- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation and inconsistant spelling in the original document have been preserved. This document contains Yiddish and other dialects. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
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New 6s. Novels.
THE EXPENSIVE MISS DU CANE. By S. MACNAUGHTAN. 'To resist the charm of Hetty Du Cane one must be singularly hard to please.'—Spectator.
THE LOST WORD. By EVELYN UNDERHILL. 'She writes vigorously and well, with a clear sense of the beauty of language and a notable power of description.'—Times.
THE COUNTRY HOUSE. By JOHN GALSWORTHY. 'It deserves the widest measure of success as a careful study of modern life and an interesting piece of fiction, presented with remarkable literary ability.'—Daily Telegraph.
MEMOIRS OF A PERSON OF QUALITY. By ASHTON HILLIERS. 'Such a recruit as Mr. Hilliers is welcome to the ranks of novelists.... He has absorbed the spirit of the times with remarkable ability. Mr. Hilliers has a fine literary future before him, and we are glad to give his maiden effort a cordial greeting.'—Athenaeum.
PAUL. By E.F. BENSON. 'A genuinely fine novel; a story marked by powerful workmanship and glowing with the breath of life.'—Daily Telegraph.
THE SWIMMERS. By E.S. RORISON. 'Full of crisp dialogue and bright descriptive passages.'—Athenaeum.
THE TRAIL TOGETHER. By H.H. BASHFORD. 'Very interesting, very well constructed, and admirably written; altogether an excellent piece of work.'—Daily Telegraph.
FOOLS RUSH IN. By MARY GAUNT and J.R. ESSEX. 'A live story, full of the stir and stress of existence on the fringe of civilization, very vividly and interestingly written.'—Sketch.
JOSEPH VANCE. By WILLIAM DE MORGAN. 'Humorous, thoughtful, pathetic, and thoroughly entertaining.... Fresh, original, and unusually clever.'—Athenaeum.
MOONFACE, AND OTHER STORIES. By JACK LONDON. 'Jack London at his best.'—Standard.
LOVE'S TRILOGY. By PETER NANSEN. 'Humour the author possesses, and tenderness. Sensibility he has, and shrewd sense. The tale "God's Peace" shows that he has a soul.'—Evening Standard.
LONDON WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21, BEDFORD STREET.
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Author of 'The Grey Wig,' 'Dreamers of the Ghetto,' 'The Master,' 'Children of the Ghetto,' 'Ghetto Tragedies,' etc.
With Illustrations by J.H. Amschewitz
London William Heinemann 1907
Copyright by William Heinemann, 1907
MY OLD FRIEND
Simultaneously with the publication of these 'Ghetto Comedies' a fresh edition of my 'Ghetto Tragedies' is issued, with the original title restored. In the old definition a comedy could be distinguished from a tragedy by its happy ending. Dante's Hell and Purgatory could thus appertain to a 'comedy.' This is a crude conception of the distinction between Tragedy and Comedy, which I have ventured to disregard, particularly in the last of these otherwise unassuming stories.
SHOTTERMILL, April, 1907.
THE MODEL OF SORROWS 1
THE JEWISH TRINITY 89
THE SABBATH QUESTION IN SUDMINSTER 119
THE RED MARK 173
THE BEARER OF BURDENS 193
THE LUFTMENSCH 225
THE TUG OF LOVE 249
THE YIDDISH 'HAMLET' 259
THE CONVERTS 293
HOLY WEDLOCK 313
ELIJAH'S GOBLET 335
THE HIRELINGS 351
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
AT LAST I SAID 'GOOD MORNING' Frontispiece
To face page
'I WORK ON—ON SHABBOS' 142
'YOU COMPARE MY WIFE TO A KANGAROO!' 276
THE JEWS SCATTERED BEFORE HIM LIKE DOGS 408
THE MODEL OF SORROWS
THE MODEL OF SORROWS
HOW I FOUND THE MODEL
I cannot pretend that my ambition to paint the Man of Sorrows had any religious inspiration, though I fear my dear old dad at the Parsonage at first took it as a sign of awakening grace. And yet, as an artist, I have always been loath to draw a line between the spiritual and the beautiful; for I have ever held that the beautiful has in it the same infinite element as forms the essence of religion. But I cannot explain very intelligibly what I mean, for my brush is the only instrument through which I can speak. And if I am here paradoxically proposing to use my pen to explain what my brush failed to make clear, it is because the criticism with which my picture of the Man of Sorrows has been assailed drives me to this attempt at verbal elucidation. My picture, let us suppose, is half-articulate; perhaps my pen can manage to say the other half, especially as this other half mainly consists of things told me and things seen.
And in the first place, let me explain that the conception of the picture which now hangs in its gilded frame is far from the conception with which I started—was, in fact, the ultimate stage of an evolution—for I began with nothing deeper in my mind than to image a realistic Christ, the Christ who sat in the synagogue of Jerusalem, or walked about the shores of Galilee. As a painter in love with the modern, it seemed to me that, despite the innumerable representations of Him by the masters of all nations, few, if any, had sought their inspiration in reality. Each nation had unconsciously given Him its own national type, and though there was a subtle truth in this, for what each nation worshipped was truly the God made over again in its own highest image, this was not the truth after which I was seeking.
I started by rejecting the blonde, beardless type which Da Vinci and others have imposed upon the world, for Christ, to begin with, must be a Jew. And even when, in the course of my researches for a Jewish model, I became aware that there were blonde types, too, these seemed to me essentially Teutonic. A characteristic of the Oriental face, as I figured it, was a sombre majesty, as of the rabbis of Rembrandt, the very antithesis of the ruddy gods of Walhalla. The characteristic Jewish face must suggest more of the Arab than of the Goth.
I do not know if the lay reader understands how momentous to the artist is his model, how dependent he is on the accident of finding his creation already anticipated, or at least shadowed forth, in Nature. To me, as a realist, it was particularly necessary to find in Nature the original, without which no artist can ever produce those subtle nuances which give the full sense of life. After which, if I say, that my aim is not to copy, but to interpret and transfigure, I suppose I shall again seem to be self-contradictory. But that, again, must be put down to my fumbling pen-strokes.
Perhaps I ought to have gone to Palestine in search of the ideal model, but then my father's failing health kept me within a brief railway run of the Parsonage. Besides, I understood that the dispersion of the Jews everywhere made it possible to find Jewish types anywhere, and especially in London, to which flowed all the streams of the Exile. But long days of hunting in the Jewish quarter left me despairing. I could find types of all the Apostles, but never of the Master.
Running down one week-end to Brighton to recuperate, I joined the Church Parade on the lawns. It was a sunny morning in early November, and I admired the three great even stretches of grass, sea, and sky, making up a picture that was unspoiled even by the stuccoed boarding-houses. The parasols fluttered amid the vast crowd of promenaders like a swarm of brilliant butterflies. I noted with amusement that the Church Parade was guarded by beadles from the intrusion of the ill-dressed, and the spectacle of over-dressed Jews paradoxically partaking in it reminded me of the object of my search. In vain my eye roved among these; their figures were strangely lacking in the dignity and beauty which I had found among the poorest. Suddenly I came upon a sight that made my heart leap. There, squatting oddly enough on the pavement-curb of a street opposite the lawns, sat a frowsy, gaberdined Jew. Vividly set between the tiny green cockle-shell hat on his head and the long uncombed black beard was the face of my desire. The head was bowed towards the earth; it did not even turn towards the gay crowd, as if the mere spectacle was beadle-barred. I was about to accost this strange creature who sat there so immovably, when a venerable Royal Academician who resides at Hove came towards me with hearty hand outstretched, and bore me along in the stream of his conversation and geniality. I looked back yearningly; it was as if the Academy was dragging me away from true Art.
'I think, if you don't mind, I'll get that old chap's address,' I said.
He looked back and shook his head in laughing reproof.
'Another study in dirt and ugliness! Oh, you youngsters!'
My heart grew hot against his smug satisfaction with his own conventional patterns and prettinesses.
'Behind that ugliness and dirt I see the Christ,' I retorted. 'I certainly did not see Him in the Church Parade.'
'Have you gone on the religious lay now?' he asked, with a burst of his bluff laughter.
'No, but I'm going,' I said, and turned back.
I stood, pretending to watch the gay parasols, but furtively studying my Jew. Yes, in that odd figure, so strangely seated on the pavement, I had chanced on the very features, the haunting sadness and mystery of which I had been so long in quest. I wondered at the simplicity with which he was able to maintain a pose so essentially undignified. I told myself I beheld the East squatted broodingly as on a divan, while the West paraded with parasol and Prayer-Book. I wondered that the beadles were unobservant of him. Were they content with his abstention from the holy ground of the Church Parade, and the less sacred seats on the promenade without, or would they, if their eyes drew towards him, move him on from further profaning those frigidly respectable windows and stuccoed portals?
At last I said: 'Good-morning.' And he rose hurriedly and began to move away uncomplainingly, as one used to being hounded from everywhere.
