154 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
SUGARMAN’S BAR-MITZVAH PARTY.
THE day of Ebenezer Sugarman’s Bar-mitzvah duly arrived.
All his sins would henceforth be on his own head and everybody
rejoiced. By the Friday evening so many presents had arrived
—four breastpins, two rings, six pocket-knives, three sets of
Machzorim or Festival Prayer-books, and the like — that his
father barred up the door very carefully and in the middle of
the night, hearing a mouse scampering across’ the floor, woke
up in a cold sweat and threw open the bedroom window and
cried “Ho! Buglers!” But the “Buglers” made no sign of
being scared, everything was still and nothing purloined, so
Jonathan took a reprimand from his disturbed wife and curled
himself up again in bed.
Sugarman did things in style and through the influence of a
client the confirmation ceremony was celebrated in “ Duke’s Plai-
zer Shool.” Ebenezer, who was tall and weak-eyed, with lank
black hair, had a fine new black cloth suit and a beautiful silk
prayitfg-shawl with blue stripes, anda glittering watch-chain and
a gold ring and a nice new Prayer-book with gilt edges, and all
the boys under thirteen made up their minds to grow up and be
responsible for their sins as quick as possible. Ebenezer walked
up to the Reading Desk with a dauntless stride and intoned his
Portion of the Law with no more tremor than was necessitated
by the musical roulades, and then marched upstairs, as bold as
brass, to his mother, who was sitting up in the gallery, and who
gave him a loud smacking kiss that could be heard in the four
corners of the synagogue, just as if she were a real lady.
Then there was the Bar-mztzvah breakfast, at which Ebenezer
delivered an English sermon and a speech, both openly written
by the Shalotten Shazmos, and everybody commended the boy’s
beautiful sentiments and the beautiful language in which they
SUGARMAN’S BAR-MITZVAH PARTY. 155
were couched. Mrs. Sugarman forgot all the trouble Ebenezer
had given her in the face of his assurances of respect and affec-
tion and she wept copiously. Having only one eye she could
not see what her Jonathan saw, and what was spoiling his enjoy- :
ment of Ebenezer’s effusive gratitude to his dear parents for
having trained him up in lofty principles.
It was chiefly male cronies who had been invited to break-
fast, and the table had been .decorated with biscuits and fruit
and sweets not appertaining to the meal, but provided for the
refreshment of the less-favored visitors—such as Mr. -and
Mrs. Hyams—who would be dropping in during the day.
Now, nearly every one of the guests had brought a little boy
with him, each of whom stood like a page behind his father’s
Before starting on their prandial fried fish, these trencher-men
took from the dainties wherewith the ornamental plates were
laden and gave thereof to their offspring. Now this was only
right and proper, because it is the prerogative of children to
“nash” on these occasions. But as the meal progressed, each
father from time to time, while talking briskly to his neighbor,
allowed his hand to stray mechanically into the plates and thence
negligently backwards into the hand of his infant, who stuffed
the treasure into his pockets. Sugarman fidgeted about un-
easily ; not one surreptitious seizure escaped him, and every one
pricked him like a needle. Soon his soul grew punctured like a “
pin-cushion. The Shalotten Shammos was among the worst
offenders, and he covered his back-handed proceedings with a
ceaseless flow of complimentary conversation.
“Excellent fish, Mrs. Sugarman,” he said, dexterously slipping
some almonds behind his chair.
“ What?” said Mrs. Sugarman, who was hard of hearing.
“First-class plaice!” shouted the Shalotten .Skammos, negli-
gently conveying a bunch of raisins.
“So they ought to be,” said Mrs. Sugarman in her thin tink-
ling accents, “they were all alive in the pan.”
“ Ah, did they twitter?” said Mr. Belcovitch, pricking up his
156 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“No,” Bessie interposed. “What do you mean?”
“At home in my town,” said Mr. Belcovitch impressively, “a
fish made a noise in the pan one Friday.”
“Well? and suppose?” said the Shalotten Shammos, passing
a fig to the rear, “the oil frizzles.”
“Nothing of the kind,” said Belcovitch angrily. “A real liv-
ing noise. The woman snatched it out of the pan and ran with
it to the Rabbi. But he did not know what to do. Fortunately
there was staying with him for the Sabbath a travelling Saint
from the far city of Ridnik, a Chaszd, very skilful in plagues and
, purifications, and able to make clean a creeping thing by a hun-
dred and fifty reasons. He directed the woman to wrap the fish
in a shroud and give it honorable burial as quickly as possible.
The funeral took place the same afternoon and a lot of people
went in solemn procession to the woman’s back garden and
buried it with all seemly rites, and the knife with which it had
been cut was buried in the same grave, having been defiled by
contact with the demon. One man said it should be burned,
but that was absurd because the demon would be only too glad
to find itself in its native element, but to prevent Satan from
rebuking the woman any more its mouth was stopped with fur-
nace ashes. There was no time to obtain Palestine earth, which
would have completely crushed the demon.”
“The woman must have committed some Avirah,” said Karl-
“A true story!” said the Shalotten Sawmos, ironically.
“That tale has been over Warsaw this twelvemonth.”
“Tt occurred when I was a boy,” affirmed Belcovitch indig-
nantly. “I remember it quite well. Some people explained it
favorably. Others were of opinion that the soul of the fish-
monger had transmigrated into the fish, an opinion borne out by
the death of the fishmonger a few days before. And the Rabbi
is still alive to prove it—may his light continue to shine—
though they write that he has lost his memory.”
The Shalotten Siammos sceptically passed a pear to his son.
Old Gabriel Hamburg, the scholar, came compassionately to the
raconteur’s assistance. z
SUGARMAN’S BAR-MITZVAH PARTY. 157
“Rabbi Solomon Maimon,” he said, “has left it on record
that he witnessed a similar funeral in Posen.”
“It was well she buried it,” said Karlkammer. “It was an
atonement for a child, and saved its life.”
The Shalotten Shammos laughed outright.
“Ah, laugh not,” said Mrs. Belcovitch. “Or you might laugh
with blood. It isn’t for my own sins that I was born with ill-
“TI must laugh when I hear of God’s fools burying fish any-
where but in their stomach,” said-the Shalotten Shammos, trans-
porting a Brazil nut to the rear, where it was quickly annexed by
Solomon Ansell, who had sneaked in uninvited and ousted the
other boy from his coign of vantige.
The conversation was becoming heated; Breckeloff turned
“My sister has married a man who can’t play cards,” he
“ How lucky for her,” answered several voices.
“No, it’s just her black luck,” he rejoined. “For he wall
There was a burst of laughter and then the company remem-
bered that Breckeloff was a Badchan or jester.
“Why, your sister's husband is a splendid player,” said
Sugarman with a flash of memory, and the company laughed
“Yes,” said Breckeloff. “But he doesn’t give me the chance
of losing to him now, he’s got such a stuck-up Kofzon. He
belongs to Duke’s Plaizer Skool and comes there very late,
and when you ask him his birthplace he forgets he was a
Pullack and says he comes from ‘behind Berlin.’”
These strokes of true satire occasioned more merriment
and were worth a biscuit to Solomon Ansell vice the son of
the Shalotten Skammos.
Among the inoffensive guests were old Gabriel Hamburg,
the scholar, and young Joseph Strelitski, the student, who sat
together. On the left of the somewhat seedy Strelitski pretty
Bessie in blue silk presided over the coffee-pot. Nobody knew
158 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
whence Bessie had stolen her good looks; probably some re-
mote ancestress! Bessie was in every way the most agreeable
member of the family, inheriting some of her father’s brains,
but wisely going for the rest of herself to that remote ances-
Gabriel Hamburg and Joseph Strelitski had both had rela-
tions with No. 1 Royal Street for some-time, yet they had
hardly exchanged a word and their meeting at this breakfast
table found them as great strangers as though they had never
seen each other. Strelitski came because he boarded with the
Sugarmans, and Hamburg came because he sometimes con-
sulted Jonathan Sugarman about a Talmudical passage. Sugar-
man was charged with the oral traditions of a chain of Rabbis,
like an actor who knows all the “business” elaborated by his
predecessors, and even a scientific scholar like Hamburg found
him occasionally and fortuitously illuminating. Even so Karl-
kammer’s red hair was a pillar of fire in the trackless wilder-
ness of Hebrew literature. Gabriel Hamburg was a mighty
savant who endured all things for the love of knowledge
and the sake of six men in Europe who followed his work
and profited by its results. Verily, fit audience though few.
But such is the fate of great scholars whose readers are sown
throughout the lands more sparsely than monarchs. One by
one Hamburg grappled with the countless problems of Jewish
literary history, settling dates and authors, disintegrating the
Books of the Bible into their constituent parts, now inserting
a gap of centuries between two halves of the same chapter,
now flashing the light of new theories upon the development
of Jewish theology. He lived at Royal Street and the British
Museum, for he spent most of his time groping among the
folios and manuscripts, and had no need for more than the
little back bedroom, behind the Ansells, stuffed with mouldy
books. Nobody (who was anybody) had heard of him in Eng-
land, and he worked on, unencumbered by patronage or a
full stomach. The Ghetto, itself, knew little of him, for there
were but few with whom he found intercourse satisfying. He
was not “orthodox” in belief though eminently so in practice
SU@ARMAN’S BAR-MITZVAH PARTY. 159
—which is all the Ghetto demands—not from hypocrisy
but from ancient prejudice. Scholarship had not shrivelled
up his humanity, for he had a genial fund of humor and a
gentle play of satire and loved his neighbors for their folly
and narrowmindedness. Unlike Spinoza, too, he did not go
out of his way to inform them of his heterodox views, content
to comprehend the crowd rather than be misunderstood by
it. He knew that the bigger soul includes the smaller and
that the smaller can never circumscribe the bigger. Such
money as was indispensable for the endowment of research he
earned by copying texts and hunting out references for the
numerous scholars and clergymen who infest the Museum and
prevent the general reader from having elbow room. In per-
son he was small and bent and snuffy. Superficially more
intelligible, Joseph Strelitski was really a deeper mystery than
Gabriel Hamburg. He was known to be a recent arrival on
English soil, yet he spoke English fluently. He studied at Jews’
College by day and was preparing for the examinations at
the London University. None of the other students knew
where he lived nor a bit of his past history. There was a
vague idea afloat that he was an only child whose parents
had been hounded to penury and death by Russian persecu-
tion, but who launched it nobody knew. His eyes were sad
and earnest, a curl of raven hair fell forwards on his high
brow; his clothing was shabby and darned in places by his
own hand. Beyond accepting the gift of education at the
hands of dead men he would take no help. On several dis-
tinct occasions, the magic name, Rothschild, was appealed to
on his behalf by well-wishers, and through its avenue of almo-
ners it responded with its eternal quenchless unquestioning
generosity to students. But Joseph Strelitski always quietly
sent back these bounties. He made enough to exist upon by
touting for a cigar-firm in the evenings. In the streets he
walked with tight-pursed lips, dreaming no one knew what.
And yet there were times when his tight-pursed lips un-
clenched themselves and he drew in great breaths even of
Ghetto air with the huge contentment of one who has known
160 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.*
suffocation. “One can breathe here,” he seemed to be saying.
The atmosphere, untainted by spies, venal officials, and jeering
soldiery, seemed fresh and sweet. Here the ground was stable,
not mined in all directions ; no arbitrary ukase — veritable sword
of Damocles — hung over the head and darkened the sunshine.
In such a country, where faith was free and action untrammelled,
mere living was an ecstasy when remembrance came over one,
and so Joseph Strelitski sometimes threw back his head and
breathed in liberty. The voluptuousness of the sensation can-
not be known by born freemen.
When Joseph Strelitski’s father was sent to Siberia, he took
his nine-year old boy with him in infringement of the law which
prohibits exiles from taking children above five years of age.
The police authorities, however, raised no objection, and they
permitted Joseph to attend the public school at Kansk, Yeniseisk
. province, where the Strelitski family resided. A year or so after-
wards the Yeniseisk authorities accorded the family permission to
reside in Yeniseisk, and Joseph, having given proof of brilliant
abilities, was placed in the Yeniseisk gymnasium. For nigh
three years the boy studied here, astonishing the gymnasium
with his extraordinary ability, when suddenly the Government
authorities ordered the boy to return at once “ to the place where
he was born.” In vain the directors of the gymnasium, won
over by the poor boy’s talent and enthusiasm for study, peti-
tioned the Government. The Yeniseisk authorities were again
ordered to expel him. No respite was granted and the thirteen-
year old lad was sent to Sokolk in the Government of Grodno
at the other extreme of European Russia, where he was quite
alone in the world. Before he was sixteen, he escaped to Eng-
land, his soul branded by terrible memories, and steeled by
solitude to a stern strength.
At Sugarman’s he spoke little and then mainly with the father
on scholastic points. After meals he retired quickly to his busi-
ness or his sleeping-den, which was across the road. Bessie
loved Daniel Hyams, but she was a woman and Strelitski’s neu-
trality piqued her. Even to-day it is possible he might not have
spoken to Gabriel Hamburg if his other neighbor had not been
SUGARMAN’S BAR-MITZVAH PARTY. 161
Bessie. Gabriel Hamburg was glad to talk to the youth, the
outlines of whose English history were known to him. Strelitski
seemed to expand under the sunshine of a congenial spirit; he
answered Hamburg’s sympathetic inquiries about his work
without reluctance and even made some remarks on his own
And as they spoke, an undercurrent of pensive thought was
flowing in the old scholar’s soul and his tones grew tenderer and
tenderer. The echoes of Ebenezer’s effusive speech were in his
ears and the artificial notes rang strangely genuine. All round
him sat happy fathers of happy children, men who warmed their
hands at the home-fire of life, men who lived while he was think-
ing. Yet he, too, had had his chance far back in the dim and
dusty years, his chance of love and money with it. He had let
it slip away for poverty and learning, and only six men in Europe
cared whether he lived or died. The sense of his own loneliness
smote him with a sudden aching desolation. His gaze grew hu-
mid; the face of the young student was covered with a veil of
mist and seemed to shine with the radiance of an unstained soul.
If he had been as other men he might have had such ason. At
this moment Gabriel Hamburg was speaking of paragoge in He-
brew grammar, but his voice faltered and in imagination he was
laying hands of paternal benediction on Joseph Strelitski’s head.
Swayed by an overmastering impulse he burst out at last.
“ An idea strikes me! ”
Strelitski looked up in silent interrogation at the old man’s
“You live by yourself. I live by myself. We are both stu-
dents. Why should we not live together as students, too?”
A swift wave of surprise traversed Strelitski’s face, and his eyes
grew soft. For an instant the one solitary soul visibly yearned
towards the other; he hesitated.
“Do not think I am too old,” said the great scholar, trembling
all over. “I know it is the young who chum together, but still
I ama student. And you shall see how lively and cheerful I will
be.” He forced a smile that hovered on tears. “We shall be
two rackety young students, every night raising a thousand
162 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
devils. Gaudeamus igitur.”. He began to hum in his cracked
hoarse voice the Burschen-lied of his early days at the Berlin
But Strelitski’s face had grown dusky with a gradual flush and
a deepening gloom; his black eyebrows were knit and his lips
set together and his eyes full of sullen ire. He suspected a snare
to assist him.
He shook his head. “Thank you,” he said slowly. “But I
prefer to live alone.”
And he turned and spoke to the astonished Bessie, and so the
two strange lonely vessels that had hailed each other across the
darkness drifted away and apart for ever in the waste of waters.
But Jonathan Sugarman’s eye was on more tragic episodes.
Gradually the plates emptied, for the guests openly followed up
the more substantial elements of the repast by dessert, more
devastating even than the rear manceuvres. At last there was
nothing but an aching china blank. The men looked round the
table for something else to “ash,” but everywhere was the same
depressing desolation. Only in the centre of the table towered
in awful intact majesty the great Bar-mitzvah cake, like some
mighty sphinx of stone surveying the ruins of empires, and the
least reverent shrank before its austere gaze. But at last the
Shalotten Shammos shook off his awe and stretched out his hand
leisurely towards the cake, as became the master of ceremonies.
But when Sugarman the Sadchan beheld his hand moving like
a creeping flame forward, he sprang towards him, as the tigress
springs when the hunter threatens her cub. And speaking no
word he snatched the great cake from under the hand of the
spoiler and tucked it under his arm, in the place where he carried
Nehemiah, and sped therewith from the room. Then consterna-
tion fell upon the scene till Solomon Ansell, crawling on hands
and knees in search of windfalls, discovered a basket of apples
stored under the centre of the table, and the Shalotten Sham-
mos’s son told his father thereof ere Solomon could do more than
secure a few for his brother and sisters. And the Shalotten
Shammos laughed joyously, “ Apples,” and dived under the table,
and his long form reached to the other side and beyond, and
SUGARMAN’S BAR-MITZVAH PARTY. 163
graybearded men echoed the joyous cry and scrambled on the
ground like schoolboys.
“ Leolom tikkach—always take,” quoted the Badchan glee-
When Sugarman returned, radiant, he found his absence had
“ Piece of fool! Two-eyed lump of flesh,” said Mrs. Sugarman
in aloud whisper. “Flying out of the room as if thou hadst the
“ Shall I sit still like thee while our home is eaten up around
us?” Sugarman whispered back. “Couldst thou not look to
the apples? Plaster image! Leaden fool! See, they have
emptied the basket, too.”
“Well, dost thou expect luck and blessing to crawl into it?
Even five shillings’ worth of zasi cannot last forever. May ten
ammunition wagons of black curses be discharged on thee!”
replied Mrs. Sugarman, her one eye shooting fire.
This was the last straw of insult added to injury. Sugarman
was exasperated beyond endurance. He forgot that he had a
wider audience than his wife; he lost all control of himself, and
cried aloud in a frenzy of rage, “ What a pity.thou hadst not a
Mrs. Sugarman collapsed, speechless.
“A greedy lot, marm,” Sugarman reported to Mrs. Hyams on
the Monday. “Iwas very glad you and your people didn’t
come; dere was noding left except de prospectuses of the Ham-
burg lotteree vich I left laying all about for de guests to take.
Being Shabbos I could not give dem out.”
“ We were sorry not to come, but neither Mr. Hyams nor my-
self felt well,” said the white-haired broken-down old woman
with her painfully slow enunciation. Her English words rarely
went beyond two syllables.
“Ah!” said Sugarman. “But I’ve come to give you back
“ Why, it’s broken,” said Mrs. Hyams, as she took it.
“ So it is, marm,” he admitted readily. “ But if you taink dat
I ought to pay for de damage you're mistaken. If you lend me
164 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
your cat ”— here he began to make the argumentative movement
with his thumb, as though scooping cut imaginary Aosher cheese
with it; “if you lend me your cat to kill my rat,” his tones took
on the strange Talmudic singsong--—“and my rat instead kills
your cat, then it is the fault of your cat and not the fault of my
Poor Mrs. Hyams could not meet this argument. If Mendel
had been at home, he might have found a counter-analogy. As
it was, Sugarman re-tucked Nehemiah under his arm and de-
parted triumphant, almost consoled for the raid on his provisions
by the thought of money saved. In the street he met the Sha-
“Blessed art thou who comest,” said the giant, in Hebrew;
then relapsing into Yiddish he cried: “I’ve been wanting to see
you. What did you mean by telling your wife you were sorry
she had not a fourth uncle?”
“Soorka knew what I meant,” said Sugarman with a little
croak of victory. “I have told her the story before. When the
Almighty Shadchan was making marriages in Heaven, before we
were yet born, the name of my wife was coupled with my
own. The spirit of her eldest uncle hearing this flew up to the
Angel who made the proclamation and said: ‘Angel! thou art
making a mistake. The man of whom thou makest mention
will be of a lower status than this future niece of mine.’
Said the Angel: ‘Sh! It is all right. She will halt on one
leg.’ Came then the spirit of her second uncle and said:
‘Angel, what blazonest thou? A niece of mine marry a man
of such family?’ Says the Angel: ‘Sh! It is all right. She
will be blind in one eye.’ Came the spirit of her third uncle
and said: ‘Angel, hast thou not erred? Surely thou canst
not mean to marry my future niece into such a humble family.’
Said the Angel: ‘Sh! It is all right. She will be deaf in
one ear.’ Now, do you see? If she had only had a fourth
uncle, she would have been dumb into the bargain; there
is only one mouth and my life would have been a happy one.
Before I told Soorka that history she used to throw up her
better breeding and finer family to me. Even in public she
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 165
would shed my blood. Now she does not do it even in pri-
Sugarman the Shadchan winked, readjusted Nehemiah and
went his way.
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY.
It was a cold, bleak Sunday afternoon, and the Ansells were
spending it as usual. Little Sarah was with Mrs. Simons,
Rachel had gone to Victoria Park with a party of school-mates,
the grandmother was asleep on the bed, covered with one of
her son’s old coats (for there was no fire in the grate), with her
pious vade mecum in her hand; Esther had prepared her lessons
and was reading a little brown book at Dutch Debby’s, not
being able to forget the London ¥ournal sufficiently ; Solomon
had not prepared his and was playing “ rounder ” in the street,
Isaac being permitted to “feed” the strikers, in return for a
prospective occupation of his new bed; Moses Ansell was at Skool,
listening to a Hesfed or funeral oration at the German Syna-
gogue, preached by Reb Shemuel over one of the lights of the
Ghetto, prematurely gone out— no other than the consumptive
Maggid, who had departed suddenly for a less fashionable place
than Bournemouth. “ He has fallen,” said the Reb, “not laden
with age, nor sighing for release because the grasshopper was a
burden. But He who holds the keys said: ‘ Thou hast done thy
share of the work; it is not thine to complete it. It was in thy
heart to serve Me, from Me thou shalt receive thy reward.’”
And all the perspiring crowd in the black-draped hall shook
with grief, and thousands of working men followed the body,
weeping, to the grave, walking all the way to the great cemetery
A slim, black-haired, handsome lad of about twelve, dressed in
a neat black suit, with a shining white Eton collar, stumbled up
the dark stairs of No. 1 Royal Street, with an air of unfamiliarity
and disgust. At Dutch Debby’s door he was delayed by a brief
166 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
altercation with Bobby. He burst open the door of the Ansell
apartment without knocking, though he took off his hat invol-
untarily as he entered. Then he stood still with an air of dis-
appointment. The room seemed empty.
“What dost thou want, Esther? ” murmured the Gieridiesstber
rousing herself sleepily.
The boy looked towards the bed with a start He could not
make out what the grandmother was saying. It was four years
since he had heard Yiddish spoken, and he had almost forgotten
the existence of the dialect The room, too, seemed chill and
alien, — so unspeakably poverty-stricken.
“Qh, how are you, grandmother?” he said, going up to her
and kissing her perfunctorily. ‘ Where’s everybody?”
“Art thou Benjamin?” said the grandmother, her stern,
wrinkled face shadowed with surprise and doubt.
Benjamin guessed what she was asking and nodded.
“But how richly they have dressed thee! Alas, I suppose
they have taken away thy Judaism instead. For four whole
years —is it not—thou hast been with English folk. Woe!
Woe! If thy father had married a pious woman, she would
have been living still and thou wouldst have been able to live
happily in our midst instead of being exiled among strangers,
who feed thy body and starve thy soul. If thy father had left
me in Poland, I should have died happy and my old eyes would
never have seen the sorrow. Unbutton thy waistcoat, let me
see if thou wearest the ‘ four-corners ’ at least.” Of this harangue,
poured forth at the rate natural to thoughts running ever in the
same groove, Benjamin understood but a word here and there.
For four years he had read and read and read English books,
absorbed himself in English composition, heard nothing but
English spoken about him. Nay, he had even deliberately put
the jargon out of his mind at the commencement as something
degrading and humiliating. Now it struck vague notes of old
outgrown associations but called up no definite images.
“ Where’s Esther?’ he said.
“Esther,” grumbled the grandmother, catching the name.
“Esther is with Dutch Debby. She’s always with her. Dutch
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 167
Debby pretends to love her like a mother —and why? Because
she wants to de her mother. She aims at marrying my Moses.
But not for us. This time we shall marry the woman I select.
No person like that who knows as much about Judaism as the
cow of Sunday, nor like Mrs. Simons, who coddles our little
Sarah because she thinks my Moses will have her. It’s plain
as the eye in her head what she wants. But the Widow Finkel-
stein is the woman we're going to marry. She is a true Jewess,
shuts up her shop the moment Shabbos comes in, not works
right into the Sabbath like so many, and goes to Shool even on
Friday nights. Look how she brought up her Avromkely, who
intoned the whole Portion of the Law and the Prophets in
Shool before he was six years old. Besides she has money and
has cast eyes upon him.”
The boy, seeing conversation was hopeless, murmured some-
thing inarticulate and ran down the stairs to find some traces of
the intelligible members of his family. Happily Bobby, remem-
bering their former altercation, and determining to have the last
word, barred Benjamin’s path with such pertinacity that Esther
came out to quiet him and leapt into her brother’s arms with
a great cry of joy, dropping the book she held full on Bobby’s
“© Benjy—lIs it really you? Oh, I am so glad. I am so
glad. I knew you would come some day. O Benjy! Bobby,
you bad dog, this is Benjy, my brother. Debby, I’m going up-
stairs. Benjamin’s come back. Benjamin’s come back.”
“ All right, dear,” Debby called out. “Let me have a look at
him soon. Send me in Bobby if you’re going away.” The words
ended in a cough.
Esther hurriedly drove in Bobby, and then half led, half
dragged Benjamin upstairs. The grandmother had fallen asleep
again and was snoring peacefully.
“ Speak low, Benjy,” said Esther. “ Grandmother’s asleep.”
“ All right, Esther. I don’t want to wake her, I’m sure. I
was up here just now, and couldn’t make out a word she was
“I know. She’s losing all her teeth, poor thing.”
168 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“No, it isn’t that. She speaks that beastly Yiddish —I made
sure she’d have learned English by this time. I hope you don’t
speak it, Esther.”
“TI must, Benjy. You see father and grandmother never speak
anything else at home, and only know a few words of English.
But I don’t let the children speak it except tothem. You should
hear little Sarah speak English. It’s beautiful. Only when she
cries she says ‘Woe is me’ in Yiddish. I have had to slap her
for it— but that makes her cry ‘Woe is me’ all the more. Oh,
how nice you look, Benjy, with your white collar, just like the
pictures of little Lord Launceston in the Fourth Standard Reader.
I wish I could show you to the girls!’ Oh, my, what'll Solomon
say when he sees you! He’s always wearing his corduroys away
at the knees.”
“But where is everybody? And why is there no fire?” said
Benjamin impatiently. «It’s beastly cold.”
“Father hopes to get a bread, coal and meat ticket to-morrow,
“Well, this is a pretty welcome for a fellow!” grumbled
“T’m so sorry, Benjy! If I'd only known you were coming I
might have borrowed some coals from Mrs. Belcovitch. But
just stamp your feet a little if they freeze. No, do it outside the
door; grandmother’s asleep. Why didn’t you write to me you
“I didn’t know. Old Four-Eyes—that’s one of our teachers
— was going up to London this afternoon, and he wanted a boy
to carry some parcels, and as I’m the best boy in my class he let
me come. He let me run up and see you all, and I’m to meet
him at London Bridge Station at seven o’clock. You're not
much altered, Esther.”
“Ain’t I?” she said, with a little pathetic smile. “Ain’t I
“Not four years bigger. For a moment I could fancy I'd
never been away. How the years slip by! I shall be Bar-
* Yes, and now I've got you again I’ve so much to say I don’t
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 169
know where to begin. That time father went to see you I
couldn’t get much out of him about you, and your own letters
have been so few.”
“A letter costs a penny, Esther. Where am I to get pennies
“J know, dear. I know you would have liked to write. But
now you shall tell me everything. Have you missed us very
“No, I don’t think so,” said Benjamin.
“Qh, not at all? ” asked Esther in disappointed tones.
“Yes, I missed you, Esther, at first,” he said, soothingly.
“But there’s such a lot to do and to think about. It’s a new
“ And have you been happy, Benjy?”
“Oh yes. Quite. Just think! Regular meals, with oranges
and sweets and entertainments every now and then, a bed all to
yourself, good fires, a mansion with a noble staircase and hall, a
field to play in, with balls and toys —”
“A field!” echoed Esther. “Why it must be like going to
Greenwich every day.”
“Oh, better than Greenwich where they take you girls for a
measly day’s holiday once a year.”
“ Better than the Crystal Palace, where they take the boys?”
«Why, the Crystal Palace is quite near. We can see the fire-
works every Thursday night in the season.”
Esther’s eyes opened wider. “And have you been inside?”
“ Lots of times.”
“Do you remember the time you didn’t go?” Esther said
“A fellow doesn’t forget that sort of thing,” he grumbled. “I
so wanted to go —I had heard such a lot about it from the boys
who had been. When the day of the excursion came my Shaddos
coat was in pawn, wasn’t it?”
« Yes,” said Esther, her eyes growing humid. “I was so sorry
for you, dear. You didn’t want to go in your corduroy coat and
let the boys know you didn’t have a best coat. It was quite
170 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“I remember mother gave me a treat instead,” said Benjamin
with a comic grimace. “She took me round to Zachariah Square
and let me play there while she was scrubbing Malka’s floor. I
think Milly gave me a penny, and I remember Leah let me take
a couple of licks from a glass of ice cream she was eating on
the Ruins. It was a hot day —I shall never forget that ice
cream. But fancy parents pawning a chap’s only decent coat.”
He smoothed his well-brushed jacket complacently.
“Yes, but don’t you remember mother took it out the very
next morning before school with the money she earnt at
“But what was the use of that? I put it on of course when I
went to school and told the teacher I was ill the day before, just
to show the boys I was telling the truth. But it was too late to
take me to the Palace.”
“Ah, but it came in handy—don’t you remember, Benjy,
how one of the Great Ladies died suddenly the next week!”
“Oh yes! Yoicks! Tallyho!” cried Benjamin, with sudden
excitement. “We went down on hired omnibuses to the ceme-
tery ever so far into the country, six of the best boys in each
class, and I was on the box seat next to the driver, and I thought
of the old mail-coach days and looked out for highwaymen. We
stood along the path in the cemetery and the sun was shining
and the grass was so green and there were such lovely flowers
on the coffin when it came past with the gentlemen crying behind
it and then we had lemonade and cakes on the way back. Oh, it
was just beautiful! I went to two other funerals after that, but
that was the one I enjoyed most. Yes, that coat did come in
useful after all for a day in the country.”
Benjamin evidently did not think of his own mother’s inter-
ment as a funeral. Esther did and she changed the subject
“Well, tell me more about your place.”
“Well, it’s like going to funerals every day. It’s all country
all round about, with trees and flowers and birds. Why, I’ve
helped to make hay in the autumn.”
Esther drew a sigh of ecstasy. “It’s like a book,” she said.
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 171
“Books!” he said. “We’ve got hundreds and hundreds, a
whole library— Dickens, Mayne Reid, George Eliot, Captain
Marryat, Thackeray — I’ve read them all.”
“Oh, Benjy!” said Esther, clasping her hands in admiration,
both of the library and her brother. “I wish I were you.”
“Well, you could be me easily enough.”
“ How?” said Esther, eagerly.
“Why, we have a girls’ department, too. You're an orphan
as much as me. You get father to enter you as a candidate.”
“Oh, how could I, Benjy?” said Esther, her face falling.
“What would become of Solomon and Ikey and little Sarah?”
“They’ve got a father, haven’t they? and a grandmother?”
“Father can’t do washing and cooking, you silly boy! And
grandmother’s too old.”
“Well, I call it a beastly shame. Why can’t father earn a
living and give out the washing? He never has a penny to bless
himself with.” :
“Ttisn’t his fault, Benjy. He tries hard. I’m sure he often
grieves that he’s so poor that he can’t afford the railway fare to
visit you on visiting days. That time he did go he only got the
money by selling a work-box I had for a prize. But he often
speaks about you.”
“Well, I don’t grumble at his not coming,” said Benjamin.
“J forgive him that because you know he’s not very presentable,
is he, Esther?” :
Esther was silent. “Oh, well, everybody knows he’s poor.
They don’t expect father to be a gentleman.”
“Yes, but he might look decent. Does he still wear ‘those
two beastly little curls at the side of his head? Oh, I did hate it
when I was at school here, and he used to come to see the mas-
ter about something. Some of the boys had such respectable
fathers, it was quite a pleasure to see them come in and overawe
the teacher. Mother used to be as bad, coming in with a shawl
over her head.”
“Yes, Benjy, but she used to bring us in bread and butter
when there had been none in the house at breakfast-time.
Don’t you remember, Benjy?”
172 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Oh, yes, 1 remember. We've been through some beastly
bad times, haven’t we, Esther? All I say is you wouldn’t like
father coming in before all the girls in your class, would you,
Esther blushed. “There is no occasion for him to come,”
she said evasively.
“Well, I know what I shall do!” said Benjamin decisively ;
“I’m going to be a very rich man—”
“ Are you, Benjy?” inquired Esther.
“Yes, of course. I’m going to write books—like Dickens
and those fellows. Dickens made a pile of money, just by writ-
ing down plain every-day things going on around.”
“ But you can’t write! ”
Benjamin laughed a superior laugh. “Oh, can’t 1? What
about Our Own, eh?”
“That’s our journal. I edit it. Didn’t I tell you about it?
Yes, I’m running a story through it, called ‘The Soldier’s
Bride,’ all about life in Afghanistan.”
“Oh, where could I get a number?”
“You can’t get a number. It ain’t printed, stupid. It’s all
copied by hand, and we've only got a few copies. If you came
down, you could see it.”
“Yes, but I can’t come down,” said Esther, with tears in her
“Well, never mind. You'll see it some day. Well, what
was I telling you? Oh, yes! About my prospects. You see,
I’m going in fora scholarship in a few months, and everybody
says I shall get it. Then, perhaps I might go toa higher school,
perhaps to Oxford or Cambridge!”
“And row in the boat-race!” said Esther, flushing with
“No, bother the boat-race. I’m going in for Latin and
Greek. I’ve begun to learn French already. So I shall know
three foreign languages.”
“Four!” said Esther, “ you forget Hebrew !”
“Oh, of course, Hebrew. I don’t reckon Hebrew. Every-
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 173
body knows Hebrew. Hebrew’s no good to any one. What
I want is something that'll get me on in the world and enable
me to write my books.”
“But Dickens — did he know Latin or Greek?” asked Esther.
“No, he didn’t,” said Benjamin proudly. “That’s just where
I shall have the pull of him. Well, when I’ve got rich I shall
buy father a new suit of clothes and a high hat— it zs so beastly
cold here, Esther, just feel my hands, like ice!— and I shall
make him live with grandmother in a decent room, and give
him an allowance so that he can study beastly big books all
day long—does he still take a week to read a page? And
Sarah and Isaac and Rachel shall go to a proper boarding
school, and Solomon — how old will he be then?”
Esther looked puzzled. “Oh, but suppose it takes you ten
years getting famous! Solomon will be nearly twenty.”
“Tt can’t take me ten years. But never mind! We shall see
what is to be done with Solomon when the time comes. As for
“Well, Benjy,” she said, for his imagination was breaking
“T'll give you a dowry and you'll get married. See!” he
“Oh, but suppose I shan’t want to get married?”
“ Nonsense — every girl wants to get married. I overheard
Old Four-Eyes say all the teachers in the girls’ department were
dying to marry him. I’ve got several sweethearts already, and I
dare say you have.” He looked at her quizzingly. ‘
“No, dear,” she said earnestly. “There’s only Levi Jacobs,
Reb Shemuel’s son, who’s been coming round sometimes to play
with Solomon, and brings me almond-rock. But I don’t care for
him —at least not in that way. Besides, he’s quite above us.”
“Oh, is he? Wait till I write my novels.”
“T wish you'd write them now. Because then I should have
something to read — Oh!”
