- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
THE NEW LAND
Stories of Jews Who Had a Part in the Making of Our Country
ELMA EHRLICH LEVINGER
"A new world, with great portals far outflung, Holding a hope more sweet than time had sung, To which the Jew, of life's high quest a part, A pilgrim came, the Torah in his heart. A land of promise, and fulfillment too; Where on a sudden olden dreams came true.... Here grew we part of an ennobled state, Gave and won honor, sat among the great, And saw unfolding to our 'raptured view The day long prayed for by the patient Jew."
From "The Jew in America," by Felix N. Gerson
New York Bloch Publishing Company "The Jewish Book Concern" 1920
Copyright, 1920, by Bloch Publishing Company
TO Grandmother and Grandfather Levinger THESE "STORIES THAT REALLY HAPPENED" ARE AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
A LETTER TO MY READERS.
Dear Boys and Girls:
When your grandfather tells you a story, do you ever interrupt him to ask: "But is it all true?" And doesn't he often answer: "I don't know," or "I don't know when it's really true, and when it begins to be like a story book." And so, when you read through my little book—if you do read right through it to the very last page—you may wonder whether all my history stories really happened.
Yes—and no! I do know that cross old Peter Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam hated our people, but I never found any record of the Jewish boy who wanted to play with the governor's niece, pretty Katrina. The histories tell us how gallant young Franks became the friend of George Washington, but none of them mention that the Jewish soldier saved a Tory from the angry mob.
You understand now, don't you? So I'm going to turn the page right away that you may read for yourselves of the three Jews who whispered together on the deck of the "Santa Maria," as Columbus and his crew crossed the Sea of Darkness in search of a New Land.
NOTE: The author expresses her thanks to the editors of The Hebrew Standard and The Jewish Child in which the stories, "In the Night Watches" and "A Place of Refuge," originally appeared.
IN THE NIGHT WATCHES 9 The Three who came with Columbus.
WHEN KATRINA LOST HER WAY 14 A tale of the First Jewish Settlers of New Amsterdam.
A PLACE OF REFUGE 33 How the Wanderer came to Rhode Island.
"DOWN WITH KING GEORGE" 39 How Isaac Franks, of the American army, first heard the Declaration of Independence.
THE LAST SERVICE 52 The story of a Rabbi who lived in New York when it was captured by the British in 1776.
THE GENEROUS GIVER 68 The story of a Jewish money-lender of the Revolution.
ACROSS THE WATERS 88 A story of the City of Refuge planned by Mordecai Noah.
THREE AT GRACE 105 The story of the first Jewish settler in Alabama.
THE LUCKY STONE 122 The adventures of Uriah P. Levy, the first naval officer of his day.
THE PRINCESS OF PHILADELPHIA 140 The story of Rebecca Gratz and Washington Irving.
A PRESENT FOR MR. LINCOLN 160 How President Lincoln set out for Washington and how he returned.
THE LAND COLUMBUS FOUND 173 The story of the tablet placed upon the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
THE NEW LAND
IN THE NIGHT WATCHES
The Three Who Came With Columbus.
For a while there was no sound save the soft swish-swish of the waves as the "Santa Maria," the flagship of Columbus, ploughed its way through the darkness. The moon had long since disappeared and one by one the stars had left the sky until only the morning star remained to guide Alonzo de la Calle, crouching above his pilot wheel. The man's eyes ached for sleep, his fingers were numb from dampness and fatigue, his heart heavy with despair. "Dawn," he muttered at last, "almost the last of the night watches; Gonzalo will take my place at the wheel and I can sleep."
In the shifting light of the ship's lantern, swinging from the mast above his head, the pilot saw Bernal, the ship's doctor, advancing toward him; a little dark man, who dragged one foot as he walked. He would have passed without speaking; but Alonzo, hungry for companionship, caught his arm.
"You are in high favor with Columbus," he began, "and he confides in you. Tell me, is he still determined to go on if the next few days do not bring us to land?"
The ship's doctor nodded almost sullenly, yet there was pride in his voice when he spoke. "The admiral will not turn back. Not though the very boards of our three vessels mutiny and refuse him obedience. He will go on!"
"It is madness. It is already seventy days since we left our fair land of Spain, and——"
Bernal interrupted him with a mocking laugh. "'Our fair land of Spain'," he sneered, "is not the land of the Jew nor have we found it fair." But before he could speak further, the other clapped a warning hand over his mouth.
"Hush!" exclaimed the little pilot, "Hush! We may be overheard, and, though our admiral is gentle to the sons of Israel, it might fare ill with us if the crew were to learn that there were 'secret Jews' on board. See, some one is coming——. Be silent," and he pointed to one who moved slowly toward them.
But Bernal laughed. "It is only Luis de Torres, the interpreter, one of our own people. Shalom Aleicha," he addressed himself to the newcomer, who answered, "Aleichem Shalom," but softly, glancing over his shoulder as he did so.
"Even in the midst of the Sea of Darkness you fear to use our holy tongue," taunted the physician. "We are no longer in Spain where the very walls of our houses had ears to hear our Shema and tongues to betray us to the officers of the Inquisition when we failed to come to their cursed masses." His face twisted with rage as he pointed to his useless foot. "In Valencia I was denounced to the Inquisition, tortured almost unto death. But I escaped with my life; and now instead of spending my last days in peace in the land of my fathers I have come on this mad voyage across a sea without shore." He laughed harshly. "Yet even on these endless waves, I am safer than in the pleasant land of Spain."
Luis de Torres, who had stood leaning over the vessel's side, turned toward the speaker, his sensitive face showing pale and grave in the light of the swaying lantern. "Ah, Bernal," he said sadly, "has not the whole world become a great sea of endless waves for the unhappy children of Israel?" He shuddered slightly and drew his rich cloak more tightly about him. "I am a strong man; but I sicken and grow faint when I think of the tens of thousands of our brethren we saw scourged from the land of Spain even as we embarked and our three vessels were about to leave the port."
"Truly," Alonzo muttered, "truly, even a strong man may wish to forget what our eyes have seen. Night after night as I stand at my wheel I can see them, old men and little children and women with their babes. Where will they find rest?"
"There is no rest for Israel." It was Bernal who spoke in his sullen passion. "'Twas the ninth of Ab when our brethren were driven forth—the ninth of Ab; the day on which our Temple fell. Then we were scattered beneath the sky, but we thought at last that in the land of Spain we had found a refuge. But there is no refuge for Israel, no rest for Him until death."
The sad eyes of Luis de Torres glowed with a strange light. "Nay, friend," he corrected gently, "the God of Israel will not forget His children forever. Who knows that this new route to India, of which the admiral dreams, may not lead us to a new land, an undiscovered place where no Jew will suffer for his faith. But, O God!" he cried with sudden pain, "We have waited so long, and still our people wander and are tossed to and fro, as we are tossed about by the waves of this unknown sea. Must each century bring its new Tisha B'ab, must we indeed suffer forever? Where is rest for us? What land will give us refuge?"
He raised his face to the brightening sky, his hands tearing at the gold chain about his throat. No one spoke for a moment, nor even moved until Alonzo turned back to his wheel, his eyes bright with strange tears. A cry burst from him; a cry of unbelieving joy.
"Land! Land!" and he pointed a trembling finger toward the misty outlines of palm trees, straight and slender beneath the early morning sky. Bernal echoed his cry with a great shout and in a moment, from every part of the ship, men came pouring, wide-eyed and unbelieving that they had crossed the Sea of Darkness at last. In their midst came a quiet man; a tall man with iron-gray hair and a firm mouth, who at first spoke no word, only gazed dumbly at the fulfillment of his dreams, stretching before him in the silvery light.
"We have reached India," said Columbus at last.
Those about him laughed shrilly in their joy or wept or prayed. Alonzo, his eyes snapping with excitement, wrenched his wheel with hands no longer tired, and Bernal, the sneer for once absent from his lips, gazed with tense face toward the palm trees.
Only Luis de Torres stood apart, his face still convulsed from his passionate outburst of grief for his people. For, like the others, he could not know that instead of a new route to India a mighty continent had been discovered; nor did the unhappy dreamer dream that a very land of refuge and of hope for the wandering sons of Israel, lay before him across the smiling waters.
WHEN KATRINA LOST HER WAY
A Tale of the First Jewish Settlers of New Amsterdam.
The warm spring sunshine forced its way through the tiny diamond-shaped window panes to fall in a bright pool of light upon the table cloth and blue cups and bowls Mary Barsimon had brought with her from Holland. It was a pleasant room, shining with the exquisite neatness that characterized the dwelling of every Dutch housewife in New Amsterdam with the same simple, well-made furniture and bright hand-woven rugs. Yet it differed strikingly in two or three details from the other homes in the Dutch settlement; on the mantle-piece, above the blue-tiled fire-place, stood two brass candle-sticks for the Sabbath, while on the eastern wall hung a quaint wood-cut representing scenes from the Bible; Abraham sacrificing Isaac, Jacob dreaming of the ladder reaching up to heaven. This Mizrach, Samuel's father had once told him, hung upon the eastern wall of every good Jewish home, that at prayer all might be reminded to turn toward the east and face the site of the Temple at Jerusalem. For centuries the Temple had been in ruins and the children of those who had worshipped there scattered to the four corners of the earth. Jacob Barsimon himself had wandered from Spain to Holland, from Amsterdam to Jamaica, from Jamaica to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam upon the Atlantic; yet in all his wanderings he had brought with him the old Mizrach; and he still taught his twelve-year-old son to pray with his face toward the land of his fathers.
