For two days after this Nina heard
nothing from the Jews’ quarter, and in her terrible
distress her heart almost became softened towards the
man who had so deeply offended her. She began
to tell herself, in the weariness of her sorrow, that
men were different from women, and, of their nature,
more suspicious; that no woman had a right to expect
every virtue in her lover, and that no woman had less
of such right than she herself, who had so little
to give in return for all that Anton proposed to bestow
upon her. She began to think that she could forgive
him, even for his suspicion, if he would only come
to be forgiven. But he came not, and it was only
too plain to her that she could not be the first to
go to him after what had passed between them.
And then there fell another crushing sorrow upon her.
Her father was ill so ill that he was like
to die. The doctor came to him some
son of Galen who had known the merchant in his prosperity and,
with kind assurances, told Nina that her father, though
he could pay nothing, should have whatever assistance
medical attention could give him; but he said, at
the same time, that medical attention could give no
aid that would be of permanent service. The light
had burned down in the socket, and must go out.
The doctor took Nina by the hand, and put his own
hand upon her soft tresses, and spoke kind words to
console her. And then he said that the sick man
ought to take a few glasses of wine every day; and
as he was going away, turned back again, and promised
to send the wine from his own house. Nina thanked
him, and plucked up something of her old spirit during
his presence, and spoke to him as though she had no
other care than that of her father’s health;
but as soon as the doctor was gone she thought again
of her Jew lover. That her father should die
was a great grief. But when she should be alone
in the old house, with the corpse lying on the bed,
would Anton Trendellsohn come to her then?
He did not come to her now, though
he knew of her father’s illness. She sent
Souchey to the Jews’ quarter to tell the sad
news not to him, but to old Trendellsohn.
“For the sake of the property it is right that
he should know,” Nina said to herself, excusing
to herself on this plea her weakness in sending any
message to the house of Anton Trendellsohn till he
should have come and asked her pardon. But even
after this he came not. She listened to every
footstep that entered the courtyard. She could
not keep herself from going to the window, and from
looking into the square. Surely now, in her deep
sorrow, in her solitude, he would come to her.
He would come and say one word that he did
trust her, that he would trust her! But no; he
came not at all; and the hours of the day and the
night followed slowly and surely upon each other, as
she sat by her father’s bed watching the last
quiver of the light in the socket.
But though Trendellsohn did not come
himself, there came to her a messenger from the Jew’s
house a messenger from the Jew’s house,
but not a messenger from Anton Trendellsohn.
“Here is a girl from the Jew,”
said Souchey, whispering into her ear as she sat at
her father’s bedside “one of
themselves. Shall I tell her to go away, because
he is so ill?” And Souchey pointed to his master’s
head on the pillow. “She has got a basket,
but she can leave that.”
Nina, however, was by no means inclined
to send the Jewess away, rightly guessing that the
stranger was her friend Ruth. “Stop here,
Souchey, and I will go to her,” Nina said.
“Do not leave him till I return. I will
not be long.” She would not have let a dog
go without a word that had come from Anton’s
house or from Anton’s presence. Perhaps
he had written to her. If there were but a line
to say, “Pardon me; I was wrong,” everything
might yet be right. But Ruth Jacobi was the bearer
of no note from Anton, nor indeed had she come on her
present message with her uncle’s knowledge.
She had put a heavy basket on the table, and now,
running forward, took Nina by the hands, and kissed
“We have been so sorry, all
of us, to hear of your father’s illness,”
“Father is very ill,” said Nina.
“He is dying.”
“Nay, Nina; it may be that he
is not dying. Life and death both are in the
hands of God.”
“Yes; it is in God’s hands
of course; but the doctor says that he will die.”
“The doctors have no right to
speak in that way,” said Ruth, “for how
can they know God’s pleasure? It may be
that he will recover.”
“Yes; it may be,” said
Nina. “It is good of you to come to me,
Ruth. I am so glad you have come. Have you
any any message?” If he
would only ask to be forgiven through Ruth, or even
if he had sent a word that might be taken to show
that he wished to be forgiven, it should suffice.
“I have brought a
few things in a basket,” said Ruth, almost apologetically.
Then Nina lifted the basket.