“What’s the matter? ”
“Tve lost my book. What have I done with my little brown
174 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Didn't you drop it on that beastly dog?”
“Qh, did I? People’ll tread on it on the stairs. Oh dear!
I'll run down: and get it. But don’t call Bobby beastly,
“ Why not? Dogs are beasts, aren’t they?”
Esther puzzled over the retort as she flew downstairs, but
could find no reply. She found the book, however, and that
“What have you got hold of ?” replied Benjamin, when she
“Oh, nothing! It wouldn’t interest you.”
“All books interest me,” announced Benjamin with dignity.
Esther reluctantly gave him the book. He turned over the
pages carelessly, then his face grew serious and astonished.
“Esther!” he said, “ how did you come by this?”
“One of the girls gave it me in exchange for a stick of slate
pencil. She said she got it from the missionaries —she went to
their night-school for a lark and they gave her it and a pair of
boots as well.”
“ And you have been reading it?”
“Yes, Benjy,” said Esther meekly.
“You naughty girl! Don’t you know the New Testament is
a wicked book? . Look here! There’s the word ‘Christ’ on
nearly every page, and the word ‘Jesus’ on every other. And
you haven’t even scratched them out! Oh, if any one was to
catch you reading this book!”
“J don’t read it in school hours,” said the little girl depre-
“But you have no business to read it at all!”
“Why not?” she said doggedly. “I like it. It seems just as
interesting as the Old Testament, and there are more miracles
to the page.”
“You wicked girl!” said her brother, overwhelmed by her
audacity. ‘Surely you know that all these miracles were false?”
“Why were they false?” persisted Esther.
“Because miracles left off after the Old Testament! There
are no miracles now-a-days, are there?”
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 175
“No,” admitted Esther.
“Well, then,” he said triumphantly, “if miracles had gone
overlapping into New Testament times we might just as well
expect to have them now.”
“ But why shouldn’t we have them now?”
“Esther, I’m surprised at you. I should like to set Old Four-
Eyes on to you. He'd soon tell you why. Religion all hap-
pened in the past. God couldn’t be always talking to His
“I wish I’d lived in the past, when Religion was happening,”
said Esther ruefully. “ But why do Christians all reverence this
book? -I’m sure there are many more millions of them than of
“Of course there are, Esther. Good things are scarce. We
are so few because we are God’s chosen people.”
“ But why do I feel good when I read what Jesus said?”
“ Because you are so bad,” he answered, in a shocked tone.
“ Here, give me the book, I’ll burn it.”
“No, no!” said Esther. “ Besides there’s no fire.”
“ No, hang it,” he said, rubbing his hands. “Well, it'll never
do if you have to fall back on this sort of thing. I'll tell you
what I'll do. I'll send you Our Own.”
“Oh, will you, Benjy? That is good of you,” she said joyfully,
and was kissing him when Solomon and Isaac came romping in
and woke up the grandmother.
“ How are you, Solomon?” said Benjamin. “How are you,
my little man,” he added, patting Isaac on his curly head. Sol-
omon was overawed for a moment. Then he said, “Hullo,
Benjy, have you got any spare buttons?”
But Isaac was utterly ignorant who the stranger could be and
hung back with his finger in his mouth.
“ That’s your brother Benjamin, Ikey,” said Solomon.
“Don’t want no more brovers,” said Ikey.
“Oh, but I was here before you,” said Benjamin laughing.
“ Does oor birfday come before mine, then?”
“ Yes, if I remember.”
Isaac looked tauntingly at the door. “See!” he cried to the
176 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
absent Sarah. Then turning graciously to Benjamin he said,
“T thant kiss 00, but I'll lat oo teep in my new bed.”
“But you mst kiss him,” said Esther, and saw that he did
it before she left the room to fetch little Sarah from Mrs.
When she came back Solomon was letting Benjamin inspect
his Plevna peep-show without charge and Moses Ansell was
back, too. His eyes were red with weeping, but that was on
account of the AZaggzd. His nose was blue with the chill of the
“He was a great man,” he was saying to the grandmother.
“He could lecture for four hours together on any text and he
would always manage to get back to the text before the end.
Such exegetics, such homiletics! He was greater than the Em-
peror of Russia. Woe! Woe!”
“Woe! Woe!” echoed the grandmother. “If women were
allowed to go to funerals, I would gladly have followed him.
Why did he come to England? In Poland he would still have
been alive. And why did I come to England? Woe! Woe!”
Her head dropped back on the pillow and her sighs passed
gently into snores. Moses turned again to his eldest born, feel-
ing that he was secondary in importance only to the Maggid,
and proud at heart of his genteel English appearance.
“Well, you'll soon be Bar-mitzvah, Benjamin,” he said, with
clumsy geniality blent with respect, as he patted his boy’s cheeks
with his discolored fingers.
Benjamin caught the last two words and nodded his head.
“And then you'll be coming back to us. I suppose they will
apprentice you to something.”
“What does he say, Esther?” asked Benjamin, impatiently.
“Apprentice me to something!” he repeated, disgusted.
“Father’s ideas are so beastly humble. He would like every-
body to dance on him. Why he’d be content to see me a cigar-
maker or a presser. Tell him I’m not coming home, that I’m
going to win a scholarship and to go to the University.”
Moses’s eyes dilated with pride. “Ah, you will become a
THE HOPE OF THE FAMILY. 177
Rav,” he said, and lifted up his boy’s chin and looked lovingly
into the handsome face.
“ What’s that about a Rav, Esther?” said Benjamin. “Does
he want me to become a Rabbi—Ugh! Tell him I’m going
to write books.”
“My blessed boy! A good commentary on the Song of Songs
is much needed. Perhaps you will begin by writing that.”
“ Oh, it’s no use talking to him, Esther. Let him be. Why
can’t he speak English?”
“ He can— but you’d understand even less,” said Esther with
a sad smile.
“Well, all I say is it’s a beastly disgrace. Look at the years
he’s been in England —just as long as we have.” Then the
humor of the remark dawned upon him and he laughed. “I
suppose he’s out of work, as usual,” he added.
Moses’s ears pricked up at the syllables “ out-of-work,” which
to him was a single word of baneful meaning.
“Yes,” he said in Yiddish. “But if I only had a few pounds
* to start with I could work up a splendid business.”
“ Wait! He shall have a business,” said Benjamin when
“Don’t listen to him,” said Esther. “The Board of Guardians
has started him again and again. But he likes to think he is a
man of business.”
Meantime Isaac had been busy explaining Benjamin to Sarah,
and pointing out the remarkable confirmation of his own views
as to birthdays. This will account for Esther’s next remark
being, “Now, dears, no fighting to-day. We must celebrate
Benjy’s return. We ought to kill a fatted calf—like the man
in the Bible.”
“ What are you talking about, Esther?” said Benjamin suspi-
“T’m so sorry, nothing, only foolishness,” said Esther. “We
really must do something to make a holiday of the occasion.
Oh, I know; we'll have tea before you go, instead of waiting till
supper-time. Perhaps Rachel’ll be back from the Park. You
haven’t seen her yet.”
178 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“No, I can’t stay,” said Benjy. “It'll take me three-quarters
of an hour getting to the station. And you've got no fire to
make tea with either.”
“Nonsense, Benjy. You seem to have forgotten everything ;
we've got a loaf and a penn’uth of tea in the cupboard. Solo-
mon, fetch a farthing’s worth of boiling water from the Widow
At the words “widow Finkelstein,” the grandmother awoke
and sat up.
“No, I’m too tired,” said Solomon. “Isaac can go.”
“No,” said Isaac. “Let Estie go.”
Esther took a jug and went to the door.
“Méshe,” said the grandmother. “Go thou to the Widow
“But Esther can go,” said Moses.
“Yes, I’m going,” said Esther.
““Méshe!” repeated the Bube inexorably. “Go thou to the
“Have you said the afternoon prayer, boys?” the old woman
“Yes,” said Solomon. “While you were asleep.”
“Oh-h-h!” said Esther under her breath. And she looked
reproachfully at Solomon.
“Well, didn’t you say we must make a holiday to-day?” he
F CHAPTER XV.
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE.
“Ou, these English Jews!” said Melchitsedek Pinchas, in
“What have they done to you now?” said Guedalyah, the
greengrocer, in Yiddish.
The two languages are relatives and often speak as they pass by.
“TI have presented my book to every one of them, but they
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 179
have paid me scarce enough to purchase poison for them all,”
said the little poet scowling. The cheekbones stood out sharply
beneath the tense bronzed skin. The black hair was tangled
and unkempt and the beard untrimmed, the eyes darted venom.
“One of them — Gideon, M. P., the stockbroker, engaged me to
teach his son for his Bar-mztzvah. But the boy is so stupid!
So stupid! Just like his father. I have no doubt he will grow
up to be a Rabbi. I teach him his Portion—I sing the words to
him with a most beautiful voice, but he has as much ear as soul.
Then I write him a speech —a wonderful speech for him to make
to his parents and the company at the breakfast, and in it, after
he thanks them for their kindness, I make him say how, with the
blessing of the Almighty, he will grow up to be a good Jew, and
munificently support Hebrew literature and learned men like his
revered teacher, Melchitsedek Pinchas. And he shows it to his
father, and his father says it is not written in good English, and
that another scholar has already written him a speech. Good
English! Gideon has as much knowledge of style as the Rev.
Elkan Benjamin of decency. Ah, I will shoot them both. I
know I do not speak English like a native — but what language
under the sun is there I cannot write? French, German, Spanish,
Arabic — they flow from my pen like honey from a rod. As for
Hebrew, you know, Guedalyah, I and you are the only two men
in England who can write Holy Language grammatically. And
yet these miserable stockbrokers, Men-of-the-Earth, they dare to
say I cannot write English, and they have given me the sack.
I, who was teaching the boy true Judaism and the value of
“What! They didn’t let you finish teaching the boy his Por-
tion because you couldn’t write English?”
“No; they had another pretext — one of the servant girls said
I wanted to kiss her—lies and falsehood. I was kissing my
finger after kissing the Mezuzah, and the stupid abomination
thought I was kissing my hand to her. It sees itself that they
don’t kiss the Mezuzahs often in that house — the impious crew.
And what will be now? The stupid boy will go home to break-
fast in a bazaar of costly presents, and he will make the stupid
180 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
speech written by the fool of an Englishman, and the ladies will
weep. But where will be the Judaism in all this? Who will
vaccinate him against free-thinking as I would have done? Who
will infuse into him the true patriotic fervor, the love of his race,
the love of Zion, the land of his fathers? ”
“Ah, you are verily a man after my own heart!” said Gue-
dalyah, the greengrocer, overswept by a wave of admiration.
“Why should you not come with me to my Beth-Hamidrash
to-night, to the meeting for the foundation of the Holy Land
League? That cauliflower will be four-pence, mum.”
“ Ah, what is that?” said Pinchas.
“T have an idea; a score of us meet to-night to discuss it.”
“Ah, yes! You have always ideas. You are a sage and a
saint, Guedalyah. The Beth-Hamidrash which you have estab-
lished is the only centre of real orthodoxy and Jewish literature
in London. The ideas you expound in the Jewish papers for
the amelioration of the lot of our poor brethren are most states-
manlike. But these donkey-head English rich people — what help
can you expect from them? They do not even understand your
plans. They have only sympathy with needs of the stomach.”
“You are right! You are right, Pinchas!” said Guedalyah,
the greengrocer, eagerly. He was a tall, loosely-built man, with
a pasty complexion capable of shining with enthusiasm. He
was dressed shabbily, and in the intervals of selling cabbages
projected the regeneration of Judah.
“That is just what is beginning to dawn upon me, Pinchas,”
he went on. “Our rich people give plenty away in charity;
they have good hearts but not Jewish hearts. As the verse
says.-— A bundle of rhubarb and two pounds of Brussels sprouts
and threepence halfpenny change. Thank you. Much obliged.
— Now I have bethought myself why should we not work out
our own salvation? It is the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted,
whose souls pant after the Land of Israel as the hart after the
water-brooks. Let us help ourselves. Let us put our hands in
our own pockets. With our Groschen let us rebuild Jerusalem
and our Holy Temple. We will collect a fund slowly but surely
— from all parts of the East End and the provinces the pious
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 181
will give. With the first fruits we will send out a little party of
persecuted Jews to Palestine; and then another; and another.
The movement will grow like a sliding snow-ball that becomes
“Yes, then the rich will come to you,” said Pinchas, intensely
excited. “Ah! it is a great idea, like all yours. Yes, I will
come, I will make a mighty speech, for my lips, like Isaiah’s,
have been touched with the burning coal. I will inspire all
hearts to start the movement at once. I will write its Marseil-
laise this very night, bedewing my couch with a poet's tears.
We shall no longer be dumb—vwe shall roar like the lions of
Lebanon. I shall be the trumpet to call the dispersed together
from the four corners of the earth — yea, I shall be the Messiah
himself,” said Pinchas, rising on the wings of his own eloquence,
and forgetting to puff at his cigar.
“TI rejoice to see you so ardent; but mention not the word
Messiah, for I fear some of our friends will take alarm and say
that these are not Messianic times, that neither Elias, nor Gog,
King of Magog, nor any of the portents have yet appeared.
Kidneys or regents, my child?”
“ Stupid peopie! Hillel said more wisely: ‘If I help not my-
self who will help me?’ Do they expect the Messiah to fall
from heaven? Who knows but Iam the Messiah? Was I not
born on the ninth of Ab?”
“ Hush, hush!” said Guedalyah, the greengrocer. “Let us be
practical. We are not yet ready for Marsellaises or Messiahs.
The first step is to get funds enough to send one family to
“Yes, yes,” said Pinchas, drawing vigorously at his cigar to
rekindle it. “But we must look ahead. Already I see it all.
Palestine in the hands of the Jews—the Holy Temple rebuilt, a
Jewish state, a President who is equally accomplished with the
sword and the pen, —the whole campaign stretches before me.
I see things like Napoleon, general and dictator alike.”
“ Truly we wish that,” said the greengrocer cautiously. “ But
to-night it is only a question of a dozen men founding a collect-
182 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Of course, of course, that I understand. You're right — peo-
* ple about here say Guedalyah the greengrocer is always right.
I will come beforehand to supper with you to talk it over,
and you shall see what I will write for the Mizpeh and the
Arbeiter-freund. You knowall these papers jump at me — their
readers are the class to which you appeal — in them will I write
my burning verses and leaders advocating the cause. I shall be
your Tyrtzus, your Mazzini, your Napoleon. How blessed that
I came to England just now. I have lived in the Holy Land —
the genius of the soil is blent with mine. I can describe its
beauties as none other can. I am the very manat the very hour.
And yet I will not go rashly —slow and sure — my plan is to
collect small amounts from the poor to start by sending one
family at a time to Palestine. That is how we must do it.
How does that strike you, Guedalyah. You agree?”
“Yes, yes. That is also my opinion.”
“You see I am not a Napoleon only in great ideas. I under-
stand detail, though as a poet I abhor it. Ah, the Jew is king of
the world. He alone conceives great ideas and executes them
by petty means. The heathen are so stupid, so stupid! Yes,
you shall see at supper how practically I will draw up the scheme.
And then I will show you, too, what I have written about Gid-
eon, M. P., the dog of a stockbroker —a satirical poem have I
written about him, in Hebrew — an acrostic with his name for
the mockery of posterity. Stocks and shares have I translated
into Hebrew, with new words which will at once be accepted by
the Hebraists of the world and added to the vocabulary of mod-
ern Hebrew. Oh! I am terrible in satire. I sting like the hor-
net; witty as Immanuel, but mordant as his friend Dante. It
will appear in the M/izfek to-morrow. I will show this Anglo-
Jewish community that I am a man to be reckoned with. I will
crush it — not it me.”
“But they don’t see the Mizfeh and couldn't read it if they
“No matter. I send it abroad —I have friends, great Rabbis,
great scholars, everywhere, who send me their learned manu-
scripts, their commentaries, their ideas, for revision and improve-
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 183
ment. Let the Anglo-Jewish community hug itself in its stupid
prosperity — but I will make it the laughing-stock of Europe and
Asia. Then some day it will find out its mistake; it will not
have ministers like the Rev. Elkan Benjamin, who keeps four
mistresses, it will depose the lump of flesh who reigns over it
and it will seize the hem of my coat and beseech me to be its
“We should have a more orthodox Chief Rabbi, certainly,”
“Orthodox? Then and only then shall we have true Judaism
in London and a burst of literary splendor far exceeding that of
the much overpraised Spanish School, none of whom had that
true lyrical gift which is like the carol of the bird in the pairing
season. O why have I not the bird’s privileges as well as its
gift of song? Why can I not pair at will? Oh the stupid Rab-
bis who forbade polygamy. Verily as the verse says: The Law
of Moses is perfect, enlightening the eyes — marriage, divorce,
all is regulated with the height of wisdom. Why must we adopt
the stupid customs of the heathen? At present I have not even
one mate — but I love—ah Guedalyah! I love! The women
are so beautiful. You love the women, hey?”
“T love my Rivkah,” said Guedalyah. “A penny on each
“Yes, but why haven’t 7 got a wife? Eh?” demanded the
little poet fiercely, his black eyes glittering. “I am a fine tall
well-built good-looking man. In Palestine and on the Continent
all the girls would go about sighing and casting sheep’s eyes at
me, for there the Jews love poetry and literature. But here! I
can go into a room with a maiden in it and she makes herself
unconscious of my presence. There is Reb Shemuel’s daughter
—a fine beautiful virgin. I kiss her hand—and it is ice to my
lips. Ah, if I only had money! And money I should have, if
these English Jews were not so stupid and if they elected me
Chief Rabbi. Then I would marry — one, two, three maidens.”
“Talk not such foolishness,” said Guedalyah, laughing, for he
thought the poet jested. Pinchas saw his enthusiasm had carried
him too far, but his tongue was the most reckless of organs and
184 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
often slipped into the truth. He was a real poet with an extraor-
dinary faculty for language and a gift of unerring rhythm. He
wrote after the medieval model—with a profusion of acrostics
and double rhyming — not with the bald duplications of primitive
Hebrew poetry. Intellectually he divined things like a woman
— with marvellous rapidity, shrewdness and inaccuracy. He saw
into people’s souls through a dark refracting suspiciousness. The
same bent of mind, the same individuality of distorted insight
made him overflow with ingenious explanations of the Bible and
the Talmud, with new views and new lights on history, philology,
medicine — anything, everything. And he believed in his ideas
because they were his and in himself because of his ideas. To
himself his stature sometimes seemed to expand till his head
touched the sun—but that was mostly after wine—and his
brain retained a permanent glow from the contact.
“Well, peace be with you!” said Pinchas. “I will leave you
to your customers, who besiege you as I have been besieged
by the maidens. But what you have just told me has gladdened
my heart. I always had an affection for you, but now I love you
like a woman. We will found this Holy Land League, you and
I. You shall be President —I waive all claims in your favor —
and I will be Treasurer. Hey?”
“We shall see; we shall see,” said Guedalyah the green-
“No, we cannot leave it to the mob, we must settle it before-
hand. Shall we say done?”
He laid his finger cajolingly to the side of his nose.
“We shall see,” repeated Guedalyah the greengrocer, impa-
“No, say! I love you like a brother. Grant me this favor
and I will never ask anything of you so long as I live.”
“Well, if the others—” began Guedalyah feebly.
“Ah! You are a Prince in Israel,” Pinchas cried enthusias-
tically. “If I could only show you my heart, how it loves you.”
He capered off at a sprightly trot, his head haloed by huge
volumes of smoke. Guedalyah the greengrocer bent over a bin
of potatoes. Looking up suddenly he was startled to see the
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 185
head fixed in the open front of the shop window. It was a nar-
row dark bearded face distorted with an insinuative smile. A
dirty-nailed forefinger was laid on the right of the nose.
“You won’t forget,” said the head coaxingly.
“Of course I won’t forget,” cried the greengrocer querulously.
The meeting took place at ten that night at the Beth Hamid-
rash founded by Guedalyah, a large unswept room rudely fitted up
as a synagogue and approached by reeking staircases, unsavory
as the neighborhood. On one of the black benches a shabby
youth with very long hair and lank fleshless limbs shook his
body violently to and fro while he vociferated the sentences of
the Mishnah in the traditional argumentative singsong. Near
the central raised platform was a group of enthusiasts, among
whom Froom Karlkammer, with his thin ascetic body and the
mass of red hair that crowned his head like the light of a pharos,
was a conspicuous figure.
“Peace be to you, Karlkammer!” said Pinchas to him in
“To you be peace, Pinchas!” replied Karlkammer.
“Ah!” went on Pinchas. “Sweeter than honey it is to me,
yea than fine honey, to talk to a man in the Holy Tongue.
Woe, the speakers are few in these latter days. I and thou,
Karlkammer, are the only two people who can speak the Holy
Tongue grammatically on this isle of the sea. Lo, it is a great
thing we are met to do this night —I see Zion laughing on her
mountains and her fig-trees skipping for joy. I will be the treas-
urer of the fund, Karlkammer— do thou vote for me, for so our
society shall flourish as the green bay tree.”
Karlkammer grunted vaguely, not having humor enough to
recall the usual associations of the simile, and Pinchas passed on
to salute Hamburg. ‘Fo Gabriel Hamburg, Pinchas was occasion
for half-respectful amusement. He could not but reverence the
poet’s genius even while he laughed at his pretensions to omnis-
cience, and at the daring and unscientific guesses which the poet
offered as plain prose. For when in their arguments Pinchas
came upon Jewish ground, he was in presence of a man who
knew every inch of it.
186 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Blessed art thou who arrivest,” he said when he perceived
Pinchas. Then dropping into German he continued —“I did
not know you would join in the rebuilding of Zion.”
“Why not?” inquired Pinchas.
“Because you have written so many poems thereupon.”
“ Be not so foolish,” said Pinchas, annoyed. “Did not King
David fight the Philistines as well as write the Psalms?”
“Did he write the Psalms?” said Hamburg quietly, with a
“No—not so loud! Of course he didn’t! The Psalms were
written by Judas Maccabzeus, as I proved in the last issue of the
Stuttgard Zeztschrift. But that only makes my analogy more
forcible. You shall see how I will gird on sword and armor,
and I shall yet see even you in the forefront of the battle. I
will be treasurer, you shall vote for me, Hamburg, for I and you
are the only two people who know the Holy Tongue grammati-
cally, and we must work shoulder to shoulder and see that the
balance sheets are drawn up in the language of our fathers.”
In like manner did Melchitsedek Pinchas approach Hiram
Lyons and Simon Gradkoski, the former a poverty-stricken
pietist who added day by day to a furlong of crabbed manu-
script, embodying a useless commentary on the first chapter of
Genesis; the latter the portly fancy-goods dealer in whose
warehouse Daniel Hyams was employed. Gradkoski rivalled
Reb Shemuel in his knowledge of the exact loci of Talmudical
remarks — page this, and line that —and secretly a tolerant
latitudinarian, enjoyed the reputation of a bulwark of orthodoxy
too well to give it up. Gradkoski passed easily from writing
an invoice to writing a learned article on Hebrew astronomy.
Pinchas ignored Joseph Strelitski whose raven curl floated wildly
over his forehead like a pirate’s flag, though Hamburg, who was
rather surprised to see the taciturn young man at a meeting,
strove to draw him into conversation. The man to whom
Pinchas ultimately attached himself was only a man in the
sense of having attained his religious majority. He was a Har-
row boy named Raphael Leon, a scion of a wealthy family.
The boy had manifested a strange premature interest in Jewish
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 187
literature and had often seen Gabriel Hamburg’s name in learned
foot-notes, and, discovering that he was in England, had just
written to him. Hamburg had replied; they had met that day
for the first time and at the lad’s own request the old scholar
brought him on to this strange meeting. The boy grew to be
Hamburg’s one link with wealthy England, and though he rarely
saw Leon again, the lad came in a shadowy way to take the
place he had momentarily designed for Joseph Strelitski. To-
night it was Pinchas who assumed the paternal manner, but he
mingled it with a subtle obsequiousness that made the shy
simple lad uncomfortable, though when he came to read the
poet’s lofty sentiments which arrived (with an acrostic dedica-
tion) by the first post next morning, he conceived an enthusiastic
admiration for the neglected genius.
The rest of the “remnant” that were met to save Israel
looked more commonplace — a furrier, a slipper-maker, a lock-
smith, an ex-glazier (Mendel Hyams), a confectioner, a JZe-
lammed or Hebrew teacher, a carpenter, a presser, a cigar-maker,
a small shop-keeper or two, and last and least, Moses Ansell.
They were of many birthplaces— Austria, Holland, Poland,
Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain — yet felt themselves of no coun-
try and of one. Encircled by the splendors of modern Babylon,
their hearts turned to the East, like passion-flowers seeking the
sun. Palestine, Jerusalem, Jordan, the Holy Land were magic
syllables to them, the sight of a coin struck in one of Baron
Edmund’s colonies filled their eyes with tears; in death they
craved no higher boon than a handful of Palestine earth
sprinkled over their graves.
But Guedalyah the greengrocer was not the man to encourage
idle hopes. He explained his scheme lucidly — without high-
falutin. They were to rebuild Judaism as the coral insect
builds its reefs — not as the prayer went, “speedily and in our
They had brought themselves up to expect more and were
disappointed. Some protested against peddling little measures
—like Pinchas they were for high, heroic deeds. Joseph Stre-
litski, student and cigar commission agent, jumped to his feet
188 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
and cried passionately in German: “Everywhere Israel groans
and travails — must we indeed wait and wait till our hearts are
sick and strike never a decisive blow? It is nigh two thousand
years since across the ashes of our Holy Temple we were driven
into the Exile, clanking the chains of Pagan conquerors. For
nigh two thousand years have we dwelt on alien soils, a mockery
and a byword for the nations, hounded out from every worthy
employ and persecuted for turning to the unworthy, spat upon
and trodden under foot, suffusing the scroll of history with our
blood and illuminating it with the lurid glare of the fires to which
our martyrs have ascended gladly for the Sanctification of the
Name. We who twenty centuries ago wert a mighty nation,
with a law and a constitution and a religion which have been
the key-notes of the civilization of the world, we who sat in
judgment by the gates of great cities, clothed in purple and fine
linen, are the sport of peoples who were then roaming wild in
woods and marshes clothed in the skins of the wolf and the bear.
Now in the East there gleams again a star of hope—why shall
we not follow it? Never has the chance of the Restoration
flamed so high as to-day. Our capitalists rule the markets of
Europe, our generals lead armies, our great men sit in the Coun-
cils of every State. We are everywhere —a thousand thousand
stray rivulets of power that could be blent into a mighty ocean.
Palestine is one if we wish—the whole house of Israel has but
to speak with a mighty unanimous voice. Poets will sing for
us, journalists write for us, diplomatists haggle for us, million-
aires pay the price forus. The sultan would restore our land to
us to-morrow, did we but essay to get it. There are no obstacles
— but ourselves. It is not the heathen that keeps us out of our
land—it is the Jews, the rich and prosperous Jews — Jeshurun
grown fat and sleepy, dreaming the false dream of assimilation
with the people of the pleasant places in which their lines have
been cast. Give us back our country ; this alone will solve the
Jewish question. Our paupers shall become agriculturists, and
like Antzeus, the genius of Israel shall gain fresh strength by
contact with mother earth. And for England it will help to
solve the Indian question — Between European Russia and India
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 189
there will be planted a peoplé, fierce, terrible, hating Russia for
her wild-beast deeds. Into the Exile we took with us, of all our
glories, only a spark of the fire by which our Temple, the abode
of our great One was engirdled, and this little spark kept us
alive while the towers of our enemies crumbled to dust, and this
spark leaped into celestial flame and shed light upon the faces
of the heroes of our race and inspired them to endure the horrors
of the Dance of Death and the tortures of the Auto-da-fé. Let
us fan the spark again till it leap up and become a pillar of flame
going before us and showing us the way to Jerusalem, the City
of our sires. And if gold will not buy back our land we must
try steel. As the National Poet of Israel, Naphtali Herz Imber,
has so nobly sung (here he broke into the Hebrew Wacht Am
hein, of which an English version would run thus) :
“THE WATCH ON THE JORDAN.
“ Like the crash of the thunder
Which splitteth asunder
The flame of the cloud,
On our ears ever falling,
A voice is heard calling
From Zion aloud:
‘Let your spirits’ desires
For the land of your sires
From the foe to deliver
Our own holy river,
To Jordan return.’
Where the soft flowing stream
Murmurs low as in dream,
There set we our watch.
Our watchword, ‘ The sword
Of our land and our Lord’ —
By the Jordan then set we our watch,
“ Rest in peace, lovéd land,
For we rest not, but stand,
190 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
Off shaken our sloth.
When the bolts of war rattle
To shirk not the battle,
We make thee our oath.
As we hope for a Heaven,
Thy chains shall be riven,
Thine ensign unfurled.
And in pride of our race
We will fearlessly face
The might of the world.
When our trumpet is blown,
And our standard is flown,
Then set we our watch.
Our watchword, ‘The sword
Of our Jand and our Lord’ —
By Jordan then set we our watch.
“Yea, as long as there be
Birds in air, fish in sea,
And blood in our veins;
And the lions in might,
Leaping down from the height,
Shake, roaring, their manes;
And the dew nightly laves
The forgotten old graves
Where Judah's sires sleep, —
We swear, who are living,
To rest not in striving,
To pause not to weep.
Let the trumpet be blown,
Let the standard be flown,
Now set we our watch.
Our watchword, ‘ The sword
Of our land and our Lord’ —
In Jordan NOW set we our watch.”
He sank upon the rude, wooden bench, exhausted, his eyes
glittering, his raven hair dishevelled by the wildness of his
gestures. He had said. For the rest of the evening he neither
moved nor spake. The calm, good-humored tones of Simon
Gradkoski followed like a cold shower.
THE HOLY LAND LEAGUE. 191
“We must be sensible,” he said, for he enjoyed the reputation
of a shrewd conciliatory man of the world as well as of a pillar
of orthodoxy. “The great people will come to us, but not if we
abuse them. We must flatter them up and tell them they are
the descendants of the Maccabees. There is much political kudos
to be got out of leading such a movement — this, too, they will
see. Rome was not built in a day, and the Temple will not be
rebuilt ina year. Besides, we are not soldiers now. We must
recapture our land by brain, not sword. Slow and sure and the
blessing of God over all.”
After such wise Simon Gradkoski. But Gronovitz, the He-
brew teacher, crypto-atheist and overt revolutionary, who read a
Hebrew edition of the “Pickwick Papers” in synagogue on the
Day of Atonement, was with Strelitski, and a bigot whose relig-
ion made his wife and children wretched was with the cautious
Simon Gradkoski. Froom Karlkammer followed, but his drift
was uncertain. He apparently looked forward to miraculous
interpositions. Still he approved of the movement from one
point of view. The more Jews lived in Jerusalem the more
would be enabled to die there—which was the aim of a good
Jew’s life. As for the Messiah, he would come assuredly —in
God’s good time. Thus Karlkammer at enormous length with
frequent intervals of unintelligibility and huge chunks of irrel-
evant quotation and much play of Cabalistic conceptions. Pin-
chas, who had been fuming throughout this speech, for to him
Karlkammer stood for the archetype of all donkeys, jumped up
impatiently when Karlkammer paused for breath and denounced
as an interruption that gentleman’s indignant continuance of his
speech. The sense of the meeting was with the poet and Karl-
kammer was silenced. Pinchas was dithyrambic, sublime, with
audacities which only genius can venture on. He was pungently
merry over Imber’s pretensions to be the National Poet of Israel,
declaring that his prosody, his vocabulary, and even his grammar
were beneath contempt. He, Pinchas, would write Judea a real
Patriotic Poem, which should be sung from the slums of White-
chapel to the Veldts of South Africa, and from the Mellah of
Morocco to the ¥udengassen of Germany, and should gladden
192 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
the hearts and break from the mouths of the poor immigrants
saluting the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. When he,
Pinchas, walked in Victoria Park of a Sunday afternoon and
heard the band play, the sound of a cornet always seemed to
him, said he, like the sound of Bar Cochba’s trumpet calling the
warriors to battle. And when it was all over and the band
played “ God save the Queen,” it sounded like the pzan of vic-
tory when he marched, a conqueror, to the gates of Jerusalem.
Wherefore he, Pinchas, would be their leader. Had not the
Providence, which concealed so many revelations in the letters
of the Torah, given him the name Melchitsedek Pinchas, whereof
one initial stood for Messiah and the other for Palestine. Yes,
he would be their Messiah. But money now-a-days was the
sinews of war and the first step to Messiahship was the keeping
of the funds. The Redeemer must in the first instance be the
treasurer. With this anti-climax Pinchas wound up, his child-
ishness and zaivefé conquering his cunning.
Other speakers followed but in the end Guedalyah the green-
grocer prevailed. They appointed him President and Simon
Gradkoski, Treasurer, collecting twenty-five shillings on the
spot, ten from the lad Raphael Leon. In vain Pinchas reminded
the President they would need Collectors to make house to
house calls; three other members were chosen to trisect the
Ghetto. All felt the incongruity of hanging money bags at the
saddle-bow of Pegasus. Whereupon Pinchas re-lit his cigar and
muttering that they were all fool-men betook himself uncere-
Gabriel Hamburg looked on throughout with something like a
smile on his shrivelled features. Once while Joseph Strelitski
was holding forth he blew his nose violently. Perhaps he had
taken too large a pinch of snuff. But not a word did the great
scholar speak. He would give up his last breath to promote
the Return (provided the Hebrew manuscripts were not left
behind in alien museums) ; but the humors of the enthusiasts
were part of the great comedy in the only theatre he cared for.
Mendel Hyams was another silent member. But he wept openly
under Strelitski’s harangue.
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 193
When the meeting adjourned, the lank unhealthy swaying
creature in the corner, who had been mumbling the tractate
Baba Kama out of courtesy, now burst out afresh in his quaint
“What then does it refer to? To his stone or his knife or
his burden which he has left on the highway and it injured a
passer-by. Howis this? If he gave up his ownership, whether
according to Rav or according to Shemuel, it is a pit, and if he
retained his ownership, if according to Shemuel, who holds that
all are derived from ‘his pit,’ then it is ‘a pit,’ and if according to
Rav, who holds that all are derived from ‘his ox,’ then it is ‘an
ox,’ therefore the derivatives of ‘an ox’ are the same as ‘an ox’
He had been at it all day, and he went on far into the small
hours, shaking his body backwards and forwards without
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK.
MECKISCH wasa Chasid, which in the vernacular is a saint, but
in the actual a member of the sect of the Chasédim whose centre
is Galicia. In the eighteenth century Israel Baal Shem, “the
Master of the Name,” retired to the mountains to meditate on
philosophical truths. He arrived ata creed of cheerful and even
stoical acceptance of the Cosmos in all its aspects and a convic-
tion that the incense of an enjoyed pipe was grateful to the
Creator. But it is the inevitable misfortune of religious founders
to work apocryphal miracles and to raise up an army of disciples
who squeeze the feaching of their master into their own mental
moulds and are ready to die for the resultant distortion. It is
only by being misunderstood that a great man can have any
influence upon his kind. Baal Shem was succeeded by an army
of thaumaturgists, and the wonder-working Rabbis of Sadagora
who are in touch with all the spirits of the air enjoy the revenue
of princes and the reverence of Popes. To snatch a morsel of
194 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
such a Rabbi’s Sabbath Kuggol, or pudding, is to insure Paradise,
and the scramble isa scene to witness. Chaszdism is the ex-
treme expression of Jewish optimism. The Chasidim are the
Corybantes or Salvationists of Judaism. In England their idio-
syncrasies are limited to noisy jubilant services in their Chevrah,
the worshippers dancing or leaning or standing or writhing or
beating their heads against the wall as they will, and frisking
like happy children in the presence of their Father.
