Holy Wedlock by Israel Zangwill

Story type: Literature

I

When Schneemann, the artist, returned from Rome to his native village in Galicia, he found it humming with gossip concerning his paternal grandmother, universally known as the Bube Yenta. It would seem that the giddy old thing hobbled home from synagogue conversing with Yossel Mandelstein, the hunchback, and sometimes even offered the unshapely septuagenarian her snuffbox as he passed the door of her cottage. More than one village censor managed to acquaint the artist with the flirtation ere he had found energy to walk the muddy mile to her dwelling. Even his own mother came out strongly in disapproval of the ancient dame; perhaps the remembrance of how fanatically her mother-in-law had disapproved of her married head for not being shrouded in a pious wig lent zest to her tongue. The artist controlled his facial muscles, having learnt tolerance and Bohemianism in the Eternal City.

‘Old blood will have its way,’ he said blandly.

‘Yes, old blood’s way is sometimes worse than young blood’s,’ said Frau Schneemann, unsmiling. ‘You must not forget that Yossel is still a bachelor.’

‘Yes, and therefore a sinner in Israel–I remember,’ quoth the artist with a twinkle. How all this would amuse his bachelor friends, Leopold Barstein and Rozenoffski the pianist!

‘Make not mock. ‘Tis high time you, too, should lead a maiden under the Canopy.’

‘I am so shy–there are few so forward as grandmother.’

‘Heaven be thanked!’ said his mother fervently. ‘When I refused to cover my tresses she spoke as if I were a brazen Epicurean, but I had rather have died than carry on so shamelessly with a man to whom I was not betrothed.’

‘Perhaps they are betrothed.’

We betrothed to Yossel! May his name be blotted out!’

‘Why, what is wrong with Yossel? Moses Mendelssohn himself had a hump.’

‘Who speaks of humps? Have you forgotten we are of Rabbinic family?’

Her son had quite forgotten it, as he had forgotten so much of this naive life to which he was paying a holiday visit.

‘Ah yes,’ he murmured. ‘But Yossel is pious–surely?’ A vision of the psalm-droners and prayer-shriekers in the little synagogue, among whom the hunchback had been conspicuous, surged up vividly.

‘He may shake himself from dawn-service to night-service, he will never shake off his father, the innkeeper,’ said Frau Schneemann hotly. ‘If I were in your grandmother’s place I would be weaving my shroud, not thinking of young men.’

‘But she’s thinking of old men, you said.’

‘Compared with her he is young–she is eighty-four, he is only seventy-five.’

‘Well, they won’t be married long,’ he laughed.

Frau Schneemann laid her hand on his mouth.

‘Heaven forbid the omen,’ she cried. ”Tis bringing a Bilbul (scandal) upon a respectable family.’

‘I will go and talk to her,’ he said gravely. ‘Indeed, I ought to have gone to see her days ago.’ And as he trudged to the other end of the village towards the cottage where the lively old lady lived in self-sufficient solitude, he was full of the contrast between his mother’s mental world and his own. People live in their own minds, and not in streets or fields, he philosophized.

II

Through her diamond-paned window he saw the wrinkled, white-capped old creature spinning peacefully at the rustic chimney-corner, a pure cloistral crone. It seemed profane to connect such a figure with flirtation–this was surely the very virgin of senility. What a fine picture she made too! Why had he never thought of painting her? Yes, such a picture of ‘The Spinster’ would be distinctly interesting. And he would put in the Kesubah, the marriage certificate that hung over the mantelpiece, in ironical reminder of her days of bloom. He unlatched the door–he had never been used to knock at grannie’s door, and the childish instinct came back to him.

Guten Abend,’ he said.

She adjusted a pair of horn spectacles, and peered at him.

Guten Abend,’ she murmured.

‘You don’t remember me–Vroomkely.’ He used the old childish diminutive of Abraham, though he had almost forgotten he owned the name in full.

‘Vroomkely,’ she gasped, almost overturning her wheel as she sprang to hug him in her skinny arms. He had a painful sense that she had shrunk back almost to childish dimensions. Her hands seemed trembling as much with decay as with emotion. She hastened to produce from the well-known cupboard home-made Kuchen and other dainties of his youth, with no sense of the tragedy that lay in his no longer being tempted by them.

