Again the terrible silence.
“Ah well,” David resumed, his bitterness welling forth in irony. “And so the first sacrifice the priest is called upon to make is that of your daughter. But I won’t, Reb Shemuel, mark my words; I won’t, not till she offers her own throat to the knife. If she and I are parted, on you and you alone the guilt must rest. You will have to perform the sacrifice.”
“What God wishes me to do I will do,” said the old man in a broken voice. “What is it to that which our ancestors suffered for the glory of the Name?”
“Yes, but it seems you suffer by proxy,” retorted David, savagely.
“My God! Do you think I would not die to make Hannah happy?” faltered the old man. “But God has laid the burden on her—and I can only help her to bear it. And now, sir, I must beg you to go. You do but distress my child.”
“What say you, Hannah? Do you wish me to go?”
“Yes—What is the use—now?” breathed Hannah through white quivering lips.
“My child!” said the old man pitifully, while he strained her to his breast.
“All right!” said David in strange harsh tones, scarcely recognizable as his. “I see you are your father’s daughter.”
He took his hat and turned his back upon the tragic embrace.
“David!” She called his name in an agonized hoarse voice. She held her arms towards him. He did not turn round.
“David!” Her voice rose to a shriek. “You will not leave me?”
He faced her exultant.
“Ah, you will come with me. You will be my wife.”
“No—no—not now, not now. I cannot answer you now. Let me think—good-bye, dearest, good-bye.” She burst out weeping. David took her in his arms and kissed her passionately. Then he went out hurriedly.
Hannah wept on—her father holding her hand in piteous silence.
“Oh, it is cruel, your religion,” she sobbed. “Cruel, cruel!”
“Hannah! Shemuel! Where are you?” suddenly came the excited voice of Simcha from the passage. “Come and look at the lovely fowls I’ve bought—and such Metsiahs. They’re worth double. Oh, what a beautiful Yomtov we shall have!”
“Prosaic miles of street
stretch all around,
Astir with restless, hurried life, and spanned
By arches that with thund’rous trains resound,
And throbbing wires that galvanize the land;
Gin palaces in tawdry splendor stand;
The newsboys shriek of mangled bodies found;
The last burlesque is playing in the Strand—
In modern prose, all poetry seems drowned.
Yet in ten thousand homes this April night
An ancient people celebrates its birth
To Freedom, with a reverential mirth,
With customs quaint and many a hoary rite,
Waiting until, its tarnished glories bright,
Its God shall be the God of all the Earth.”