“You did not surely carry this through the streets?”
“I had Shadrach, our boy, with
me. He carried it. It is not from me, exactly;
though I have been so glad to come with it.”
“And who sent it?” said
Nina, quickly, with her fingers trembling on its lid.
If Anton had thought to send anything to her, that
anything should suffice.
“It was Rebecca Loth who thought
of it, and who asked me to come,” said Ruth.
Then Nina drew back her fingers as
though they were burned, and walked away from the
table with quick angry steps. “Why should
Rebecca Loth send anything to me?” she said.
“What is there in the basket?”
“She has written a little line.
It is at the top. But she has asked me to say ”
“What has she asked you to say?
Why should she say anything to me?”
“Nay, Nina; she is very good, and she loves
“I do not want her love.”
“I am to say to you that she
has heard of your distress, and she hopes that a girl
like you will let a girl like her do what she can to
“She cannot comfort me.”
“She bade me say that if she
were ill or in sorrow, there is no hand from which
she would so gladly take comfort as from yours for
the sake, she said, of a mutual friend.”
“I have no friend,” said Nina.
“Oh, Nina, am not I your friend? Do not
I love you?”
“I do not know. If you
do love me now, you must cease to love me. You
are a Jewess, and I am a Christian, and we must live
apart. You, at least, must live. I wish
you would tell the boy that he may take back the basket.”
“There are things in it for
your father, Nina; and, Nina, surely you will read
Then Ruth went to the basket, and
from the top she took out Rebecca’s letter,
and gave it to Nina, and Nina read it. It was
I shall always regard you as very dear
to me, because our hearts have been turned in
the same way. It may not be perhaps that we shall
know each other much at first; but I hope the days
may come when we shall be much older than we are
now, and that then we may meet and be able to
talk of what has passed without pain. I do not
know why a Jewess and a Christian woman should
not be friends.
I have sent a few things which may perhaps
be of comfort to your father. In pity to
me do not refuse them. They are such as one woman
should send to another. And I have added a little
trifle for your own use. At the present moment
you are poor as to money, though so rich in the
gifts which make men love. On my knees before
you I ask you to accept from my hand what I send,
and to think of me as one who would serve you
in more things if it were possible. Yours,
if you will let me, affectionately, REBECCA.
I see when I look at them
that the shoes will be too big.
She stood for a while apart from Ruth,
with the open note in her hand, thinking whether or
no she would accept the gifts which had been sent.
The words which Rebecca had written had softened her
heart, especially those in which the Jewess had spoken
openly to her of her poverty. “At the present
moment you are poor as to money,” the girl had
said, and had said it as though such poverty were,
after all, but a small thing in their relative positions
one to another. That Nina should be loved, and
Rebecca not loved, was a much greater thing. For
her father’s sake she would take the things
sent and for Rebecca’s sake.
She would take even the shoes, which she wanted so
sorely. She remembered well, as she read the
last word, how, when Rebecca had been with her, she
herself had pointed to the poor broken slippers which
she wore, not meaning to excite such compassion as
had now been shown. Yes, she would accept it
all as one woman should take such things
“You will not make Shadrach
carry them back?” said Ruth, imploring her.
“But he has he sent
nothing? not a word?” She would have
thought herself to be utterly incapable, before Ruth
had come, of showing so much weakness; but her reserve
gave way as she admitted in her own heart the kindness
of Rebecca, and she became conquered and humbled.
She was so terribly in want of his love at this moment!
“And has he sent no word of a message to me?”
“I did not tell him that I was coming.”
“But he knows he knows that father
is so ill.”
“Yes; I suppose he has heard
that, because Souchey came to the house. But
he has been out of temper with us all, and unhappy,
for some days past. I know that he is unhappy
when he is so harsh with us.”
“And what has made him unhappy?
“Nay, I cannot tell you that.
I thought perhaps it was because you did not come
to him. You used to come and see us at our house.”
Dear Ruth! Dearest Ruth, for
saying such dear words! She had done more than
Rebecca by the sweetness of the suggestion. If
it were really the case that he were unhappy because
they had parted from each other in anger, no further
forgiveness would be necessary.