‘And how goes your trade?’ she said. ‘They say you have never been slack. They must build many houses in Rome.’ Her notion that he was a house-painter he hardly cared to contradict, especially as picture-painting was contrary to the Mosaic dispensation.

‘Oh, I haven’t been only in Rome,’ he said evasively. ‘I have been in many lands.’

Fire came into her eyes, and flashed through the big spectacles. ‘You have been to Palestine?’ she cried.

‘No, only as far as Egypt. Why?’

‘I thought you might have brought me a clod of Palestine earth to put in my grave.’ The fire died out of her spectacles, she sighed, and took a consolatory pinch of snuff.

‘Don’t talk of graves–you will live to be a hundred and more,’ he cried. But he was thinking how ridiculous gossip was. It spared neither age nor sexlessness, not even this shrivelled ancient who was meditating on her latter end. Suddenly he became aware of a shadow darkening the doorway. At the same instant the fire leapt back into his grandmother’s glasses. Instinctively, almost before he turned his head, he knew it was the hero of the romance.

Yossel Mandelstein looked even less of a hero than the artist had remembered. There had been something wistful and pathetic in the hunchback’s expression, some hint of inner eager fire, but this–if he had not merely imagined it–seemed to have died of age and hopelessness. He used crutches, too, to help himself along with, so that he seemed less the hunchback of yore than the conventional contortion of time, and but for the familiar earlocks pendent on either side of the fur cap, but for the great hooked nose and the small chin hidden in the big beard, the artist might have doubted if this was indeed the Yossel he had sometimes mocked at in the crude cruelty of boyhood.

Yossel, propped on his crutches, was pulling out a mouldering black-covered book from under his greasy caftan. ‘I have brought you back your Chovoth Halvovoth,’ he said.

In the vivid presence of the actual romance the artist could not suppress the smile he had kept back at the mere shadowy recital. In Rome he himself had not infrequently called on young ladies by way of returning books to them. It was true that the books he returned were not Hebrew treatises, but he smiled again to think that the name of Yossel’s volume signified ‘the duties of the heart.’ The Bube Yenta received the book with thanks, and a moment of embarrassment ensued, only slightly mitigated by the offer of the snuffbox. Yossel took a pinch, but his eyes seemed roving in amaze, less over the stranger than over the bespread table, as though he might unaccountably have overlooked some sacred festival. That two are company and three none seemed at this point a proverb to be heeded, and without waiting to renew the hero’s acquaintance, the artist escaped from the idyllic cottage. Let the lover profit by the pastry for which he himself was too old.

So the gossips spoke the truth, he thought, his amusement not unblended with a touch of his mother’s indignation. Surely, if his grandmother wished to cultivate a grand passion, she might have chosen a more sightly object of devotion. Not that there was much to be said for Yossel’s taste either. When after seventy-five years of celibacy the fascinations of the other sex began to tell upon him, he might at least have succumbed to a less matriarchal form of femininity. But perhaps his grandmother had fascinations of another order. Perhaps she had money. He put the question to his mother.

‘Certainly she has money,’ said his mother vindictively. ‘She has thousands of Gulden in her stocking. Twenty years ago she could have had her pick of a dozen well-to-do widowers, yet now that she has one foot in the grave, madness has entered her soul, and she has cast her eye upon this pauper.’

‘But I thought his father left him his inn,’ said the artist.

‘His inn–yes. His sense–no. Yossel ruined himself long ago paying too much attention to the Talmud instead of his business. He was always a Schlemihl.’

‘But can one pay too much attention to the Talmud? That is a strange saying for a Rabbi’s daughter.’

‘King Solomon tells us there is a time for everything,’ returned the Rabbi’s daughter. ‘Yossel neglected what the wise King said, and so now he comes trying to wheedle your poor grandmother out of her money. If he wanted to marry, why didn’t he marry before eighteen, as the Talmud prescribes?’

‘He seems to do everything at the wrong time,’ laughed her son. ‘Do you suppose, by the way, that King Solomon made all his thousand marriages before he was eighteen?’

‘Make not mock of holy things,’ replied his mother angrily.

The monetary explanation of the romance, he found, was the popular one in the village. It did not, however, exculpate the grandame from the charge of forwardness, since if she wished to contract another marriage it could have been arranged legitimately by the Shadchan, and then the poor marriage-broker, who got little enough to do in this God-forsaken village, might have made a few Gulden out of it.

