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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Greek text has been translitered and marked like so. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
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DREAMERS OF THE GHETTO
By I. ZANGWILL, Author of "Children of the Ghetto" "The Master" "The King of Schnorrers"
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON 1898
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
THE MASTER. A Novel. Illustrated by T. DE THULSTRUP. Post 8vo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 75.
He who begins "The Master" will find a charm which will lure him through adventures which are lifelike and full of human interest.... A strong and an enduring book.—Chicago Tribune.
To those who do not know his splendid imagery, keen dissection of character, subtle views of humor, and enthralling power of narration, this work of Mr. Zangwill's should prove momentous and important.—Boston Traveller.
"The Master" is the best novel of the year.—Daily Chronicle, London.
NEW YORK AND LONDON: HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.
Copyright, 1898, by I. ZANGWILL.
Copyright, 1898, by HARPER & BROTHERS.
All rights reserved.
This is a Chronicle of Dreamers, who have arisen in the Ghetto from its establishment in the sixteenth century to its slow breaking-up in our own day. Some have become historic in Jewry, others have penetrated to the ken of the greater world and afforded models to illustrious artists in letters, and but for the exigencies of my theme and the faint hope of throwing some new light upon them, I should not have ventured to treat them afresh; the rest are personally known to me or are, like "Joseph the Dreamer," the artistic typification of many souls through which the great Ghetto dream has passed. Artistic truth is for me literally the highest truth: art may seize the essence of persons and movements no less truly, and certainly far more vitally, than a scientific generalization unifies a chaos of phenomena. Time and Space are only the conditions through which spiritual facts straggle. Hence I have here and there permitted myself liberties with these categories. Have I, for instance, misplaced the moment of Spinoza's obscure love-episode—I have only followed his own principle, to see things sub specie aeternitatis, and even were his latest Dutch editor correct in denying the episode altogether, I should still hold it true as summarizing the emotions with which even the philosopher must reckon. Of Heine I have attempted a sort of composite conversation-photograph, blending, too, the real heroine of the little episode with "La Mouche." His own words will be recognized by all students of him—I can only hope the joins with mine are not too obvious. My other sources, too, lie sometimes as plainly on the surface, but I have often delved at less accessible quarries. For instance, I owe the celestial vision of "The Master of the Name" to a Hebrew original kindly shown me by my friend Dr. S. Schechter, Reader in Talmudic at Cambridge, to whose luminous essay on the Chassidim, in his Studies in Judaism, I have a further indebtedness. My account of "Maimon the Fool" is based on his own (not always reliable) autobiography, of which I have extracted the dramatic essence, though in the supplementary part of the story I have had to antedate slightly the publication of Mendelssohn's "Jerusalem" and the fame of Kant. In fine, I have never hesitated to take as an historian or to focus and interpret as an imaginative artist.
I have placed "A Child of the Ghetto" first, not only because the Venetian Jewry first bore the name of Ghetto, but because this chapter may be regarded as a prelude to all the others. Though the Dream pass through Smyrna or Amsterdam, through Rome or Cairo, through Jerusalem or the Carpathians, through London or Berlin or New York, almost all the Dreamers had some such childhood, and it may serve to explain them. It is the early environment from which they all more or less emerged.
And there is a sense in which the stories all lead on to that which I have placed last. The "Child of the Ghetto" may be considered "father to the man" of "Chad Gadya" in that same city of the sea.
For this book is the story of a Dream that has not come true.
PRELUDE: MOSES AND JESUS viii
A CHILD OF THE GHETTO 1
JOSEPH THE DREAMER 21
URIEL ACOSTA 68
THE TURKISH MESSIAH 115
THE MAKER OF LENSES 186
THE MASTER OF THE NAME 221
MAIMON THE FOOL AND NATHAN THE WISE 289
FROM A MATTRESS GRAVE 335
THE PEOPLE'S SAVIOUR 369
THE PRIMROSE SPHINX 424
DREAMERS IN CONGRESS 430
THE PALESTINE PILGRIM 441
THE CONCILIATOR OF CHRISTENDOM 453
THE JOYOUS COMRADE 480
CHAD GADYA 493
EPILOGUE: A MODERN SCRIBE IN JERUSALEM 514
DREAMERS OF THE GHETTO
MOSES AND JESUS
In dream I saw two Jews that met by chance, One old, stern-eyed, deep-browed, yet garlanded With living light of love around his head, The other young, with sweet seraphic glance. Around went on the Town's satanic dance, Hunger a-piping while at heart he bled. Shalom Aleichem mournfully each said, Nor eyed the other straight but looked askance.
Sudden from Church out rolled an organ hymn, From Synagogue a loudly chaunted air, Each with its Prophet's high acclaim instinct. Then for the first time met their eyes, swift-linked In one strange, silent, piteous gaze, and dim With bitter tears of agonized despair.
A CHILD OF THE GHETTO
The first thing the child remembered was looking down from a window and seeing, ever so far below, green water flowing, and on it gondolas plying, and fishing-boats with colored sails, the men in them looking as small as children. For he was born in the Ghetto of Venice, on the seventh story of an ancient house. There were two more stories, up which he never went, and which remained strange regions, leading towards the blue sky. A dusky staircase, with gaunt whitewashed walls, led down and down—past doors whose lintels all bore little tin cases containing holy Hebrew words—into the narrow court of the oldest Ghetto in the world. A few yards to the right was a portico leading to the bank of a canal, but a grim iron gate barred the way. The water of another canal came right up to the back of the Ghetto, and cut off all egress that way; and the other porticoes leading to the outer world were likewise provided with gates, guarded by Venetian watchmen. These gates were closed at midnight and opened in the morning, unless it was the Sabbath or a Christian holiday, when they remained shut all day, so that no Jew could go in or out of the court, the street, the big and little square, and the one or two tiny alleys that made up the Ghetto. There were no roads in the Ghetto, any more than in the rest of Venice; nothing but pavements ever echoing the tramp of feet. At night the watchmen rowed round and round its canals in large barcas, which the Jews had to pay for. But the child did not feel a prisoner. As he had no wish to go outside the gates, he did not feel the chain that would have drawn him back again, like a dog to a kennel; and although all the men and women he knew wore yellow hats and large O's on their breasts when they went into the world beyond, yet for a long time the child scarcely realized that there were people in the world who were not Jews, still less that these hats and these rounds of yellow cloth were badges of shame to mark off the Jews from the other people. He did not even know that all little boys did not wear under their waistcoats "Four-corners," colored shoulder-straps with squares of stuff at each end, and white fringes at each corner, and that they did not say, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One," as they kissed the fringes. No, the Ghetto was all his world, and a mighty universe it was, full of everything that the heart of a child could desire. What an eager swarm of life in the great sunny square where the Venetian mast towered skywards, and pigeons sometimes strutted among the crowd that hovered about the countless shops under the encircling colonnade—pawnshops, old-clo' shops, butcher-shops, wherein black-bearded men with yellow turbans bargained in Hebrew! What a fascination in the tall, many-windowed houses, with their peeling plastered fronts and patches of bald red brick, their green and brown shutters, their rusty balconies, their splashes of many-colored washing! In the morning and evening, when the padlocked well was opened, what delight to watch the women drawing water, or even to help tug at the chain that turned the axle. And on the bridge that led from the Old Ghetto to the New, where the canal, though the view was brief, disappeared round two corners, how absorbing to stand and speculate on what might be coming round either corner, and which would yield a vision first! Perhaps there would come along a sandolo rowed by a man standing at the back, his two oars crossed gracefully; perhaps a floating raft with barefooted boys bestriding it; perhaps a barca punted by men in blue blouses, one at front and two at the back, with a load of golden hay, or with provisions for the Ghetto—glowing fruit and picturesque vegetables, or bleating sheep and bellowing bulls, coming to be killed by the Jewish method. The canal that bounded the Ghetto at the back offered a much more extended view, but one hardly dared to stand there, because the other shore was foreign, and the strange folk called Venetians lived there, and some of these heathen roughs might throw stones across if they saw you. Still, at night one could creep there and look along the moonlit water and up at the stars. Of the world that lay on the other side of the water, he only knew that it was large and hostile and cruel, though from his high window he loved to look out towards its great unknown spaces, mysterious with the domes and spires of mighty buildings, or towards those strange mountains that rose seawards, white and misty, like the hills of dream, and which he thought must be like Mount Sinai, where God spake to Moses. He never thought that fairies might live in them, or gnomes or pixies, for he had never heard of such creatures. There were good spirits and bad spirits in the world, but they floated invisibly in the air, trying to make little boys good or sinful. They were always fighting with one another for little boys' souls. But on the Sabbath your bad angel had no power, and your guardian Sabbath angel hovered triumphantly around, assisting your every-day good angel, as you might tell by noticing how you cast two shadows instead of one when the two Sabbath candles were lighted. How beautiful were those Friday evenings, how snowy the table-cloth, how sweet everything tasted, and how restful the atmosphere! Such delicious peace for father and mother after the labors of the week!