It was before this Mizrach that Jacob Barsimon stood one early spring morning in the year 1655, when New Amsterdam was still free from the rule of the English who were to re-name the colony New York. He stared at it with unseeing eyes, frowning darkly, his long, slender hands plucking nervously at the buttons of his coat. Samuel, assisting the young colored slave girl in removing the breakfast dishes, glanced at his father from time to time a little nervously, although he could not recall any prank or misdeed on his part that might have angered him. But his mother, after watching her husband for a few moments from her low chair at the window where she sat dressing the chubby two-year-old Rebecca, broke the heavy silence by asking:
"What is wrong, Jacob? What troubles you?"
For a moment Jacob Barsimon said nothing, but frowned more darkly than ever. At last he spoke. "Have you forgotten that a month from tomorrow is Samuel's birthday—that he will be thirteen?"
A tender smile played about the mother's mouth. "Surely, I remember the day he was born as well as though it were yesterday." She sighed a little, her hands busy with the buttons of the little girl's dress, her eyes gazing dreamily through the window. "We were still in Amsterdam, in dear old Holland, with our own people. Do you remember, Jacob, how on the day when he was made a 'Son of the Covenant,' your old uncle acted as godfather and all of our neighbors——"
Jacob Barsimon interrupted her with a bitter laugh. "Neighbors! Yes, we had neighbors then, our own people, who were with us in joy and sorrow. But here, Jacob Aboaf and I are merely tolerated by the burghers. True, they allowed us to land when we came from Jamaica on the 'Pear Tree.' They have allowed me to trade with the Indies—as well they might, for even Peter Stuyvesant himself dare not say that we two Hebrews have ever been guilty of dishonesty in our trading ventures. But we are not at home here as we were in Holland or Jamaica; we are aliens and strangers and now comes this last insult to our people—to refuse them the right of residence here."
Frau Barsimon nodded gravely. "Yes, I know well why your heart is so bitter with disappointment when you think that it is almost time for our Samuel's barmitzvah and that save our neighbor, Jacob Aboaf, there may be none of our own people here to help us rejoice when Samuel becomes a 'Son of the Law.' And yet," she spoke cheerily enough, rocking the rosy baby upon her knee, "and yet, who knows but that by next Shabbath our Jewish friends will be granted the right of settling here? And if they are still here when Samuel's birthday comes," she nodded brightly to the wondering boy who had remained near the table, drinking in every word, "you will have a minyan (ten men required for a Jewish ceremony) to hear you recite your barmitzvah speech and eat the feast I shall prepare for them." She sprang up suddenly, the baby tucked under one arm as she began to pile dishes with her free hand, scolding the slave girl as energetically as she worked for not having the table cleared. For if Frau Barsimon ever allowed herself the luxury of a moment's rest or gossip, she never failed to regain lost time by working twice as hard—and noisily—as soon as she took hold again.
"Father," asked Samuel, forgetting the cakes and ale of his barmitzvah party for a moment, "just why won't they let the Jews who came from South America last fall live in New Amsterdam like the rest of us? In Holland the Dutch were always kind to our people and in the Indies they allowed you to trade in peace."
Barsimon did not answer until the slow-handed, sharp-eared little slave girl had followed his wife into the kitchen. When he spoke his voice was tinged with a harsh bitterness. "Wiser men than you have asked that question, my boy, and no one has yet found an answer. True, Holland and those lands ruled by the Dutch have been places of refuge for us. No wonder that the poor souls who left Brazil in the 'St. Catarina' hoped to receive honorable treatment here at the hands of the burghers. It may be that they fear the rivalry of our brethren in trade, if more of us be allowed to take up residence in New Amsterdam. And perhaps," he spoke with a sort of grudging honesty, "perhaps, one can scarcely blame the worthy burghers for mistrusting the newcomers and refusing to grant them welcome. They were unfortunate enough to have been robbed at Jamaica where they rested on their journey; when they reached here there was the disgrace of an auction in which their goods were sold to pay for their passage, and two of the passengers, David Israel and Moses Ambrosius, were held for security. You remember how a law suit was brought against them by Jacques de la Motthe, master of the vessel, for this same passage money; and although the matter is now settled, some of our honest citizens are not ready to welcome strangers who they believe are little better than vagabonds and paupers."
"But, father," protested the boy, "a goodly number out of the twenty-seven who came on the 'St. Catarina' last autumn have received gold from their brethren in Holland. All except the very poorest one. And I heard mother telling Frau Aboaf that you could ill afford giving all you did to help the poor widow on board the 'St. Catarina' and——"
"Jacob Aboaf and I have done but little,"—half-growled Barsimon, as though ashamed of the charity he was always ready to do by stealth. "And they were our brethren." He became silent again, striding to the window and scowling out into the bright spring sunshine. At last: "But perhaps we have managed to serve them with our pens as well as gold. Jacob Aboaf and I, with a few of our good Dutch townsmen, have written to the directors of the Dutch West India Company in Amsterdam, praying that these Jews, now forbidden lodging here, be allowed the rights and privileges, of all good citizens. The directors should listen to our plea, for a large amount of the company's capital comes from Jewish purses. We might have heard favorably from them long ago had it not been for the stubborn hatred of Governor Stuyvesant, whose letters have poisoned their minds against us."
"But we have never harmed Governor Stuyvesant," observed Samuel, "so why should his hand be against us?"
Jacob Barsimon laughed grimly, lowering his voice as he answered, for he was a cautious man and did not care to risk having his words carried through the town by the little slave girl Minna, now clattering the breakfast dishes as she moved about the kitchen. "Does Peter Stuyvesant ever need a reason for his follies?" he asked dryly. "His head is as hard as his wooden leg and never a new idea has pierced his brain since the day he was born. He hates our people with as much reason as our black Minna fears witches and the evil eye. It is said that he has written to the directors at Amsterdam, begging that none of the Jewish nation be permitted to infest New Netherlands. He has used those very words in public places; infest the colony and be like a plague of hungry locusts. Perhaps he really believes the evil things he says of our brethren. Even eyes as shrewd as his may be blinded by hate. And one can understand his bitterness, his hardness of heart toward all mankind. His post here is not easy, harrassed by the savages on our borders, the Swedes, even the English, who have already cast covetous eyes upon this rich port. While his private life—" the man's stern face grew rather tender—"has not been very happy. It is said that he left a half-sister in Holland, the one creature he ever loved or who knew his kindlier side. A few months ago her husband died and she dared the voyage with her little daughter that they might make their home with the governor. But the vessel was lost at sea and she was drowned. Only a sailor or two and several passengers survived and one of them brought the little girl to Peter Stuyvesant."
"I heard Minna tell of her," interrupted Samuel. "She says that once she helped the governor's cook carry the Sunday dinner home from market and she saw little Katrina playing on the great stairway of Peter Stuyvesant's house. Minna says she has long golden curls and her eyes are blue—blue as the little flowers that grow near the Wall every spring. I wonder we never see her, father!"
Barsimon sat down on the low settle beside the window and lighted his long pipe, puffing thoughtfully and gazing into the smoke as he spoke. "I would not have you repeat this, son, for it may be but idle gossip. But it is reported that since her mother's death the child has become the idol of the governor's hard, old heart. He is filled with foolish fears that he may lose her as cruelly as he lost her mother before her. He scarcely ever permits her to stir abroad and then only when she is followed by one of his faithful black slaves." He arose with his characteristic abruptness, and walking to the chest of drawers across from the fire-place, changed his black silken skull cap to the broad-brimmed hat of his Dutch neighbors. "Forget what I have said," he told his son, briefly. "We live here only on sufferance and must guard our tongues. But you are a good lad and I know I need never regret having confided in you. And now study your barmitzvah portion. Even if the folk from the 'St. Catarina' are deported before your birthday and there is no minyan here and we can have no real feast in your honor, I would have you do your sainted grandfather credit and please your mother who has waited so long for the day when you should be old enough to be considered a man among our people." For a moment his hand lay kindly upon the boy's shoulder; then, with a shrug as though to shake off any foolish tenderness for the son he loved so dearly, he passed out of the house.
Samuel watched him from the window until his stolid, heavy-set figure disappeared down the winding road. Then, finding his portion in the Hebrew book which his father treasured so highly in those days when printed Hebrew books were still a rarity, he sank down on the settle and tried to concentrate on the task which his father had left for him. But more than once his dark eyes glanced from the heavy Hebrew characters to the pleasant scene that lay beyond the window; a scene one would never associate with crowded, bustling New York of our own day; the low, comfortable looking houses of the Dutch burghers, nestling under the great trees; the well-scoured windows blinking like so many sleepy eyes in the warm spring sunshine. It was a day for dreaming and adventure, not for study.
For a little while the boy sat with his head resting upon the low window sill, his young mind busy with half-formed fancies, most of them circling about his talk with his father concerning the unhappy passengers of the 'St. Catarina.' Would the unfortunates be obliged to seek shelter elsewhere, or would they be allowed to dwell in New Amsterdam? If so, perhaps in time other Jewish families might come, bringing with them boys of his own age, among whom he might find a real playfellow. He sighed a little wistfully at the thought, for he had no close friends among the sturdy young Dutch lads of the neighborhood. Even a girl would be better than no one, he thought; not a mere baby like his little sister, but a girl old enough to play with him, to visit the Indians dwelling a little beyond the Wall, to wander with him to the other end of the settlement and stand upon the sea shore, searching for shells or lying upon the shining sands and weaving fantastic dream stories, too foolish for older and wiser folks to hear.
