Ghetto Tragedies

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GHETTO TRAGEDIES


The MM Co.


Ghetto Tragedies

BY

I. ZANGWILL

AUTHOR OF “CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO,”
“THE KING OF SCHNORRERS,” ETC.

Philadelphia
The Jewish Publication Society of America


Copyright, 1899,
By I. ZANGWILL

Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.


PREFACE

The “Ghetto Tragedies” collected in a little volume in 1893 have been so submerged in the present collection that I have relegated the original name to the sub-title. “Satan Mekatrig” was written in 1889, “Bethulah” this year. Anyone who should wish to measure the progress or decay of my imagination during the ten years has therefore materials to hand. “Noah’s Ark” stands on the firmer Ararat of history, my invention being confined to the figure of Peloni (the Hebrew for “nobody”). The other stories have also a basis in life. But neither in pathos nor heroic stimulation can they vie with the literal tragedy with which the whole book is in a sense involved. Mrs. N.S. Joseph, the great-hearted lady to whom “Ghetto Tragedies” was inscribed, herself walked in darkness, yet was not dismayed: in the prime of life she went down into the valley of the shadow, with no word save of consideration for others. I trust the new stories would not have been disapproved by my friend, to whose memory they must now, alas! be dedicated.

I.Z.

October, 1899.



CONTENTS


I

“THEY THAT WALK IN DARKNESS”


I

“THEY THAT WALK IN DARKNESS”

I

It was not till she had fasted every Monday and Thursday for a twelvemonth, that Zillah’s long yearning for a child was gratified. She gave birth—O more than fair-dealing God!—to a boy.

Jossel, who had years ago abandoned the hope of an heir to pray for his soul, was as delighted as he was astonished. His wife had kept him in ignorance of the fasts by which she was appealing to Heaven; and when of a Monday or Thursday evening on his return from his boot factory in Bethnal Green, he had sat down to his dinner in Dalston, no suspicion had crossed his mind that it was Zillah’s breakfast. He himself was a prosaic person, incapable of imagining such spontaneities of religion, though he kept every fast which it behoves an orthodox Jew to endure who makes no speciality of sainthood. There was a touch of the fantastic in Zillah’s character which he had only appreciated in its manifestation as girlish liveliness, and which Zillah knew would find no response from him in its religious expression.

Not that her spiritual innovations were original inventions. From some pious old crone, after whom (as she could read Hebrew) a cluster of neighbouring dames repeated what they could catch of the New Year prayers in the women’s synagogue, Zillah had learnt that certain holy men were accustomed to afflict their souls on Mondays and Thursdays. From her unsuspecting husband himself she had further elicited that these days were marked out from the ordinary, even for the man of the world, by a special prayer dubbed “the long ‘He being merciful.'” Surely on Mondays and Thursdays, then, He would indeed be merciful. To make sure of His good-will she continued to be unmerciful to herself long after it became certain that her prayer had been granted.

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