It was the Sabbath Fire-woman who forced clearly upon the child's understanding—what was long but a dim idea in the background of his mind—that the world was not all Jews. For while the people who lived inside the gates had been chosen and consecrated to the service of the God of Israel, who had brought them out of Egyptian bondage and made them slaves to Himself, outside the gates were people who were not expected to obey the law of Moses; so that while he might not touch the fire—nor even the candlesticks which had held fire—from Friday evening to Saturday night, the Fire-woman could poke and poke at the logs to her heart's content. She poked her way up from the ground-floor through all the seven stories, and went on higher, a sort of fire-spirit poking her way skywards. She had other strange privileges, this little old woman with the shawl over her head, as the child discovered gradually. For she could eat pig-flesh or shell-fish or fowls or cattle killed anyhow; she could even eat butter directly after meat, instead of having to wait six hours—nay, she could have butter and meat on the same plate, whereas the child's mother had quite a different set of pots and dishes for meat things or butter things. Yes, the Fire-woman was indeed an inferior creature, existing mainly to boil the Ghetto's tea-kettles and snuff its candles, and was well rewarded by the copper coin which she gathered from every hearth as soon as one might touch money. For when three stars appeared in the sky the Fire-woman sank back into her primitive insignificance, and the child's father made the Habdalah, or ceremony of division between week-day and Sabbath, thanking God who divideth holiday from working-day, and light from darkness. Over a brimming wine-cup he made the blessing, holding his bent fingers to a wax taper to make a symbolical appearance of shine and shadow, and passing round a box of sweet-smelling spices. And, when the chanting was over, the child was given to sip of the wine. Many delicious mouthfuls of wine were associated in his mind with religion. He had them in the synagogue itself on Friday nights and on Festival nights, and at home as well, particularly at Passover, on the first two evenings of which his little wine-glass was replenished no less than four times with mild, sweet liquid. A large glass also stood ready for Elijah the Prophet, which the invisible visitor drank, though the wine never got any lower. It was a delightful period altogether, this feast of Passover, from the day before it, when the last crumbs of bread and leavened matter were solemnly burnt (for no one might eat bread for eight days) till the very last moment of the eighth day, when the long-forbidden bread tasted as sweet and strange as cake. The mere change of kitchen vessels had a charm: new saucepans, new plates, new dishes, new spoons, new everything, in harmony with the Passover cakes that took the place of bread—large thick biscuits, baked without yeast, full of holes, or speckled and spotted. And when the evening table was laid for the Seder service, looking oh! so quaint and picturesque, with wine-cups and strange dishes, the roasted shank-bone of a lamb, bitter herbs, sweet spices, and what not, and with everybody lolling around it on white pillows, the child's soul was full of a tender poetry, and it was a joy to him to ask in Hebrew:—"Wherein doth this night differ from all other nights? For on all other nights we may eat leavened and unleavened, but to-night only unleavened?" He asked the question out of a large thin book, gay with pictures of the Ten Plagues of Egypt and the wicked Pharaoh sitting with a hard heart on a hard throne. His father's reply, which was also in Hebrew, lasted some two or three hours, being mixed up with eating and drinking the nice things and the strange dishes; which was the only part of the reply the child really understood, for the Hebrew itself was very difficult. But he knew generally what the Feast was about, and his question was only a matter of form, for he grew up asking it year after year, with a feigned surprise. Nor, though he learned to understand Hebrew well, and could even translate his daily prayers into bad Italian, a corruption of the Venetian dialect finding its way into the Ghetto through the mouths of the people who did business with the outside world, did he ever really think of the sense of his prayers as he gabbled them off, morning, noon, and night. There was so much to say—whole books full. It was a great temptation to skip the driest pages, but he never yielded to it, conscientiously scampering even through the passages in the tiniest type that had a diffident air of expecting attention from only able-bodied adults. Part of the joy of Sabbaths and Festivals was the change of prayer-diet. Even the Grace—that long prayer chanted after bodily diet—had refreshing little variations. For, just as the child put on his best clothes for Festivals, so did his prayers seem to clothe themselves in more beautiful words, and to be said out of more beautiful books, and with more beautiful tunes to them. Melody played a large part in the synagogue services, so that, although he did not think of the meaning of the prayers, they lived in his mind as music, and, sorrowful or joyous, they often sang themselves in his brain in after years. There were three consecutive "Amens" in the afternoon service of the three Festivals—Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles—that had a quaint charm for him. The first two were sounded staccato, the last rounded off the theme, and died away, slow and lingering. Nor, though there were double prayers to say on these occasions, did they weigh upon him as a burden, for the extra bits were insinuated between the familiar bits, like hills or flowers suddenly sprung up in unexpected places to relieve the monotony of a much-travelled road. And then these extra prayers were printed so prettily, they rhymed so profusely. Many were clever acrostics, going right through the alphabet from Aleph, which is A, to Tau, which is T, for Z comes near the beginning of the Hebrew alphabet. These acrostics, written in the Middle Ages by pious rabbis, permeated the Festival prayer-books, and even when the child had to confess his sins—or rather those of the whole community, for each member of the brotherhood of Israel was responsible for the rest—he sinned his sin with an "A," he sinned his sin with a "B," and so on till he could sin no longer. And, when the prayers rhymed, how exhilarating it was to lay stress on each rhyme and double rhyme, shouting them fervidly. And sometimes, instead of rhyming, they ended with the same phrase, like the refrain of a ballad, or the chorus of a song, and then what a joyful relief, after a long breathless helter-skelter through a strange stanza, to come out on the old familiar ground, and to shout exultantly, "For His mercy endureth for ever," or "The appearance of the priest!" Sometimes the run was briefer—through one line only—and ended on a single word like "water" or "fire." And what pious fun it was to come down sharp upon fire or water! They stood out friendly and simple, the rest was such curious and involved Hebrew that sometimes, in an audacious moment, the child wondered whether even his father understood it all, despite that he wept freely and bitterly over certain acrostics, especially on the Judgment Days. It was awe-inspiring to think that the angels, who were listening up in heaven, understood every word of it. And he inclined to think that the Cantor, or minister who led the praying, also understood; he sang with such feeling and such fervid roulades. Many solos did the Cantor troll forth, to which the congregation listened in silent rapture. The only time the public prayers bored the child was on the Sabbath, when the minister read the Portion of the Week; the Five Books of Moses being read through once a year, week by week, in a strange sing-song with only occasional flights of melody. The chant was determined by curious signs printed under the words, and the signs that made nice music were rather rare, and the nicest sign of all, which spun out the word with endless turns and trills, like the carol of a bird, occurred only a few times in the whole Pentateuch. The child, as he listened to the interminable incantation, thought he would have sprinkled the Code with bird-songs, and made the Scroll of the Law warble. But he knew this could not be. For the Scroll was stern and severe and dignified, like the high members of the congregation who bore it aloft, or furled it, and adjusted its wrapper and its tinkling silver bells. Even the soberest musical signs were not marked on it, nay, it was bare of punctuation, and even of vowels. Only the Hebrew consonants were to be seen on the sacred parchment, and they were written, not printed, for the printing-press is not like the reverent hand of the scribe. The child thought it was a marvellous feat to read it, much less know precisely how to chant it. Seven men—first a man of the tribe of Aaron the High Priest, then a Levite, and then five ordinary Israelites—were called up to the platform to stand by while the Scroll was being intoned, and their arrivals and departures broke the monotony of the recitative. After the Law came the Prophets, which revived the child's interest, for they had another and a quainter melody, in the minor mode, full of half tones and delicious sadness that ended in a peal of exultation. For the Prophets, though they thundered against the iniquities of Israel, and preached "Woe, woe," also foretold comfort when the period of captivity and contempt should be over, and the Messiah would come and gather His people from the four corners of the earth, and the Temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and all the nations would worship the God who had given His law to the Jews on Mount Sinai. In the meantime, only Israel was bound to obey it in every letter, because only the Jews—born or unborn—had agreed to do so amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai. Even the child's unborn soul had been present and accepted the yoke of the Torah. He often tried to recall the episode, but although he could picture the scene quite well, and see the souls curling over the mountains like white clouds, he could not remember being among them. No doubt he had forgotten it, with his other pre-natal experiences—like the two Angels who had taught him Torah and shown him Paradise of a morning and Hell every evening—when at the moment of his birth the Angel's finger had struck him on the upper lip and sent him into the world crying at the pain, and with that dent under the nostrils which, in every human face, is the seal of oblivion of the celestial spheres. But on the anniversary of the great Day of the Decalogue—on the Feast of Pentecost—the synagogue was dressed with flowers. Flowers were not easy to get in Venice—that city of stones and the sea—yet every synagogue (and there were seven of them in that narrow Ghetto, some old and beautiful, some poor and humble) had its pillars or its balconies twined with roses, narcissi, lilies, and pansies. Prettier still were the customs of "Tabernacles," when the wooden booths were erected in the square or the courtyards of the synagogues in commemoration of the days when the Children of Israel lived in tents in the wilderness. The child's father, being particularly pious, had a booth all to himself, thatched with green boughs, and hung with fruit, and furnished with chairs and a table at which the child sat, with the blue sky playing peep-bo through the leaves, and the white table-cloth astir with quivering shadows and glinting sunbeams. And towards the last days of the Festival he began to eat away the roof, consuming the dangling apples and oranges, and the tempting grapes. And throughout this beautiful Festival the synagogue rustled with palm branches, tied with boughs of willows of the brook and branches of other pleasant trees—as commanded in Leviticus—which the men waved and shook, pointing them east and west and north and south, and then heavenwards, and smelling also of citron kept in boxes lined with white wool. As one could not breakfast before blessing the branches and the citron, a man carried them round to such of the women-folk as household duties kept at home—and indeed, home was a woman's first place, and to light the Sabbath lamp a woman's holiest duty, and even at synagogue she sat in a grated gallery away from the men downstairs. On the seventh day of Tabernacles the child had a little bundle of leafy boughs styled "Hosannas," which he whipped on the synagogue bench, his sins falling away with the leaves that flew to the ground as he cried, "Hosanna, save us now!" All through the night his father prayed in the synagogue, but the child went home to bed, after a gallant struggle with his closing eyelids, hoping not to see his headless shadow on the stones, for that was a sign of death. But the ninth day of Tabernacles was the best, "The Rejoicing of the Law," when the fifty-second portion of the Pentateuch was finished and the first portion begun immediately all over again, to show that the "rejoicing" was not because the congregation was glad to be done with it. The man called up to the last portion was termed "The Bridegroom of the Law," and to the first portion "The Bridegroom of the Beginning," and they made a wedding-feast to which everybody was invited. The boys scrambled for sweets on the synagogue floor. The Scrolls of the Law were carried round and round seven times, and the boys were in the procession with flags and wax tapers in candlesticks of hollow carrots, joining lustily in the poem with its alternative refrain of "Save us, we pray Thee," "Prosper us, we pray Thee." So gay was the minister that he could scarcely refrain from dancing, and certainly his voice danced as it sang. There was no other time so gay, except it was Purim—the feast to celebrate Queen Esther's redemption of her people from the wicked Haman—when everybody sent presents to everybody else, and the men wore comic masks or dressed up as women and performed little plays. The child went about with a great false nose, and when the name of "Haman" came up in the reading of the Book of Esther, which was intoned in a refreshingly new way, he tapped vengefully with a little hammer or turned the handle of a little toy that made a grinding noise. The other feast in celebration of a Jewish redemption—Chanukah, or Dedication—was almost as impressive, for in memory of the miracle of the oil that kept the perpetual light burning in the Temple when Judas Maccabaeus reconquered it from the Greek gods, the Ghetto lighted candles, one on the first night and two on the second, and so on till there were eight burning in a row, to say nothing of the candle that kindled the others and was called "The Beadle," and the child sang hymns of praise to the Rock of Salvation as he watched the serried flames. And so, in this inner world of dreams the child lived and grew, his vision turned back towards ancient Palestine and forwards towards some vague Restoration, his days engirdled with prayer and ceremony, his very games of ball or nuts sanctified by Sandalphon, the boy-angel, to whom he prayed: "O Sandalphon, Lord of the Forest, protect us from pain."
