IX

THE KIDDUSH CUP

IX THE KIDDUSH CUP

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

The peddler’s pack lies unnoticed in a 161

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

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

and woman, as the Lord God created them. 162

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

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

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

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

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

now and then for stimulation at a dish of 164

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

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

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

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

“A beautiful word that,” interrupted

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

IDYLS OF THE GASS Pas ES Ny PEREGO NE sa OE

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

Shimmelé stopped short and reflected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ed.

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

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

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

Five and forty years next Purim—” 167

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

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

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

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

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

“«Tell him Chayim Prager sent you,’

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

IDYLS OF THE GASS _

Sa ie re Tee

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

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

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

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

had brought his friend Salma Randar with 170

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

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

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

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

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

captain what thy Dédé said. 171

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

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

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

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

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

swered his prayer. Nothing is too insig- 172

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thy Dédé did not budge, 175

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

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

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

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

“Well, after two of their men’s horses

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

And Dédé built a fire, and boiled water for 176

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

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

the way they had come. 177

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one hand they fondle, and with the other 179

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

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

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

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

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

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‘VG BPRER YOSEF.)

x “VETTER YOSSEF

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

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

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

er the cows were at home. He only sniffed 183

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

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

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

That Vetter Yossef went about with

open eyes that saw nothing was not half 184

“VETTER YOSSEF

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

“Was Vetter Yossef always blind?”

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

“Can he not be made again to see?”

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

How long has he been so?”

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

“Cannot the doctor cure him?”

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

Then a pause and—

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

when there was hunger in the Gass; not 185

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

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

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

“Thou wicked one! A nice sort of

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

«“ VETTER YOSSEF

teem

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

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

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

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

hear him softly whistling to himself. When 187

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

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

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

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

was coming over him. 188

** VETTER YOSSEF

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

Where didst get it?” they cried.

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

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

How dost know?”

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

How does one get them?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aarelé Dorfgeher discovered a better way.

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

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

vertisement would say, and more games 190

« VETTER YOSSEF

Ne SRAM FSU SES SCIEN SEE area

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

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

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

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

had hated and shunned the Gass, but Shim- 191

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

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

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

These were the people who had known 192

““VETTER YOSSEF I a ial

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

had forgotten to leave off. 193

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RATT eas a ec

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

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

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

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

tour past Schulklopfer’s house, “to admire 194

*“VETTER YOSSEF

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

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

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

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

“What is this the people say?”

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

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

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

crying: 195

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

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

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

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

“Tis a scandal, but surely it will be a

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IT

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

Yossef walked about with his head in the air.

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

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

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

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

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

working clothes, Reb Dovid Maier made 197

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

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

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

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

“Now thou knowest how it feels to be 198

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

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

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XI

THE END OF A ROMANCE

XI THE END OF A ROMANCE

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

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

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

the fields in search of herbs for his grand- 203

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

Dost see already a little, Vetterl?”

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

“Hi, Rebbé!” squeaked a scornful voice.

“Hold thy tongue,” growled Shim- melé.

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

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

nose and waving one leg hilariously thereto. 204

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

Vainkelé Eisak Schulklopfer’s.”

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

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

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

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

“So he has red hair.”

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

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

“Nay, Yainkelé.”

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

“The blockhead he has from his father.”

“Who, the Count?”

“Nay, Yainkelé.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, they say that.”

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