The boy fell to dreaming now, sitting there in the warm sunshine, for he was a quiet, thoughtful lad, unaccustomed to playing with youths of his own age, given to day-dreams and fairy legends. Today, as he half reclined on the settle near the window, his busy young brain painted a picture so strange that even Samuel himself had to smile over it; for as he gazed through the window with half-closed lids, the dusty road and little Dutch houses faded away and he seemed to see a shining, white street with tall buildings on either side, and many, many people—more than he had ever seen in his life, even in Amsterdam across the seas—hurrying to and fro. He had heard his father say, nodding gravely over his pipe, that some day little New Amsterdam would be one of the greatest sea ports in the world. Jacob Aboaf had hooted at his friend's prophecy; but as he recalled it today, Samuel did not laugh. His day dream was very real to him, and when his mother came into the room she found him staring through the window with a strange smile about his mouth.
Frau Barsimon was a busy woman, with no time for day-dreams and she was often annoyed (and secretly alarmed) at her son's tendency to wander off into a world of his own making. Now she shook him, but gently, and spoke with her usual briskness.
"Samuel, Samuel, have you nothing better to do than sit nodding like an old spinning woman in the sunshine?"
The boy started guiltily, indicating his open book with a shame-faced laugh. "Father told me to study—barmitzvah," he faltered.
His mother shrugged goodnaturedly. Pious Jewess that she was, she was often inclined to quarrel with her husband who, she declared, was too fond of keeping the boy tied to his Hebrew lessons. "He needs a strong body now," she used to say when demanding an extra play-hour for Samuel. "When he is older and his head is less stuffed with dreaming it will be time enough to cram it with your learning. But first let him play out in the open air until he is tired and the fresh wind has blown all his nonsense away." She was thinking the same heresy that moment, but all she did was to smile goodhumoredly and pull the boy to his feet. "Out of doors with you," she commanded, gayly, "and I will speak to father. Take a walk—a long one, and when you come back you will be able to study without falling half-asleep over your book."
Samuel needed no urging. A moment later he had kissed his mother good-bye, helped himself to a handful of sugar cookies from her blue crockery jar, and was whistling down the dusty road, feeling strangely anxious for some adventures; adventures as heroic as his father often related before the fire on winter evenings. His mother might have thrown up her hands in despair had she seen the dreamy look in his large eyes. True, he was no longer drowsing on the settle, but as he swung along under the soft spring sky, he saw himself the hero of a hundred fantastic tales—the captain of a trading-vessel bound for the Indies; the commander of a company of daring youths of his own age, all ready to resist the Indians when they should seek to fall upon New Amsterdam; again, a pirate with a plumed hat and a flashing sword. So, lost in dreaming, he wandered on down the quiet streets to the Wall which marked the boundary of the Settlement.
Suddenly realizing that he was tired and hungry, Samuel threw himself upon the grass, and taking his cookies from his pocket, began to munch them contendedly, wondering just what heroic deed he should plan for his next undertaking. But in the middle of a bite he stopped short, sitting up suddenly and rubbing his eyes as though he had been asleep and feared he was still dreaming.
There on the grass beside him sat a little girl, almost his own age he judged; a little girl with golden hair and eyes as blue as the flowers growing in the young grass about them. To the simple lad she seemed as richly dressed as a fairy princess, for her frock was of flowered silk, she wore silver buckles upon her little shoes, and her daintily flounced cap was fastened at either ear with a quaint medallion of beaten gold. Samuel took in all of these details slowly, half afraid to speak lest he should drive away the delicate little creature, who had risen from the grass and now stood poised for flight like a gaily tinted butterfly. Then she spoke, and he knew there was very little of the fairy about her and that she was almost as human as himself.
"Boy," she said in unmistakable Dutch, pointing to the half-eaten cake in his hand, "boy, give me that. I am hungry." She spoke like one accustomed to instant obedience, taking the cake without a word of thanks and eating it prettily, her large blue eyes never leaving Samuel's wondering face. When nothing remained, she again held out her hand, with her pretty, imperious gesture. "More," said the little lady, and Samuel gave her his last cooky, wishing heartily that he had brought his mother's blue crockery jar along for the little lady's pleasure.
"I'm sorry," he said humbly, "but I ate the others before I knew you were coming. They are good, aren't they? Does your mother ever bake sugar cakes?" he ended in a desperate attempt to make conversation.
She shook her blond head. "My mother is dead," she told him. "She was drowned and I would have been drowned, too, but a brave sailor held me tight until he found a spar and he tied me to it and we floated and floated and floated until a big ship passed us and brought us here." She spoke between bites, very calmly, as though her tale, as thrilling as any of Samuel's dream adventures, was no uncommon story for a dainty little maid to tell on a spring morning.
"Now I know who you are," Samuel exclaimed, forgetting his shyness in his delighted surprise. "Your name is Katrina and you live with the governor and your mother was lost at sea."
Katrina, having finished her cooky, pensively picked up the few crumbs from her lap as though she were still hungry. "I live with Uncle Peter," she corrected. "He is very good to me and gives me pretty presents;—he gave me these on my birthday," and she touched the gold medallions upon her ears complacently. "Only he never lets me go out and play alone like the other little girls who sometimes visit me say they do, and I get tired of staying in the garden. And when I go out walking with old black Daniel behind me, it is just as hard as staying at home. I want little girls and boys to play with and take me places;—I get tired of my dolls," she ended wistfully.
Samuel nodded with understanding sympathy. To have this little stranger maid listen to his stories or follow him on his lonely rambles! If he might even go to play with her sometimes in the garden behind Peter Stuyvesant's house. He frowned at the thought: it was not hard to picture the old governor falling into one of his rages at the insolence of the Jewish boy who dared to walk down the garden path. And yet what fun they would have had with every bush a mysterious fairy castle, every tree a pirate ship to take them across the Main. He sighed regretfully, turning to listen to his companion's bright chatter.
"I suppose they're looking all over for me," she laughed mischievously, "cook and black Daniel and Uncle Peter, too. Won't he be cross! He was so cross this morning when he got a letter from Holland, a big letter with a big red seal, and he'll be crosser yet when I'm not home for dinner." She tossed her sunny curls defiantly. "But he won't dare to scold me; he'll scold everybody else and shake his cane at them, but he won't dare to be cross to me."
"But I think you ought to go home," suggested Samuel. "It isn't right to worry your uncle so when he is so good to you and gives you such nice presents."
She made a roguish little face. "I can't go home," she giggled, teasingly, "I've never been out alone and I lost my way almost as soon as I left the garden. So I'll just have to stay here all day until somebody from home comes and finds me." She sprang up, shaking out her silken skirts, dancing gayly in her little buckled shoes. "Come, boy," she commanded imperiously, "Come and play with me." She fumbled in the pocket of her black satin apron and drew out a tiny worsted ball. "Let's play ball," she cried, "and then we'll run races and climb that tree over there and maybe you can tell me stories when I'm tired. My old nurse in Holland used to tell me brave tales, but I don't like those black Daniel tells—all about charms and goblins. Do you know any nice stories, boy?"
"Yes, a few," admitted Samuel modestly. His cheeks, usually so pale, were flushed with excitement; the little playfellow of his dreams seemed to have come to life in the flower-strewn meadow. He caught the bright ball she tossed to him and laughed with pleasure. "You catch wrongly," he chided her, "but I like to play with you."
The afternoon sped on golden wings. Perhaps neither of the children would have dreamed of the lateness of the hour had not Katrina interrupted Samuel in the middle of one of his glowing tales, exclaiming, "I'm hungry, now. I wonder what cook has for supper?"
Samuel started. The story of the old sea captain he had been telling his new friend was very real to him; he could almost see the old, ancient, weather-beaten vessel, hear the waves beating on the shores of that distant island where the golden treasure lay hidden for so many years. Now his dream people faded away and he saw that the sun was setting and felt the air growing chill and damp about them. He rose a little wearily and helped Katrina to her feet.
"We must go home," he said, gravely. "Perhaps we did wrong to stay so long, but it was fun to play together, wasn't it? And did you like my stories?"
She nodded, bending to pick up the bouquet he had gathered for her earlier in the afternoon. "I like them as well as the tales my nursie used to tell," she commented, approvingly. "You'll show me the way home, won't you?"
Hand in hand, they walked slowly back to the dusty street that led to the governor's house. At the gate, Samuel was about to bid his little friend good-bye, but she caught his hand and drew him in after her. "Oh, you must stay," she protested, "you must stay and let Uncle Peter thank you for bringing me home. And I want you to tell me another story after supper. You must come in!"
"But my mother will be worried," declared Samuel, "and father——"
"We'll have Daniel go and tell them you are here," she solved the problem easily. Then she ran up the broad stairs, crying gaily, "Oh, Uncle, I've had the loveliest time," as a short, stern-faced man appeared in the doorway; a man with a silver-banded wooden leg and leaning on a heavy cane.
"Katrina!" he exclaimed with some sternness, but she pulled his hard face down to hers for a kiss.
