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
‘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
‘I am so shy—there are few so forward
‘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 naïve 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
‘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,’
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,
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
‘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
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
‘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 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
‘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?
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
‘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
’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
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’
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
‘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
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
‘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
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
The grandmother took snuff uneasily.
’Yes, it is going to the Land of Israel,’
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
‘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
‘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?’
‘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
‘Married!’ echoed the artist angrily.
‘The witnesses are coming to
my lodging this afternoon,’ Yossel continued
calmly. ‘Dovidel and Yitzkoly from the Beth
‘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
’Asked? Prayed, as one
prays upon Atonement Day. For two years I prayed
to him, but he always refused.’
‘Then why?’ began the
‘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
‘Heaven has spared her the pain
of knowing him,’ ambiguously interpolated her
‘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?’