There were two things in the Ghetto that had a strange attraction for the child: one was a large marble slab on the wall near his house, which he gradually made out to be a decree that Jews converted to Christianity should never return to the Ghetto nor consort with its inhabitants, under penalty of the cord, the gallows, the prison, the scourge, or the pillory; the other was a marble figure of a beautiful girl with falling draperies that lay on the extreme wall of the Ghetto, surveying it with serene eyes.
Relic and emblem of an earlier era, she co-operated with the slab to remind the child of the strange vague world outside, where people of forbidden faith carved forbidden images. But he never went outside; at least never more than a few streets, for what should he do in Venice? As he grew old enough to be useful, his father employed him in his pawn-shop, and for recreation there was always the synagogue and the study of the Bible with its commentaries, and the endless volumes of the Talmud, that chaos of Rabbinical lore and legislation. And when he approached his thirteenth year, he began to prepare to become a "Son of the Commandment." For at thirteen the child was considered a man. His sins, the responsibility of which had hitherto been upon his father's shoulders, would now fall upon his own, and from counting for as little as a woman in the congregation, he would become a full unit in making up the minimum of ten men, without which public worship could not be held. And so, not only did he come to own a man's blue-striped praying-shawl to wrap himself in, but he began to "lay phylacteries," winding the first leather strap round his left arm and its fingers, so that the little cubical case containing the holy words sat upon the fleshy part of the upper arm, and binding the second strap round his forehead with the black cube in the centre like the stump of a unicorn's horn, and thinking the while of God's Unity and the Exodus from Egypt, according to the words of Deuteronomy xi. 18, "And these my words ... ye shall bind for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." Also he began to study his "Portion," for on the first Sabbath of his thirteenth year he would be summoned, as a man, to the recitation of the Sacred Scroll, only instead of listening, he would have to intone a section from the parchment manuscript, bare of vowels and musical signs. The boy was shy, and the thought of appearing brazenly on the platform before the whole congregation was terrifying. Besides, he might make mistakes in the words or the tunes. It was an anxious time, scarcely redeemed by the thought of new clothes, "Son-of-the-Commandment" presents, and merry-makings. Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, having dreamed that he stood on the platform in forgetful dumbness, every eye fixed upon him. Then he would sing his "Portion" softly to himself to reassure himself. And, curiously enough, it began, "And it was in the middle of the night." In verity he knew it as glibly as the alphabet, for he was infinitely painstaking. Never a lesson unlearnt, nor a duty undone, and his eager eyes looked forward to a life of truth and obedience. And as for Hebrew without vowels, that had long since lost its terrors; vowels were only for children and fools, and he was an adept in Talmud, cunning in dispute and the dovetailing of texts—quite a little Rabbi, they said in the Ghetto! And when the great moment actually came, after a few timid twists and turns of melody he found his voice soaring aloft triumphantly, and then it became to him a subtle pleasure to hold and dominate all the listening crowd. Afterwards his father and mother received many congratulations on the way he had "said his Portion."
And now that he was a man other parts of Judaism came into prominence in his life. He became a member of the "Holy Society," which washed and watched the bodies of the dead ere they were put to rest in the little island cemetery, which was called "The House of Life" because there is no death in the universe, for, as he sang triumphantly on Friday evenings, "God will make the dead alive in the abundance of His kindness." And now, too, he could take a man's part in the death services of the mourners, who sat for seven days upon the ground and said prayers for the souls of the deceased. The boy wondered what became of these souls; some, he feared, went to perdition, for he knew their owners had done and eaten forbidden things. It was a comfort to think that even in hell there is no fire on the Sabbath, and no Fire-woman. When the Messiah came, perhaps they would all be forgiven. Did not the Talmud say that all Israel—with the good men of all nations—would have a part in the world to come?
There were many fasts in the Ghetto calendar, most of them twelve hours long, but some twenty-four. Not a morsel of food nor a drop of water must pass the lips from the sunset of one day to nightfall on the next. The child had only been allowed to keep a few fasts, and these only partially, but now it was for his own soul to settle how long and how often it would afflict itself, and it determined to do so at every opportunity. And the great opportunity came soon. Not the Black Fast when the congregation sat shoeless on the floor of the synagogue, weeping and wailing for the destruction of Jerusalem, but the great White Fast, the terrible Day of Atonement commanded in the Bible. It was preceded by a long month of solemn prayer, ushering in the New Year. The New Year itself was the most sacred of the Festivals, provided with prayers half a day long, and made terrible by peals on the ram's horn. There were three kinds of calls on this primitive trumpet—plain, trembling, wailing; and they were all sounded in curious mystic combinations, interpolated with passionate bursts of prayer. The sinner was warned to repent, for the New Year marked the Day of Judgment. For nine days God judged the souls of the living, and decided on their fate for the coming year—who should live and who should die, who should grow rich and who poor, who should be in sickness and who in health. But at the end of the tenth day, the day of the great White Fast, the judgment books were closed, to open no more for the rest of the year. Up till twilight there was yet time, but then what was written was finally sealed, and he who had not truly repented had missed his last chance of forgiveness. What wonder if early in the ten penitential days, the population of the Ghetto flocked towards the canal bridge to pray that its sins might be cast into the waters and swept away seawards!
