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IX 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


IX 
THE KIDDUSH CUP 


Many are the singers in Israel who have 
sung the song of the Sabbath, and none 
more sweetly than that great bad boy 
Heine. Of its sanctity and of its joy; of 
its peace and its holiness; of its charm and 
its glory, have they sung. But had I the 
voice of song, I should sing, above all, of 
its rest—the sweet Sabbath rest. Ah! how 
dearly sought, how sorely needed, is this 
short Sabbath rest in the Gass, for short 
it is at best, and not until the important 
morning synagogue service is over, and 
the dinner partaken of, when for once in 
the week the Gass eats its fill,—which is 
also a pious deed on the Sabbath,—not 
until then can one speak of true Sabbath 
rest. 


The peddler’s pack lies unnoticed in a 
161 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


corner, and Anshel himself dozes peace- 
fully by the fire; the cobbler’s bench is 
hid away, and Mendel sprawls grandly as 
a lord on his wooden settle; the shops and 
stores are closed, and their owners nod 
silently at the windows. Put your ear to 
any house-door, and you will hear the com- 
fortable sounds of snoring. 

The children with their tops and balls 
play quietly that their parents be not dis- 
turbed; the youths and maidens have an- 
other way of resting. They walk up and 
down the street; the maidens in rows with 
arms intertwined, fresh, fair, and Sab- 
bathly; the youths with stiff collars up to 
their ears and thick boots creaking festively. 
When they pass one another, there is blush- 
ing and smirking, giggling and whisper- 
ing. In ten minutes they are in groups, 
youths and maidens together. Ten more 
minutes, and lo! the whole Gass is an Eden, 
and in it wander nothing but pairs, man 


and woman, as the Lord God created them. 
162 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


Maryam, seeing them pass her window, 
knows all that can be known of coming 
events. Yes, Maryam, too, is resting. 
The Backstub is closed, and she is sitting 
quietly by the window. On her head is 
the “golden Sabbath cap,” and tied round 
her waist a black silk apron—glories, 
these, left from the time when Maryam 
was a fair young bride with a rich dowry 
and a fine “ outfit,’ and her hardest labor 
that of folding her satiny linen. She has 
a handkerchief spread over her lap, lest she 
sully her apron, and she never naps so 
soundly that she forgets not to lean lest 
she crush the lace upon her cap. 

Two books are her Sabbath compan- 
ions—one is an old prayer-book, the con- 
tents of whose yellow pages she can recite 
off in her sleep; the other is a large black 
volume with the name Lessing on the 
cover. Sometimes the one lies in her lap, 
sometimes the other, and ’tis known of 
Maryam that she never naps when it is the 

163 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


one labeled Lessing. The older people 
purse their mouths up doubtfully at this, 
but say nothing; the younger folks also say 
nothing, but they look triumphant. 

In the course of the day many of the 
. people enter Maryam’s room to receive her 
Sabbath blessing; for it is counted as pre- 
cious as a blessing from the rabbi, and many 
a heavy-footed lad, who blushes sheepishly 
at the glint of a maiden’s eyes, kisses Mar- 
yam’s wrinkled hand with rude grace, and 
bows his head reverently for her blessing. 

At the other side of the table sits Shim- 
melé reading aloud out of a large book, 
which lies open before him. The book 
is “ The Sayings of the Fathers,” a portion 
of which he must read aloud to his grand- 
mother every Sabbath. The lines are full 
of hard, knotty words, and Shimmelé has 
rubbed his little cap almost to the back 
of his neck in his effort to get them into 
his head, but he goes on bravely, glancing 


now and then for stimulation at a dish of 
164 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


stewed fruit which stands at Maryam’s 
elbow. It is his Sabbath fruit, the reward 
of his efforts, and at the dry places he finds 
refreshment in the sweet cinnamony flavor 
which rises from it. 

What matter what Rabbi Yochanan ben 
Zaccai says, so long as he says it quickly, 
and Shimmelé may eat stewed prunes and 
apples. 

It was Maryam’s habit to draw a weekly 
lesson from the wise sayings of the Fathers 
for Shimmelé’s instruction and moral ele- 
vation; but on the Sabbath following the 
exciting events concerning Reb Noach’s 
Shalet, it was Shimmelé himself who ex- 
pounded the text. 

“ Rabbi-Me-ir-said-” spelled Shimmelé 
on this Sabbath, following his fat forefinger 
across the page, “ look-not-at-the-flask- 
but -at-what-is-contained-therein-for-there- 
are-new-flasks-full-of-old-wine-”’ 

“A beautiful word that,” interrupted 


Maryam, “and true, and true,” she added, 
165 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
Pas ES Ny PEREGO NE sa OE 


glancing proudly at Shimmelé; for clearly 
his little head was as a new flask, and the 
wisdom it contained as old wine. 

Shimmelé stopped short and reflected. 

“Babelé,” he said, rubbing his leg 
thoughtfully, ‘why dost say it is true?” 

“Ts it perhaps not true?” cried Maryam 
in surprise. 

“It was not a flask at all,” said Shim- 
melé eagerly. 

“Ai, was it not?” said Maryam in 
amazement. 

“No, ’twas a Shalet-pot, and it con- 
tained, not wine, but egg-barley and 
goose-meat that melts on the tongue. 
And Rabbi Meir said, ‘ Look into it,’ but 
how could we do that? We should have 
had to break the crust, and then,” con- 
cluded Shimmelé decisively, “ Reb Noach 
would have screamed louder than ever!” 
“Shimmelé, my gold,” cried Maryam, 
tis as I said—thou wilt one day surely 


be chief-rabbi,”’ and then she threw back 
166 


ed. 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


her head, and laughed until the tears ran 
down her cheeks. 


Of all the stories that Maryam told, 
Shimmelé liked best the one that was 
logically connected in his mind with the 
Sabbath eve. It was the story of the Kid- 
dush (consecration) cup, a beautiful cup of 
silver, which stood in solitary grandeur on 
Maryam’s Sabbath table. It was the one 
story that was delivered to him without 
an appendage, and contained but few 
moral reflections, and Maryam had a way 
of telling it, with many gestures and ejacu- 
lations, that Shimmelé never tired of it, 
and the shudders were none the less de- 
lightful because he knew just when they 
were coming. 

It was usually in the evening when 
Maryam was fondly rubbing the cup with 
her apron, before putting it aside on the 
shelf, that she would begin: * 


“ Five and forty years next Purim—” 
167 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


“The French were then in the land,” 
Shimmelé would prompt encouragingly. 

“That they were,” said Maryam. “It 
was a dreadful time that, the time of the 
French, when a single man—his name was 
Napoleon—took for himself the whole 
world, and left nothing for anyone else. 
In those days, many a one who sat one day 
good and secure on his inherited estate, 
was next day a beggar with wife and child, 
and thy Dédé (grandfather)—he rests in 
Paradise—lost all we had, and though he 
was a learned man, a great Talmud Cho- 
cham, he had to tramp through the country 
with a big pack of flax on his back. From 
one farm to the other he trudged, buying 
flax and bringing it to town to sell. It was 
hard, bitter bread he earned, for he was, 
nebbich, a poor business man—may he for- 
give me that I must say it, but it is true— 
and when he should have been thinking of 
a bargain, his head was full of learned 
things. 

168 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


“ Well, one day—the French had then 
overrun the whole land, and were as far as 
Vienna—thy grandfather was walking with 
‘his pack on his back just at the branching 
of the roads, when suddenly six men came 
dashing out of the bush. They had neither 
hats nor shoes, and their faces and hands 
were scratched and bleeding. 

“Save us, for Christ’s sake!’ they 
cried—” (Here Shimmelé would look with 
breathless admiration at Maryam, for few 
in the Gass dared pronounce the dreadful 
name of the Christian Messiah; but Mar- 
yam was an intrepid soul.) “‘ We are Aus- 
trian soldiers, prisoners of the enemy. 
They are upon us,’ they cried. 

“Thou canst imagine thy grandfather’s 
fright, Shimmelé. What was to be done? 
He had just come from the farm of his 
friend, Salmé Randar, and to Salmé he di- 
rected them. 

“«Tell him Chayim Prager sent you,’ 


he said, ‘and Salmé will hide and take care 
169 


IDYLS OF THE GASS _ 


Sa ie re Tee 


of you,’ and as a sign that they were not 
lying, he gave them his Tefillin (phylac- 
teries) bag to give to Salmé—” 

Here Shimmelé’s eyes would rove 
knowingly to the Kist, and Maryam would 
say, “ Yes, ’tis the same one, of velvet, with 
the Mogen Dovid (Shield of David) worked 
in it, that lies with my grave clothes—I 
made it for my Chayim when we were be- 
trothed. 

“So off they rushed, and hardly had 
they disappeared in the bush when thy 
Dédé heard hoof-beats on the road. He 
quickly pulled out his prayer-book, for 
he was in great agony of soul, and they 
were upon him, a great company, twenty 
men on horseback. 

“At the branching of the roads, which 
go out like a three-pronged fork from 
there, they stopped, for they did not know 
which way to go. Then only thy Dédé 
saw what a fearful thing he had done. He 


had brought his friend Salma Randar with 
170 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


wife and child to destruction; for that 
French captain, if he had any Sechel (sense), 
would surely divide his company in three, 
each to follow one of the roads. 

“Wai geschrieen! What was to be 
done? With all his soul thy Dédé prayed 
to God to let him die, if need be, but to 
save Salmé and his family; but all the while 
his mind was not idle, for he knew, if he 
did not help, how should God? Was he 
Moses that God should do a miracle for 
him? 

“ Now, thy Dédé in his travels had often 
gone as far as the Frenchmen’s borders, 
and he knew their language, but at that 
moment fright drove every word out of his 
head—it was the work of God, though 
thy Dédé did not then know it. 

“He went up to them anyhow, and 
asked in German what they sought. 

“ There was one among them who could 
speak German, and he translated to the 


captain what thy Dédé said. 
171 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


““Ask him if he saw any runaway sol- 
diers pass this way,’ the captain said to 
this man, whom they called something like 
Michelé. But thy Dédé did not reply, for 
he saw at once that no matter what he said 
they would not believe him, he being an 
Austrian and they the enemy; in any case 
they would divide in three, and destroy 
not only the runaways, but also Salmé 
Randar. 

“Shema! ’tis a God’s wonder thy Dédé 
did not drop dead on the Spot with fright. 

“Then, while he hesitated, one of the 
soldiers, who perhaps noticed his prayer- 
book, cried: 

“* Offer him money. He'll sell his soul 
for money, he’s a dog of a Jew,’ and more 
such, as is their manner. 

“Now, wilt thou believe it, Shimmelé, 
my life, even as he spoke a light went up 
in thy Dédé’s head. Then he knew that 
God meant it well with him, and had an- 


swered his prayer. Nothing is too insig- 
172 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


nificant to hold the word of God. Here 
it was contained in this mean soldier’s 
words. Now thy Dédé saw, too, that it 
was a blessing from God that he had not 
spoken in French, for they thought he did 
not understand them. So he made him- 
self very sly and said to this man, this 
Michele: 

“* Ask your captain how much he will 
give me, if I show him the way they 
went.’ 

“ When Michelé translated this, they all 
set up a great roar of laughing, and thy 
Dédé knew he had them. 

“Tt was a great blessing, Shimmelé, 
that those Frenchmen were such a pack of 
idiots, for thy Dédé, who rests out there 
in the ‘good place’ (cemetery), was but 
a poor hand at tricks. 

“They soon struck a bargain, and thy 
Dédé told them a pack of lies—how that 
the runaways had taken the forest road to 


Rodow, how that the way was hard to find, 
173 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
ST SETNG VR Sa asa a RE as eS Pe a 


and he would show it if they paid five gul- 
den extra. 

“Nu, why should I tell a long story? In 
the Black Marsh he led them astray, and 
when their horses stood shoulder-deep in 
water, and they could go no further, thy 
Dédé turned around and said in good 
French: 

““T’m afraid, Mr. Captain,’ he said, ‘ I’m 
afraid we’ve lost the way.’ 

“Tis the truth I’m telling thee, Shim- 
melé—there was not a man among them 
that did not turn white as chalk, and out 
jumps the captain’s sword ready to run thy 
Deédé through. But he had no fear; he 
had been saying his prayers all along the 
road, and was prepared to die, so he 
said: 

“* What do you think, Mr. Captain!’ he 
said. ‘You have come to steal my Em- 
peror’s land, and now you want to shoot 
down his soldiers, but, I tell you, I will not 
allow it!’ 

174 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


“Then they began to laugh, and the 
captain made a deep bow, and said to thy 
Dédeé: 

“¢T hope Your Worship will allow that 
we leave this place; ’tis a trifle damp.’ 

“ My word, Shimmele, thy Dédeé did not 
feel at all like joking, and he said to the 
captain: 

“No, Mr. Captain, that also I cannot 
allow; with God’s help I shall take you out 
again, but not until to-morrow morning, 
for I have reckoned out that those escaped 
soldiers will need at least six hours start 
to get into safety. By that time it will 
be dark, and,’ says he, ‘many a one has 
ventured through the Black Marsh 
after dark, but none has yet come out 
alive.’ 

