HANNUKAH LIGHTS

Somewhere in transit he had lost all his letters, papers, credentials,
cards—all belongings, in fact, that might have established his identity.
He said he was David Parnes, and that he had come from Pesth. And, as he
was tall and straight, with fine black eyes and curling black hair, a
somewhat dashing presence, and the most charming manners, he soon made
friends, particularly among the women, for, in Houston Street, as
elsewhere, the fair sex rarely looks behind a pleasing personality for
credentials of character.

Eulie, the waitress and maid-of-all-work in Weiss’s coffee house, felt
the blood surge to her face when first she beheld him, and when, for the
first time, he gave her _Trinkgeld_ and a smile, all the blood rushed
back to her heart. After that Eulie was his slave. All day long she
waited for him to come. When he had gone the place seemed dark, and the
music of the gipsy band grated upon her. While he was there—usually
sitting alone and sipping coffee and staring into vacancy like a man
whose mind is busy with many schemes—her heart beat faster, and life
seemed glad. Eulie was plain—painfully plain—but there was a charm about
her that had won the admiration of many of the patrons of the place,
some of whom had even offered her marriage. But she had only laughed,
and had declared that she would never marry.

Sometimes these incidents came to the ear of Esther, the daughter of the
proprietor, and made her heart burn; for Esther was fair to look upon,
and yet had reached and passed her twentieth year without a single offer
of marriage. With all her beauty the girl was absolutely devoid of
charm; there was something even in the tone of her voice that repelled
men; probably a reflection of her arrogance and selfishness. Then, one
day, Eulie beheld her talking to David; saw that her face was animated,
and that David’s eyes were fastened intently upon her. In Esther’s eyes
she read that story which, between woman and woman, is an open book.
When her work was finished that night Eulie hastened to her room, and,
throwing herself upon the bed, burst into a flood of weeping.

The affair progressed rapidly. There were times when Eulie, after
serving him with coffee, would stand silently behind David, gazing upon
him intently, yearning to throw her arms around that curly head and cry,
“I love you! I am your slave!” But these became rarer and rarer, for
Esther demanded more and more of his presence, and it was seldom that he
sat alone in the coffee house. Eulie had never seen him manifest any of
those lover-like demonstrations toward Esther that might have been
expected under the circumstances, but she attributed this to his pride.
Probably, she thought, when they were alone, beyond the reach of prying
eyes, he kissed her and caressed her to her heart’s content. The thought
of it wore on her spirit. And when, one day, Esther told her that they
were to be married at the end of a month Eulie turned pale and trembled,
and then hurried to her room.

A few days after this announcement had been publicly made, and
congratulations had begun to pour in from the many patrons of the
establishment, who had known Esther from childhood, Eulie observed a
change in David’s demeanour. He seemed suddenly to have become worried.
He would come to the coffee house late at night, after Esther had
retired, and sit alone over his coffee, brooding. Eulie’s duties
permitted her to leave at nine o’clock, but if David had not come at
that hour, she continued to work, even until midnight, the closing time,
in the hope that she would see him enter. He rarely spoke to her, rarely
noticed her, in fact, but Eulie, in her heart, had established an
intimacy between them. An intimacy? Rather a world of love and devotion,
in which, alas! she lived alone with a shadow.

She was quick to see the change that had come over him, and she longed
to speak to him—to implore him to confide in her. Was it money? She had
led a frugal life, and had saved the greater part of her earnings for
years. She would not trust her pittance to the banks. It was all in a
trunk in her room, and he was welcome to it. Was it service that he
needed? She was a slave ready to do his bidding. The tears came into her
eyes to see that face upon which light and laughter sat so gracefully
now cast down with gloom. But David worried on in silence, and left the
place without a word.

Then, for several days, he did not come at all. Esther told her that he
had been called out of town on business.

“Did—did he not look worried when last you saw him?” Eulie asked,
timidly. Esther’s eyes opened in surprise.

“Why, no. I did not notice that he looked any different.”

Eulie sighed. That night there came to one of her tables a brisk,
sharp-eyed little man, whose manner and accent betokened a new arrival
from Hungary. He bowed politely to Eulie, praised her skill in waiting
upon him, and complimented her upon her hair, which she wore flat upon
her head after the fashion of the peasant girls of Hungary. He gave her
liberal _Trinkgeld_, and bowed courteously when he departed. The next
evening he returned and greeted her as a newly made acquaintance. They
chatted pleasantly a while—he had much news from the mother country that
interested her—and then, quite by-the-way—Did she happen to know a young
man, tall and straight—quite good-looking, black eyes and curling hair,
a very pleasant chap, extremely popular with the girls? A friend had
told him that he would find this young man somewhere in the Hungarian
colony—did she know anyone who answered that description? His eyes were
turned from her—he was watching the gipsies playing—it was all quite
casual.