“But how can I come, Ruth?”
she said. “It is he that should come to
“You used to come.”
“Ah, yes. I came first
with messages from father, and then because I loved
to hear him talk to me. I do not mind telling
you, Ruth, now. And then I came because because
he said I was to be his wife. I thought that
if I was to be his wife it could not be wrong that
I should go to his father’s house. But
now that so many people know it that they
talk about it so much I cannot go to him
“But you are not ashamed of
being engaged to him because he is a Jew?”
“No,” said Nina, raising
herself to her full height; “I am not ashamed
of him. I am proud of him. To my thinking
there is no man like him. Compare him and Ziska,
and Ziska becomes hardly a man at all. I am very
proud to think that he has chosen me.”
“That is well spoken, and I shall tell him.”
“No, you must not tell him,
Ruth. Remember that I talk to you as a friend,
and not as a child.”
“But I will tell him, because
then his brow will become smooth, and he will be happy.
He likes to think that people know him to be clever;
and he will be glad to be told that you understand
“I think him greater and better
than all men; but, Ruth, you must not tell him what
I say not now, at least for a
“What reason, Nina?”
“Well; I will tell you, though
I would not tell anyone else in the world. When
we parted last I was angry with him very
angry with him.”
“He had been scolding you, perhaps?”
“I should not mind that not in the
least. He has a right to scold me.”
“He has a right to scold me, I suppose; but
I mind it very much.”
“But he has no right to distrust
me, Ruth. I wish he could see my heart and all
my mind, and know every thought in my breast, and then
he would feel that he could trust me. I would
not deceive him by a word or a look for all the world.
He does not know how true I am to him, and that kills
“I will tell him everything.”
“No, Ruth; tell him nothing.
If he cannot find it out without being told, telling
will do no good. If you thought a person was a
thief, would you change your mind because the person
told you he was honest? He must find it out for
himself if he is ever to know it.”
When Ruth was gone, Nina knew that
she had been comforted. To have spoken about
her lover was in itself much; and to have spoken about
him as she had done seemed almost to have brought
him once more near to her. Ruth had declared
that Anton was sad, and had suggested to Nina that
the cause of his sadness was the same as her own.
There could not but be comfort in this. If he
really wished to see her, would he not come over to
the Kleinseite? There could be no reason why he
should not visit the girl he intended to marry, and
whom he was longing to see. Of course he had
business which must occupy his time. He could
not give up every moment to thoughts of love, as she
could do. She told herself all this, and once
more endeavoured to be comforted.
And then she unpacked the basket.
There were fresh eggs, and a quantity of jelly, and
some soup in a jug ready to be made hot, and such
delicacies as invalids will eat when their appetites
will serve for nothing else. And Nina, as she
took these things out, thought only of her father.
She took them as coming for him altogether, without
any reference to her own use. But at the bottom
of the basket there were stockings, and a handkerchief
or two, and a petticoat, and a pair of shoes.
Should she throw them out among the ashes behind the
kitchen, or should she press them to her bosom as
treasures to be loved as long as a single thread of
them might hang together? She had taken such alms
before from her aunt Sophie taking
them in bitterness of spirit, and wearing them as
though they were made of sackcloth, very sore to the
skin. The acceptance of such things, even from
her aunt, had been gall to her; but, in the old days,
no idea of refusing them had come to her. Of
course she must submit herself to her aunt’s
charity, because of her father’s poverty.
And garments had come to her which were old and worn,
bearing unmistakable signs of Lotta’s coarse
but reparative energies raiment against
which her feminine niceness would have rebelled, had
it been possible for her, in her misfortunes, to indulge
her feminine niceness.
But there was a sweet scent of last
summer’s roses on the things which now lay in
her lap, and each article was of the best; and, though
each had been worn, they were all such as one girl
would lend to another who was her dearest friend who
was to be made welcome to the wardrobe as though it
were her own. There was something of the tenderness
of love in the very folding, and respect as well as
friendship in the care of the packing. Her aunt’s
left-off clothes had come to her in a big roll, fastened
with a corking-pin. But Rebecca, with delicate
fingers, had made each article of her tribute to look
pretty, as though for the dress of such a one as Nina
prettiness and care must always be needed. It
was not possible for her to refuse a present sent to
her with so many signs of tenderness.