“When the captain heard this, he be- 
came entirely meshugge. ‘You are my 
prisoner,’ he yelled, ‘I command—for- 
ward!’ 


“ Thy Dédé did not budge, 
175 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
ene ss eet CN Se OS a ANS RD Ri DOM 


““Shoot him down, fellows!’ bawled 
the captain. 

“Wilt believe it, Shimmelé, thy Dédé 
only laughed. 

““Look here, Mr. Captain,’ he said, 
“you are a clever captain, and I am only a 
poor Jew, yet I tell you, one of us two 
is a fool, and it is not I. If 1 will not, I 
will not; if I am dead, I cannot—well, then! 
And this also I tell you, without me to 
guide you back you will all perish here 
like rats ina trap. Do I wish that? God 
forbid! Do I not know that you also are 
human beings and have wife and child at 
home? Find your way out if you can, and 
I promise you may shoot me the moment 
your foot touches dry ground.’ 

“Well, after two of their men’s horses 

‘were drowned, and the men barely escaped 
drowning also, they were glad enough to 
follow thy Dédé to a high, dry place he 
knew of, and there they passed the night. 


And Dédé built a fire, and boiled water for 
176 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


their whiskey in his little cooking pot, that 
they might have something warm in their 
stomachs, and they called him no more vile 
names, and drank together like comrades. 

“Then thy Dédé prepared himself for 
death. He knew they would take him 
prisoner to the French camp next day, 
where he would be shot. He wrote me a 
long letter, which the captain, who had a 
heart of gold in him, promised to send! 
me—thanks and praise be to God, I never 
got it! Then they sat and talked together 
all night, and Chayim told him how hard 
it went with the poor Jews in those trou- 
bled times, and how he could hardly make 
a living for his wife and two young chil- 
dren,—thy father, Shimmelé, was then a 
new-born babe,—and the captain told him 
that he, too, had a wife and a little baby at 
home, and so they talked together like 
brothers. And the next day he led them 
safely out of the marsh, and they went back 


the way they had come. 
177 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


“Well, after a while they stopped at a 
field, to give their horses a feed of hay, and 
as they stood there on the road, thy Dede 
with his hands tied on his back, they sud- 
denly heard the rolling of drums. The 
captain started, listened, then quickly he 
cried: 

“¢The Austrians! Mount—forward— 
gallop—’ and before thy Dédé could catch 
his breath, he found himself standing alone 
in the road, his pack lying a little way off. 

“Thy Dédé knew at once that this 
drumming was but the children of the last 
hamlet playing at war,—in those days even 
the children had the war-fever,—but the 
soldiers were gone. All that was left was 
a cloud of dust rolling down the road. 

“ Shimmelé, to the day of his death thy 
Dédé could not decide whether or not that 
captain did it on purpose. 

“It was a long time after, the French 
had already left the country,—they had, 


alas, humbled the Kaiser, and he had to buy 
178 


THE KIDDUSH CUP 


peace with heavy gold,—when, one day, 
six soldiers appeared in the Gass, and asked 
to be shown to our house. 

“ Yossel Kummer—he was then a lad— 
ran so that the people cried, ‘ Where is the 
fire?’ and ran after him, and when they got 
to our house, half of the Gass was at their 
heels. 

“ Imagine the fright, Shimmelé, my life! 
Thy Dédé had just come home for the 
Sabbath, and all thought he was to be ar- 
rested and brought to destruction, but it 
turned out that those soldiers were the 
same ones thy Dédé had sent to Salmé 
Randar’s, and they knew all the rest he 
had done, and they carried a green leather 
box, and in it was this same Kiddush cup 
that stands here on the table. 

“One of them made him a speech—it 
was, alas, a foolish speech—he said a lot 
about a noble Christian deed, and more 
such nonsense. The people said, ‘ With 


one hand they fondle, and with the other 
179 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


they smite him’—but they meant well, 
and, nebbich, knew no better. And thy 
Dédé was not insulted, and when he saw 
what the present was, then he knew how 
well they meant it. 

“ Half a dukedom they might have given 
him, and he could not have been more 
happy with it. Not because it was beau- 
tiful and of silver, but because the Goyim 
gave it to him, gave him a Kiddush cup 
with Hebrew letters engraved on it. 

““Tt must always remain in the family,’ 
he used to say, ‘ and go from father to son, 
to be a sign and a hope in dark days that 
the Jew shall some day have justice.’ 

“It was to him a sign of the coming of 
that day when God will be One and His 
Name One.” 

Alas and alas for that Kiddush cup! The 
hope of Israel lives on, but the cup ended 
miserably, in a manner that had broken 
Reb Chayim’s heart had he lived to see it. 


180 


X 


‘VG BPRER YOSEF.) 


x 
“VETTER YOSSEF ” 


It had been a matter of course to Shim- 
melé’s earliest consciousness, like the fol- 
lowing of night upon day, or the lines of 
care on his father’s forehead, this blind- 
ness of Vetter Yossef’s (Uncle Joseph); nor 
had he ever thought of pitying the blind 
man. 

Why should one pity him who went 
about the farm at his ease, who seemed to 
see more with his blind eyes than others 
with seeing ones? 

At haying Yossef did not worry about 
the weather as did others. He felt the 
earth, raised his sightless face to the breeze, 
and said: “It is going to rain,” and rain 
it would, one could depend on it. Nor did 
he have to run to the barns to learn wheth- 


er the cows were at home. He only sniffed 
183 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


the air and knew. And when they were 
hunting mushrooms, and a bough plucked 
at his hair, he never swore, “dam that 
oak,” if perchance it was an ash. 

No, Yossef was a creature rather to be 
feared than pitied; a wonder who lifted the 
big barrels of salt which no one else could 
budge; who at harvest time swung the 
heavy sheaves as though they were feath- 
ers; a silent, moody giant, who sat through 
the long winter weeks weaving, with ma- 
jestic patience, withes of straw for the bind- 
ing of next year’s harvest. 

But later, when Shimmelé lived with his 
grandmother, and the intervals of separa- 
tion drew forth large contrasts, he began to 
marvel at this strange, gruff man, who 
stared into the world with wide-open eyes, 
but whose gaze was bound by a hidden, im- 
penetrable barrier, which not the bright- 
ness of the noon-day sun could pierce. 

That Vetter Yossef went about with 


open eyes that saw nothing was not half 
184 


“VETTER YOSSEF ” 


so strange as how it could have come so, 
and when Shimmelé returned from a visit 
to the farm, he would overwhelm his 
grandmother with questions. 

“Was Vetter Yossef always blind?” 

“No, child,” replied Maryam, “there 
was a time when nothing, not even the 
smallest pin on the ground, escaped his no- 
tice: 

“Can he not be made again to see?” 

“With God’s help, Shimmelé, with 
God’s help.” 

“ How long has he been so?” 

“God help and defend—more than 
twenty long years.” 

“Cannot the doctor cure him?” 

“There is not a great doctor in all of 
Europe who has not tried.” 

Then a pause and— 

“Babelé, how became he blind?” but 
quickly a strange grief came into Mar- 
yam’s face, not the gently sorrowful, as 


when there was hunger in the Gass; not 
185 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


the softly tearful, as when there was a 
death; but a dumb, tearless agony, an ut- 
ter aloneness of misery, out of which Shim- 
melé stood debarred, a stranger and un- 
noticed. 

So Shimmelé hungered on to know un- 
appeased, for with the fine instinct of child- 
hood he felt that Yossef dared not be ques- 
tioned about his blindness, and Maryam 
could not speak of the tragedy of her life, 
which had shattered at a blow the life of 
her husband and the light of vision of her 
first-born. 

Once, during one of Yossef’s visits to his 
mother, Shimmelé, who took but little for 
granted, quickly lifted a lighted candle to 
the blind man’s eyes, to see if he would 
wink. Yossef did mot move until the 
flame scorched his face. With a cry of 
alarm he thrust the candle from him cry- 
ing: 

“Thou wicked one! A nice sort of 


creature thou art raising here,” he said bit- 
186 


«“ VETTER YOSSEF ” 


teem 


terly to his mother; but with a sudden im- 
pulse Shimmelé threw himself weeping 
upon Yossef’s neck. 

“Now I believe it,” he sobbed, over- 
come with the vastness of the affliction, 
“now I know thou canst not see the 
least littlest bit—poor Vetterl (little 
uncle).” 

Four children had been born in his 
prother’s house before Shimmelé, yet it 
was the first time that a child’s arm lay 
warmly around Yossef’s neck, the first 
time that a soft little cheek pressed his 
own. Slowly, almost reluctantly, his great 
arms arose until they clasped Shimmele 
close, and then soft tremors began to flit 
over his face. 

When he returned to the farm next day, 
he did not stamp roughly through the 
house as usual, but rummaged for hours 
in the wood-shed. Long after dark he re- 
mained within, and the family stared to 


hear him softly whistling to himself. When 
187 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
Fa NSE Be E RAEN STAUB 


he came forth, he hid almost shamefacedly 
a child’s toy, a little top, within his big 
hand. 

As at the farm, so in the village, Yossef 
had been a man rather to be avoided and 
feared or wondered at; one of whom it was 
pleasant to tell queer tales in the ghostly 
twilight—of his mighty strength, how he 
could twist a horseshoe into a spiral, and 
how once, in the heat of an argument, he 

_had crushed a thick beer-mug, like an egg- 
shell, in the hollow of hishand. Or a fear- 
ful, whispered tale of an awful night in the 
early years of his blindness, when, after 
the last of his many fruitless journeys to 
the medical celebrities of the world, Mar- 
yam had found him at the brink of the river, 
his clothes weighted with stones, ready to 
leap. 

The children of the Gass, too, had al- 
ways stayed clear of Yossef; still it was 
they who first discovered that a change 


was coming over him. 
188 


** VETTER YOSSEF ” 


One day Schuster’s Maierlé paraded a 
beautiful blue top before his neighbors. 

“ Where didst get it?” they cried. 

“ My mother licked me, and I was hol- 
lering, and up comes blind Yossef and 
gives me a top,” announced Maierle. 

Soon there was a rumor among the chil- 
dren that Yossef carries ever a pocketful 
of Trenderlech. 

“ How dost know?” 

“‘Schuster’s Maierlé got one, also red 
Zirl, Shimmelé has a heap.” 

“ How does one get them?” 

“When one sees Yossef coming, one has 
but to stand still and bawl.” 

The very next time that Yossef walked 
through the Gass the air was filled with 
wild howlings. 

But the scheme did not work, for Yain- 
kelé, the thick-head, spoilt it. 

“Why art roaring so?” said Yossef to 
him. “Did thy mother whip thee?” 


“No, she cannot,” boasted Yainkelé. ‘I 
189 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


run too fast, but if you'll give me a top, 
Pil let her, I’ll let her hit me hard.” 

Aarelé Dorfgeher discovered a better 
way. 

“Tis not true,’ said Aarelé, “that 
blind Yossef snaps one in two like a dried 
twig, if one but speaks to him. One has 
but to bow politely and say, ‘Good day, 
Reb Yossef, good week, good year, may 
Reb Yossef live a hundred years. Have 
you perhaps a Trenderl you don’t need?’ 
He grumbles something, but he laughs 
too, and one gets a Trenderl, a big one.” 

Such boldness was a thing to gasp at, 
but it was soon generally adopted, for you 
cannot long fear a man who carries ever a 
pocketful of tops. And it proved, too, a 
source of much pleasure to the Gass; for 
be it known that, though a Trenderl is only 
a four-sided top with letters carved on it, 
it is the best kind of toy in the world, 
“suitable for young and old,” as the ad- 


vertisement would say, and more games 
190 


« VETTER YOSSEF ” 


Ne SRAM FSU SES SCIEN SEE area 


can be played with it than any one has ever 
taken the trouble to count. 

You can spin it innocently, as does a 
child; or tell fortunes and the initials of 
your true-love’s name, as do foolish maid- 
ens; or you can gamble with it wickedly, 
as with dice, and—one-two-three—you 
have lost a whole pocketful of Pluigerman- 
delech (pumpkin-seeds). 

Yossef and Shimmelé now became fast 
friends, and while the blind man unfolded 
for the Bochurlé all the simple musings of 
long silent years, Shimmelé listened so 
gravely, and had a way of saying, “ Ai, 
Vetterl,”’ in appropriate places, that Yos- 
sef, not seeing, often forgot that Shimmelé 
was but a child, and wandered off into 
paths that were all arid desert to him. 

Like the crippled who strive to hide 
their deformities, so Yossef hid his blind- 
ness away from the sight of man, and woe 
to him who uttered a word of pity. He 


had hated and shunned the Gass, but Shim- 
191 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


melé had become a temptation hard to re- 
sist. He came to the village almost 
weekly now, and they had a tacit under- 
standing that Yossef should not be led 
through the Gass. It was as clear between 
them as though Yossef had said bitterly: 
“Need they know how helpless I am?” 
and Shimmelé had cried warmly, “ No, 
they shall not.” 