'Twas the tenth day, and an awful sense of sacred doom hung over the Ghetto. In every house a gigantic wax taper had burnt, white and solemn, all through the night, and fowls or coins had been waved round the heads of the people in atonement for their iniquities. The morning dawned gray and cold, but with the dawn the population was astir, for the services began at six in the morning and lasted without intermission till seven at night. Many of the male worshippers were clad in their grave-clothes, and the extreme zealots remained standing all day long, swaying to and fro and beating their breasts at the confessions of sin. For a long time the boy wished to stand too, but the crowded synagogue reeked with heavy odors, and at last, towards mid-day, faint and feeble, he had to sit. But to fast till nightfall he was resolved. Hitherto he had always broken his fast at some point in the services, going home round the corner to delicious bread and fish. When he was seven or eight this breakfast came at mid-day, but the older he grew the longer he fasted, and it became a point of honor to beat his record every successive year. Last time he had brought his breakfast down till late in the afternoon, and now it would be unforgivable if he could not see the fast out and go home, proud and sinless, to drink wine with the men. He turned so pale, as the afternoon service dragged itself along, that his father begged him again and again to go home and eat. But the boy was set on a full penance. And every now and again he forgot his headache and the gnawing at his stomach in the fervor of passionate prayer and in the fascination of the ghostly figures weeping and wailing in the gloomy synagogue, and once in imagination he saw the heavens open overhead and God sitting on the judgment throne, invisible by excess of dazzling light, and round him the four-winged cherubim and the fiery wheels and the sacred creatures singing "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." Then a great awe brooded over the synagogue, and the vast forces of the universe seemed concentred about it, as if all creation was awaiting in tense silence for the terrible words of judgment. And then he felt some cool, sweet scent sprinkled on his forehead, and, as from the far ends of the world, he heard a voice that sounded like his father's asking him if he felt better. He opened his eyes and smiled faintly, and said nothing was the matter, but now his father insisted that he must go home to eat. So, still dazed by the glories he had seen, he dragged himself dreamily through the press of swaying, weeping worshippers, over whom there still seemed to brood some vast, solemn awe, and came outside into the little square and drew in a delicious breath of fresh air, his eyes blinking at the sudden glare of sunlight and blue sky. But the sense of awe was still with him, for the Ghetto was deserted, the shops were shut, and a sacred hush of silence was over the stones and the houses, only accentuated by the thunder of ceaseless prayer from the synagogues. He walked towards the tall house with the nine stories, then a great shame came over him. Surely he had given in too early. He was already better, the air had revived him. No, he would not break his fast; he would while away a little time by walking, and then he would go back to the synagogue. Yes, a brisk walk would complete his recovery. There was no warder at the open gate; the keepers of the Ghetto had taken a surreptitious holiday, aware that on this day of days no watching was needed. The guardian barca lay moored to a post unmanned. All was in keeping with the boy's sense of solemn strangeness. But as he walked along the Cannaregio bank, and further and further into the unknown city, a curious uneasiness and surprise began to invade his soul. Everywhere, despite the vast awe overbrooding the world, shops were open and people were going about unconcernedly in the quaint alleys; babies laughed in their nurses' arms, the gondoliers were poised as usual on the stern of their beautiful black boats, rowing imperturbably. The water sparkled and danced in the afternoon sun. In the market-place the tanned old women chattered briskly with their customers. He wandered on and on in growing wonder and perturbation. Suddenly his trouble ceased, a burst of wonderful melody came to him; there was not only a joyful tune, but other tunes seemed to blend with it, melting his heart with unimaginable rapture; he gave chase to the strange sounds, drawing nearer and nearer, and at last he emerged unexpectedly upon an immense square bordered by colonnades, under which beautifully dressed signori and signore sat drinking at little tables, and listening to men in red with great black cockades in their hats who were ranged on a central platform, blowing large shining horns; a square so vast and so crowded with happy chattering people and fluttering pigeons that he gazed about in blinking bewilderment. And then, uplifting his eyes, he saw a sight that took his breath away—a glorious building like his dream of the Temple of Zion, glowing with gold and rising in marvellous domes and spires, and crowned by four bronze animals, which he felt sure must be the creatures called horses with which Pharaoh had pursued the Israelites to the Red Sea. And hard by rose a gigantic tower, like the Tower of Babel, leading the eye up and up. His breast filled with a strange pleasure that was almost pain. The enchanted temple drew him across the square; he saw a poor bare-headed woman going in, and he followed her. Then a wonderful golden gloom fell upon him, and a sense of arches and pillars and soaring roofs and curved walls beautiful with many-colored pictures; and the pleasure, that was almost pain, swelled at his heart till it seemed as if it must burst his breast. Then he saw the poor bare-headed woman kneel down, and in a flash he understood that she was praying—ay, and in the men's quarter—and that this was no Temple, but one of those forbidden places called churches, into which the abhorred deserters went who were spoken of on that marble slab in the Ghetto. And, while he was wrestling with the confusion of his thoughts, a splendid glittering being, with a cocked hat and a sword, marched terrifyingly towards him, and sternly bade him take off his hat. He ran out of the wonderful building in a great fright, jostling against the innumerable promenaders in the square, and not pausing till the merry music of the big shining horns had died away behind him. And even then he walked quickly, as if pursued by the strange vast world into which he had penetrated for the first time. And suddenly he found himself in a blind alley, and knew that he could not find his way back to the Ghetto. He was about to ask of a woman who looked kind, when he remembered, with a chill down his spine, that he was not wearing a yellow O, as a man should, and that, as he was now a "Son of the Commandment," the Venetians would consider him a man. For one forlorn moment it seemed to him that he would never find himself back in the Ghetto again; but at last he bethought himself of asking for the Cannaregio, and so gradually, cold at heart and trembling, he reached the familiar iron gate and slipped in. All was as before in the Ghetto. The same sacred hush in court and square, accentuated by the rumble of prayer from the synagogues, the gathering dusk lending a touch of added solemnity.
"Well, have you eaten?" asked the father. The boy nodded "Yes." A faint flush of exultation leapt into his pale cheek. He would see the fast out after all. The men were beating their breasts at the confession of sin. "For the sin we have committed by lying," chimed in the boy. But although in his attention to the wailful melody of the words he scarcely noticed the meaning, something of the old passion and fervor had gone out of his voice. Twilight fell; the shadows deepened, the white figures, wailing and weeping in their grave-clothes, grew mystic; the time for sealing the Books of Judgment drew nigh. The figures threw themselves forward full length, their foreheads to the floor, proclaiming passionately again and again, "The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God!" It was the hour in which the boy's sense of overbrooding awe had always been tensest. But he could not shake off the thought of the gay piazza and the wonderful church where other people prayed other prayers. For something larger had come into his life, a sense of a vaster universe without, and its spaciousness and strangeness filled his soul with a nameless trouble and a vague unrest. He was no longer a child of the Ghetto.
JOSEPH THE DREAMER
"We must not wait longer, Rachel," said Manasseh in low, grave, but unfaltering accents. "Midnight approaches."
Rachel checked her sobs and assumed an attitude of reverence as her husband began to intone the benedictions, but her heart felt no religious joy in the remembrance of how the God of her fathers had saved them and their Temple from Hellenic pollution. It was torn by anxiety as to the fate of her boy, her scholar son, unaccountably absent for the first time from the household ceremonies of the Feast of Dedication. What was he doing—outside the Ghetto gates—in that great, dark, narrow-meshed city of Rome, defying the Papal law, and of all nights in the year on that sinister night when, by a coincidence of chronology, the Christian persecutor celebrated the birth of his Saviour? Through misty eyes she saw her husband's face, stern and rugged, yet made venerable by the flowing white of his locks and beard, as with the supernumerary taper he prepared to light the wax candles in the nine-branched candlestick of silver. He wore a long, hooded mantle reaching to the feet, and showing where it fell back in front a brown gaberdine clasped by a girdle. These sombre-colored robes were second-hand, as the austere simplicity of the Pragmatic required. The Jewish Council of Sixty did not permit its subjects to ruffle it like the Romans of those days of purple pageantry. The young bloods, forbidden by Christendom to style themselves signori, were forbidden by Judea to vie with signori in luxury.
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God," chanted the old man. "King of the Universe, who hast sanctified us with Thy commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukah."
It was with a quavering voice that Rachel joined in the ancient hymn that wound up the rite. "O Fortress, Rock of my salvation," the old woman sang. "Unto Thee it is becoming to give praise; let my house of prayer be restored, and I will there offer Thee thanksgivings; when Thou shalt have prepared a slaughter of the blaspheming foe, I will complete with song and psalm the dedication of the altar."
But her imagination was roving in the dim oil-lit streets of the tenebrous city, striving for the clairvoyance of love. Arrest by the sbirri was certain; other dangers threatened. Brawls and bravos abounded. True, this city of Rome was safer than many another for its Jews, who, by a miracle, more undeniable than that which they were now celebrating, had from the birth of Christ dwelt in the very heart of Christendom, the Eternal People in the Eternal City. The Ghetto had witnessed no such sights as Barcelona or Frankfort or Prague. The bloody orgies of the Crusaders had raged far away from the Capital of the Cross. In England, in France, in Germany, the Jew, that scapegoat of the nations, had poisoned the wells and brought on the Black Death, had pierced the host, killed children for their blood, blasphemed the saints, and done all that the imagination of defalcating debtors could suggest. But the Roman Jews were merely pestilent heretics. Perhaps it was the comparative poverty of the Ghetto that made its tragedy one of steady degradation rather than of fitful massacre. Nevertheless bloodshed was not unknown, and the song died on Rachel's lips, though the sterner Manasseh still chanted on.
"The Grecians were gathered against me in the days of the Hasmoneans; they broke down the walls of my towers and defiled all the oils; but from one of the last remaining flasks a miracle was wrought for Thy lily, Israel; and the men of understanding appointed these eight days for songs and praises."
They were well-to-do people, and Rachel's dress betokened the limit of the luxury allowed by the Pragmatic—a second-hand silk dress with a pin at the throat set with only a single pearl, a bracelet on one arm, a ring without a bezel on one finger, a single-stringed necklace round her neck, her hair done in a cheap net.
She looked at the nine-branched candlestick, and a mystical sadness filled her. Would she had nine scions of her house like Miriam's mother, a true mother in Israel; but, lo! she had only one candle—one little candle. A puff and it was gone, and life would be dark.
That Joseph was not in the Ghetto was certain. He would never have caused her such anxiety wilfully, and, indeed, she and her husband and Miriam had already run to all the likely places in the quarter, even to those marshy alleys where every overflow of the Tiber left deposits of malarious mud, where families harbored, ten in a house, where stunted men and wrinkled women slouched through the streets, and a sickly spawn of half-naked babies swarmed under the feet. They had had trouble enough, but never such a trouble as this. Manasseh and Rachel, with this queer offspring of theirs, this Joseph the Dreamer, as he had been nicknamed, this handsome, reckless black-eyed son of theirs, with his fine oval face, his delicate olive features; this young man, who could not settle down to the restricted forms of commerce possible in the Ghetto, who was to be Rabbi of the community one day, albeit his brilliance was occasionally dazzling to the sober tutors upon whom he flashed his sudden thought, which stirred up that which had better been left asleep. Why was he not as other sons, why did he pace the street with unobservant eyes, why did he weep over the profane Hebrew of the Spanish love-singers as if their songs were Selichoth or Penitential Verses? Why did he not marry Miriam, as one could see the girl wished? Why did he set at naught the custom of the Ghetto, in silently refraining from so obvious a match between the children of two old friends, equally well-to-do, and both possessing the Jus Gazzaga or leasehold of the houses in which they lived; tall, quaint houses, separated only by an ancient building with a carved porch, and standing at the end of the great Via Rua where it adjoined the narrow little street, Delle Azzimelle, in which the Passover cakes were made. Miriam's family, being large, had their house to themselves, but a good deal of Manasseh's was let out; for room was more and more precious in the Ghetto, which was a fixed space for an ever-expanding population.