Meckisch also danced at home and sang “Tiddy, riddy,
roi, toi, toi, toi, ta,” varied by “Rom, pom, pom” and “ Bim,
bom” in a quaint melody to express his personal satisfaction
with existence. He was a weazened little widower with a deep
yellow complexion, prominent cheek bones, a hook nose and a
scrubby, straggling little beard. Years of professional practice
as a mendicant had stamped his face with an anguished sup-
pliant conciliatory grin, which he could not now erase even
after business hours. It might perhaps have yielded to soap
and water but the experiment had not been tried. On his head
he always wore a fur cap with lappets for his ears. Across his
shoulders was strung a lemon-basket filled with grimy, gritty
bits of sponge which nobody ever bought. Meckisch’s mer-
chandise was quite other. He dealt in sensational spectacle.
As he shambled along with extreme difficulty and by the aid of
a stick, his lower limbs which were crossed in odd contortions
appeared half paralyzed, and, when his strange appearance had
attracted attention, his legs would give way and he would find
himself with his back on the pavement, where he waited to be
picked up by sympathetic spectators shedding silver and copper.
After an indefinite number of performances Meckisch would
hurry home in the darkness to dance and sing “ Tiddy, riddy,
roi, toi, bim, bom.”
Thus Meckisch lived at peace with God and man, till one day
the fatal thought came into his head that he wanted a second
wife. There was no difficulty in getting one— by the aid of his
friend, Sugarman the Sadchan —and soon the little man found
his household goods increased by the possession of a fat, Russian
giantess. Meckisch did not call in the authorities to marry him.
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 195
He had a “still wedding,” which cost nothing. An artificial
canopy made out of a sheet and four broomsticks was erected in
the chimney corner and nine male friends sanctified the cere-
mony by their presence. Meckisch and the Russian: giantess
fasted on their wedding morn and everything was in honorable
But Meckisch’s happiness and economies were short-lived.
The Russian giantess turned out a tartar. She got her claws
into his savings and decorated herself with Paisley shawls and
gold necklaces. Nay more! She insisted that Meckisch must
give her “Society” and keep open house. Accordingly the
bed-sitting room which they rented was turned into a salon of
reception, and hither one Friday night came Peleg Shmendrik and
his wifeand Mr. and Mrs. Sugarman. Over the Sabbath meal the
current of talk divided itself into masculine and feminine freshets.
The ladies discussed bonnets and the gentlemen Talmud. All
the three men dabbled, pettily enough, in stocks and shares,
but nothing in the world would tempt them to transact any
negotiation or discuss the merits of a prospectus on the Sab-
bath, though they were all fluttered by the allurements of the
Sapphire Mines, Limited, as set forth in a whole page of adver-
tisement in the Fewish Chronicle, the organ naturally perused
for its religious news on Friday evenings. The share-list would
close at noon on Monday.
«But when Moses, our teacher, struck the rock,” said Peleg
Shmendrik, in the course of the discussion, “he was right the
first time but wrong the second, because as the Talmud points
out, a child may be chastised when it is little, but as it grows up
it should be reasoned with.”
“Yes,” said Sugarman the Shadchan, quickly ; “but if his rod
had not been made of sapphire he would have split that instead
of the rock.”
« Was it made of sapphire?” asked Meckisch, who was rather
“OF course it was—and a very fine thing, too,” answered
“Do you think so?” inquired Peleg Shmendrik eagerly.
196 ; CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“The sapphire is a magic stone,” answered Sugarman. “It
improves the vision and makes peace between foes. Issachar,
the studious son of Jacob, was represented on the Breast-plate
by the sapphire. Do you not know that the mist-like centre of
the sapphire symbolizes the cloud that enveloped Sinai at the
giving of the Law?”
“JT did not know that,” answered Peleg Shmendrik, “but I
know that Moses’s Rod was created in the twilight of the first
Sabbath and God did everything after that with this sceptre.”
“ Ah, but we are not all strong enough to wield Moses’s Rod;
it weighed forty seahs,” said Sugarman.
“ How many seahs do you think one could safely carry?” said
“Five or six seahs— not more,” said Sugarman. “ You see
one might drop them if he attempted more and even sapphire
may break—the First Tables of the Law were made of sapphire,
and yet from a great height they fell terribly, and were shattered
“ Gideon, the M. P., may be said to desire a Rod of Moses, for
his secretary told me he will take forty,” said Shmendrik.
“Hush! what are you saying!” said Sugarman. “Gideon is
a rich man, and then he is a director.”
“Tt seems a good lot of directors,” said Meckisch.
“Good to look at. But who can tell?” said Sugarman, shak-
ing his head. “The Queen of Sheba probably brought sapphires
to Solomon, but she was not a virtuous woman.”
“Ah, Solomon!” sighed Mrs. Shmendrik, pricking up her ears
and interrupting this talk of stocks and stones, “If he’d had a
thousand daughters instead of a thousand wives, even his treas-
ury couldn’t have held out. I had only two girls, praised be He,
and yet it nearly ruined me to buy them husbands. A dirty
Greener comes over, without a shirt to his skin, and nothing else
but he must have two hundred pounds in the hand. And then
you’ve got to stick to his back to see that he doesn’t take his
breeches in his hand and off to America. In Poland he would
have been glad to get a maiden, and would have said thank
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRKIK. 191
« Well, but what about your own son?” said Sugarman. “Why
haven’t you asked me to find Shosshi a wife? It’s a sin against
the maidens of Israel. He must be long past the Talmudical
“He is twenty-four,” replied Peleg Shmendrik.
“Tu, tu, tu, tu, tu!” said Sugarman, clacking his tongue in
horror, “have you perhaps an objection to his marrying?”
« Save us and grant us peace!” said the father in deprecatory
horror. « “Only Shosshiis so shy. You are aware, too, he is not
handsome. Heaven alone knows whom he takes after.”
“ Peleg, I blush for you,” said Mrs. Shmendrik. “What is the
matter with the boy? Is he deaf, dumb, blind, unprovided with
legs? If Shosshi is backward with the women, it is because he
‘Jearns’ so hard when he’s not at work. He earns a good living
by his cabinet-making and it is quite time he set up a Jewish
household for himself. How much will you want for finding him
« Hush!” said Sugarman sternly, “do you forget it is the Sab-
bath? Be assured I shall not charge more than last time, unless
the bride has an extra good dowry.”
On Saturday night immediately after Havdalah, Sugarman
went to Mr. Belcovitch, who was just about to resume work, and
informed him he had the very Chosan for Becky. “1 know,” he
said, “ Becky has a lot of young men after her, but what are they
but a pack of bare-backs? How much will you give for a solid
After much haggling Belcovitch consented to give twenty
pounds immediately before the marriage ceremony and another
twenty at the end of twelve months.
« But no pretending you haven’t got it about you, when we’re
at the Shool, no asking us to wait till we get home,” said Sugar-
man, “or else I withdraw my man, even from under the Chuppah
itself. When shall I bring him for your inspection?”
«Oh, to-morrow afternoon, Sunday, when Becky will be out in
the park with her young men. It’s best I shall see him first!”
Sugarman now regarded Shosshi as a matried man! He
rubbed his hands and went to see him. He found him in a little
198 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
shed in the back yard where he did extra work at home. Shosshi
was busy completing little wooden articles —stools and wooden
spoons and money boxes for sale in Petticoat Lane next day. He
supplemented his wages that way.
“ Good evening, Shosshi,” said Sugarman.
“ Good evening,” murmured Shosshi, sawing away.
Shosshi was a gawky young man with a blotched sandy face
ever ready to blush deeper with the suspicion that conversa-
tions going on at a distance were all about him. His eyes
were shifty and catlike; one shoulder overbalanced the other,
and when he walked, he swayed loosely to and fro. Sugar-
man was rarely remiss in the offices of piety and he was nigh
murmuring the prayer at the sight of monstrosities, “ Blessed
art Thou who variest the creatures.” But resisting the temp-
tation he said aloud, “I have something to tell you.”
Shosshi looked up suspiciously.
“Don’t bother; I am busy,” he said, and applied his plane to
the leg of a stool.
“But this is more important than stools. How would you
like to get married?”
Shosshi’s face became like a peony.
“ Don’t make laughter,” he said.
“But I mean it. You are twenty-four years old and ought to
have a wife and four children by this time.”
“But I don’t want a wife and four children,” said Shosshi.
“No, of course not. I don’t mean a widow. It is a maiden I
have in my eye.”
“Nonsense, what maiden would have me?” said Shosshi, a
note of eagerness mingling with the diffidence of the words.
“What maiden? Gott in Himmel! A hundred. A fine, strong,
healthy young man like you, who can make a good living!”
Shosshi put down his plane and straightened himself. There
was a moment of silence. Then his frame collapsed again into
a limp mass. His head drooped over his left shoulder. “ This
is all foolishness you talk, the maidens make mock.”
“Be not a piece of clay!' I know a maiden who has you quite
in affection! ”
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 199
The blush which had waned mantled in a full flood. Shosshi
stood breathless, gazing half suspiciously, half credulously at
his strictly honorable Mephistopheles.
It was about seven o’clock and the moon was a yellow cres-
cent in the frosty heavens. The sky was punctured with clear-
cut constellations. The back yard looked poetic with its blend
of shadow and moonlight.
«A beautiful fine maid,” said Sugarman ecstatically, “with
pink cheeks and black eyes and forty pounds dowry.”
The moon sailed smilingly along. The water was running
into the cistern with a soothing, peaceful sound. Shosshi con-
sented to go and see Mr. Belcovitch.
Mr. Belcovitch made no parade. Everything was as usual.
On the wooden table were two halves of squeezed lemons, a
piece of chalk, two cracked cups and some squashed soap.
He was not overwhelmed by Shosshi, but admitted he was
solid. His father was known to be pious, and both his sis-
ters had married reputable men. Above all, he was not a
Dutchman. Shosshi left No. 1 Royal Street, Belcovitch’s
accepted son-in-law. Esther met him on the stairs and noted
the radiance on his pimply countenance. He walked with his
head almost erect. Shosshi was indeed very much in love and
felt that all that was needed for his happiness was a sight of
his future wife.
But he had no time to go and see her except on Sunday after-
noons, and then she was always out. Mrs. Belcovitch, however,
made amends by paying him considerable attention. The sickly-
looking little woman chatted to him for hours at a time about
her ailments and invited him to taste her medicine, which was a
compliment Mrs. Belcovitch passed only to her most esteemed
visitors. By and by she even wore her night-cap in his presence
as a sign that he had become one of the family. Under this
encouragement Shosshi grew confidential and imparted to his
future mother-in-law the details of his mother’s disabilities. But
he could mention nothing which Mrs. Belcovitch could not cap,
for she was a woman extremely catholic in her maladies. She
was possessed of considerable imagination, and once when Fanny
200 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
selected a bonnet for her in a milliner’s window, the girl had
much difficulty in persuading her it was not inferior to what
turned out to be the reflection of itself in a side mirror.
“T’m so weak upon my legs,” she would boast to Shosshi. “I
was born with ill-matched legs. One is a thick one and one is
a thin one, and so one goes about.”
Shosshi expressed his sympathetic admiration and the court-
ship proceeded apace. Sometimes Fanny and Pesach Weingott
would be at home working, and they were very affable to him.
He began to lose something of his shyness and his lurching gait,
and he quite looked forward to his weekly visit to the Belco-
vitches. It was the story of Cymon and Iphigenia over again.
Love improved even his powers of conversation, for when Bel-
covitch held forth at length Shosshi came in several times with
“So?” and sometimes in the right place. Mr. Belcovitch loved
his own voice and listened to it, the arrested press-iron in his
hand. Occasionally in the middie of one of his harangues it
would occur to him that some one was talking and wasting time,
and then he would say to the room, “Shah!. Make an end,
make an end,” and dry up. But to Shosshi he was especially
polite, rarely interrupting himself when his son-in-law elect was
hanging on his words. There was an intimate tender tone
about these cazseries.
“T should like to drop down dead suddenly,” he would say
with the air of a philosopher, who had thought it all out. “I
shouldn’t care to lie up in bed and mess about with medicine
and doctors. To make a long job of dying is so expensive.”
“So?” said Shosshi.
“Don’t worry, Bear! I dare say the devil will seize you sud-
denly,” interposed Mrs. Belcovitch drily.
“Tt will not be the devil,” said Mr. Belcovitch, confidently
and in a confidential manner. “If I had died as a young man,
Shosshi, it might have been different.”
Shosshi pricked up his ears to listen to the tale of Bear's wild
“One morning,” said Belcovitch, “in Poland, I got up at four
o’clock to go to Supplications for Forgiveness. The air was raw
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 201
and there was no sign of dawn! Suddenly I noticed a black pig
trotting behind me. I quickened my pace and the black pig did
likewise. I broke into a runand I heard the pig’s paws patting
furiously upon the hard frozen ground. A cold sweat broke out
all over me. I looked over my shoulder and saw the pig’s eyes
burning like red-hot coals in the darkness. Then I knew that
the Not Good One was after me. ‘Hear, O Israel,’ I cried. I
looked up to the heavens but there was a cold mist covering the
stars. Faster and faster I flew and faster and faster flew the
demon pig. At last the Sool came in sight. I made one last
wild effort and fell exhausted upon the holy threshold and the
“So?” said Shosshi, with a long breath.
“Immediately after Sioo/ 1 spake with the Rabbi and he said
‘ Bear, are thy 7ephillin in order?’ So I said ‘ Yea, Rabbi, they
are very large and I bought them of the pious scribe, Naphtali,
and I look to the knots weekly.’ But he said, ‘I will examine
them.’ So I brought them to him and he opened the head-
phylactery and lo! in place of the holy parchment he found
bread crumbs.” :
“ Hoi, hoi,” said Shosshi in horror, his red hands quivering.
“Yes,” said Bear mournfully, “I had worn them for ten years
and moreover the leaven had defiled all my Passovers.”
Belcovitch also entertained the lover with details of the internal
politics of the “ Sons of the Covenant.”
Shosshi’s affection for Becky increased weekly under the stress
of these intimate conversations with her family. At last his pas-
sion was rewarded, and Becky, at the violent instance of her father,
consented to disappoint one of her young men and stay at home to
meet her future husband. She put off her consent till after din-
ner though, and it began to rain immediately before she gave it.
The moment Shosshi came into the room he divined that a .
change had come over the spirit of the dream. Out of the cor-
ners of his eyes he caught a glimpse of an appalling beauty
standing behind a sewing machine. His face fired up, his legs
began to quiver, he wished the ground would open and swallow
him as it did Korah.
202 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Becky,” said Mr. Belcovitch, “this is Mr. Shosshi Shmen-
Shosshi put on a sickly grin and nodded his head affirmatively,
as if to corroborate the statement, and the round felt hat he wore
slid back till the broad rim rested on his ears. Through a sort
of mist a terribly fine maid loomed.
Becky stared at him haughtily and curled her lip. Then she
Shosshi held out his huge red hand limply. Becky took no
notice of it.
“ Nu, Becky!” breathed Belcovitch, in a whisper that could
have been heard across the way.
“How are you? All right?” said Becky, very loud, as if she
thought deafness was among Shosshi’ s disadvantages.
Shosshi grinned reassuringly.
There was another silence.
Shosshi wondered whether the convenances would permit him
to take his leave now. He did not feel comfortable at all.
Everything had been going so delightfully, it had been quite
a pleasure to him to come to the house. But now all was
changed. The course of true love never does run smooth,
and the advent of this new personage into the courtship was
The father came to the rescue.
“A little rum?” he said.
“Yes,” said Shosshi.
“Chayah! 2. Fetch the bottle!”
Mrs. Belcovitch went to the chest of drawers in the corner
of the room and took from the top of it a large decanter. She
then produced two glasses without feet and filled them with the
home-made rum, handing one to Shosshi and the other to her
husband. Shosshi muttered a blessing over it, then he leered
vacuously at the company and cried, “ To life!”
“To peace!” replied the older man, gulping down the spirit.
Shosshi was doing the same, when his eye caught Becky’s.
He choked for five minutes, Mrs. Belcovitch thumping him
maternally on the back. When he was comparatively recovered
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 203
the sense of his disgrace rushed upon him and overwhelmed
him afresh. Becky was still giggling behind the sewing ma-
chine. Once more Shosshi felt that the burden of the conver-
sation was upon him. He looked at his boots and not seeing
anything there, looked up again and grinned encouragingly. at
the company as if to waive his rights. But finding the com-
pany did not respond, he blew his nose enthusiastically as a
lead off to the conversation.
Mr. Belcovitch saw his embarrassment, and, making a sign to
Chayah, slipped out of the room followed by his mate Shosshi
was left alone with the terribly fine maid.
Becky stood still, humming a little air and looking up at the
ceiling, as if she had forgotten Shosshi’s existence. With her
eyes in that position it was easier for Shosshi to look at her.
He stole side-long glances at her, which, growing bolder and
bolder, at length fused into an uninterrupted steady gaze. How
fine and beautiful she was! His eyes began to glitter, a smile
of approbation overspread his face. Suddenly she looked down
and their eyes met. Shosshi’s smile hurried off and gave way
to a sickly sheepish look and his legs felt weak. The terribly
fine maid gave a kind of snort and resumed her inspection of
the ceiling. Gradually Shosshi found himself examining her
again. Verily Sugarman had spoken truly of her charms. But
—overwhelming thought —had not Sugarman also said she
loved him? Shosshi knew nothing of the ways of girls, except
what he had learned from the Talmud. Quite possibly Becky
was now occupied in expressing ardent affection. He shuffled
towards her, his heart beating violently. He was near enough
to touch her. The air she was humming throbbed in his ears.
He opened his mouth to speak — Becky becoming suddenly
aware of his proximity fixed him with a basilisk glare — the
words were frozen on his lips. For some seconds his mouth
remained open, then the ridiculousness of shutting it again
without speaking spurred him on to make some sound, however
meaningless. He made a violent effort and there burst from
his lips in Hebrew:
“Happy are those who eae in thy house, ever shall they
204 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
praise thee, Selah!”. It was not a compliment to Becky. Shos-
shi’s face lit up with joyous relief. By some inspiration he had
started the afternoon prayer. He felt that Becky would under-
stand the pious necessity. With fervent gratitude to the Al-
mighty he continued the Psalm: “ Happy are the people whose
lot is thus, etc.” Then he turned his back on Becky, with his
face to the East wall, made three steps forwards and commenced
the silent delivery of the Amidah. Usually he gabbled off the
“Eighteen Blessings” in five minutes. To-day they were pro-
longed till he heard the footsteps of the returning parents.
Then he scurried through the relics of the service at lightning
speed. When Mr. and Mrs. Belcovitch re-entered the room
they saw by his happy face that all. was well and made no
opposition to his instant departure.
He came again the next Sunday and was rejoiced to find that
Becky was out, though he had hoped to find her in. The court-
ship made great strides that afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Belcovitch
being more amiable than ever to compensate for Becky’s private
refusal to entertain the addresses of such a Shuck. There had
been sharp domestic discussions during the week, and Becky had
only sniffed at her parents’ commendations of Shosshi as a “ very
worthy youth.” She declared that it was “remission of sins
merely to look at him.”
Next Sabbath Mr. and Mrs. Belcovitch paid a formal visit to
Shosshi’s parents to make their acquaintance, and partook of tea
and cake. Becky was not with them; moreover she defiantly
declared she would never be at home on a Sunday till Shosshi
was married. They circumvented her by getting him up on
a weekday. The image of Becky had been so often in his
thoughts now that by the time he saw her the second time he
was quite habituated to her appearance. He had even imagined
his arm round her waist, but in practice he found he could go no
further as yet than ordinary conversation.
Becky was sitting sewing buttonholes when Shosshi arrived.
Everybody was there — Mr. Belcovitch pressing coats with hot
irons; Fanny shaking the room with her heavy machine; Pesach
Weingott cutting a piece of chalk-marked cloth; Mrs. Belcovitch
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 205
carefully pouring out tablespoonfuls of medicine. There were
even some outside “hands,” work being unusually plentiful, as
from the manifestos of Simon Wolf, the labor-leader, the slop
manufacturers anticipated a strike.
Sustained by their presence, Shosshi felt a bold and gallant
wooer. He determined that this time he would not go without
having addressed at least one remark to the object of his affec-
tions. Grinning amiably at the company generally, by way of
salutation, he made straight for Becky’s corner. The terribly
fine lady snorted at the sight of him, divining that she had been
out-manceuvred. Belcovitch surveyed the situation out of the
corners of his eyes, not pausing a moment in his task.
« Nu, how goes it, Becky?” Shosshi murmured.
Becky said, “ All right, how are you?”
«God be thanked, I have nothing to complain of,” said
Shosshi, encouraged by the warmth of his welcome. “My eyes
are rather weak, still, though much better than last year.”
Becky made no reply, so Shosshi continued: “ But my mother
is always a sick person. She has to swallow bucketsful of cod
liver oil. She cannot be long for this world.”
« Nonsense, nonsense,” put in Mrs. Belcovitch, appearing sud-
denly behind the lovers. “My children’s children shall never be
any worse; it’s all fancy with her, she coddles herself too much.”
“ Oh, no, she says she’s much worse than you,” Shosshi blurted
out, turning round to face his future mother-in-law.
« Oh, indeed!” said Chayah angrily. “My enemies shall have
my maladies! If your mother had my health, she would be lying
in bed with it. But I go about in a sick condition. I can hardly
crawl around. Look at my legs—has your mother got such
legs? One a thick one and one a thin one.”
Shosshi grew scarlet ; he felt he had blundered. It was the
first real shadow on his courtship — perhaps the little rift within
the lute. He turned back to Becky for sympathy. There was
no Becky. She had taken advantage of the conversation to slip
away. He found her again in a moment though, at the other
end of the room. She was seated before a machine. He crossed
the room boldly and bent over her.
206 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Don’t you feel cold, working?”
It was the machine turning. Becky had set the treadle go-
ing madly and was pushing a piece of cloth under the needle.
When she paused, Shosshi said:
“Have you heard Reb Shemuel preach?. He told a very amus-
ing allegory last —”
Undaunted, Shosshi recounted the amusing allegory at length,
and as the noise of her machine prevented Becky hearing a word
she found his conversation endurable. After several more mono-
logues, accompanied on the machine by Becky, Shosshi took his
departure in high feather, promising to bring up specimens of
his handiwork for her edification.
On his next visit he arrived with his arms laden with choice
morsels of carpentry. He laid them on the table for her admira-
They were odd knobs and rockers for Polish cradles! The
pink of Becky’s cheeks spread all over her face like a blot of red
ink on a piece of porous paper. Shosshi’s face reflected the color
in even more ensanguined dyes. Becky rushed from the room
and Shosshi heard her giggling madly on the staircase. It
dawned upon him that he had displayed bad taste in his se-
“What have you done to my child?” Mrs. Belcoyitch in-
“N-n-othing,” he stammered; “I only brought her some of
my work to see.”
“And is this what one shows to a young girl?” demanded the
“They are only bits of cradles,” said Shosshi deprecatingly.
“T thought she would like to see what nice workmanly things I
turned out. See how smoothly these rockers are carved! There
is a thick one, and there is a thin one!”
“Ah! Shameless droll! dost thou make mock of my legs,
too?” said Mrs. Belcovitch. “Out, impudent face, out with
THE COURTSHIP OF SHOSSHI SHMENDRIK. 207
Shosshi gathered up his specimens in his arms and fled through
the door. Becky was still in hilarious eruption outside. The
sight of her made confusion worse confounded. The knobs and
rockers rolled thunderously down the stairs; Shosshi stumbled
after them, picking them up on his course and wishing himself
All Sugarman’s strenuous efforts to patch up the affair failed.
Shosshi went about broken-hearted for several days. To have
been so near the goal —and then not to arrive after all! What
made failure more bitter was that he had boasted of his conquest
to his acquaintances, especially to the two who kept the stalls to
the right and left of him on Sundays in Petticoat Lane. They
made a butt of him as it was; he felt he could never stand be-
tween them for a whole morning now, and have Attic salt put
upon his wounds. He shifted his position, arranging to pay six-
pence a time for the privilege of fixing himself outside Widow
Finkelstein’s shop, which stood at the corner of a street, and
might be presumed to intercept two streams of pedestrians.
Widow Finkelstein’s shop was a chandler’s, and she did a large
business in farthing-worths of boiling water. There was thus
no possible rivalry between her ware and Shosshi’s, which con-
sisted of wooden candlesticks, little rocking chairs, stools, ash-
trays, etc., piled up artistically on a barrow.
But Shosshi’s luck had gone with the change of docws. His
clientdle went to the old spot but did not find him. He did not
even make a hansel. At two o’clock he tied his articles to the
barrow with a complicated arrangement of cords. Widow Fink-
elstein waddled out and demanded her sixpence. Shosshi re-
plied that he had not taken sixpence, that the coign was not one
of vantage. Widow Finkelstein stood up for her rights, and even
hung on to the barrow for them. There was a short, sharp argu-
ment, a simultaneous jabbering, as of a pair of monkeys. Shos-
shi Shmendrik’s pimply face worked with excited expostulation,
Widow Finkelstein’s cushion-like countenance was agitated by
waves of righteous indignation. Suddenly Shosshi darted be-
tween the shafts and made a dash off with the barrow down the
side street. But Widow Finkelstein pressed it down with all
208 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
her force, arresting the motion like a drag. Incensed by the
laughter of the spectators, Shosshi put forth all his strength at
the shafts, jerked the widow off her feet and see-sawed her sky-
wards, huddled up spherically like a balloon, but clinging as
grimly as ever to the defalcating barrow. Then Shosshi started
off at a run, the carpentry rattling, and the dead weight of his
living burden making his muscles ache.
Right to the end of the street he dragged her, pursued by a
hooting crowd. Then he stopped, worn out.
“Will you give me that sixpence, you Gonof!”
“No, I haven't got it. You'd better go back to your shop,
else you'll suffer from worse thieves.”
It was true. Widow Finkelstein smote her wig in horror and
hurried back to purvey treacle.
But that night when she shut up the shutters, she hurried off
to Shosshi’s address, which she had learned in theinterim. His
little brother opened the door and said Shosshi was in the shed.
He was just nailing the thicker of those rockers on to the
body of a cradle. His soul was full of bitter-sweet memories.
Widow Finkelstein suddenly appeared in the moonlight. For
a moment Shosshi’s heart beat wildly. He thought the buxom
figure was Becky’s.
“T have come for my sixpence.”
Ah! The words awoke him from his dream. It was only the
And yet—! Verily, the widow, too, was plump and agree-
able; if only her errand had been pleasant, Shosshi felt she
might have brightened his back yard. He had been moved to
his depths latterly and a new tenderness and a new boldness
towards women shone in his eyes.
He rose and put his head on one side and smiled amiably and
said, “ Be not so foolish. I did not take a copper. I ama poor
young man. You have plenty of money in your stocking.”
. “How know you that?” said the widow, stretching for-
ward her right foot meditatively and gazing at the strip of
“Never mind!” said Shosshi, shaking his head sapiently.
THE HYVAMS’S HONEYMOON. 209
“Well, it’s true,” she admitted. “I have two hundred and
seventeen golden sovereigns besides my shop. But for all that
why should you keep my sixpence?” She asked it with the
same good-humored smile.
The logic of that smile was unanswerable. Shosshi’s mouth
opened, but no sound issued from it. He did not even say the
Evening Prayer. The moon sailed slowly across the heavens.
The water owed into the cistern with a soft soothing sound.
Suddenly it occurred to Shosshi that the widow’s waist was
not very unlike that which he had engirdled imaginatively. He
thought he would just try if the sensation was anything like
what he had fancied. His arm strayed timidly round her black-
beaded mantle. The sense of his audacity was delicious. He
was wondering whether he ought to say She-hechyoni— the
prayer over a new pleasure. But the Widow Finkelstein
stopped his mouth with a kiss. After that Shosshi forgot his
Except old Mrs. Ansell, Sugarman was the only person
scandalized. Shosshi’s irrepressible spirit of romance had robbed
him of his commission. But Meckisch danced with Shosshi
Shmendrik at the wedding, while the Caloh footed it with the
Russian giantess. The men danced in one-half of the room, the
women in the other.
THE HYAMS’S HONEYMOON.
“ BEENAH, hast thou heard aught about our Daniel?” There
was a note of anxiety in old Hyams’s voice.
“ Naught, Mendel.”
“Thou hast not heard talk of him and Sugarman’s daughter?”
“No, is there aught between them?” The listless old woman
spoke a little eagerly.
“Only that a man told me that his son saw our Daniel pay
court to the maiden.”
210 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“ At the Purim Ball.”
“The man is a fool; a youth must dance with some maiden
Miriam came in, fagged out from teaching. Old Hyams
dropped from Yiddish into English.
“You are right, he must.”
Beenah replied in her slow painful English.
“Would he not have told us?”
Mendel repeated : —“ Would he not have told us?”
Each avoided the other’s eye. Beenah dragged herself about
the room, laying Miriam’s tea.
“ Mother, I wish you wouldn’t scrape your feet along the floor
so. It gets on my nerves and I az so worn out. Would he not
have told you what? And who’s he?”
Beenah looked at her husband.
“J heard Daniel was engaged,” said old Hyams jerkily.
Miriam started and flushed.
“To whom?” she cried, in excitement.
“ Bessie Sugarman.”
“Sugarman’s daughter?” Miriam’s voice was pitched high.
Miriam’s voice rose to a higher pitch.
“Sugarman the Skadchan’s daughter?”
Miriam burst into a fit of incredulous laughter.
“As if Daniel would marry into a miserable family like
“Jt is as good as ours,” said Mendel, with white lips.
His daughter looked at him astonished. “Ithought your
children had taught you more self-respect than that,” she said
quietly. “Mr. Sugarman is a nice person to be related to!”
“At home, Mrs. Sugarman’s family was highly respected,”
quavered old Hyams.
“Weare not at home now,” said Miriam witheringly. “We're
in England. A bad-tempered old hag!”
“That is what she thinks me,” thought Mrs. Hyams. But she
THE HYAMS’S HONEYMOON. 211
“Did you not see Daniel with her at the ball?” said Mr.
Hyams, still visibly disquieted.
“I’m sure I didn’t notice,” Miriam replied petulantly. “I
think you must have forgot the sugar, mother, or else the tea is
viler than usual. Why don’t you let Jane cut the bread and
butter instead of lazing in the kitchen?”
“Jane has been washing all day in the scullery,” said Mrs.
“H’m!” snapped Miriam, her pretty face looking peevish and
careworn. “Jane ought to have to manage sixty-three girls
whose ignorant parents let them run wild at home, and haven’t
the least idea of discipline. .As for this chit of a Sugarman,
don’t you know that Jews always engage every fellow and girl
that look at each other across the street, and make fun of them
and discuss their united prospects before they are even intro-
duced to each other.”
She finished her tea, changed her dress and went off to the
theatre with a girl-friend. The really harassing nature of her
work. called for some such recreation. Daniel came in a little
after she had gone out, and ate his supper, which was his dinner
saved for him and warmed up in the oven. Mendel sat studying
from an unwieldy folio which he held on his lap by the fireside
and bent over. When Daniel had done supper and was standing
yawning and stretching himself, Mendel said suddenly as if try-
ing to bluff him:
“ Why don’t you ask your father to wish you J7azzoltov ?”
“ Mazzoltov? “What for?” asked Daniel puzzled.
“On your engagement.”
“My engagement!” repeated Daniel, his heart thumping
against his ribs.
“Yes— to Bessie Sugarman.”
Mendel’s eye, fixed scrutinizingly on his boy’s face, saw it pass
from white to red and from red to white. Daniel caught hold of
the mantel as if to steady himself.
“ But it is a lie!” he cried hotly. “Who told you that?”
“No one; a man hinted as much.”
“ But I haven’t even been in her company.”
212 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“ Yes —at the Purim Ball.”
Daniel bit his lip.
“Damned gossips!” he cried. “ll never speak to the girl
There was a tense silence for a few seconds, then old Hyams
“Why not? You love her.”
Daniel stared at him, his heart palpitating painfully. The
blood in his ears throbbed mad sweet music.
“You love her,” Mendel repeated quietly. “ Why do you not
ask her to marry you? Do you fear she would refuse?”
Daniel burst into semi-hysterical laughter. Then seeing his
father’s half-reproachful, half-puzzled look he said shamefacedly :
“Forgive me, father, I really couldn’t help it. The idea of your
talking about love! The oddity of it came over me all of a heap.”
“Why should I not talk about love?”
“Don’t be so comically serious, father,” said Daniel, smiling
afresh. ‘“What’s come over you?’ What have you to do with
love? One would think you were a romantic young fool on the
stage. It’s all nonsense about love. I don’t love anybody, least
of all Bessie Sugarman, so don’t you go worrying your old head
about my affairs. You get back to that musty book of yours
there. I wonder if you’ve suddenly come across anything about
love in that, and don’t forget to use the reading glasses and not
your ordinary spectacles, else itll be a sheer waste of money.
By the way, mother, remember to go to the Eye Hospital on
Saturday to be tested. I feel sure it’s time you had a pair of
specs, too.” :
“Don’t I look old enough already?” thought Mrs. Hyams.
But she said, “ Very well, Daniel,” and began to clear away his
“That's the best of being in the fancy,” said Daniel cheerfully.
“There’s no end of articles you can get at trade prices.”
He sat for half an hour turning over the evening paper, then
went to bed. Mr. and Mrs. Hyams’s eyes sought each other
involuntarily but they said nothing. Mrs. Hyams fried a piece
of Wurst for Miriam’s supper and put it into the oven to keep
THE HYAMS’S HONEYMOON. 213
hot, then she sat down opposite Mendel to stitch on a strip of
fur, which had got, unripped on one of Miriam’s jackets. The
fire burnt briskly, little flames leaped up with a crackling sound,
the clock ticked quietly.
Beenah threaded her needle at the first attempt.
“T can still see without spectacles,” she thought bitterly. But
she said nothing.
Mendel looked up furtively at her several times from his book.
The meagreness of her parchment flesh, the thickening mesh of
wrinkles, the snow-white hair struck him with almost novel
force. But he said nothing. Beenah patiently drew her needle
through and through the fur, ever and anon glancing at Mendel’s
worn spectacled face, the eyes deep in the sockets, the forehead
that was bent over the folio furrowed painfully beneath the black
Koppel, the complexion sickly. A lump seemed to be rising in
her throat. She bent determinedly over her sewing, then sud-
denly looked up again. This time their eyes met. They did
not droop them; a strange subtle flash seemed to pass from soul
to soul. They gazed at each other, trembling on the brink of tears.
“‘Beenah.” The voice was thick with suppressed sobs.
“Thou hast heard?”
“ He says he loves her not.”
“So he says.”
“It is lies, Beenah.”
«But wherefore should he lie?”
“Thou askest with thy mouth, not thy heart. Thou knowest
that he wishes us not to think that he remains single for our
sake. All his money goes to keep up this house we live in. It
is the law of Moses. Sawest thou not his face when I spake of
Beenah: rocked herself to and fro, crying: “ My poor Daniel,
my poor lamb! Wait a little. I shall die soon. The All-High
is merciful. Wait a little.”
Mendel caught Miriam’s jacket which was slipping to the floor
and laid it aside.
214 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“It helps not to cry,” said he gently, longing to cry with her.
“This cannot be. He must marry the maiden whom his heart
desires. Is it not enough that he feels that we have crippled
his life for the sake of our Sabbath? He never speaks of it, but
it smoulders in his veins.”
“Wait a little!” moaned Beenah, still rocking to and fro.
“Nay, calm thyself.” He rose and passed his horny hand
tenderly over her white hair. “We must not wait. Consider
how long Daniel has waited.”