Their manner was to walk apart, Shim- 
melé a little ahead, Yossef behind, stepping 
out bravely, at the risk of breaking his 
neck, his head in the air, and dangling his 
stick with foolish airiness in his hand. 

Stupid people seeing him would cry; 
“Wahrhaftig, it goes unbeschrieen very 
well with him, considering ”- but those that 
understood turned their faces from the piti- 
ful sight. They knew that once clear of 
the Gass he would again be but a broken 
man walking with groping steps and tap- 
ping the ground with his stick. 


These were the people who had known 
192 


““VETTER YOSSEF ” 
I a ial 


Yossef in his seeing days, when he had 
been counted one of the handsomest men 
in the province. His had not been beauty 
of face, but he had had a pair of bold, 
laughing blue eyes, and a body like a 
. young forest oak. At all the neighboring 
fairs he had played in the games and con- 
tests, “like a Goy,” said the pious and 
shook their heads, but he carried off all 
the prizes for strength. Not a maiden 
looked at him but her eyes lingered with’ 
loving glances, and there was a tale of the 
daughter of a rich farmer, a Christian girl, 
who all but died for love of him. He also 
had frequent offers of Jewish girls with 
dowries, but his heart was given to the 
poor Schulklopfer’s daughter, the beautiful, 
coquettish Channelé, and he would have 
none but her. Yet no one took these two 
seriously, for so long had they been be- 
trothed that people viewed it as a game 
at which they had played in childhood, and 


had forgotten to leave off. 
193 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


RATT eas a ec 


“He has nothing, she has nothing, on 
what will they live?” said the people, and 
shrugged their shoulders contemptuously, 
and Channelé’s father, the old Schulklopfer, 
scolded constantly. 

“Thou mightst have Mordché, the ped- 
dler, and thou, Yossef, a girl with a dowry, 
—a pair of fools, you two. For what do 
you wait?” 

But Yossef and Channelé looked into 
€ach other’s eyes and said, “ Still we shall 
wait.” 

Channelé was one of the poorest girls in 
the Gass, but she had a face at sight of 
which men grew limp and weak-kneed, and 
Channelé loved best to see them so. It 
was known of her that she always got over- 
weight at the gtocer’s, for she threw such 
blinding glances out of her greenish blue 
eyes, that long Eisak, the clerk, could see 
neither weights nor scales, and there were 
certain young men who always made a dé- 


tour past Schulklopfer’s house, “to admire 
194 


*“VETTER YOSSEF ” 


its style of architecture,” said the people 
and winked. 

When Channelé coquetted too much 
with the men, Yossef sat white and grim, 
and went to dance with the peasant girls; 
then Channelé sulked; but soon a rumor 
was about, and the gossips came to Yossef 
saying: 

“So it is off between thee and Channele. 
Long Eisak runs there every day. They 
say ‘twill be a match.” 

In three bounds Yossef was at Chan- 
nelé’s side, crying in tragic tones: 

“What is this the people say?” 

Channelé cocked her round white chin, 
blinked at him through her long lashes, 
and said: 

“Nu, why not? Thou knowest ’tis but 
a joke between thee and me.” 

Yossef raged and tore and swore that 
rather would he die and Channelé with 
him, till she threw herself on his neck, 


crying: 
195 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


“ Thou wild bear, thou silly goose, thou 
only love.” 

So they loved and teased each other, and 
waited and hoped till came that glad year 
when their patience was to be rewarded. 
Yossef was advanced to the position of 
foreman of the spinners. He now earned 
enough to give his parents his much-need- 
ed help, and still have enough with which 
to found a home; but that year it was 
Channelé who sat white and disconsolate 
and wept till her eyes were red. 

That year Fraulein Rosalie Birnbaum 
(which name is spoken with elegantly 
pursed up lips) came to visit her uncle, 
Reb Noach Fingerhut, the great dry-goods 
merchant. 

Fraulein Rosalie looked at Yossef and— 
was lost. And Reb Noach invited Yossef 
to dine and sup; the ladies knit him a silk 
neck-cloth, and gave him a meerschaum 
pipe, and the people said: 

“Tis a scandal, but surely it will be a 

196 


“© VETTER YOSSEF ” 


IT 


match. The girl has money like hay. A 
lucky dog, Yossef.” 

Yossef walked about with his head in the 
air. 

“ He is practicing for when he will be a 
Kotzen (rich man),” said the Gass scorn- 
fully, but when they said: 

“ Nu, Yossef, may one already say Ma- 
zel Tov (good luck)?” he only shrugged his 
shoulders and smiled mysteriously. 

Fraulein Rosalie returned to her home in 
the city, and a week later the Gass was 
thrown into a panic by the arrival of no 
less a person than the famous Shadchen 
(marriage-broker), Reb Dovid Maier, who 
repaired straight to Chayim Prager’s 
house. 

“Have you heard?” cried the people. 
“He has come to make the match—ten 
thousand gulden cash, so they say.” 

They flew to the mill to fetch Yossef, 
and then and there, as he stood, in his 


working clothes, Reb Dovid Maier made 
197 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


him an offer of the hand of F raulein Rosa- 
lie Birnbaum, an interest in her father’s 
business, and thirty thousand gulden in 
cash. 

Thirty thousand gulden! Delicate peo- 
ple fainted when they heard it, and the rest 
stood open-mouthed, watching to see Yos- 
sef jump at it. And what did Yossef do? 
Hear, world, the incredible tale! He made 
a very grave face and said: 

“Thirty thousand gulden,—really—a 
nice bit of money, but you are too generous, 
Reb Dovid, you offer too much. Nay, I 
am not so grasping. The money is good, 
but the girl, the girl you can keep.” Then 
he banged his fist on the table and laughed, 
laughed in Reb Dovid Maier’s face. 

They had to revive the famous Shadchen 
with brandy, but Yossef, when next he was 
seen, stood in Schulklopfer’s back-yard 
chopping their wood, and Channelé in her 
faded calico dress was beside him. 


“Now thou knowest how it feels to be 
198 


“ VETTER YOSSEF ” 


jealous, little impudence,’ Yossef was say- 
ing, but Channelé only dug her small 
white hands into his hair and pulled it. 
Then they laughed together as though life 
were one long merry-making. 

Not often again did these two laugh to- 
gether, for coming swiftly was that awful 
night, the dawn of which broke on a shat- 
tered joy, on Channelé a broken-hearted 
woman and Yossef stricken hopelessly 
blind. 


199 


XI 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


XI 
THE END OF A ROMANCE 


Vetter Yossef was spending a few weeks 
in the village, for the purpose of trying one 
more of the numerous “sure cures ” that 
were suggested for his blindness. 

This time the remedy came from a peas- 
ant woman, and an important part of it 
consisted in the blind man’s bending his 
sightless gaze upon swarming ant-hills. 

So Yossef and Shimmelé, who acted as 
assistant in the cure, roved the fields and 
hills together, Shimmelé astride the giant’s 
shoulders, his sharp eyes eagerly searching 
the ground. Yossef would then lie for 
hours upon the earth, his face bent pa- 
tiently over an ant-hill, whose inhabitants 
they had mustered in full numbers with a 
sprinkling of sugar, while Shimmelé roved 


the fields in search of herbs for his grand- 
203 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


mother; or read aloud a stirring tale, in 
the excitement of which Yossef, forgetting 
his cure, sat upright; or idly chatted, deeply 
intent on the working of the cure, asking 
now and then: 

“ Dost see already a little, Vetterl?” 

One day, as they were walking through 
the Gass on their way to the fields, the 
following dialogue, exchanged as quickly 
as shots, took place. 

“Hi, Rebbé!” squeaked a scornful 
voice. 


“Hold thy tongue,” growled Shim- 
melé. 

“ Hi, look at him, a whole Chocham! He 
knows everything. Why need he go to 
school?’ scoffed the other. 

“Shut up—red-head!” roared Shim- 
melé, then silence ensued; followed only ° 
by an eloquent pantomime performed by 
the scoffer, which consisted of twiddling his 
outstretched fingers irritatingly from his 


nose and waving one leg hilariously thereto. 
204 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


“?Tis the same little rascal who wanted 
to fool me out of a Trenderl,” laughed Yos- 
sef. “I know the voice. What is his 
name?” 

“ Vainkelé Eisak Schulklopfer’s.” 

Yossef stopped short with his mouth 
open, as if he had heard an astounding 
piece of news. 

“Vainkelé Eisak Schulklopfer’s,” he 
echoed. “So thou knowest him well— 
what?” ‘ 

“Why should I not know him?” said 
Shimmelé. ‘He is the greatest dunce in 
school.” 

That day Yossef was strangely absent 
and moody, and seemed perversely inter- 
ested in nothing that Shimmelé did. He 
read a charming piece about the costly 
jewels of the Empress, and Yossef re- 
marked irrelevantly: 

“So he has red hair.” 

“Who,” cried Shimmelé, “the Emper- 
or?” 

205 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
et SE al De Ua MIU it Tee 


“Nay, Yainkelé.” 

Shimmelé tried the serial novel and 
“with a cry of joy Count Rudolph clasped 
the Princess in his arms—” he read, but 
Yossef only said: 

“The blockhead he has from his father.” 

“Who, the Count?” 

“Nay, Yainkelé.” 

So Shimmelé remained silent, quietly 
tying together with grasses little bunches 
of wild sage. It was trying, but one of his 
earliest lessons had been that one must be 
patient with Yossef’s moods; he is, alas, a 
stricken creature. Yossef, too, was silent, 
it seemed to Shimmelé for a long time, but 
suddenly he burst forth, almost vehe- 
mently : 

“ Justice! what sort of thing is this they 
call justice! Pfui! a human being would 
spit at such, and I should believe it of 
God?” 

Shimmelé stared in wonder at his uncle’s 
unaccountable wrath. 

206 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


“Ai, Vetterl,’ he said, for there was 
nothing else to say. 

“Ts it not so?” cried Yossef. ‘The 
people say that in my blindness I am pun- 
ished because I forgot God’s command, 
what is written, ‘Thou shalt honor thy 
father and thy mother.’ ” 

“Yes, they say that.” 

“They are a pack of fools! Why don’t 
they leave God alone? Everything they 
blame on Him. Should I believe that be- 
cause for one wild moment I forgot—for 
one moment—God would punish me a 
whole life-time? That is justice? The 
vilest human being would not be so cruel, 
and I should believe it of God! When I 
was foreman in the spinning-mill, there was 
once a man there, an Hungarian, who did 
not understand our language, and they tor- 
mented him, and he began a fight, and 
broke a wheel, and ruined a whole spindle 
full of flax. ‘This won’t do,’ I said to 


myself, ‘I must discharge this man,’ but 
207 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


when I bethought me, how it was but in a 
moment of rage, and that he had a wife and 
children at home, I said, ‘Nay, that will 
not do either. Because for a moment he 
lost his head, shall his poor children there- 
fore hunger?’ Nay, I kept him, as would 
any man who has a heart in his breast. 
Shall I perhaps be better than is the Eter- 
nal? And if so be that my sin deserved a 
life-time of suffering, why, then, did He 
punish also my mother, who never in all 
her life so much as harmed a fly? When 
I think of her, how she works there winter 
and summer over her hot oven, how she 
never complained, not for one moment, 
when she sold her linen, her silver, her 
feather-beds, one by one, and tramped 
through the world with me, from one great 
doctor to another! Some said the trouble 
ended with an ah and some said with an 
us, and all pocketed the money, but none 
helped me. And this I should believe was 


208 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


Who dare say it was my fault? Nay, it was 
not, not wholly. Did I ask Him perhaps 
to put that feeling for Channelé into my 
breast, that feeling that I would go 
through fire and water for her? I was so 
little when it began, I do not even remem- 
ber when. She was but a tiny thing with 
her stockings hanging over her shoes, 
when I used to save the raisins out of my 
Barches for her. 

“T was a lad of eighteen, and she a year 
younger, when we were betrothed. It was 
one evening when she was taking home 
three great loaves from the bake-house. I 
carried them for her, and when we got to 
her door she said: 

“«They are awfully heavy, the loaves, 
are they not?’ 

“*Nothing is heavy when thou art be- 
side me,’ I said. Then she leaned her fore- 
head a moment on my breast, and said: 

“*T’'ll always walk beside thee, Yossef’-— 


so we were betrothed. She was a great 
209 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


beauty, and though she was a poor girl,— 
her father had hardly enough to live on, 
where should he have gotten a dowry for 
her?—yet there were many would gladly 
have taken her to wife, but she would have 
none but me.” 

Yossef’s voice had become very tender; 
he paused here with his head bowed in 
his hand, and Shimmelé scarcely dared 
breathe. Here was a strange and entirely 
new development of his blind uncle, a tale 
which he had never heard, and which 
promised great things, if Yossef would but 
tell it right. He fairly trembled with the 
questions which struggled to his lips, but 
this mood of Yossef’s was an untested one, 
and Shimmelé dared not speak, lest if he 
said so much as ai in the wrong place, 
Yossef should become suddenly mute. 

“A trick!” began Yossef again. “A 
fine trick for a mighty Lord to test a man 
with, in a moment of excitement! 