They went to bed. Manasseh insisted upon that. They could not possibly expect Joseph till the morning. Accustomed as Rachel was to lean upon her husband's strength, at this moment his strength seemed harshness. The night was long. A hundred horrid visions passed before her sleepless eyes. The sun rose upon the Ghetto, striving to slip its rays between the high, close-pressed tops of opposite houses. The five Ghetto gates were thrown open, but Joseph did not come through any. The Jewish pedlars issued, adjusting their yellow hats, and pushing before them little barrows laden with special Christmas wares. "Heb, heb," they shouted as they passed through the streets of Rome. Some sold simples and philtres, and amulets in the shape of miniature mandores or four-stringed lutes to preserve children from maladies. Manasseh, his rugged countenance grown harder, went to his place of business. He had forbidden any inquiries to be made outside the pale till later in the day; it would be but to betray to the enemy Joseph's breach of the law. In the meantime, perhaps, the wanderer would return. Manasseh's establishment was in the Piazza Giudea. Numerous shops encumbered the approaches, mainly devoted to the sale of cast-off raiment, the traffic in new things being prohibited to Jews by Papal Bull, but anything second-hand might be had here from the rough costume of a shepherd of Abruzzo to the faded fripperies of a gentleman of the Court. In the centre a new fountain with two dragons supplied the Ghetto with water from the Aqueduct of Paul the Fifth in lieu of the loathly Tiber water, and bore a grateful Latin inscription. About the edges of the square a few buildings rose in dilapidated splendor to break the monotony of the Ghetto barracks; the ancient palace of the Boccapaduli, and a mansion with a high tower and three abandoned churches. A monumental but forbidding gate, closed at sundown, gave access to a second Piazza Giudea, where Christians congregated to bargain with Jews—it was almost a suburb of the Ghetto. Manasseh had not far to go, for his end of the Via Rua debouched on the Piazza Giudea; the other end, after running parallel to the Via Pescheria and the river, bent suddenly near the Gate of Octavius, and finished on the bridge Quattro Capi. Such was the Ghetto in the sixteen hundreds.
Soon after Manasseh had left the house, Miriam came in with anxious face to inquire if Joseph had returned. It was a beautiful Oriental face, in whose eyes brooded the light of love and pity, a face of the type which painters have given to the Madonna when they have remembered that the Holy Mother was a Jewess. She was clad in a simple woollen gown, without lace or broidery, her only ornament a silver bracelet. Rachel wept to tell her the lack of news, but Miriam did not join in her tears. She besought her to be of good courage.
And very soon indeed Joseph appeared, with an expression at once haggard and ecstatic, his black hair and beard unkempt, his eyes glittering strangely in his flushed olive face, a curious poetic figure in his reddish-brown mantle and dark yellow cap.
"Pax vobiscum," he cried, in shrill, jubilant accents.
"Joseph, what drunken folly is this?" faltered Rachel.
"Gloria in altissimis Deo and peace on earth to all men of goodwill," persisted Joseph. "It is Christmas morning, mother." And he began to troll out the stave of a carol, "Simeon, that good saint of old—"
Rachel's hand was clapped rudely over her son's mouth.
"Blasphemer!" she cried, an ashen gray overspreading her face.
Joseph gently removed her hand. "It is thou who blasphemest, mother," he cried. "Rejoice, rejoice, this day the dear Lord Christ was born—He who was to die for the sins of the world."
Rachel burst into fresh tears. "Our boy is mad—our boy is mad. What have they done to him?" All her anticipations of horror were outpassed by this.
Pain shadowed the sweet silence of Miriam's face as she stood in the recess of the window.
"Mad! Oh, my mother, I am as one awakened. Rejoice, rejoice with me. Let us sink ourselves in the universal joy, let us be at one with the human race."
Rachel smiled tentatively through her tears. "Enough of this foolery," she said pleadingly. "It is the feast of Dedication, not of Lots. There needs no masquerading to-day."
"Joseph, what ails thee?" interposed the sweet voice of Miriam. "What hast thou done? Where hast thou been?"
"Art thou here, Miriam?" His eyes became conscious of her for the first time. "Would thou hadst been there with me!"
"At St. Peter's. Oh, the heavenly music!"
"At St. Peter's!" repeated Rachel hoarsely. "Thou, my son Joseph, the student of God's Law, hast defiled thyself thus?"
"Nay, it is no defilement," interposed Miriam soothingly. "Hast thou not told us how our fathers went to the Sistine Chapel on Sabbath afternoons?"
"Ay, but that was when Michel Angelo Buonarotti was painting his frescoes of the deliverances of Israel. And they went likewise to see the figure of our Lawgiver in the Pope's mausoleum. And I have even heard of Jews who have stolen into St. Peter's itself to gaze on that twisted pillar from Solomon's temple, which these infidels hold for our sins. But it is the midnight mass that this Epicurean has been to hear."
"Even so," said Joseph in dreamy undertones, "the midnight mass—incense and lights and the figures of saints, and wonderful painted windows, and a great multitude of weeping worshippers and music that wept with them, now shrill like the passionate cry of martyrs, now breathing the peace of the Holy Ghost."
"How didst thou dare show thyself in the cathedral?" whimpered Rachel.
"Who should dream of a Jew in the immense throng? Outside it was dark, within it was dim. I hid my face and wept. They looked at the cardinals in their splendid robes, at the Pope, at the altar. Who had eyes for me?"
"But thy yellow cap, Joseph!"
"One wears not the cap in church, mother."
"Thou didst blasphemously bare thy head, and in worship?"
"I did not mean to worship, mother mine. A great curiosity drew me—I desired to see with my own eyes, and hear with mine own ears, this adoration of the Christ, at which my teachers scoff. But I was caught up in a mighty wave of organ-music that surged from this low earth heavenwards to break against the footstool of God in the crystal firmament. And suddenly I knew what my soul was pining for. I knew the meaning of that restless craving that has always devoured me, though I spake not thereof, those strange hauntings, those dim perceptions—in a flash I understood the secret of peace."
"And that is—Joseph?" asked Miriam gently, for Rachel drew such laboring breath she could not speak.
"Sacrifice," said Joseph softly, with rapt gaze. "To suffer, to give one's self freely to the world; to die to myself in delicious pain, like the last tremulous notes of the sweet boy-voice that had soared to God in the Magnificat. Oh, Miriam, if I could lead our brethren out of the Ghetto, if I could die to bring them happiness, to make them free sons of Rome."
"A goodly wish, my son, but to be fulfilled by God alone."
"Even so. Let us pray for faith. When we are Christians the gates of the Ghetto will fall."
"Christians!" echoed Rachel and Miriam in simultaneous horror.
"Ay, Christians," said Joseph unflinchingly.
Rachel ran to the door and closed it more tightly. Her limbs shook. "Hush!" she breathed. "Let thy madness go no further. God of Abraham, suppose some one should overhear thee and carry thy talk to thy father." She began to wring her hands.
"Joseph, bethink thyself," pleaded Miriam, stricken to the heart. "I am no scholar, I am only a woman. But thou—thou with thy learning—surely thou hast not been befooled by these jugglers with the sacred text? Surely thou art able to answer their word-twistings of our prophets?"
"Ah, Miriam," replied Joseph tenderly. "Art thou, too, like our brethren? They do not understand. It is a question of the heart, not of texts. What is it I feel is the highest, divinest in me? Sacrifice! Wherefore He who was all sacrifice, all martyrdom, must be divine."
"Bandy not words with him, Miriam," cried his mother. "Oh, thou infidel, whom I have begotten for my sins. Why doth not Heaven's fire blast thee as thou standest there?"
"Thou talkest of martyrdom, Joseph," cried Miriam, disregarding her. "It is we Jews who are martyrs, not the Christians. We are penned here like cattle. We are marked with shameful badges. Our Talmud is burnt. Our possessions are taxed away from us. We are barred from every reputable calling. We may not even bury our dead with honor or carve an epitaph over their graves." The passion in her face matched his. Her sweetness was exchanged for fire. She had the air of a Judith or a Jael.
"It is our own cowardice that invites the spittle, Miriam. Where is the spirit of the Maccabaeans whom we hymn on this feast of Chanukah? The Pope issues Bulls, and we submit—outwardly. Our resistance is silent, sinuous. He ordains yellow hats; we wear yellow hats, but gradually the yellow darkens; it becomes orange, then ochre, till at last we go capped in red like so many cardinals, provoking the edict afresh. We are restricted to one synagogue. We have five for our different country-folk, but we build them under one roof and call four of them schools."
"Hush, thou Jew-hater," cried his mother. "Say not such things aloud. My God! my God! how have I sinned before Thee?"
"What wouldst thou have, Joseph?" said Miriam. "One cannot argue with wolves. We are so few—we must meet them by cunning."
"Ah, but we set up to be God's witnesses, Miriam. Our creed is naught but prayer-mumbling and pious mummeries. The Christian Apostles went through the world testifying. Better a brief heroism than this long ignominy." He burst into sudden tears and sank into a chair overwrought.
Instantly his mother was at his side, bending down, her wet face to his.
"Thank Heaven! thank Heaven!" she sobbed. "The madness is over."
He did not answer her. He had no strength to argue more. There was a long, strained silence. Presently the mother asked—
"And where didst thou find shelter for the night?"
"At the palace of Annibale de' Franchi."
Miriam started. "The father of the beautiful Helena de' Franchi?" she asked.
"The same," said Joseph flushing.
"And how camest thou to find protection there, in so noble a house, under the roof of a familiar of the Pope?"
"Did I not tell thee, mother, how I did some slight service to his daughter at the last Carnival, when, adventuring herself masked among the crowd in the Corso, she was nigh trampled upon by the buffaloes stampeding from the race-course?"
"Nay, I remember naught thereof," said Rachel, shaking her head. "But thou mindest me how these Christians make us race like the beasts."
He ignored the implied reproach.
"Signor de' Franchi would have done much for me," he went on. "But I only begged the run of his great library. Thou knowest how hard it is for me that the Christians deny us books. And there many a day have I sat reading till the vesper bell warned me that I must hasten back to the Ghetto."