'Guten Morgen,' I said in German, with a happy inspiration, for in my futile search in London I had found that a corrupt German called Yiddish usually proved a means of communication.
He paused, as if reassured. 'Gut' Morgen,' he murmured; and then I saw that his stature was kingly, like that of the sons of Anak, and his manner a strange blend of majesty and humility.
'Pardon me,' I went on, in my scrupulously worst German, 'may I ask you a question?'
He made a curious movement of acquiescence, compounded of a shrug and a slight uplifting of his palms.
'Are you in need of work?'
'And why do you wish to know?' he replied, answering, as I had already found was the Jewish way, one question by another.
'I thought I could find you some,' I said.
'Have you scrolls of the Law for me to write?' he replied incredulously. 'You are not even a Jew.'
'Still, there may be something,' I replied. 'Let us walk along.'
I felt that the beadle's eye was at last drawn to us both, and I hurried my model down a side-street. I noticed he hobbled as if footsore. He did not understand what I wanted, but he understood a pound a week, for he was starving, and when I said he must leave Brighton for London, he replied, awe-struck: 'It is the finger of God.' For in London were his wife and children.
His name was Israel Quarriar, his country Russia.
The picture was begun on Monday morning. Israel Quarriar's presence dignified the studio. It was thrilling and stimulating to see his noble figure and tragic face, the head drooped humbly, the beard like a prophet's.
'It is the finger of God,' I, too, murmured, and fell to work, exalted.
I worked, for the most part, in rapt silence—perhaps the model's silence was contagious—but gradually through the days I grew to communion with his shy soul, and piecemeal I learnt his sufferings. I give his story, so far as I can, in his own words, which I often paused to take down, when they were characteristic.
THE MODEL'S STORY
I came here because Russia had grown intolerable to me. All my life, and during the lives of my parents, we Quarriars had been innkeepers, and thereby earned our bread. But Russia took away our livelihood for herself, and created a monopoly. Thus we were left destitute. So what could I do with a large family? Of London and America I had long heard as places where they have compassion on foreigners. They are not countries like Russia, where Truth exists not. Secondly, my children also worried me greatly. They are females, all the five, and a female in Russia, however beautiful, good and clever she be, if she have no dowry, has to accept any offer of marriage, however uncongenial the man may be. These things conspired to drive me from Russia. So I turned everything into money, and realized three hundred and fifty roubles. People had told me that the whole journey to London should cost us two hundred roubles, so I concluded I should have one hundred and fifty roubles with which to begin life in the new country. It was very bitter to me to leave my Fatherland, but as the moujik says: 'Necessity brings everything.' So we parted from our friends with many tears: little had we thought we should be so broken up in our old age. But what else could I do in such a wretched country? As the moujik says: 'If the goat doesn't want to go to market it is compelled to go.' So I started for London. We travelled to Isota on the Austrian frontier. As we sat at the railway-station there, wondering how we were going to smuggle ourselves across the frontier, in came a benevolent-looking Jew with a long venerable beard, two very long ear-locks, and a girdle round his waist, washed his hands ostentatiously at the station tap, prayed aloud the Asher Yotzer with great fervour, and on finishing his prayer looked everyone expectantly in the eyes, and all responded 'Amen.' Then he drew up his coat-sleeve with great deliberation, extended his hand, gave me an effusive 'Shalom Aleichem' and asked me how it went with me. Soon he began to talk about the frontier. Said he: 'As you see me, an Ish kosher (a ritually correct man), I will do you a kindness, not for money, but for the sake of the Mitzvah (good deed).' I began to smell a rat, and thought to myself, How comes it that you know I want the frontier? Your kindness is suspicious, for, as the moujik says: 'The devil has guests.' But if we need the thief, we cut him down even from the gallows.
Such a necessary rascal proved Elzas Kazelia. I asked him how much he wanted to smuggle me across. He answered thus: 'I see that you are a clever respectable man, so look upon my beard and ear-locks, and you will understand that you will receive fair treatment from me. I want to earn a Mitzvah (good deed) and a little money thereby.'
Then he cautioned me not to leave the station and go out into the street, because in the street were to be found Jews without beards, who would inform on me and give me up to the police. 'The world does not contain a sea of Kazelias,' said he. (Would that it did not contain even that one!)
Then he continued: 'Shake out your money on the table, and we will see how much you have, and I will change it for you.'
'Oh,' said I, 'I want first to find out the rate of exchange.'
When Kazelia heard this, he gave a great spring and shrieked 'Hoi, hoi! On account of Jews like you, the Messhiach (Messiah) can't come, and the Redemption of Israel is delayed. If you go out into the street, you will find a Jew without a beard, who will charge you more, and even take all your money away. I swear to you, as I should wish to see Messhiach Ben David, that I want to earn no money. I only desire your good, and so to lay up a little Mitzvah in heaven.'
Thereupon I changed my money with him. Afterwards I found that he had swindled me to the extent of fifteen roubles. Elzas Kazelia is like to the Russian forest robber, who waylays even the peasant.
We began to talk further about the frontier. He wanted eighty roubles, and swore by his kosher Yiddishkeit (ritually pure Judaism) that the affair would cost him seventy-five.
Thereupon I became sorely troubled, because I had understood it would only cost us twenty roubles for all of us, and so I told him. Said he: 'If you seek others with short beards, they will take twice as much from you.' But I went out into the street to seek a second murderer. The second promised to do it cheaper, said that Kazelia was a robber, and promised to meet me at the railway station.
Immediately I left, Elzas Kazelia, the kosher Jew, went to the police, and informed them that I and my family were running away from Russia, and were going to London; and we were at once arrested, and thrown bag and baggage into a filthy cell, lighted only by an iron grating in the door. No food or drink was allowed us, as though we were the greatest criminals. Such is Russian humanity, to starve innocent people. The little provender we had in a bag scarcely kept us from fainting with hunger. On the second day Kazelia sent two Jews with beards. Suddenly I heard the door unlock, and they appeared saying: 'We have come to do you a favour, but not for nothing. If your life and the lives of your family are dear to you, we advise you to give the police seventy roubles, and we want ten roubles for our kindness, and you must employ Kazelia to take you over the frontier for eighty roubles, otherwise the police will not be bribed. If you refuse, you are lost.'
Well, how could I answer? How could one give away the last kopeck and arrive penniless in a strange land? Every rouble taken from us was like a piece of our life. So my people and I began to weep and to beg for pity. 'Have compassion,' we cried. Answered they: 'In a frontier town compassion dwells not. Give money. That will bring compassion.' And they slammed the door, and we were locked in once more. Tears and cries helped nothing. My children wept agonizedly. Oh, truth, truth! Russia, Russia! How scurvily you handle the guiltless! For an enlightened land to be thus!
'Father, father,' the children said, 'give away everything so that we die not in this cell of fear and hunger.'
But even had I wished, I could do nothing from behind barred doors. Our shouting was useless. At last I attracted a warder who was watching in the corridor. 'Bring me a Jew,' I cried; 'I wish to tell him of our plight.' And he answered: 'Hold your peace if you don't want your teeth knocked out. Recognise that you are a prisoner. You know well what is required of you.'
Yes, I thought, my money or my life.
On the third day our sufferings became almost insupportable, and the Russian cold seized on our bodies, and our strength began to fail. We looked upon the cell as our tomb, and on Kazelia as the Angel of Death. Here, it seemed, we were to die of hunger. We lost hope of seeing the sun. For well we know Russia. Who seeks Truth finds Death more easily. As the Russian proverb says, 'If you want to know Truth, you will know Death.'
At length the warder seemed to take pity on our cries, and brought again the two Jews. 'For the last time we tell you. Give us money, and we will do you a kindness. We have been seized with compassion for your family.'
So I said no more, but gave them all they asked, and Elzas Kazelia came and said to me rebukingly: 'It is a characteristic of the Jew never to part with his money unless chastised.' I said to Elzas Kazelia: 'I thought you were an honourable, pious Jew. How could you treat a poor family so?'
He answered me: 'An honourable, pious Jew must also make a little money.'
Thereupon he conducted us from the prison, and sent for a conveyance. No sooner had we seated ourselves than he demanded six roubles. Well, what could I do? I had fallen among thieves, and must part with my money. We drove to a small room, and remained there two hours, for which we had to pay three roubles, as the preparations for our crossing were apparently incomplete. When we finally got to the frontier—in this case a shallow river—they warned us not even to sneeze, for if the soldiers heard we should be shot without more ado. I had to strip in order to wade through the water, and several men carried over my family. My two bundles, with all my belongings, consisting of clothes and household treasures, remained, however, on the Russian side. Suddenly a wild disorder arose. 'The soldiers! The soldiers! Hide! Hide! In the bushes! In the bushes!'
When all was still again—though no soldiers became visible—the men went back for the baggage, but brought back only one bundle. The other, worth over a hundred roubles, had disappeared. Wailing helped nothing. Kazelia said: 'Hold your peace. Here, too, dangers lurk.'