"I've had such a lovely time," she cooed, "and this nice boy found me and brought me home. Thank him, Uncle Peter, and have him come in and tell me some more stories."
Samuel drew back; but the governor nodded for him to enter, and, feeling miserably shy and uncertain of himself, he followed the pair into the house. The room they entered was richly furnished, but gloomy. Samuel, boy that he was, felt how much lovelier his mother's simple living room was with its shining brass and the few plants blooming at the window. The governor sat down behind a long table littered with papers and drew Katrina to his knee, at the same time motioning Samuel to be seated. Then he spoke, stroking the child's golden curls, his keen eyes growing gentle as they rested upon her pretty face.
"You have been of service to my little girl and I will do my best to reward you," said Governor Stuyvesant, kindly. "What will it be, my lad, a velvet suit brought over in the last cargo from Holland, or a golden chain?" Suddenly the eyes he turned upon Samuel grew cold and keen again. "You are not one of us, yet I have seen you before. Who is your father and what is his trade?"
"I am Samuel, the son of Jacob Barsimon," answered Samuel, and suddenly all his shyness left him and he gazed fearlessly into the governor's face. "And my father is an honest merchant of New Amsterdam."
"Yes—and of the tribe of Israel," muttered the old man, his brow darkening. "I wish my little one might have been indebted to another this day; but I am as honest a man as your father and what I promise, I keep. So name what reward you will for the favor you have rendered me—and be off."
Samuel rose, his face flushing with anger at the man's insolence, yet glowing with a hope he hardly dared to utter even to himself. For the time had come, he believed, when he might play the hero, as he had done so many times before in his dreams. "I want no reward," he answered quietly, "but if you would render me favor for favor, I would ask you to withdraw the restriction you have placed upon my brethren—those Jews who sought these shores on the 'St. Catarina' and who desire to make their homes here."
The governor smiled grimly. "A true Jew," he muttered, with a sort of grudging admiration for the boy's boldness, "ever ready with his bargain! But I have no longer the power to grant you or refuse you your request." He picked up from the table a long, bulky envelope, from which dangled a red seal. "This came this morning from Holland. Tomorrow I must tell the burghers that the gentlemen of the Board of Directors of the Dutch West India Company have over-ridden my suggestions; they write that I must admit these Jews, provided that the poor among them shall not become a burden to our community, as they at first seemed likely to be, but be supported by their own nation." Again his grim smile. "No fear of that, when even a boy like you thinks of his people before gifts for himself. I wish," he half mused, "I wish that we had at least that virtue of your stiff-necked race."
Little Katrina, grown weary of all this, slipped from her uncle's knees and took Samuel's hand in hers. "Come into the garden," she commanded, "I want you to see my rose bushes and my new kittens and the swing, before supper."
Samuel's eyes sought the governor's face, half-he told her, gently.
Her eager face clouded. "Then you will come and play with me tomorrow?" she asked.
Samuel's eyes sought the governor's face, half-defiantly, half-wistfully. "When your uncle sends for me, I will come," he said, and, bowing in a manner that would have delighted his careful mother, he left the room. Katrina was about to follow him, but her uncle called her back rather sternly.
"Nay, do not pout, my pretty," he told her, "for I will try to find you a worthier playfellow than the son of a Jew trader."
Samuel walked home slowly through the April twilight. In the harbor he could see the dim outlines of the 'St. Catarina,' which had in truth brought the Jewish wanderers to a home in New Amsterdam. But Samuel was not thinking of the wanderers who, after their months of weary waiting, could look toward the future with hopeful eyes; nor did he feel relieved that, since they were not to be deported, the newcomers would surely come to his barmitzvah party. At that moment he thought only of the golden-curled fairy princess who would never romp and play with him again.
A PLACE OF REFUGE
How the Wanderer Came to Rhode Island.
It was bitter cold. The icy wind howling through the forest caught up the snow and whirled it in great eddies against the trees. Reuben Mendoza, staggering through the blinding snowflakes, hugged his little son Benjamin closer to his heart, and prayed desperately that the storm might cease or that he might soon come to a place of refuge. His own limbs were aching with fatigue and cold. He had eaten nothing since early morning and was faint with hunger. Wearied and heartsick, he would have been glad to lie down upon the ground, to sink into sleep, perhaps a painless death, with the snow drifting above him; but he knew that he must struggle on for the sake of the child he was warming in his bosom.
Suddenly Benjamin, half asleep and numb with the cold, stirred a little and complained drowsily that he was hungry. His father paused for a moment and pressed his lean, bearded face against the child's rosy cheeks. "Be patient, little one," he comforted him, "for soon we shall find a lodging for the night. Surely, no one would turn even a Jew away in a storm like this."
Again he plodded on, footsore and discouraged. The wind lashed him like a whip, and, when he raised his head, the snow cut across his forehead like stripes of fire. His lips moving almost mechanically in prayer, Reuben faltered through the storm, until at last utterly exhausted he stumbled to the ground. He tried to gain his feet again, for he thought he saw a light glimmering through the trees; but he was too tired to go farther. Why should he try to reach that light, he asked himself, as he dreamily stretched his tired limbs in the snow. But he felt little Benjamin moving beneath his cloak, and with one last effort he crawled through the drifts, clinging to the trees as he moved. A few moments later he found himself before a little shack. A single tallow candle shone through the window and cast a path of light before his weary feet. Reuben lurched forward against the door; it opened beneath his weight and he fell within the hut. He had a dim vision of two men bending over him; some one was taking little Benjamin from his arms; then the warm darkness wrapped him about like a cloak, and he knew nothing more.
* * * * *
When Reuben opened his eyes, he found that he was resting upon a couch of skins in one corner of the hut. It was a poor place; the walls were bare, and through their chinks snows drifted upon the frozen earthen floor. Beside the pallet there was no furniture in the room save a roughly hewn table and several chairs. Near the table sat two men, the one dressed in rich garments, a sword at his side; the other clothed in dull gray, with a broad white collar and a plain beaver hat. This man held little Benjamin on his knee and stroked his dark curls as the child drank greedily from the steaming cup which the kind-eyed stranger held to his lips.
Reuben sat up among the skins and noticed in surprise that his hosts had removed his wet garments and replaced them with a long, warm cloak of bearskin. What manner of men were these, he asked himself, who treated a Jewish wanderer so kindly? As he advanced timidly toward the table, the man in gray turned to him and held out his hand.
"Shalom," he said smiling.
Reuben took his hand, astonished to hear the tongue of his fathers in the wilderness of the American forests. "Shalom aleichem," he faltered. "But you are not a Jew."
The other shook his head and answered him in English, a language Reuben had learned from the trading Englishmen and adventurers he had met while in South America. "No, but I am a minister and have studied the Hebrew tongue. And I love its greeting of 'Peace.' Would that my people were lovers of peace, even as your's have been for so long."
Benjamin ran to his father. "Father," he cried, "the good gentleman gave me warm milk to drink and bread to eat and this fine cloak to wear," and he proudly smoothed the robe wrapped about his chilled limbs.
The man in gray motioned Reuben to sit beside the table and placed food and drink before him. Half-famished, Reuben ate and drank, almost fearing that it would disappear as a feast sometimes does in a dream. For surely he was dreaming: when in all his wretched wandering life, had people not of his own religion given him food and shelter and received him with gentle words?
His host sat upon the couch, holding Benjamin upon his knee. Now and then he spoke to the dark, haughty man who sat watching everything lazily from beneath his half-closed lids. Twice he asked Reuben whether he desired more food or drink. At last when the guest had satisfied his hunger, the host asked him from what place he had come and to what spot he meant to journey when the storm was over.
"I know not," answered the Jew. "My father's family was driven from Spain. They fled to Brazil, and later settled in Cayenne, where among our brethren from Holland we found a resting place until the French destroyed our homes and drove us forth to be wanderers on the face of the earth. When this child's mother died, I longed to go to a far country where I might forget my grief a little and begin life anew. So I took my son and came here with other voyagers to your colony of New Amsterdam. But there they gave me no welcome, because I was a Jew;—even in this new country some there are who hate the children of Jacob." He leaned forward, his thin face alight with a wistful hope. "But there they told me of a new colony in the far wilderness,—a colony where men of every race, of every creed, were welcome. Far off in the swamps and forests, they said, a man named Roger Williams had established a refuge for all those who were persecuted and despised, and had proclaimed that no man would be troubled there for the sake of his religion, that each inhabitant might worship the God of his fathers in peace. So I took my staff again and my burden upon my back and my little child within my arms, and set out for this place where my son might grow up a free man, and not be called upon to forsake the faith for which we suffered in Spain."
The man in the velvet coat leaned across the table and spoke to Reuben in Spanish. "I, too, came from Spain," he said, "and I, too, came as a refugee; yea, with a price upon my head, for I had been denounced to the officers of the Inquisition and was doomed to die. Yet I am a good Catholic and loyal, and did not deserve their hatred. Those who are not of my faith in this new land mistrust and despise me; but here, in the colony of Rhode Island, I may follow the religion of my fathers, and Roger Williams has given me his hand in brotherhood."
The quiet man rose and again held out his hand to the Jewish wanderer. "And now I give my hand to you," he said, heartily. "My colony of Rhode Island has need of men strong enough to die—yes, and to live—for the faith they will be allowed to follow here in peace and in safety."
But Reuben had caught his hand and pressed it to his heart. "You are Roger Williams, the friend of the oppressed," he said brokenly.
