awkwardly. "I suppose I mustn't ask
to take you down to supper. I dare say your husband will want that
"I dare say," replied Hannah smiling. "Although husbands do not always
appreciate their privileges."
"I shall be glad if yours doesn't," he burst forth.
"Thank you for your good wishes for my domestic happiness," she said
"Oh, why will you misconstrue everything I say?" he pleaded. "You must
think me an awful _Schlemihl_, putting my foot into it so often. Anyhow
I hope I shall meet you again somewhere."
"The world is very small," she reminded him.
"I wish I knew your husband," he said ruefully.
"Why?" said Hannah, innocently.
"Because I could call on him," he replied, smiling.
"Well, you do know him," she could not help saying.
"Do I? Who is it? I don't think I do," he exclaimed.
"Well, considering he introduced you to me!"
"Sam!" cried David startled.
"But--" said David, half incredulously, half in surprise. He certainly
had never credited Sam with the wisdom to select or the merit to deserve
a wife like this.
"But what?" asked Hannah with charming _naivete_.
"He said--I--I--at least I think he said--I--I--understood that he
introduced me to Miss Solomon, as his intended wife."
Solomon was the name of Malka's first husband, and so of Leah.
"Quite right," said Hannah simply.
"Then--what--how?" he stammered.
"She _was_ his intended wife," explained Hannah as if she were telling
the most natural thing in the world. "Before he married me, you know."
"I--I beg your pardon if I seemed to doubt you. I really thought you
"Why, what made you think so?"
"Well," he blurted out. "He didn't mention he was married, and seeing
him dancing with her the whole time--"
"I suppose he thinks he owes her some attention," said Hannah
indifferently. "By way of compensation probably. I shouldn't be at all
surprised if he takes her down to supper instead of me."
"There he is, struggling towards the buffet. Yes, he has her on his
"You speak as if she were his phylacteries," said Hannah, smiling. "It
would be a pity to disturb them. So, if you like, you can have me on
your arm, as you put it."
The young man's face lit up with pleasure, the keener that it was
"I am very glad to have such phylacteries on my arm, as you put it," he
responded. "I fancy I should be a good deal _froomer_ if my phylacteries
were like that."
"What, aren't you _frooms_?" she said, as they joined the hungry
procession in which she noted Bessie Sugarman on the arm of Daniel
"No, I'm a regular wrong'un," he replied. "As for phylacteries, I almost
forget how to lay them."
"That _is_ bad," she admitted, though he could not ascertain her own
point of view from the tone.
"Well, everybody else is just as bad," he said cheerfully. "All the old
piety seems to be breaking down. It's Purim, but how many of us have
been to hear the--the what do you call it?--the _Megillah_ read? There
is actually a minister here to-night bare-headed. And how many of us are
going to wash our hands before supper or _bensh_ afterwards, I should
like to know. Why, it's as much as can be expected if the food's
_kosher_, and there's no ham sandwiches on the dishes. Lord! how my old
dad, God rest his soul, would have been horrified by such a party as
"Yes, it's wonderful how ashamed Jews are of their religion outside a
synagogue!" said Hannah musingly. "_My_ father, if he were here, would
put on his hat after supper and _bensh_, though there wasn't another man
in the room to follow his example."
"And I should admire him for it," said David, earnestly, "though I admit
I shouldn't follow his example myself. I suppose he's one of the old
"He is Reb Shemuel," said Hannah, with dignity.
"Oh, indeed!" he exclaimed, not without surprise, "I know him well. He
used to bless me when I was a boy, and it used to cost him a halfpenny a
time. Such a jolly fellow!"
"I'm so glad you think so," said Hannah flushing with pleasure.
"Of course I do. Does he still have all those _Greeners_ coming to ask
"Oh, yes. Their piety is just the same as ever."
"They're poor," observed David. "It's always those poorest in worldly
goods who are richest in religion."
"Well, isn't that a compensation?" returned Hannah, with a little sigh.
"But from my father's point of view, the truth is rather that those who
have most pecuniary difficulties have most religious difficulties."
"Ah, I suppose they come to your father as much to solve the first as
"Father is very good," she said simply.
They had by this time obtained something to eat, and for a minute or so
the dialogue became merely dietary.
"Do you know," he said in the course of the meal, "I feel I ought not to
have told you what a wicked person I am? I put my foot into it there,
"Because you are Reb Shemuel's daughter."