“In the night of the great fire, when 
210 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


we awoke and found the whole synagogue 
standing in flames, and my mother stood 
in the street, her face like chalk, crying: 
‘Thy father is in that burning building— 
he went in to save his Sefer (scroll of the 
Law),’—on such a night, when everyone 
was wild, was that the time to try a man? 

“When she stood there before me, 
Channelé, with the thick tears running 
down her cheeks and crying, ‘Run, Yos- 
sef, run, get my Proches (curtains for the 
ark in the synagogue), they will be burnt 
entirely "—I could not help it, and had she 
told me to run into Gehinnom (hell), I 
should have run. ’Tis true—I admit it. 
My mother cried: ‘Stay! for a rag wilt 
thou risk thy life?’ but Channelé cried: 
‘A rag! Only last week I finished those — 
curtains, two years I worked on the lace 
alone.’ 

“How could one blame her? She had 
presented the curtains to the Schul in hon- 


or of her father’s seventieth birthday. She 
211 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


had starved herself to buy the silk. And 
then she folded her little hands together 
and cried, ‘ Yossef, Yossef, my Proches!’ 

“My mother then grasped me by the 
arm—'tis true, and I think I would have 
remained, but then Channelé shook her 
braids and cried: ‘ Ah, I know one whom 
I will not have to ask twice, he is no cow- 
ard!’ A coward! So help me God—that 
was more than I could stand—I was wildly 
jealous of that fool, long Ejisak, that great, 
lumbering idiot with his handsome face. 
If it was wrong it was but for a moment— 
I forgave that Hungarian spinner—but the 
Lord—can I believe that He would not for- 
give!” 

Shimmelé gasped. He realized that he 
now had heard, vaguely but surely, the 
mysterious tale of his uncle’s blindness. 

“From that day thou wast blind,” he 
ventured breathlessly. 

“Yes, when the fire was out, they found 


us in the ruins, my father dead, with his 
212 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


Sefer clasped in his arms, and I—I was 
blind.” 

“ And was perhaps not Channelé pun- 
ished?” began Yossef after a pause, more 
tenderly. ‘‘ My mother, who usually has 
a heart as tender as a child’s, drove her 
from our door like adog. Then she would 
weep under my window in the night, and 
whisper through the shutters: ‘I'll marry 
thee anyhow, Yossef, my heart. I'll work 
for us both.—I’ll make lace.—I’ll work my 
fingers to the bone.—I’ll sell my outfit and 
pay a great doctor that he make thee again 
to see.—I’ll marry none but thee, Yossef, 
my joy.’ 

“Tt was not till years after, when her 
father was dead, and she had not bread to 
eat, and I was a living clod, who ate of my 
brother’s bounty, that she at last married 
long Eisak. Even then the fool could not 
liave supported her, if the people, out of 
pity, had not given him Reb Yainkev’s 


213 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


“ Nay—nay—that was not the work of 
the Lord—He had nothing to do with it. 
Dost remember, Shimmelé, how thou didst 
read that all those little specks in the sky 
that look like a floorful of glass splinters, 
how every one is a great world, bigger 
than this one? Ai, the Lord has enough 
to do to look after them all. I’m thinking, 
it is when the Lord’s back is turned that 
the great calamities happen on earth. 
Perhaps when He looked down on earth, 
and saw that I had gone blind, and that 
my father was dead, and Channelé weeping 
her eyes out, day and night, and saw the 
awful grief of my mother, I think He must 
have wept Himself when he saw it. It 
was a mighty woe.” 

Yossef spoke no more. He seemed lost 
in deep revery, which Shimmelé feared to 
disturb with questions as to those myste- 
rious persons, long Eisak and the beautiful 
Channelé. 


“There used to be a little sunny bench 
214 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


a , 


in the synagogue yard, right opposite the 
windows of the Schulklopfer’s house,’ be- 
gan Yossef after a while. “Is it still 
there?” 

“Who should have taken it away?” 
laughed Shimmelé. 

“Dost know,” said Yossef hesitatingly, 
while a light flush spread over his face, “I 
have a mind I should like to sit once 
again on that little sunny bench in the 
synagogue yard. It was my favorite spot 
where to spend the Sabbath afternoon.” 

Shimmelé bundled together his herbs, 
books, and papers, and, taking Yossef’s 
hand, led him briskly on, until they were 
seated side by side in the synagogue yard. 

Yossef seemed to palpitate with a 
strange, subdued excitement. He strained 
his eyes wide in the sunlight. 

“To the right was the back of Reb Ge- 
dalyé’s house; to the left the Shemothdusel 
(where torn Hebrew books and pages are 


kept),” half-whispered Yossef, “and just 
215 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


opposite one looked into Schulklopfer’s 
window. On week-day afternoons she 
used to sit there making lace in a pillow, 
and her fingers flew like little white pigeons 
about it.” 

“Vetterl,” cried Shimmelé, “ surely 
thou canst see! It is as thou sayest. She 
is sitting at the window making lace on a 
pillow, and her fingers fly about like little 
birds, just as thou sayest.” 

Two bright spots glowed on Yossef’s 
cheeks. He strained his sightless eyes to- 
wards the house. Shimmelé had drawn 
close to him that he might hear his half- 
whispered questions, and he felt the heavy 
beating of the blind man’s heart. 

“Look again,” breathed Yossef, “ canst 
see her cheek? Red and round, and on the 
left one, just where it is reddest, is a little 
brown mole, like a tiny lentil.” 

“TI see it,” whispered Shimmelé, ex- 
citedly, “the little brown mole.” 


“The nose is short—it draws the lip up- 
216 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


ward—like a folded rose-leaf, and two little 
white mice-teeth—like pearls—peep out.” 

“TI see them—I see them—the little 
white teeth!” 

“And her hair,—red-head they called 
her—but it is brown like ripe chestnuts,— 
only when the sun is upon it, it shines like 
polished gold, but that,” he said with a 
sigh, “thou canst not see. She is a pious 
woman and wears a cap.’’* 

“Why can I not see it!” cried Shim- 
melé. “It is as thou sayest. The sun is 
shining on her braids, and they shine like 
polished gold.” 

Shimmelé suddenly felt himself pulled 
roughly by the arm, and Yossef cried: 

“ Art having thy sport with me, or—art 
lying? It were the first time in thy life, 
Shimmelé! ” 

Shimmelé paled with amazement and 
deep indignation. 


1 Among orthodox Jews married women wear their 


hair covered. 
217 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
EL RIERA eee TE cam 


“TI was not lying,” he replied warmly. 
“Everything is as thou hast said it.” 

Slowly a strange, troubled look crept 
into Yossef’s face. 

“Tell me,” he said, “are we sitting on 
the sunny bench opposite apie | s 
window?” 

“Where else?” 

“Who is at the window?” 

“But, Vetterl, have I not said it all 
the time? It is Végelé, Yainkelé’s 
sister.” 

“His sister,” faltered Yossef.  “ I 
thought it was—his mother.” 

“O, his mother,” laughed Shimmelé. 
“ Nay, that is not his mother, she is within, 
by the table. No, her hair I cannot see— 
she wears a big cap.” 

“Then she no longer sits by the window 
making lace on a pillow.” 

“She is patching Yainkelé’s breeches.” 

Yossef paused. 


“The little brown mole, just where the 
218 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


ONG INR Se eno ie Som RE EINSTEINS ERE 


cheek is reddest—thou canst not see it— 
as thou sayest—she is within—” 

“ Why can I not see it!—She is looking 
at us and nodding,—I see it very well. It 
is a big mole, but her cheek is not red— 
no—it is white and thin.” 

“The little white teeth—the rosy 
lips—” 

“ She has turned away—lI cannot see;— 
I believe—yes, Vetterl—she is weeping.” 

Yossef sat so silent and still that Shim- 
melé looked to see whether he had fallen 
asleep; he was awake, but he looked pale 
and shrunken, and Shimmelé thought he 
had never before seemed so old. 

“Art cold, Vetterl?” he asked at sight 
of the blind man’s colorless face. 

“Ves, cold,” said Yossef wearily. “It 
seems the sun is gone already. Come 
away home.” 

They wandered home silently, this 
strange pair, and Yossef forgot to step 


bravely through the Gass, and swing his 
219 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
Rea IRAs LA el EM en SES 


stick airily, but suffered Shimmelé to lead 
him, like a child, by the hand. 

They found that Maryam had not yet re- 
turned from a long day at a country wed- 
ding, so Shimmelé lit the fire, and set on 
the kettle to boil; then he took his prayer- 
book, and joined Yossef out on the wood- 
pile. 

Yossef persisted in his silence, breaking: 
it only once to say, almost roughly: 

“Thou needest say nothing about that 
we sat in the synagogue yard.” 

Shimmelé began to read his evening 
prayers, but his mind was not with them. 
It was busily striving to solve the mystery 
of the afternoon’s happenings. Like the 
scattered beads of a necklace Yossef’s 
strange talk and more strange behavior 
lay in his mind; he felt that they belonged 
together, but he could not find the thread 
upon which to string them to a whole. 

The gray, cool twilight stole into the 


Gass, and Shimmelé ventured to suggest 
220 


THE END OF A ROMANCE 


that it was time to go in, but Yossef did 
not move. 

“Men are like years,” he began slowly, 
half murmuring as if to himself. “Some 
are fruitful and joyous; some are empty 
and sorrowful; some end in a happy com- 
fortable winter and some in—a famine.” 

Shimmelé sighed, for life was very dull 
when Yossef philosophized. 

“The great danger is in the summer,” 
pursued Yossef. “I have seen years 
whose spring was dead and cold,—it 
seemed hopeless,—yet a week of sunshine 
and all was well again; but in the summer, 
a single hail-storm and the rich fields lie 
dead and broken. So with man. The 
spring of his life may seem hopeless—it is 
like the tears of a child; but when in the 
summer of his life there is a woman for 
whose sake he would give up home and 
country, would leave father, mother, bro- 
thers, sisters—” 


At last Shimmelé understood. He laid 
221 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


his little soft hand on Yossef’s large rough 
one. 

“T know, Vetterl,” he said sympathetic- 
ally, “thou meanest his granny.” 

Yossef threw back his head and uttered 
a wild laugh; then he buried his face in his 
hands, 

Shimmelé looked up at the strange 
noises he was making, and saw in amaze- 
ment that tears were trickling out between 
the large rough fingers. 

Was Yossef laughing? Was he weep- 
ing? He did not know. 

It was many years after, when first the 
light in a maiden’s eye set his heart 
a-bounding, that Shimmelé knew. 


222 


XII 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


XII 
WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


A superficial observer might remark 
carelessly it was because he had no time. 
“Indeed, what child in the Gass has time 
for play?” says he. “There are few so 
young and weak there who must not run 
with the grown-up in the fierce race for 
bread, and little fingers which cannot yet 
wield the broom already ply the knitting- 
needles.” 

Take a day in Shimmelé’s life. Up be- 
fore dawn and at prayers; breakfast, then 
running Maryam’s errands; and then 
pounding sugar, which is a slow, laborious 
process, the sugar being hard and Shim- 
melé’s arms small and weak; then syna- 
gogue; school until noon; dinner in haste, 
for there are dishes to wash and pans to 
scrape; school again, with an interval for 


synagogue; supper; a chat or story in the 
225 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


dark with Maryam over her knitting; 
night-prayers, and to bed. 

Where, then, is there time for play? 
Nonsense! Is play, then, a matter of such. 
narrow limitations as time? 

There are a hundred games, the best in 
the world, with nuts or tops or balls; and 
beautiful quiet ones for the girls, who dare 
not shout and romp (it is not proper for 
little Jewish maidens), where you stamp 
your foot and clap your hands and turn 
about as in a dance, all of which are played 
while you are going to or coming from 
school. 

There is a splendid game, which in our 
language might be called “ shinny,” and 
which is played with a pebble and a 
crooked stick (a little brother to golf), 
while you are going to the pump for a pail 
of water. 

No time, indeed! I know a lovely 
game that can be played while you are 


parting your hair at the glass. This is 
226 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


another, a better has never been invented, 
and you play it at table, in the time it 
takes the grown-ups to sip half a cup of 
tea. You eat the crumb of your slice of 
bread, when lo! the round crust is a magic 
ring with which you can wish anything in 
the universe. You'd like a train of magic 
steam-cars? Very well; one bite—two 
bites, out of the ring, and there you are, all 
ready, with a beautiful, tall smoke-stack 
to the engine, and—choo-choo-choo away 
you go, to that glorious land to which 
never a school-master has found the way; 
that wonderful land where the brooks flow 
honey, and the trees bear gingerbread 
men, and where, as is well established in 
fairy lore, roast pigeons fly about in the 
air; you have but to open your mouth and 
in one pops. 