I understood the game, but felt completely helpless in his hands. He drove us to his house, and our remaining bundle was deposited there. Later, when I walked into the town, I went to the Rabbi and complained. Said he: 'What can I do with such murderers? You must reconcile yourself to the loss.'
I went back to my family at Kazelia's house, and he cautioned me against going into the street. On my way I had met a man who said he would charge twenty-eight roubles each for our journey to London. So Kazelia was evidently afraid I might yet fall into honester hands.
Then we began to talk with him of London, for it is better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don't know. Said he: 'It will cost you thirty-three roubles each.' I said: 'I have had an offer of twenty-eight roubles, but you I will give thirty.' 'Hoi, hoi!' shrieked he. 'On a Jew a lesson is lost. It is just as at the frontier: you wouldn't give eighty roubles, and it cost you double. You want the same again. One daren't do a Jew a favour.'
So I held my peace, and accepted his terms. But I saw I should be twenty-five roubles short of what was required to finish the journey. Said Kazelia: 'I can do you a favour: I can borrow twenty-five roubles on your luggage at the railway, and when you get to London you can repay.' And he took the bundle, and conveyed it to the railway. What he did there I know not. He came back, and told me he had done me a turn. (This time it seemed a good one.) He then took envelopes, and placed in each the amount I was to pay at each stage of the journey. So at last we took train and rode off. And at each place I paid the dues from its particular envelope. The children were offered food by our fellow-passengers, though they could only take it when it was kosher, and this enabled us to keep our pride. There was one kind Jewess from Lemberg with a heart of gold and delicious rings of sausages.
When we arrived at Leipsic they told me the amount was twelve marks short. So we missed our train, not knowing what to do, as I had now no money whatever but what was in the envelopes. The officials ordered us from the station. So we went out and walked about Leipsic; we attracted the suspicion of the police, and they wanted to arrest us. But we pleaded our innocence, and they let us go. So we retired into a narrow dark street, and sat down by a blank wall, and told each other not to murmur. We sat together through the whole rainy night, the rain mingling with our tears.
When day broke I thought of a plan. I took twelve marks from the envelope containing the ship's money, and ran back to the station, and took tickets to Rotterdam, and so got to the end of our overland journey. When we got to the ship, they led us all into a shed like cattle. One of the Kazelia conspirators—for his arm reaches over Europe—called us into his office, and said: 'How much money have you?' I shook out the money from the envelopes on the table. Said he: 'The amount is twelve marks short.' He had had advices, he said, from Kazelia that I would bring a certain amount, and I didn't have it.
'Here you can stay to-night. To-morrow you go back.' So he played on my ignorance, for I was paying at every stage in excess of the legal fares. But I knew not what powers he had. Every official was a possible disaster. We hardly lived till the day.
Then I began to beg him to take my Tallis and Tephillin (praying-shawl and phylacteries) for the twelve marks. Said he: 'I have no use for them; you must go back.' With difficulty I got his permission to go out into the town, and I took my Tallis and Tephillin, and went into a Shool (synagogue), and I begged someone to buy them. But a good man came up, and would not permit the sale. He took out twelve marks and gave them to me. I begged him to give me his address that I might be able to repay him. Said he: 'I desire neither thanks nor money.' Thus was I able to replace the amount lacking.
We embarked without a bit of bread or a farthing in money. We arrived in London at nine o'clock in the morning, penniless and without luggage, whereas I had calculated to have at least one hundred and fifty roubles and my household stuff. I had a friend's address, and we all went to look for him, but found that he had left London for America. We walked about all day till eight o'clock at night. The children could scarcely drag along from hunger and weariness. At last we sat down on the steps of a house in Wellclose Square. I looked about, and saw a building which I took to be a Shool (synagogue), as there were Hebrew posters stuck outside. I approached it. An old Jew with a long grey beard came to meet me, and began to speak with me. I understood soon what sort of a person he was, and turned away. This Meshummad (converted Jew) persisted, tempting me sorely with offers of food and drink for the family, and further help. I said: 'I want nothing of you, nor do I desire your acquaintance.'
'I went back to my family. The children sat crying for food. They attracted the attention of a man, Baruch Zezangski (25, Ship Alley), and he went away, returning with bread and fish. When the children saw this, they rejoiced exceedingly, and seized the man's hand to kiss it. Meanwhile darkness fell, and there was nowhere to pass the night. So I begged the man to find me a lodging for the night. He led us to a cellar in Ship Alley. It was pitch black. They say there is a hell. This may or may not be, but more of a hell than the night we passed in this cellar one does not require. Every vile thing in the world seemed to have taken up its abode therein. We sat the whole night sweeping the vermin from us. After a year of horror—as it seemed—came the dawn. In the morning entered the landlord, and demanded a shilling. I had not a farthing, but I had a leather bag which I gave him for the night's lodging. I begged him to let me a room in the house. So he let me a small back room upstairs, the size of a table, at three and sixpence a week. He relied on our collecting his rent from the kind-hearted.
We entered the empty room with joy, and sat down on the floor. We remained the whole day without bread. The children managed to get a crust now and again from other lodgers, but all day long they cried for food, and at night they cried because they had nothing to sleep on. I asked our landlord if he knew of any work we could do. He said he would see what could be done. Next day he went out, and returned with a heap of linen to be washed. The family set to work at once, but I am sure my wife washed the things less with water than with tears. Oh, Kazelia! We washed the whole week, the landlord each day bringing bread and washing. At the end of the week he said: 'You have worked out your rent, and have nothing to pay.' I should think not indeed!
My eldest daughter was fortunate enough to get a place at a tailor's for four shillings a week, and the others sought washing and scrubbing. So each day we had bread, and at the end of the week rent. Bread and water alone formed our sustenance. But we were very grateful all the same. When the holidays came on, my daughter fell out of work. I heard a word 'slack.' I inquired, 'What is the meaning of the word "slack"?' Then my daughter told me that it means schlecht (bad). There is nothing to be earned. Now, what should I do? I had no means of living. The children cried for bread and something to sleep on. Still we lived somehow till Rosh Hashanah (New Year), hoping it would indeed be a New Year.
It was Erev Yomtov (the day before the holiday), and no washing was to be had. We struggled as before death. The landlord of the house came in. He said to me: 'Aren't you ashamed? Can't you see your children have scarcely strength to live? Why have you not compassion on your little ones? Go to the Charity Board. There you will receive help.' Believe me, I would rather have died. But the little ones were starving, and their cries wrung me. So I went to a Charity Board. I said, weeping: 'My children are perishing for a morsel of bread. I can no longer look upon their sufferings.' And the Board answered: 'After Yomtov we will send you back to Russia.' 'But meanwhile,' I answered, 'the children want food.' Whereupon one of the Board struck a bell, and in came a stalwart Angel of Death, who seized me by the arm so that it ached all day, and thrust me through the door. I went out, my eyes blinded with tears, so that I could not see where I went. It was long before I found my way back to Ship Alley. My wife and daughters already thought I had drowned myself for trouble. Such was our plight the Eve of the Day of Atonement, and not a morsel of bread to 'take in' the fast with! But just at the worst a woman from next door came in, and engaged one of my daughters to look after a little child during the fast (while she was in the synagogue) at a wage of tenpence, paid in advance. With joy we expended it all on bread, and then we prayed that the Day of Atonement should endure long, so that we could fast long, and have no need to buy food; for as the moujik says, 'If one had no mouth, one could wear a golden coat.'
I went to the Jews' Free School, which was turned into a synagogue, and passed the whole day in tearful supplication. When I came home at night my wife sat and wept. I asked her why she wept. She answered: 'Why have you led me to such a land, where even prayer costs money—at least, for women? The whole day I went from one Shool to another, but they would not let me in. At last I went to the Shool of the "Sons of the Soul," where pray the pious Jews, with beards and ear-locks, and even there I was not allowed in. The heathen policeman begged for me, and said to them: "Shame on you not to let the poor woman in." The Gabbai (treasurer) answered: "If one hasn't money, one sits at home."' And my wife said to him, weeping: 'My tears be on your head,' and went home, and remained home the whole day weeping. With a woman Yom Kippur is a wonder-working day. She thought that her prayers might be heard, that God would consider her plight if she wept out her heart to Him in the Shool. But she was frustrated, and this was perhaps the greatest blow of all to her. Moreover, she was oppressed by her own brethren, and this was indeed bitter. If it had been the Gentile, she would have consoled herself with the thought, 'We are in exile.' When the fast was over, we had nothing but a little bread left to break our fast on, or to prepare for the next day's fast. Nevertheless we sorrowfully slept. But the wretched day came again, and the elder children went out into the street to seek Parnosoh (employment), and found scrubbing, that brought in nine-pence. We bought bread, and continued to live further. Likewise we obtained three shillings worth of washing to do, and were as rich as Rothschild. When Succoth (Tabernacles) came, again no money, no bread, and I went about the streets the whole day to seek for work. When I was asked what handicraftsman I was, of course I had to say I had no trade, for, foolishly enough, among the Jews in my part of Russia a trade is held in contempt, and when they wish to hold one up to scorn, they say to him: 'Anybody can see you are a descendant of a handicraftsman.'