Beneath all his artistic perception of the humours of the thing, Schneemann found himself prosaically sharing the general disapprobation of the marriage. Really, when one came to think of it, it was ridiculous that he should have a new grandfather thrust upon him. And such a grandfather! Perhaps the Bube was, indeed, losing her reason. Or was it he himself who was losing his reason, taking seriously this parochial scandal, and believing that because a doddering hunchback of seventy-five had borrowed an ethical treatise from an octogenarian a marriage must be on the tapis? Yet, on more than one occasion, he came upon circumstances which seemed to justify the popular supposition. There could be no doubt, for example, that when at the conclusion of the synagogue service the feminine stream from the women’s gallery poured out to mingle with the issuing males, these two atoms drifted together with unnatural celerity. It appeared to be established beyond question that on the preceding Feast of Tabernacles the Bube had lent and practically abandoned to the hunchback’s use the ritual palm-branch he was too poor to afford. Of course this might only have been gratitude, inasmuch as a fortnight earlier on the solemn New Year Day when, by an untimely decree, the grandmother lay ill abed, Yossel had obtained possession of the Shofar, and leaving the synagogue had gone to blow it to her. He had blown the holy horn–with due regard to the proprieties–in the downstairs room of her cottage so that she above had heard it, and having heard it could breakfast. It was a performance that charity reasonably required for a disabled fellow-creature, and yet what medieval knight had found a more delicate way of trumpeting his mistress’s charms? Besides, how had Yossel known that the heroine was ill? His eye must have roved over the women’s gallery, and disentangled her absence even from the huddled mass of weeping and swaying womanhood.

One day came the crowning item of evidence. The grandmother had actually asked the village postman to oblige her by delivering a brown parcel at Yossel’s lodgings. The postman was not a Child of the Covenant, but Yossel’s landlady was, and within an hour all Jewry knew that Yenta had sent Yossel a phylacteries-bag–the very symbol of love offered by a maiden to her bridegroom. Could shameless passion further go?

III

The artist, at least, determined it should go no further. He put on his hat, and went to find Yossel Mandelstein. But Yossel was not to be found so easily, and the artist’s resolution strengthened with each false scent. Yossel was ultimately run to earth, or rather to Heaven, in the Beth Hamedrash, where he was shaking himself studiously over a Babylonian folio, in company with a motley assemblage of youths and greybeards equally careless of the demands of life. The dusky home of holy learning seemed an awkward place in which to broach the subject of love. In a whisper he besought the oscillating student to come outside. Yossel started up in agitation.

‘Ah, your grandmother is dying,’ he divined, with what seemed a lover’s inaccuracy. ‘I will come and pray at once.’

‘No, no, she is not dying,’ said Schneemann hastily, adding in a grim murmur, ‘unless of love.’

‘Oh, then, it is not about your grandmother?’

‘No–that is to say, yes.’ It seemed more difficult than ever to plunge into the delicate subject. To refer plumply to the courtship would, especially if it were not true, compromise his grandmother and, incidentally, her family. Yet, on the other hand, he longed to know what lay behind all this philandering, which in any case had been compromising her, and he felt it his duty as his grandmother’s protector and the representative of the family to ask Yossel straight out whether his intentions were honourable.

He remembered scenes in novels and plays in which undesirable suitors were tackled by champions of convention–scenes in which they were even bought off and started in new lands. Would not Yossel go to a new land, and how much would he want over and above his fare? He led the way without.

‘You have lived here all your life, Yossel, have you not?’ he said, when they were in the village street.

‘Where else shall a man live?’ answered Yossel.

‘But have you never had any curiosity to see other parts? Would you not like to go and see Vienna?’

A little gleam passed over Yossel’s dingy face. ‘No, not Vienna–it is an unholy place–but Prague! Prague where there is a great Rabbi and the old, old underground synagogue that God has preserved throughout the generations.’

‘Well, why not go and see it?’ suggested the artist.

Yossel stared. ‘Is it for that you tore me away from my Talmud?’

‘N–no, not exactly for that,’ stammered Schneemann. ‘Only seeing you glued to it gave me the idea what a pity it was that you should not travel and sit at the feet of great Rabbis?’

‘But how shall I travel to them? My crutches cannot walk so far as Prague.’

‘Oh, I’d lend you the money to ride,’ said the artist lightly.

