“Alas, woe is me!
How wretched to be
Driven away and banished,
Yet so young, from thee.”
“And Joseph’s mother called to him from the grave: Be comforted, my son, a great future shall be thine.”
“The end is near,” old Four-Eyes whispered to the father in jargon. Moses trembled from head to foot. “My poor lamb! My poor Benjamin,” he wailed. “I thought thou wouldst say Kaddish after me, not I for thee.” Then he began to recite quietly the Hebrew prayers. The hat he should have removed was appropriate enough now.
Benjamin sat up excitedly in bed: “There’s mother, Esther!” he cried in English. “Coming back with my coat. But what’s the use of it now?”
His head fell back again. Presently a look of yearning came over the face so full of boyish beauty. “Esther,” he said. “Wouldn’t you like to be in the green country to-day? Look how the sun shines.”
It shone, indeed, with deceptive warmth, bathing in gold the green country that stretched beyond, and dazzling the eyes of the dying boy. The birds twittered outside the window. “Esther!” he said, wistfully, “do you think there’ll be another funeral soon?”.
The matron burst into tears and turned away.
“Benjamin,” cried the father, frantically, thinking the end had come, “say the Shemang.”
The boy stared at him, a clearer look in his eyes.
“Say the Shemang!” said Moses peremptorily. The word Shemang, the old authoritative tone, penetrated the consciousness of the dying boy.
“Yes, father, I was just going to,” he grumbled, submissively.
They repeated the last declaration of the dying Israelite together. It was in Hebrew. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Both understood that.
Benjamin lingered on a few more minutes, and died in a painless torpor.
“He is dead,” said the doctor.
“Blessed be the true Judge,” said Moses. He rent his coat, and closed the staring eyes. Then he went to the toilet table and turned the looking-glass to the wall, and opened the window and emptied the jug of water upon the green sunlit grass.
THE JARGON PLAYERS.
“No, don’t stop me, Pinchas,” said Gabriel Hamburg. “I’m packing up, and I shall spend my Passover in Stockholm. The Chief Rabbi there has discovered a manuscript which I am anxious to see, and as I have saved up a little money I shall speed thither.”
“Ah, he pays well, that boy-fool, Raphael Leon,” said Pinchas, emitting a lazy ring of smoke.
“What do you mean?” cried Gabriel, flushing angrily. “Do you mean, perhaps, that you have been getting money out of him?”
“Precisely. That is what I do mean,” said the poet naively. “What else?”
“Well, don’t let me hear you call him a fool. He is one to send you money, but then it is for others to call him so. That boy will be a great man in Israel. The son of rich English Jews—a Harrow-boy, yet he already writes Hebrew almost grammatically.”