"Ah! 'twas but to pervert thee."
"Nay, mother, we talked not of religion."
"And last night thou wast too absorbed in thy reading?" put in Miriam.
"That is how it came to pass, Miriam."
"But why did not Helena warn thee?"
This time it was Joseph that started. But he replied simply—
"We were reading in Tasso. She hath rare parts. Sometimes she renders Plato and Sophocles to me."
"And thou, our future Rabbi, didst listen?" cried Rachel.
"There is no word of Christianity in these, mother, nor do they satisfy the soul. Wisely sang Jehudah Halevi, 'Go not near the Grecian wisdom.'"
"Didst thou sit near her at the mass?" inquired Miriam.
He turned his candid gaze towards her.
"She did not go," he said.
Miriam made a sudden movement to the door.
"Now that thou art safe, Joseph, I have naught further to do here. God keep thee."
Her bosom heaved. She hurried out.
"Poor Miriam!" sighed Rachel. "She is a loving, trustworthy maiden. She will not breathe a whisper of thy blasphemies."
Joseph sprang from his feet as if galvanized.
"Not breathe a whisper! But, mother, I shall shout them from the housetops."
"Hush! hush!" breathed his mother in a frenzy of alarm. "The neighbors will hear thee."
"It is what I desire."
"Thy father may come in at any moment to know if thou art safe."
"I will go allay his anxiety."
"Nay." She caught him by the mantle. "I will not let thee go. Swear to me thou wilt spare him thy blasphemies, or he may strike thee dead at his feet."
"Wouldst have me lie to him? He must know what I have told thee."
"No, no; tell him thou wast shut out, that thou didst remain in hiding."
"Truth alone is great, mother. I go to bring him the Truth." He tore his garment from her grasp and rushed without.
She sat on the floor and rocked to and fro in an agony of apprehension. The leaden hours crept along. No one came, neither son nor husband. Terrible images of what was passing between them tortured her. Towards mid-day she rose and began mechanically preparing her husband's meal. At the precise minute of year-long habit he came. To her anxious eye his stern face seemed more pallid than usual, but it revealed nothing. He washed his hands in ritual silence, made the blessing, and drew chair to table. A hundred times the question hovered about Rachel's lips, but it was not till near the end of the meal that she ventured to say, "Our son is back. Hast thou not seen him?"
"Son? What son? We have no son." He finished his meal.
The scholarly apostle, thus disowned by his kith and kin, was eagerly welcomed by Holy Church, the more warmly that he had come of his own inward grace and refused the tribute of annual crowns with which the Popes often rewarded true religion—at the expense of the Ghetto, which had to pay these incomes to its recreants. It was the fashion to baptize converted Jews in batches—for the greater glory—procuring them from without when home-made catechumens were scarce, sometimes serving them up with a proselyte Turk. But in view of the importance of the accession, and likewise of the closeness of Epiphany, it was resolved to give Joseph ben Manasseh the honor of a solitary baptism. The intervening days he passed in a monastery, studying his new faith, unable to communicate with his parents or his fellow Jews, even had he or they wished. A cardinal's edict forbade him to return to the Ghetto, to eat, drink, sleep, or speak with his race during the period of probation; the whip, the cord, awaited its violation. By day Rachel and Miriam walked in the precincts of the monastery, hoping to catch sight of him; nearer than ninety cubits they durst not approach under pain of bastinado and exile. A word to him, a message that might have softened him, a plea that might have turned him back—and the offender was condemned to the galleys for life.
Epiphany arrived. A great concourse filled the Basilica di Latran. The Pope himself was present, and amidst scarlet pomp and swelling music, Joseph, thrilled to the depths of his being, received the sacraments. Annibale de' Franchi, whose proud surname was henceforth to be Joseph's, stood sponsor. The presiding cardinal in his solemn sermon congratulated the congregants on the miracle which had taken place under their very eyes, and then, attired in white satin, the neophyte was slowly driven through the streets of Rome that all might witness how a soul had been saved for the true faith. And in the ecstasy of this union with the human brotherhood and the divine fatherhood, and with Christ, its symbol, Giuseppe de' Franchi saw not the dark, haggard faces of his brethren in the crowd, the hate that smouldered in their dusky eyes as the festal procession passed by. Nor while he knelt before crucifix and image that night, did he dream of that other ceremonial in the Synagogue of the Piazza of the Temple, half-way from the river; a scene more impressive in its sombreness than all the splendor of the church pageant.
The synagogue was a hidden building, indistinguishable externally from the neighboring houses; within, gold and silver glistened in the pomegranates and bells of the Scrolls of the Law or in the broidery of the curtain that covered the Ark; the glass of one of the windows, blazing with a dozen colors for the Twelve Tribes, represented the Urim and the Thummim. In the courtyard stood a model of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem, furnished with marvellous detail, memorial of lost glories.
The Council of Sixty had spoken. Joseph ben Manasseh was to suffer the last extremity of the Jewish law. All Israel was called together to the Temple. An awful air of dread hung over the assemblage; in a silence as of the grave each man upheld a black torch that flared weirdly in the shadows of the synagogue. A ram's horn sounded shrill and terrible, and to its elemental music the anathema was launched, the appalling curse withdrawing every human right from the outlaw, living or dead, and the congregants, extinguishing their torches, cried, "Amen." And in a spiritual darkness as black, Manasseh tottered home to sit with his wife on the floor and bewail the death of their Joseph, while a death-light glimmering faintly swam on a bowl of oil, and the prayers for the repose of the soul of the deceased rose passionately on the tainted Ghetto air. And Miriam, her Madonna-like face wet with hot tears, burnt the praying-shawl she was weaving in secret love for the man who might one day have loved her, and went to condole with the mourners, holding Rachel's rugged hand in those soft, sweet fingers that no lover would ever clasp.
But Rachel wept for her child, and would not be comforted.
Helena de' Franchi gave the news of the ban to Giuseppe de' Franchi. She had learned it from one of her damsels, who had had it from Shloumi the Droll, a graceless, humorous rogue, steering betwixt Jews and Christians his shifty way to profit.
Giuseppe smiled a sweet smile that hovered on the brink of tears. "They know not what they do," he said.
"Thy parents mourn thee as dead."
"They mourn the dead Jew; the living Christian's love shall comfort them."
"But thou mayst not approach them, nor they thee."
"By faith are mountains moved; my spirit embraces theirs. We shall yet rejoice together in the light of the Saviour, for weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." His pale face gleamed with celestial radiance.
Helena surveyed him in wondering compassion. "Thou art strangely possessed, Ser Giuseppe," she said.
"It is not strange, Signora, it is all simple—like a child's thought," he said, meeting her limpid eyes with his profound mystic gaze.
She was tall and fair, more like those Greek statues which the sculptors of her day imitated than like a Roman maiden. A simple dress of white silk revealed the beautiful curves of her figure. Through the great oriel window near which they stood the cold sunshine touched her hair and made spots of glory on the striped beast-skins that covered the floor, and on the hanging tapestries. The pictures and ivories, the manuscripts and the busts all contributed to make the apartment a harmonious setting for her noble figure. As he looked at her he trembled.
"And what is thy life to be henceforward?" she asked.
"Surrender, sacrifice," he said half in a whisper. "My parents are right. Joseph is dead. His will is God's, his heart is Christ's. There is no life for me but service."
"And whom wilt thou serve?"
"My brethren, Signora."
"They reject thee."
"I do not reject them."
She was silent for a moment. Then more passionately she cried: "But, Ser Giuseppe, thou wilt achieve nothing. A hundred generations have failed to move them. The Bulls of all the Popes have left them stubborn."
"No one has tried Love, Signora."
"Thou wilt throw away thy life."
He smiled wistfully. "Thou forgettest I am dead."
"Thou art not dead—the sap is in thy veins. The spring-time of the year comes. See how the sun shines already in the blue sky. Thou shalt not die—it is thine to be glad in the sun and in the fairness of things."
"The sunshine is but a symbol of the Divine Love, the pushing buds but prefigure the Resurrection and the Life."
"Thou dreamest, Giuseppe mio. Thou dreamest with those wonderful eyes of thine open. I do not understand this Love of thine that turns from things earthly, that rends thy father's and mother's heart in twain."
His eyes filled with tears. "Pazienza! earthly things are but as shadows that pass. It is thou that dreamest, Signora. Dost thou not feel the transitoriness of it all—yea, even of this solid-seeming terrestrial plain and yon overhanging roof and the beautiful lights set therein for our passing pleasure! This sun which swims daily through the firmament is but a painted phantasm compared with the eternal rock of Christ's Love."
"Thy words are tinkling cymbals to me, Ser Giuseppe."
"They are those of thy faith, Signora."
"Nay, not of my faith," she cried vehemently. "Thou knowest I am no Christian at heart. Nay, nor are any of our house, though they perceive it not. My father fasts at Lent, but it is the Pagan Aristotle that nourishes his thought. Rome counts her beads and mumbles her paternosters, but she has outgrown the primitive faith in Renunciation. Our pageants and processions, our splendid feasts, our gorgeous costumes, what have these to do with the pale Christ, whom thou wouldst foolishly emulate?"
"Then there is work for me to do, even among the Christians," he said mildly.
"Nay, it is but mischief thou wouldst do, with thy passionless ghost of a creed. It is the artists who have brought back joy to the world, who have perceived the soul of beauty in all things. And though they have feigned to paint the Holy Family and the Crucifixion and the Dead Christ and the Last Supper, it is the loveliness of life that has inspired their art. Yea, even from the prayerful Giotto downwards, it is the pride of life, it is the glory of the human form, it is the joy of color, it is the dignity of man, it is the adoration of the Muses. Ay, and have not our nobles had themselves painted as Apostles, have they not intruded their faces into sacred scenes, have they not understood for what this religious art was a pretext? Is not Rome full of Pagan art? Were not the Laocoon and the Cleopatra and the Venus placed in the very orange garden of the Vatican?"