"Yes," answered Williams, "and this day have you found a refuge with me and my people." A look of solemn hope lighted his gentle eyes. "'Tis but a lonely spot in the wilderness, and we are few in number; but some day this wide land will be a refuge to the oppressed of every nation, and all those who are persecuted and despised will find a home within its borders."
Little by little, the winds outside ceased to drive the snow against the trees; the branches no longer tossed and creaked in the gale; a great white hush seemed to bless the quiet earth. The Spaniard who had walked to the window blew out the taper and pointed toward the rosy clouds. "Dawn is breaking," he said softly, and, bowing reverently above his rosary, began to tell the beads as he recited his morning prayer. Williams took a large Bible from the shelf above the couch, opened it, and, having read his morning psalm, covered his face with his hands as he knelt beside his chair to pray. With a great joy warming his heart, Reuben, no longer a wanderer on the face of the earth, put his arm about his son, and drew him to the window that he might look upon the land that his children's children and those who came after them were to inherit as their home. Then he drew his faded, tattered talith (shawl worn in prayer) from his pack, put it about his shoulders, and, facing the glowing east, the home land of his fathers, he praised the God of Israel who had brought him to this place of refuge. "Ma tobu oholekha" ("How goodly are thy tents"), prayed Reuben, and he sobbed like a child.
"DOWN WITH KING GEORGE!"
How Isaac Franks, of the American Army, first heard the Declaration of Independence.
The news had spread like wild-fire that day in early July, 1776. Although there was not one of the American recruits stationed in New York under General Washington's command who had not heard something of the great happenings in Philadelphia a few days before, every soldier felt his heart beat faster under his buff and blue coat at the thought that he, too, would hear the Declaration of Independence read before the army. They stood waiting in their ranks, the first army of the Republic: raw farmers like those who fell at Lexington, bronzed backwoodsmen whose rifles had brought more than one lurking red-skin or savage forest beast to earth, with here and there a student, fresh from his books, or a merchant who had left his desk to fight for his country. And today they were to hear, stated simply and eloquently for all time, for what principles they fought.
In the ranks stood a slender, dark-browed boy of about seventeen. The muster roll gave his name as Isaac Franks, the simple record holding no promise of the day when the Jewish boy, a distinguished veteran of the Revolution, should entertain President Washington as his guest. Today young Franks stood undistinguished among the other eager patriots and the future president was only the leader of an army of untrained "rebels", knowing full well that a traitor's death awaited him if his campaign against the British proved unsuccessful.
"I wish the general would come that we might hear the document and be dismissed," remarked Franks to the soldier who stood at his side; a tall, raw-boned youth about his own age. "This hot sun is enough to melt granite and we have been assembled for almost two hours."
The other, also wearied and over-heated, looked him over with a sneer. "A fine soldier with your complaints!" was his jeering comment. "I wonder to see a Jew in our ranks, but you'll not cumber us long, I'm thinking. You Jews are fit only for trading and money lending—not fighting. You'll melt away quickly enough in the heat of your first battle."
"Listen to me, Tim Durgan," retorted Franks, quietly enough, but with a dangerous sparkle in his eyes. "I've endured your sneering ever since I came to camp and I'm growing weary of it, too. I didn't know why you wouldn't be friends with me, when I've never done anything to offend you; but if it's because I'm a Jew—"
"I want no Hebrew coward for a friend of mine," was the surly answer.
"You can call me a coward as much as you like—I'll show you you're wrong when we face the redcoats. But you're not going to insult my people—understand?"
Tim laughed contemptuously. "How are you going to stop me?" He looked down at Isaac who was a full head shorter than himself and of slighter build. "Going to fight me?"
At that moment the long lines of buff and blue straightened as one man and a murmur of "the General" passed down the ranks. Franks, the angry flush slowly dying from his cheeks, straightened his shoulders and gazed straight ahead; but he was not too intent on the arrival of General Washington to fling a fierce aside to his tormentor: "That's just what I intend to do if you don't take it back—fight you until you do!"
But a moment later all private hates and insults were forgotten as the boy looked toward the general, his soul in his eyes. Seated upon his great horse, the sun streaming upon his noble, powdered head and broad shoulders, the commander of the American Army looked what he later proved himself to be—an uncrowned king of men. A long, vibrating cheer rose from the soldiers' throats; then died away as Washington raised his hand for silence.
The young officer who rode beside him unrolled a piece of paper he carried, and read in a loud, clear voice the words which today every school boy knows or should know by heart. But the boys and men, pledged to fight and die for their country, heard them for the first time that day and thrilled at the rolling sentences of the Declaration of Independence, which declared them free forever from the rule of the British tyrant, King George III.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident," the noble words rang forth to the listening soldiers, "That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." An answering thrill awoke in every heart. Isaac Franks felt his lashes wet with sudden tears. The son of a nation of exiles, Jews driven from land to land from the days the Romans ploughed the place where once their Temple stood, he could appreciate the blessings of a home land where even the despised Jew might know the meaning of equality and liberty and justice. Then he thought of the taunts of his comrade and his face hardened; but only for a moment was he depressed. In America—the land which had pledged itself to grant equal opportunities to all men—his was the opportunity to show what the Jew was worth. He would teach Tim and his fellows that the descendants of David and the Maccabees were soldiers worthy of their ancestors.
Smiling a little grimly, he turned his face again toward the young officer and listened with stirring pulses to the charges brought against the British king; boy that he was, he realized that he and his companions were fighting not the English people, but a servile Parliament and an unworthy ruler who, according to the Declaration, was indeed a "tyrant unfit to be the ruler of a free people." How he wished that King George himself would cross the ocean to frighten the colonists into submission; he would much rather meet him in battle than any of his overdressed officers or those wretched Hessians, sold by their ruler like so much cattle to do battle for a country in which they had no interest. Well, anyhow, Isaac told himself resolutely, he would do his best to defeat the redcoats—but he would teach Tim Durgan a well-needed lesson first!
"And for the support of this declaration," ended the reader, "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Silence at first—then a mighty shout from the assembled soldiers. The air rang with cries of "With our lives—With our honor!" as the men of the new Republic pledged themselves to fight for the faith she had just declared to the world. Isaac Franks looked toward Washington; the Virginian sat leaning forward slightly in his saddle. His usually calm, almost cold face was working with emotion; his lips moved as though he were about to address his men. Then he leaned toward the officer who had read the Declaration and murmured something in a low tone. The latter turned to the army.
"The general hopes," the clear tones rang forth, "that this important event will serve as an incentive to every officer and soldier to act with fidelity and courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of the country depend, under God, solely on the success of our arms and that he is in the service of a state possessed of sufficient power to reward his merit and advance him to the highest honors of a free country."
Slowly the soldiers broke ranks, the dullest man among them touched and awed as though he had attended a new church and had consecrated himself to her service. For a moment Isaac Franks forgot his jeering comrade and his own threats; he walked to his quarters, head high in the air, eyes looking far away, as boy-like he dreamed of the days when a grateful commonwealth would "reward his merit and advance him to the highest honors of a free country." He walked on air, painting the future in the bright colors known only to seventeen, forgetful of the world about him, until he was recalled to earth by a mocking laugh and the question: "Still want to fight, Jew soldier?"
Franks stiffened and turned to face his tormentor, his face hot with anger. "Yes, I'll fight you this minute," he answered so loudly that several soldiers passing by overhead his words and stopped to see the fun. "And thank you for reminding me, Durgan."
He pulled off his coat with a deliberate calm he was far from feeling at that moment, for he knew only too well that his opponent was vastly superior to him in strength and perhaps in experience as well. But Isaac did not hesitate in spite of the goodnatured advice of big Bob MacDonald who stepped up at that moment: "Let him alone, son—you can't whip him and it's no use to try."
But Tim had already taken off his coat and stood leering down upon Isaac who felt that he could never retreat now; that he would always despise himself as a coward, a traitor to the heroes of his race. Setting his teeth for the drubbing he felt certain he would receive, he struck out blindly. Then he felt a hand grip his arm so tightly that he winced with pain, and looking up, saw that General Washington stood beside him.
"Well, men?" the commander's voice was very stern. "Have you nothing better to do than spend your time brawling like a couple of tavern roisterers? Give me a good and sufficient reason for such behaviour or I'll have you both tied up and flogged to teach you to act like gentlemen and soldiers of the American Army."
His quiet eyes scanned the flushed, angry faces of the two lads. He turned sharply to Franks. "I am waiting!" he said.
For a moment Isaac wavered. He had heard enough of Washington's sense of justice to realize that if the chief knew his reason for challenging Durgan he might escape with a slight reprimand, or even a word of praise for defending his race. But only for a moment. A gentleman and a soldier in the American Army, young Franks decided, did not tell tales. He shook his head.
"I am sorry, your excellency," he answered, respectfully, "but I cannot tell you the reason of our quarrel since it concerns only ourselves."
Tim Durgan, who had waited for Isaac's accusation with a mocking smile about his mouth, gave an incredulous whistle. The despised "Jew soldier" was a man after all, who would risk undeserved punishment rather than betray a comrade, no matter how much he hated him. In his sudden admiration for the boy he forgot his awe of General Washington and burst out before he was granted permission to speak.