Here is still a better. It is played after 
school hours when she, in other words 
Aunt’ Lina, makes you sit in the kitchen 


hemming some horrid old towels which— 
227 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


let me whisper it—are not towels at all, but 
a shroud upon which you have vowed you 
will stitch, sitting there the while at your 
turret window, until he shall return and 
free you from your prison and this evil en- 
chantment. You scan the far horizon. 
Ah, the weary, weary hours. Will he 
never come? Below looms the high, 
formidable castle wall. Her wicked magic 
makes it appear but a coal-shed. Yonder 
the moat—the gutter it but seems. But 
now, even now, there is a sound of foot- 
steps. A voice—his voice! He bursts 
into the door. It is he! Perhaps he 
blows and sniffs and cries: 

“Gee, golly, sausage for supper!” 

Perhaps he appears to be only your bro- 
ther. Bah, you know the source of that 
cruel delusion. You know that he is really 
Prince Charming, and what he really says is: 

“All hail, fair and gracious Lady! I 
with my faithful followers have stormed 


the castle walls. The wicked witch lies 
228 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


weltering in her blood. Up, fiddlers! 
On to the feast!” etc., etc. 

O it’s lovely, possessing among count- 
less delights and possibilities the chief 
charm of rigmarole, in that it can be carried 
on indefinitely; indeed, I do not know that 
it has any end. 

But Shimmelé knew nothing of fairy 
magic or deeds of chivalry. He might 
have stood his bread-crust on end, when it 
is the smithy-door, and through it you 
drive spoons and forks—whoa there, 
Tom !—all waiting to be shod; or he might 
have made his bread into a hoop and trun- 
dled it over the table—both splendid 
games and simple, requiring little imagi- 
nation—had he been younger. And here, 
at last, is the real reason why Shimmelé 
never played. 

Yes, Shimmelé was too old. A. child 
of six or seven you say? As if age had 
anything to do with years. 


I know a little girl of ten who keeps 
229 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


house for a large family; who knows all the 
remedies for infantile disease in the alma- 
nac, and who writes letters to her father in 
State’s prison thus: ‘“ Now, darling Papa, 
I hope you will behave yourself when you 
get out this time. When you feel that 
you are going to be bad, pray, Our Father, 
and lead us not into temptation.” 

How old would you call her counting by 
years? 

Yes, Shimmelé was too old to play. 
When other children were at their games, 
he pondered gravely upon the serious ques- 
tion of rent-money, or he and his grand- 
mother laid their heads together, like a 
pair of old cronies, busily reckoning by 
what means and schemes and devices they 
might lay by a little each day, and how 
long it would take to save enough money 
to send Vetter Yossef to England, where 
report had it there lived a doctor more 
clever than all the rest, one who would 


surely cure blind Yossef’s eyes. 
230 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


De a 3 SEU ee 


Alas for Shimmelé unlearned in fairy 
classics! What a fine game it would have 
been to own the goose that laid golden 
eggs; then off to market with a dozen, and 
back again jingling a pocketful of money. 
Ai, to slap down a gold-piece on the coach- 
house table, crying grandly: 

“Three seats in the coach that goes to 
England, past the house of the doctor who 
cures blind men’s eyes!” Sa 

There were times, during the weeks pre- 
ceding quarter-day, when Maryam’s laugh- 
ter, which came readily and often, would 
subside midway and end in a sigh. Then 
she would open the great Kist, and draw 
from under the linen the little gray bag 
containing the rent-money. Shimmelé 
watched anxiously, and a dull, gnawing 
ache, whose name was Care, though he did 
not yet know it, crept into his heart; for 
the rent-money meant a full bag, and 
Maryam, loosening the string, disclosed a 


great ebb therein. 
231 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
Sad a Ab SSE WS Sieh ee a 


Maryam, who would have starved rather 
than dun a debtor, would say in troubled 
tones: 

“Tf Hirsh Randar, or Nossen Langer,” 
as the case might be, “would pay me for 
those cakes before quarter-day, and we 
were a little economical, I think there 
would be enough.” 

“Why dost pay the Goyah (Gentile wo- 
man) for carrying wood?” cried Shimmelé 
once, full of a great idea. “I can do it— 
Iam strong. Look, Babelé,” and he lifted 
an end of the wooden settle, growing red 
with exertion and with boasting. 

“That’s no work for thee,” said Maryam. 
“A Bochur, one who is to be a rabbi!” 

But ten kreuzer saved is ten kreuzer 
saved. So Shimmelé carried the wood. 

On a day of that bitter winter—the 
“hunger-year” they called it—Maryam 
said, looking wistful: 

“There was a great doctor in Prague 


who always said it is very unhealthy to eat 
232 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


E00 AS 


much meat. Once a week is enough for 
anyone, he said.” 

Shimmelé looked thoughtful. 

“Yes, I think roast meat with thick 
gravy and a little onion in it is very un- 
healthy,” he said. “Smoked sausage is 
much better.” 

“Smoked sausage! Who would eat 
smoked sausage on a week-day! I like 
nothing so well as a potato and a piece of 
plain black bread.” 

-“ Aj, J like black bread,” said Shimmelé 
feebly. 

“ Well, if thou wishest,” now cried Mar- 
yam in an injured tone, “we can buy dain- 
ties with the money we lay aside that thy 
blind Vetter may be made again to see.” 

“He will surely be made again to see. 
As I live, Babelé,—I Jove black bread— 
better than—than—plum-dumplings.” 

In that long, hard winter, when wood 
was as precious as food, and eggs were not 


at all, Shimmelé learnt the bitterness of 
233 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
pe esl eh ea aan eae Ne AN AL alee OO 


borrowing, learnt the gladness of a penny 
laid by against the burden of debt. That 
was the winter when Maryam stood until 
late in the night at her baking-board, mak- 
ing her famous, untranslatable Garglech, 
which euphonious expression might mean 
little gullets or little windpipes, and are, 
indeed, tiny pipes, like miniature spaghetti, 
each one rolled laboriously on a knitting 
needle. Although they are so trouble- 
some in the making, and bring but little 
money, Maryam worked at them patiently, 
for they always find a ready sale in the city. 
Indeed, has anyone ever heard of wedding 
soup without Garglech? It were like a 
benediction without the Amen. 

In those days Shimmelé viewed the gos- 
sip and the happenings of the Gass in a 
new light; his eye was all to business. 
Approaching birthdays of growing boys 
were matters of keen note; Bar Mitzvahs* 

‘The religious majority of boys at the age of thir- 


teen, usually a family festival. 
234 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 
were his quest. The sight of a youth and 
maiden chatting at the pump set him drub- 
bing his feet delightedly; ‘twas a wedding 
that he scented. 

He would rush into the house with a 
juicy bit, still hot from the tongues of the 
gossips: . 

“ Guess what! Reb Itzig Melammed is 
going to get married.” 

“No, really,—to whom?” 

“ He does not know yet whether he will 
take Sorl Reb Shlomé Edelstein’s or Veil- 
che Lederer’s. Dost think, we'll have the 
making of the tarts?” or: 

“ Hand down the sugar-loaf, Babele. 
T’ll pound sugar. They'll be wanting a 
sixty kreuzer tart, I think.” 

“‘ What is it?” 

“ At Mindel Pessel’s they have ordered 
the stork. Yentelé said it. He is ex- 
pected any day.” 


On a bitter day Maryam found Shim- 
235 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


melé at the window rubbing his hands vig- 
orously and then clapping them over his 
ears. 

“It’s the way,’ he explained, “that 
Pawel, the driver, warms his ears. Per- 
haps Reb Noach will not sell it this year— 
what?” 

“What, Shimmelé? ” 

“The little cloth cap with the band of 
hare-skin around it and the woolly ear- 
flaps. We can buy it next year, and the 
fifty kreuzer we can now lay to Vetter 
Yossef’s eye-money,” and he who knows 
not that the little cloth cap was the goal of 
Shimmelé’s eager aspirations, all through 
a long, long year, knows not the measure 
of the sacrifice. 

Maryam’s heart rose high with pride and 
joy at Shimmeleé’s willing sacrifice, and yet 
it ached apprehensively. 

“Tt is not natural,” she mused, “such a 
young child—a wonder-child. God in 


Heaven, give him life and health,” prayed 
236 


WHY SHIMMELE NEVER PLAYED 


Maryam in her innermost soul. “?Tis said 
they often die young.” 

“But thy shawl, Babelé,” continued 
Shimmelé pleadingly. “I need not wear 
it around my head any more neither, that 
horrid shawl.” 

O that shawl! It was the heaviest bur- 
den of the winter; for did not the big boys 
jeer at it, and did not Yainkelé, the arch- 
enemy, call him “ girlie-boy,” and was it 
not absurdly unfit with the dignity of his 
years? 

“© thou must wear that shawl,” said 
Maryam. “Thou mightest, God forbid, 
get sick without it.” 

“No, no,” begged Shimmelé. “I'll 
warm my ears as does Pawel, the 
driver.” 

“Don’t be stupid, child; thou'lt freeze 
thy ears.” 

“No, I don’t want the shawl! ie 

“Thouw'lt take thy death of cold.” 


“ Well, I won’t wear the shawl!” 
237 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


“What kind of new fashion is this—I 
don’t want—I won’t?” 

The argument waxed hot and ended 
Shimmelé triumphant, kicking out his fat 
legs and roaring: 

“TI wont—I wont—I wont!” 

But he who fancies her wringing her 
hands and sighing disconsolately at the 
sight of her wonder-child’s lapses knows 
not Maryam. 

No, she clicked her needles in great com- 
fort, and sat twinkling merrily. 

“Thank God,” she laughed, “the child 
is in good health—the child will live.” 


238 


i) 
ic 
ay wi 
A i 


XII 
TEARS 


“Taté Leben (daddy dear), does anything 
hurt thee?” 

“ Nay, Shimmele.” 

“Is my mother or anyone sick?” 

“Thank God, they are all well.” 

“ Breindel and the mooly calf and the 
sheep?” 

“ They are as usual.” 

“ Have the potatoes the dry rot?” 

“ Nay; why, then?” 

“We have a basket of red apples and a 
large dish of poppy-seed buns in the cup- 
board.” 

“Yes, I have seen them.” 

“Then why, O why dost weep, Taté?” 

Reb Shlomé stared absently at Shim- 
melé, then heaved a deep sigh, and said: 


“Why should I not weep?” 
241 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


Shimmelé’s mind stood still at another 
mystery. The happy season of the great 
Festivals was at hand. Reb Shlomé had 
come to spend a few weeks in the village 
that he might enjoy the great privilege of 
public worship during the holy days. 
There were good things to eat in almost 
every house; the whole Gass fairly creaked 
with new boots and starched petticoats. 
Everything was fine and festive, and yet 
Reb Shlomé wept. 

Shimmelé questioned his grandmother 
in vain. 

“Thy father has a tender heart,” was 
all she said, but this conveyed nothing, 
and Shimmelé wondered and pondered, 
and began to observe his father as a 
new discovery. Yet greater knowledge 
and powers than Shimmele’s had failed 
to fathom this strangely melancholy na- 
ture. It was known of him that he never 
sat down to eat without first reciting 


that mournful psalm which begins: “ At 
242 


TEARS 


the rivers of Babylon we sat down and 
wept.” And his reason, explained to 
Shimmelé, was “that we may not forget 
that we are in exile.” 

The knowledge of deep sorrow left him 
dry-eyed and dumb, but the sight of a 
hungry swallow foraging for her young 
filled his eyes with quick tears. When, in 
the frequent flood-times, he went collect- 
ing for the sufferers, a rebuff from a rich 
man sent him off with a tolerant shrug, but 
when a poor widow gave him a handful of 
meal, his tears fell openly. 

Reb Shlome’s life was a constant strug- 
gle. From year’s end to year’s end he 
fought to wrench from his few acres, which 
the law did not allow him as a Jew to own, 
the heavy treasure of lease money. When 
the seed was in the ground, he said, “ But 
will there be rain for the sprouts?” When 
the sprouts peeped, crisp and green, he 
cried, “ Alas, there may not be sun for the 


grain.” When the grain stood nodding 
243 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


with fulness, it was, ‘‘ God defend, what if 
there come hail,’ and when at last the har- 
vest lay secure in the barns, he could not 
sleep for fear of fire. 

“ Soll ich leben,” cried the lighter-hearted 
Frau Perl, “when he has no troubles, he 
makes some!” 

This strange nature now arrested Shim- 
melé’s attention, and in observing it he 
made many new discoveries, for Reb 
Shlomé did not always weep; no, he often 
laughed; indeed, he loved a good joke, but 
wonder of wonders, so close to each other 
lay the fountains of sorrow and mirth that 
when Reb Shlomé laughed, he laughed 
tears. 

Shimmelé soon made the observation 
that though the Gass as a whole laughed a 
great deal, it also wept much, and, “It is 
at funerals and on fast days that one 
weeps,” he decided one day, but the next, 
“One weeps also over new-born children 


and at weddings.” O the mystery of it! 
244 


TEARS 


To weep over a little crowing babe! But 
the only explanation father offered was: 
“Tt is true, what is written, that the day 
of death is better than the day of 
birth.” 

Shimmelé questioned everyone; among 
others Muhmé Shmuné, who should have 
been an excellent authority on the source 
of tears, for she wept constantly, frequent- 
ing with melancholy pleasure all places and 
occasions that promised tears. 