‘But I could never repay it.’

‘You can repay me in Heaven. You can give me a little bit of your Gan Iden‘ (Paradise).

Yossel shook his head. ‘And after I had the fare, how should I live? Here I make a few Gulden by writing letters for people to their relatives in America; in Prague everybody is very learned; they don’t need a scribe. Besides, if I cannot die in Palestine I might as well die where I was born.’

‘But why can’t you die in Palestine?’ cried the artist with a new burst of hope. ‘You shall die in Palestine, I promise you.’

The gleam in Yossel’s face became a great flame of joy. ‘I shall die in Palestine?’ he asked ecstatically.

‘As sure as I live! I will pay your fare the whole way, second-class.’

For a moment the dazzling sunshine continued on Yossel’s face, then a cloud began to pass across it.

‘But how can I take your money? I am not a Schnorrer.’

Schneemann did not find the question easy to answer. The more so as Yossel’s eagerness to go and die in Palestine seemed to show that there was no reason for packing him off. However, he told himself that one must make assurance doubly sure and that, even if it was all empty gossip, still he had stumbled upon a way of making an old man happy.

‘There is no reason why you should take my money,’ he said with an artistic inspiration, ‘but there is every reason why I should buy to myself the Mitzvah (good deed) of sending you to Jerusalem. You see, I have so few good deeds to my credit.’

‘So I have heard,’ replied Yossel placidly. ‘A very wicked life it is said you lead at Rome.’

‘Most true,’ said the artist cheerfully.

‘It is said also that you break the Second Commandment by making representations of things that are on sea and land.’

‘I would the critics admitted as much,’ murmured the artist.

‘Your grandmother does not understand. She thinks you paint houses–which is not forbidden. But I don’t undeceive her–it would pain her too much.’ The lover-like sentiment brought back the artist’s alarm.

‘When will you be ready to start?’ he said.

Yossel pondered. ‘But to die in Palestine one must live in Palestine,’ he said. ‘I cannot be certain that God would take my soul the moment I set foot on the holy soil.’

The artist reflected a moment, but scarcely felt rich enough to guarantee that Yossel should live in Palestine, especially if he were an unconscionably long time a-dying. A happy thought came to him. ‘But there is the Chalukah,’ he reminded Yossel.

‘But that is charity.’

‘No–it is not charity, it is a sort of university endowment. It is just to support such old students as you that these sums are sent from all the world over. The prayers and studies of our old men in Jerusalem are a redemption to all Israel. And yours would be to me in particular.’

‘True, true,’ said Yossel eagerly; ‘and life is very cheap there, I have always heard.’

‘Then it is a bargain,’ slipped unwarily from the artist’s tongue. But Yossel replied simply:

‘May the blessings of the Eternal be upon you for ever and for ever, and by the merit of my prayers in Jerusalem may your sins be forgiven.’

The artist was moved. Surely, he thought, struggling between tears and laughter, no undesirable lover had ever thus been got rid of by the head of the family. Not to speak of an undesirable grandfather.

IV

The news that Yossel was leaving the village bound for the Holy Land, produced a sensation which quite obscured his former notoriety as an aspirant to wedlock. Indeed, those who discussed the new situation most avidly forgot how convinced they had been that marriage and not death was the hunchback’s goal. How Yossel had found money for the great adventure was not the least interesting ingredient in the cup of gossip. It was even whispered that the grandmother herself had been tapped. Her skittish advances had been taken seriously by Yossel. He had boldly proposed to lead her under the Canopy, but at this point, it was said, the old lady had drawn back–she who had led him so far was not to be thus led. Women are changeable, it is known, and even when they are old they do not change. But Yossel had stood up for his rights; he had demanded compensation. And his fare to Palestine was a concession for his injured affections. It was not many days before the artist met persons who had actually overheard the bargaining between the Bube and the hunchback.

Meantime Yossel’s departure was drawing nigh, and all those who had relatives in Palestine besieged him from miles around, plying him with messages, benedictions, and even packages for their kinsfolk. And conversely, there was scarcely a Jewish inhabitant who had not begged for clods of Palestine earth or bottles of Jordan water. So great indeed were the demands that their supply would have constituted a distinct invasion of the sovereign rights of the Sultan, and dried up the Jordan.

