Nina, as she returned home from the
Jews’ quarter to her father’s house in
the Kleinseite, paused for a while on the bridge to
make some resolution some resolution that
should be fixed as to her immediate conduct.
Should she first tell her story to her father, or first
to her aunt Sophie? There were reasons for and
against either plan. And if to her father first,
then should she tell it to-night? She was nervously
anxious to rush at once at her difficulties, and to
be known to all who belonged to her as the girl who
had given herself to the Jew. It was now late
in the evening, and the moon was shining brightly on
the palace over against her. The colonnades seemed
to be so close to her that there could hardly be room
for any portion of the city to cluster itself between
them and the river. She stood looking up at the
great building, and fell again into her trick of counting
the windows, thereby saving herself a while from the
difficult task of following out the train of her thoughts.
But what were the windows of the palace to her?
So she walked on again till she reached a spot on the
bridge at which she almost always paused a moment
to perform a little act of devotion. There, having
a place in the long row of huge statues which adorn
the bridge, is the figure of the martyr St John Nepomucene,
who at this spot was thrown into the river because
he would not betray the secrets of a queen’s
confession, and was drowned, and who has ever been,
from that period downwards, the favourite saint of
Prague and of bridges. On the balustrade,
near the figure, there is a small plate inserted in
the stone-work and good Catholics, as they pass over
the river, put their hands upon the plate, and then
kiss their fingers. So shall they be saved from
drowning and from all perils of the water as
far, at least, as that special transit of the river
may be perilous. Nina, as a child, had always
touched the stone, and then touched her lips, and
did the act without much thought as to the saving power
of St John Nepomucene. But now, as she carried
her hand up to her face, she did think of the deed.
Had she, who was about to marry a Jew, any right to
ask for the assistance of a Christian saint? And
would such a deed that she now proposed to herself
put her beyond the pale of Christian aid? Would
the Madonna herself desert her should she marry a Jew?
If she were to become truer than ever to her faith more
diligent, more thoughtful, more constant in all acts
of devotion would the blessed Mary help
to save her, even though she should commit this great
sin? Would the mild-eyed, sweet Saviour, who
had forgiven so many women, who had saved from a cruel
death the woman taken in adultery, who had been so
gracious to the Samaritan woman at the well would
He turn from her the graciousness of His dear eyes,
and bid her go out for ever from among the faithful?
Madame Zamenoy would tell her so, and so would Sister
Teresa, an old nun, who was on most friendly terms
with Madame Zamenoy, and whom Nina altogether hated;
and so would the priest, to whom, alas! she would
be bound to give faith. And if this were so,
whither should she turn for comfort? She could
not become a Jewess! She might call herself one;
but how could she be a Jewess with her strong faith
in St Nicholas, who was the saint of her own Church,
and in St John of the River, and in the Madonna?
No; she must be an outcast from all religions, a Pariah,
one devoted absolutely to the everlasting torments
which lie beyond Purgatory unless, indeed,
unless that mild-eyed Saviour would be content to
take her faith and her acts of hidden worship, despite
her aunt, despite that odious nun, and despite the
very priest himself! She did not know how this
might be with her, but she did know that all the teaching
of her life was against any such hope.
But what was what could
be the good of such thoughts to her? Had not
things gone too far with her for such thoughts to be
useful? She loved the Jew, and had told him so;
and not all the penalties with which the priests might
threaten her could lessen her love, or make her think
of her safety here or hereafter, as a thing to be
compared with her love. Religion was much to
her; the fear of the everlasting wrath of Heaven was
much to her; but love was paramount! What if it
were her soul? Would she not give even her soul
for her love, if, for her love’s sake, her soul
should be required from her? When she reached
the archway, she had made up her mind that she would
tell her aunt first, and that she would do so early
on the following day. Were she to tell her father
first, her father might probably forbid her to speak
on the subject to Madame Zamenoy, thinking that his
own eloquence and that of the priest might prevail
to put an end to so terrible an iniquity, and that
so Madame Zamenoy might never learn the tidings.
Nina, thinking of all this, and being quite determined
that the Zamenoys should know what she intended to
tell them, resolved that she would say nothing on that
night at home.