“ Why do I weep?” replied she to Shim- 
melé, lifting her red, swollen eyes. “ May- 
est thou never know them, Yiingel,—I 
weep over my sorrows.” 

On the Day of Atonement Shimmelé 
thought for a moment that the great mys- 
tery was about to be solved. 

In the synagogue he happened to stand 
next to Simché Silversmith, a notoriously 
stingy man, who sat in a corner weeping 
bitterly. To him came Nossen, the wine- 


seller, a wicked wag, and said: 
245 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


“What’s the matter, Simché, why art 
weeping so terribly?” 

Shimmelé pricked up his ears and held 
his breath. 

“ Dost not see,” came Simché’s weeping 
reply, “what here is written, ‘Dust thou 
art, to dust thou wilt return’?” 

“ Nu,’ said Nossen, “is that a reason for 
tears—what dost lose by it? If it said, 
“Gold thou art, to dust thou turnest,’ thou 
wouldst lose a hundred per cent, but this 
way—” 

Nossen grinned, and Shimmelé thought, 
“The man is right—that is no reason for 
tears.” 

No, he could not fathom it. Alas for 
Shimmelé! It was not long before life 
answered him most effectually, and he 
questioned no longer, “ Why do the people 
weep?” 

The year had been a bad one; spring 


floods had washed away the autumn sow- 
246 


TEARS 


ing; the summer had been cold and wet, 
and gaunt famine stared the country in the 
face. What little wind and weather had 
left the land, wicked misrule wrenched 
away pitilessly. 

When the farmer has no money, the Jew 
can do no business, and the poor peddlers 
and small merchants returned haggard and 
weary from their useless journeys. 

But the people of the Gass are provident. 
When there are no earnings, there is dowry 
and burial money to eat, and those that 
have, share with their poorer brethren. 

Not so the Gentile farmers and laborers 
of the province. They sat in the taverns 
discussing the nature of the hard times, 
and washing away their cares with plenti- 
ful flow of bad whiskey. At first it was 
the bad weather, then the wrath of God, 
then the government, but quickly, myste- 
riously, as if by magic, there appeared agi- 
tators in the land, who stood in the tav- 


erns haranguing the crowds. They it was 
247 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


who told the people what is the real source 
of the evil; they found a scapegoat for 
Maritz, the same that had been found in 
every time and place for centuries, and, as 
heretofore, so now its name was—the Jew. 

“Where is the money?” cried these. 
“Has it melted like snow, or run away like 
water? No, it is still in the world, and 
who has got it? The Jews! Why do the 
farmers hunger? Why do the merchants 
complain? Because the Jews have all the 
money. They bring you bad wares into 
your house, and take away your good 
money, and now you starve, and they sit 
warm on their full money-bags. Has any 
one of you ever seen a Jewish beggar at 
your door?” 

“By Heaven, no!” cried the foolish 
people, who saw this point. ‘The Jews 
never go a-begging.” 

And it was true, there were no Jewish 
beggars to be seen in Maritz. When the 


poor reached the end of their means, there 
248 


TEARS 


was the congregational poor-fund, which 
Reb Noach, Frau Malka, and others had 
greatly swelled during the hard times, to 
draw from. None dropped so low as to 
beg from a Gentile, and if he had, it would 
have been vain, for his religion forbade him 
to eat the bread from the Christian’s table. 


On a day in Christmas week there ap- 
peared a Jesuit revivalist in Maritz, who 
preached eloquently in the church on the 
passion and death of Jesus Christ. 

On the following Sabbath, when the 
Shabbas-Goyah* with her son appeared as 
usual in Maryam’s house, Shimmelé gave 
Bomul, whom he counted his friend, a 
piece of his Barches (Sabbath bread), as 
had always been his habit. Bomul took 
the bread, but turned his back roughly, and 
would not speak to Shimmele. 


1 The Sabbath fire-woman, a Gentile, who tends the 
fires and lights of the Jews, as these are not permitted 
to touch either on the Sabbath. 

249 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
fac a PALO SS He a ARON ATO 


“What ails thee, Bomul?” cried Shim- 
melé. 

“Go! Thou hast killed God, Jesus 
Christ!” 

Shimmelé eyed the older boy gravely. 

“They are fooling thee,” he said. 
“There is only one God. He has been 
always, and will always be—just ask my 
Babé,—none can kill Him.” 

“O thou liar! The priest said it in 
church. I guess he ought to know.” 

Maryam’s business was a peculiarly un- 
fortunate one. It flourished only with the 
affluence of the Gass. The large oven was 
now oftenest cold, and Maryam sat 
troubled and idle. She would gladly have 
relinquished Shimmelé to his parents now, 
but the crops on Reb Shlomé’s farm had 
also failed, and there was hardly more than 
potatoes and salt on which to struggle 
through the winter. There came a day 


when she arrived at the end of her means; 
250 


TEARS 


SON SEASIES 0h NINE Sa 


there was nothing left save the little hoard 
which was to buy her blind son’s eye-sight. 
She would have cut off her right hand 
rather than touch it. 

On a bitter day Maryam sent Shimmelé 
to the heights to collect an outstanding 
debt from one of her aristocratic custom- 
ers. Shimmelé waited long for the appear- 
ance of the mistress of the house, but left 
in the end downcast and empty-handed. 

‘As he was passing the mouth of a nar- 
row street, he was stopped by a group of 
Christian boys who were playing ball. 
Bomul, the fire-woman’s son, was one of 
them, and noticing Shimmelé he suddenly 
cried: 

“There he goes, the Christ-killer!” 

The other boys took up the name like a 
chorus, and shouted it again and again: 

“ Christ-killer, Christ-killer.” 

Shimmelé flushed with indignation, and, 
following his first impulse, began a defense, 


gravely explaining that he had not even 
251 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
CN AS AOE! 


seen their Christ, much less killed him, but 
his words were drowned in the scornful 
jeering of the crowd. Then he strove to 
walk on, but a boy who was a stranger to 
him cried: 

“Out of the way there!” and jostled 
him into the gutter. 

This feat was greeted by approving 
laughter, and the boy, thus stimulated to 
further efforts, suddenly planted himself 
before Shimmelé, and barred his progress. 
This boy was markedly different from the 
rest, a broad brow and clear-cut features of 
Teutonic cast distinguishing him from his 
heavy-faced, duller Slav companions. He 
was less roughly clad, and his manner was 
tinged with a foreign hue, and, as was ap- 
parent, he posed as a leader of the com- 
pany. 

“Take thy cap off when a Christian 
gentleman speaks,” he commanded. 

The boys had formed a ring about Shim- 


melé and his tormentor, and were con- 
252 


TEARS 


SEN ee 


vulsed with merriment at the latter’s 
unique mode of amusing them. Shimmelé 
had paled with fear. In vain he scanned 
the faces of the group for one friendly 
look. Resistance was useless. He lifted 
his hand to remove his cap, but before he 
could reach it, it was plucked from his 
head and flung into the mud. This called 
forth more encouraging laughter, and the 
little torturer, swelling with an ambition to 
shine, now cried: 

“ Look here, fellows, I'll show you how 
to handle these Jew-dogs.” 

The boys looked expectant, and Shim- 
melé grew more pale. 

“Now make a bow,” cried the little 
tyrant. The boys yelled with delight, but 
Shimmelé’s jaw showed sudden signs of re- 
sistance. He burned with shame that he, 
the Bochurlé, the pride of the Gass, should 
be made to bob foolishly for the sport of 
these Goyim in the street, but a blow on the 


head reminded him of his helplessness. He 
253 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


remembered, too, that a constant lesson of 
his short life had been not to reply when 
they insult you. He wished nothing save 
to return to his grandmother in peace and 
unharmed, for he knew how she would 
grieve if aught befell. So Shimmeleé set 
his teeth and with livid face began gravely 
bowing to the shrieking crowd. 

“ Deeper, deeper!” 

Shimmelé bowed deeply and solemnly. 
But the little torturer had not yet finished. 

“ Now,” he cried, “ kneel down.” 

The crowd yelled hilariously, and Shim- 
melé had not time to protest, for a dozen 
strong hands pressed him quickly to his 
knees. 

The climax had yet to come, the little 
fiend with artistic instinct having reserved 
the best for the last. 

“ Now,” cried he, beaming with a sense 
of coming success, “ now, cross thyself.” 

This was the culmination of the absurd, 


and the boys roared with utter delight. 
254 


TEARS 


Papel Meh edits PN Ae ean OS 8 an BY EV SATCNICAET? 


“Cross thyself! Make the cross, Jew! it 
they shouted in chorus. But the artist had 
reckoned only with Shimmelé, and not 
with many centuries of his ancestors. 
These now came strangely into play. 
Shimmelé’s jaw had become rigid as iron. 
The blood was back in his face, and his eyes 
blazed fearlessly into his tormentors’, 
glowing eloquently with deep and utter 
contempt. ; 

The artist felt his power going, the boys 
were still jeering, but the point of their 
merriment seemed turning on himself. 

“Cross thyself!” he roared again and 
again, kicking and pummeling Shimmelé 
the while in his rage, but the blood of 
Shimmelé’s martyred ancestry boiled in his 
veins, and had they then and there hacked 
him to pieces, he would not have made the 
sign of the cross. 


And now it was Bomul, the son of the 
fire-woman, who saved Shimmelé further 


torture. Whether it was innate admira- 
255 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


tion of courage, or the memory of all the 
sweet Sabbath bread he had eaten in Mar- 
yam’s house, he suddenly cried: 

“Run, fellows, the watch!” 

The boys scattered; Shimmelé leapt to 
his feet and ran, but the little horde, find- 
ing themselves tricked, vented their rage 
characteristically—they had learned it from 
their elders—not on Bomul, the cause, but 
on Shimmelé, the victim. <All pride, all 
courage had fled him; a little thing of 
quaking terror, he ran like a hunted hare, 
and they stoned him as he ran. 

It was dusk when he crept into the 
house, and sat down quietly in a corner. 
His one desire was to save his grandmother 
the pain of knowing. Maryam sitting in 
the dark misinterpreted his silence. 

“So they did not give thee the money.” 

“Nay, nothing,” said Shimmelé faintly. 

Maryam stared through the dark in the 
direction of Shimmelé’s quavering tones. 


With a sudden intuition of wrong, she 
256 ; 


ere 


TEARS 


A 


sprang from her chair and lighted a 
candle. 

“ Shimmelé!” she shrieked at sight of 
him. ‘“ How thou lookest!” 

He was hatless and white and trembling, 
and a thin stream of blood from a wound 
behind his ear was trickling down his neck. 

In a moment she had torn his clothes 
from him, and disclosed the little round 
back, -the white flesh bruised and broken 
and stained with the blood from his head. 

With white, trembling lips Shimmele 
bravely recounted the miserable tale of his 
persecutions. 

“ They tried to make me cry out, but I 
would not,” he said with dignity, but when 
he came to the end, the ignoble end, flee- 
ing and stoned through the street, he could 
bear it no longer. 

“They stoned me—in the street—like a 
dog,” cried Shimmelé, the Bochurlé, the fu- 
ture chief-rabbi, and fell to sobbing bitterly 


in sheer misery and shame. 
257 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
SA A EP ae OWE cL 


Maryam rocked him in her arms. She 
could not weep. Her heart writhed in ut- 
ter pain; her soul burned with fierce rebel- 
lion. 

“A little child!” she moaned. “ My 
Shimmelé! ” 


258 


XIV 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


XIV 
THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


The frightful disease, Jew-hatred, raged 
again in Europe. More contagious than 
the cholera; more ghastly than war; arising 
mysteriously, none knew where, and 
spreading with lightning rapidity, it rav- 
aged the continent from end to end; shriv- 
eling with black blight the fair flowers of 
enlightenment, poisoning the sweet 
sources of justice and truth, killing the 
very seeds of righteousness. 

The aged, whose lives should have melt- 
ed in the gentle flow of tolerance, cursed 
the Jew. The young and strong, whose 
lusty powers should have fought nobly for 
Justice and Brotherhood, cursed the Jew. 
Little children, whose sweet lips should 
have babbled innocence, cursed the Jew. 


Keen minds had analyzed the evil, and 
261 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


classed it with things dead—dead plagues, 
dead beliefs, dead horrors of the Middle 
Ages; a low thing, like black superstition, 
that shriveled and died in the light of 
knowledge. Now had fair science and dis- 
covery and invention uncovered the dark 
places in the human mind; now had the 
theory of evolution blared abroad more 
forcefully than all the ethical codes of re- 
ligion the brotherhood of man, and yet 
Jew-hatred stalked abroad unshamed. 

In many guises did it appear, parading 
in some countries in the fine vestments of 
Patriotism and calling itself Nationalism. 
In others statesmen usurped the noble garb 
of science to clothe it withal; a Social-Eco- 
nomic movement was its name there. In 
Austria it dared defile the name of the 
gentle Jew of Nazareth, whose pleading 
words, “ Love ye one another,” still go 
echoing down the centuries, and his fol- 
lowers called themselves Christian-Social- 
ists. 

262 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


In the province of which Maritz was a 
part, it went boldly naked, and people 
called it fearlessly by its true name—Jew- 
hatred. 