It is said that love creates a sixth sense. In a flash Eulie’s whole
nature shrank from this man, and stood at arms ready for battle. This
was no friend in search of a boon companion. This was an enemy—a mortal
enemy of David. She felt it, knew it as positively as if she had seen
him fly at David’s throat. Fortunately the man had not observed the
pallor that overspread her countenance.

“No. I do not remember having seen such a man. He never comes here, or I
would have remembered him.”

That night was the beginning of the feast of Hanukkah—the only feast at
which the penitential psalms are omitted, lest they might mar the
joyfulness of the celebration. Esther was away, and it was Eulie’s duty
to light the candles in the living room overhead. The sun was fast
sinking, but the light of day still lingered in the sky. Eulie felt that
it might be sacrilegious to hasten so holy a function, but a sudden
nervous dread had come over her, and there was fear in her heart.

“I will light the candles now,” she said. “Then I will wait outside in
the street, and if he comes I will warn him.”

Swiftly, lightly, she sped up the stairs to the living room. The door
was open, and the light from the hall lamp shone dimly into the furthest
corner, where, with his back turned to the door, stood, or rather knelt,
David Parnes before a desk in which the coffee house proprietor kept his
money. Eulie recoiled, shocked, horrified. Then, swift as a lightning
stroke came full revelation. He was a thief! She had always suspected
something like that. And she loved him—adored him more than ever at this
moment! Eulie was an honest girl, an honest peasant girl, descended from
a long line of peasants, all as honest as the day. But the world was
against the man she loved. Honesty? To the winds with honesty! With a
rush she was at his side.

“Listen!” she whispered, excitedly. “There is the key. Over there on the
wall. The money is in the top drawer. Take it and fly. There is a man
below from Hungary looking for you. I told him you did not come here.
You can get away before he finds you. I will never tell. I swear I will
never tell. Quick! You must fly!”

The young man had turned quickly when she entered, but after that he had
not moved. He was still upon one knee. Had a thunderbolt fallen from the
ceiling he could not have been more astonished. He looked at Eulie in
bewilderment.

“Wait!” she cried. “I will be back in a second. Open the desk and take
all the money, and then I will be back.”

It seemed to him but an instant—Eulie had gone and had returned. He was
still kneeling—almost petrified with amazement. Eulie held out an old,
stained, leather pocketbook.

“It is all mine,” she whispered. “Take it. Run! You must not wait!”

Slowly he rose to his feet. Once or twice he passed his hand over his
eyes as if he feared he was dreaming.

“Eulie?”

There was a world of incredulity, of bewilderment, of questioning in his
voice.

“Oh, do not stay!” cried the poor girl. “They will be looking for you.
Go, before it is too late. Go far away. They will never find you.”

“I do not understand,” he said, slowly. “What does it mean?”

A sudden weakness overcame Eulie, and she burst into tears. He advanced
toward her.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked. Eulie could not speak. Her frame was
convulsed with sobbing; the tears were streaming down her cheeks; David,
open-mouthed, stood gazing at her. The pocketbook had fallen from her
hand, and a small heap of bank notes had slipped from it. David looked
at them; then at her. Slowly he advanced to where she stood. As gently
as he could he drew her hands from her face and turned her head toward
the light in the hall.

“Eulie?”

The blood coursed to her cheeks. Her gaze fell. She tore herself from
his clasp.

“For God’s sake, go!” she cried. He restored the money to the pocketbook
and placed it in her hands. Then he started toward the door.

“You will not take it?” she asked, piteously. “It is all mine. I give it
to you freely. Borrow it if you like. Some day you can send it back.”

He shook his head, stood irresolute for a moment, then returned to her.

“Eulie,” he whispered. “My mother is dead. But in heaven she is blessing
you!”

Then he kissed her upon the forehead and walked determinedly out of the
room. Eulie stood swaying to and fro, for a moment, then tottered and
fell to the floor. David stood on the stairs a full minute, breathing
heavily, like a man who has been running. Then his teeth clicked tightly
together, he drew a long breath, walked briskly down the steps, and
strode into the brilliantly lighted coffee house.

He knew the man at once. He had never seen him before, but unerring
instinct pointed out his pursuer. He walked straight toward him.

“When do we start for Pesth?” he asked.

The man eyed him narrowly, gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment, then
his face lit up.

“By the next steamer, if you like,” was all he said.

David nodded.

“Good,” he said. Then, after a moment’s hesitation:

“Will you come upstairs with me for a moment?”

Without a word the man accompanied him. They found Eulie, pale as a
ghost, standing at the mantel, lighting the Hannukah candles. When she
beheld David with his captor, she screamed, and would have fallen had
not David sprung forward and caught her in his arms.

“Listen,” he said, speaking rapidly. “I am going back. My name is not
David Parnes. I will write in a few days and tell you everything. They
will send me to prison. In two or three years I shall be free. Then I am
coming back for you.”

He held her in his arms for one brief moment, kissed her again on the
forehead, and was gone. Then the tears came afresh to Eulie’s eyes. But
through her veins coursed a tumult of joy.

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