With his grandmother’s future thus off his mind, the artist had settled down to making a picture of the ruined castle which he commanded from his bedroom window. But when the through ticket for Jerusalem came from the agent at Vienna, and he had brazenly endured Yossel’s blessings for the same, his artistic instinct demanded to see how the Bube was taking her hero’s desertion. As he lifted the latch he heard her voice giving orders, and the door opened, not on the peaceful scene he expected of the spinster at her ingle nook, but of a bustling and apparently rejuvenated old lady supervising a packing menial. The greatest shock of all was that this menial proved to be Yossel himself squatted on the floor, his crutches beside him. Almost as in guilty confusion the hunchback hastily closed the sheet containing a huddle of articles, and tied it into a bundle before the artist’s chaotic sense of its contents could change into clarity. But instantly a flash of explanation came to him.

‘Aha, grandmother,’ he said, ‘I see you too are sending presents to Palestine.’

The grandmother took snuff uneasily. ‘Yes, it is going to the Land of Israel,’ she said.

As the artist lifted his eyes from the two amorphous heaps on the floor–Yossel and his bundle–he became aware of a blank in the familiar interior.

‘Why, where is the spinning-wheel?’ he cried.

‘I have given it to the widow Rubenstein–I shall spin no more.’

‘And I thought of painting you as a spinster!’ he murmured dolefully. Then a white patch in the darkened wood over the mantelpiece caught his eye. ‘Why, your marriage certificate is gone too!’

‘Yes, I have taken it down.’

‘To give to the widow Rubenstein?’

‘What an idea!’ said his grandmother seriously. ‘It is in the bundle.’

‘You are sending it away to Palestine?’

The grandmother fumbled with her spectacles, and removing them with trembling fingers blinked downwards at the bundle. Yossel snatched up his crutches, and propped himself manfully upon them.

‘Your grandmother goes with me,’ he explained decisively.

‘What!’ the artist gasped.

The grandmother’s eyes met his unflinchingly; they had drawn fire from Yossel’s. ‘And why should I not go to Palestine too?’ she said.

‘But you are so old!’

‘The more reason I should make haste if I am to be luckier than Moses our Master.’ She readjusted her spectacles firmly.

‘But the journey is so hard.’

‘Yossel has wisdom; he will find the way while alive as easily as others will roll thither after death.’

‘You’ll be dead before you get there,’ said the artist brutally.

‘Ah, no! God will not let me die before I touch the holy soil!’

‘You, too, want to die in Palestine?’ cried the amazed artist.

‘And where else shall a daughter of Israel desire to die? Ah, I forgot–your mother was an Epicurean with godless tresses; she did not bring you up in the true love of our land. But every day for seventy years and more have I prayed the prayer that my eyes should behold the return of the Divine Glory to Zion. That mercy I no longer expect in my own days, inasmuch as the Sultan hardens his heart and will not give us back our land, not though Moses our Master appears to him every night, and beats him with his rod. But at least my eyes shall behold the land of Israel.’

‘Amen!’ said Yossel, still propped assertively on his crutches. The grandson turned upon the interrupter. ‘But you can’t take her with you?’

‘Why not?’ said Yossel calmly.

Schneemann found himself expatiating upon the responsibility of looking after such an old woman; it seemed too absurd to talk of the scandal. That was left for the grandmother to emphasize.

‘Would you have me arrive alone in Palestine?’ she interposed impatiently. ‘Think of the talk it would make in Jerusalem! And should I even be permitted to land? They say the Sultan’s soldiers stand at the landing-place like the angels at the gates of Paradise with swords that turn every way. But Yossel is cunning in the customs of the heathen; he will explain to the soldiers that he is an Austrian subject, and that I am his Frau.’

‘What! Pass you off as his Frau!’

‘Who speaks of passing off? He could say I was his sister, as Abraham our Father said of Sarah. But that was a sin in the sight of Heaven, and therefore as our sages explain—-‘

‘It is simpler to be married,’ Yossel interrupted.

‘Married!’ echoed the artist angrily.

‘The witnesses are coming to my lodging this afternoon,’ Yossel continued calmly. ‘Dovidel and Yitzkoly from the Beth Hamedrash.’

‘They think they are only coming to a farewell glass of brandy,’ chuckled the grandmother. ‘But they will find themselves at a secret wedding.’

‘And to-morrow we shall depart publicly for Trieste,’ Yossel wound up calmly.