For many years the Jews of Maritz had 
lived at peace with their Christian neigh- 
bors. Mutual distrust and dislike had 
almost vanished in a long, friendly, and mu- 
tually useful intercourse. Anshel viewed 
Christoph’s dulness with good-natured 
scorn, and Christoph, who rather despised 
the Jewish peddler’s lowly calling, admired 
his superior wit. It was not an unusual 
matter for Christoph to accept a gift of the 
Jews’ Passover bread, and Anshel, on the 
other hand, though his religion forbade 
him to eat of the Christian’s food, kept his 
little kosher pot in Christoph’s house, in 
which to boil his dinner of dried peas, 
that he might eat in company with his 
friend and customer. 

’Tis true, insults to the Jew were even 


then not lacking, but he pocketed them 
263 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


philosophically, with a tolerant shrug, as 
one ignores the vile curses of a child, the 
mud-spatterings of rowdy boys. 

But in this sorrowful year all was 
changed. The Jew, where he had met with 
kindly words, was now assailed with bitter 
curses and black looks. The peddlers 
tramped in vain from farm to farm; the 
small tradesmen sat idle in their little 
shops. 

The want in the Gass grew extreme; the 
long faces, longer and paler. One day 
they found the stalls at the weekly market 
placarded with great sheets, bearing the in- 
junction, “ Do not buy of the Jews!” The 
men came home with dumb, despairing 
faces. They had earned nothing. 

“Tt is the end,” the people cried, wring- 
ing their hands. “ Where shall we find 
bread for our children?” 

But the end, the awful end, was yet to 
come. 


In communities where religious super- 
264 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


PBN 8 SAE IS I SRS A 


stitions still becloud the mind, the fearful 
disease, Jew-hatred, brings with it its faith- 
ful companion, the horrible spectre called 
the Blood-Accusation. Popes and pre- 
lates, philanthropists and philosophers, 
writers and preachers have thundered forth 
through the centuries against this ghastly 
lie—in vain. Toa people such as the Gen- 
tiles of Maritz, who sought the cure for 
their sick and maimed at the shrines of 
saints, and went on Good Friday to see the 
blue and crimson clay effigy of their patron 
saint weep real tears out of his glass eyes— 
to such as these one black myth more or 
less was of little account. And how the 
ghastly spectre found lodgment in Maritz 
and the havoc it there wrought, I have now 
to tell. ..... 

One bitter, sleeting winter morning, 
many years before Shimmelé’s birth, Ma- 
chel Katzev (Michael the butcher), known 
also as Machel Grobian (boor) in the Gass, 


on opening his shop, found Julsa the beg- 
265 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


a 


gar-child sitting on his door-step. She 
was blue and chattering with cold, and 
heavy tears, pressed out by cold and pain, 
rolled stolidly upon her cracked and bleed- 
ing hands. 

Julsa was not unknown to Machel, her 
weekly begging rounds bringing her also 
to the Gass; and his manner had been to 
give her a few handfuls of meat-scraps and 
send her on, but on this day Machel Kat- 
zev’s heart was tender. His youngest 
child, which had been sick unto death with 
croup, had recovered in the night, and as 
he gazed at the beggar-girl, and thought of 
his own little ones in the snug room behind 
the shop, where his good wife Rachel was 
warming their little shirts by the fire, and 
cooking a great potful of potato-soup for 
their breakfast, a fearful, righteous wrath 
overpowered his soul. He uttered a 
mighty curse, inclusive of mankind and the 
whole world in general, picked up Julsa in 


his arms, sat her down by the fire, smeared 
266 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


DORR RAS NIRS Ee rere 


a thick dab of tallow over her bleeding 
hands, and began to bellow loudly for hot 
soup. 

All day he behaved so shamefully that 
his customers declared there was no stand- 

ing it any longer, and that such a Grobian 

the world had not yet seen. Next day he 
donned his Sabbath coat and tight boots, 
and went to call on the parish priest, and 
when he returned he was leading the beg- 
gar-child by the hand. 

“Fave you heard?” cried the people 
scornfully. ‘Machel Katzev has won the 
grand lottery prize. He has hardly enough 
for his own children, and takes a little 
Shiksah (Gentile girl) into his house—the 
man is crazy!” And to prove their asser- 
tion they then sent their own children’s 
half-worn clothes to Julsa. 

Julsa was the illegitimate child of a ser- 
vant, who deserted her when she was in 
her fifth year. For a time then the little 


one knocked around the village, until Zip- 
267 


Le 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
Sa a a es Mean CPE UA ath oy ASR i 


pel, the beggar-woman, volunteered to 
take her, for Zippel was old, and loved her 
ease upon her bed of rags better than 
trudging with a heavy basket. After that 
Julsa begged for both. She was eight 
years old when Machel Katzev received 
permission from the priest to take her into 
his house. 

Machel clothed and fed her, and sent her 
to school until she had learned to read and 
write. He bought her a prayer-book with 
a beautiful golden crucifix on the cover, 
and every Sunday morning he might be 
seen dragging a struggling little girl to the 
Catholic church, nor did he turn back until 
he saw her safe within; that she might not, 
as he put it, “‘ grow up, God forbid, like a 
heathen in his house.” 

Julsa grew up a plump, dull, good-na- 
tured girl, who loved Machel, Rachel, and 
their children devotedly. She sang and 
worked all day long, even helping out in 


the shop on busy days. 
268 


——- 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


Ce alana 


“A Behemah,”’ said the people, “that 
God have mercy! But she has a real Jew- 
ish heart,” for Julsa soon learned all of 
Machel’s tricks, and knew that if there is 
too much fat with the rich Frau Bliimelé’s 
roasting meat, it is no matter, but a 
poor woman’s penny-bone must always 
have a bit of good meat clinging to it 
somewhere. 

When Julsa was fifteen, Machel began 
to pay her wages, that she might not stand 
some day a God-forsaken creature in the 
world, a maiden without a dowry. Julsa 
now was twenty, had already forty gulden 
toward a dowry safely wrapped in one of 
Machel’s old bandannas, and, better still, 
she had also a sweetheart. Machel did not 
approve of this sweetheart, for he was a 
runabout fellow who lived upon no one 
knew what, but Julsa said he was a miller 
by trade, and would tend to business and 
marry her when she had one hundred gul- 


den. 
269 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


One morning the Gass awoke to the 
wailing cries of Machel and his wife, who 
were running about wildly in search of 
their maid Julsa. She had disappeared in 
the night; all trace of her was gone. It 
was found that all her belongings were 
in their usual places. Nothing was miss- 
ing but the red shawl she always wore, and 
the forty gulden she had saved towards her 
dowry. 

Suspicion fell upon Lucas, Julsa’s lover; 
but he also had disappeared. It was re- 
ported that he lodged with a charcoal- 
burner in the forest, but neither Lucas nor 
the burner could be found. 

Half of the Gass turned out to help in 
the search. Machel swore fearful oaths at 
every one who came in his path, and 
Rachel wept bitter tears. Then they re- 
ported her disappearance to the authori- 
ties. A diligent search was instituted, but 
in vain. After a few weeks Julsa’s corpse 


-was found in a ravine in the forest, and the 
270 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


old bandanna in which she had kept her 
money lay not far away. 

Who can know where it began? Per- 
haps one night at the fireside when ghost 
stories were going the rounds, some old 
woman repeated a harrowing tale of how 
in her youth it had been said that the Jews 
require the blood of a Christian virgin to 
mix with their Passover bread. Like a 
malignant growth, stretching out its poi- 
sonous creepers in a night, the horrible 
myth spread abroad, and found hold with 
the Gentiles of Maritz. 

Thinking people shook their heads in- 
credulously, but the myth waxed great, 
more strong, more wide than had it been 
the fairest flower of truth. 

On a quiet Sabbath afternoon, the Gass 
was thrown into a panic by the arrest of 
Machel Katzev and his wife, on the charge 
of murder of their hired maid Julsa. The 
implication was a so-called Ritual Murder. 


Sworn witnesses arose who testified to hav- 
271 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


ing seen Machel and his wife, together with 
other Jews, on the outskirts of the forest 
on the night of the murder. 

The Jews were paralyzed with horror. 
The accusation of ritual murder, which had 
through centuries wrought such sad havoc 
among them, had been to them a terror of 
the distant past, like the Inquisition or the 
murderous bands of Crusaders; yet now it 
arose suddenly from the dead; not a phan- 
tom, but living in the full light of day. 

Among the many anti-Semitic agitators 
of those days, there was a certain noble- 
man, the excessive manner of whose ti- 
rades had afforded much amusement to in- 
telligent classes, and had earned for him 
the sobriquet of “thrasher Count.” An 
emissary of his, attracted by the fruitful 
promises of recent events, had found his 
way to Maritz. On the square and in the 
taverns, he bellowed forth his vile denunci- 
ations, while the populace cheered him 


with fervor. 
272 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


From his lips the Blood-Accusation took 
new authority. He rehearsed for them all 
the ancient calumnies of history, distorted 
to suit his purpose. With dramatic fire 
he described the murder of the maid Julsa, 
and spoke of secret books and laws and 
mystic rights of the Jew, and the people 
shuddered and believed. 

Those Jews who still had spirit left for 
battle, denied, protested—in vain. There 
were few Gentiles in Maritz who did not 
know that blood is counted an “ abomina- 
tion” in the Gass; there were few that did 
not know how the Jewish housewives 
soaked the meat for their table to remove 
from it all blood, as their religion com- 
manded, and yet they believed. 

They knew that Julsa had clung with 
loyal love to her foster-parents, and that 
they had mourned for her with deep grief 
—and yet they believed. 

Life now became well-nigh unbearable 


to the Jews. The peddlers were stoned in 
273 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


the streets, and heaped with vilest execra- 
tions. Maryam dared hardly show herself 
on the street for fear of insult; when she 
passed, people pointed at her, whispering 
in horror: “See, that is she in whose 
kitchen they bake with Christian blood.” 

Women who had run to her with their 
sick children, now ‘shunned her with 
frightened, hate-filled faces. Little chil- 
dren who had found their sweetest rest in 
her soft arms, now hid from her behind 
their mother’s skirts. Once, when she was 
leading to its home a little child which she 
had rescued out of a bog, a strange farmer 
wrested it from her, crying, “Ha, Jew- 
woman, dost wish to slaughter this one, 
too?” 

After months of unbearable abuse, the 
people of the Gass at last were roused to 
concerted protest, and a solemn service of 
justification was held in the synagogue. 
All the high Gentile judiciaries were pres- 


ent, the members of the Jewish community 
274 


THE SOURCE OF TEARS 


a 


appeared as on the great Day of Atone- 
ment, in their death robes, and one by one 
they ascended the altar, and swore a 
mighty, solemn oath to their innocence of 
the murder of the hired maid Julsa. It 
was of no avail. 

The venerable, gentle sage, the rabbi, 
Reb Yoshé Levison, journeyed to the 
county seat to testify, and in the court he 
swore upon the scrolls of the Law, with 
shame and dismay, that the Jews do not 
use Christian blood in their Passover 
bread. It was in vain. 

And in the age of Steam and Electricity, 
in the age of Liberty and Equality, there 
was witnessed an incredible, unthinkable 
sight; a high court of Justice in the midst 
of civilized Europe conducted a trial 
against a member of an ancient, God-fear- 
ing community for the horrible charge of 
Ritual Murder. 


XV 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


XV 
SHIMMELE PRAYS 


On a Sunday morning, not long after 
the close of the great Passover festival, 
Machel Katzev and his wife Rachel. re- 
turned from the county-seat, where they 
had lain in prison under the awful charge 
of the murder of their hired maid Julsa. 

Rachel had spent the night of the crime 
quietly sleeping beside her children, and 
Machel, as member of the local Chevra 
Kadisha (holy brotherhood)—a society 
whose office it is to minister to the dead 
and dying—had watched and prayed, to- 
gether with nine other men, at the bedside 
of a sick man. All this had been incon- 
testably proved at the trial; the sworn 
witnesses of the accusation, stupid tools of 
malice and hate, were self-confessed per- 


jurers. Yet Rachel and Machel returned 
279 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


acquitted, not honorably, but because of 
insufficient evidence. 

Almost the whole Gass, with Machel’s 
children at their head, had come out to 
meet them, and it was a tearfully jubilant 
procession that led the way to the syna- 
gogue, where a special service of thanks- 
giving had been arranged. 

The civilized element of Gentile Maritz 
rejoiced openly with the Gass, though per- 
haps for a reason of its own. Yet both 
gave thanks that justice had been done, and 
their home and their boasted enlighten- 
ment had been spared the awful stain of a 
judicial murder. But the larger part of 
the people looked on with black scowls 
and muttered curses. 

In the afternoon after mass, when the 
men as usual were gathered in the tavern, 
there appeared again, suddenly, the emis- 


.sary of the now noted “thrasher Count.” 


From an elevated place on a table, in a 


room crammed with ignorant men, fevered 
280 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


SOM SSE Le NSE ree 


with famine and religious hate and bad 
whiskey, he hurled forth his fire-brands of 
vile abuse and calumny; and the foolish 
people swayed with his words like reeds in 
the wind. 