“You are very late, Nina,”
said her father to her, crossly, as soon as she entered
the room in which they lived. It was a wide apartment,
having in it now but little furniture two
rickety tables, a few chairs, an old bureau in which
Balatka kept, under lock and key, all that still belonged
to him personally, and a little desk, which was Nina’s
“Yes, father, I am late; but
not very late. I have been with Anton Trendellsohn.”
“And what have you been there for now?”
“Anton Trendellsohn has been
talking to me about the papers which uncle Karil has.
He wants to have them himself. He says they are
“I suppose he means that we
are to be turned out of the old house.”
“No, father; he does not mean
that. He is not a cruel man. But he says
that that he cannot settle anything about
the property without having the papers. I suppose
that is true.”
“He has the rent of the other houses,”
“Yes; but if the papers are his, he ought to
“Did he send for them?”
“No, father; he did not send.”
“And what made you go?”
“I am so of often going there.
He had spoken to me before about this. He thinks
you do not like him to come here, and you never go
After this there was a pause for a
few minutes, and Nina was settling herself to her
work. Then the old man spoke again.
“Nina, I fear you see too much
of Anton Trendellsohn.” The words were
the very words of Souchey; and Nina was sure that her
father and the servant had been discussing her conduct.
It was no more than she had expected, but her father’s
words had come very quickly upon Souchey’s speech
to herself. What did it signify? Everybody
would know it all before twenty-four hours had passed
by. Nina, however, was determined to defend herself
at the present moment, thinking that there was something
of injustice in her father’s remarks. “As
for seeing him often, father, I have done it because
your business has required it. When you were
ill in April I had to be there almost daily.”
“But you need not have gone
to-night. He did not send for you.”
“But it is needful that something
should be done to get for him that which is his own.”
As she said this there came to her a sting of conscience,
a thought that reminded her that, though she was not
lying to her father in words, she was in fact deceiving
him; and remembering her assertion to her lover that
she had never spoken falsely to her father, she blushed
with shame as she sat in the darkness of her seat.
“To-morrow father,” she
said, “I will talk to you more about this, and
you shall not at any rate say that I keep anything
“I have never said so, Nina.”
“It is late now, father. Will you not go
Old Balatka yielded to this suggestion,
and went to his bed; and Nina, after some hour or
two, went to hers. But before doing so she opened
the little desk that stood in the corner of their sitting-room,
of which the key was always in her pocket, and took
out everything that it contained. There were
many letters there, of which most were on matters
of business letters which in few houses
would come into the hands of such a one as Nina Balatka,
but which, through the weakness of her father’s
health, had come into hers. Many of these she
now read; some few she tore and burned in the stove,
and others she tied in bundles and put back carefully
into their place. There was not a paper in the
desk which did not pass under her eye, and as to which
she did not come to some conclusion, either to keep
it or to burn it. There were no love-letters
there. Nina Balatka had never yet received such
a letter as that. She saw her lover too frequently
to feel much the need of written expressions of love;
and such scraps of his writing as there were in the
bundles, referred altogether to small matters of business.
When she had thus arranged her papers, she too went
to bed. On the next morning, when she gave her
father his breakfast, she was very silent. She
made for him a little chocolate, and cut for him a
few slips of white bread to dip into it. For
herself, she cut a slice from a black loaf made of
rye flour, and mixed with water a small quantity of
the thin sour wine of the country. Her meal may
have been worth perhaps a couple of kreutzers,
or something less than a penny, whereas that of her
father may have cost twice as much. Nina was a
close and sparing housekeeper, but with all her economy
she could not feed three people upon nothing.
Latterly, from month to month, she had sold one thing
out of the house after another, knowing as each article
went that provision from such store as that must soon
fail her. But anything was better than taking
money from her aunt whom she hated except
taking money from the Jew whom she loved. From
him she had taken none, though it had been often offered.
“You have lost more than enough by father,”
she had said to him when the offer had been made.
“What I give to the wife of my bosom shall never
be reckoned as lost,” he had answered. She
had loved him for the words, and had pressed his hand
in hers but she had not taken his money.