I could write Holy Scrolls, indeed, and keep an inn, but what availed these accomplishments? As I found I could obtain no work, I went into the Shool of the 'Sons of the Soul.' I seated myself next a man, and we began to speak. I told him of my plight. Said he: 'I will give you advice. Call on our Rabbi. He is a very fine man.'
I did so. As I entered, he sat in company with another man, holding his Lulov and Esrog (palm and citron). 'What do you want?' I couldn't answer him, my heart was so oppressed, but suddenly my tears gushed forth. It seemed to me help was at hand. I felt assured of sympathy, if of nothing else. I told him we were perishing for want of bread, and asked him to give me advice. He answered nothing. He turned to the man, and spoke concerning the Tabernacle and the Citron. He took no further notice of me, but left me standing.
So I understood he was no better than Elzas Kazelia. And this is a Rabbi! As I saw I might as well have talked to the wall, I left the room without a word from him. As the moujik would say: 'Sad and bitter is the poor man's lot. It is better to lie in the dark tomb and not to see the sunlit world than to be a poor man and be compelled to beg for money.'
I came home, where my family was waiting patiently for my return with bread. I said: 'Good Yomtov,' weeping, for they looked scarcely alive, having been without a morsel of food that day.
So we tried to sleep, but hunger would not permit it, but demanded his due. 'Hunger, you old fool, why don't you let us sleep?' But he refused to be talked over. So we passed the night. When day came the little children began to cry: 'Father, let us go. We will beg bread in the streets. We die of hunger. Don't hold us back.'
When the mother heard them speak of begging in the streets, she swooned, whereupon arose a great clamour among the children. When at length we brought her to, she reproached us bitterly for restoring her to life. 'I would rather have died than hear you speak of begging in the streets—rather see my children die of hunger before my eyes.' This speech of the mother caused them to forget their hunger, and they sat and wept together. On hearing the weeping, a man from next door, Gershon Katcol, came in to see what was the matter. He looked around, and his heart went out to us. So he went away, and returned speedily with bread and fish and tea and sugar, and went away again, returning with five shillings. He said: 'This I lend you.' Later he came back with a man, Nathan Beck, who inquired into our story, and took away the three little ones to stay with him. Afterwards, when I called to see them in his house in St. George's Road, they hid themselves from me, being afraid I should want them to return to endure again the pangs of hunger. It was bitter to think that a stranger should have the care of my children, and that they should shun me as one shuns a forest-robber.
After Yomtov I went to Grunbach, the shipping agent, to see whether my luggage had arrived, as I had understood from Kazelia that it would get here in a month's time. I showed my pawn-ticket, and inquired concerning it. Said he: 'Your luggage won't come to London, only to Rotterdam. If you like, I will write a letter to inquire if it is at Rotterdam, and how much money is due to redeem it.' I told him I had borrowed twenty-five roubles on it. Whereupon he calculated that it would cost me L4 6s., including freight to redeem it. But I told him to write and ask. Some days later a letter came from Rotterdam stating the cost at eighty-three roubles (L8 13s.), irrespective of freight dues. When I heard this, I was astounded, and I immediately wrote to Kazelia: 'Why do you behave like a forest-robber, giving me only twenty-five roubles where you got eighty-three?' Answered he: 'Shame on you to write such a letter! Haven't you been in my house, and seen what an honourable Jew I am? Shame on you! To such men as you one can't do a favour. Do you think there are a sea of Kazelias in the world? You are all thick-headed. You can't read a letter. I only took fifty-four roubles on the luggage; I had to recoup myself because I lost money through sending you to London. I calculated my loss, and only took what was due to me.' I showed the letter to Grunbach, and he wrote again to Rotterdam, and they answered that they knew nothing of a Kazelia. I must pay the L8 13s. if I wanted my bundle. Well, what was to be done? The weather grew colder. Hunger we had become inured to. But how could we pass the winter nights on the bare boards? I wrote again to Kazelia, but received no answer whatever. Day and night I went about asking advice concerning the luggage. Nobody could help me.
And as I stood thus in the middle of the sea, word came to me of a Landsmann (countryman) I had once helped to escape from the Russian army, in the days when I was happy and had still my inn. They said he had a great business in jewellery on a great highroad in front of the sea in a great town called Brighton. So I started off at once to talk to him—two days' journey, they said—for I knew he would help; and if not he, who? I would come to him as his Sabbath guest; he would surely fall upon my neck. The first night I slept in a barn with another tramp, who pointed me the way; but because I stopped to earn sixpence by chopping wood, lo! when Sabbath came I was still twelve miles away, and durst not profane the Sabbath by walking. So I lingered that Friday night in a village, thanking God I had at least the money for a bed, though it was sinful even to touch my money. And all next day, I know not why, the street-boys called me a Goy (heathen) and a fox—'Goy-Fox, Goy-Fox!'—and they let off fireworks in my face. So I had to wander in the woods around, keeping within the Sabbath radius, and when the three stars appeared in the sky I started for Brighton. But so footsore was I, I came there only at midnight, and could not search. And I sat down on a bench; it was very cold, but I was so tired. But the policeman came and drove me away—he was God's messenger, for I should perchance have died—and a drunken female with a painted face told him to let me be, and gave me a shilling. How could I refuse? I slept again in a bed. And on the Sunday morning I started out, and walked all down in front of the sea; but my heart grew sick, for I saw the shops were shut. At last I saw a jewellery shop and my Landsmann's name over it. It sparkled with gold and diamonds, and little bills were spread over it—'Great sale! Great sale!' Then I went joyfully to the door, but lo! it was bolted. So I knocked and knocked, and at last a woman came from above, and told me he lived in that road in Hove, where I found indeed my redeemer, but not my Landsmann. It was a great house, with steps up and steps down. I went down to a great door, and there came out a beautiful heathen female with a shining white cap on her head and a shining white apron, and she drove me away.
'Goy-Fox was yesterday,' she shouted with wrath and slammed the door on my heart; and I sat down on the pavement without, and I became a pillar of salt, all frozen tears. But when I looked up, I saw the Angel of the Lord.
THE PICTURE EVOLVES
Such was my model's simple narrative, the homely realism of which appealed to me on my most imaginative side, for through all its sordid details stood revealed to me the tragedy of the Wandering Jew. Was it Heine or another who said 'The people of Christ is the Christ of peoples'? At any rate, such was the idea that began to take possession of me as I painted away at the sorrow-haunted face of my much-tried model—to paint, not the Christ that I had started out to paint, but the Christ incarnated in a race, suffering—and who knew that He did not suffer over again?—in its Passion. Yes, Israel Quarriar could still be my model, but after another conception altogether.
It was an idea that called for no change in what I had already done. For I had worked mainly upon the head, and now that I purposed to clothe the figure in its native gaberdine, there would be little to re-draw. And so I fell to work with renewed intensity, feeling even safer now that I was painting and interpreting a real thing than when I was trying to reconstruct retrospectively the sacred figure that had walked in Galilee.
And no sooner had I fallen to work on this new conception than I found everywhere how old it was. It appeared even to have Scriptural warrant, for from a brief report of a historical-theological lecture by a Protestant German Professor I gleaned that many of the passages in the Prophets which had been interpreted as pointing to a coming Messiah, really applied to Israel, the people. Israel it was whom Isaiah, in that famous fifty-third chapter, had described as 'despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows.' Israel it was who bore the sins of the world. 'He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter.' Yes, Israel was the Man of Sorrows. And in this view the German Professor, I found, was only re-echoing Rabbinic opinion. My model proved a mine of lore upon this as upon so many other points. Even the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, he had never shared, he said—that the Messhiach would come riding upon a white ass. Israel would be redeemed by itself, though his neighbours would have called the sentiment 'epicurean.'
'Whoever saves me is my Messhiach,' he declared suddenly, and plucked at my hand to kiss it.
'Now, you shock me,' I said, pushing him away.
'No, no,' he said; 'I agree with the word of the moujik: "the good people are God."'
'Then I suppose you are what is called a Zionist,' I said.
'Yes,' he replied; 'now that you have saved me, I see that God works only through men. As for the Messhiach on the white ass, they do not really believe it, but they won't let another believe otherwise. For my own part, when I say the prayer, "Blessed be Thou who restorest the dead to life," I always mean it of you.'
Such Oriental hyperbolic gratitude would have satisfied the greediest benefactor, and was infinitely in excess of what he owed me. He seemed unconscious that he was doing work, journeying punctually long miles to my studio in any and every weather. It is true that I early helped him to redeem his household gods, but could I do less for a man who had still no bed to sleep in?
My recovery of the Rotterdam bundle served to unveil further complications. The agents at the East End charged him three shillings and sixpence per letter, and conducted the business with a fine legal delay. But it was not till Kazelia was eulogized by one of these gentry as a very fine man that both the model and I grew suspicious that the long chain of roguery reached even unto London, and that the confederates on this side were playing for time, so that the option should expire, and the railway sell the unredeemed luggage, which they would doubtless buy in cheap, making another profit.