“Yes, my poor lamb, my poor lamb!” sobbed the old
“If Daniel marries,” said the old man, striving to speak
firmly, “we have not a penny to live upon. Our Miriam
requires all her salary. Already she gives us more than she
can spare. She is a lady, in a great position. She must dress
finely. Who knows, too, but that we are in the way of a
gentleman marrying her? We are not fit to mix with high
people. But above all, Daniel must marry and I must earn
your and my living as I did when the children were young.”
“But what wilt thou do?” said Beenah, ceasing to cry and
‘looking up with affrighted face. “Thou canst not go glazier-
ing. Think of Miriam. What canst thou do, what canst thou
do? Thou knowest no trade!”
“No, I know no trade,” he said bitterly. “At home, as thou
art aware, I was a stone-mason, but here I could get no work
without breaking the Sabbath, and my hand has forgotten
its cunning. Perhaps I shall get my hand back.” He took
hers in the meantime. It was limp and chill, though so near
the fire. “Have courage,” he said. “There is naught I can
do here that will not shame Miriam. We cannot even go into
an almshouse without shedding her blood. But the Holy One,
blessed be He, is good. I will go away.”
“Go away!” Beenah’s clammy hand tightened her clasp of
his. “Thou wilt travel with ware in the country?”
“No. If it stands written that I must break with my children,
let the gap be too wide for repining. Miriam will like it better.
I will go to America.”
THE HYAMS’S HONEYMOON. 215
“To America!” Beenah’s heart beat wildly. “And leave
me?” A strange sense of desolation swept over her.
“Yes —for a little, anyhow. Thou must not face the first
hardships. I shall find something to do. Perhaps in America
there are more Jewish stone-masons to get work from. God
will not desert us. There I can sell ware in the streets —do as
I will. At the worst I can always fall back upon glaziering.
Have faith, my dove.”
The novel word of affection thrilled Beenah through and
“J shall send thee a little money; then as soon as I can
see my way clear I shall send for thee and thou shalt come
out to me and we will live happily together and our children
shall live happily here.”
But Beenah burst into fresh tears.
“Woe! Woe!” she sobbed. “ How wilt thou, an old man,
face the sea and the strange faces all alone? See how sorely
thou art racked with rheumatism. How canst thou go glazier-
ing? Thou liest often groaning all the night. How shalt thou
carry the heavy crate on thy shoulders?”
“God will give me strength to do what is right.” The tears
were plain enough in his voice now and would not be denied.
His words forced themselves out in a husky wheeze.
Beenah threw her arms round his neck. “No! No!” she
cried hysterically. “Thou shalt not go! Thou shalt not leave
“I must go,” his parched lips articulated. He could not see
that the snow of her hair had drifted into her eyes and was
scarce whiter than her cheeks. His spectacles were a blur of
“No, no,” she moaned incoherently. “I shall die soon. God
is merciful. Wait a little, wait a little. He will kill us both
soon. My poor lamb, my poor Daniel! Thou shalt not leave
The old man unlaced her arms from his neck.
“J must. I have heard God’s word in the silence.”
“Then I will go with thee. Wherever thou goest I will go.”
216 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“No, no; thou shalt not face the first hardships. 1 will front
them alone; I am strong, I am a man.”
“ And thou hast the heart to leave me?” She looked pite-
ously into his face, but hers was still hidden from him in the
mist. But through the darkness the flash passed again. His
hand groped for her waist, he drew her again towards him and
put the arms he had unlaced round his neck and stooped his
wet cheek to hers. The past was a void, the forty years of joint
housekeeping, since the morning each had seen a strange face
on the pillow, faded to a point. For fifteen years they had been
drifting towards each other, drifting nearer, nearer in dual loneli-
ness; driven together by common suffering and growing aliena-
tion from the children they had begotten in common; drifting
nearer, nearer in silence, almost in unconsciousness. And now
they had met. The supreme moment of their lives had come.
The silence of forty years was broken. His withered lips sought
hers and love flooded their souls at last.
When the first delicious instants were over, Mendel drew a
chair to the table and wrote a letter in. Hebrew script and posted
it and Beenah picked up Miriam’s jacket. The crackling flames
had subsided to a steady glow, the clock ticked on quietly as
before, but something new and sweet and sacred had come into
her life, and Beenah no longer wished to die.
When Miriam came home, she brought a little blast of cold
air into the room. Beenah rose and shut the door and put out
Miriam’s supper; she did not drag her feet now--
“Was it a nice play, Miriam?” said Beenah softly.
“The usual stuff and nonsense!” said Miriam peevishly.
“Love and all that sort of thing, as if the world never got any
At breakfast next morning old Hyams received a letter by the
first post. He carefully took his spectacles off and donned his
reading-glasses to read it, throwing the envelope carelessly into
the fire. When he had scanned a few lines he uttered an excla-
mation of surprise and dropped the letter.
“What's the matter, father?” said Daniel, while Miriam tilted
her snub nose curiously.
THE HYVAMS’S HONEYMOON. 217
“Praised be God!” was all the old man could say.
“Well, what is it? Speak!” said Beenah, with unusual ani-
mation, while a flush of excitement lit up Miriam’s face and
made it beautiful.
“My brother in America has won a thousand pounds on the
lotteree and he invites me and Beenah to come and live with
“Your brother in America!” repeated his children staring.
“Why, I didn’t know you had a brother in America,” added
“No, while he was poor, I didn’t mention him,” replied Men-
del, with unintentional sarcasm. “But I’ve heard from him
several times. We both came over from Poland together, but
the Board of Guardians sent him and a lot of others on to New
“ But you won’t go, father!’ said Daniel.
“Why not? I should like to see my brother before I die.
We were very thick as boys.”
“But a thousand pounds isn’t so very much,” Miriam could
not refrain from saying.
Old Hyams had thought it boundless opulence and was now
sorry he had not done his brother a better turn.
“Tt will be enough for us all to live upon, he and Beenah and
me. You see his wife died and he has no children.”
“You don’t really mean to go?” gasped Daniel, unable to
grasp the situation suddenly sprung upon him. “ How will you
get the money to travel with? ”
“Read here!” said Mendel, quietly passing him the letter.
“He offers to send it.”
“ But it’s written in Hebrew!” cried Daniel, turning it upside
“You can read Hebrew writing surely,” said his father.
“T could, years and years ago. I remember you taught me
the letters. But my Hebrew correspondence has been so scanty
——” He broke off with a laugh and handed the letter to
Miriam, who surveyed it with mock comprehension. There was
a look of relief in her eyes as she returned it to her father.
218 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
« He might have sent something to his nephew and his niece,”
she said half seriously.
«Perhaps he will when I get to America and tell him how
pretty you are,” said Mendel oracularly. He looked quite joy-
ous and even ventured to pinch Miriam’s flushed cheek
roguishly, and she submitted to the indignity without a
“ Why you're looking as pleased as Punch too, mother,” said
Daniel, in half-rueful amazement. “You seem delighted at the
idea of leaving us.”
“J always wanted to see America,” the old woman admitted
with a smile. “I also shall renew an old friendship in New
York.” She looked meaningly at her husband, and in his eye
was an answering love-light.
“Well, that’s cool!” Daniel burst forth. “But she doesn’t
mean it, does she, father? ”
“T mean it,” Hymas answered.
“But it can’t be true,” persisted Daniel, in ever-growing be-
wilderment. “TI believe it’s all a hoax.”
Mendel hastily drained his coffee-cup.
“ A hoax!” he murmured, from behind the cup.
“ Yes, I believe some one is having a lark with you.”
“ Nonsense!” cried Mendel vehemently, as he put down his
coffee-cup and picked up the letter from the table. “Don’t I
know my own brother Yankov’s writing. Besides, who else
would know all the little things he writes about?”
Daniel was silenced, but lingered on after Miriam had departed
to her wearisome duties.
“T shall write at once, accepting Yankov’s offer,” said his
father. “Fortunately we took the house by the week, so you
can always move out if it is too large for you and Miriam. I
can trust you to look after Miriam, I know, Daniel.” Daniel ex-
postulated yet further, but Mendel answered :
“He is so lonely. He cannot well come over here by him-
self because he is half paralyzed. After all, what have I to do
in England? And the mother naturally does not care to leave
me. Perhaps I shall get my brother to travel with me to the
THE HYAMS’S HONEYMOON. 219
land of Israel, and then we shall all end our days in Jerusalem,
which you know has always been my heart’s desire.”
Neither mentioned Bessie Sugarman.
“ Why do you make so much bother?” Miriam said to Daniel
in the evening. “It’s the best thing that could have happened.
Who’d have dreamed at this hour of the day of coming into
possession of a relative who might actually have something to
leave us. It'll be a good story to tell, too.”
After Shool next morning Mendel spoke to the President.
“Can you lend me six pounds?” he asked.
“ Six pounds!” he repeated, dazed.
“Yes. I wish to go to America with my wife. And I want
you moreover to give your hand as a countryman that you will
not breathe a word of this, whatever you hear. Beenah and I
have sold a few little trinkets which our children gave us, and
we have reckoned that with six pounds more we shall be able to
take steerage passages and just exist till I get work.”
“But six pounds is a very great sum — without sureties,” said
Belcovitch, rubbing his time-worn workaday high hat in his
“J know it is!” answered Mendel, “but God is my witness
that I mean to pay you. And if I die before I can do so I vow
to send word to my son Daniel, who will pay you the balance.
You know my son Daniel. His word is an oath.”
“But where shall I get six pounds from?” said Bear helplessly.
“T am only a poor tailor, and my daughter gets married soon.
It isa great sum. By my honorable word, it is. I have never
lent so much in my life, nor even been security for such an
Mendel dropped his head. There was a moment of anxious
silence. Bear thought deeply.
“T tell you what I'll do,” said Bear at last. “Tl lend you five
if you can manage to come out with that.”
Mendel gave a great sigh of relief. “God shall bless you,”
he said. He wrung the sweater’s hand passionately. “I dare
say we shall find another sovereign’s-worth to sell.” Mendel
220 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
clinched the borrowing by standing the lender a glass of rum,
and Bear felt secure against the graver shocks of doom. If the
worst come to the worst now, he had still had something for his
And so Mendel and Beenah sailed away over the Atlantic.
Daniel accompanied them to Liverpool, but Miriam said she
could not get a day’s holiday — perhaps she remembered the re-
buke Esther Ansell had drawn down on herself, and was chary
At the dock in the chill dawn, Mendel Hyams kissed his son
Daniel on the forehead and said in a broken voice:
“Good-bye. God bless you.” He dared not add and God
bless your Bessie, my daughter-in-law to be; but the benediction
was in his heart.
Daniel turned away heavy-hearted, but the old man touched
him on the shoulder and said in a low tremulous voice:
“ Won’t you forgive me for putting you into the fancy goods?”
“Father! What do you mean?” said Daniel choking. “ Surely
you are not thinking of the wild words I spoke years and years
ago. I have long forgotten them.”
“Then you will remain a good Jew,” said Mendel, trembling
all over, “ even when we are far away?”
“With God’s help,” said Daniel. And then Mendel turned to
Beenah and kissed her, weeping, and the faces of the old couple
were radiant behind their tears.
Daniel stood on the clamorous hustling wharf, watching the
ship move slowly from her moorings towards the open river, and
neither he nor any one in the world but the happy pair knew
that Mendel and Beenah were on their honeymoon.
* * * * * * * * * *
Mrs. Hyams died two years after her honeymoon, and old
Hyams laid a lover’s kiss upon her sealed eyelids. Then, being
absolutely alone in the world, he sold off his scanty furniture,
sent the balance of the debt with a sovereign of undemanded
interest to Bear Belcovitch, and girded up his loins for the jour-
ney to Jerusalem, which had been. the dream of his life.
But the dream of his life had better have remained a dream.
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 221
Mendel saw the hills of Palestine and the holy Jordan and
Mount Moriah, the site of the Temple, and the tombs of Absa-
lom and Melchitsedek, and the gate of Zion and the aqueduct
built by Solomon, and all that he had longed to see from boy-
hood. But somehow it was not /zs Jerusalem— scarce more
than his London Ghetto transplanted, only grown filthier and
narrower and more ragged, with cripples for beggars and lepers
in lieu of hawkers. The magic of his dream-city was not here.
This was something prosaic, almost sordid. It made his heart
sink as he thought of the sacred splendors of the Zion he had
imaged in his suffering soul. The rainbows builded of his bitter
tears did not span the firmament of this dingy Eastern city, set
amid sterile hills. Where were the roses and lilies, the cedars
and the fountains? Mount Moriah was here indeed, but it bore
the Mosque of Omar, and the Temple of Jehovah was but one
ruined wall. The Shechinah, the Divine Glory, had faded into
cold sunshine. “Who shall go up into the Mount of Jehovah.”
Lo, the Moslem worshipper and the Christian tourist. Barracks
and convents stood on Zion’s hill. His brethren, rulers by
divine right of the soil they trod, were lost in the chaos of pop-
ulations — Syrians, Armenians, Turks, Copts, Abyssinians, Euro-
peans—as their synagogues were lost amid the domes and
minarets of the Gentiles. The city was full of venerated relics
of the Christ his people had lived —and died—to deny, and
over all flew the crescent flag of the Mussulman.
And so every Friday, heedless of scoffing on-lookers, Mendel
Hyams kissed the stones of the Wailing Place, bedewing their
barrenness with tears; and every year at Passover, until he was
gathered to his fathers, he continued to pray: “Next year —in
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT.
“ Au, the Men-of-the-Earth!” said Pinchas to Reb Shemuel,
“ignorant fanatics, how shall a movement prosper in their
hands? They have not the poetic vision, their ideas are as
222 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
the mole’s; they wish to make Messiahs out of half-pence.
What inspiration for the soul is there in the sight of snufty
collectors that have the air of Schnorrers ? with Karlkammer’s
red hair for a flag and the sound of Gradkoski’s nose blowing
for a trumpet-peal. But I have written an acrostic against
Guedalyah the greengrocer, virulent as serpent’s gall. He the
Redeemer, indeed, with his diseased potatoes and his flat ginger-
beer! Not thus did the great prophets and teachers in Israel
figure the Return. Leta great signal-fire be lit in Israel and lo!
the beacons will leap up on every mountain and tongue of flame
shall call to tongue. Yea, I, even I, Melchitsedek Pinchas, will
light the fire forthwith.”
“Nay, not to-day,” said Reb Shemuel, with his humorous
twinkle; “it is the Sabbath.”
The Rabbi was returning from synagogue and Pinchas was
giving him his company on the short homeward journey. At
their heels trudged Levi and on the other side of Reb Shemuel
walked Eliphaz Chowchoski, a miserable-looking Pole whom
Reb Shemuel was taking home to supper. In those days Reb
Shemuel was not alone in taking to his hearth “the Sabbath
guest ” — some forlorn starveling or other —to sit at the table in
like honor with the master. It was an object lesson in equality
and fraternity for the children of many a well-to-do household,
nor did it fail altogether in the homes of the poor. “All Israel
are brothers,” and how better honor the Sabbath than by mak-
ing the lip-babble a reality? °
“You will speak to your daughter?” said Pinchas, changing
the subject abruptly. “ You will tell her that what I wrote to her
is not a millionth part of what I feel —that she is my sun by
day and my moon and stars by night, that I must marry her at
once or die, that I think of nothing in the world but her, that I
can do, write, plan, nothing without her, that once she smiles
on me I will write her great love-poems, greater than Byron’s,
greater than Heine’s — the real Song of Songs, which is Pinchas’s
—_ that I will make her immortal as Dante made Beatrice, as Pe-
trarch made Laura, that I walk about wretched, bedewing the
pavements with my tears, that I sleep not by night nor eat by
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 223
day — you will tell her this?” He laid his finger pleadingly on
“J will tell her,” said Reb Shemuel. “You are a son-in-law
to gladden the heart of any man. But I fear the maiden looks
but coldly on wooers. Besides you are fourteen years older than
“Then I love her twice as much as Jacob loved Rachel — for
it is written ‘seven years were but as a day in his love for her.’
To me fourteen years are but as a day in my love for Hapnah: 4
The Rabbi laughed at the quibble and said:
“You are like the man who when he was accused of being
twenty years older than the maiden he desired, replied ‘ but when
I look at her I shall become ten years younger, and when she
looks at me she will become ten years older, and thus we shall be
Pinchas laughed enthusiastically in his turn, but replied :
“ Surely you will plead my cause, you whose motto is the He-
brew saying—‘the husband help the housewife, God help the
“ But have you the wherewithal to support her?”
“Shall my writings not suffice? If there are none to protect
literature in England, we will go abroad —to your birthplace,
Reb Shemuel, the cradle of great scholars.”
The poet spoke yet more, but in the end his excited stridulous
accents fell on Reb Shemuel’s ears as a storm without on the
ears of the slippered reader by the fireside. He had dropped
into a delicious reverie — tasting in advance the Sabbath peace.
The work of the week was over. The faithful Jew could enter
on his rest — the narrow, miry streets faded before the brighter
image of his brain. “Come, my beloved, to meet the Bride, the
face of the Sabbath let us welcome.”
To-night his sweetheart would wear her Sabbath face, putting
off the mask of the shrew, which hid not from him the angel
countenance. To-night he could in very truth call his wife (as
the Rabbi in the Talmud did) “not wife, but home.” To-night
she would be in very truth S#mcha —rejoicing. A cheerful
warmth glowed at his heart, love for all the wonderful Creation
224 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
dissolved him in tenderness. As he approached the door, cheer-
ful lights gleamed on him like a heavenly smile. He invited
Pinchas to enter, but the poet in view of his passion thought it
prudent to let others plead for him and went off with his finger
to his nose in final reminder. The Reb kissed the Mezuzah on
the outside of the door and his daughter, who met him, on the
inside. Everything was as he had pictured it — the two tall wax
candles in quaint heavy silver candlesticks, the spotless table-
cloth, the dish of fried fish made picturesque with sprigs of pars-
ley, the Sabbath loaves shaped like boys’ tip-cats, with a curious
plait of crust from point to point and thickly sprinkled with a
drift of poppy-seed, and covered with a velvet cloth embroidered
with Hebrew words; the flask of wine and the silver goblet.
The sight was familiar yet it always struck the simple old Reb
anew, with a sense of special blessing.
“Good Shabbos, Simcha,” said Reb Shemuel.
“Good Shabbos, Shemuel,” said Simcha. The light of love
was in her eyes, and in her hair her newest comb. Her sharp
features shone with peace and good-will and the consciousness
of having duly lit the Sabbath candles and thrown the morsel of
dough into the fire. Shemuel kissed her, then he laid his hands
upon Hannah’s head and murmured :
“May God make thee as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah,”
and upon Levi’s, murmuring: “May God make thee as Ephraim
Even the callous Levi felt the breath of sanctity in the air and
had a vague restful sense of his Sabbath Angel hovering about
and causing him to cast two shadows on the wall while his Evil
Angel shivered impotent on the door-step.
Then Reb Shemuel repeated three times a series of sentences
commencing: “Peace be unto you, ye ministering Angels,” and
thereupon the wonderful picture of an ideal woman from Prov-
erbs, looking affectionately at Simcha the while. “A woman
of worth, whoso findeth her, her price is far above rubies. The
heart of her husband trusteth in her; good and not evil will she
do him all the days of her life; she riseth, while it is yet night,
giveth food to her household and a task to her maidens. She
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 225
putteth her own hands to the spindle; she stretcheth out her
hand to the poor —strength and honor are her clothing and she
looketh forth smilingly to the morrow; she openeth her mouth
with wisdom and the law of kindness is on her tongue — she
looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the
bread of idleness. Deceitful is favor and vain is beauty, but the
woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”
Then, washing his hands with the due benediction, he filled
the goblet with wine, and while every one reverently stood
he “made Kiddish,” in a traditional joyous recitative “. . .
blessed art thou, O Lord, our God! King of the Universe, Cre-
ator of the fruit of the vine, who doth sanctify us with His com-
mandments and hath delight in us. . . . Thou hast chosen and
sanctified us above all peoples and with love and favor hast
made us to inherit Thy holy Sabbath. . . .”
And all the household, and the hungry Pole, answered
“Amen,” each sipping of the cup in due gradation, then eating
a special morsel of bread cut by the father and dipped in salt ;
after which the good wife served the fish, and cups and saucers
clattered and knives and forks rattled. And after a few mouth-
fuls, the Pole knew himself a Prince in Israel and felt he must
forthwith make choice of a maiden to grace his royal Sabbath
board. Soup followed the fish; it was not served direct from
the saucepan but transferred by way of a large tureen; since any
creeping thing that might have got into the soup would have
rendered the plateful in which it appeared not legally potable,
whereas if it were detected in the large tureen, its polluting
powers would be dissipated by being diffused over such a large
mass of fluid. For like religious reasons, another feature of the
etiquette of the modern fashionable table had been anticipated
by many centuries —the eaters washed their hands in a little
bowl of water after their meal. The Pollack was thus kept by
main religious force in touch with a liquid with which he had no
external sympathy: :
When supper was over, grace was chanted and then the Zemz-
roth was sung — songs summing up in light and jingling metre
the very essence of holy joyousness — neither riotous nor ascetic
226 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
—the note of spiritualized common sense which has been the
key-note of historical Judaism. For to feel “ the delight of
Sabbath” is a duty and to take three meals thereon a religious
obligation —the sanctification of the sensuous by a creed to
which everything is holy. The Sabbath is the hub of the Jew’s
universe ; to protract it is a virtue, to love it a liberal education.
It cancels all mourning— even for Jerusalem. The candles may
gutter out at their own greasy will — unsnuffed, untended — is
not Sabbath its own self-sufficient light?
This is the sanctified rest-day ;
Happy the man who observes it,
Thinks of it over the wine-cup,
Feeling no pang at his heart-strings
For that his purse-strings are empty,
Joyous, and if he must borrow
God will repay the good lender,
Meat, wine and fish in profusion —
See no delight is deficient.
Let but the table be spread well,
Angels of God answer “ Amen!”
So when a soul is in dolor,
Cometh the sweet restful Sabbath,
Singing and joy in its footsteps,
Rapidly floweth Sambatyon,
Till that, of God’s love the symbol,
Sabbath, the holy, the peaceful,
Husheth its turbulent waters.
a See ee ee See Pee ee |
Bless Him, O constant companions,
Rock from whose stores we have eaten,
Eaten have we and have left, too,
Just as the Lord hath commanded
Father and Shepherd and Feeder.
His is the bread we have eaten,
His is the wine we have drunken,
Wherefore with lips let us praise Him,
Lord of the land of our fathers,
Gratefully, ceaselessly chaunting
“None like Jehovah is holy.”
eee Stee atten 4
Light and rejoicing to Israel,
Sabbath, the soother of sorrows,
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 227
Comfort of down-trodden Israel,
Healing the hearts that were broken!
Banish despair! Here is Hope come,
What! Asoul crushed! Lo a stranger
Bringeth the balsamous Sabbath,
Build, O rebuild thou, Thy Temple,
Fill again Zion, Thy city,
Clad with delight will we go there,
Other and new songs to sing there,
Merciful One and All-Holy,
Praiséd for ever and ever.
During the meal the Pollack began to speak with his host
about the persecution in the land whence he had come, the
bright spot in his picture being the fidelity of his brethren under
trial, only a minority deserting and those already tainted with
Epicureanism — students wishful of University distinction and
such like. Orthodox Jews are rather surprised when men of
(secular) education remain in the fold.
Hannah took advantage of a pause in their conversation to
say in German:
“T am so glad, father, thou didst not bring that man home.”
“ What man?” said Reb Shemuel.
“ The dirty monkey-faced little man who talks so much.”
The Reb considered.
“J know none such.”
“ Pinchas she means,” said her mother. “The poet!”
Reb Shemuel looked at her gravely. This did not sound
“Why dost thou speak so harshly of thy fellow-creatures?”
he said. “The man is a scholar and a poet, such as we have
too few in Israel.”
“We have too many Schnorrers in Israel already,” retorted
“Sh!” whispered Reb Shemuel reddening and indicating his
guest with a slight movement of the eye.
Hannah bit her lip in self-humiliation and hastened to load
the lucky Pole’s plate with an extra piece of fish.
“ He has written me a letter,” she went on.
228 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“He has told me so,” he answered. “He loves thee with a
“What nonsense, Shemuel!” broke in Simcha, setting down
her coffee-cup with work-a-day violence. “The idea of a man
who has not a penny to bless himself with marrying our Hannah!
They would be on the Board of Guardians in a month.”
“Money is not everything. Wisdom and learning outweigh
much. And as the Midrash says: ‘As a scarlet ribbon be-
cometh a black horse, so poverty becometh the daughter of
Jacob.’ The world stands on the Torah, not on gold; as it is
written: ‘Better is the Law of Thy mouth to me than thou-
sands of gold or silver.’ He is greater than I, for he studies the
law for nothing like the fathers of the Mishna while I am paid
“Methinks thou art little inferior,” said Simcha, “for thou
retainest little enough thereof. Let Pinchas get nothing for
himself, ‘tis his affair, but, if he wants my Hannah, he must get
something for her. Were the fathers of the Mishna also fathers
“Certainly ; is it nota command —‘ Be fruitful and multiply ’?”
“ And how did their families live?”
“Many of our sages were artisans.”
“Aha!” snorted Simcha triumphantly.
“And says not the Talmud,” put in the Pole as if he were on
the family council, “‘ Flay a carcass in the streets rather than be
under an obligation’?” This with supreme unconsciousness of
any personal application. “Yea, and said not Rabban Gam-
liel, the son of Rabbi Judah the Prince, ‘it is commendable to
join the study of the Law with worldly employment’? Did not
Moses our teacher keep sheep?”
“Truth,” replied the host. “I agree with Maimonides that
man should first secure a living, then prepare a residence and
after that seek a wife; and that they are fools who invert the
order. But Pinchas works also with his pen. He writes
articles in the papers. But the great thing, Hannah, is that
he loves the Law.”
“H’m!” said Hannah. “Let him marry the Law, then.”
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 229
“He is in a hurry,” said Reb Shemuel with a flash of irrever-
ent facetiousness. “And he cannot become the Bridegroom of
the Law till Szwzchath Torah.”
All laughed. The Bridegroom of the Law is the temporary
title of the Jew who enjoys the distinction of being “called up”
to the public reading of the last fragment of the Pentateuch,
which is got through once a year.
Under the encouragement of the laughter, the Rabbi added:
“ But he will know much more of his Bride than the majority
of the Law’s Bridegrooms.”
Hannah took advantage of her father’s pleasure in the effect
of his jokes to show him Pinchas’s epistle, which he deciphered
laboriously. It commenced :
Next to Heaven
Ah, I love you
The Pole, looking a different being from the wretch who had
come empty, departed invoking Peace on the household; Simcha
went into the kitchen to superintend the removal of the crockery
thither; Levi slipped out to pay his respects to Esther Ansell,
for the evening was yet young, and father and daughter were
Reb Shemuel was already poring over a Pentateuch in his
Friday night duty of reading the Portion twice in Hebrew and
once in Chaldaic.
Hannah sat opposite him, studying the kindly furrowed face,
the massive head set on rounded shoulders, the shaggy eye-
brows, the long whitening beard moving with the mumble of
the pious lips, the brown peering eyes held close to the sacred
tome, the high forehead crowned with the black skullcap.
She felt a moisture gathering under her eyelids as she looked
‘‘ Father,” she said at last, in a gentle voice.
230 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Did you call me, Hannah?” he asked, looking up.
“Yes, dear. About this man, Pinchas.”
“am sorry I spoke harshly of him.”
“ Ah, that is right, my daughter. If he is poor and ill-clad we
must only honor him the more. Wisdom and learning must be
respected if they appear in rags. Abraham. entertained God’s
messengers though they came as weary travellers.”
“I know, father. It is not because of his appearance that I
do not like him. If he is really a scholar and a poet, I will try
to admire him as you do.”
“ Now you speak like a true daughter of Israel.”
“But about my marrying him — you are not really in earnest?”
“ He is,” said Reb Shemuel, evasively.
“Ah, I knew you were not,” she said, catching the lurking
twinkle in his eye. “You know I could never marry a man like
“Your mother could,” said the Reb.
“Dear old goose,” she said, leaning across to pull his beard.
“You are not a bit like that — you know a thousand times more,
you know you do.”
The old Rabbi held up his hands in comic deprecation.
“Yes, you do,” she persisted. “Only you let him talk so
much; you let everybody talk and bamboozle you.”
Reb Shemuel drew the hand that fondled his beard in his
own, feeling the fresh warm skin with a puzzled look.
“The hands are the hands of Hannah,” he said, “but the
voice is the voice of Simcha.”
Hannah laughed merrily.
“ All right, dear, I won’t scold you any more. I’m'so glad it
didn’t really enter your great stupid, clever old head that I was
likely to care for Pinchas.”
“My dear daughter, Pinchas wished to take you to wife,
and I felt pleased. It is a union with a son of the Torah, who
has also the pen of a ready writer. He asked me to tell you and
“ But you would not like me to marry any one I did not like.”
THE HEBKEW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 231
“God forbid! My little Hannah shall marry whomever she
A wave of emotion passed over the girl’s face.
« You don’t mean that, father,” she said, shaking her head.
“True as the Torah! Why should I not?”
“ Suppose,” she said slowly, “I wanted to marry a Christian?”
Her heart beat painfully as she put the question.
Reb Shemuel laughed heartily.
“My Hannah would have made a good Talmudist. Of course,
I don’t mean it in that sense.”
“Yes, but if I was to marry a very “nk Jew, you'd think it
almost as bad.”
“No, no!” said the Reb, shaking his head. “ That’s a dif-
ferent pies altogether; a Jew is a Jew, and a Christian a
“But you can’t always distinguish between them,” argued
Hannah. “There are Jews who behave as if they were Chris-
tians, except, of course, they don’t believe in the Crucified
Still the old Reb shook his head.
“The worst of Jews cannot put off his Judaism. His unborn
soul undertook the yoke of the Torah at Sinai.”
“Then you really wouldn’t mind if I married a dink Jew!”
He looked at her, startled, a suspicion dawning i in his eyes.
“JI should mind,” he said slowly. “But if you loved him he
would become a good Jew.”
The simple conviction of his words moved her to tears, but she
kept them back.
“ But if he wouldn’t? ”
“J should pray. While there is life there is hope for the
sinner in Israel.”
She fell back on her old question.
“ And you would really not mind whom I married?”
“ Follow your heart, my little one,” said ne Shemuel. “It is
a good heart and it will not lead you wrong.”
"Hawi turned away to hide the tears that could no longer be
stayed. Her father resumed his reading of the Law.
232 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
But he had got through very few verses ere he felt a soft warm
arm round his neck and a wet cheek laid close to his.
“Father, forgive me,” whispered the lips. “Iam so sorry. I
thought that— that I—that you— oh father, father! I feel as
if I had never known you before to-night.”
“What is it, my daughter?” said Reb Shemuel, stumbling into
Yiddish in his anxiety. ‘ What hast thou done?”
“T have betrothed myself,” she answered, unwittingly adopt-
ing his dialect. “I have betrothed myself without telling thee
“To whom?” he asked anxiously.
“To a Jew,” she hastened to assure him. “But he is neither
a Talmud-sage nor pious. He is newly returned from the
“Ah, they are a Zk lot,” muttered the Reb anxiously.
“Where didst thou first meet him?”
“ At the Club,” she answered. “At the Purim Ball—the
night. before Sam Levine came round here to be divorced from
He wrinkled his great brow. “Thy mother would have thee
go,” he said. “Thou didst not deserve I should get thee the
divorce. What is his name?”
“David Brandon. He is not like other Jewish young men; I
thought he was and did him wrong and mocked at him when
first he spoke to me, so that afterwards I felt tender towards
him. His conversation is agreeable, for he thinks for himself,
and deeming thou wouldst not hear of such a match and that
there was no danger, I met him at the Club several times in the
evening, and — and — thou knowest the rest.”
She turned away her face, blushing, contrite, happy, anxious.
Her love-story was as simple as her telling of it. David
Brandon was not the shadowy Prince of her maiden dreams,
nor was the passion exactly as she had imagined it; it was both
stronger and stranger, and the sense of secrecy and impending
opposition instilled into her love a poignant sweetness.
The Reb stroked her hair silently.
“T would not have said ‘ Yea’ so quick, father,” she went on,
THE HEBREW’S FRIDAY NIGHT. 233
“but David had to go to Germany to take a message to the aged
parents of his Cape chum, who died in the gold-fields. David
had promised the dying man to go personally as soon as he
returned to England —I think it was a request for forgiveness
and blessing — but after meeting me he delayed going, and when
I learned of it I reproached him, but he said he could not tear
himself away, and he would not go till I had confessed I loved
him. At last I said if he would go home the moment I said it
and not bother about getting me a ring or anything, but go off to
Germany the first thing the next morning, I would admit I loved
him a little bit. Thus did it occur. He went off last Wednes-
day. Oh, isn’t it cruel to think, father, that he should be going
with love and joy in his heart to the parents of his dead friend!”
Her father’s head was bent. She lifted it up by the chin and
looked pleadingly into the big brown eyes.
“Thou art not angry with me, father?”
“No, Hannah. But thou shouldst have told me from the
“T always meant to, father. But I feared to grieve thee.”
“Wherefore? The manisa Jew. And thou lovest him, dost
“ As my life, father.”
He kissed her lips.
“Tt is enough, my Hannah. With thee to love him, he will
become pious. When a man has a good Jewish wife like my
beloved daughter, who will keep a good Jewish house, he cannot
be long among the sinners. The light of a true Jewish home
will lead his footsteps back to God.”
Hannah pressed her face to his in silence. She could not
speak. She had not strength to undeceive him further, to tell
him she had no care for trivial forms. Besides, in the flush of
gratitude and surprise at her father’s tolerance, she felt stirrings
of responsive tolerance to his religion. It was not the moment
to analyze her feelings or to enunciate her state of mind regard-
ing religion. She simply let herself sink in the sweet sense of
restored confidence and love, her head resting against his.
Presently Reb Shemuel put his hands on her head and mur-
234 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
mured again: “ May God make thee as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel
Then he added: “Go now, my daughter, and make glad the
heart of thy mother.”
Hannah suspected a shade of satire in the words, but was not
* * * * * * * * * *
The roaring Sambatyon of life was at rest in the Ghetto; on
thousands of squalid homes the light of Sinai shone. The
Sabbath Angels whispered words of hope and comfort to the
foot-sore hawker and the aching machinist, and refreshed their
parched souls with celestial anodyne and made them kings of
the hour, with leisure to dream of the golden chairs that awaited
them, in Paradise.
The Ghetto welcomed the Bride with proud song and humble
feast, and sped her parting with optimistic symbolisms of fire
and wine, of spice and light and shadow. All around their
neighbors sought distraction in the blazing public-houses, and
their tipsy bellowings resounded through the streets and mingled
with the Hebrew hymns. Here and there the voice of a beaten
woman rose on the air. But no Son of the Covenant was among
the revellers or the wife-beaters; the Jews remained a chosen
race, a peculiar people, faulty enough, but redeemed at least from
the grosser vices, a little human islet won from the waters of
animalism by the genius of ancient engineers. For while the
genius of the Greek or the Roman, the Egyptian or the Pheeni-
cian, survives but in word and stone, the Hebrew word alone
was made flesh.
WITH THE STRIKERS.
“IGNORANT donkey-heads !” cried Pinchas next Friday morn-
ing. “Him they make a Rabbi and give him the right of
answering questions, and he know no more of Judaism,” the
patriotic poet paused to take a bite out of his ham-sandwich,
WITH THE STRIKERS. 235
“than a cow of Sunday. I lof his daughter and I tell him so
and he tells me she lof another. But I haf held him up on the
point of my pen to the contempt of posterity. I haf written an
acrostic on him; it is terrible. Her vill I shoot.”
“ Ah, they are a bad lot, these Rabbis,” said Simon Wolf, sip-
ping his sherry. The conversation took place in English and
the two men were seated in a small private room in a public-
house, awaiting the advent of the Strike Committee.