From her aunt some small meagre supply had been accepted
from time to time a florin or two now, and
a florin or two again given with repeated
intimations on aunt Sophie’s part, that her
husband Karil could not be expected to maintain the
house in the Kleinseite. Nina had not felt herself
justified in refusing such gifts from her aunt to
her father, but as each occasion came she told herself
that some speedy end must be put to this state of things.
Her aunt’s generosity would not sustain her
father, and her aunt’s generosity nearly killed
herself. On this very morning she would do that
which should certainly put an end to a state of things
so disagreeable. After breakfast, therefore,
she started at once for the house in the Windberg-gasse,
leaving her father still in his bed. She walked
very quick, looking neither to the right nor the left,
across the bridge, along the river-side, and then
up into the straight ugly streets of the New Town.
The distance from her father’s house was nearly
two miles, and yet the journey was made in half an
hour. She had never walked so quickly through
the streets of Prague before; and when she reached
the end of the Windberg-gasse, she had to pause
a moment to collect her thoughts and her breath.
But it was only for a moment, and then the bell was
Yes; her aunt was at home. At
ten in the morning that was a matter of course.
She was shown, not into the grand drawing-room, which
was only used on grand occasions, but into a little
back parlour which, in spite of the wealth and magnificence
of the Zamenoys, was not so clean as the room in the
Kleinseite, and certainly not so comfortable as the
Jew’s apartment. There was no carpet; but
that was not much, as carpets in Prague were not in
common use. There were two tables crowded with
things needed for household purposes, half-a-dozen
chairs of different patterns, a box of sawdust close
under the wall, placed there that papa Zamenoy might
spit into it when it pleased him. There was a
crowd of clothes and linen hanging round the stove,
which projected far into the room; and spread upon
the table, close to which was placed mamma Zamenoy’s
chair, was an article of papa Zamenoy’s dress,
on which mamma Zamenoy was about to employ her talents
in the art of tailoring. All this, however, was
nothing to Nina, nor was the dirt on the floor much
to her, though she had often thought that if she were
to go and live with aunt Sophie, she would contrive
to make some improvement as to the cleanliness of
“Your aunt will be down soon,”
said Lotta Luxa as they passed through the passage.
“She is very angry, Nina, at not seeing you all
the last week.”
“I don’t know why she
should be angry, Lotta. I did not say I would
Lotta Luxa was a sharp little woman,
over forty years of age, with quick green eyes and
thin red-tipped nose, looking as though Paris might
have been the town of her birth rather than Prague.
She wore short petticoats, clean stockings, an old
pair of slippers; and in the back of her hair she
still carried that Diana’s dart which maidens
wear in those parts when they are not only maidens
unmarried, but maidens also disengaged. No one
had yet succeeded in drawing Lotta Luxa’s arrow
from her head, though Souchey, from the other side
of the river, had made repeated attempts to do so.
For Lotta Luxa had a little money of her own, and
poor Souchey had none. Lotta muttered something
about the thoughtless thanklessness of young people,
and then took herself down-stairs. Nina opened
the door of the back parlour, and found her cousin
Ziska sitting alone with his feet propped upon the
“What, Ziska,” she said,
“you not at work by ten o’clock!”
“I was not well last night,
and took physic this morning,” said Ziska.
“Something had disagreed with me.”
“I’m sorry for that, Ziska.
You eat too much fruit, I suppose.”
“Lotta says it was the sausage,
but I don’t think it was. I’m very
fond of sausage, and everybody must be ill sometimes.
She’ll be down here again directly;” and
Ziska with his head nodded at the chair in which his
mother was wont to sit.
Nina, whose mind was quite full of
her business, was determined to go to work at once.
“I’m glad to have you alone for a moment,
Ziska,” she said.
“And so am I very glad; only
I wish I had not taken physic, it makes one so uncomfortable.”
At this moment Nina had in her heart
no charity towards her cousin, and did not care for
his discomfort. “Ziska,” she said,
“Anton Trendellsohn wants to have the papers
about the houses in the Kleinseite. He says that
they are his, and you have them.”