‘But this is too absurd!’ the artist broke in. ‘I forbid this marriage!’

A violent expression of amazement overspread the ancient dame’s face, and the tone of the far-away years came into her voice. ‘Silence, Vroomkely, or I’ll smack your face. Do you forget you are talking to your grandmother?’

‘I think Mr. Mandelstein forgets it,’ the artist retorted, turning upon the heroic hunchback. ‘Do you mean to say you are going to marry my grandmother?’

‘And why not?’ asked Yossel. ‘Is there a greater lover of God in all Galicia?’

‘Hush, Yossel, I am a great sinner.’ But her old face was radiant. She turned to her grandson. ‘Don’t be angry with Yossel–all the fault is mine. He did not ask me to go with him to Palestine; it was I that asked him.’

‘Do you mean that you asked him to marry you?’

‘It is the same thing. There is no other way. How different would it have been had there been any other woman here who wanted to die in Palestine! But the women nowadays have no fear of Heaven; they wear their hair unshorn–they—-‘

‘Yes, yes. So you asked Yossel to marry you.’

‘Asked? Prayed, as one prays upon Atonement Day. For two years I prayed to him, but he always refused.’

‘Then why—-?’ began the artist.

‘Yossel is so proud. It is his only sin.’

‘Oh, Yenta!’ protested Yossel flushing, ‘I am a very sinful man.’

‘Yes, but your sin is all in a lump,’ the Bube replied. ‘Your iniquity is like your ugliness–some people have it scattered all over, but you have it all heaped up. And the heap is called pride.’

‘Never mind his pride,’ put in the artist impatiently. ‘Why did he not go on refusing you?’

‘I am coming to that. Only you were always so impatient, Vroomkely. When I was cutting you a piece of Kuchen, you would snatch greedily at the crumbs as they fell. You see Yossel is not made of the same clay as you and I. By an oversight the Almighty sent an angel into the world instead of a man, but seeing His mistake at the last moment, the All-High broke his wings short and left him a hunchback. But when Yossel’s father made a match for him with Leah, the rich corn-factor’s daughter, the silly girl, when she was introduced to the bridegroom, could see only the hump, and scandalously refused to carry out the contract. And Yossel is so proud that ever since that day he curled himself up into his hump, and nursed a hatred for all women.’

‘How can you say that, Yenta?’ Yossel broke in again.

‘Why else did you refuse my money?’ the Bube retorted. ‘Twice, ten, twenty times I asked him to go to Palestine with me. But obstinate as a pig he keeps grunting “I can’t–I’ve got no money.” Sooner than I should pay his fare he’d have seen us both die here.’

The artist collapsed upon the bundle; astonishment, anger, and self-ridicule made an emotion too strong to stand under. So this was all his Machiavellian scheming had achieved–to bring about the very marriage it was meant to avert! He had dug a pit and fallen into it himself. All this would indeed amuse Rozenoffski and Leopold Barstein. He laughed bitterly.

‘Nay, it was no laughing matter,’ said the Bube indignantly. ‘For I know well how Yossel longed to go with me to die in Jerusalem. And at last the All-High sent him the fare, and he was able to come to me and invite me to go with him.’

Here the artist became aware that Yossel’s eyes and lips were signalling silence to him. As if, forsooth, one published one’s good deeds! He had yet to learn on whose behalf the hunchback was signalling.

‘So! You came into a fortune?’ he asked Yossel gravely.

Yossel looked the picture of misery. The Bube unconsciously cut through the situation. ‘A wicked man gave it to him,’ she explained, ‘to pray away his sins in Jerusalem.’

‘Indeed!’ murmured the artist. ‘Anyone you know?’

‘Heaven has spared her the pain of knowing him,’ ambiguously interpolated her anxious protector.

‘I don’t even know his name,’ added the Bube. ‘Yossel keeps it hidden.’

‘One must not shame a fellow-man,’ Yossel urged. ‘The sin of that is equal to the sin of shedding blood.’

The grandmother nodded her head approvingly. ‘It is enough that the All-High knows his name. But for such an Epicurean much praying will be necessary. It will be a long work. And your first prayer, Yossel, must be that you shall not die very soon, else the labourer will not be worthy of his hire.’

Yossel took her yellow withered hand as in a lover’s clasp. ‘Be at peace, Yenta! He will be redeemed if only by your merits. Are we not one?’

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