“Dey are like de rest of de Community. I vash my hands of
dem,” said the poet, waving his cigar in a fiery crescent.
“T have long since washed my hands of them,” said Simon
Wolf, though the fact was not obvious. “ We can trust neither
our Rabbis nor our philanthropists. The Rabbis engrossed in
the hypocritical endeavor to galvanize the corpse of Judaism
into a vitality that shall last at least their own lifetime, have
neither time nor thought for the great labor question. Our
philanthropists do but scratch the surface. They give the work-
ing-man with their right hand what they have stolen from him
with the left.”
Simon Wolf was the great Jewish labor leader. Most of his
cronies were rampant atheists, disgusted with the commercialism
of the believers. They were clever young artisans from Russia
and Poland with a smattering of education, a feverish receptive-
ness for all the iconoclastic ideas that were in the London air,
a hatred of capitalism and strong social sympathies. They wrote
vigorous jargon for the /7zend of Labor and compassed the ex-
treme proverbial limits of impiety by “eating pork on the Day of
Atonement.” This was done partly to vindicate their religious
opinions whose correctness was demonstrated by the non-appear-
ance of thunderbolts, partly to show that nothing one way or the
other was to be expected from Providence or its professors.
“The only way for our poor brethren to be saved from their
slavery,” went on Simon Wolf, “is for them to combine against
the sweaters and to let the West-End Jews go and hang them-
“ Ah, dat is mine policee,” said Pinchas, “dat was mine
policee ven I founded de Holy Land League. Help yourselves
236 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
and Pinchas vill help you. You muz combine, and den I vill be
de Moses to lead you out of de land of bondage. Vez, 1 vili
be more dan Moses, for he had not de gift of eloquence.”
“And he was the meekest man that ever lived,” added Wolf.
“Yes, he was a fool-man,” said Pinchas imperturbably. “I
agree with Goethe—xur Lumpen sind bescheiden, only clods
are modaist. I am not modaist. Is the Almighty modaist?
I know, I feel vat I am, vat I can do.”
“Look here, Pinchas, you’re a very clever fellow, 1 know, and
I’m very glad to have you with us — but remember I have organ-
ized this movement for years, planned it out as I sat toiling in
Belcovitch’s machine-room, written on it till I’ve got the cramp,
spoken on it till I was hoarse, given evidence before innumer-
able Commissions. It is I who have stirred up the East-End
Jews and sent the echo of their cry into Parliament, and I will
not be interfered with. Do you hear?”
“Yes, I hear. Vy you not listen to me? You no understand
vat I mean!”
“Oh, I understand you well enough. You want to oust me
from my position.”
“Me? Me?” repeated the poet in an injured and astonished
tone. “Vy midout you de movement vould crumble like a
mummy in de air; be not such a fool-man. To everybody I haf
said —ah, dat Simon Wolf he is a great man, a vair great man;
he is de only man among de English Jews who can save de East-
End; it is he that should be member for Vitechapel— not that
fool-man Gideon. Be not such a fool-man! Haf anoder glaz
sherry and some more ham-sandwiches.” The poet hada simple
child-like delight in occasionally assuming the host.
“Very well, so long as I have your assurance,” said the molli-
fied labor-leader, mumbling the conclusion of the sentence into
his wine-glass. “But you know how it is! After I have worked
the thing for years, I don’t want to see a drone come in and take
“Yes, sic vos non vobis, as the Talmud says. Do you know I
haf proved that Virgil stole all his ideas from the Talmud?”
“First there was Black and then there was Cohen — now Gid-
WITH THE STRIKERS. 237
eon, M.P., sees he can get some advertisement out of it in the
press, he wants to preside at the meetings. Members of Parlia-
ment are a bad lot!”
“Yes — but dey shall not take de credit from you. I will
write and expose dem — the world shall know what humbugs
dey are, how de whole wealthy West-End stood idly by with
her hands in de working-men’s pockets while you vere building
up de great organization. You know all de jargon-papers jump
at vat I write, dey sign my name in vair large type — Melchit-
sedek Pinchas — under everyting, and I am so pleased with deir
homage, I do not ask for payment, for dey are vair poor. By -
dis time I am famous everywhere, my name has been in de even-
ing papers, and ven I write about you to de Zzmes, you vill be-
come as famous as me. And den you vill write about me—ve
vill put up for Vitechapel at de elections, ve vill both become
membairs of Parliament, I and you, eh?”
“’m afraid there’s not much chance of that,” sighed Simon
“Vy not? Dere are two seats. Vy should you not haf de
“Ain't you forgetting about election expenses, Pinchas?”
“Vein! repeated the poet emphatically. “I forgets noding.
Ve vill start a fund.”
“ We can’t start funds for ourselves.”
“Be not a fool-man; of course not. You for me, I for you.”
“You won’t get much,” said Simon, laughing ruefully at the
“Tink not? Praps not. But you vill for me. Ven Iam in
Parliament, de load vill be easier for us both. Besides I vill go
to de Continent soon to give avay de rest of de copies of my
book. I expect to make dousands of pounds by it—for dey
know how to honor scholars and poets abroad. Dere dey haf
not stupid-head stockbrokers like Gideon, M.P., ministers like
the Reverend Elkan Benjamin who keep four mistresses, and
Rabbis like Reb Shemuel vid long white beards outside and
emptiness vidin who sell deir daughters.”
“T don’t want to look so far ahead,” said Simon Wolf. “At
238 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
present, what we have to do is to carry this strike through.
Once we get our demands from the masters a powerful blow will
have been struck for the emancipation of ten thousand working-
men. They will have more money and more leisure, a little
less of hell and a little more of heaven. The coming Passover
would, indeed, be an appropriate festival even for the most het-
erodox among them if we could strike off their chains in the
interim. But it seems impossible to get unity among them—a
large section appears to mistrust me, though I swear to you,
Pinchas, I am actuated by nothing but an unselfish desire for
their good. May this morsel of sandwich choke me if I have
ever been swayed by anything but sympathy with their wrongs.
And yet you saw that malicious pamphlet that was circulated
against me in Yiddish — silly, illiterate scribble.”
“Oh, no!” said Pinchas. “It was vair beautiful; sharp as de
sting of de hornet. But vat can you expect? Christ suffered.
All great benefactors suffer. Am / happy? But it is only your
own foolishness that you must tank if dere is dissension in de
camp. De Gomorah says ve muz be vize, chocham ; ve muz haf
tact. See vat you haf done. You haf frighten avay de ortodox
fool-men. Dey are oppressed, dey sweat —but dey tink deir
God make dem sweat. Why you tell dem, no? Vat mattairs?
Free dem from hunger and tirst first, den freedom from deir
fool-superstitions vill come of itself. Jeshurun vax fat and kick?
Hey? You go de wrong vay.”
“Do you mean I’m to pretend to be froom,” said Simon
“And ven? Vat mattairs? You area fool, man. To get to
de goal one muz go crooked vays. Ah, you have no stadesman-
ship. You frighten dem. You lead processions vid bands and
banners on Shabbos to de Shools. Many who vould be glad to
be delivered by you tremble for de heavenly lightning. Dey go
not in de procession. Many go when deir head is on fire —
afterwards, dey take fright and beat deir breasts. Vat vill hap-
pen? De ortodox are de majority; in time dere vill come a
leader who vill be, or pretend to be, ortodox as vell as socialist.
Den vat become of you?- You are left vid von, two, tree ateists
WITH THE STRIKERS. 239
— not enough to make Mznyan. No, ve muz be chocham, ve
muz take de men as ve find dem. God has made two classes of
men — vise-men and fool-men. Dere is one vise-man to a mill-
ion fool-men — and he sits on deir head and dey support him.
If dese fool-men vant to go to Shool and to fast on Vom Kippur,
vat for you make a feast of pig and shock dem, so dey not be-
lieve in your socialism? Ven you vant to eat pig, you do it here,
like ve do now, in private. In public, ve spit out ven ve see pig.
Ah, you area fool-man. I ama stadesman, a politician. I vill
be de Machiavelli of de movement.”
“Ah, Pinchas, you are a devil of a chap,” said Wolf, laughing.
“ And yet you say you are the poet of patriotism and Palestine.”
“Vy not? Vy should we lif here in captivity? Vy we shall
not have our own state—and our own President, a man who
combine deep politic vid knowledge of Hebrew literature and de
pen of a poet. No, let us fight to get back our country — ve vill
not hang our harps on the villows of Babylon and veep — ve vill
take our swords vid Ezra and Judas Maccabeeus, and —”
“One thing at a time, Pinchas,” said Simon Wolf. “At pres-
ent, we have to consider how to distribute these food-tickets.
The committee-men are late; I wonder if there has been any
fighting at the centres, where they have been addressing meet-
“ Ah, dat is anoder point,” said Pinchas. “ Vy you no let me
address meetings — not de little ones in de street, but de great
ones in de hall of de Club? Dere my vords vould rush like de
moundain dorrents, sveeping avay de corruptions. But you let
all dese fool-men talk. You know, Simon, I and you are de only
two persons in de East-End who speak Ainglish properly.”
“I know. But these speeches must be in Yiddish.”
“ Gewiss. But who speak her like me and you? You muz gif
me a speech to-night.”
“T can’t; really not,” said Simon. “The programme’s ar-
2 ranged. You know they’re all jealous of me already. I dare
not leave one out.”
“Ah, no; do not say dat!” said Pinchas, laying his finger
pleadingly on the side of his nose.
240 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“ You tear my heart in two. I lof you like a brother — almost
like a voman. Just von!” There was an appealing smile in his
“TI cannot. I shall have a hornet’s nest about my ears.”
“Von leedle von, Simon Wolf!” Again his finger was on
“It is impossible.”
“You haf not considair how my Yiddish shall make kindle
every heart, strike tears from every eye, as Moses did from de
“T have. Iknow. But what am I to do?”
“Jus dis leedle favor; and I vill be gradeful to you all mine
“You know I would if I could.”
Pinchas’s finger was laid more insistently on his nose.
“Just dis vonce. Grant me dis, and I vill nevair ask anyding
of you in all my life.”
“No,no. Don’t bother, Pinchas. Go away now,” said Wolf,
getting annoyed. “I have lots to do.”
“T vill never gif you mine ideas again!” said the poet, flashing
up, and he went out and banged the door.
The labor-leader settled to his papers with a sigh of relief.
The relief was transient. A moment afterwards the door was
slightly opened, and Pinchas’s head was protruded through the
aperture. The poet wore his most endearing smile, the finger
was laid coaxingly against the nose.
“ Just von leedle speech, Simon. Tink how I lof you.”
“Oh, well, go away. I'll see,” replied Wolf, laughing amid
all his annoyance.
The poet rushed in and kissed the hem of Wolf’s coat.
“Oh, you be a great man!” he said. Then he walked out,
closing the door gently. A moment afterwards, a vision of the
dusky head, with the carneying smile and the finger on the nose,
“You von’t forget your promise,” said the head.
“No, no. Go to the devil. I won't forget.”
WITH THE STRIKERS. 241
Pinchas walked home through streets thronged with excited
strikers, discussing the situation with oriental exuberance of
gesture, with any one who would listen. The demands of these
poor slop-hands (who could only count upon six hours out of
the twenty-four for themselves, and who, by the help of their
wives and little ones in finishing, might earn a pound a week)
were moderate enough — hours from eight to eight, with an hour
for dinner and half an hour for tea, two shillings from the gov-
ernment contractors for making a policeman’s great-coat instead
of one and ninepence halfpenny, and so on andsoon. Their
intentions were strictly peaceful. Every face was stamped with
the marks of intellect and ill-health — the hue of a muddy pallor
relieved by the flash of eyes and teeth. Their shoulders stooped,
their chests were narrow, their arms flabby. They came in their
hundreds to the hall at night. It was square-shaped with a stage
and galleries, for a jargon-company sometimes thrilled the Ghetto
with tragedy and tickled it with farce. Both species were play-
ing to-night, and in jargon to boot. In real life you always get
your drama mixed, and the sock of comedy galls the buskin of
tragedy. It was an episode in the pitiful tussle of hunger and
greed, yet its humors were grotesque enough.
Full as the Hall was, it was not crowded, for it was F riday
night and a large contingent of strikers refused to desecrate the
Sabbath by attending the meeting. But these were the zealots
— Moses Ansell among them, for he, too, had struck. Having
been out of work already he had nothing to lose by augmenting
the numerical importance of the agitation. The moderately
pious argued that there was no financial business to transact and
attendance could hardly come under the denomination of work.
It was rather analogous to attendance at a lecture —they would
simply have to listen to speeches. Besides it would be but a
black Sabbath at home with a barren larder, and they had already
been to synagogue. Thus degenerates ancient piety in the stress
of modern social problems. Some of the men had not even
changed their everyday face for their Sabbath countenance by
washing it. Some wore collars, and shiny threadbare garments
of dignified origin, others were unaffectedly poverty-stricken with
242 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
dingy shirt-cuffs peeping out of frayed sleeve edges and un-
healthily colored scarfs folded complexly round their necks. A
minority belonged to the Free-thinking party, but the majority
only availed themselves of Wolf’s services because they were
indispensable. For the moment he was the only possible leader,
and they were sufficiently Jesuitic to use the Devil himself for
Though Wolf would not give up a Friday-night meeting —
especially valuable, as permitting of the attendance of tailors
who had not yet struck — Pinchas’s politic advice had not failed
to make an impression. Like so many reformers who have
started with blatant atheism, he was beginning to see the in-
significance of irreligious dissent as compared with the solution
of the social problem, and Pinchas’s seed had fallen on ready
soil. As a labor-leader, pure and simple, he could count upon a
far larger following than asa preacher of militant impiety. He
resolved to keep his atheism in the background for the future
and devote himself to the enfranchisement of the body before
tampering with the soul. He was too proud ever to acknowl-
edge his indebtedness to the poet’s suggestion, but he felt grate-
ful to him all the same.
“My brothers,” he said in Yiddish, when his turn came to
speak. “It pains me much to note how disunited we are. The
capitalists, the Belcovitches, would rejoice if they but knew all
that is going on. Have we not enemies enough that we must
quarrel and split up into little factions among ourselves? (Hear,
hear.) How can we hope to succeed unless we are thoroughly
organized? It has come to my ears that there are men who
insinuate things even about me and before I go on further
to-night I wish to put this question to you.” He paused and
there was a breathless silence. The orator threw his chest
forwards and gazing fearlessly at the assembly cried in a sten-
“Sind sie zufrieden mit threr Chairman?” (Are you satis-
fied with your chairman ?)
His audacity made an impression. The discontented cowered
timidly in their places.
WITH THE STRIKERS. 243
“ Yes,” rolled back from the assembly, proud of its English
“ (Vein,” cried a solitary voice from the topmost gallery.
Instantly the assembly was on its legs, eyeing the dissen-
tient angrily. “Get down! Go on the platform!” mingled
with cries of “order” from the Chairman, who in vain sum-
moned him on to the stage. The dissentient waved a roll of
paper violently and refused to modify his standpoint. He was
evidently speaking, for his jaws were making movements, which
in the din and uproar could not rise above grimaces. There
was a battered high hat on the back of his head, and his hair
was uncombed, and his face unwashed. At last silence was
restored and the tirade became audible.
“ Cursed sweaters — capitalists — stealing men’s brains — leav-
ing us to rot and starve in darkness and filth. Curse them!
Curse them!” The speaker’s voice rose to a hysterical scream,
as he rambled on.
Some of the men knew him and soon there flew from lip to
lip, “Oh, it’s only Meshuggene Dovid.”
Mad Davy was a gifted Russian university student, who had
been mixed up with nihilistic conspiracies and had fled to Eng-
land where the struggle to find employ for his clerical talents
had addled his brain. He had a gift for chess and mechanical
invention, and in the early days had saved himself from star-
vation by the sale of some ingenious patents to a swaggering
co-religionist who owned race-horses and a music-hall, but he
sank into squaring the circle and inventing perpetual motion.
He lived now on the casual crumbs of indigent neighbors, for
the charitable organizations had marked him “dangerous.”
He was a man of infinite loquacity, with an intense jealousy of
Simon Wolf or any such uninstructed person who assumed
to lead the populace, but when the assembly accorded him
his hearing he forgot the occasion of his rising in a burst of
passionate invective against society.
When the irrelevancy of his remarks became apparent, he
was rudely howled down and his neighbors pulled him into his
seat, where he gibbered and mowed inaudibly.
244 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
Wolf continued his address.
“Sind sie zufrieden mit ihrer Secretary ?”
This time there was no dissent. The “Yes” came like
“ Sind sie zufrieden mit threr Treasurer ?”
Yeas and zays mingled. The question of the retention
of the functionary was put to the vote. But there was much
confusion, for the East-End Jew is only slowly becoming a
political animal. The ayes had it, but Wolf was not yet
satisfied with the satisfaction of the gathering. He repeated
the entire batch of questions in a new formula so as to drive
“ Hot aner etwas zu sagen gegen mir?” Which is Yiddish
for “has anyone anything to say against me?”
“ Vo!” came in a vehement roar.
“ Hot aner etwas 2u sagen gegen dem secretary ?”
“‘ Hot aner etwas su sagen gegen dem treasurer 2”
Having thus shown his grasp of logical exhaustiveness in
a manner unduly exhausting to the more intelligent, Wolf
consented to resume his oration. He had scored a victory,
and triumph lent him added eloquence. When he ceased he
left his audience in a frenzy of resolution and loyalty. In
the flush of conscious power and freshly added influence, he
found a niche for Pinchas’s oratory.
“ Brethren in exile,” said the poet in his best Yiddish.
Pinchas spoke German which is an outlandish form of Yiddish
and scarce understanded of the people, so that to be intelligible
he had to divest himself of sundry inflections, and to throw gen-
der to the winds and to say “wet” for “wird” and mix hybrid
Hebrew and ill-pronounced English with his vocabulary. There
was some cheering as Pinchas tossed his dishevelled locks and
addressed the gathering, for everybody to whom he had ever
spoken knew that he was a wise and learned man and a great
singer in Israel.
“Brethren in exile,” said the poet. “The hour has come for
WITH THE STRIKERS. 245
laying the sweaters low. Singly we are sand-grains, together
we are the simoom. Our great teacher, Moses, was the first
Socialist. The legislation of the Old Testament — the land
laws, the jubilee regulations, the tender care for the poor, the
subordination of the rights of property to the interests of the
working-men — all this is pure Socialism! ”
The poet paused for the cheers which came in a mighty vol-
ume. Few of those present knew what Socialism was, but
all knew the word as a shibboleth of salvation from sweaters.
Socialism meant shorter hours and higher wages and was obtain-
able by marching with banners and brass bands — what need to
“Tn short,” pursued the poet, “Socialism is Judaism and Juda-
ism is Socialism, and Karl Marx and Lassalle, the founders of
Socialism, were Jews. Judaism does not bother with the next
world. It says, ‘Eat, drink and be satisfied and thank the
Lord, thy God, who brought thee out of Egypt from the land
of bondage.’ But we have nothing to eat, we have nothing to
drink, we have nothing to be satisfied with, we are still in the
land of bondage.” (Cheers.) ‘“ My brothers, how can we keep
Judaism ina land where there is no Socialism? We must be-
come better Jews, we must bring on Socialism, for the period
of Socialism on earth and of peace and plenty and brotherly
love is what all our prophets and great teachers meant by
A little murmur of dissent rose here and there, but Pinchas
went on. ~
“When Hillel the Great summed up the law to the would-be
proselyte while standing on one leg, how did he express it?
‘Do not unto others what you would not have others do unto
you.’ This is Socialism in a nut-shell. Do not keep your °
riches for yourself, spread them abroad. Do not fatten on the
labor of the poor, but share it. Do not eat the food others
have earned, but earn your own. Yes, brothers, the only true
Jews in England are the Socialists. Phylacteries, praying-
shawls —all nonsense. Work for Socialism — that pleases the
Almighty. The Messiah will be a Socialist.”
246 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
There were mingled sounds, men asking each other dubiously,
“What says he?” They began to sniff brimstone. Wolf, shift-
ing uneasily on his chair, kicked the poet’s leg in reminder of his
own warning. But Pinchas’s head was touching the stars again.
Mundane considerations were left behind somewhere in the
depths of space below his feet.
“ But how is the Messiah to redeem his people?” he asked.
“ Not now-a-days by the sword but by the tongue. He will
plead the cause of Judaism, the cause of Socialism, in Parliament.
He will not come with mock miracle like Bar Cochba or Zevi.
At the general election, brothers, I will stand as the candidate
for Whitechapel. I, a poor man, one of yourselves, will take my
stand in that mighty assembly and touch the hearts of the legis-
lators. They shall bend before my oratory as the bulrushes of
the Nile when the wind passes. They will make me Prime Min-
ister like Lord Beaconsfield, only he was no true lover of his
people, he was not the Messiah. To hell with the rich bankers
and the stockbrokers — we want them not. We will free our-
The extraordinary vigor of the poet’s language and gestures
told. Only half comprehending, the majority stamped and
huzzahed. Pinchas swelled visibly. His slim, lithe form, five
and a quarter feet high, towered over the assembly. His com-
plexion was as burnished copper, his eyes flashed flame.
“Yes, brethren,” he resumed. “These Anglo-Jewish. swine
trample unheeding on the pearls of poetry and scholarship, they
choose for Ministers men with four mistresses, for Chief Rabbis
hypocrites who cannot even write the holy tongue grammatically,
for Dayanim men who sell their daughters to the rich, for Mem-
bers of Parliament stockbrokers who cannot speak English, for
* philanthropists greengrocers who embezzle funds. Let us have
nothing to do with these swine — Moses our teacher forbade it.
(Laughter.) I will be the Member for Whitechapel. See, my
name Melchitsedek Pinchas already makes M. P. — it was fore-
ordained. If every letter of the Zora has its special meaning,
and none was put by chance, why should the finger of heaven
not have written my name thus: M. P. — Melchitsedek Pinchias.
WITH THE STRIKERS. 247
Ah, our brother Wolf speaks truth —wisdom issues from his lips.
Put aside your petty quarrels and unite in working for my elec-
tion to Parliament. Thus and thus only shall you be redeemed
from bondage, made from beasts of burden into men, from slaves
to citizens, from false Jews to true Jews. Thus and thus only
shall you eat, drink and be satisfied, and thank me for bringing
you out of the land of bondage. Thus and thus only shall
Judaism cover the world as the waters cover the sea.”
The fervid peroration overbalanced the audience, and from all
sides except the platform applause warmed the poet’s ears. He
resumed his seat, and as he did so he automatically drew out a
match and a cigar, and lit the one with the other. Instantly the
applause dwindled, died; there was a moment of astonished
silence, then a roar of execration. The bulk of the audience, as
Pinchas, sober, had been shrewd enough to see, was still ortho-
dox. This public desecration of the Sabbath by smoking was
intolerable. How should the God of Israel aid the spread of
Socialism and the shorter hours movement and the rise of prices
a penny on a coat, if such devil’s incense were borne to His
nostrils? Their vague admiration of Pinchas changed into defi-
nite distrust. “Zfzkouros, Epikouros, Meshumad,” resounded
from all sides. The poet looked wonderingly about him, failing
to grasp the situation. Simon Wolf saw his opportunity. With
an angry jerk he knocked the glowing cigar from between the
poet’s teeth. There was a yell of delight and approbation.
Wolf jumped to his feet. “ Brothers,” he roared, “ you know
I am not froom, but I will not have anybody else’s feelings
trampled upon.” So saying, he ground the cigar under his
Immediately an abortive blow from the poet’s puny arm
swished the air. Pinchas was roused, the veins on his forehead
swelled, his heart thumped rapidly in his bosom. Wolf shook
his knobby fist laughingly at the poet, who made no further
effort to use any other weapon of offence but his tongue.
“Hypocrite!” he shrieked. “Liar! Machiavelli! Child of
the separation! A black year on thee! An evil spirit in thy
bones and in the bones of thy father and mother. Thy father
248 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO,
was a proselyte and thy mother an abomination. The curses of
Deuteronomy light on thee. Mayest thou become covered with
boils like Job! And you,” he added, turning on the audience,
“pack of Men-of-the-earth! Stupid animals! How much longer
will you bend your neck to the yoke of superstition while your
bellies are empty? Who says I shall not smoke? Was tobacco
known to Moses our Teacher? If so he would have enjoyed it
on the Shabjos. He was a wise man like me. Did the Rabbis
know of it? No, fortunately, else they were so stupid they
would have forbidden it. You are all so ignorant that you
think not of these things. Can any one show me where it
stands that we must not smoke on Shabbos? Is not Shabbos a
day of rest, and how can we rest if we smoke not? I believe
with the Baal-Shem that God is more pleased when I smoke my
cigar than at the prayers of all the stupid Rabbis. How dare
you rob me of my cigar —is that keeping Shadbos?” He turned
back to Wolf, and tried to push his foot from off the cigar.
There was a brief struggle. A dozen men leaped on the plat-
form and dragged the poet away from his convulsive clasp of the
labor-leader’s leg. A few opponents of Wolf on the platform
cried, “Let the man alone, give him his cigar,” and thrust them-
selves amongst the invaders. The hall was in tumult. From
the gallery the voice of Mad Davy resounded again:
“Cursed sweaters —stealing men’s brains—darkness and
filth —curse them! Blow them up! as we blew up Alexander.
Curse them!” :
Pinchas was carried, shrieking hysterically, and striving to
bite the arms of his bearers, through the tumultuous crowd,
amid a little ineffective opposition, and deposited outside the
Wolf made another speech, sealing the impression he had made.
Then the poor narrow-chested pious men went home through
the cold air to recite the Song of Solomon in their stuffy back-
rooms and garrets. “Behold thou art fair, my love,” they
intoned in a strange chant. “Behold thou art fair, thou hast
doves’ eyes. Behold thou art fair, my beloved, yea pleasant ;
also our couch is green. The beams of our-house are cedar and
THE HOPE EXTINCT. 249
our rafters are fir. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over
and gone; the flowers appear upon the earth; the time of the
singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle is heard in
our land. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with
pleasant fruits, calamus, cinnamon with all trees of frankincense ;
myrrh and aloe with all the chief spices; a fountain of gardens;
a well of living waters and streams from Lebanon. Awake, O
north wind and come, thou south, blow upon my garden that the
spices thereof may flow out.”
THE HOPE EXTINCT.
THE strike came to an end soon after. To the delight of Mel-
chitsedek Pinchas, Gideon, M. P., intervened at the eleventh
hour, unceremoniously elbowing Simon Wolf out of his central
position. A compromise was arranged and jubilance and tran-
quillity reigned for some months, till the corruptions of competi-
tive human nature brought back the old state of things — for
employers have quite a diplomatic reverence for treaties and the
brotherly love of employees breaks down under the strain of sup-
porting families. Rather to his own surprise Moses Ansell
found himself in work at least three days a week, the other three
being spent in hanging round the workshop waiting for it. It is
an uncertain trade, is the manufacture of slops, which was all
Moses was fitted for, but if you are not at hand you may miss
the “work” when it does come.
It never rains but it pours, and so more luck came to the
garret of No. 1 Royal Street. Esther won five pounds at school.
It was the Henry Goldsmith prize, a new annual prize for gen-
eral knowledge, instituted by a lady named Mrs. Henry Gold-
smith who had just joined the committee, and the semi-divine
person herself—a surpassingly beautiful radiant being, like a
princess in a fairy tale— personally congratulated her upon her
success. The money was not available for a year, but the neigh-
bors hastened to congratulate the family on its rise to wealth.
250 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
Even Levi Jacob’s visits became more frequent, though this
could scarcely be ascribed to mercenary motives.
The Belcovitches recognized their improved status so far as to
send to borrow some salt; for the colony of No. 1 Royal Street
carried on an extensive system of mutual accommodation, coals,
potatoes, chunks of bread, saucepans, needles, wood-choppers, all
passing daily to and fro. Even garments and jewelry were lent
on great occasions, and when that dear old soul Mrs. Simons
went to a wedding she was decked out in contributions from a
dozen wardrobes. The Ansells themselves were too proud to
borrow though they were not above lending.
It was early morning and Moses in his big phylacteries was
droning his orisons. His mother had had an attack of spasms
and so he was praying at home to be at hand in case of need.
Everybody was up, and Moses was superintending the household
even while he was gabbling psalms. He never minded breaking
off his intercourse with Heaven to discuss domestic affairs, for
he was on free and easy terms with the powers that be, and
there was scarce a prayer in the liturgy which he would not inter-
rupt to reprimand Solomon for lack of absorption in the same.
The exception was the Adah or eighteen Blessings, so-called
because there are twenty-two. This section must be said stand-
ing and inaudibly and when Moses was engaged upon it, a mes-
sage from an earthly monarch would have extorted no reply from
him. There were other sacred silences which Moses would not
break save of dire necessity and then only by talking Hebrew ;
but the Amidah was the silence of silences. This was why the
utterly unprecedented arrival of a telegraph boy did not move him.
Not even Esther’s cry of alarm when she opened the telegram
had any visible effect upon him, though in reality he whispered
off his prayer at a record-beating rate and duly danced three
times on his toes with spasmodic celerity at the finale.
“Father,” said Esther, the never before received species of
letter trembling in her hand, “we must go at once to see Benjy.
He is very ill.”
“ Has he written to say so?”
“No, this is atelegram. I have read of such. Oh! perhaps
THE HOPE EXTINCT. 261
he is dead. It is always so in books. They break the news by
saying the dead are still alive.” Her tones died away in a sob.
The children clustered round her — Rachel and Solomon fought
for the telegram in their anxiety to read it. Ikey and Sarah
stood grave and interested. The sick grandmother sat up in
“He never showed me his ‘four corners,” she moaned.
“ Perhaps he did not wear the fringes at all.”
“Father, dost thou hear?” said Esther, for Moses Ansell was
fingering the russet envelope with a dazed air. “We must go to
the Orphanage at once.”
“Read it! What stands in the letter?” said Moses Ansell.
She took the telegram from the hands of Solomon. “It
stands, ‘Come up at once. Your son Benjamin very ill.’”
“Tu! Tu! Tu!” clucked Moses. “The poor child. But how
can we go up? Thou canst not walk there. It will take me
more than three hours.”
His praying-shawl slid from his shoulders in his agitation.
“Thou must not walk, either!” cried Esther excitedly. “We
must get to him at once! Who knows if he will be alive when
we come? We must go by train from London Bridge the way
Benjy came that Sunday. Oh, my poor Benjy!”
“Give me back the paper, Esther,” interrupted Solomon, taking
it from her limp hand. “The boys have never seen a telegram.”
“But we cannot spare the money,” urged Moses helplessly.
“We have just enough money to get along with to-day. Solo-
mon, go on with thy prayers; thou seizest every excuse to
interrupt them. Rachel, go away from him. Thou art also a
disturbing Satan to him. I do not wonder his teacher flogged
him black and blue yesterday — he is a stubborn and rebellious
son who should be stoned, according to Deuteronomy.”
“We must do without dinner,” said Esther impulsively.
Sarah sat down on the floor and howled “ Woe is me! Woe
“T didden touch ’er,” cried Ikey in indignant bewilderment.
“°Tain’t Ikey!” sobbed Sarah. “Little Tharah wants ’er
252 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Thou hearest?” said Moses pitifully. “How can we spare
“How much is it?” asked Esther.
“It will be a shilling each there and back,” replied Moses, who
from his long periods of peregrination was a connoisseur in
fares. “ How can we afford it when I lose a morning’s work into
“No, what talkest thou?” said Esther. “Thou art looking a
few months ahead — thou deemest perhaps, I am already twelve.
It will be only sixpence for me.”
Moses did not disclaim the implied compliment to his rigid
honesty but answered :
“Where is my head? Of course thou goest half-price. But
even so where is the eighteenpence to come from?”
“But it is not eighteenpence!” ejaculated Esther with a new
inspiration. Necessity was sharpening her wits to extraordinary
acuteness. “ We need nottake return tickets. Wecan walk back.”
“But we cannot be so long away from the mother — both of
us,” said Moses. “She, too, is ill. And how will the children
do without thee? I will go by myself.”
“No, I must see Benjy! ” Esther cried.
“Be not so stiff-necked, Esther! Besides, it stands in the
letter that I am to come — they do not ask thee. Who knows
that the great people will not be angry if I bring thee with me?
I dare say Benjamin will soon be better. He cannot have been
“But, quick, then, father, quick!” cried Esther, yielding to
the complex difficulties of the position. “Go at once.”
“Immediately, Esther. Wait only till I have finished my
prayers. I am nearly done.”
“No! No!” cried Esther agonized. “Thou prayest so much
— God will let thee off a little bit just for once. Thou must go
at once and ride both ways, else how shall we know what has
happened? I will pawn my new prize and that will give thee
“Good!” said Moses. “While thou art pledging the book I
shall have time to finish davening.” He hitched up his Zalth
THE HOPE EXTINCT. 253
and commenced to gabble off, “ Happy are they who dwell in
Thy house; ever shall they praise Thee, Selah,” and was
already saying, “ And a Redeemer shall come unto Zion,” by the
time Esther rushed out through the door with the pledge. It
was a gaudily bound volume called “ Treasures of Science,” and
Esther knew it almost by heart, having read it twice from gilt
cover to gilt cover. All the same, she would miss it sorely.
The pawnbroker lived only round the corner, for like the pub-
lican he springs up wherever the conditions are favorable.
He was a Christian; by a curious anomaly the Ghetto does not
supply its own pawnbrokers, but sends them out to the provinces
or the West End. Perhaps the business instinct dreads the
solicitation of the racial.
Esther’s pawnbroker was a rubicund portly man. He knew
the fortunes of a hundred families by the things left with him or
taken back. It was on his stuffy shelves that poor Benjamin’s
coat had lain compressed and packed away when it might have
had a beautiful airing in the grounds of the Crystal Palace. It
was from his stuffy shelves that Esther’s mother had redeemed
it—a day after the fair—soon to be herself compressed and
packed away in a pauper’s coffin, awaiting in silence whatsoever
Redemption might be. The best coat itself had long since
been sold to a ragman, for Solomon, upon whose back it de-
volved, when Benjamin was so happily translated, could never
be got to keep a best coat longer than a year, and when a best
coat is degraded to every-day wear its attrition is much more
than six times as rapid.
“Good mornen, my little dear,” said the rubicund man.
“You're early this mornen.” The apprentice had, indeed, only
just taken down the shutters. “What can I do for you to-day?
You look pale, my dear; what’s the matter?”
“T have a bran-new seven and sixpenny book,” she answered
hurriedly, passing it to him.
He turned instinctively to the fly-leaf.
“ Bran-new book!” he said contemptuously. “ ‘Esther Ansell
— For improvement!’ When a book’s spiled like that, what can
you expect for it?”
254 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Why, it’s the inscription that makes it valuable,” said Esther
“‘ Maybe,” said the rubicund man gruffly. “ But d’yer suppose
I should just find a buyer named Esther Ansell? Do you sup-
pose everybody in the world’s named Esther Ansell or is capable
“No,” breathed Esther dolefully. “But I shall take it out
“In this world,” said the rubicund man, shaking his head
sceptically, “there ain’t never no knowing. Well, how much
“T only want a shilling,” said Esther, “and threepence,” she
added as a happy thought.
“All right,” said the rubicund man softened. “I won’t
’aggle this mornen. You look quite knocked up. Here you
are!” and Esther darted out of the shop with the money
clasped tightly in her palm.
Moses had folded his phylacteries with pious primness and
put them away in a little bag, and he was hastily swallowing
a cup of coffee.
“ Here is the shilling,” she cried. “And twopence extra for
the bus to London Bridge. Quick!” She put the ticket away
carefully among its companions in a discolored leather purse her
father had once picked up in the street, and hurried him off.