Ziska hated Anton Trendellsohn, hardly
knowing why he hated him. “If Trendellsohn
wants anything of us,” said he, “why does
he not come to the office? He knows where to
“Yes, Ziska, he knows where
to find you; but, as he says, he has no business with
you no business as to which he can make
a demand. He thinks, therefore, you would merely
bid him begone.”
“Very likely. One doesn’t
want to see more of a Jew than one can help.”
“That Jew, Ziska, owns the house
in which father lives. That Jew, Ziska, is the
best friend that that that father
“I’m sorry you think so, Nina.”
“How can I help thinking it?
You can’t deny, nor can uncle, that the houses
belong to him. The papers got into uncle’s
hands when he and father were together, and I think
they ought to be given up now. Father thinks
that the Trendellsohns should have them. Even
though they are Jews, they have a right to their own.”
“You know nothing about it,
Nina. How should you know about such things as
“I am driven to know. Father
is ill, and cannot come himself.”
“Oh, laws! I am so uncomfortable.
I never will take stuff from Lotta Luxa again.
She thinks a man is the same as a horse.”
This little episode put a stop to
the conversation about the title-deeds, and then Madame
Zamenoy entered the room. Madame Zamenoy was
a woman of a portly demeanour, well fitted to do honour
by her personal presence to that carriage and horses
with which Providence and an indulgent husband had
blessed her. And when she was dressed in her
full panoply of French millinery the materials
of which had come from England, and the manufacture
of which had taken place in Prague she
looked the carriage and horses well enough. But
of a morning she was accustomed to go about the house
in a pale-tinted wrapper, which, pale-tinted as it
was, should have been in the washing-tub much oftener
than was the case with it if not for cleanliness,
then for mere decency of appearance.
And the mode in which she carried
her matutinal curls, done up with black pins, very
visible to the eye, was not in itself becoming.
The handkerchief which she wore in lieu of cap, might
have been excused on the score of its ugliness, as
Madame Zamenoy was no longer young, had it not been
open to such manifest condemnation for other sins.
And in this guise she would go about the house from
morning to night on days not made sacred by the use
of the carriage. Now Lotta Luxa was clean in
the midst of her work; and one would have thought that
the cleanliness of the maid would have shamed the
slatternly ways of the mistress. But Madame Zamenoy
and Lotta Luxa had lived together long, and probably
knew each other well.
“Well, Nina,” she said, “so you’ve
come at last?”
“Yes; I’ve come, aunt.
And as I want to say something very particular to
you yourself, perhaps Ziska won’t mind going
out of the room for a minute.” Nina had
not sat down since she had been in the room, and was
now standing before her aunt with almost militant firmness.
She was resolved to rush at once at the terrible subject
which she had in hand, but she could not do so in
the presence of her cousin Ziska.
Ziska groaned audibly. “Ziska
isn’t well this morning,” said Madame
Zamenoy, “and I do not wish to have him disturbed.”
“Then perhaps you’ll come into the front
“What can there be that you cannot say before
“There is something, aunt,” said Nina.
If there were a secret, Madame Zamenoy
decidedly wished to hear it, and therefore, after
pausing to consider the matter for a moment or two,
she led the way into the front parlour.
“And now, Nina, what is it?
I hope you have not disturbed me in this way for anything
that is a trifle.”
“It is no trifle to me, aunt.
I am going to be married to Anton Trendellsohn.”
She said the words slowly, standing bolt-upright, at
her greatest height, as she spoke them, and looking
her aunt full in the face with something of defiance
both in her eyes and in the tone of her voice.
She had almost said, “Anton Trendellsohn, the
Jew;” and when her speech was finished, and
admitted of no addition, she reproached herself with
pusillanimity in that she had omitted the word which
had always been so odious, and would now be doubly
odious odious to her aunt in a tenfold
Madame Zamenoy stood for a while speechless struck
with horror. The tidings which she heard were
so unexpected, so strange, and so abominable, that
they seemed at first to crush her. Nina was her
niece her sister’s child; and though
she might be repudiated, reviled, persecuted, and
perhaps punished, still she must retain her relationship
to her injured relatives. And it seemed to Madame
Zamenoy as though the marriage of which Nina spoke
was a thing to be done at once, out of hand as
though the disgusting nuptials were to take place
on that day or on the next, and could not now be avoided.