"Natheless it is the Madonna and the Child that your painters have loved best to paint."
"'Tis but Venus and Cupid over again."
"Nay, these sneers belie the noble Signora de' Franchi. Thou canst not be blind to the divine aspiration that lay behind a Madonna of Sandro Botticelli."
"Thou hast not seen his frescoes in the Villa Lemmi, outside Firenze, the dainty grace of his forms, the charming color, else thou wouldst understand that it was not spiritual beauty alone that his soul coveted."
"But Raffaello da Urbino, but Leonardo—"
"Leonardo," she repeated. "Hast thou seen his Bacchus, or his battle-fresco? Knowest thou the later work of Raffaello? And what sayest thou to our Fra Lippo Lippi? A Christian monk he, forsooth! What sayest thou to Giorgione of Venice and his pupils, to this efflorescence of loveliness, to our statuaries and our builders, to our goldsmiths and musicians? Ah, we have rediscovered the secret of Greece. It is Homer that we love, it is Plato, it is the noble simplicity of Sophocles; our Dante lied when he said it was Virgil who was his guide. The poet of Mantua never led mortal to those dolorous regions. He sings of flocks and bees, of birds and running brooks, and the simple loves of shepherds; and we listen to him again and breathe the sweet country air, the sweeter for the memory of those hell-fumes which have poisoned life for centuries. Apollo is Lord, not Christ."
"It is Apollyon who tempts Rome thus with the world and the flesh."
"Thou hast dethroned thy reason, Messer Giuseppe. Thou knowest these things dignify, not degrade our souls. Hast thou not thrilled with me at the fairness of a pictured face, at the glow of luminous color, at the white radiance of a statue?"
"I sinned if I loved beauty for itself alone, and—forgive me if I wound thee, lady—this worship of beauty is for the rich, the well-fed, the few. What of the poor and the down-trodden who weep in darkness? What comfort holds thy creed for such? All these wonders of the human hand and the human brain are as straws weighed against a pure heart, a righteous deed. The ages of Art have always been the ages of abomination, Signora. It is not in cunning but in simplicity that our Lord is revealed. Unless ye become as little children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Heaven is here." Her eyes gleamed. Her bosom heaved. The fire of her glance passed to his. Her loveliness troubled him, the matchless face and form that now blent the purity of a statue with the warmth of living woman.
"Verily, where Christ is Heaven is. Thou hast moved in such splendor of light, Signora de' Franchi, thou dost not realize thy privilege. But I, who have always walked in darkness, am as a blind man restored to sight. I was ambitious, lustful, torn by doubts and questionings; now I am bathed in the divine peace, all my questions answered, my riotous blood assuaged. Love, love, that is all; the surrender of one's will to the love that moves the sun and all the stars, as your Dante says. And sun and stars do but move to this end, Signora—that human souls may be born and die to live, in oneness with Love. Oh, my brethren"—he stretched out his arms yearningly, and his eyes and his voice were full of tears—"why do ye haggle in the market-place? Why do ye lay up store of gold and silver? Why do ye chase the futile shadows of earthly joy? This, this is the true ecstasy, to give yourself up to God, all in all, to ask only to be the channel of His holy will."
Helena's face was full of a grave wonder; for a moment an answering light was reflected on it as though she yearned for the strange raptures she could not understand.
"All this is sheer folly. Thy brethren hear thee now as little as they will ever hear thee."
"I shall pray night and day that my lips may be touched with the sacred fire."
"Love, too, is a sacred fire. Dost thou purpose to live without that?" She drew nearer. Her breath stirred the black lock on his forehead. He moved back a pace, thrilling.
"I shall have divine Love, Signora."
"Thou art bent on becoming a Dominican?"
"I am fixed."
"The cloister will content thee?"
"It will be Heaven."
"Ay, where there is no marrying nor giving in marriage. What Samson-creed is this that pulls down the pillars of human society?"
"Nay, marriage is in the scheme. 'Tis the symbol of a diviner union. But it is not for all men. It is not for those who symbolize divine things otherwise, who typify to their fellow-men the flesh crucified, the soul sublimed. It is not for priests."
"But thou art not a priest."
"'Tis a question of days. But were I even refused orders I should still remain celibate."
"Still remain celibate! Wherefore?"
"Because mine own people are cut off from me. And were I to marry a Christian, like so many Jewish converts, the power of my example would be lost. They would say of me, as they say of them, that it was not the light of Christ but a Christian maiden's eyes that dazzled and drew. They are hard; they do not believe in the possibility of a true conversion. Others have enriched themselves by apostasy, or, being rich, have avoided impoverishing mulcts and taxes. But I have lost all my patrimony, and I will accept nothing. That is why I refused thy father's kind offices, the place in the Seal-office, or even the humbler position of mace-bearer to his Holiness. When my brethren see, moreover, that I force from them no pension nor moneys, not even a white farthing, that I even preach to them without wage, verily for the love of Heaven, as your idiom hath it, when they see that I live pure and lonely, then they will listen to me. Perchance their hearts will be touched and their eyes opened." His face shone with wan radiance. That was, indeed, the want, he felt sure. No Jew had ever stood before his brethren an unimpeachable Christian, above suspicion, without fear, and without reproach. Oh, happy privilege to fill this apostolic role!
"But suppose—" Helena hesitated; then lifting her lovely eyes to meet his in fearless candor, "she whom you loved were no Christian."
He trembled, clenching his hands to drive back the mad wave of earthly emotion that flooded him, as the tide swells to the moon, under the fervor of her eyes.
"I should kill my love all the same," he said hoarsely. "The Jews are hard. They will not make fine distinctions. They know none but Jews and Christians."
"Methinks I see my father galloping up the street," said Helena, turning to the oriel window. "That should be his feather and his brown Turkey horse. But the sun dazzles my eyes! I will leave thee."
She passed to the door without looking at him. Then turning suddenly so that his own eyes were dazzled, she said—
"My heart is with thee whatsoever thou choosest. Only bethink thee well, ere thou donnest cowl and gown, that unlovely costume which, to speak after thine own pattern, symbolizes all that is unlovely. Addio!"
He followed her and took her hand, and, bending down, kissed it reverently. She did not withdraw it.
"Hast thou the strength for the serge and the cord, Giuseppe mio?" she asked softly.
He drew himself up, holding her hand in his.
"Yes," he said. "Thou shalt inspire me, Helena. The thought of thy radiant purity shall keep me pure and unfaltering."
A fathomless expression crossed Helena's face. She drew away her hand.
"I cannot inspire to death," she said. "I can only inspire to life."
He closed his eyes in ecstatic vision. "'Tis not death. He is the Resurrection and the Life," he murmured.
When he opened his eyes she was gone. He fell on his knees in a passion of prayer, in the agony of the crucifixion of the flesh.
During his novitiate, before he had been admitted to monastic vows, he preached a trial "Sermon to the Jews" in a large oratory near the Ghetto. A church would have been contaminated by the presence of heretics, and even from the Oratory any religious objects that lay about had been removed. There was a goodly array of fashionable Christians, resplendent in gold-fringed mantles and silk-ribboned hats; for he was rumored eloquent, and Annibale de' Franchi was there in pompous presidency. One Jew came—Shloumi the Droll, relying on his ability to wriggle out of the infraction of the ban, and earn a meal or two by reporting the proceedings to the fattori and the other dignitaries of the Ghetto, whose human curiosity might be safely counted upon. Shloumi was rich in devices. Had he not even for months flaunted a crimson cap in the eye of Christendom, and had he not when at last brought before the Caporioni, pleaded that this was merely an ostensive sample of the hats he was selling, his true yellow hat being unintentionally hidden beneath? But Giuseppe de' Franchi rejoiced at the sight of him now.
"He is a gossip, he will scatter the seed," he thought.
Late in the afternoon of the next day the preacher was walking in the Via Lepida, near the Monastery of St. Dominic. There was a touch on his mantle. He turned. "Miriam!" he cried, shrinking back.
"Why shrinkest thou from me, Joseph?"
"Knowest thou not I am under the ban? Look, is not that a Jew yonder who regards us?"
"I care not. I have a word to say to thee."
"But thou wilt be accursed."
"I have a word to say to thee."
His eyes lit up. "Ah, thou believest!" he cried exultantly. "Thou hast found grace."
"Nay, Joseph, that will never be. I love our fathers' faith. Methinks I have understood it better than thou, though I have not dived like thee into holy lore. It is by the heart alone that I understand."
"Then why dost thou come? Let us turn down towards the Coliseum. 'Tis quieter, and less frequented of our brethren."
They left the busy street with its bustle of coaches, and water-carriers with their asses, and porters, and mounted nobles with trains of followers, and swash-buckling swordsmen, any of whom might have insulted Miriam, conspicuous by her beauty and by the square of yellow cloth, a palm and a half wide, set above her coiffure. They walked on in silence till they came to the Arch of Titus. Involuntarily both stopped, for by reason of the Temple candlestick that figured as spoil in the carving of the Triumph of Titus, no Jew would pass under it. Titus and his empire had vanished, but the Jew still hugged his memories and his dreams.
An angry sulphur sunset, streaked with green, hung over the ruined temples of the ancient gods and the grass-grown fora of the Romans. It touched with a glow as of blood the highest fragment of the Coliseum wall, behind which beasts and men had made sport for the Masters of the World. The rest of the Titanic ruin seemed in shadow.
"Is it well with my parents?" said Joseph at last.