When his steps ceased on the stairs, she yearned to run after
him and go with him, but Ikey was clamoring for breakfast and
the children had to run off to school. She remained at home
herself, for the grandmother groaned heavily. When the other
children had gone off she tidied up the vacant bed and smoothed
the old woman’s pillows. Suddenly Benjamin’s reluctance to
have his father exhibited before his new companions recurred to
her; she hoped Moses would not be needlessly obtrusive and
felt that if she had gone with him she might have supplied tact
in this direction. She reproached herself for not having made
him a-bit more presentable. She should have spared another
halfpenny for a new collar, and seen that he was washed; but
in the rush and alarm all thoughts of propriety had been sub-
THE HOPE EXTINCT. 255
merged. Then her thoughts went off at a tangent and she saw
her class-room, where new things were being taught, and new
marks gained. It galled her to think she was missing both.
She felt so lonely in the company of her grandmother, she could
have gone downstairs and cried on Dutch Debby’s musty lap.
Then she strove to picture the room where Benjy was lying, but
her imagination lacked the data. She would not let herself
think the brilliant Benjamin was dead, that he would be sewn
up in a shroud just like his poor mother, who had “no literary
talent whatever, but she wondered whether he was groaning like
the grandmother. And so, half distracted, pricking up her ears
at the slightest creak on the stairs, Esther waited for news of
her Benjy. The hours dragged on and on, and the children
coming home at one found dinner ready but Esther still waiting.
A dusty sunbeam streamed in through the garret window as
though to give her hope.
Benjamin had been beguiled from his books into an unaccus-
tomed game of ball in the cold March air. He had taken off his
jacket and had got very hot with his unwonted exertions. A
reactionary chill followed. Benjamin had a slight cold, which
being ignored, developed rapidly into a heavy one, still without
inducing the energetic lad to ask to be put upon the sick list.
Was not the publishing day of Our Own at hand?
The cold became graver with the same rapidity, and almost as
soon as the boy had made complaint he was in a high fever, and
the official doctor declared that pneumonia had set in. In the
night Benjamin was delirious, and the nurse summoned the doc-
tor, and next morning his condition was so critical that his father
was telegraphed for. There was little to be done by science —
all depended on the patient’s constitution. Alas! the four years
of plenty and country breezes had not counteracted the eight and
three-quarter years of privation and foul air, especially in a lad
more intent on emulating Dickens and Thackeray than on profit-
ing by the advantages of his situation.
When Moses arrived he found his boy tossing restlessly in a
little bed, in a private little room away from the great dormitories.
“The matron” —a sweet-faced young lady — was bending: ten-
256 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
derly over him, and a nurse sat at the bedside. The doctor
stood — waiting —at the foot of the bed. Moses took his boy’s
hand. The matron silently stepped aside. Benjamin stared at
him with wide, unrecognizing eyes.
“ Nu, how goes it, Benjamin?” cried Moses in Yiddish, with
“Thank you, old Four-Eyes. It’s-very good of you to come.
I always said there mustn’t be any hits at you in the paper. I
always told the fellows you were a very decent chap.”
“What says he?” asked Moses, turning to the company. “I
cannot understand English.”
They could not understand his own question, but the matron
guessed it. She tapped her forehead and shook her head for
reply. Benjamin closed his eyes and there was silence. Pres-
ently he opened them and looked straight at his father. A
deeper crimson mantled on the flushed cheek as Benjamin beheld
the dingy stooping being to whom he owed birth. Moses wore
a dirty red scarf below his untrimmed beard, his clothes were
greasy, his face had not yet been washed, and— for a climax —
he had not removed his hat, which other considerations than
those of etiquette should have impelled him to keep out of sight.
“I thought you were old Four-Eyes,” the boy murmured in
confusion — “ Wasn’t he here just now?”
“Go and fetch Mr. Coleman,” said the matron to the nurse,
half-smiling through tears at her own knowledge of the teacher’s
nickname and wondering what endearing term she was herself
“Cheer up, Benjamin,” said his father, seeing his boy had
become sensible of his presence. “Thou wilt be all right soon.
Thou hast been much worse than this.”
“What does he say?” asked Benjamin, turning his eyes
towards the matron.
“ He says he is sorry to see you so bad,” said the matron, at a
“But I shall be up soon, won’t I? I can’t have Our Own
delayed,” whispered Benjamin.
* Don’t worry about Our Own, my poor boy,” murmured the
THE HOPE EXTINCT. 257
matron, pressing his forehead. Moses respectfully made way
“What says he?” he asked. The matron repeated the words,
but Moses could not understand the English.
Old Four-Eyes arrived —a mild spectacled young man. He
looked at the doctor, and the doctor’s eye told him all.
“Ah, Mr. Coleman,” said Benjamin, with joyous huskiness,
“you'll see that Our Own comes out this week as usual. Tell
Jack Simmonds he must not forget to rule black lines around the
page containing Bruno’s epitaph. Bony-nose-——1—I mean Mr.
Bernstein, wrote it for us in dog-Latin. Isn’t ita lark? Thick,
black lines, tell him. He was a good dog and only bit one boy
in his life.”
“All right. I'll see to it,” old Four-Eyes assured him with
answering huskiness. 4
“What says he?” helplessly inquired Moses, addressing him-
self to the newcomer.
“TIsn’t it a sad case, Mr. Coleman?” said the matron, in a low
tone. “They can’t understand each other.”
“You ought to keep an interpreter on the premises,” said the
doctor, blowing his nose. Coleman struggled with himself. He
knew the jargon to perfection, for his parents spoke it still, but
he had always posed as being ignorant of it.
“Tell my father to go home, and not to bother; I’m all right
—only a little weak,” whispered Benjamin.
Coleman was deeply perturbed. He was wondering whether
he should plead guilty to a little knowledge, when a change of
expression came over the wan face on the pillow. The doctor
came and felt the boy’s pulse.
“No, I don’t want to hear that Maaseh,” cried Benjamin.
“Tell me about the Sambatyon, father, which refuses to flow on
He spoke Yiddish, grown a child again. Moses’s face lit up
with joy. His eldest born had returned to intelligibility. There
was hope still then. A sudden burst of sunshine flooded the
room. In London the sun would not break through the clouds for
some hours. Moses leaned over the pillow, his face working with
258 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
blended emotions. He let a hot tear fall on his boy’s upturned
“Hush, hush, my little Benjamin, don’t cry,” said Benjamin,
and began to sing in his mother’s jargon:
“Sleep, little father, sleep,
Thy father shall be a Rav,
Thy mother shall bring little apples,
Blessings on thy little head.”
Moses saw his dead Gittel lulling his boy to sleep. Blinded
by his tears, he did not see that they were falling thick upon the
little white face.
“Nay, dry thy tears, I tell thee, my little Benjamin,” said
Benjamin, in tones more tender and soothing, and launched into
the strange wailing melody:
“ Alas, woe is me!
How wretched to be
Driven away and banished,
Yet so young, from thee.”
“ And Joseph’s mother called to him from the grave: Be com-
forted, my son, a great future shall be thine.”
“The end is near,” old Four-Eyes whispered to the father in
Moses trembled from head to foot. “My poor lamb! My
poor Benjamin,” he wailed. “I thought thou wouldst say
Kaddish after me, not I for thee.” Then he began to recite
quietly the Hebrew prayers. The hat he should have removed
was appropriate enough now.
Benjamin sat up excitedly in bed: “ There’s mother, Esther! ”
he cried in English. “Coming back with my coat. But what’s
the use of it now?”
His head fell back again. Presently a look of yearning came
over the face so full of boyish beauty. “Esther,” he said.
“Wouldn’t you like to be in the green country to-day? Look
how the sun shines.”
It shone, indeed, with deceptive warmth, bathing in gold the
THE FARGON PLAYERS. 259
green country that stretched beyond, and dazzling the eyes
of the dying boy. The birds twittered outside the window.
“Esther!” he said, wistfully, “do you think there'll be another
The matron burst into tears and turned away.
“Benjamin,” cried the father, frantically, thinking the end had
come, “say the Skemang.”
The boy stared at him, a clearer look in his eyes.
“Say the Shemang!” said Moses peremptorily. The word
Shemang, the old authoritative tone, penetrated the conscious-
ness of the dying boy.
“Yes, father, I was just going to,” he grumbled, submissively.
They repeated the last declaration of the dying Israelite to-
gether. It was in Hebrew. “ Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God,
the Lord is one.” Both understood that.
Benjamin lingered on a few more minutes, and died in a pain-
less torpor. |
“He is dead,” said the doctor. |
“Blessed be the true Judge,” said Moses. He rent his coat,
and closed the staring eyes. Then he went to the toilet table
and turned the looking-glass to the wall, and opened the win-
dow and emptied the jug of water upon the green sunlit grass.
THE JARGON PLAYERS.
“No, don’t stop me, Pinchas,” said Gabriel Hamburg. “I’m
packing up, and I shall spend my Passover in Stockholm. The
Chief Rabbi there has discovered a manuscript which I am anx-
ious to see, and as I have saved up a little money I shall speed
“Ah, he pays well, that boy-fool, Raphael Leon,” said Pin-
chas, emitting a lazy ring of smoke.
“What do you mean?” cried Gabriel, flushing angrily. “Do i
you mean, perhaps, that you have been getting money out of
260 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Precisely. That is what I do mean,” said the poet naively.
“Well, don’t let me hear you call him a fool. He zs one to
send you money, but then it is for others to call him so. That
boy will be a great man in Israel. The son of rich English
Jews—a Harrow-boy, yet he already writes Hebrew almost
Pinchas was aware of this fact; had he not written to the lad
(in response to a crude Hebrew eulogium and a crisp Bank of
England note) : “I and thou are the only two people in England
who write the Holy Tongue grammatically.”
He replied now: “It is true; soon he will vie with me and
The old scholar took snuff impatiently. The humors of Pin-
chas were beginning to pall upon him.
“Good-bye,” he said again.
“No, wait yet a little,” said Pinchas, buttonholing him reso-
lutely. “I want to show you my acrostic on Simon Wolf; ah!
I will shoot him, the miserable labor-leader, the wretch who
embezzles the money of the Socialist fools who trust him. Aha!
it will sting like Juvenal, that acrostic.”
“T haven't time,” said the gentle savant, beginning to lose his
“Well, have I time? I have to compose a three-act comedy
by to-morrow at noon. I expect I shall have to sit up all night
to get it done in time.” Then, anxious to complete the concili-
ation of the old snuff-and-pepper-box, as he mentally christened
him for his next acrostic, he added: “If there is anything in
this manuscript that you cannot decipher or understand, a letter
to me, care of Reb Shemuel, will always find me. Somehow I
have a special genius for filling up Zacune in manuscripts. You
remember the famous discovery that I made by rewriting the six
lines torn out of the first page of that Midrash I discovered in
“Yes, those six lines proved it thoroughly,” sneered the
“Aha! You see!” said the poet, a gratified smile pervading
THE FARGON PLAYERS. 261
his dusky features. “But I must tell you of this comedy — it
will be a satirical picture (in the style of Moliére, only sharper)
of Anglo-Jewish Society. The Rev. Elkan Benjamin, with his
four mistresses, they will all be there, and Gideon, the Man-of-
the-Earth, M. P.,— ah, it will be terrible. - If I could only get
them to see it performed, they should have free passes.”
“No, shoot them first; it would be more merciful. But where
is this comedy to be played?” asked Hamburg curiously.
“At the Jargon Theatre, the great theatre in Prince’s Street,
the only real national theatre in England. The English stage —
Drury Lane—pooh! It is not in harmony with the people; it
does not express them.”
Hamburg could not help smiling. He knew the wretched
little hall, since tragically famous for a massacre of innocents,
victims to the fatal cry of fire— more deadly than fiercest flame.
“But how will your audience understand it?” he asked.
“Aha!” said the poet, laying his finger on his nose and grin-
ning. “They will understand. They know the corruptions of
our society. All this conspiracy to crush me, to hound me out
of England so that ignoramuses may prosper and hypocrites
wax fat — do you think it is not the talk of the Ghetto? What!
Shall it be the talk of Berlin, of Constantinople, of Mogadore,
of Jerusalem, of Paris, and here it shall not be known? Besides,
the leading actress will speak a prologue. Ah! she is beautiful,
beautiful as Lilith, as the Queen of Sheba, as Cleopatra! And
how she acts!’ She and Rachel — both Jewesses! Think of it!
Ah, we are a great people. If I could tell you the secrets of her
eyes as she looks at me — but no, you are dry as dust, a creature
of prose! And there will be an orchestra, too, for Pesach Wein-
gott has promised to play the overture on his fiddle. How he
stirs the soul! It is like David playing before Saul.”
“Yes, but it won't be javelins the people will throw,” mur-
mured Hamburg, adding aloud: “I suppose you have written
the music of this overture.”
“No, I cannot write music,” said Pinchas.
“Good heavens! You don’t say so?” gasped Gabriel Ham-
burg. “Let that be my last recollection of you! No! Don’t
262 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
say another word! Don’t spoil it! Good-bye.” And he tore
himself away, leaving the poet bewildered.
“Mad! mad!” said Pinchas, tapping his brow significantly ;
“mad, the old snuff-and-pepper-box.” He smiled at the recol-
lection of his latest phrase. “These scholars stagnate so.
They see not enough of the women. Ha! I will go and see
He threw out his chest, puffed out a volume of smoke, and
took his way to Petticoat Lane. The compatriot of Rachel was
wrapping up a scrag of mutton. She was a butcher’s daughter
and did not even wield the chopper, as Mrs. Siddons is reputed
to have flourished the domestic table-knife. She was a simple,
amiable girl, who had stepped into the position of lead in the
stock jargon company as a way of eking out her pocket-money,
and because there was no one else who wanted the post. She
was rather plain except when be-rouged and be-pencilled. The
company included several tailors and tailoresses of talent, and
the low comedian was a Dutchman who sold herrings. They
all had the gift of improvisation more developed than memory,
and consequently availed themselves of the faculty that worked
easier. The repertory was written by goodness knew whom,
and was very extensive. It embraced all the species enumer-
ated by Polonius, including comic opera, which was not known
to the Danish saw-monger. There was nothing the company
would not have undertaken to play or have come out of with a
fair measure of success. Some of the plays were on Biblical sub-
jects, but only a minority. There were also plays in rhyme,
though Yiddish knows not blank verse. Melchitsedek accosted
his interpretess and made sheep’s-eyes at her. But an actress
who serves in a butcher’s shop is doubly accustomed to such,
and being busy the girl paid no attention to the poet, though
the poet was paying marked attention to her.
“Kiss me, thou beauteous one, the gems of whose crown
are foot-lights,” said the poet, when the custom ebbed for a
“Tf thou comest near me,” said the actress whirling the chop-
per, “I'll chop thy ugly little head off.”
THE FARGON PLAYERS. 263
“Unless thou lendest me thy lips thou shalt not play in my
comedy,” said Pinchas angrily.
“ My trouble!” said the leading lady, shrugging her shoulders.
Pinchas made several reappearances outside the open shop,
with his insinuative finger on his nose and his insinuative smile
on his face, but in the end went away with a flea in his ear and
hunted up the actor-manager, the only person who made any
money, to speak of, out of the performances. That gentleman
had not yet consented to produce the play that Pinchas had
ready in manuscript and which had been coveted by all the
great theatres in the world, but which he, Pinchas, had reserved
for the use of the only actor in Europe. The result of this
interview was that the actor-manager yielded to Pinchas’s solici-
tations, backed by frequent applications of poetic finger to poetic
“But,” said the actor-manager, with a sudden recollection,
“how about the besom? ”
“The besom!” repeated Pinchas, nonplussed for once.
“Yes, thou sayest thou hast seen all the plays I have pro-
duced. Hast thou not noticed that I have a besom in all my
“Aha! Yes, I remember,” said Pinchas. :
“An old garden-besom it is,” said the actor-manager. “And
it is the cause of all my luck.” He took up a house-broom that
stood in the corner. “In comedy I sweep the floor with it— so
—and the people grin; in comic-opera I beat time with it as I
sing —so—and the people laugh; in farce I beat my mother-
in-law with it—so—and the people roar; in tragedy I lean upon
it —so—and the people thrill; in melodrama I sweep away the
snow with it —so—and the people burst into tears. Usually I
have my plays written beforehand and the authors are aware of
the besom. Dost thou think,” he concluded doubtfully, “that
thou hast sufficient ingenuity to work in the besom now that the
play is written? ”
Pinchas put his finger to his nose and smiled reassuringly.
“Tt shall be all besom,” he said.
“And when wilt thou read it to me?”
264 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“ Will to-morrow this time suit thee?”
“ As honey a bear.”
“Good, then!” said Pinchas; “I shall not fail.”
The door closed upon him. In another moment it reopened
a bit and he thrust his grinning face through the aperture.
“Ten per cent. of the receipts!” he said with his cajoling
“Certainly,” rejoined the actor-manager briskly. “After pay-
ing the expenses — ten per cent. of the receipts.”
“ Thou wilt not forget?”
“T shall not forget.”
Pinchas strode forth into the street and lit a new cigar in his
exultation. How lucky the play was not yet written! Now he
would be able to make it all turn round the axis of the besom.
“Tt shall be all besom!” His own phrase rang in his ears like
voluptuous marriage bells. Yes, it should, indeed, be all besom.
With that besom he would sweep all his enemies — all the foul
conspirators —in one clean sweep, down, down to Sheol. He
would sweep them along the floor with it—-so—and grin;
he would beat time to their yells of agony —so — and laugh; he
would beat them over the heads — so— and roar; he would lean
upon -it in statuesque greatness—so—and thrill; he would
sweep away their remains with it—so—and weep for joy of
countermining and quelling the long persecution.
All night he wrote the play at railway speed, like a night
express — puffing out volumes of smoke as he panted along.
“J dip my pen in their blood,” he said from time to time, and
threw back his head and laughed aloud in the silence of the
Pinchas had a good deal to do to explain the next day to the
actor-manager where the fun came in. “Thou dost not grasp
all the allusions, the back-handed slaps, the hidden poniards ;
perhaps not,” the author acknowledged. “But the great heart
of the people — it will understand.”
The actor-manager was unconvinced, but he admitted there
was a good deal of besom, and in consideration of the poet
bating his terms to five per cent. of the receipts he agreed to
THE FARGON PLAVERS. 265
give ita chance. The piece was billed widely in several streets
under the title of “ The Hornet of Judah,” and the name of Mel-
chitsedek Pinchas appeared in letters of the size stipulated by
the finger on the nose.
But the leading actress threw up her part at the last moment,
disgusted by the poet’s amorous advances ; Pinchas volunteered
to play the part himself and, although his offer was rejected, he
attired himself in skirts and streaked his complexion with red
and white to replace the promoted second actress, and shaved
off his beard.
But in spite of this heroic sacrifice, the gods were unpropitious.
They chaffed the poet in polished Yiddish throughout the first
two acts. There was only a sprinkling of audience (most of it
paper) in the dimly-lit hall, for the fame of the great writer had
not spread from Berlin, Mogadore, Constantinople and the rest
of the universe.
No one could make head or tail of the piece with its incessant
play of occult satire against clergymen with four mistresses,
Rabbis who sold their daughters, stockbrokers ignorant of
Hebrew and destitute of English, greengrocers blowing Mes-
sianic and their own trumpets, labor-leaders embezzling funds,
and the like. In vain the actor-manager swept the floor with
the besom, beat time with the besom, beat his mother-in-law with
the besom, leaned on the besom, swept bits of white paper
with the besom. The hall, empty of its usual crowd, was fuller
of derisive laughter. At last the spectators tired of laughter and
the rafters re-echoed with hoots. - At the end of the second act,
Melchitsedek Pinchas addressed the audience from the stage, in
his ample petticoats, his brow streaming with paint and perspi-
ration. Hespoke of the great English conspiracy and expressed
his grief and astonishment at finding it had infected the entire
There was no third act. It was the poet’s first—and last—
- appearance on any stage.
266 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“FOR AULD LANG SYNE, MY DEAR.”
THE learned say that Passover was a Spring festival even be-
fore it was associated with the Redemption from Egypt, but there
is not much Nature to worship in the Ghetto and the historical
elements of the Festival swamp all the others. Passover still
remains the most picturesque of the “ Three Festivals” with its
entire transmogrification of things culinary, its thorough taboo of
leaven. The audacious archeologist of the thirtieth century
may trace back the origin of the festival to the Spring Cleaning,
the annual revel of the English housewife, for it is now that the
Ghetto whitewashes itself and scrubs itself and paints itself and
pranks itself and purifies its pans in a baptism of fire. Now, too,
the publican gets unto himself a white sheet and suspends it
at his door and proclaims that he sells Kosher rum by permis-
sion of the Chief Rabbi. Now the confectioner exchanges his
“stuffed monkeys,” and his bolas and his jam-puffs, and his
cheese-cakes for unleavened “palavas,” and worsted balls and
almond cakes. Time was when the Passover dietary was re-
stricted to fruit and meat and vegetables, but year by year the
circle is expanding, and it should not be beyond the reach of
ingenuity to make bread itself Passoverian. It is now that the
pious shopkeeper whose store is tainted with leaven sells his
business to a friendly Christian, buying it back at the conclusion
of the festival. Now the Shalotten Shammos is busy from
morning to night filling up charity-forms, artistically multiplying
the poor man’s children and dividing his rooms. Now is holo-
caust made of a people’s bread-crumbs, and now is the national
salutation changed to “How do the Motsos agree with you?”
half of the race growing facetious, and the other half finical
over the spotted Passover cakes.
It was on the evening preceding the opening of Passover
that Esther Ansell set forth to purchase a shilling’s worth of
“FOR AULD LANG SYNE, MY DEAR.” 267
fish in Petticoat Lane, involuntarily storing up in her mind
vivid impressions of the bustling scene. It is one of the
compensations of poverty that it allows no time for mourning.
Daily duty is the poor man’s nepenthe.
Esther and her father were the only two members of the
family upon whom the death of Benjamin made a deep im-
pression. He had been so long away from home that he
was the merest shadow to the rest. But Moses bore the
loss with resignation, his emotions discharging themselves in
the daily Kaddish. Blent with his personal grief was a sor-
row for the commentaries lost to Hebrew literature by his boy’s
premature transference to Paradise. Esther’s grief was more
bitter and defiant. All the children were delicate, but it was
the first time death had taken one. The meaningless tragedy
of Benjamin’s end shook the child’s soul to its depths. Poor
lad! How horrible to be lying cold and ghastly beneath the
winter snow! What had been the use of all his long prepa-
rations to write great novels? The name of Ansell would now
become ingloriously extinct. She wondered whether Our Own
would collapse and secretly felt it must. And then what of
the hopes of worldly wealth she had built on Benjamin’s genius?
Alas! the emancipation of the Ansells from the yoke of pov-
erty was clearly postponed. To her and her alone must the
family now look for deliverance. Well, she would take up the
mantle of the dead boy, and fill it as best she might. She
clenched her little hands in iron determination. Moses Ansell
knew nothing either of her doubts or her ambitions. Work
was still plentiful three days a week, and he was unconscious
he was not supporting his family in comparative affluence.
But even with Esther the incessant grind of school-life and
quasi-motherhood speedily rubbed away the sharper edges
of sorrow, though the custom prohibiting obvious pleasures
during the year of mourning went in no danger of transgres-
sion, for poor little Esther gadded neither to children’s balls
nor to theatres. Her thoughts were full of the prospects of
piscine bargains, as she pushed her way through a crowd so
closely wedged, and lit up by such a flare of gas from the
268 ‘CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
shops and such streamers of flame from the barrows that the
cold wind of early April lost its sting.
Two opposing currents of heavy-laden pedestrians were en-
deavoring in their progress to occupy the same strip of pavement
at the same moment, and the laws of space kept them blocked
till they yielded to its remorseless conditions. Rich and poor
elbowed one another, ladies in satins and furs were jammed
against wretched looking foreign women with their heads
swathed in dirty handkerchiefs; rough, red-faced English bet-
ting men struggled good-humoredly with their greasy kindred
from over the North Sea; and a sprinkling of Christian yokels
surveyed the Jewish hucksters and chapmen with amused supe-
For this was the night of nights, when the purchases were
made for the festival, and great ladies of the West, leaving be-
hind their daughters who played the piano and had a subscrip-
tion at Mudie’s, came down again to the beloved Lane to throw
off the veneer of refinement, and plunge gloveless hands in bar-
rels where pickled cucumbers weltered in their own “russel,”
and to pick fat juicy olives from the rich-heaped tubs. Ah, me!
what tragic comedy lay behind the transient happiness of these
sensuous faces, laughing and munching with the shamelessness
of school-girls!' For to-night they need not hanker in silence
after the flesh-pots of Egypt. To-night they could laugh and
talk over Olov hasholom times — “ Peace be upon him” times —
with their old cronies, and loosen the stays of social ambition,
even while they dazzled the Ghetto with the splendors of their
get-up and the halo of the West End whence they came. It
was a scene without parallel in the history of the world — this
phantasmagoria of grubs and butterflies, met together for auld
lang syne in their beloved hatching-place. Such violent con-
trasts of wealth and poverty as might be looked for in romantic
gold-fields, or in unsettled countries were evolved quite naturally
amid a colorless civilization by a people with an incurable talent
for the picturesque.
“Hullo! Can that be you, Betsy?” some grizzled shabby old
man would observe in innocent delight to Mrs. Arthur Mont-
“FOR AULD LANG SYNE, MY DEAR.” 269
morenci; “ Why so it is! I never would have believed my eyes!
Lord, what a fine woman you’ve grown! And so you're little
Betsy who used to bring her father’s coffee in a brown jug when
he and I stood side by side in the Lane! He used to sell slip-
pers next to my cutlery stall for eleven years — Dear, dear, how
time flies to be sure.”
Then Betsy Montmorenci’s creamy face would grow scarlet
under the gas-jets, and she would glower and draw her sables
around her, and look round involuntarily, to see if any of her
Kensington friends were within earshot.
Another Betsy Montmorenci would feel Bohemian for this
occasion only, and would receive old acquaintances’ greeting
effusively, and pass the old phrases and by-words with a strange
sense of stolen sweets; while yet a third Betsy Montmorenci, a
finer spirit this, and worthier of the name, would cry to a Betsy
“Ts that you, Betsy, how ave you? How are you? I’m so
glad to see you. Won’t you come and treat me to acup of
chocolate at Bonn’s, just to show you haven’t forgot Olov
And then, having thus thrown the responsibility of stand-
offishness on the poorer Betsy, the Montmorenci would launch
into recollections of those good old “ Peace be upon him” times
till the grub forgot the splendors of the caterpillar in a joyous
resurrection of ancient scandals. But few of the Montmorencis,
whatever their species, left the Ghetto without pressing bits of
gold into half-reluctant palms in shabby back-rooms where old
friends or poor relatives mouldered.
Overhead, the stars burned silently, but no one looked up
at them. Underfoot, lay the thick, black veil of mud, which the
Lane never lifted, but none looked down on it. It was impos-
sible to think of aught but humanity in the bustle and confusion,
in the cram and crush, in the wedge and the jam, in the squeez-
ing and shouting, in the hubbub and medley. Such a jolly,
rampant, screaming, fighting, maddening, jostling, polyglot, quar-
relling, laughing broth of a Vanity Fair! Mendicants, vendors,
buyers, gossips, showmen, all swelled the roar.
270 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Here’s your cakes! All youtovdik (for the festival)! Yon-
“ Braces, best braces, all —”
“Yontovdik! Only one shilling —”
“Tt’s the Rav’s orders, mum; all legs of mutton must be
porged or my license—”
“ Now’s your chance —”
“The best trousers, gentlemen. Corst me as sure as I
“ On your own head, you old —”
“ Arbah Kanfus (four fringes)! Ardah—”
“My old man’s been under an operation — ”
“Hokey Pokey! Yontovdik! Hokey —”
“Get out of the way, can’t you —”
“ By your life and mine, Betsy —”
“Gord blesh you, mishter, a toisand year shall ye live.”
“Eat the best Mofsos. Only fourpence—”
“The bones must go with, marm. I’ve cut it as lean as
“Charoises (a sweet mixture). Charoises! Moroire (bitter
herb)! Chraine (horseradish)! Pesachdik (for Passover).”
“Come and have a glass of Old Tom, along o’ me, sonny.”
“Fine plaice! Here y’are! Hi! where’s yer pluck! S’elp
me — ”
“Bob! Yontovdik! Yontovdik! Only a bob!”
“ Chuck steak and half a pound of fat.”
“‘A slap in the eye, if you—”
“ Gord bless you. Remember me to Jacob.”
“Shaink (spare) meer a ’apenny, missis eben, missis croin
“ An unnatural death on you, you—”
“Lord! Sal, how you've altered!”
“Ladies, here you are —”
“TI give you my word, sir, the fish will be home before you.”
“ Painted in the best style, for a tanner — ”
“ A spoonge, mister?”
“FOR AULD LANG SYNE, MY DEAR.” 271
“T'll cut a slice of this melon for you for —”
“ She’s dead, poor thing, peace be upon him.”
“ YVontovdik ! Three bob for one purse containing — ”
“The real live tattooed Hindian, born in the African Harchi-
pellygo. Walk up.”
“This way for the dwarf that will speak, dance, and sing.”
“Tree lemons a penny. Tree lemons—”
“A Shtibbur (penny) for a poor blind man — ”
“ Vontovdik! Yontovdik! Yontovdik! Yontovdik!”
And in this last roar, common to so many of the mongers,
the whole Babel would often blend for a moment and be swal-
lowed up, re-emerging anon in its broken multiplicity.
Everybody Esther knew was in the crowd—she met them
all sooner or later. In Wentworth Street, amid dead cabbage-
leaves, and mud, and refuse, and orts, and offal, stood the woe-
begone Meckish, offering his puny sponges, and wooing the
charitable with grinning grimaces tempered by epileptic fits at
judicious intervals. A few inches off, his wife in costly sealskin
jacket, purchased salmon with a Maida Vale manner. Com-
pressed in a corner was Shosshi Shmendrik, his coat-tails yellow
with the yolks of dissolving eggs from a bag in his pocket.
He asked her frantically, if she had seen a boy whom he had
hired to carry home his codfish and his fowls, and explained
that his missus was busy in the shop, and had delegated to him
the domestic duties. It is probable, that if Mrs. Shmendrik,
formerly the widow Finkelstein, ever received these dainties,
she found her good man had purchased fish artificially inflated
with air, and fowls fattened with brown paper. Hearty Sam
Abrahams, the bass chorister, whose genial countenance spread
sunshine for yards around, stopped Esther and gave her a
penny. Further, she met her teacher, Miss Miriam Hyams, and
curtseyed to her, for Esther was not of those who jeeringly called
“teacher” and “master” according to sex after her superiors,
till the victims longed for Elisha’s influence over bears. Later
on, she was shocked to see her teacher’s brother piloting bonny.
Bessie Sugarman through the thick of the ferment. Crushed
between two barrows, she found Mrs. Belcovitch and Fanny,
272 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
who were shopping together, attended by Pesach Weingott, all
carrying piles of purchases.
“Esther, if you should see my Becky in the crowd, tell her
where I am,” said Mrs. Belcovitch. “She is with one of her
chosen young men. Iam so feeble, I can hardly crawl around,
and my Becky ought to carry home the cabbages. She has
well-matched legs, not one a thick one and one a thin one.”
Around the fishmongers the press was great. The fish-trade
was almost monopolized by English Jews — blonde, healthy-
looking fellows, with brawny, bare arms, who were approached
with dread by all but the bravest foreign Jewesses. Their scale
of prices and politeness varied with the status of the buyer.
Esther, who had an observant eye and ear for such things, often
found amusement standing unobtrusively by. To-night there
was the usual comedy awaiting her enjoyment. A well-dressed
dame came up to “ Uncle Abe’s” stall, where half a dozen lots
of fishy miscellanzea were spread out.
“Good evening, madam. Cold night but fine. That lot?
Well, you’re an old customer and fish are cheap to-day, so I can
let you have ’em for a sovereign. Eighteen? Well, it’s hard,
but — boy! take the lady’s fish. Thank you. Good evening.”
“How much that?” says a neatly dressed woman, pointing to
a precisely similar lot.
“Can't take less than nine bob. Fish are dear to-day. You
won't get anything cheaper in the Lane, by G— you won't.
Five shillings! By my life and by my children’s life, they cost
me more than that. So sure as I stand here and — well, come,
gie’s seven and six and they’re yours. You can’t afford more?
Well, ’old up your apron, old gal. Ill make it up out of the
rich. By your life and mine, you’ve got a JMefszah (bargain)
Here old Mrs. Shmendrik, Shosshi’s mother, came up, a rich
Paisley shawl over her head in lieu.of a bonnet. Lane women
who went out without bonnets were on the same plane as Lane
men who went out without collars.
One of the terrors of the English fishmongers was that they
required the customer to speak English, thus fulfilling an impor-
“FOR AULD LANG SYNE, MY DEAR.” 273
tant educative function in the community. They allowed a
certain percentage of jargon-words, for they themselves took
licenses in this direction, but they professed not to understand
« Abraham, ’ow mosh for dees lot,” said old Mrs. Shmendrik,
turning over a third similar heap and feeling the fish all over.
“ Paws off!” said Abraham roughly. “Look here! I know
the tricks of you Polakinties. I'll name you the lowest price and
won’t stand a farthing’s bating. I'll lose by you, but you ain’t
going to worry me. Eight bob! There!”
“ Avroomkely (dear little Abraham) take lebbenpence!”
“Elevenpence! By G—,” cried Uncle Abe, desperately tear-
ing his hair. “I knew it!” And seizing a huge plaice by the
tail he whirled it round and struck Mrs. Shmendrik full in the
face, shouting, “Take that, you old witch! Sling your hook or
I'll murder you.”
“Thou dog!” shrieked Mrs. Shmendrik, falling back on, the
more copious resources of her native idiom. “A black year on
thee! Mayest thou swell and die! May the hand that struck
me rot away! Mayest thou be burned alive! Thy father was a
Gonof and thou art a Gonof and thy whole family are Goxovim.
May Pharaoh’s ten plagues —”
There was little malice at the back of it all—the mere imag-
inative exuberance of a race whose early poetry consisted in
saying things twice over.
Uncle Abraham menacingly caught up the plaice, crying:
“« May I be struck dead on the spot, if you ain’t gone in one
second I won’t answer for the consequences. Now, then, clear
“Come, Avroomkely,” said Mrs. Shmendrik, dropping sud-
denly from invective to insinuativeness. “Take fourteenpence.
Shemah, beni! Fourteen Shtibbur’s a lot of Gelt.”
“ Are you a-going?” cried Abraham in a terrible rage. “Ten
bob’s my price now.”
“ Avroomkely, 00, zoog (say now)! Fourteenpence ’apenny.
I ama poor voman. Here, fifteenpence.”
Abraham seized her by the shoulders and pushed her towards
274 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
the wall, where she cursed picturesquely. Esther thought it was
a bad time to attempt to get her own shilling’s worth —she fought
her way towards another fishmonger.
There was a kindly, weather-beaten old fellow with whom
Esther had often chaffered job-lots when fortune smiled on the
Ansells. Him, to her joy, Esther perceived —she saw a stack
of gurnards on his improvised slab, and in imagination smelt her-
self frying them. Then a great shock as of a sudden icy douche
traversed her frame, her heart seemed to stand still. For when
she put her hand to her pocket to get her purse, she found but
a thimble and a slate-pencil and a cotton handkerchief. It was
some minutes before she could or would realize the truth that
the four and sevenpence halfpenny on which so much depended
was gone. Groceries and unleavened cakes Charity had given,
raisin wine had been preparing for days, but fish and meat and
all the minor accessories of a well-ordered Passover table— these
were the prey of the pickpocket. A blank sense of desolation
overcame the child, infinitely more horrible than that which she
felt when she spilled the soup; the gurnards she could have
touched with her finger seemed far off, inaccessible ; ina moment
more they and all things were blotted out by a hot rush of tears,
and she was jostled as in a dream hither and thither by the double
stream of crowd. Nothing since the death of Benjamin had
given her so poignant a sense of the hollowness and uncertainty
of existence. What would her father say, whose triumphant con-
viction that Providence had provided for his Passover was to be
so rudely dispelled at the eleventh hour. Poor Moses! He had
been so proud of having earned enough money to make a good
Yontov, and was more convinced than ever that given a little cap-
ital to start with he could build up a colossal business! And
now she would have to go home and spoil everybody’s Yovéov,
and see the sour faces of her little ones round a barren Seder
table. Oh, it was terrible! and the child wept piteously, unheeded
in the block, unheard amid the Babel.