"I'll tell you, Excellency," he cried, warmly. "I've been plaguing and tormenting the lad and for no fault of his own. I never saw a Jew in my whole life before I joined the army, but I'd heard tales of them; cowards and afraid of their own shadows. And I teased the boy, never knowing he'd mind, and when he did I just kept on to spite him. And when he threatened to fight me, I wanted to laugh, for you can see for yourself, Excellency, that I'm taller and broader than he and could toss him about if I'd a mind to. But he wasn't afraid and if you hadn't come up, he'd have tried to fight me all the same." He paused for breath, smiling broadly, and held out his hand to Franks. "It's all my fault, Your Excellency, and I'm willing to take what I ought to for it, but first let me shake hands with him and tell him such a game cock ought to've been born an Irishman and no mistake."
The general smiled as the two clasped hands. Then: "I am sorry I was disorderly, Your Excellency," apologized Franks. "I would have tried to forget a personal insult but I could not stand by and allow my people to be slandered. But I know now that he did not understand."
"It takes a long time for some of us to understand, my boy," answered the general slowly, and, so thought Isaac, a little sadly, too. "But some day, God grant it, we will all understand the words you both have heard today and America will know no distinction of race, creed or station—only the worth that makes a man." He turned suddenly to Tim Durgan. "You come of a fighting breed, my man," he said warmly, "and just now when you confessed your fault you showed true courage. I need fighters as strong as your Irish ancestors; learn to fight only for our country and forget your petty quarrels and prejudices." He placed a kindly hand on Isaac's shoulder. "And a boy who is as loyal a Jew as you, must be a loyal American. I hope you will always carry yourself as honorably as you did today. What is your name, my lad?"
"Isaac Franks, sir," answered the boy, flushing beneath his commander's praise.
"Isaac Franks of this city?"
"Yes, sir. I have always lived in New York and I enlisted here."
"Then you must be the boy of whom Colonel Lescher spoke to me. He said that you were so eager to serve that you even bought your own uniform and field equipment. I expect to hear from you again." He was about to pass on, then paused to add kindly: "And since this is a holiday afternoon, why not spend it abroad instead of wrangling here. Now," with a slight smile, "my Hebrew David and my Irish Jonathan, be off with you; and hereafter keep your blows for the British," he added, half jestingly, as he walked off, leaving the two lads staring somewhat sheepishly at each other as they strolled a little apart from the others.
Tim was the first to speak. "It was great of you not to tell when he asked you," he said warmly. "And if I can ever make up to you for what I said about Jews—" which proves that Tim Durgan never made a foe or a friend by halves.
"We'll forget all about that," answered Franks lightly. "But we've wasted a good part of the afternoon already. Let's take a long walk and drink to our friendship in some good brown ale. I know a tavern near Bowling Green where there's always jolly company and a full measure for a men in uniform."
Chatting idly together, the two began their walk through the camp, passing rapidly down the crowded streets. There was a great stir in the city, for the storm clouds of hate against the British ruler which had been gathering for so many months had suddenly burst at the news of the signing of the Declaration at Philadelphia, and the air was heavy with protests of loyalty to the new government, and threats against King George. So when Tim and Isaac reached Bowling Green it was an excited crowd that they found there, gathered about the leaden statue of King George III; men and half-grown boys, with here and there a soldier enjoying his half-holiday.
"One would think the British were already here," Tim growled goodnaturedly. "If these merchants would stop cackling together like the hens in my father's poultry yard at home, and shoulder a gun, we'd drive Master George's tin soldiers and the Hessians back across the water so quick they'd hardly know they'd been here at all."
From the confused murmur of many voices came one rumbling cry which the boys caught and smiled to hear: "Down with King George! We are free men. Down with King George!"
A thin little man in a black coat elbowed his way to the base of the statue from which vantage point he tried to address the crowd. "Friends," he quavered, as the uproar died, the idle mob ever ready for some new amusement, "friends, don't be too rash. Look before you leap. We are only a handful of untrained farmers and merchants. The armies of King George——"
But before he could speak further, the crowd suddenly broke lose with: "Another cursed Tory! He is in the King's hire!—Drag him down!—Hang him to a tree to teach other Tories and traitors to hold their tongues!"
The suggestion was like a fire brand to dry timber. Before the two soldiers on the outskirts of the crowd could fully realized what had happened, a stout apprentice lad in a leather apron had procured a rope which another brawny fellow flung around the Tory's neck. He tried to plead for mercy but his voice was silenced by the howling of the mob, so desperate in its rage against the king that they sought blind vengeance on their victim for daring to speak in his behalf.
Isaac started forward, his face white and tense. "Come, Tim," he cried, "We must make them set him free."
The Irishman shrugged. "A Tory more or less! Let them hang him and welcome."
Isaac Franks did not answer. He only pushed his way through the mob, the crowd giving place to his uniform. He knew he could do nothing against them single-handed; yet he felt that he could not let this innocent man die. And, curiously enough, he thought less of the Tory's fate than the shame that would fall upon the people of his native city, if they committed such a crime in their reckless fury. He neared the front where several older and cooler citizens stood trying in vain to persuade the angry patriots to release the Tory. Then a splendid thought flashed through his quick mind, and springing lightly upon the leaden statue, he cried in a ringing voice: "I come from General Washington."
The magic name hushed the angry crowd. They waited eagerly for the boy's words.
"I serve the general of the American Army," continued Franks, "and I am as loyal as any of you, for I carry a gun to defend my country while you do nothing but cackle, cackle like the hens in a poultry yard." The crowd, quick to respond to every suggestion, laughed goodhumoredly at Tim's mocking description which was now standing his friend in good stead. "And you have as much brains as the hens in a poultry yard," continued the boy, following his advantage, "for instead of pulling out the roots of your trouble, you attack this poor fool who never saw King George and is not even one of his soldiers." He leaned down and half pulled the rope from the Tory's neck. "He is not worthy the honor of hanging. Use your good rope to haul down the statue of his Gracious Majesty, King George III—which has cumbered our city too long. And melt the lead into bullets which the soldiers of General Washington will use against any Briton who dares to enter our New York."
A roar of applause broke from the crowd. "Down with King George!" they cried as a dozen eager hands pulled the rope from the frightened Tory's neck and flung it about the statue. The Tory, only too glad to make his escape, crept away unnoticed in the crowd, already intent upon pulling the leaden effigy to the ground. They tugged as one man, that howling, maddened mob until with a great crash the deposed statue of the hated British king lay upon the ground. Then: "Bullets" was the cry, "bullets for our soldiers," as, laughing and shouting, the citizens of New York dragged the statue away to be melted into bullets for colonial rifles.
Isaac Franks looked longingly after them. But he knew that it would soon be time for "taps" and he dared not be late. With a little sigh, he turned his face toward the camp, where, under General Washington, he hoped to learn to become a good soldier of the Republic.
THE LAST SERVICE
The Story of a Rabbi Who Lived in New York When it Was Captured by the British in 1776.
A Sabbath hush brooded over the garden of the Rev. Mr. Gershom Mendes Seixas, minister of New York's one synagogue, Shearith Israel. The tall pink and white hollyhocks that bordered the prim paths nodded languidly in the warm September breeze. From the trees came the twitter of sparrows, now low and conversational, now high and shrill, "just like people in the synagogue," thought little David Phillips, as he strolled in his grandmother's garden on the other side of the hedge. And if David had pulled aside the white curtains of the Rabbi's study windows, he would have seen that the same Sabbath peace filled the low-ceilinged room, the walls covered with books, most of them rather forbidding in their musty, leather bindings. A peaceful, restful room on the Jewish rest day; but, boy as he was, David would have seen at a glance that Rabbi Seixas was not at peace with himself. A keen-eyed, quick-moving young man of about thirty, he paced restlessly up and down between the bookshelves, his hands clasped behind his back, his brows knit in thought. Several times he glanced at the tall clock his father had brought from Lisbon; it would soon be time for him to go to the synagogue; but what message had he to give his people?
Down the quiet street came the roll of drums, and David rushed to the gate, wishing with all his heart that he might follow the soldiers. But he knew that his grandmother expected him to take her to the synagogue, and he did not dare to leave the garden; instead he stood kicking holes in the path with his shining Sabbath boots which at that moment he hated with all his might, just as he hated the ruffles of fine linen that his grandmother had painfully stitched for him with her loving, rheumatic old fingers, and his Sabbath suit in which he was never allowed to romp or play. And at that moment, with the British actually knocking at New York's front door, one could hardly blame a small boy for growing impatient at the restrictions of a doting old grandmother, no matter how much she might indulge the orphan grandson whom his dying father had left in her charge the year before. If he were only a man, thought David, longingly; only old enough to be with General Washington's troops across the river. But a ten-year-old boy, who couldn't even play the drum like Frank Morris, the apprentice lad who had run away to join the army, couldn't serve his country any better than a feeble old lady like Grandma or a minister like the rabbi next door.
The roll of drums had startled the rabbi as well as his young neighbor and he now appeared in his garden, walking with swift, nervous steps to the gate. At first, he did not seem to see David; only stared down the road with wide, eager eyes, his hands gripping the rails of the gate until his knuckles showed hard and white; then, as the drums grew fainter, his shoulders relaxed a little, he sighed deeply, and, turning toward David, nodded kindly, even smiling, as though he had no deeper thought in his mind than giving his young friend a Sabbath greeting.
"Good Shabbas," said the rabbi. "I see you're all ready for service, my lad."