“They have sucked you dry, and now 
they eat while you starve. Take back, I 
say, take back what is your own. Why 
should you pity them? Did they pity our 
meek and holy Saviour when they nailed 
him to the cross? You are sold—sold,” 
he roared, “ you, your wives and children, 
sold to the damned, blood-sucking Jews! cs 

Then arose Starek, the aged wheel- 
wright. 

“ Hold, lad,” he cried, “that is not true, 
the Jews do not drink Christian blood, the 
courts of justice have acquitted them. It 
is enough, I am for order and peace.” 

“The courts of justice have lied,” roar- 
ed the agitator again. “They are bought, 
the press is bought, aye, the whole gov- 


ernment is bought by the accursed rabble. 
281 


IDYLS OF THE GASS . 


Down with the Jews! Take club and flail 
and pitch-fork—at them—at them, I say. 
They must be bled, the wretched Jew-rab- 
ble! We must slash, slash, slash, until this 
festering sore, Judaism, is cut out of the 
land!” * 

In the dusk of that day the first stone 
crashed through a window in the Jews’- 
street, and on the site of the old gates was 
found a placard. bearing in red letters the 
words: “Death to the Jews!” 

The Gass was dumb, stricken with dis- 
may. A deputation was sent to the Biir- 
germeister; another to the rabbi: Both 
returned with comforting messages. But 
in the street stood white-faced groups. 

“ Are we living in the Middle Ages, in 
the days of a Chmel—” cried the younger 
people. ‘“‘ We now stand equal to any, un- 
der the protection of the Kaiser and the 
law. Let them just dare!” 


1A verbatim extract from a speech by Graf Piickler, 
delivered August, 1900. 
282 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


C20 ee eee eee ee aR 


“Nay, let us go home and keep the 
peace,” cried the older ones. 

The people went home, but not to their 
beds, and they sat white-faced and leaden- 
hearted, watching and praying for the end 
of a night that had just begun. 

In Maryam’s house, too, all was dark 
and still. Maryam had put Shimmelé to 
bed, and was talking quietly with her son, 
blind Yossef, who happened to be in the 
village.. 

“Bah, what is there to fear!” said Mar- 
yam bravely, though her face was white and 
troubled. “A lot of street loafers who 
torture little children; but to-morrow, God 
willing, thou wilt take Shimmelé back to 
the farm. It is no longer pleasant here in 
Maritz.” 

“The world,” said Yossef musingly, 
“reminds me of one of those deceiving 
wood-apples. They look nice and red, but 
bite into it, and it is bitter as gall, be- 


cause it is not ripe. Yes, the world, too, 
283 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
To a rt etter ti i PE NRE i 


on the surface may look fair and pleasant, 
but it is not ripe—nay, the world is not yet 
ripe.” 

“Vetterl,” came a small voice from the 
bed, “what dost mean—the world is not 
ripe?” 

“Why art not sleeping, Shimmelé?” 
said Maryam. “It is time that thou 
shouldst sleep.” 


“Please, Vetterl, what does that 
mean?” 

“Sleep, Shimmelé—to-morrow is also a 
day, to-morrow I shall tell thee.” 

Alas for Shimmelé—that to-morrow 
never came, and never did Yossef explain. 
It was life and time, it was bitter sorrow 
and a hard futile struggle, that at last 
made clear to Shimmelé what Yossef 
meant when he said, “The world is not 
yet ripe.” 

An hour before midnight a man came 
tearing through the Gass, crying: 


“Run, run for your lives! ” 
284 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


penn eimacs sy ye 


“What is the matter?” cried Maryam 
from her door-way. 

“ They are upon us, with clubs and axes. 
Run! Save yourselves!” 

At almost the same moment a roar of 
mingled shouts broke over the north end 
of the street. 

In a flash the whole Gass was a chaos of 
shrieking, crying, fleeing humanity. The 
Jews with their children clinging te their 
breasts and backs fled like hunted game 
into the woods and thickets, while the 
howling mob stormed their houses, loaded 
their women and children with linen and 
china and household goods, and broke and 
burned what they could not carry away. 
Wherever they found beer or wine, they 
drank deeply for new courage; wherever 
they met with resistance, they beat about 
them murderously. O pity them, you 
who read. Pity them; not alone the poor 
- Jews, fleeing wildly for their lives, but this 


maddened, raging mob. They, too, are 
285 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 
Sa a OPA Mahe Ae) 


victims, these drunken brutes; victims of 
bigotry and corruption, of ignorance and 
envy and hate. The Jews will crawl back 
to the ruins of their homes, and on the 
smouldering ash-heap sleep the sleep of 
the innocent. But these poor beasts— 
not until the great leveler Time will have 
moulded their flesh with the dust, not till 
then will their hands be washed clean of 
the stain of innocent human blood. 

With the first shout of the mob Yossef 
had leaped to his feet, and barricaded the 
door with Maryam’s large baking-table 
and the heavy wooden settle. There he 
stood immovable, leaning his giant 
strength against the door, while Maryam 
spoke soothing, reassuring words to him. 

“ They will not harm us—they are after 
plunder—all know me and that I have 
nothing.” 

The noises of the mob grew louder; now 
the crackling of their bonfires could 


clearly be heard. 
286 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


‘A shower-of stones crashing through the 
windows announced their arrival at Mar- 
yam’s house. 

Maryam snatched Shimmelé from the 
bed, and fled with him behind the shelter 
of the large oven, where she covered him 
with her body. Yossef remained guarding 
the door, upon which followed a fierce can- 
nonade of blows and a demand for en- 
trance. 

He leaned his great strength forward, 
but a heavy iron bar, wielded like a ram- 
rod, shivered the old pine boards like 
glass, and sent him staggering into the 
room. A red, smoky glare of pitch-torches 
poured upon the darkness, and danced on 
a mass of wild, red-eyed faces, which filled 
the open door-frame. 

Maryam leaped from her refuge to Yos- 
sef’s side, crying to the leader of the mob: 

“What do you want of me, smith? You 
know I have nothing.” 


The smith so far recovered his sanity to 
287 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


remember that Maryam, not many months 
before, had saved the life of his youngest 
child when it was dying of croup. 

“ Come away, fellows,” he said, “ it’s the 
old baker-woman—she has nothing.” 

“The witch’s kitchen where they bake 
with Christian blood,” cried the mob. 

Just then a glint from one of the torches 
leaped into the polished mirror of Mar- 
yam’s Kiddush cup, standing in its lonely 
grandeur on the shelf. Alas for Maryam’s 
proud emblem—Reb Chayim’s symbol of 
joy and hope for the Jew—it threw back 
the gleam into the raider’s eye, and: 

“Silver!” he cried, “thou liar, smith,— 
I see silver.” 

“Back!” cried Yossef as the rabble 
pushed forward. He grasped the heavy 
settle to strike, but a dozen iron hands 
clutched it firmly. A black, vicious rod 
leapt in air. 

“Mercy!” shrieked Maryam. “He is 
blind.” 

288 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


Then followed a thud as of falling logs, 
a mad whirl of stamping and crashing and 
yelling. 

Suddenly from without there came cries 
of “The gendarmes—the gendarmes!” 
and quickly the hungry maw of the night 
sucked in the struggling horde. Like a 
madly whirling cyclone tearing across the 
prairie it had raged in the room but a 
moment, and fled as quickly, leaving wreck 
and ruin and death behind. 

There was a loud clatter of hoof-beats 
and clank of swords without—men, wo- 
men, and children with arms full of plunder 
went scurrying in all directions. Then fol- 
lowed sudden peace—and the Gass, too, 
was silent and empty. 

Through all the turmoil Shimmelé had 
been as one paralyzed. He still crouched 
in his corner behind the stove, stunned 
with horror, glaring wide-eyed into the 
black void of the night. 


He strained his ears for a familiar sound. 
289 


IDYLS OF THE GASS 


There was nothing save a strange hissing. 
It was but the cry of the drowning flames, 
where the soldiers were extinguishing the 
fires. A weird, regular clank-clank, grow- 
ing first, then fading, filled out the fearful 
stillness. It was but the hoof-beat of the 
sentinel’s horse patrolling the silent street. 

The world seemed dead and mute save 
for his own leaden heart-beats. 

Where was Babé Maryam—where, Vet- 
ter Yossef? No one spoke. Had they 
fallen asleep, or been swept out with the 
mob? 

“ Babelé,” whispered Shimmelé. Noth- 
ing answered. 

“Vossef—little uncle—’ Only silence. 

The night wind blew in through the 
broken panes and the empty frame where 
hung the wreck of the door. 

Shimmelé quaked with cold and tearless 
terror. 

“ Babelé—my Babele!” 


“ Oh—little uncle!” 
290 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


He rose to his feet, and stretched out 
his hands in the darkness. A cold, hard 
something reached out and touched him 
ghostily. He shrank back into his corner 
chattering with terror. 

The silence grew more dense; the sen- 
tinel ceased his rounds, a fine rain began 
to fall softly from the sky, as if nature wept 
or strove to wash away the ghastly blood- 
stain from its face. 

O the night, the endless night. O the 
black, ghastly, whispering horror of the 
BEB EE Hs /50 18 acs NV RN ST ee In a) 

At last—at last—the ashen pall of death 
spread over the face of darkness; far in the 
east a faint bloom of rose was born, grow- 
ing ever bright and brighter, as if feeding 
on the decay of the night. It was morn- 
ing. Shimmelé saw the outlines of the 
room take gradual shape. Near him lay 
the overturned table whose outstretched 
legs had touched him ghostiiy in the dark; 


furniture, clothes, crockery, lay a scattered 
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IDYLS OF THE GASS 


wreck together; the poor little treasure of 
Maryam’s Kist, her sweet white linen, lay 
torn and trampled where the raiders had 
dropped it in their flight, and near the 
door—a ghostly something—. No, no, 
he could not look, and shaking as with 
palsy he buried his face in his hands. 
There was a sound as of fleet, slinking 
footsteps; a human being—help—a friend; 
he rushed to the window. There was 
nothing—only the pink morning and the 
wreck of the Gass. Near the window lay 
the charred, smouldering heap of a bon- 
fire; blackened remnants of tables, beds, 
and chairs, and towering above all, still 
lordly in its ruin, Reb Noach’s half-burnt 
fautewl. A twittering in the old nut-tree 
drew his eyes upward, and there they lin- 
gered, for in the night the first stirring of 
spring had breathed over the Gass, and 
gathered like a hoar-frost on the wide 
branches of the tree, dusting them lightly 


as with a coat of faintest green. The spar- 
292 


SHIMMELE PRAYS 


rows in its boughs chirped of nest-building. 
One of them flew down, and selecting a 
straw laid therewith the foundation of his 
house. Shimmelé saw that the straw was 
a bit of tumbled wisp, bulging out of a 
little torn bed-tick, which lay near a half- 
charred cradle, and recognized both as 
Belé Loser’s—her little black cradle, 
which he had never seen when it did not 
hold a baby. How empty was the world, 
how silent, how strange! 

A distant sound of knocking reminded 
him of Eisak Schulklopfer. 

“Tf my Babelé were not lying there so 
cold and stiff, on the floor,” he thought, 
“she would now be at my bedside, saying, 
‘Shimmelé, my life, come, get up—it’s 
time for prayers ’.” 

Then Shimmelé remembered God. He 
turned to where those silent forms lay side 
by side, Maryam’s withered hand on Yos- 
sef’s breast, where she had raised it to 


shield him. He did not weep, he was 
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IDYLS OF THE GASS 


stunned and dumb. With a fine, deep in- 
stinct, feeling that he must hide those dear, 
dead forms from the cruel, searching light 
of day, he covered them with a sheet— 
Yossef tenderly—he was used to being 
taken care of by Shimmelé; Maryam with 
almost a sense of shame—Maryam the 
strong, the helpful, the self-reliant. She 
would have chafed, had she known how 
she lay there, a helpless clod, on the 
floor. 

Then he washed and dressed himself 
neatly, as he knew his grandmother would 
have wished it; covered his head with his 
little velvet cap, and found Maryam’s old 
black Siddur (prayer-book). It was too 
large for his small hands to grasp; so he 
held it in his outstretched arms as though 
it were an infant, and turning his face away 
from the wreck of the dear Backstub, away 
from the horror of those still, sheeted 
forms, he lifted his eyes to the east, towards 


Zion, the Hope, the Joyous, whence 
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SHIMMELE PRAYS 


glowed the rosy dawn of a sweet spring 
day and began his morning prayer: 

“The Lord of the Universe—He it is 
who reigned before any being was creat- 
ed,” he prayed, and at last the deep weil 
of his great woe overflowed. Shimmele 
wept. His tears flowed in swift rills upon 
the old yellow pages of Maryam’s prayer- 
book. 

“ Though all the Universe would vanish, 
He alone would remain, the mighty 
Ruler. . . He is One, and there is none 
beside. The Lord is my living Redeemer, 
my Rock in time of affliction. Into His 
hands I commit my spirit. God is with 
me, what shall I fear—’ sobbed Shimmelé.