THE DEAD MONKEY. 275
THE DEAD MONKEY.
AN old Maaseh the grandmother had told her came back to
her fevered brain. In a town in Russia lived an old Jew who
earned scarce enough to eat, and half of what he did earn was
stolen from him in bribes to the officials to let him be. Perse-
cuted and spat upon, he yet trusted in his God and praised His
name. And it came on towards Passover and the winter was
severe and the Jew was nigh starving and his wife had made no
preparations for the Festival. And in the bitterness of her soul
she derided her husband’s faith and made mock of him, but he
said, “ Have patience, my wife! Our Seder board shall be spread
as in the days of yore and as in former years.” But the Festival
drew nearer and nearer and there was nothing in the house.
And the wife taunted her husband yet further, saying, “Dost
thou think that Elijah the prophet will call upon thee or that the
Messiah will come?” But he answered: “Elijah the prophet
walketh the earth, never having died; who knows but that he
will cast an eye my way?” Whereat his wife laughed outright.
And the days wore on to within a few hours of Passover and the
larder was still empty of provender and the old Jew still full of
faith. Now it befell that the Governor of the City, a hard and
cruel man. sat counting out piles of gold into packets for the pay-
ment of the salaries of the officials and at his side sat his pet
monkey, and as he heaped up the pieces, so his monkey imitated
him, making little packets of its own to the amusement of the
Governor. And when the Governor could not pick up a piece
easily, he moistened his forefinger, putting it to his mouth, where-
upon the monkey followed suit each time; only deeming its
master was devouring the gold, it swallowed a coin every time he
put his finger to his lips. So that of a sudden it was taken ill
and died. And one of his men said, “Lo, the creature is dead.
What shall we do with it?” And the Governor was sorely vexed
276 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
in spirit, because he could not make his accounts straight and he
answered gruffly, “Trouble me not! Throw it into the house of
the old Jew down the street.” So the man took the carcass and
*threw it with thunderous violence into the passage of the Jew’s
house and ran off as hard as he could. And the good wife came
bustling out in alarm and saw a carcass hanging over an iron
bucket that stood in the passage. And she knew that it was the
act of a Christian and she took up the carrion to bury it when
Lo! a rain of gold-pieces came from the stomach ripped up by
the sharp rim of the vessel. And she called to her husband.
“Hasten! See what Elijah the prophet hath sent us.” And
she scurried into the market-place and bought wine and unleav-
ened bread, and bitter herbs and all things necessary for the
Seder table, and a little fish therewith which might be hastily
cooked before the Festival came in, and the old couple were
happy and gave the monkey honorable burial and sang blithely
of the deliverance at the Red Sea and filled Elijah’s goblet to the
brim till the wine ran over upon the white cloth.
Esther gave a scornful little sniff as the thought of this happy
dénouement flashed upon her. No miracle like that would hap-
pen to her or hers, nobody was likely to leave a dead monkey on
the stairs of the garret — hardly even the “stuffed monkey” of
contemporary confectionery. And then her queer little brain
forgot its grief in sudden speculations as to what she would think
if her four and sevenpence halfpenny came back. She had
never yet doubted the existence of the Unseen Power; only its
workings seemed so incomprehensibly indifferent to human joys
and sorrows. Would she believe that her father was right in
holding that a special Providence watched over him? The spirit
of her brother Solomon came upon her and she felt that she
would. Speculation had checked her sobs; she dried her tears
in stony scepticism and, looking up, saw Malka’s gipsy-like face
bending over her, breathing peppermint.
“What weepest thou, Esther?” she said not unkindly. “I
did not know thou wast a gusher with the eyes.”
“I’ve lost my purse,” sobbed Esther, softened afresh by the
sight of a friendly face.
THE DEAD MONKEY. 277
“Ah, thou Schlemihl! Thou art like thy father. How much
was in it?”
“ Four and sevenpence halfpenny!” sobbed Esther.
“Tru, tu, tu, tu, tu!” ejaculated Malka in horror. “Thou art
the ruin of thy father.” Then turning to the fishmonger with
whom she had just completed a purchase, she counted out thirty-
five shillings into his hand. “Here, Esther,” she said, “ thou
shalt carry my fish and I will give thee a shilling.”
A small slimy boy who stood expectant by scowled at Esther
as she painfully lifted the heavy basket and followed in the wake
of her relative whose heart was swelling with self-approbation.
Fortunately Zachariah Square was near and Esther soon
received her shilling with a proportionate sense of Providence.
The fish was deposited at Milly’s house, which was brightly illu-
minated and seemed to poor Esther a magnificent palace of light
and luxury. Malka’s own house, diagonally across the Square,
was dark and gloomy. The two families being at peace, Milly’s
house was the headquarters of the clan and the clothes-brush.
Everybody was home for Yomtov. Malka’s husband, Michael,
and Milly’s husband, Ephraim, were sitting at the table smoking
big cigars and playing Loo with Sam Levine and David Bran-
don, who had been seduced into making a fourth. The two
young husbands had but that day returned from the country, for
you cannot get unleavened bread at commercial hotels, and
David in spite of a stormy crossing had arrived from Germany
an hour earlier than he had expected, and not knowing what to
do with himself had been surveying the humors of the Festival
Fair till Sam met him and dragged him round to Zachariah
Square. It was too late to call that night on Hannah to be intro-
duced to her parents, especially as he had wired he would come
the next day. There was no chance of Hannah being at the
club, it was too busy a night for all angels of the hearth; even
to-morrow, the even of the Festival, would be an awkward time
for a young man to thrust his love-affairs upon a household
given over to the more important matters of dietary preparation.
Still David could not consent to live another whole day without
seeing the light of his eyes.
278 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
Leah, inwardly projecting an orgie of comic operas and dances,
was assisting Milly in the kitchen. Both young women were
covered with flour and oil and grease, and their coarse hand-
some faces were flushed, for they had been busy all day drawing
fowls, stewing prunes and pippins, gutting fish, melting fat,
changing the crockery and doing the thousand and one things
necessitated by gratitude for the discomfiture of Pharaoh at the
Red Sea; Ezekiel slumbered upstairs in his crib.
“Mother,” said Michael, pulling pensively at his whisker as he
looked at his card. “This is Mr. Brandon, a friend of Sam’s.
Don’t get up, Brandon, we don’t make ceremonies here. Turn
up yours — ah, the nine of trumps.”
“Lucky men!” said Malka with festival flippancy. “ While I
must hurry off my supper so as to buy the fish, and Milly and
Leah must sweat in the kitchen, you can squat yourselves down
and play cards.”
“Yes,” laughed Sam, looking up and adding in Hebrew,
“Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hath not made me a woman.”
“ Now, now,” said David, putting his hand jocosely across the
young man’s mouth. “No more Hebrew. Remember what
happened last time. Perhaps there’s some mysterious signifi-
cance even in that, and you'll find yourself let in for something
before you know where you are.”
“You're not going to prevent me talking the language of my
Fathers,” gurgled Sam, bursting into a merry operatic whistle
when the pressure was removed.
“Milly! Leah!” cried Malka. “Come and look at my fish!
Such a Metsiah! See, they're alive yet.”
“They are beauties, mother,” said Leah, entering with her
sleeves half tucked up, showing the finely-moulded white arms
in curious juxtaposition with the coarse red hands.
“O, mother, they’re alive!” said Milly, peering over her
younger sister’s shoulder.
Both knew by bitter experience that their mother considered
herself a connoisseur in the purchase of fish.
“And how much do you think I gave for them?” went on
THE DEAD MONKEY. 279
“Two pounds ten,” said Milly.
Malka’s eyes twinkled and she shook her head.
“Two pounds fifteen,” said Leah, with the air of hitting it
Still Malka shook her head.
“Here, Michael, what do you think I gave for all this lot?”
“ Diamonds!” said Michael.
“Be not a fool, Michael,” said Malka sternly. “Look here a
“Eh? Oh!” said Michael looking up from his cards. “ Don’t
bother, mother. My game!”
“ Michael!” thundered Malka. “Will you look at this fish?
How much do you think I gave for this splendid lot? here, look
at em, alive yet.”
«‘ H’m— Ha!” said Michael, taking his complex corkscrew com-
bination out of his pocket and putting it back again. “Three
“Three guineas!” laughed Malka, in good-humored scorn.
“Lucky I don’t let you do my marketing.”
“Yes, he’d be a nice fishy customer!” said Sam Levine with a
“Ephraim, what think you I got this fish for? Cheap now,
“JT don’t know, mother,” replied the twinkling-eyed Pole
obediently. “Three pounds, perhaps, if you got it cheap.”
Samuel and David duly appealed to, reduced the amount to
two pounds five and two pounds respectively. Then, having
got everybody’s attention fixed upon her, she exclaimed:
“ Thirty shillings!”
She could not resist nibbling off the five shillings. Every-
body drew a long breath.
“Tu! Tu!” they ejaculated in chorus. “What a MJetszah!”
“Sam,” said Ephraim immediately afterwards. “Yow turned
up the ace.”
Milly and Leah went back into the kitchen.
It was rather too quick a relapse into the common things of
life and made Malka suspect the admiration was but superficial.
280 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
She turned, with a spice of ill-humor, and saw Esther still stand-
ing timidly behind her. Her face flushed for she knew the child
had overheard her in a lie.
“What art thou waiting about for?” she said roughly in Yid-
dish. “Na! there’s a peppermint.”
“T thought you might want me for something else,” said
Esther, blushing but accepting the peppermint for Ikey. “And
I a I mae)!
“Well, speak up! I won’t bite thee.” Malka continued to talk
in Yiddish though the child answered her in English.
“T—I— nothing,” said Esther, turning away.
“Here, turn thy face round, child,” said Malka, putting her
hand on the girl’s forcibly averted head. “Be not so sullen,
thy mother was like that, she’d want to bite my head off if I
hinted thy father was not the man for her, and then she’d
schmull and sulk for a week after. Thank God, we have no
one like that in this house. I couldn’t live for a day with
people with such nasty tempers. Her temper worried her into
the grave, though if thy father had not brought his mother over
from Poland my poor cousin might have carried home my fish
to-night instead of thee. Poor Gittel, peace be upon him!
Come tell me what ails thee, or thy dead mother will be cross
Esther turned her head and murmured: “I thought you might
lend me the three and sevenpence halfpenny!”
“Lend thee— ?” exclaimed Malka. “Why, how canst thou
ever repay it?”
“Oh yes,” affirmed Esther earnestly. “I have lots of money
in the bank.”
“Eh! what? In the bank!” gasped Malka.
“Yes, I won five pounds in the school and I'll pay you out of
“ Thy father never told me that!” said Malka. “He kept that
dark. Ah, he is a regular Schnorrer!”
“My father hasn’t seen you since,” retorted Esther hotly. “If
you had come round when he was sitting shéva for Benjamin,
peace be upon him, you would have known.”
THE DEAD MONKEY. 281
Malka got as red as fire. Moses had sent Solomon round
to inform the MZishpocha of his affliction, but at a period when
the most casual acquaintance thinks it his duty to call (armed
with hard boiled eggs, a pound of sugar, or an ounce of tea)
on the mourners condemned to sit on the floor for a week,
no representative of the “family” had made an appearance.
Moses took it meekly enough, but his mother insisted that
such a slight from Zachariah Square would never have been
received if he had married another woman, and Esther for
once agreed with her grandmother’s sentiments if not with her
Hibernian expression of them.
But that the child should now dare to twit the head of the
family with bad behavior was intolerable to Malka, the more
so as she had no defence.
“Thou impudent of face!” she cried sharply. “ Dost thou for-
get whom thou talkest to?”
“No,” retorted Esther. “You are my father’s cousin — that
is why you ought to have come to see him.”
“J am not thy father’s cousin, God forbid!” cried Malka.
“J was thy mother’s cousin, God have mercy on her, and
I wonder not you drove her into the grave between the lot
of you. I am no relative of any of you, thank God, and
from this day forwards I wash my hands of the lot of you,
you ungrateful pack! Let thy father send you into the streets,
with matches, not another thing will I do for thee.”
“Ungrateful!” said Esther hotly. “Why, what have you
ever done for us? When my poor mother was alive you made
her scrub your floors and clean your windows, as if she was
“Impudent of face!” cried Malka, almost choking with rage.
« What have I done for you?) Why —why —I —I—shameless
hussy! And this is what Judaism’s coming to in England!
This is the manners and religion they teach thee at thy school,
eh? What have I—? Impudent of face! At this very mo-
ment thou holdest one of my shillings in thy hand.”
“Take it!” said Esther. And threw the coin passionately
to the floor, where it rolled about pleasantly for a terrible
282 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
minute of human silence. The smoke-wreathed card-players
looked up at last.
“Eh? Eh? What’s this, my little girl,” said Michael genially.
“What makes you so naughty?”
A hysterical fit of sobbing was the only reply. In the bitter-
ness of that moment Esther hated the whole world.
“Don’t cry like that! Don’t!” said David Brandon kindly.
Esther, her little shoulders heaving convulsively, put her
hand on the latch.
“What's the matter with the girl, mother?” said Michael.
“She’s meshugga!” said Malka. “Raving mad!” Her face
was white and she spoke as if in self-defence. “She’s such a
Schlemihl that she lost her purse in the Lane, and I found her
gushing with the eyes, and I let her carry home my fish and
gave her a shilling and a peppermint, and thou seest how she
turns on me, thou seest.”
“Poor little thing!” said David impulsively. “Here, come
here, my child.”
Esther refused to budge.
“Come here,” he repeated gently. “See, I will make up the loss
to you. Take the pool. I’ve just won it, so I shan’t miss it.”
Esther sobbed louder, but she did not move.
David rose, emptied the heap of silver into his palm, walked
over to Esther, and pushed it into her pocket. Michael got up
and added half a crown to it, and the other two men followed
suit. Then David opened the door, put her outside gently and
said: “There! Run away, my little dear, and be more careful of
All this while Malka had stood frozen to the stony dignity of a
dingy terra-cotta statue. But ere the door could close again on
the child, she darted forward and seized her by the collar of her
“ Give me that money,” she cried.
Half hypnotized by the irate swarthy face, Esther made no
resistance while Malka rifled her pocket less dexterously than
the first operator.
Malka counted it out.
THE DEAD MONKEY. 283
“Seventeen and sixpence,” she announced in terrible tones.
« How darest thou take all this money from strangers, and per-
fect strangers? Do my children think to shame me before my
own relative?” And throwing the money violently into the
plate she took out a gold coin and pressed it into the bewildered
« There!” she shouted. “Hold that tight! It is a sovereign.
And if ever I catch thee taking money from any one in this house
but thy mother’s own cousin, I'll wash my hands of thee for ever.
Go now! Goon! I can’t afford any more, so it’s useless wait-
ing. Good-night, and tell thy father I wish him a happy Yoxtov,
and I hope he'll lose no more children.”
She hustled the child into the Square and banged the door
upon her, and Esther went about her mammoth marketing half-
dazed, with an undercurrent of happiness, vaguely apologetic
towards her father and his Providence.
Malka stooped down, picked up the clothes-brush from under the
side-table, and strode silently and diagonally across the Square.
There was a moment’s dread silence. The thunderbolt had
fallen. The festival felicity of two households trembled in the
balance. Michael muttered impatiently and went out on his
“He’s an awful fool,” said Ephraim. “I should make her
pay for her tantrums.”
The card party broke up in confusion. David Brandon took
his leave and strolled about aimlessly under the stars, his soul
blissful with the sense of a good deed that had only superficially
miscarried. His feet took him to Hannah’s house. All the
windows were lit up. His heart began to ache at the thought .
that his bright, radiant girl was beyond that doorstep he had
He pictured the love-light in her eyes; for surely she was
dreaming of him, as he of her. He took out his watch — the
time was twenty to nine. After all, would it be so outrageous to
call? He went away twice. The third time, defying the conve-
nances, he knocked at the door, his heart beating almost as
284 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION.
THE little servant girl who opened the door for him looked
relieved by the sight of him, for it might have been the Reb-
bitzin returning from the Lane with heaps of supplies and an
accumulation of ill-humor. She showed him into the study,
and in a few moments Hannah hurried in with a big apron and
a general flavor of the kitchen.
“How dare you come to-night?” she began, but the sentence
died on her lips. .
“How hot your face is,” he said, dinting the flesh fondly with
his finger. “I see my little girl is glad to have me back.”
. “It’s not that. It’s the fire. I’m frying fish for Yomtov,”
she said, with a happy laugh.
“And yet you say you’re not a good Jewess,” he laughed
“You had no right to come and catch me like this,” she
pouted. “All greasy and dishevelled. I’m not made up to
“Call me a visitor?” he grumbled. “Judging by your ap-
pearance, I should say you were always made up. Why, you're
Then the talk became less intelligible. The first symptom of
returning rationality was her inquiry —
“What sort of a journey did you have back?”
“The sea was rough, but I’m a good sailor.”
“And the poor fellow’s father and mother?”
“T wrote you about them.”
“So you did; but only just a line.”
“Oh, don’t let us talk about the subject just now, dear, it’s
too painful. Come, let me kiss that little woe-begone look out
of your eyes. There! Now, another—that was only for the
right eye, this is for the left. But where’s your mother?”
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION. 285
“Oh, you innocent!” she replied. “As if you hadn’t
watched her go out of the house!”
“°*Pon my honor, not,” he said smiling. “Why should I
now? Am I not the accepted son-in-law of the house, you
silly timid little thing? What a happy thought it was of yours
to let the cat out of the bag. Come, let me give you another
kiss for it— Oh, I really must. You deserve it, and whatever
it costs me you shall be rewarded. There! Now, then!
Where's the old man? I have to receive his blessing, I know,
and I want to get it over.”
“It’s worth having, I can tell you, so speak more respect-
fully,” said Hannah, more than half in earnest.
“You are the best blessing he can give me—and that’s worth
— well, I wouldn’t venture to price it.”
“Tt’s not your line, eh?”
“TI don’t know, I have done a good deal in gems; but where
zs the Rabbi?”
“Up in the bedrooms, gathering the Chomutz. You know he
won’t trust anybody else. He creeps under all the beds, hunting
with a candle for stray crumbs, and looks in all the wardrobes’
and the pockets of all my dresses. Luckily, I don’t keep your
letters there. I hope he won’t set something alight— he did
once. And one year—Oh, it was so funny!—after he had
ransacked every hole and corner of the house, imagine his
horror, in the middle of Passover to find a crumb of bread
audaciously planted — where do you suppose? In his Passover
prayer-book!! But, oh!” —with a little scream—“you naughty
boy! I quite forgot.” She took him by the shoulders, and peered
along his coat. “Have you brought any crumbs with you?
This room’s Pesachdik already.”
He looked dubious.
She pushed him towards the door. “Go out and give your-
self a good shaking on the door-step, or else we shall have to
clean out the room all over again.”
“Don’t!” he protested. “I might shake out that.”
“ The ring.”
286 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
She uttered a little pleased sigh.
“Oh, have you brought that?”
“Yes, I got it while I was away. You know I believe the
reason you sent me trooping to the continent in such haste,
was you wanted to ensure your engagement ring being ‘made
in Germany.’ It’s had a stormy passage to England, has that
ring. I suppose the advantage of buying rings in Germany is
that you're certain not to get Paris diamonds in them, they are
so intensely patriotic, the Germans. That was your idea, wasn’t
“Oh, show it me! Don’t talk so much,” she said, smiling.
“No,” he said, teasingly. “No more accidents for me! I'll
wait to make sure — till your father and mother have taken me
to their arms. Rabbinical law is so full of pitfalls —I might
touch your finger this or that way, and then we should be
married. And then, if your parents said ‘ no,’ after all—”
“We should have to make the best of a bad job,” she finished
“ All very well,” he went on in his fun, “but it would be a
pretty kettle of fish.”
“ Heavens!” she cried, “so it will be. They will be charred
to ashes.” And turning tail, she fled to the kitchen, pursued by
her lover. There, dead to the surprise of the servant, David
Brandon fed his eyes on the fair incarnation of Jewish domes-
ticity, type of the vestal virgins of Israel, Ministresses at the
hearth. It was a very homely kitchen; the dressers glistening
with speckless utensils, and the deep red glow of the coal over
which the pieces of fish sputtered and crackled in their bath of
oil, filling the room with a sense of deep peace and cosy comfort.
David’s imagination transferred the kitchen to his future home,
and he was almost dazzled by the thought of actually inhabiting
such a fairyland alone with Hannah. He had knocked about a
great deal, not always innocently, but deep down at his heart
was the instinct of well-ordered life. His past seemed joyless
folly and chill emptiness. He felt his eyes growing humid as
he looked at the frank-souled girl who had given herself to him.
He was not humble, but for a moment he found himself wonder-
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION. 287
ing how he deserved the trust, and there was reverence in the
touch with which he caressed her hair. In another moment the
frying was complete, and the contents of the pan neatly added
to the dish. Then the voice of Reb Shemuel crying for Hannah
came down the kitchen stairs, and the lovers returned to the
upper world.. The Reb had a tiny harvest of crumbs in a brown
paper, and wanted Hannah to stow it away safely till the morn-
ing, when, to make assurance doubly sure, a final expedition in
search of leaven would be undertaken. Hannah received the
packet and in return presented her betrothed.
Reb Shemuel had not of course expected him till the next
morning, but he welcomed him as heartily as Hannah could
“ The Most High bless you!” he said in his charming foreign
accents. “May you make my Hannah as good a husband as
she will make you a wife.”
“Trust me, Reb Shemuel,” said David, grasping his great
« Hannah says you're a sinner in Israel,” said the Reb, smiling
playfully, though there was a touch of anxiety in the tones.
“But I suppose you will keep a kosher house.”
“Make your mind easy, sir,” said David heartily. “We
must, if it’s only to have the pleasure of your dining with us
The old man patted him gently on the shoulder.
“ Ah, you will soon become a good Jew,” he said. “My Han-
nah will teach you, God bless her.” Reb Shemuel’s voice was a
bit husky. He bent down and kissed Hannah’s forehead. “I
was a bit zk myself before I married my Simcha,” he added en-
“No, no, not you,” said David, smiling in response to the
twinkle in the Reb’s eye. “I warrant you never skipped a Mzzz-
vah even as a bachelor.”
“Qh yes, I did,” replied the Reb, letting the twinkle develop
to a broad smile, “for when I was a bachelor I hadn’t fulfilled
the precept to marry, don’t you see?”
“Is marriage a Mitzvah, then?” inquired David, amused.
288 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“Certainly. In our holy religion everything a man ought to
do is a Mitzvah, even if it is pleasant.”
“Oh, then, even I must have laid up some good deeds,” laughed
David, “for I have always enjoyed myself. Really, it isn’t such
a bad religion after all.”
“Bad religion!” echoed Reb Shemuel genially. “Wait till
you’ve tried it. You've never had a proper training, that’s clear.
Are your parents alive?”
“No, they both died when I was a child,” said David,
“I thought so!” said Reb Shemuel. “Fortunately my Han-
nah’s didn’t.” He smiled at the humor of the phrase and
Hannah took his hand and pressed it tenderly. “ Ah, it will be
all right,” said the Reb with a characteristic burst of optimism.
“God is good. You have a sound Jewish heart at bottom,
David, my son. Hannah, get the Vomtovdik wine. We will
drink a glass for Mazzoltov, and I hope your mother will be
back in time to join in.”
Hannah ran into the kitchen feeling happier than she had
ever been in her life. She wept a little and laughed a little, and
loitered a little to recover her composure and allow the two men
to get to know each other a little.
“How is your Hannah’s late husband?” inquired the Reb
with almost a wink, for everything combined to make him jolly
as asandboy. “I understand he is a friend of yours.”
“We used to be schoolboys together, that is all. Though
strangely enough I just spent an hour with him. He is very
well,” answered David smiling. “He is about to marry
“ His first love of course,” said the Reb.
“Yes, people always come back to that,” said David laughing.
“That's right, that’s right,” said the Reb. “I am glad there
was no unpleasantness.”
“Unpleasantness. No, how could there be? Leah knew it
was only ajoke. All's well that ends well, and we may perhaps
all get married on the same day and risk another mix-up. Ha!
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION. 289
“Js it your wish to marry soon, then?”
“ Yes; there are too many long engagements among our peo-
ple. They often go off.”
“ Then I suppose you have the means?”
‘Qh yes, I can show you my —”
The old man waved his hand.
“J don’t want to see anything. My girl must be supported
decently — that is all I ask. What do you do for a living?”
«“T have made a little money at the Cape and now I think of
going into business.”
“T haven’t settled.”
“You won’t open on Shaddos ?” said the Reb anxiously.
David hesitated a second. In some business, Saturday is the
best day. Still he felt that he was not quite radical enough to
break the Sabbath deliberately, and since he had contemplated
settling down, his religion had become rather more real to him.
Besides he must sacrifice something for Hannah’s sake.
“ Have no fear, sir,” he said cheerfully.
Reb Shemuel gripped his hand in grateful silence.
«“ You mustn’t think me quite a lost soul,” pursued David after
a moment of emotion. ‘You don’t remember me, but I had lots
of blessings and halfpence from you when I was a lad. I dare
say I valued the latter more in those days.” He smiled to hide
Reb Shemuel was beaming. “Did you, really?” he inquired.
“J don’t remember you. But then I have blessed so many little
children. Of course you'll come to the Seder to-morrow evening
and taste some of Hannah’s cookery. You're one of the family
now, you know.”
“J shall be delighted to have the privilege of having Seder
with you,” replied David, his heart going out more and more to
the fatherly old man.
“ What Skool will you be going to for Passover? I can get
you a seat in mine if you haven’t arranged.”
“Thank you, but I promised Mr. Birnbaum to come to the
little synagogue of which he is President. It seems they havea
290 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
scarcity of Cohenim, and they want me to bless the congregation,
“ What!” cried Reb Shemuel excitedly. “Are you a Cohen?”
“Of course I am. Why, they got me to bless them in the
Transvaal last Yom Kippur. So you see I’m anything but a
sinner in Israel.” He laughed — but his laugh ended abruptly.
Reb Shemuel’s face had grown white. His hands were trem-
“What is the matter? You are ill,” cried David.
The old man shook his head. Then he struck his brow with
his fist. “Ach, Gott!” he cried. “Why did I not think of
finding out before? But thank God I know it in time.”
“Finding out what?” said David, fearing the old man’s reason
was giving way.
“My daughter cannot marry you,” said Reb Shemuel in hushed,
“Eh? What?” said David blankly.
“It is impossible.”
“What are you talking about, Reb Shemuel?”
“You are a Cohen. Hannah cannot marry a Cohen.”
“Not marry a Cohen? Why, I thought they were Israel’s
“That is why. A Cohen cannot marry a divorced woman.”
The fit of trembling passed from the old Reb to the young
man. His heart pulsed as with the stroke of a mighty piston.
Without comprehending, Hannah’s prior misadventure gave him
a horrible foreboding of critical complications.
“Do you mean to say I can’t marry Hannah?” he asked almost
in a whisper.
“ Such is the law. A woman who has had Ge¢¢ may not marry
a Cohen.” :
“But you surely wouldn’t call Hannah a divorced woman?”
he cried hoarsely.
“ How shall I not? I gave her the divorce myself.”
“Great God!” exclaimed David. “Then Sam has ruined our
lives.” He stood a moment in dazed horror, striving to grasp
the terrible tangle. Then he burst forth. “This is some of
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION. 291
your cursed Rabbinical laws, it is not Judaism, it is not true
Judaism. God never made any such law.”
« Hush!” said Reb Shemuel sternly. “It is the holy Torah.
It is not even the Rabbis, of whom you speak like an Epicurean.
It is in Leviticus, chapter 21, verse 7: ‘ either shall they take a
woman put away from her husband ; for he is holy unto his God.
Thou shalt sanctify him, therefore; for he offereth the bread of
thy God; he shail be holy unto thee, for I the Lord which sanctify
you am holy.”
For an instant David was overwhelmed by the quotation,
for the Bible was still a sacred book to him. Then he cried
« But God never meant it to apply to a case like this!”
“We must obey God’s law,” said Reb Shemuel.
« Then it is the devil’s law!” shouted David, losing all control
The Reb’s face grew dark as night. There was a moment of
« Here you are, father,” said Hannah, returning with the wine
and some glasses which she had carefully dusted. Then she
paused and gave a little cry, nearly losing her hold of the
«What's the matter? What has happened?” she asked
“Take away the wine —we shall drink nobody’s health to-
night,” cried David brutally.
“ My God!” said Hannah, all the hue of happiness dying out
of her cheeks. She threw down the tray on the table and ran
to her father’s arms. -
“What is it! Oh, what is it, father?” she cried. “You
haven’t had a quarrel?”
The old man was silent. The girl looked appealingly from
one to the other.
“No, it’s worse than that,” said David in cold, harsh tones.
“ You remember your marriage in fun to Sam?”
“Yes. Merciful heavens! I guess it! There was something
not valid in the Geé¢ after all.”
292 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
Her anguish at the thought of losing him was so apparent
that he softened a little.
“No, not that,” he said more gently. “But this blessed
religion of ours reckons you a divorced woman, and so you
can’t marry me because I’m a Cohen.”
“Can't marry you because you're a Cohen!” repeated Hannah,
dazed in her turn. ;
“We must obey the Torah,” said Reb Shemuel again, in low,
solemn tones. “Jt is your friend Levine who has erred, not the
“The Torah cannot visit a mere bit of fun so cruelly,” pro-
tested David. “And on the innocent, too.”
“Sacred things should not be jested with,” said the old man
in stern tones that yet quavered with sympathy and pity. “On
his head is the sin; on his head is the responsibility.”
“Father,” cried Hannah in piercing tones, “can nothing be
The old man shook his head sadly. The poor, pretty face
was’ pallid with a pain too deep for tears. The shock was too
sudden, too terrible. She sank helplessly into a chair.
“Something must be done, something shall be done,” thun-
dered David. “TI will appeal to the Chief Rabbi.”
“And what can he do? Can he go behind the Torah?” said
Reb Shemuel pitifully.
“T won't ask him to. But if he has a grain of common sense
he will see that our case is an exception, and cannot come under
the Law.” _
“The Law knows no exceptions,” said Reb Shemuel gently,
quoting in Hebrew, “‘The Law of God is perfect, enlightening
the eyes.’ Be patient, my dear children, in your affliction.
It is the will of God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh
away — bless ye the name of the Lord.”
“Not I!” said David harshly. “But look to Hannah. She
“No, I am all right,” said Hannah wearily, opening the eyes
she had closed. “Do not make so certain, father. Look at your
books again. Perhaps they do make an exception in sucha case.”
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION. 293
The Reb shook his head hopelessly.
“Do not expect that,” he said. “ Believe me, my Hannah, if
there were a gleam of hope I would not hide it from you. Bea
good girl, dear, and bear your trouble like a true Jewish maiden.
Have faith in God, my child. He doeth all things for the best.
Come now—rouse yourself. Tell David you will always be a
friend, and that your father will love him as though he were
indeed his son.” He moved towards her and touched her ten-
derly. He felt a violent spasm traversing her bosom.
“J can’t, father,” she cried in a choking voice. “I can’t.
Don’t ask me.” Pore ts
David leaned against the manuscript-littered table in stony
silence. The stern granite faces of the old continental Rabbis
seemed to frown down on him from the walls and he returned
the frown with interest. His heart was full of bitterness, con-
tempt, revolt. What a pack of knavish bigots they must all
have been! Reb Shemuel bent down and took his daughter’s
head in his trembling palms. The eyes were closed again, the
chest heaved painfully with silent sobs.
« Do you love him somuch, Hannah?” whispered the old man.
Her sobs answered, growing loud at last.
« But you love your religion more, my child?” he murmured
anxiously. “That will bring you peace.”
Her sobs gave him no assurance. Presently the contagion
of sobbing took him too.
“OQ God! God!” he moaned: “What sin have I committed
that thou shouldst punish my child thus?”
“Don’t blame God!” burst forth David at last. “It’s your
own foolish bigotry. Is it not enough your daughter doesn’t
ask to marry a Christian? Be thankful, old man, for that and
put away all this antiquated superstition. We're living in the
« And what if we are!” said Reb Shemuel, blazing up in turn.
“The Torah is eternal. Thank God for your youth, and your
health and strength, and do not blaspheme Him because you
cannot have.all the desire of your heart or the inclination of your
294 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“ The desire of my heart,” retorted David. “Do you imagine
I am only thinking of my own suffering? Look at your daughter
—think of what you are doing to her and beware before it is too
“Ts it in my hand to do or to forbear?” asked the old man.
“Tt is the Torah. Am I responsible for that?”
“Yes,” said David, out of mere revolt. Then, seeking to
justify himself, his face lit up with sudden inspiration. “Who
need ever know? The Maggid is dead. Old Hyams has gone
to America. So Hannah has told me. It’s a thousand to one
Leah’s people never heard of the Law of Leviticus. If they had,
it’s another thousand to one against their putting two and two
together. It requires a Talmudist like you to even dream of
reckoning Hannah as an ordinary divorced woman. If they did,
it’s a third thousand to one against their telling anybody. There
is no need for you to perform the ceremony yourself. Let her
be married by some other minister — by the Chief Rabbi himself,
and to make assurance doubly sure I'll not mention that [ma
Cohen.” The words poured forth like a torrent, overwhelming
the Reb fora moment. Hannah leaped up with a hysterical cry.
“Yes, yes, father. It will be all right, after all. Nobody
knows. Oh, thank God! thank God!”
There was a moment of tense silence. Then the old man’s
voice rose slowly and painfully.
“Thank God!” he repeated. “Do you dare mention the
Name even when you propose to profane it? Do you ask me,
your father, Reb Shemuel, to consent to such a profanation of
“And why not?” said David angrily. “Whom else has a
daughter the right to ask mercy from, if not her father?”
“God have mercy on me!” groaned the old Reb, covering his
face with his hands.
“Come, come!” said David impatiently. “Be sensible. It’s
nothing unworthy of you at all. Hannah was never really mar-
ried, so cannot be really divorced. We only ask you to obey the
spirit of the Torah instead of the letter.”
THE SHADOW OF RELIGION. 295
The old man shook his head, unwavering. His cheeks were
white and wet, but his expression was stern and solemn.
“Just think!” went on David passionately. “What am I
better than another Jew—than yourself for instance — that I
shouldn’t marry a divorced woman?” %
“It is the Law. You are a Cohen —a priest.”
“ A priest, Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed David bitterly. “A priest
—§in the nineteenth century! When the Temple has been de-
stroyed these two thousand years.”
“It will be rebuilt, please God,” said Reb Shemuel. “We
must be ready for it.”
“Oh yes, I'll be ready —Ha! Ha! Ha! Appriest! Holy unto
the Lord—I a priest! Ha! Ha! Ha! Do you know what my
holiness consists in? In eating ¢77fia meat, and going to Shool
a few times a year! And I, 7am too holy to marry your daughter.
Oh, it is rich!” He ended in uncontrollable mirth, slapping his
knee in ghastly enjoyment.
His laughter rang terrible. Reb Shemuel trembled from head
to foot. Hannah’s cheek was drawn and white. She seemed
overwrought beyond endurance. There followed a silence only
less terrible than David's laughter.
