“Sey hoben gestorben far Freiheit. Sey hoben—”
“There! That’s the papers!”
To a succession of quick knocks, she flew to the door, returning with the folded evening editions under her arm.
“Now,” she cried, unfolding and inserting the first of them into the quivering hands—“now, a shawl over my little mama’s knees and we’re fixed!”
With a series of rapid movements she flung open one of the black-cashmere shawls across the bed, folding it back into a triangle. Beside the table, bare except for the formal, unthumbed Bible, Mrs. Horowitz rattled out a paper, her near-sighted eyes traveling back and forth across the page.
Music from the ferned-in orchestra came in drifts, faint, not so faint. From somewhere, then immediately from everywhere—beyond, below, without, the fast shouts of newsboys mingling.
Suddenly and of her own volition, and with a cry that shot up through the room, rending it like a gash, Mrs. Horowitz, who moved by inches, sprang to her supreme height, her arms, the crooks forced out, flung up.
“My darlings—what died—for it! My darlings what died for it! My darlings—Aylorff, my husband!” There was a wail rose up off her words, like the smoke of incense curling, circling around her. “My darlings what died to make free!”
“Mama! Darling! Mama! Mr. Haas! Help! Mama! My God!”
“Aylorff—my husband—I paid with my blood to make free—my blood—. My son—my—own—” Immovable there, her arms flung up and tears so heavy that they rolled whole from her face down to the black grenadine, she was as sonorous as the tragic meter of an Alexandrine line; she was like Ruth, ancestress of heroes and progenitor of kings.
“My boy—my own! They died for it! Mein Mann! Mein Suehn!”
On her knees, frantic to press her down once more into the chair, terrified at the rigid immobility of the upright figure, Mrs. Coblenz paused then, too, her clasp falling away, and leaned forward to the open sheet of the newspaper, its black head-lines facing her:
BANS DOWN 100,000 SIBERIAN PRISONERS LIBERATED
In her ears a ringing silence, as if a great steel disk had clattered down into the depths of her consciousness. There on her knees, trembling seized her, and she hugged herself against it, leaning forward to corroborate her gaze.
“Mama! Mama! My God! Mama!”
“Home, Shila; home! My husband who died for it—Aylorff! Home now, quick! My wreaths! My wreaths!”
“O my God! Mama!”
“Yes, yes, darling; your wreaths. Let—let me think. Freedom! O my God! help me to find a way! O my God!”