Ultimately Quarriar told me his second daughter—for the eldest was blind of one eye—was prepared to journey alone to Rotterdam, as the safest way of redeeming the goods. Admiring her pluck, I added her fare to the expenses.
One fine morning Israel appeared, transfigured with happiness.
'When does man rejoice most?' he cried. 'When he loses and finds again.'
'Ah, then you have got your bedding at last,' I cried, now accustomed to his methods of expression. 'I hope you slept well.'
'We could not sleep for blessing you,' he replied unexpectedly. 'As the Psalmist says, "All my bones praise the Lord!"'
Not that the matter had gone smoothly even now. The Kazelia gang at Rotterdam denied all knowledge of the luggage, sent the girl to the railway, where the dues had now mounted to L10 6s. Again the cup was dashed from her lips, for I had only given her L9. But she went to the Rabbi, and offered if he supplied the balance to repledge the Sabbath silver candlesticks that were the one family heirloom in the bundle, and therewith repay him instantly. While she was pleading with him, in came a noble Jew, paid the balance, lodged her and fed her, and saw her safely on board with the long-lost treasures.
I BECOME A SORTER
As the weeks went by, my satisfaction with the progress I was making was largely tempered by the knowledge that after the completion of my picture my model would be thrown again on the pavement, and several times I fancied I detected him gazing at it sadly as if watching its advancing stages with a sort of hopeless fear. My anxiety about him and his family grew from day to day, but I could not see any possible way of helping him. He was touchingly faithful, anxious to please, and uncomplaining either of cold or hunger. Once I gave him a few shillings to purchase a second-hand pair of top-boots, which were necessary for the picture, and these he was able to procure in the Ghetto Sunday market for a minute sum, and he conscientiously returned me the balance—about two-thirds.
I happened to have sold an English landscape to Sir Asher Aaronsberg, the famous philanthropist and picture-buyer of Middleton, then up in town in connection with his Parliamentary duties, and knowing how indefatigably he was in touch with the London Jewish charities, I inquired whether some committee could not do anything to assist Quarriar. Sir Asher was not very encouraging. The man knew no trade. However, if he would make application on the form enclosed and answer the questions, he would see what could be done. I saw that the details were duly filled in—the ages and sex of his five children, etc.
But the committee came to the conclusion that the only thing they could do was to repatriate the man. 'Return to Russia!' cried Israel in horror.
Occasionally I inquired if any plan for the future had occurred to him. But he never raised the subject of his difficulties of his own accord, and his very silence, born, as it seemed to me, of the majestic dignity of the man, was infinitely pathetic. Now and again came a fitful gleam of light. His second daughter would be given a week's work for a few shillings by his landlord, a working master-tailor in a small way, from whom he now rented two tiny rooms on the top floor. But that was only when there was an extra spasm of activity. His half-blind daughter would do a little washing, and the landlord would allow her the use of the backyard.
At last one day I found he had an idea, and an idea, moreover, that was carefully worked out in all its details. The scheme was certainly a novel and surprising one to me, but it showed how the art of forcing a livelihood amid impossible circumstances had been cultivated among these people, forced for centuries to exist under impossible conditions.
Briefly his scheme was this. In the innumerable tailors' workshops of his district great piles of cuttings of every kind and quality of cloth accumulated, and for the purchase of these cuttings a certain competition existed among a class of people, known as piece-sorters. The sale of these cuttings by weight and for cash brought the master-tailors a pleasant little revenue, which was the more prized as it was a sort of perquisite. The masters were able to command payment for their cuttings in advance, and the sorter would call to collect them week by week as they accumulated, till the amount he had advanced was exhausted. Quarriar would set up as a piece-sorter, and thus be able to employ his daughters too. The whole family would find occupation in sorting out their purchases, and each quality and size would be readily saleable as raw material, to be woven again into the cheaper woollen materials. Through the recommendation of his countrymen, there were several tailors who had readily agreed to give him the preference. His own landlord in particular had promised to befriend him, and even now was allowing his cuttings to accumulate at some inconvenience, since he might have had ready money for them. Moreover, his friends had introduced him to a very respectable and honest sorter, who would take him into partnership, teach him, and allow his daughters to partake in the sorting, if he could put down twenty pounds! His friends would jointly advance him eight on the security of his silver candlesticks, if only he could raise the other twelve.
This promising scheme took an incubus off my mind, and I hastened, somewhat revengefully, to acquaint the professional philanthropist, who had been so barren of ideas, with my intention to set up Quarriar as a piece-sorter.
'Ah,' Sir Asher replied, unmoved. 'Then you had better employ my man Conn; he does a good deal of this sort of work for me. He will find Quarriar a partner and professor.'
'But Quarriar has already found a partner.' I explained the scheme.
'The partner will cheat him. Twenty pounds is ridiculous. Five pounds is quite enough. Take my advice, and let it all go through Conn. If I wanted my portrait painted, you wouldn't advise me to go to an amateur. By the way, here are the five pounds, but please don't tell Conn I gave them. I don't believe the money'll do any good, and Conn will lose his respect for me.'
My interest in piece-sorting—an occupation I had never even heard of before—had grown abnormally, and I had gone into the figures and quantities—so many hundredweights, purchased at fifteen shillings, sorted into lots, and sold at various prices—with as thorough-going an eagerness as if my own livelihood were to depend upon it.
I confess I was now rather bewildered by so serious a difference of estimate as to the cost of a partnership, but I was inclined to set down Sir Asher's scepticism to that pessimism which is the penalty of professional philanthropy.
On the other hand, I felt that whether the partnership was to cost five pounds or twenty, Quarriar's future would be safer from Kazelias under the auspices of Sir Asher and his Conn. So I handed the latter the five pounds, and bade him find Quarriar a guide, philosopher, and partner.
With the advent of Conn, all my troubles began, and the picture passed into its third and last stage.
I soon elicited that Quarriar and his friends were rather sorry Conn had been introduced into the matter. He was alleged to favour some people at the expense of others, and to be not at all popular among the people amid whom he worked. And altogether it was abundantly clear that Quarriar would rather have gone on with the scheme in his own way without official interference.
Later, Sir Asher wrote to me direct that the partner put forward by the Quarriar faction was a shady customer; Conn had selected his own man, but even so there was little hope Quarriar's future would be thus provided for.
There seemed, moreover, a note of suspicion of Quarriar sounding underneath, but I found comfort in the reflection that to Sir Asher my model was nothing more than the usual applicant for assistance, whereas to me who had lived for months in daily contact with him he was something infinitely more human.
Spring was now nearing; I finished my picture early in March—after four months' strenuous labour—shook hands with my model, and received his blessing. I was somewhat put out at learning that Conn had not yet given him the five pounds necessary to start him, as I had been hoping he might begin his new calling immediately the sittings ended. I gave him a small present to help tide over the time of waiting.
But that tragic face on my own canvas remained to haunt me, to ask the question of his future, and few days elapsed ere I found myself starting out to visit him at his home. He lived near Ratcliffe Highway, a district which I found had none of that boisterous marine romance with which I had associated it.
The house was a narrow building of at least the sixteenth century, with the number marked up in chalk on the rusty little door. I happened to have stumbled on the Jewish Passover. Quarriar was called down, evidently astonished and unprepared for my appearance at his humble abode, but he expressed pleasure, and led me up the narrow, steep stairway, whose ceiling almost touched my head as I climbed up after him. On the first floor the landlord, in festal raiment, intercepted us, introduced himself in English (which he spoke with pretentious inaccuracy), and, barring my further ascent, took possession of me, and led the way to his best parlour, as if it were entirely unbecoming for his tenant to receive a gentleman in his attic.
He was a strapping young fellow, full of acuteness and vigour—a marked contrast to Quarriar's drooping, dignified figure standing silently near by, and radiating poverty and suffering all the more in the little old panelled room, elegant with a big carved walnut cabinet, and gay with chromos and stuffed birds. Effusively the master-tailor painted himself as the champion of the poor fellow, and protested against this outside partnership that was being imposed on him by the notorious Conn. He himself, though he could scarcely afford it, was keeping his cuttings for him, in spite of tempting offers from other quarters, even of a shilling a sack. But of course he didn't see why an outsider foisted upon him by a philanthropic factotum should benefit by this goodness of his. He discoursed to me in moved terms of the sorrows and privations of his tenants in their two tiny rooms upstairs. And all the while Quarriar preserved his attitude of drooping dignity, saying no syllable except under special appeal.
The landlord produced a goblet of rum and shrub for the benefit of the high-born visitor, and we all clinked glasses, the young master-tailor beaming at me unctuously as he set down his glass.
'I love company,' he cried, with no apparent consciousness of impudent familiarity.