“A Cohen,” burst forth David again. “A holy Cohen up to
date. Do you know what the boys say about us priests when
we're blessing you common people? They say that if you look
on us once during that sacred function, you'll get blind, and if
you look on usa second time you'll die. A nice reverent joke
that, eh! Ha! Ha! Ha! You're blind already, Reb Shemuel.
Beware you don’t look at me again or I’ll commence to bless
you. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Again the terrible silence.
“¢ Ah well,” David resumed, his bitterness welling forth in
irony. “And so the first sacrifice the priest is called upon to
make is that of your daughter. But I won’t, Reb Shemuel,
mark my words; I won’t, not till she offers her own throat to the
knife. If she and I are parted, on you and you alone the guilt
must rest. Yow will have to perform the sacrifice.”
«What God wishes me to do I will do,” said the old man ina
296 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
broken voice. “What is it to that which our ancestors suffered
for the glory of the Name?”
“Yes, but it seems you suffer by proxy,” retorted David,
“My God! Do you think I would not die to make Hannah
happy?” faltered the old man. “ But God has laid the burden
on her —andI can only help her to bear it. And now, sir, I
must beg you to go. You do but distress my child.”
“What say you, Hannah? Do you wish me to go?”
“ Yes — What is the use — now?” breathed Hannah through
white quivering lips.
“My child!” said the old man pitifully, while he strained her
to his breast.
“ All right!” said David in strange harsh tones, scarcely recog-
nizable as his. “I see you are your father’s daughter.”
He took his hat and turned his back upon the tragic embrace.
“David!” She called his name in an agonized hoarse voice.
She held her arms towards him. He did not turn round.
“David!” Her voice rose toa shriek. “You will not leave
He faced her exultant.
“ Ah, you will come with me. You will be my wife.”
“No— no—not now, not now. I cannot answer you now.
Let me think — good-bye, dearest, good-bye.” She burst out
weeping. David took her in his arms and kissed her passion-
ately. Then he went out hurriedly.
Hannah wept on —her father holding her hand in piteous
“Oh, it is cruel, your religion,” she sobbed. “ Cruel, cruel!”
“Hannah! Shemuel! Where are you?” suddenly came the ex-
cited voice of Simcha from the passage. ‘Come and look at
the lovely fowls I’ve bought—and such Afefsiahs. They're
worth double. Oh, what a beautiful Vomtov we shall have!”
SEDER NIGHT. 297
“ Prosaic miles of street stretch all around,
Astir with restless, hurried life, and spanned
By arches that with thund’rous trains resound,
And throbbing wires that galvanize the land;
Gin palaces in tawdry splendor stand ;
The newsboys shriek of mangled bodies found;
The last burlesque is playing in the Strand —
In modern prose, all poetry seems drowned,
Yet in ten thousand homes this April night
An ancient people celebrates its birth
To Freedom, with a reverential mirth,
With customs quaint and many a hoary rite,
Waiting until, its tarnished glories bright,
Its God shall be the God of all the Earth.”
To an imaginative child like Esther, Seder night was a
charmed time. The strange symbolic dishes —the bitter herbs
and the sweet mixture of apples, almonds, spices and wine, the
roasted bone and the lamb, the salt water and the four cups of
raisin wine, the great round unleavened cakes, with their mottled
surfaces, some specially thick and sacred, the special Hebrew
melodies and verses with their jingle of rhymes and assonances,
the quaint ceremonial with its striking moments, as when the
finger was dipped in the wine and the drops sprinkled over the
shoulder in repudiation of the ten plagues of Egypt cabalistically
magnified to two hundred and fifty ; all this penetrated deep into
her consciousness and made the recurrence of every Passover
coincide with a rush of pleasant anticipations and a sense of the
special privilege of being born a happy Jewish child. Vaguely,
indeed, did she co-ordinate the celebration with the history en-
shrined in it or with the prospective history of her race. It was
like a tale out of the fairy-books, this miraculous deliverance of
her forefathers in the dim haze of antiquity; true enough but
298 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
not more definitely realized on that account. And yet not easily
dissoluble links were being forged with her race, which has antici-
pated Positivism in vitalizing history by making it religion.
The Matzoth that Esther ate were not dainty —they were
coarse, of the quality called “seconds,” for even the unleavened
bread of charity is not necessarily delicate eating —but few
things melted sweeter on the palate than a segment of a Matso
dipped in cheap raisin wine; the unconventionality of the food
made life less common, more picturesque. Simple Ghetto chil-
dren into whose existence the ceaseless round of fast and feast,
of prohibited and enjoyed pleasures, of varying species of food,
brought change and relief! Imprisoned in the area of a few nar-
row streets, unlovely and sombre, muddy and ill-smelling, im-
mured in dreary houses and surrounded with mean and depressing
sights and sounds, the spirit of childhood took radiance and
color from its own inner light and the alchemy of youth could
still transmute its lead to gold. No little princess in the courts
of fairyland could feel a fresher interest and pleasure in life than
Esther sitting at the Seder table, where her father—no longer a
slave in Egypt —leaned royally upon two chairs supplied with
pillows as the Diz prescribes. Not even the monarch’s prime
minister could have had a meaner opinion of Pharaoh than
Moses Ansell in this symbolically sybaritic attitude. A live dog
is better than a dead lion, as a great teacher in Israel had said.
How much better then a live lion than a dead dog? Pharaoh,
for all his purple and fine linen and his treasure cities, was at the
bottom of the Red Sea, smitten with two hundred and fifty
plagues, and even if, as tradition asserted, he had been made to
live on and on to be King of Nineveh, and to give ear to the
warnings of Jonah, prophet and whale-explorer, even so he was
but dust and ashes for other sinners to cover themselves withal ;
but he, Moses Ansell, was the honored master of his household,
enjoying a foretaste of the lollings of the righteous in Paradise ;
nay, more, dispensing hospitality to the poor and the hungry.
- Little fleas have lesser fleas, and Moses Ansell had never fallen
so low but that, on this night of nights when the slave sits with
the master on equal terms, he could manage to entertain a Pass-
SEDER NIGHT. 299
over guest, usually some newly-arrived Greener, or some nonde-
script waif and stray returned to Judaism for the occasion and
accepting a seat at the board in that spirit of camaraderie which
is one of the most delightful features of the Jewish pauper. Seder
was a ceremonial to be taken in none too solemn and sober a
spirit, and there was an abundance of unreproved giggling
throughout from the little ones, especially in those happy days
when mother was alive and tried to steal the 4/kusan or Matso
specially laid aside for the final morsel, only to be surrendered
to father when he promised to grant her whatever she wished.
Alas! it is to be feared Mrs. Ansell’s wishes did not soar high.
There was more giggling when the youngest talking son—it
was poor Benjamin in Esther's earliest recollections — opened
the ball by inquiring in a peculiarly pitched incantation and with
an air of blank ignorance why this night differed from all other
nights — in view of the various astonishing peculiarities of food
and behavior (enumerated in detail) visible to his vision. To
which Moses and the Bude and the rest of the company (includ-
ing the questioner) invariably replied in corresponding sing-
song: “Slaves have we been in Egypt,” proceeding to recount
at great length, stopping for refreshment in the middle, the
never-cloying tale of the great deliverance, with irrelevant digres-
sions concerning Haman and Daniel and the wise men of Bona
Berak, the whole of this most ancient of the world’s extant domes-
tic rituals terminating with an allegorical ballad like the “ house
that Jack built,” concerning a kid that was eaten by a cat, which
was bitten by a dog, which was beaten by a stick, which was
burned by a fire, which was quenched by some water, which was
drunk by an ox, which was slaughtered by a slaughterer, who
was slain by the Angel of Death, who was slain by the Holy One,
blessed be He.
In wealthy houses this Hagadah was read from manuscripts
with rich illuminations—the one development of pictorial art
among the Jews—but the Ansells had wretchedly-printed
little books containing quaint but unintentionally comic wood-
cuts, pre-Raphaelite in perspective and ludicrous in draughts-
manship, depicting the Miracles of the Redemption, Moses
300 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
burying the Egyptian, and sundry other passages of the text.
In one a king was praying in the Temple to an exploding
bomb intended to represent the Shechinah or divine glory.
In another, Sarah attired in a matronly cap and a fashionable
jacket and skirt, was standing behind the door of the tent, a
solid detached villa on the brink of a lake, whereon ships
and gondolas floated, what time Abraham welcomed the three
celestial messengers, unobtrusively disguised with heavy pinions.
What delight as the quaffing of each of the four cups of wine
loomed in sight, what disappointment and mutual bantering
when the cup had merely to be raised in the hand, what chaff
of the greedy Solomon who was careful not to throw away a
drop during the digital manceuvres when the wine must be
jerked from the cup at the mention of each plague. And
what a solemn moment was that when the tallest goblet was
filled to the brim for the delectation of the prophet Elijah and the
door thrown open for his entry. Could one almost hear the
rustling of the prophet’s spirit through the room? And what
though the level of the wine subsided not a barley-corn?
Elijah, though there was no difficulty in his being in all parts
of the world simultaneously, could hardly compass the greater
miracle of emptying so many million goblets. Historians have
traced this custom of opening the door to the necessity of
asking the world to look in and see for itself that no blood
of Christian child figured in the ceremonial—and for once
science has illumined naive superstition with a tragic glow
more poetic still. For the London Ghetto persecution had
dwindled to an occasional bellowing through the keyhole, as
the local rowdies heard the unaccustomed melodies trolled
forth from jocund lungs and then the singers would stop for
a moment, startled, and some one would say: “Oh, it’s only
a Christian rough,” and take up the thread of song.
And then, when the Afkuman had been eaten and the
last cup of wine drunk, and it was time to go to bed, what
a sweet sense of sanctity and security still reigned. No need
to say your prayers to-night, beseeching the guardian of Israel,
who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth, to watch over you and
SEDER NIGHT. 301
chase away the evil spirits; the angels are with you— Ga-
briel on your right and Raphael on your left, and Michael be-
hind you. All about the Ghetto the light of the Passover
rested, transfiguring the dreary rooms and illumining the gray
Dutch Debby sat beside Mrs. Simons at the table of that
good soul’s married daughter ; the same who had suckled little
Sarah. Esther’s frequent eulogiums had secured the poor
lonely narrow-chested seamstress this enormous concession
and privilege. Bobby squatted on the mat in the passage
ready to challenge Elijah. At this table there were two pieces
of fried fish sent to Mrs. Simons by Esther Ansell. They repre-
sented the greatest revenge of Esther's life, and she felt remorse-
ful towards Malka, remembering to whose gold she owed this
proud moment. She made up her mind to write her a letter of
apology in her best hand.
At the Belcovitches’ the ceremonial was long, for the master
of it insisted on translating the Hebrew into jargon, phrase by
phrase; but no one found it tedious, especially after supper.
Pesach was there, hand in hand with Fanny, their wedding
very near now; and Becky lolled royally in all her glory,
aggressive of ringlet, insolently unattached, a conscious beacon
of bedazzlement to the pauper Pollack we last met at Reb
Shemuel’s Sabbath table, and there, too, was Chayah, she
of the ill-matched legs. Be sure that Malka had returned the
clothes-brush, and was throned in complacent majesty at Milly’s
table; and that Sugarman the Shadchan forgave his monocular
consort her lack of a fourth uncle; while Joseph Strelitski,
dreamer of dreams, rich with commissions from “ Passover 2)
cigars, brooded on the Great Exodus. Nor could the Shalotten
Shammos be other than beaming, ordering the complex cere-
monial with none to contradict; nor Karlkammer be otherwise
than in the seven hundred and seventy-seventh heaven, which,
calculated by Gematriyah, can easily be reduced to the seventh.
Shosshi Shmendrik did not fail to explain the deliverance to
the ex-widow Finkelstein, nor Guedalyah, the greengrocer, omit
to hold his annual revel at the head of half a hundred merry
302 CHILDREN OF THE. GHETTO.
“ pauper-aliens.” Christian roughs bawled derisively in the
street, especially when doors were opened for Elijah; but hard
words break no bones, and the Ghetto was uplifted above insult.
Melchitsedek Pinchas was the Passover guest at Reb Shem-
uel’s table, for the reek of his Sabbath cigar had not penetrated
to the old man’s nostrils. It was a great night for Pinchas;
wrought up to fervid nationalistic aspirations by the memory of
the Egyptian deliverance, which he yet regarded as mythical in
its details. It was a terrible night for Hannah, sitting opposite
to him under the fire of his poetic regard. She was pale and
rigid; moving and speaking mechanically. Her father glanced
towards her every now and again, compassionately, but with
trust that the worst was over. Her mother realized the crisis
much ‘less keenly than he, not having been in the heart of the
storm. She had never even seen her intended son-in-law except
through the lens of a camera. She was sorry — that was all.
Now that Hannah had broken the ice, and encouraged one
young man, there was hope for the others.
Hannah's state of mind was divined by neither parent. Love
itself is blind in those tragic silences which divide souls.
All night, after that agonizing scene, she did not sleep; the
feverish activity of her mind rendered that impossible, and un-
erring instinct told her that David was awake also—that they
two, amid the silence of a sleeping city, wrestled in the darkness
with the same terrible problem, and were never so much at one
as in this their separation. A letter came for her in the morn-
ing. It was unstamped, and had evidently been dropped into
the letter-box by David’s hand. It appointed an interview at
ten o’clock at a corner of the Ruins; of course, he could not
come to the house. Hannah was out with a little basket to
make some purchases. There was a cheery hum of life about
the Ghetto; a pleasant festival bustle; the air resounded with
the raucous clucking of innumerable fowls on their way to the
feather-littered, blood-stained shambles, where professional cut-
throats wielded sacred knives; boys armed with little braziers
of glowing coal ran about the Ruins, offering halfpenny pyres
for the immolation of the last crumbs of leaven. Nobody paid
SEDER NIGHT. 303
the slightest attention to the two tragic figures whose lives
turned on the brief moments of conversation snatched in the
thick of the hurrying crowd.
David’s clouded face lightened a little as he saw Hannah
advancing towards him. ;
“JI knew you would come,” he said, taking her hand for a
moment. His palm burned, hers was cold and limp. The
stress of a great tempest of emotion had driven the blood from
her face and limbs, but inwardly she was on fire. As they
looked each read revolt in the other’s eyes.
“ Let us walk on,” he said.
They moved slowly forwards. The ground was slippery and
muddy under foot. The sky was gray. But the gayety of the
crowds neutralized the dull squalor of the scene.
«“ Well?” he said, in a low tone.
“I thought you had something to propose,” she murmured.
“Let me carry your basket.”
“No, no; goon. What have you determined?”
“Not to give you up, Hannah, while I live.”
“Ah!” she said quietly. “I have thought it all over, too,
and I shall not leave you. But our marriage by Jewish law is
impossible; we could not marry at any synagogue without my
father’s knowledge; and he would at once inform the authorities
of the bar to our union.”
“J know, dear. But let us go to America, where no one will
know. There we shall find plenty of Rabbis to marry us.
There is nothing to tie me to this country. I can start my
business in America just as well as here. Your parents, too,
will think more kindly of you when you are across the seas.
Forgiveness is easier at a distance. What do you say, dear?”
She shook her head.
“Why should we be married in a synagogue?” she asked.
“Why?” repeated he, puzzled.
“ Because we are Jews.” :
“You would use Jewish forms to outwit Jewish laws?” she
304 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
“No, no. Why should you put it that way? I don’t doubt
the Bible is all right in making the laws it does. After the first
heat of my anger was over, I saw the whole thing in its proper
bearings. Those laws about priests were only intended for the
days when we had a Temple, and in any case they cannot apply
to a merely farcical divorce like yours. It is these old fools, —
I beg your pardon, —it is these fanatical Rabbis who insist on
giving them a rigidity God never meant them to have, just as
they still make a fuss about osher meat. In America they are
less strict; besides, they will not know I am a Cohen.”
“No, David,” said Hannah firmly. “There must be no more
deceit. What need have we to seek the sanction of any Rabbi?
If Jewish law cannot marry us without our hiding something,
then I will have nothing to do with Jewish law. You know my
opinions; I haven’t gone so deeply into religious questions as
“ Don’t be sarcastic,” he interrupted.
“T have always: been sick to death of this eternal ceremony,
this endless coil of laws winding round us and cramping our
lives at every turn; and now it has become too oppressive to be
borne any longer. Why should we let it ruin our lives? And
why, if we determine to break from it, shall we pretend to keep
to it? What do you care for Judaism? You eat ¢riphas, you
smoke on Shabbos when you want to—”
“Yes, I know, perhaps I’m wrong. But everybody does it
now-a-days. When I was a boy nobody dared be seen riding in
a ’bus on Shabdos — now you meet lots. But all that is only old-
fashioned Judaism. There must be a God, else we shouldn’t be
here, and it’s impossible to believe that Jesus was He. A man
must have some religion, and there isn’t anything better. But
that’s neither here nor there. If you don’t care for my plan,” he
concluded anxiously, “ what’s yours?”
“Let us be married honestly by a Registrar.”
“ Any way you like, dear,” he said readily, “so long as we are
married — and quickly.”
“ As quickly as you like.”
He seized her disengaged hand and pressed it passionately.
SEDER NIGHT. 805
“ That’s my own darling Hannah. Oh, if you could realize what
I felt last night when you seemed to be drifting away from me.”
There was an interval of silence, each thinking excitedly.
Then David said:
« But have you the courage to do this and remain in London?”
“JT have courage for anything. But, as you say, it might be
better to travel. It will be less of a break if we break away alto-
gether — change everything at once. It sounds contradictory,
but you understand what I mean.”
“Perfectly. It is difficult to live a new life with all the old
things round you. Besides, why should we give our friends the
chance to cold-shoulder us? They will find all sorts of mali-
cious reasons why we were not married in a Shoo/, and if they hit
on the true one they may even regard our marriage as illegal.
Let us go to America, as I proposed.”
“Very well. Do we go direct from London?”
“No, from Liverpool.”
“ Then we can be married at Liverpool before sailing?”
“A good idea. But when do we start?”
“Atonce. To-night. The sooner the better.”
He looked at her quickly. “Do you mean it?” he said. His
heart beat violently as if it would burst. Waves of dazzling color ”
swam before his eyes. .
“J mean it,” she said gravely and quietly. “Do you think I
could face my father and mother, knowing I was about to wound
them to the heart? Each day of delay would be torture to me.
Oh, why is religion such a curse?” She paused, overwhelmed
for a moment by the emotion she had been suppressing. She re-
sumed in thé same quiet manner. “Yes, we must break away at
once. We have kept our last Passover. We shall have to eat leav-
ened food — it will be a decisive break. Take me to Liverpool,
David, this very day. Youare my chosen husband; I trust in you.”
She looked at him frankly with her dark eyes that stood out
in lustrous relief against the pale skin. He gazed into those
eyes, and a flash as from the inner heaven of purity pierced his
“Thank you, dearest,” he said in a voice with tears in it.
806 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
They walked on silently. Speech was as superfluous as it was
inadequate. When they spoke again their voices were calm.
The peace that comes of resolute decision was theirs at last,
and each was full of the joy of daring greatly for the sake of
their mutual love. Petty as their departure from convention
might seem to the stranger, to them it loomed as a violent
breach with all the traditions of the Ghetto and their past lives ;
they were venturing forth into untrodden paths, holding each
Jostling the’ loquacious crowd, in the unsavory by-ways of
the Ghetto, in the gray chillness of a cloudy morning, Hannah
seemed to herself to walk in enchanted gardens, breathing the
scent of love’s own roses mingled with the keen salt air that
blew in from the sea of liberty. A fresh, new blessed life was
opening before her. The clogging vapors of the past were roll-
ing away at last. The unreasoning instinctive rebellion, bred
of ennui and brooding dissatisfaction with the conditions of her
existence and the people about her, had by a curious series of
accidents been hastened to its acutest development; thought
had at last fermented into active resolution, and the anticipation
of action flooded her soul with peace and joy, in which all
- recollection of outside humanity was submerged.
“What time can you be ready by?” he said before they
parted. 4 Re
“ Any time,” she answered. “I can take nothing with me.
I dare not pack anything. I suppose I can get necessaries in
Liverpool. I have merely my hat and cloak to put on.”
“But that will be enough,” he said ardently. “I want but
“J know it, dear,” she answered gently. “If you were as
other Jewish young men I could not give up all else for you.”
“You shall never regret it, Hannah,” he said, moved to his
depths, as the full extent of her sacrifice for love dawned upon
him. He was a vagabond on the face of the earth, but she was
tearing herself away from deep roots in the soil of home, as well
as from the conventions of her circle and her sex. Once again
he trembled with a sense of unworthiness, a sudden anxious
SEDER NIGHT. 307
doubt if he were noble enough to repay her trust. Mastering
his emotion, he went on: “I reckon my packing and arrange-
ments for leaving the country will take me all day at least. I
must see my bankers if nobody else. ‘I shan’t take leave of
anybody, that would arouse suspicion. I will be at the corner
of your street with a cab at nine, and we'll catch the ten o’clock
express from Euston. If we missed that, we should have to
wait till midnight. It will be dark; no one is likely to notice
me. I will get a dressing-case for you and anything else I can
think of and add it to my luggage.” ;
« Very well,” she said simply.
They did not kiss; she gave him her hand, and, with a sudden
inspiration, he slipped the ring he had brought the day before
on her finger. The tears came into her eyes as she saw what
he had done. They looked at each other through a mist, feel-
ing bound beyond human intervention.
« Good-bye,” she faltered.
“Good-bye,” he said. “At nine.”
“At nine,” she breathed. And hurried off without looking
It was a hard day, the minutes crawling reluctantly into the
hours, the hours dragging themselves wearily on towards the
night. It was typical April weather — squalls and sunshine in
capricious succession. When it drew towards’ dusk she put on
her best clothes for the Festival, stuffing a few precious memen-
toes into her pockets and wearing her father’s portrait next to
her lover’s at her breast. She hung a travelling cloak and a hat
on a peg near the hall-door ready to hand as she left the house.
Of little use was she in the kitchen that day, but her mother was
tender to her as knowing her sorrow. Time after time Hannah
ascended to her bedroom to take a last look at the things she
had grown so tired of — the little iron bed, the wardrobe, the
framed lithographs, the jug and basin with their floral designs.
All things seemed strangely dear now she was seeing them for
the last time. Hannah turned over everything — even the little
curling iron, and the cardboard box full of tags and rags of rib-
bon and chiffon and lace and crushed artificial flowers, and the
508 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
= fans with broken sticks and the stays with broken ribs, and the
petticoats with dingy frills and the twelve-button ball gloves
with dirty fingers, and the soiled pink wraps. Some of her
books, especially her school-prizes, she would have liked to take
with her— but that could not be. She went over the rest of the
house, too, from top to bottom. It weakened her but she could
not conquer the impulse of farewell. Finally she wrote a letter
to her parents and hid it under her looking-glass, knowing they
would search her room for traces of her. She looked curiously
at herself as she did so; the color had not returned to her
cheeks. She knew she was pretty and always strove to look
nice for the mere pleasure of the thing. All her instincts were
zsthetic. Now she had the air of a saint wrought up to spiritual
exaltation. She was almost frightened by the vision. She had
seen her face frowning, weeping, overcast with gloom, never
with an expression so fateful. It seemed as if her resolution
was writ large upon every feature for all to read.
In the evening she accompanied her father to Skool. She did
not often go in the evening, and the thought of going only sud-
denly occurred to her. Heaven alone knew if she would ever
enter a synagogue again— the visit would be part of her system-
atic farewell. Reb Shemuel took it as a symptom of resignation
to the will of God, and he laid his hand lightly on her head in
silent blessing, ltis eyes uplifted gratefully to Heaven. Too late
Hannah felt the misconception and was remorseful. For the
festival occasion Reb Shemuel elected to worship at the Great
Synagogue; Hannah, seated among the sparse occupants of the
Ladies’ Gallery and mechanically fingering a Machzor, looked
down for the last time on the crowded auditorium where the
men sat in high hats and holiday garments. Tall wax-candles
twinkled everywhere, in great gilt chandeliers depending from
the ceiling, in sconces stuck about the window ledges, in cande-
labra branching from the walls. There was an air of holy joy
about the solemn old structure with its massive pillars, its small
side-windows, high ornate roof, and skylights, and its gilt-lettered
tablets to the memory of pious donors.
The congregation gave the responses with joyous unction.
SEDER NIGHT. 809
Some of the worshippers tempered their devotion by petty gos-
sip and the beadle marshalled the men in low hats within the
iron railings, sonorously sounding his automatic amens. But
to-night Hannah had no eye for the humors that were wont to
awaken her scornful amusement—a real emotion possessed
her, the same emotion of farewell which she had experienced in
her own bedroom. Her eyes wandered towards the Ark, sur-
mounted by the stone tablets of the Decalogue, and the sad dark
orbs filled with the brooding light of childish reminiscence.
Once when she was a little girl her father told her that on Pass-
over night an angel sometimes came out of the doors of the Ark
from among the scrolls of the Law. For years she looked out
for that angel, keeping her eyes patiently fixed on the curtain.
At last she gave him up, concluding her vision was insufficiently
purified or that he was exhibiting at other synagogues. To-night
her childish fancy recurred to her—she found herself invol-
untarily looking towards the Ark and half-expectant of the
She had not thought of the Seder service she would have to
partially sit through, when she made her appointment with David
in the morning, but when during the day it occurred to her, a
cynical smile traversed her lips. How apposite it was! To-night
would mark er exodus from slavery. Like her ancestors leav-
ing Egypt, she, too, would partake of a meal in haste, staff in
hand ready for the journey. With what stout heart would she
set forth, she, too, towards the promised land! Thus had she
thought some hours since, but her mood was changed now. The
nearer the Seder approached, the more she shrank from the
family ceremonial. A panic terror almost seized her now, in
the synagogue, when the picture of the domestic interior flashed
again before her mental vision—she felt like flying into the
street, on towards her lover without ever looking behind. Oh,
why could David not have fixed the hour earlier, so as to spare
her an ordeal so trying to the nerves? The black-stoled choir
was singing sweetly, Hannah banished her foolish flutter of alarm
by joining in quietly, for congregational singing was regarded
rather as an intrusion on the privileges of the choir and calcu-
310 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
lated to put them out in their elaborate four-part fugues unaided
by an organ.
“With everlasting love hast Thou loved the house of Israel,
Thy people,” she sang: “a Law and commandments, statutes
and judgments hast thou taught us. Therefore, O Lord our
God, when we lie down and when we rise up we will meditate on
Thy statutes: yea, we will rejoice in the words of Thy Law and
in Thy commandments for ever, for they are our life and the
length of our days, and will meditate on them day and night.
And mayest Thou never take away Thy love from us. Blessed
art Thou, O Lord, who lovest Thy people Israel.”
Hannah scanned the English version of the Hebrew in her
Machzor as she sang. Though she could translate every word,
the meaning of what she sang was never completely conceived
by her consciousness. The power of song over the soul depends
but little on the words. Now the words seem fateful, pregnant
with special message. Her eyes were misty when the fugues
were over. Again she looked towards the Ark with its beauti-
fully embroidered curtain, behind which were the precious scrolls
with their silken swathes and their golden bells and shields and
pomegranates. Ah, if the angel would come out now! If only
the dazzling vision gleamed for a moment on the white steps.
Oh, why did he not come and save her?
Save her? From what? She asked herself the question
fiercely, in defiance of the still, small voice. What wrong had
she ever done that she so young and gentle should be forced to
make so cruel a choice between the old and the new? This
was the synagogue she should have been married in; stepping
gloriously and honorably under the canopy, amid the pleas-
ant excitement of a congratulatory company. And now she
was being driven to exile and the chillness of secret nuptials.
No, no; she did not want to be saved in the sense of being
kept in the fold; it was the creed that was culpable, not
The service drew toan end. The choir sang the final hymn,
the Chazan giving the last verse at great length and with many
SEDER NIGHT. 311
“The dead will God quicken in the abundance of His loving
kindness. Blessed for evermore be His glorious name.”
There was a clattering of reading-flaps and seat-lids and the
congregation poured out, amid the buzz of mutual “Good Yom-
tovs.” Hannah rejoined her father, the sense of injury and
revolt still surging in her breast. In the fresh starlit ‘air, step-
ping along the wet gleaming pavements, she shook off the last
influences of the synagogue; all her thoughts converged on the
meeting with David, on the wild flight northwards while good
Jews were sleeping off the supper in celebration of their Redemp-
tion: her blood coursed quickly through her veins, she was in a
fever of impatience for the hour to come.
And thus it was that she sat at the Seder table, as in a dream,
with images of desperate adventure flitting in her brain. The
face of her lover floated before her eyes, close, close to her own
as it should have been to-night had there been justice in Heaven.
Now and again the scene about her flashed in upon her con-
sciousness, piercing her to the heart. When Levi asked the
introductory question, it set her wondering what would become
of him? Would manhood bring enfranchisement to him as
womanhood was doing to her? What sort of life would he lead
the poor Reb and his wife? The omens were scarcely auspi-
cious; but a man’s charter is so much wider than a woman’s;
and Levi might do much without paining them as she would
pain them. Poor father! The white hairs were predominating
in his beard, she had never noticed before how old he was get-
ting. And mother—her face was quite wrinkled. Ah, well;
we must all grow old. What a curious man Melchitsedek Pin-
chas was, singing so heartily the wonderful story. Judaism
certainly produced some curious types. A smile crossed her
face as she thought of herself as his bride.
At supper she strove to eat a little, knowing she would need
it. In bringing some plates from the kitchen she looked at her
hat and cloak, carefully hung up on the peg in the hall nearest
the street door. It would take but a second to slip them on.
She nodded her head towards them, as who. should say “ Yes,
we shall meet again very soon.” During the meal she found
312 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
herself listening to the poet’s monologues delivered in his high-
pitched creaking voice. :
Melchitsedek Pinchas had much to say about a certain actor-
manager who had spoiled the greatest jargon-play of the century
and a certain labor-leader who, out of the funds of his gulls, had
subsidized the audience to stay away, and (though here the Reb
cut him short for Hannah’s sake) a certain leading lady, one of
the quartette of mistresses of a certain clergyman, who had been
beguiled by her paramour into joining the great English con-
spiracy to hound down Melchitsedek Pinchas, — all of whom he
would shoot presently and had in the meantime enshrined like
dead flies in the amber of immortal acrostics. The wind began
to shake the shutters as they finished supper and presently the
rain began to patter afresh against the panes. Reb Shemuel
distributed the pieces of 4/##uman with a happy sigh, and, loll-
ing on his pillows and almost forgetting his family troubles in
the sense of Israel’s blessedness, began to chant the Grace like
the saints in the Psalm who sing aloud on their couches. The
little Dutch clock on the mantelpiece began to strike. Hannah
did not move. Pale and trembling she sat riveted to her chair.
One — two — three — four — five — six — seven — eight. She
counted the strokes, as if to count them was the only means of
telling the hour, as if her eyes had not been following the hands
creeping, creeping. She had a mad hope the striking would
cease with the eight and there would be still time to think.
Nine! She waited, her ear longing for the tenth stroke. If it
were only ten o'clock, it would be too late. The danger would
be over. She sat, mechanically watching the hands. They
crept on. It was five minutes past the hour. She felt sure that
David was already at the corner of the street, getting wet anda
little impatient. She half rose from her chair. It was not a nice
night for an elopement. She sank back into her seat. Perhaps
they had best wait till to-morrow night. She would go and tell
David so. But then he would not mind the weather; once they
had met he would bundle her into the cab and they would roll
off, leaving the old world irrevocably behind. She sat in a
paralysis of volition ; rigid on her chair, magnetized by the warm
SEDER NIGHT. 313
comfortable room, the old familiar furniture, the Passover table
—with its white table-cloth and its decanter and wine-glasses,
the faces of her father and mother eloquent with the appeal of a
thousand memories. The clock ticked on loudly, fiercely, like
a summoning drum; the rain beat an impatient tattoo on the
window-panes, the wind rattled the doors and casements. “Go
forth, go forth,” they called, “go forth where your lover waits
you, to bear you off into the new and the unknown.” And the
louder they called the louder Reb Shemuel trolled his hilarious
Grace: May He who maketh Peace in the High Heavens, bestow
Peace upon us and upon all Israel and say ye, Amen.
The hands of the clock crept on. It was half-past nine.
Hannah sat lethargic, numb, unable to think, her strung-up
nerves grown flaccid, her eyes full of bitter-sweet tears, her soul
floating along as in a trance on the waves of a familiar melody.
Suddenly she became aware that the others had risen and that
her father was motioning to her. Instinctively she understood ;
rose automatically and went to the door; then a great shock of
returning recollection whelmed her soul. She stood rooted to
the floor. Her father had filled Elijah’s goblet with wine and it
was her annual privilege to open the door for the prophet’s
entry. Intuitively she knew that David was pacing madly in
front of the house, not daring to make known his presence, and
perhaps cursing her cowardice. A chill terror seized her. She
was afraid to face him—his will was strong and mighty; her
fevered imagination figured it as the wash of a great ocean
breaking on the doorstep threatening to sweep her off into the
roaring whirlpool of doom. She threw the door of the room
wide and paused as if her duty were done.
“ Mu, nu,” muttered Reb Shemuel, indicating the outer door.
It was so near that he always had that opened, too.
Hannah tottered forwards through the few feet of hall. The
cloak and hat on the peg nodded to her sardonically. A wild
thrill of answering defiance shot through her: she stretched out
her hands towards them. “Fly, fly; it is your last chance,”
said the blood throbbing in her ears. But her hand dropped to
her side and in that brief instant of terrible illumination, Hannah
314 CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
saw down the whole long vista of her future life, stretching
straight and unlovely between great blank walls, on, on to a
solitary grave; knew that the strength had been denied her to
diverge to the right or left, that for her there would be neither
Exodus nor Redemption. Strong in the conviction of her weak-
ness she noisily threw open the street door. The face of David,
sallow and ghastly, loomed upon her in the darkness. Great
drops of rain fell from his hat and ran down his cheeks like tears.
His clothes seemed soaked with rain.
“At last!” he exclaimed in a hoarse, glad whisper. “What
has kept you?”
“ Boruch Habo! (Welcome art thou who arrivest) ” came the
voice of Reb Shemuel from within, greeting the prophet.
“Hush!” said Hannah. “Listen a moment.”
The sing-song undulations of the old Rabbi’s voice mingled
harshly with the wail of the wind: “Pour out Thy wrath on the
heathen who acknowledge Thee not and upon the Kingdoms which
invoke not Thy name, for they have devoured Facob and laid
waste his Temple. Pour out Thy indignation upon them and
cause Thy fierce anger to overtake them. Pursue them in wrath
and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.”
“Quick, Hannah!” whispered David. “We can’t wait a
moment more. Put on your things. We shall miss the train.”
A sudden inspiration came to her. For answer she drew his
ring out of her pocket and slipped it into his hand.
“Good-bye!” she murmured in a strange hollow voice, and
slammed the street door in his face.
His startled cry of agony and despair penetrated the wood-
work, muffled to an inarticulate shriek. He rattled the door
violently in unreasoning frenzy.
“Who's that? What’s that noise?” asked the Rebbitzin.
“Only some Christian rough shouting in the street,” answered
It was truer than she knew.
* * * * * * * * * *
The rain fell faster, the wind grew shriller, but the Children of
SEDER NIGHT. 815
the Ghetto basked by their firesides in faith and hope and con-
tentment. Hunted from shore to shore through the ages, they
had found the national aspiration— Peace —in a country where
Passover came without menace of blood. In the garret of
Number 1 Royal Street little Esther Ansell sat brooding, her
heart full of a vague tender poetry and penetrated by the
beauties of Judaism, which, please God, she would always cling
to; her childish vision looking forward hopefully to the larger
life that the years would bring.
END OF BOOK I.