It occurred to her that old Balatka himself was a
consenting party, and that utter degradation was to
fall upon the family instantly. There was that
in Nina’s air and manner, as she spoke of her
own iniquity, which made the elder woman feel for
the moment that she was helpless to prevent the evil
with which she was threatened.
“Anton Trendellsohn a Jew,”
she said, at last.
“Yes, aunt; Anton Trendellsohn,
the Jew. I am engaged to him as his wife.”
There was a something of doubtful
futurity in the word engaged, which gave a slight
feeling of relief to Madame Zamenoy, and taught her
to entertain a hope that there might be yet room for
escape. “Marry a Jew, Nina,” she
said; “it cannot be possible!”
“It is possible, aunt.
Other Jews in Prague have married Christians.”
“Yes, I know it. There
have been outcasts among us low enough so to degrade
themselves low women who were called Christians.
There has been no girl connected with decent people
who has ever so degraded herself. Does your father
know of this?”
“Your father knows nothing of
it, and you come and tell me that you are engaged to
a Jew!” Madame Zamenoy had so far recovered herself
that she was now able to let her anger mount above
her misery. “You wicked girl! Why
have you come to me with such a story as this?”
“Because it is well that you
should know it. I did not like to deceive you,
even by secrecy. You will not be hurt. You
need not notice me any longer. I shall be lost
to you, and that will be all.”
“If you were to do such a thing
you would disgrace us. But you will not be allowed
to do it.”
“But I shall do it.”
“Yes, aunt. I shall do it. Do you
think I will be false to my troth?”
“Your troth to a Jew is nothing. Father
Jerome will tell you so.”
“I shall not ask Father Jerome.
Father Jerome, of course, will condemn me; but I shall
not ask him whether or not I am to keep my promise my
“And why not?”
Then Nina paused a moment before she
answered. But she did answer, and answered with
that bold defiant air which at first had disconcerted
“I will ask no one, aunt Sophie,
because I love Anton Trendellsohn, and have told him
that I love him.”
“I have nothing more to say,
aunt. I thought it right to tell you, and now
I will go.”
She had turned to the door, and had
her hand upon the lock when her aunt stopped her.
“Wait a moment, Nina. You have had your
say; now you must hear me.”
“I will hear you if you say nothing against
“I shall say what I please.”
“Then I will not hear you.”
Nina again made for the door, but her aunt intercepted
her retreat. “Of course you can stop me,
aunt, in that way if you choose.”
“You bold, bad girl!”
“You may say what you please about myself.”
“You are a bold, bad girl!”
“Perhaps I am. Father Jerome
says we are all bad. And as for boldness, I have
to be bold.”
“You are bold and brazen.
Marry a Jew! It is the worst thing a Christian
girl could do.”
“No, it is not. There are things ten times
worse than that.”
“How you could dare to come and tell me!”
“I did dare, you see. If
I had not told you, you would have called me sly.”
“You are sly.”
“I am not sly. You tell me I am bad and
bold and brazen.”
“So you are.”
“Very likely. I do not
say I am not. But I am not sly. Now, will
you let me go, aunt Sophie?”
“Yes, you may go you
may go; but you may not come here again till this
thing has been put an end to. Of course I shall
see your father and Father Jerome, and your uncle
will see the police. You will be locked up, and
Anton Trendellsohn will be sent out of Bohemia.
That is how it will end. Now you may go.”
And Nina went her way.
Her aunt’s threat of seeing
her father and the priest was nothing to Nina.
It was the natural course for her aunt to take, and
a course in opposition to which Nina was prepared
to stand her ground firmly. But the allusion
to the police did frighten her. She had thought
of the power which the law might have over her very
often, and had spoken of it in awe to her lover.