"Hast thou the face to ask? Thy mother weeps all day, save when thy father is at home. Then she makes herself as stony as he. He—an elder of the synagogue!—thou hast brought down his gray hairs in sorrow to the grave."
He swallowed a sob. Then, with something of his father's stoniness, "Suffering chastens, Miriam," he said. "It is God's weapon."
"Accuse not God of thy cruelty. I hate thee." She went on rapidly, "It is rumored in the Ghetto thou art to be a friar of St. Dominic. Shloumi the Droll brought the news."
"It is so, Miriam. I am to take the vows at once."
"But how canst thou become a priest? Thou lovest a woman."
He stopped in his walk, startled.
"What sayest thou, Miriam?"
"Nay, this is no time for denials. I know her. I know thy love for her. It is Helena de' Franchi."
He was white and agitated. "Nay, I love no woman."
"Thou lovest Helena."
"How knowest thou that?"
"I am a woman."
They walked on silently.
"And this is what thou camest to say?"
"Nay, this. Thou must marry her and be happy."
"I—I cannot, Miriam. Thou dost not understand."
"Not understand! I can read thee as thou readest the Law—without vowels. Thou thinkest we Jews will point the finger of scorn at thee, that we will say it was Helena thou didst love, not the Crucified One, that we will not listen to thy gospel."
"But is it not so?"
"It is so."
"But it will be so, do what thou wilt. Cut thyself into little pieces and we would not believe in thee or thy gospel. I alone have faith in thy sincerity, and to me thou art as one mad with over-study. Joseph, thy dream is vain. The Jews hate thee. They call thee Haman. Willingly would they see thee hanged on a high tree. Thy memory will be an execration to the third and fourth generation. Thou wilt no more move them than the seven hills of Rome. They have stood too long."
"Ay, they have stood like stones. I will melt them. I will save them."
"Thou wilt destroy them. Save rather thyself—wed this woman and be happy."
He looked at her.
"Be happy," she repeated. "Do not throw away thy life for a vain shadow. Be happy. It is my last word to thee. Henceforth, as a true daughter of Judah, I obey the ban, and were I a mother in Israel my children should be taught to hate thee even as I do. Peace be with thee!"
He caught at her gown. "Go not without my thanks, though I must reject thy counsel. To-morrow I am admitted into the Brotherhood of Righteousness." In the fading light his face shone weird and unearthly amid the raven hair. "But why didst thou risk thy good name to tell me thou hatest me?"
"Because I love thee. Farewell."
She sped away.
He stretched out his arms after her. His eyes were blind with mist. "Miriam, Miriam!" he cried. "Come back, thou too art a Christian! Come back, my sweet sister in Christ!"
A drunken Dominican lurched into his open arms.
The Jews would not come to hear Fra Giuseppe. All his impassioned spirituality was wasted on an audience of Christians and oft-converted converts. Baffled, he fell back on scholastic argumentation, but in vain did he turn the weapons of Talmudic dialectic against the Talmudists themselves. Not even his discovery by cabbalistic calculations that the Pope's name and office were predicted in the Old Testament availed to draw the Jews, and it was only in the streets that he came upon the scowling faces of his brethren. For months he preached in patient sweetness, then one day, desperate and unstrung, he sought an interview with the Pope, to petition that the Jews might be commanded to come to his sermons; he found the Pontiff in bed, unwell, but chatting blithely with the Bishop of Salamanca and the Procurator of the Exchequer, apparently of a droll mishap that had befallen the French Legate. It was a pale scholarly face that lay back on the white pillow under the purple skull-cap, but it was not devoid of the stronger lines of action. Giuseppe stood timidly at the door, till the Wardrobe-Keeper, a gentleman of noble family, told him to advance. He moved forward reverently, and kneeling down kissed the Pope's feet. Then he rose and proffered his request. But the ruler of Christendom frowned. He was a scholar and a gentleman, a great patron of letters and the arts. Wiser than that of temporal kings, his Jewish policy had always been comparatively mild. It was his foreign policy that absorbed his zeal, considerably to the prejudice of his popularity at home. While Giuseppe de' Franchi was pleading desperately to a bored Prelate, explaining how he could solve the Jewish question, how he could play upon his brethren as David upon the harp, if he could only get them under the spell of his voice, a gentleman of the bed-chamber brought in a refection on a silver tray, the Preguste tasted of the food to ensure its freedom from poison, though it came from the Papal kitchen, and at a sign from his Holiness, Giuseppe had to stand aside. And ere the Pope had finished there were other interruptions; the chief of his band of musicians came for instructions for the concert at his Ferragosto on the first of August; and—most vexatious of all—a couple of goldsmiths came with their work, and with rival models of a button for the Pontifical cope. Giuseppe fumed and fretted while the Holy Father put on his spectacles to examine the great silver vase which was to receive the droppings from his table, its richly chased handles and its festoons of acanthus leaves, and its ingenious masks; and its fellow which was to stand in his cupboard and hold water, and had a beautiful design representing St. Ambrogio on horseback routing the Arians. And when one of the jewellers had been dismissed, laden with ducats by the Pope's datary, the other remained an intolerable time, for it appeared his Holiness was mightily pleased with his wax model, marvelling how cunningly the artist had represented God the Father in bas-relief, sitting in an easy attitude, and how elegantly he had set the fine edge of the biggest diamond exactly in the centre. "Speed the work, my son," said His Holiness, dismissing him at last, "for I would wear the button myself before I die." Then, raising a beaming face, "Wouldst thou aught further with me, Fra Giuseppe? Ah, I recall! Thou yearnest to preach to thy stiff-necked kinsmen. Ebbene, 'tis a worthy ambition. Luigi, remember me to-morrow to issue a Bull."
With sudden-streaming eyes the Friar fell at the Pontiff's feet again, kissing them and murmuring incoherent thanks. Then he bowed his way out, and hastened back joyfully to the convent.
The Bull duly appeared. The Jews were to attend his next sermon. He awaited the Sabbath afternoon in a frenzy of spiritual ecstasy. He prepared a wonderful sermon. The Jews would not dare to disobey the Edict. It was too definite. It could not be evaded. And their apathetic resistance never came till later, after an obedient start. The days passed. The Bull had not been countermanded, although he was aware backstairs influence had been tried by the bankers of the community; it had not even been modified under the pretence of defining it, as was the manner of Popes with too rigorous Bulls. No, nothing could save the Jews from his sermon.
On the Thursday a plague broke out in the Ghetto; on the Friday a tenth of the population was dead. Another overflow of the Tiber had co-operated with the malarious effluvia of those congested alleys, those strictly limited houses swarming with multiplying broods. On the Saturday the gates of the Ghetto were officially closed. The plague was shut in. For three months the outcasts of humanity were pent in their pestiferous prison day and night to live or die as they chose. When at length the Ghetto was opened and disinfected, it was the dead, not the living, that were crowded.
Joseph the Dreamer was half stunned by this second blow to his dreams. An earthly anxiety he would not avow to himself consumed him during the progress of the plague, which in spite of all efforts escaped from the Ghetto as if to punish those who had produced the conditions of its existence. But his anxiety was not for himself—it was for his mother and father, it was for the noble Miriam. When he was not in fearless attendance upon plague-stricken Christians he walked near the city of the dead, whence no news could come. When at last he learned that his dear ones were alive, another blow fell. The Bull was still to be enforced, but the Pope's ear was tenderer to the survivors. He respected their hatred of Fra Giuseppe, their protest that they would more willingly hear any other preacher. The duty was to be undertaken by his brother Dominicans in turn. Giuseppe alone was forbidden to preach. In vain he sought to approach his Holiness; he was denied access. Thus began that strange institution, the Predica Coattiva, the forced sermon.
Every Sabbath after their own synagogue sermon, a third of the population of the Ghetto, including all children above the age of twelve, had to repair in turn to receive the Antidote at the Church of San Benedetto Alla Regola, specially set apart for them, where a friar gave a true interpretation of the Old Testament portion read by their own cantor. His Holiness, ever more considerate than his inferiors, had enjoined the preachers to avoid the names of Jesus and the Holy Virgin, so offensive to Jewish ears, or to pronounce them in low tones; but the spirit of these recommendations was forgotten by the occupants of the pulpit with a congregation at their mercy to bully and denounce with all the savage resources of rhetoric. Many Jews lagged reluctant on the road churchwards. A posse of police with whips drove them into the holy fold. This novel church procession of men, women, and children grew to be one of the spectacles of Rome. A new pleasure had been invented for the mob. These compulsory services involved no small expense. By a refinement of humor the Jews had to pay for their own conversion. Evasion of the sermon was impossible; a register placed at the door of the church kept account of the absentees, whom fine and imprisonment chastised. To keep this register a neophyte was needed, one who knew each individual personally and could expose substitutes. What better man than the new brother? In vain Giuseppe protested. The Prior would not hearken. And so in lieu of offering the sublime spectacle of an unpaid apostleship, the powerless instigator of the mischief, bent over his desk, certified the identity of the listless arrivals by sidelong peeps, conscious that he was adding the pain of contact with an excommunicated Jew to the sufferings of his brethren, for whose Sabbath his writing-pen was shamelessly expressing his contempt. Many a Sabbath he saw his father, a tragic, white-haired wreck, touched up with a playful whip to urge him faster towards the church door. It was Joseph whom that whip stung most. When the official who was charged to see that the congregants paid attention, and especially that they did not evade the sermon by slumber, stirred up Rachel with an iron rod, her unhappy son broke into a cold sweat. When, every third Sabbath, Miriam passed before his desk with steadfast eyes of scorn, he was in an ague, a fever of hot and cold. His only consolation was to see rows of devout faces listening for the first time in their life to the gospel. At least he had achieved something. Even Shloumi the Droll had grown regenerate; he listened to the preachers with sober reverence.