I returned, however, to my central interest in life—the piece-sorting. It occurred to me afterwards that possibly I ought not to have insisted on such a secular subject on a Jewish holiday, but, after all, the landlord had broached it, and both men now entered most cordially into the discussion. The landlord started repeating his lament—what a pity it would be if Quarriar were really forced to accept Conn's partner—when Quarriar timidly blurted out that he had already signed the deed of partnership, though he had not yet received the promised capital from Conn, nor spoken over matters with the partner provided. The landlord seemed astonished and angry at learning this, pricking up his ears curiously at the word 'signed,' and giving Quarriar a look of horror.
'Signed!' he cried in Yiddish. 'What hast thou signed?'
At this point the landlord's wife joined us in the parlour, with a pretty child in her arms and another shy one clinging to her skirts, completing the picture of felicity and prosperity, and throwing into greater shadow the attic to which I shortly afterwards climbed my way up the steep, airless stairs. I was hardly prepared for the depressing spectacle that awaited me at their summit. It was not so much the shabby, fusty rooms, devoid of everything save a couple of mattresses, a rickety wooden table, a chair or two, and a heap of Passover cakes, as the unloveliness of the three women who stood there, awkward and flushing before their important visitor. The wife-and-mother was dwarfed and black-wigged, the daughters were squat, with tallow-coloured round faces, vaguely suggestive of Caucasian peasants, while the sightless eye of the elder lent a final touch of ugliness.
How little my academic friends know me who imagine I am allured by the ugly! It is only that sometimes I see through it a beauty that they are blind to. But here I confess I saw nothing but the ghastly misery and squalor, and I was oppressed almost to sickness as much by the scene as by the atmosphere.
'May I open a window?' I could not help inquiring.
The genial landlord, who had followed in my footsteps, rushed to anticipate me, and when I could breathe more freely, I found something of the tragedy that had been swallowed in the sordidness. My eye fell again on the figure of my host standing in his drooping majesty, the droop being now necessary to avoid striking the ceiling with his kingly head.
Surely a pretty wife and graceful daughters would have detracted from the splendour of the tragedy. Israel stood there, surrounded by all that was mean, yet losing nothing of his regal dignity—indeed the Man of Sorrows.
* * * * *
Ere I left I suddenly remembered to ask after the three younger children. They were still with their kind benefactor, the father told me.
'I suppose you will resume possession of them when you make your fortune by the piece-sorting?' I said.
'God grant it,' he replied. 'My bowels yearn for that day.'
Against my intention I slipped into his hand the final seven pounds I was prepared to pay. 'If your partnership scheme fails, try again alone,' I said.
His blessings pursued me down the steep staircase. His womankind remained shy and dumb.
When I got home I found a telegram from the Parsonage. My father was dangerously ill. I left everything and hastened to help nurse him. My picture was not sent in to any Exhibition—I could not let it go without seeing it again, without a last touch or two. When, some months later, I returned to town, my first thought—inspired by the sight of my picture—was how Quarriar was faring. I left the studio and telephoned to Sir Asher Aaronsberg at the London office of his great Middleton business.
'That!' His contempt penetrated even through the wires. 'Smashed up long ago. Just as I expected.'
And the sneer of the professional philanthropist vibrated triumphantly. I was much upset, but ere I could recover my composure Sir Asher was cut off. In the evening I received a note saying Quarriar was a rogue, who had to flee from Russia for illicit sale of spirits. He had only two, at most three, elderly daughters; the three younger girls were a myth. For a moment I was staggered; then all my faith in Israel returned. Those three children a figment of the imagination! Impossible! Why, I remembered countless little anecdotes about these very children, told me with the most evident fatherly pride. He had even repeated the quaint remarks the youngest had made on her return home from her first morning at the English school. Impossible that these things could have been invented on the spur of the moment. No; I could not possibly doubt the genuineness of my model's spontaneous talk, especially as in those days he had had no reason for expecting anything from me, and he had most certainly not demanded anything. And then I remembered that tragic passage describing how these three little ones, sheltered and fed by a kindly soul, hid themselves when their father came to see them, fearing to be reclaimed by him to hunger and cold. If Quarriar could invent such things, he was indeed a poet, for in the whole literature of starvation I could recall no better touch.
I went to Sir Asher. He said that Quarriar, challenged by Conn to produce these children, had refused to do so, or to answer any further questions. I found myself approving of his conduct. 'A man ought not to be insulted by such absurd charges,' I said. Sir Asher merely smiled and took up his usual unshakable position behind his impregnable wall of official distrust and pessimism.
I wrote to Quarriar to call on me without delay. He came immediately, his head bowed, his features care-worn and full of infinite suffering. Yes, it was true; the piece-sorting had failed. For a few weeks all had gone well. He had bought cuttings himself, had given the partner thrust upon him by Conn various sums for the same purpose. They had worked together, sorting in a cellar rented for the purpose, of which his partner kept the key. So smoothly had things gone that he had felt encouraged to invest even the reserve seven pounds I had given him, but when the cellar was full of their common stock, and his own suspicions had been lulled by the regular division of the profits—seventeen shillings per week for each—one morning, on arriving at the cellar to start the day's work, he found the place locked, and when he called at the partner's house for an explanation, the man laughed in his face. Everything in the cellar now belonged to him, he claimed, insisting that Quarriar had eaten up the original capital and his share of the profits besides.
'Besides, it never was your money,' was the rogue's ultimate argument. 'Why shouldn't I profit, too, by the Christian's simplicity?'
Conn blindly believed his own man, for the transactions had not been recorded in writing, and it was only a case of Quarriar's word against the partner's. It was the latter who in his venomous craft had told Conn the younger children did not exist. But, thank Heaven! his quiver was not empty of them. He had blissfully taken them home when prosperity began, but now that he was again face to face with starvation, they had returned to his hospitable countryman, Nathan Beck.
'You are sure you could absolutely produce the little ones?'
He looked grieved at my distrusting him. My faith in his probity was, he said with dignity, the one thing he valued in this world. I dismissed him with a little to tide him over the next week, thoroughly determined that the man's good name should be cleared. The crocodile partner must disgorge, and the eyes of my benevolent friend and of Conn must be finally opened to the injustice they had unwittingly sanctioned. Again I wrote to my friend. As usual, Sir Asher replied kindly and without a trace of impatience. Would I get some intelligible written statement from Quarriar as to what had taken place?
So, at my request, Quarriar sent me a statement in quaint English—probably the landlord's—alleging specifically that the partner had detained goods and money belonging to Quarriar to the amount of L7 9s. 5d., and had assaulted him into the bargain. When the partner was threatened with police-court proceedings, he had defied Quarriar with the remark that Mr. Conn would bear out his honesty. Quarriar could give as references, to show that he was an honest man and had made a true statement as to the number of his children, seven Russians (named) who would attest that the partner provided by Conn was well known as a swindler. Though he was starving, Quarriar refused to have anything further to say to Conn. Quarriar further referred to his landlord, who would willingly testify to his honesty. But being afraid of Conn, and not inclined to commit himself in writing, the landlord would give his version verbally.
Against this statement my philanthropic friend had to set another as made by the partner. Quarriar, according to this, had received the five pounds direct from Conn, and had handed over niggardly sums to the partner for the purchase of goods, to wit, two separate sums of one pound each (of which he returned to Quarriar thirty-three shillings from sales), while Quarriar only gave him as his share of the profits for the whole of the five weeks the sum of seventeen shillings, instead of the minimum of ten shillings each week that had been arranged.
The partner insisted further that he had never handled any money (of which Quarriar had always retained full control), and that all the goods in the cellar at the time of the quarrel were only of the value of ten shillings, to which he was entitled, as Quarriar still owed him thirty-three shillings. Moreover, he was willing to repeat in Quarriar's presence the lies the latter had tried to persuade him to tell. As to the children, he challenged Quarriar to produce them.
In vain I attempted to grapple with these conflicting documents. My head was in a whirl. It seemed to me that no judicial bench, however eminent, could, from the bare materials presented, probe to the bottom of this matter. The arithmetic of both parties was hopelessly beyond me. The names of the witnesses introduced showed that there must be two camps, and that certainly Quarriar was solidly encamped amid his advisers.
The whole business was taking on a most painful complexion, and I was torn by conflicting emotions and swayed alternately by suspicion and confidence.
How sift the false from the true amid all this tangled mass? And yet mere curiosity would not leave me content to go to my grave not knowing whether my model was apostle or Ananias. I, too, must then become a rag-sorter, dabbling amid dirty fragments. Was there a black rag, and was there a white, or were both rags parti-coloured? To take only the one point of the children, it would seem a very simple matter to determine whether a man has five daughters or two; and yet the more I looked into it, the more I saw the complexity. Even if three little girls were produced for my inspection, it was utterly impossible for me to tell whether they really were the model's. Nor was it open to me to repeat the device of Solomon and have them hacked in two to see whose heart would be moved.
