Children of the Ghetto eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 573 pages of information about Children of the Ghetto.

There was no third act.  It was the poet’s first—­and last—­appearance on any stage.

CHAPTER XXII.

“FOR AULD LANG SYNE, MY DEAR.”

The learned say that Passover was a Spring festival even before it was associated with the Redemption from Egypt, but there is not much Nature to worship in the Ghetto and the historical elements of the Festival swamp all the others.  Passover still remains the most picturesque of the “Three Festivals” with its entire transmogrification of things culinary, its thorough taboo of leaven.  The audacious archaeologist of the thirtieth century may trace back the origin of the festival to the Spring Cleaning, the annual revel of the English housewife, for it is now that the Ghetto whitewashes itself and scrubs itself and paints itself and pranks itself and purifies its pans in a baptism of fire.  Now, too, the publican gets unto himself a white sheet and suspends it at his door and proclaims that he sells Kosher rum by permission of the Chief Rabbi.  Now the confectioner exchanges his “stuffed monkeys,” and his bolas and his jam-puffs, and his cheese-cakes for unleavened “palavas,” and worsted balls and almond cakes.  Time was when the Passover dietary was restricted to fruit and meat and vegetables, but year by year the circle is expanding, and it should not be beyond the reach of ingenuity to make bread itself Passoverian.  It is now that the pious shopkeeper whose store is tainted with leaven sells his business to a friendly Christian, buying it back at the conclusion of the festival.  Now the Shalotten Shammos is busy from morning to night filling up charity-forms, artistically multiplying the poor man’s children and dividing his rooms.  Now is holocaust made of a people’s bread-crumbs, and now is the national salutation changed to “How do the Motsos agree with you?” half of the race growing facetious, and the other half finical over the spotted Passover cakes.

It was on the evening preceding the opening of Passover that Esther Ansell set forth to purchase a shilling’s worth of fish in Petticoat Lane, involuntarily storing up in her mind vivid impressions of the bustling scene.  It is one of the compensations of poverty that it allows no time for mourning.  Daily duty is the poor man’s nepenthe.

Esther and her father were the only two members of the family upon whom the death of Benjamin made a deep impression.  He had been so long away from home that he was the merest shadow to the rest.  But Moses bore the loss with resignation, his emotions discharging themselves in the daily Kaddish.  Blent with his personal grief was a sorrow for the commentaries lost to Hebrew literature by his boy’s premature transference to Paradise.  Esther’s grief was more bitter and defiant.  All the children were delicate, but it was the first time death had taken one.  The meaningless tragedy of Benjamin’s

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Project Gutenberg
Children of the Ghetto from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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