He had reassured her, explaining to her that, as the
law now stood in Austria, no one but her father could
prevent her marriage with a Jew, and that he could
only do so till she was of age. Now Nina would
be twenty-one on the first of the coming month, and
therefore would be free, as Anton told her, to do with
herself as she pleased. But still there came
over her a cold feeling of fear when her aunt spoke
to her of the police. The law might give the police
no power over her; but was there not a power in the
hands of those armed men whom she saw around her on
every side, and who were seldom countrymen of her
own, over and above the law? Were there not still
dark dungeons and steel locks and hard hearts?
Though the law might justify her, how would that serve
her, if men if men and women, were determined
to persecute her? As she walked home, however,
she resolved that dark dungeons and steel locks and
hard hearts might do their worst against her.
She had set her will upon one thing in this world,
and from that one thing no persecution should drive
her. They might kill her, perhaps. Yes,
they might kill her; and then there would be an end
of it. But to that end she would force them to
come before she would yield. So much she swore
to herself as she walked home on that morning to the
Madame Zamenoy, when Nina left her,
sat in solitary consideration for some twenty minutes,
and then called for her chief confidant, Lotta Luxa.
With many expressions of awe, and with much denunciation
of her niece’s iniquity, she told to Lotta what
she had heard, speaking of Nina as one who was utterly
lost and abandoned. Lotta, however, did not express
so much indignant surprise as her mistress expected,
though she was willing enough to join in abuse against
“That comes of letting girls
go about just as they please among the men,”
“But a Jew!” said Madame
Zamenoy. “If it had been any kind of a
Christian, I could understand it.”
“Trendellsohn has such a hold
upon her, and upon her father,” said Lotta.
“But a Jew! She has been to confession,
has she not?”
“Regularly,” said Lotta Luxa.
“Dear, dear! what a false hypocrite! And
“Four mornings a-week always.”
“And to tell me, after it all,
that she means to marry a Jew. Of course, Lotta,
we must prevent it.”
“But how? Her father will do whatever she
“Father Jerome would do anything for me.”
“Father Jerome can do little
or nothing if she has the bit between her teeth,”
said Lotta. “She is as obstinate as a mule
when she pleases. She is not like other girls.
You cannot frighten her out of anything.”
“I’ll try, at least,” said Madame
“Yes, we can try,” said Lotta.
“Would not the mayor help us that
is, if we were driven to go to that?”
“I doubt if he could do anything.
He would be afraid to use a high hand. He is
Bohemian. The head of the police might do something,
if we could get at him.”
“She might be taken away.”
“Where could they take her?”
asked Lotta. “No; they could not take her
“Not into a convent out of the way
somewhere in Italy?”
“Oh, heaven, no! They are
afraid of that sort of thing now. All Prague
would know of it, and would talk; and the Jews would
be stronger than the priests; and the English people
would hear of it, and there would be the very mischief.”
“The times have come to be very bad, Lotta.”
“That’s as may be,”
said Lotta as though she had her doubts upon the subject.
“That’s as may be. But it isn’t
easy to put a young woman away now without her will.
Things have changed partly for the worse,
perhaps, and partly for the better. Things are
changing every day. My wonder is that he should
wish to many her.”
“The men think her very pretty.
Ziska is mad about her,” said Madame Zamenoy.
“But Ziska is a calf to Anton
Trendellsohn. Anton Trendellsohn has cut his
wise teeth. Like them all, he loves his money;
and she has not got a kreutzer.”
“But he has promised to marry
her. You may be sure of that.”
“Very likely. A man always
promises that when he wants a girl to be kind to him.
But why should he stick to it? What can he get
by marrying Nina a penniless girl, with
a pauper for a father? The Trendellsohns have
squeezed that sponge dry already.”
This was a new light to Madame Zamenoy,
and one that was not altogether unpleasant to her
eyes. That her niece should have promised herself
to a Jew was dreadful, and that her niece should be
afterwards jilted by the Jew was a poor remedy.
But still it was a remedy, and therefore she listened.
“If nothing else can be done,
we could perhaps put him against it,” said Lotta
Madame Zamenoy on that occasion said
but little more, but she agreed with her servant that
it would be better to resort to any means than to
submit to the degradation of an alliance with the Jew.