And then, if Israel's story was false here, what of the rest? Was Kazelia also a myth? Did the second daughter ever go to Hamburg? Was the landlord's detaining me in the parlour a ruse to gain time for the attics to be emptied of any comforts? Where were the silver candlesticks? These and other questions surged up torturingly. But I remembered the footsore figure on the Brighton pavement; I remembered the months he had practically lived with me, the countless conversations, and as the Man of Sorrows rose reproachful before me from my own canvas, with his noble bowed head, my faith in his dignity and probity returned unbroken.
I called on Sir Asher—I had to go to the House of Commons to find him—and his practical mind quickly suggested the best course in the circumstances. He appointed a date for all parties—himself, myself, Conn, the two partners, and any witnesses they might care to bring—to appear at his office. But, above all, Quarriar must bring the three children with him.
On getting back to my studio, I found Quarriar waiting for me. He was come to pour out his heart to me, and to complain that all sorts of underhand inquiries were being directed against him, so that he scarcely dared to draw breath, so thick was the air with treachery. He was afraid that his very friends, who were anxious not to offend Conn and Sir Asher, might turn against him. Even his landlord had threatened to kick him out, as he had been unable to pay his rent the last week or two.
I told him he might expect a letter asking him to attend at Sir Asher's office, that I should be there, and he should have an opportunity of facing his swindling partner. He welcomed it joyfully, and enthusiastically promised to obey the call and bring the children. I emptied my purse into his hand—there were three or four pounds—and he promised me that quite apart from the old tangle, he could now as an expert set up as a piece-sorter himself. And so his kingly figure passed out of my sight.
The next document sent me in this cause celebre was a letter from Conn to announce that he had made all arrangements for the great meeting.
'Sir Asher's private room in his office will be placed at the disposal of the inquiry. The original application form filled up by Quarriar clearly condemns him. The partner will be there, and I have arranged for Quarriar's landlord to appear if you think it necessary. I may add that I have very good reason to believe that Quarriar does not mean to appear. I fancy he is trying to wriggle out of the appointment.'
I at once wrote a short note to Quarriar reminding him of the absolute necessity of appearing with the children, who should be even kept away from school.
I reproduce the exact reply:
'Referring to your welcome letter, I gratify you very much for the trouble you have taken for me. But I'm sorry to tell you that I refuse to go before the committee according you arranged to, as I received a letter without any name threatening me that I should not dare to call for the committee to tell the truth for I will be put into mischief and trouble. It is stated also that the same gentleman does not require the truth. He helps only those he likes to. So I will not call and wish you my dear gentleman not to trouble to come. Therefore if you wish to assist me in somehow is very good and I will certainly gratify you and if not I will have to do without it, and will have to trust the Almighty. So kindly do not trouble about it as I do not wish to enter a risk, I remain your humble and grateful servant,
'P.S.—Last Wednesday a man called on my landlord and asked him some secrets about me, and told him at last that I shall have to state according I will be commanded to and not as I wish. I enclose you herewith the same letter I received, it is written in Jewish. Please not to show it to anyone but to tear it at once as I would not trust it to any other one. I would certainly call at the office and follow your advice. But my life is dearer. So you should not trouble to come. I fear already I gratify you for kind help till now, in the future you may do as you wish.'
LAST STAGE OF ALL
This letter seemed decisive. I did not trouble Mr. Conn to English the Yiddish epistle. My imagination saw too clearly Quarriar himself dictating its luridly romantic phraseology. Such counter-plots, coils, treasons, and stratagems in so simple a matter! How Quarriar could even think them plausible I could not at first imagine; and with my anger was mingled a flush of resentment at his low estimate of my intellect.
After-reflection instructed me that he wrote as a Russian to whom apparently nothing mediaeval was strange. But at the moment I had only the sense of outrage and trickery. All these months I had been fed upon lies. Day after day I had been swathed with them as with feathers. I had so pledged my reputation as a reader of character that he would appear with his three younger children, bear every test, and be triumphantly vindicated. And in that moment of hot anger and wounded pride I had almost slashed through my canvas and mutilated beyond redemption that kingly head. But it looked at me sadly with its sweet majesty, and I stayed my hand, almost persuaded to have faith in it still. I began multiplying excuses for Quarriar, figuring him as misled by his neighbours, more skilled than he in playing upon philanthropic heart-strings; he had been told, doubtless, that two daughters made no impression upon the flinty heart of bureaucratic charity, that in order to soften it one must 'increase and multiply.' He had got himself into a network of falsehood from which, though his better nature recoiled, he had been unable to disentangle himself. But then I remembered how even in Russia he had pursued an illegal calling, how he had helped a friend to evade military service, and again I took up my knife. But the face preserved its reproachful dignity, seemed almost to turn the other cheek. Illegal calling! No; it was the law that was illegal—the cruel, impossible law, that in taking away all means of livelihood had contorted the Jew's conscience. It was the country that was illegal—the cruel country whose frontiers could only be crossed by bribery and deceit—the country that had made him cunning like all weak creatures in the struggle for survival. And so, gradually softer thoughts came to me, and less unmingled feelings. I could not doubt the general accuracy of his melancholy wanderings between Russia and Rotterdam, between London and Brighton. And were he spotless as the dove, that only made surer the blackness of Kazelia and the partner—his brethren in Israel and in the Exile.
* * * * *
And so the new Man of Sorrows shaped himself to my vision. And, taking my brush, I added a touch here and a touch there till there came into that face of sorrows a look of craft and guile. And as I stood back from my work, I was startled to see how nearly I had come to a photographic representation of my model; for those lines of guile had indeed been there, though I had eliminated them in my confident misrepresentation. Now that I had exaggerated them, I had idealized, so to speak, in the reverse direction. And the more I pondered upon this new face, the more I saw that this return to a truer homeliness and a more real realism did but enable me to achieve a subtler beauty. For surely here at last was the true tragedy of the people of Christ—to have persisted sublimely, and to be as sordidly perverted; to be king and knave in one; to survive for two thousand years the loss of a fatherland and the pressure of persecution, only to wear on its soul the yellow badge which had defaced its garments.
For to suffer two thousand years for an idea is a privilege that has been accorded only to Israel—'the soldier of God.' That were no tragedy, but an heroic epic, even as the prophet Isaiah had prefigured. The true tragedy, the saddest sorrow, lay in the martyrdom of an Israel unworthy of his sufferings. And this was the Israel—the high tragedian in the comedy sock—that I tried humbly to typify in my Man of Sorrows.
'English, all English, that's my dream.' CECIL RHODES.
Even in his provincial days at Sudminster Solomon Cohen had distinguished himself by his Anglican mispronunciation of Hebrew and his insistence on a minister who spoke English and looked like a Christian clergyman; and he had set a precedent in the congregation by docking the 'e' of his patronymic. There are many ways of concealing from the Briton your shame in being related through a pedigree of three thousand years to Aaron, the High Priest of Israel, and Cohn is one of the simplest and most effective. Once, taken to task by a pietist, Solomon defended himself by the quibble that Hebrew has no vowels. But even this would not account for the whittling away of his 'Solomon.' 'S. Cohn' was the insignium over his clothing establishment. Not that he was anxious to deny his Jewishness—was not the shop closed on Saturdays?—he was merely anxious not to obtrude it. 'When we are in England, we are in England,' he would say, with his Talmudic sing-song.
S. Cohn was indeed a personage in the seaport of Sudminster, and his name had been printed on voting papers, and, what is more, he had at last become a Town Councillor. Really the citizens liked his stanch adherence to his ancient faith, evidenced so tangibly by his Sabbath shutters: even the Christian clothiers bore him goodwill, not suspecting that S. Cohn's Saturday losses were more than counterbalanced by the general impression that a man who sacrificed business to religion would deal more fairly by you than his fellows. And his person, too, had the rotundity which the ratepayer demands.
But twin with his Town Councillor's pride was his pride in being Gabbai (treasurer) of the little synagogue tucked away in a back street: in which for four generations prayer had ebbed and flowed as regularly as the tides of the sea, with whose careless rovers the worshippers did such lucrative business. The synagogue, not the sea, was the poetry of these eager traffickers: here they wore phylacteries and waved palm-branches and did other picturesque things, which in their utter ignorance of Catholic or other ritual they deemed unintelligible to the heathen and a barrier from mankind. Very imposing was Solomon Cohn in his official pew under the reading platform, for there is nothing which so enhances a man's dignity in the synagogue as the consideration of his Christian townsmen. That is one of the earliest stages of Anglicization.
Mrs. Cohn was a pale image of Mr. Cohn, seeing things through his gold spectacles, and walking humbly in the shadow of his greatness. She had dutifully borne him many children, and sat on the ground for such as died. Her figure refused the Jewess's tradition of opulency, and remained slender as though repressed. Her work was manifold and unceasing, for besides her domestic and shop-womanly duties she was necessarily a philanthropist, fettered with Jewish charities as the Gabbai's wife, tangled with Christian charities as the consort of the Town Councillor. In speech she was literally his echo, catching up his mistakes, indeed, admonished by him of her slips in speaking the Councillor's English. He had had the start of her by five years, for she had been brought from Poland to marry him, through the good offices of a friend of hers who saw in her little dowry the nucleus of a thriving shop in a thriving port.