"Yes, sir. I'm just waiting for Grandmother." From far off came the last sound of the drums. "Did you hear the drums, sir? I wonder whether more of our troops are coming to the city."
The minister's face darkened. "Rather the American troops are leaving it, I fear," he answered gravely. "Mr. Levy who came by early this morning told me that four British ships have already passed up North River, and that there are about the same number anchored in Turtle Bay. They may make a landing at any time—and if they do——" he smiled somewhat grimly, "well, I fear, my lad, that we will be living in a British province."
But David had heard too much from his cousins in Philadelphia of the glorious doings of a few months before, the Declaration of Independence signed in July, the ringing of the great Liberty Bell. And he answered as sturdily as any other boy of 1776 might have done: "No, sir. The British may take the city, but no true-born American will submit to their rule."
Rabbi Seixas smiled a little at his fire. "But what will you do, David? They are already at our gates. From what I have heard not even General Washington, lying across the river with his troops, can stay the British now. General Howe will hold a tight rein over the city and we must learn to bow our shoulders to the yoke."
David stiffened his small shoulders stubbornly as though he actually stood before the hated English officer. "The good people of Boston," he began, proudly, "were not afraid of the redcoats—" then stopped, for his older companion did not have to remind him of the fate of the Boston citizens shot down on the public common by the soldiers of King George.
"Ah, little David," said the minister, sadly, reading his thoughts, "we will be just as powerless before our foe as our ancestors were before the Philistines."
A merry twinkle sparkled in David's eyes; he was a bright little fellow and he had not studied Hebrew and Jewish history all the long winter with the Rev. Mr. Seixas without learning a few lessons very helpful in time of need. "Didn't David and his sling frighten the whole Philistine army away?" he asked, mischievously.
The minister did not smile. "But the Lord was on David's side," he answered, gravely. "Today he seems to have deserted His People."
Down the street came a man whose white hairs might have marked him as aged had not his bright eyes and resolute bearing spoken of undying youth. He paused a moment at the gate, bowing to the Rabbi with all the formal courtliness of his day.
"Good Shabbas, Mr. Gomez," said the minister. "You are on your way to the synagogue?"
"Yes. Perhaps it may be the last service we will have in Shearith Israel before the cursed British guns blow our roof about our ears," answered the older man. "Alas, Mr. Seixas, when you were elected our Rabbi but a year ago, I predicted a long and fruitful term of service for you in our midst. But now—" a hopeless shrug completed the sentence.
"Believe me, I shall not fail in my duty as long as I serve the congregation of Shearith Israel," answered the young Rabbi, rather stiffly.
"I know—I know." The white head nodded gloomily. "You will do what you can as a priest, but this war must be won by men. I have lived almost seventy years, Mr. Seixas, and have always sought to be a good Jew and hold up the hands of those who served the Lord, as I know you strive to do. And in times of peace, a man of your learning and purity of heart is a worthy leader. But in these times that try men's souls, we need not priests, but men," he repeated and walked slowly away.
"What did he mean, Mr. Seixas?" asked David as the old man disappeared down the street. His eager little ears had taken in every word of the conversation; but he had not dared to ask questions while his elders were conversing, and had remained silent as a well-bred lad of his day was taught to do. "Does he mean we shouldn't have rabbis and ministers when there's a war?"
The rabbi shook his head. "Not exactly that, David. But perhaps he wishes that today we had fighting priests like the old Maccabees, those men who went to battle with swords in their hands, prayers in their hearts. And old Mr. Gomez is a fit descendant of those heroes," he cried with sudden warmth. "Old as he is, he offered to form a company of soldiers for service and enlist himself. When he was told that he was too old to take the field, he said: 'I could stop a bullet as well as a younger man.' It is such a spirit that wins wars, David."
"That's splendid!" exclaimed the boy. "I know how he feels—just sitting around New York and waiting for the British to come and rule over us! If I were only old enough to go and fight, too! I wish," wistfully, "I were grown up like you. Then I wouldn't have to be here today, waiting to go to the synagogue with Grandmother. I'd be with Frank and General Washington and be fighting for my country."
The minister's cheeks flushed; he winced as though the boy's innocent words had hurt him deeply. When he spoke it seemed that he was almost thinking aloud; that he had forgotten his young companion on the other side of the hedge.
"How can I lay aside my clergyman's cloak for the soldier's uniform?" he asked, slowly. "And how can I leave my bride of a year—perhaps never to return to her? And my people—I have not been with them any longer: surely, my duty is to them; to guide and lead them in this time of danger and uncertainty. Otherwise I would be like a shepherd who rushes off to fight the robbers of the mountains, while his flocks are torn by wolves that ravage close at hand."
He spoke as though he were reciting the words of a speech already written and learned by rote, thought David, half-wondering if the minister weren't learning his sermon for that morning. For how could the boy know that Mr. Seixas had again and again repeated to himself the very arguments he was now uttering aloud for the first time. Suddenly the young man who had stood like one in a dream, leaning upon the gate, his eyes looking far way, turned toward him and smiled almost in apology.
"Have you wondered at my words, little David?" he asked, almost lightly. "Ah, in days like these, one says many strange and unheard-of things. I have tried to refrain from speaking, for now mere words are idle and of little worth. But when I think of my New York—the city in which I was born and reared—in the hands of the British, I must speak, or my heart would choke me." His hand tugged at the linen stock about his throat. "God of Israel," he muttered, "in these dark days, give Thy servant light to see Thy ways—and strength to follow them."
David, feeling strangely awkward at hearing his rabbi pray, save in the pulpit, looked longingly at the house, hoping that his grandmother would come out and end the discussion which was becoming a little difficult for him. But he knew how long it always took her to don her Sabbath silk and long gold chain and earrings, and resigned himself to listen, should the Rev. Mr. Seixas care to talk to him further.
For a few moments there was silence between them. Then the rabbi turned to David again and continued to speak to him as though he were really grown up, and not a little boy who had studied Hebrew and history with him all winter.
"I am not afraid to go into battle," he said quietly, "but I feel that it will take far more bravery to fight for our country right here at home. I must be on hand to cheer and comfort my people; to teach those who lose their dear ones on the battlefield to look to our God for consolation; to teach those who stay at home to do their part too, even if it be but knitting and baking dainties for our soldiers. That will be easy," he mused, "but how can I endure living here under British rule, feeling myself a slave among a slave people?" He threw back his head, his eyes glowing with the light of battle. "Our people have wandered, many of them, from Spain to Holland, from Holland to this blessed land, to be free; how can I, a leader in Israel, bow down to the sons of Belial who will come among us!" His hands clenched the wickets of the gate; he breathed hard and was silent.
As he spoke in ringing tones, an almost forgotten picture flashed before David's eyes. He was listening again to the rabbi's story of the days when the Romans besieged Jerusalem and laid it waste and took the people captive. He remembered how Mr. Seixas had glowed with pride when he told of those ancient Jews—"Fighters all, David, who could not live as slaves."
"Mr. Seixas," asked David, suddenly, "in the old days when the Romans burned the Temple and everything, what did the rabbis do? Did they fight like Bar Kochba and the other generals?"
With a visible effort, the rabbi wrenched himself back to the present. "The Romans"—he repeated, vaguely. "What did the rabbis do?" Again his voice thrilled with pride as it had done when he had first told the child the story of Bar Kochba's rebellion. "They were brave men, David; priests and warriors. Rabbi Akiba did the thing I must try to do—kept the fighters brave and loyal; and when he could do no more, he died as bravely as the bravest soldier of them all."
"But there was one rabbi who didn't die," insisted David. "I forget his name, but I liked him better than all the others because he got the best of the Romans. Don't you know—he pretended he was dead and had his pupils take him to the Emperor in a coffin, that the guards wouldn't stop them when they passed the gates. And when the Emperor asked him what he wanted, he said 'Just let me build a school and I won't trouble anybody! What was his name, Mr. Seixas?"
"You are thinking of Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai," answered his teacher, slowly. "You are right—he did 'get the best of the Romans,' as you say. He would have died rather than breathe the air of a Roman court like Josephus; instead he continued to fight the enemy of his people; he handed down to his disciples the sword with which they were to fight through the centuries."
"What sword?" asked David, puzzled.
"Not a real sword; the study of our Law, our Torah. He opened a school at Jabneh, you remember, and there he taught his scholars to be good Jews, even though Jerusalem was destroyed." His eyes widened and again he seemed to be looking far away. "Jerusalem was destroyed, even as the city of my hope will be taken from me. But Rabbi ben Zakkai escaped to Jabneh and continued the battle there!" He spoke almost in a whisper and a strange light glowed in his face. "Have you been sent to teach me the truth, David? Truly, 'out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained truth.'"
Mistress Seixas appeared at the doorway, a bright-faced young woman, pretty in her Sabbath finery of gay silk mantle and flowered bonnet. "I am all ready, Gershom," she told her husband as she came down the path.
"And I am ready, too, Elkallah," he answered so gravely that David felt he meant much more than the simple words implied.