And then she tried on the shoes.
Of all the things she needed these were the most necessary.
At her first glance she thought that they were new;
but she perceived that they had been worn, and she
liked them the better on that account. She put
her feet into them and found that they were in truth
a little too large for her. And this, even this,
tended in some sort to gratify her feelings and soothe
the asperity of her grief. “It is only
a quarter of a size,” she said to herself, as
she held up her dress that she might look at her feet.
And thus she resolved that she would accept her rival’s
On the following morning the priest
came that Father Jerome whom she had known
as a child, and from whom she had been unable to obtain
ghostly comfort since she had come in contact with
the Jew. Her aunt and her father, Souchey and
Lotta Luxa, had all threatened her with Father Jerome;
and when it had become manifest to her that it would
be necessary that the priest should visit her father
in his extremity, she had at first thought that it
would be well for her to hide herself. But the
cowardice of this had appeared to her to be mean, and
she had resolved that she would meet her old friend
at her father’s bedside. After all, what
would his bitterest words be to her after such words
as she had endured from her lover?
Father Jerome came, and she received
him in the parlour. She received him with downcast
eyes and a demeanour of humility, though she was resolved
to flare up against him if he should attack her too
cruelly. But the man was as mild to her and as
kind as ever he had been in her childhood, when he
would kiss her, and call her his little nun, and tell
her that if she would be a good girl she should always
have a white dress and roses at the festival of St
Nicholas. He put his hand on her head and blessed
her, and did not seem to have any abhorrence of her
because she was going to marry a Jew. And yet
he knew it.
He asked a few words as to her father,
who was indeed better on this morning than he had
been for the last few days, and then he passed on
into the sick man’s room. And there, after
a few faintest words of confession from the sick man,
Nina knelt by her father’s bedside, while the
priest prayed for them both, and forgave the sinner
his sins, and prepared him for his further journey
with such preparation as the extreme unction of his
Church would afford.
When the prayer and the ceremony were
over, and the viaticum had been duly administered,
the priest returned into the parlour, and Nina followed
him. “He is stronger than I had expected
to find him,” said Father Jerome.
“He has rallied a little, Father,
because you were coming. You may be sure that
he is very ill.”
“I know that he is very ill,
but I think that he may still last some days.
Should it be so, I will come again.” After
that Nina thought that the priest would have gone;
but he paused for a few moments as though hesitating,
and then spoke again, putting down his hat, which he
had taken up. “But what is all this that
I hear about you, Nina?”
“All what?” said Nina, blushing.
“They tell me that you have
engaged yourself to marry Anton Trendellsohn, the
She stood before him confessing her
guilt by her silence. “Is it true, Nina?”
“It is true.”
“I am very sorry for that very
sorry. Could you not bring yourself to love some
Christian youth, rather than a Jew? Would it not
be better, do you think, to do so for your
“It is too late now, Father.”
“Too late! No; it can never be too late
to repent of evil.”
“But why should it be evil, Father Jerome?
It is permitted; is it not?”
“The law permits it, certainly.”
“And when I am a Jew’s wife, may I not
go to mass?”
“Yes; you may go to mass. Who can hinder
“And if I pray devoutly, will not the saints
“It is not for me to limit their
mercy. I think that they will hear all prayers
that are addressed to them with faith and humility.”
“And you, Father, will you not
give me absolution if I am a Jew’s wife?”
“I would ten times sooner give
it you as the wife of a Christian, Nina. My absolution
would be nothing to you, Nina, if the while you had
a deep sin upon your conscience.” Then
the priest went, being unwilling to endure further
questioning, and Nina seated herself in a glow of
triumph. And this was the worst that she would
have to endure from the Church after all her aunt’s
threatenings after Lotta’s bitter
words, and the reproaches of all around her!
Father Jerome even Father Jerome himself,
who was known to be the strictest priest on that side
of the river in opposing the iniquities of his flock did
not take upon himself to say that her case as a Christian
would be hopeless, were she to marry the Jew!
After that she went to the drawer in her bedroom, and
restored the picture of the Virgin to its place.