UNCONVERTED

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

“Touch him not! Stand back!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

THE MURDERER

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

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

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

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

“You sent for me,” he said.

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

“Marowitz.”

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

Marowitz drew a long breath of relief.

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

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

He handed the paper to Marowitz.

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly an idea came to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Help! For God’s sake!” he cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

AN INTERRUPTION

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

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

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

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

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

And then Chertoff closed his eyes and answered:

“Perhaps to save your life! Who knows?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

DEBORAH

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

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

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

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

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

“I am very tired. Good-night!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The peace of God go with you!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

A SWALLOW-TAILER FOR TWO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“My! Such a loafer!”

Continue Reading