David, as a boy who was not yet Bar Mitzvah, sat beside his grandmother in the Shearith Israel synagogue that bright September morning, while the drums beat in the streets and the frightened citizens buzzed excitedly in knots upon the street corners, this man contending that the British would be defeated before they even crossed the Sound, his neighbor declaring that on the morrow the redcoats would surely be encamped in the city. Within the synagogue, the Jewish citizens of New York continued to hold their Sabbath services. A goodly assembly they were; Jews of proud blood from Spain and Portugal, descendants of the early settlers in New Amsterdam, when the city of New York was still in the hand of the Dutch; a sprinkling of Ashkenazim, German and Polish Jews, who at that time were too few in number to have a congregation of their own. There were many children and young people there, pupils and graduates of the religious school the congregation had founded almost fifty years before for the teaching of Hebrew, modern languages and the common branches. While among the men sat sturdy patriots, Samuel Judah, Hayem Levy, Jacob Mosez and others whose names had appeared on the Non-importation agreement in 1769, when they with their gentile neighbors had dared to protest against the tyranny of Great Britain. Benjamin Seixas was there, too, one of the first Jews to become an officer in the American Army and several other Jewish soldiers in their uniforms of buff and blue sat nearby; while directly before him, his alert face thrust forward, sat old Mr. Gomez, drinking in every word of the sermon the young rabbi delivered after the Sabbath services were over; an English sermon, destined to make Jewish history in America.
At first Rabbi Seixas spoke quietly enough, reviewing for his people the causes which had led up to the break between the mother country, England, and her colonies. He spoke of the tyranny of the king and his slavish Parliament, the unjust taxes, the quartering of troops upon a law-abiding and peace-loving people. With quiet bitterness, he repeated the old story of the children of Israel who demanded that their prophet Samuel set a king over them, and of the prophet's warning that only evil would come to a people who served a king instead of the Lord of Hosts. "And today," went on Mr. Seixas, "today, we the people of the Thirteen Colonies have a king over us far more tyrannical and unjust than the oriental monarch Samuel painted of old. To this day have I been silent, breathing no word against this Pharaoh of Egypt, for the mission of Israel has ever been peace, and next to God we have been loyal to the masters He has set over us. But in times like these we are serving Him best by defying those who rule in His name, but know not His laws of mercy and of justice. The time has come at last for us to enter the Valley of Decision. Where will you stand now, my people, when the redcoats thunder at our gates? Shall we bow before Pharaoh? Nay, the same God who rescued our fathers from the Pharaoh of Egypt will rescue us and all who call upon Him, from this new tyrant who would bend our necks and fetter us like very slaves."
There was a solemn hush in the synagogue, broken only by the murmur of the passing crowds outside, the distant roll of drums. For the first time that morning David was glad he had not been allowed to run off to see the soldiers. This was not an every-week sort of sermon about keeping the Sabbath or about some dead kings with long, hard names; the rabbi no longer seemed just a quiet man in a dark coat who had a great many books and knew everything and taught him Hebrew and history. Instead, he appeared like those splendid fighting priests he had mentioned that morning, a man who talked to God—and held a sword in his hand while he prayed.
For a moment Mr. Seixas stood before his congregation, looking down into the tense, upturned faces, yet past them, as though his eyes saw visions no other man there might see. Perhaps he was thinking of what a great step he had just taken; how his words had outlawed him forever in the sight of the English king; had made him an exile from the dear city of his birth. Again his hands clutched at his stock and he breathed with difficulty, but only for a moment. For his eyes met those of his young wife, Elkallah, and he smiled to reassure her and give her comfort. When he spoke again, his voice was low and clear, but as strong as a trumpet call in battle.
"Tonight, perhaps; surely, tomorrow, the British will have entered our city—but they will not find me here. For I will not serve the Lord in a sanctuary from which Freedom has departed. I will leave the city and seek for a place of refuge where the soldiers of the colonies fight for freedom. And, my people, I ask you in the words of Mattathias, that warrior priest of other days—'Those who are on the Lord's side follow me!'"
Again a long silence, then an uproar from every side. "He speaks truly! It is slavery if we remain!" "I cannot leave my property to be confiscated by the Crown." "The British will never take the city." "They will be here by sunrise." And suddenly little David's shrill voice ringing above the others, although he never realized until hours afterwards, when he was reprimanded by his grandmother, that he had dared to speak out with all the older and wiser members of the congregation:
"O Mr. Seixas, please take me along, too! I don't want to live in New York any more if the redcoats are here."
"And I will follow you," cried another voice, "although my fortune be forfeit and my land be seized by the king."
"And I—and I," rang out from every corner of the synagogue.
Some were silent, those who were to remain behind, and as Tories, know the friendship of the invaders. But the greater part of the worshippers, those whose ancestors like the Pilgrim Fathers had come to these shores to seek freedom before God, responded to their rabbi's call like true soldiers about their standard bearer.
"All that the Lord hath laid upon us, that will we do," cried out a very old man, rising to his feet and trembling with age as he spoke. "My eyes are dim, but He will not close them in death until they behold the rising of the sun of freedom upon these blessed shores."
He spoke like an ancient prophet and a hush like death fell upon the people. Slowly, like a man in a dream, Rabbi Seixas walked to the Ark and took from it the Scrolls of the Law; with the eyes of a man who sees visions he clasped the Torah to his breast and spoke: "When Jerusalem was destroyed, Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai rebuilt a spiritual Jerusalem in the little town of Jabneh where the faithful ones sat at his feet and learned the Law. I will not leave our precious Torah behind me to be used by those who remain here to serve King George instead of the King of Israel. Some time, some place God will establish a refuge for His faithful ones and there will we worship Him as free men." He spoke with a great hope in his heart, although at that moment he never dreamed how during the darkest days of the Revolution he would be allowed to labor and serve in Philadelphia until he should return to New York in triumph to witness the inauguration of George Washington as president of the United States.
At a word from the minister, the Shammas (sexton) and several members of the congregation quietly removed the velvet curtains from the Ark, taking the silver pointer, the Ner Tamid (perpetual light), all the sacred symbols which had made their worship beautiful for Sabbath after Sabbath during the years of security and peace. The congregation sat motionless, like people in a dream. Laying the Torah aside, Mr. Seixas came forward, his hands raised in blessing. His voice was tremulous with tears as he spoke: "Yevorekhekha Adonai we-yishm'rekha. Yaer Adonai panov eilekha wi'chunekha. Yisa Adonai panov eilekha weyasem lekha shalom." (The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.)
Then, the Scroll again close to his heart, he passed among the silent worshippers out into the warm September sunshine.
One by one the people followed him as he stood before the synagogue where he had hoped to serve so many useful years. His face was grave, but his voice was firm, his bearing unafraid. His young wife, Elkallah, stood proudly beside him. Though threatened with exile, she held her head like a queen. From the synagogue came old Mistress Phillips, leaning upon David's arm. "We will miss you sorely, Mr. Seixas," she said, sadly, "both as rabbi and as neighbor. I—ah, I am too old to leave the city where I was born. But perhaps I will send David to his cousins in Philadelphia."
"But I won't stay there," cried the boy, his cheeks flaming with excitement. "I'm going to be a soldier—just like the Maccabees." He raised flashing eyes to his teacher's face and something that he saw there made the happiness die out of his own. Boy that he was, he realized the ache in the rabbi's heart at leaving his work and his friends behind him.
"I'm sorry you have to go, Mr. Seixas," he said simply.
The young minister turned his somber eyes back toward the synagogue which he had entered a year before, his heart burning with great hopes for the future. Now, with the Torah in his arms, his congregation scattered, he felt himself a fugitive on the face of the earth. He looked about him at the older folk like Mistress Phillips whose dying bedside he might never comfort, at the little children he could no longer teach. Lastly he looked down into the tearful eyes of his young bride—a bride of a year, with exile and hardship before her. Then he straightened his shoulders and spoke bravely.
"Some day," said Rabbi Seixas, "I will return to serve our God in a city that He has made free."
THE GENEROUS GIVER
The Story of a Jewish Money Lender of the Revolution.
Jonas Schmidt, one of the jailors of the Provost, the grim old prison in New York, where the British had confined their numerous French and American prisoners after capturing the city from Washington in 1776, stood before Sir Henry Clinton, the English commander, shifting uneasily as he fumbled his cap with his great, hairy hands. Sir Henry looked him over coldly with his quiet, keen eyes that cowed man and horse alike; then he turned to his companion, General Heister, Commander of the Hessian mercenaries, purchased by the British king and sent overseas to fight his battles.
"We can get nothing out of this man," he said in a tone of cold contempt. "He is either too stupid—or clever enough to appear so!—to answer our questions." He nodded to the embarrassed jailor. "You may go now. But remember: if escapes become too numerous, I may find it necessary to use the gallows in the courtyard yonder and find another jailor for my prison."
Jonas bowed respectfully and lost no time in putting the door between him and Sir Henry. Tory though he was, the old man hated the English commander with all the strength of his simple soul. He had been eager enough to secure the situation of jailor at the Provost, never dreaming of the horrors he might see there. Now, sickened with the prison stenches, with the half-starved prisoners wasting away with fever and dying before his eyes, he thought longingly of his little farm up in the hills where his placid wife and two stout daughters lived as peacefully as though the colonists had never rebelled against the mother country and hardly knew that the British held New York. "Too stupid to answer," muttered the old man, swinging his heavy keys, as he passed down the prison corridor. "But I am wise enough to hold my tongue when it profits me nothing to endanger the necks of better men than Sir Henry Clinton. Let him use his own eyes, if he will; mine will be shut when good Mr. Salomon chooses to walk abroad," and he chuckled softly as he passed down the dark, damp corridors.