And from this initial inferiority she never recovered—five milestones behind on the road of Anglicization! It was enough to keep down a more assertive personality than poor Hannah's. The mere danger of slipping back unconsciously to the banned Yiddish put a curb upon her tongue. Her large, dark eyes had a dog-like look, and they were set pathetically in a sallow face that suggested ill-health, yet immense staying power.
That S. Cohn was a bit of a bully can scarcely be denied. It is difficult to combine the offices of Gabbai and Town Councillor without a self-satisfaction that may easily degenerate into dissatisfaction with others. Least endurable was S. Cohn in his religious rigidity, and he could never understand that pietistic exercises in which he found pleasure did not inevitably produce ecstasy in his son and heir. And when Simon was discovered reading 'The Pirates of Pechili,' dexterously concealed in his prayer-book, the boy received a strapping that made his mother wince. Simon's breakfast lay only at the end of a long volume of prayers; and, having ascertained by careful experiment the minimum of time his father would accept for the gabbling of these empty Oriental sounds, he had fallen back on penny numbers to while away the hungry minutes. The quartering and burning of these tales in an avenging fireplace was not the least of the reasons why the whipped youth wept, and it needed several pieces of cake, maternally smuggled into his maw while the father's back was turned, to choke his sobs.
With the daughters—and there were three before the son and heir—there was less of religious friction, since women have not the pious privileges and burdens of the sterner sex. When the eldest, Deborah, was married, her husband received, by way of compensation, the goodwill of the Sudminster business, while S. Cohn migrated to the metropolis, in the ambition of making 'S. Cohn's trouserings' a household word. He did, indeed, achieve considerable fame in the Holloway Road.
Gradually he came to live away from his business, and in the most fashionable street of Highbury. But he was never to recover his exalted posts. The London parish had older inhabitants, the local synagogue richer members. The cry for Anglicization was common property. From pioneer, S. Cohn found himself outmoded. The minister, indeed, was only too English—and especially his wife. One would almost have thought from their deportment that they considered themselves the superiors instead of the slaves of the congregation. S. Cohn had been accustomed to a series of clergymen, who must needs be taught painfully to parrot 'Our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, and all the Royal Family'—the indispensable atom of English in the service—so that he, the expert, had held his breath while they groped and stumbled along the precipitous pass. Now the whilom Gabbai and Town Councillor found himself almost patronized—as a poor provincial—by this mincing, genteel clerical couple. He retorted by animadverting upon the preacher's heterodoxy.
An urban unconcern met the profound views so often impressed on Simon with a strap. 'We are not in Poland now,' said the preacher, shrugging his shoulders.
'In Poland!' S. Cohn's blood boiled. To be twitted with Poland, after decades of Anglicization! He, who employed a host of Anglo-Saxon clerks, counter-jumpers, and packers! 'And where did your father come from?' he retorted hotly.
He had almost a mind to change his synagogue, but there was no other within such easy walking distance—an important Sabbatic consideration—and besides, the others were reported to be even worse. Dread rumours came of a younger generation that craved almost openly for organs in the synagogue and women's voices in the choir, nay, of even more flagitious spirits—devotional dynamitards—whose dream was a service all English, that could be understood instead of chanted! Dark mutterings against the ancient Rabbis were in the very air of these wealthier quarters of London.
'Oh, shameless ignorance of the new age,' S. Cohn was wont to complain, 'that does not know the limits of Anglicization!'
That Simon should enter his father's business was as inevitable as that the business should prosper in spite of Simon.
His career had been settled ere his father became aware that Highbury aspired even to law and medicine, and the idea that Simon's education was finished was not lightly to be dislodged. Simon's education consisted of the knowledge conveyed in seaport schools for the sons of tradesmen, while a long course of penny dreadfuls had given him a peculiar and extensive acquaintance with the ways of the world. Carefully curtained away in a secret compartment, lay his elementary Hebrew lore. It did not enter into his conception of the perfect Englishman. Ah, how he rejoiced in this wider horizon of London, so thickly starred with music-halls, billiard-rooms, and restaurants! 'We are emancipated now,' was his cry: 'we have too much intellect to keep all those old laws;' and he swallowed the forbidden oyster in a fine spiritual glow, which somehow or other would not extend to bacon. That stuck more in his throat, and so was only taken in self-defence, to avoid the suspicions of a convivial company.
As he sat at his father's side in the synagogue—a demure son of the Covenant—this young Englishman lurked beneath his praying-shawl, even as beneath his prayer-book had lurked 'The Pirates of Pechili.'
In this hidden life Mrs. S. Cohn was not an aider or abettor, except in so far as frequent gifts from her own pocket-money might be considered the equivalent of the surreptitious cake of childhood. She would have shared in her husband's horror had she seen Simon banqueting on unrighteousness, and her apoplexy would have been original, not derivative. For her, indeed, London had proved narrowing rather than widening. She became part of a parish instead of part of a town, and of a Ghetto in a parish at that! The vast background of London was practically a mirage—the London suburb was farther from London than the provincial town. No longer did the currents of civic life tingle through her; she sank entirely to family affairs, excluded even from the ladies' committee. Her lord's life, too, shrank, though his business extended—the which, uneasily suspected, did but increase his irritability. He had now the pomp and pose of his late offices minus any visible reason: a Sir Oracle without a shrine, an abdomen without authority.
Even the two new sons-in-law whom his ability to clothe them had soon procured in London, listened impatiently, once they had safely passed under the Canopy and were ensconced in plush parlours of their own. Home and shop became his only realm, and his autocratic tendencies grew the stronger by compression. He read 'the largest circulation,' and his wife became an echo of its opinions. These opinions, never nebulous, became sharp as illuminated sky-signs when the Boer War began.
'The impertinent rascals!' cried S. Cohn furiously. 'They have invaded our territory.'
'Is it possible?' ejaculated Mrs. Cohn. 'This comes of our kindness to them after Majuba!'
A darkness began to overhang the destinies of Britain. Three defeats in one week!
'It is humiliating,' said S. Cohn, clenching his fist.
'It makes a miserable Christmas,' said Mrs. Cohn gloomily. Although her spouse still set his face against the Christmas pudding which had invaded so many Anglo-Jewish homes, the festival, with its shop-window flamboyance, entered far more vividly into his consciousness than the Jewish holidays, which produced no impression on the life of the streets.
The darkness grew denser. Young men began to enlist for the front: the City formed a new regiment of Imperial Volunteers. S. Cohn gave his foreign houses large orders for khaki trouserings. He sent out several parcels of clothing to the seat of war, and had the same duly recorded in his favourite Christian newspaper, whence it was copied into his favourite Jewish weekly, which was, if possible, still more chauvinist, and had a full-page portrait of Sir Asher Aaronsberg, M.P. for Middleton, who was equipping a local corps at his own expense. Gradually S. Cohn became aware that the military fever of which he read in both his organs was infecting his clothing emporium—that his own counter-jumpers were in heats of adventurous resolve. The military microbes must have lain thick in the khaki they handled. At any rate, S. Cohn, always quick to catch the contagion of the correct thing, announced that he would present a bonus to all who went out to fight for their country, and that he would keep their places open for their return. The Saturday this patriotic offer was recorded in his newspaper—'On inquiry at S. Cohn's, the great clothing purveyor of the Holloway Road, our representative was informed that no less than five of the young men were taking advantage of their employer's enthusiasm for England and the Empire'—the already puffed-up Solomon had the honour of being called to read in the Law, and first as befitted the sons of Aaron. It was a man restored almost to his provincial pride who recited the ancient benediction; 'Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast chosen us from among all peoples and given to us His law.'
But there was a drop of vinegar in the cup.
'And why wasn't Simon in synagogue?' he inquired of his wife, as she came down the gallery stairs to meet her lord in the lobby, where the congregants loitered to chat.
'Do I know?' murmured Mrs. Cohn, flushing beneath her veil.
'When I left the house he said he was coming on.'
'He didn't know you were to be "called up."'
'It isn't that, Hannah,' he grumbled. 'Think of the beautiful war-sermon he missed. In these dark days we should be thinking of our country, not of our pleasures.' And he drew her angrily without, where the brightly-dressed worshippers, lingeringly exchanging eulogiums on the 'Rule Britannia' sermon, made an Oriental splotch of colour on the wintry pavement.
At lunch the reprobate appeared, looking downcast.
'Where have you been?' thundered S. Cohn, who, never growing older, imagined Simon likewise stationary.
'I went out for a walk—it was a fine morning.'
'And where did you go?'
'Oh, don't bother!'
'But I shall bother. Where did you go?'
He grew sullen. 'It doesn't matter—they won't have me.'
'Who won't have you?'
'The War Office.'
'Thank God!' broke from Mrs. Cohn.
'Eh?' Mr. Cohn looked blankly from one to the other.
'It is nothing—he went to see the enlisting and all that. Your soup is getting cold.'
But S. Cohn had taken off his gold spectacles and was polishing them with his serviette—always a sign of a stormy meal.