"Oh, what nonsense! I like to hear people speak their minds. Besides,
you mustn't fancy I'm as _froom_ as my father."
"I don't fancy that. Not quite," he laughed. "I know there's some
blessed old law or other by which women haven't got the same chance of
distinguishing themselves that way as men. I have a vague recollection
of saying a prayer thanking God for not having made me a woman."
"Ah, that must have been a long time ago," she said slyly.
"Yes, when I was a boy," he admitted. Then the oddity of the premature
thanksgiving struck them both and they laughed.
"You've got a different form provided for you, haven't you?" he said.
"Yes, I have to thank God for having made me according to His will."
"You don't seem satisfied for all that," he said, struck by something in
the way she said it.
"How can a woman be satisfied?" she asked, looking up frankly. "She has
no voice in her destinies. She must shut her eyes and open her mouth and
swallow what it pleases God to send her."
"All right, shut your eyes," he said, and putting his hand over them he
gave her a titbit and restored the conversation to a more flippant
"You mustn't do that," she said. "Suppose my husband were to see you."
"Oh, bother!" he said. "I don't know why it is, but I don't seem to
realize you're a married woman."
"Am I playing the part so badly as all that?"
"Is it a part?" he cried eagerly.
She shook her head. His face fell again. She could hardly fail to note
"No, it's a stern reality," she said. "I wish it wasn't."
It seemed a bold confession, but it was easy to understand. Sam had been
an old school-fellow of his, and David had not thought highly of him. He
was silent a moment.
"Are you not happy?" he said gently.
"Not in my marriage."
"Sam must be a regular brute!" he cried indignantly. "He doesn't know
how to treat you. He ought to have his head punched the way he's going
on with that fat thing in red."
"Oh, don't run her down," said Hannah, struggling to repress her
emotions, which were not purely of laughter. "She's my dearest friend."
"They always are," said David oracularly. "But how came you to marry
"Accident," she said indifferently.
"Accident!" he repeated, open-eyed.
"Ah, well, it doesn't matter," said Hannah, meditatively conveying a
spoonful of trifle to her mouth. "I shall be divorced from him
to-morrow. Be careful! You nearly broke that plate."
David stared at her, open-mouthed.
"Going to be divorced from him to-morrow?"
"Yes, is there anything odd about it?"
"Oh," he said, after staring at her impassive face for a full minute.
"Now I'm sure you've been making fun of me all along."
"My dear Mr. Brandon, why will you persist in making me out a liar?"
He was forced to apologize again and became such a model of perplexity
and embarrassment that Hannah's gravity broke down at last and her merry
peal of laughter mingled with the clatter of plates and the hubbub of
"I must take pity on you and enlighten you," she said, "but promise me
it shall go no further. It's only our own little circle that knows about
it and I don't want to be the laughing-stock of the Lane."
"Of course I will promise," he said eagerly.
She kept his curiosity on the _qui vive_ to amuse herself a little
longer, but ended by telling him all, amid frequent exclamations of
"Well, I never!" he said when it was over. "Fancy a religion in which
only two per cent. of the people who profess it have ever heard of its
laws. I suppose we're so mixed up with the English, that it never occurs
to us we've got marriage laws of our own--like the Scotch. Anyhow I'm
real glad and I congratulate you."
"On not being really married to Sam."
"Well, you're a nice friend of his, I must say. I don't congratulate
myself, I can tell you."
"You don't?" he said in a disappointed tone.
She shook her head silently.
"Why not?" he inquired anxiously.
"Well, to tell the truth, this forced marriage was my only chance of
getting a husband who wasn't pious. Don't look so puzzled. I wasn't
shocked at your wickedness--you mustn't be at mine. You know there's
such a lot of religion in our house that I thought if I ever did get
married I'd like a change."
"Ha! ha! ha! So you're as the rest of us. Well, it's plucky of you to
"Don't see it. My living doesn't depend on religion, thank Heaven.
Father's a saint, I know, but he swallows everything he sees in his
books just as he swallows everything mother and I put before him in his
plate--and in spite of it all--" She was about to mention Levi's
shortcomings but checked herself in time. She had no right to unveil
anybody's soul but her own and she didn't know why she was doing that.
"But you don't mean to say your father would forbid you to marry a man
you cared for, just because he wasn't _froom_?"
"I'm sure he would."
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