Naphtali retired discomfited. But he made up his mind not to go without some compensation. He resolved that during the progress of the wedding procession conducting the bridegroom to the chamber of the bride, he would be the man to snatch off Bear’s new hat. Let the rest of the riotous escort essay to snatch whatever other article of the bridegroom’s attire they would, the hat was the easiest to dislodge, and he, Naphtali, would straightway reimburse himself partially with that. But the instant the procession formed itself, behold the shifty bridegroom forthwith removed his hat, and held it tightly under his arm.
A storm of protestations burst forth at his daring departure from hymeneal tradition.
“Nay, nay, put it on,” arose from every mouth.
But Bear closed his and marched mutely on.
“Heathen,” cried the Rabbi. “Put on your hat.”
The attempt to enforce the religious sanction failed too. Bear had spent several gulden upon his head-gear, and could not see the joke. He plodded towards his blushing Chayah through a tempest of disapprobation.
Throughout life Bear Belcovitch retained the contrariety of character that marked his matrimonial beginnings. He hated to part with money; he put off paying bills to the last moment, and he would even beseech his “hands” to wait a day or two longer for their wages. He liked to feel that he had all that money in his possession. Yet “at home,” in Poland, he had always lent money to the officers and gentry, when they ran temporarily short at cards. They would knock him up in the middle of the night to obtain the means of going on with the game. And in England he never refused to become surety for a loan when any of his poor friends begged the favor of him. These loans ran from three to five pounds, but whatever the amount, they were very rarely paid. The loan offices came down upon him for the money. He paid it without a murmur, shaking his head compassionately over the poor ne’er do wells, and perhaps not without a compensating consciousness of superior practicality.
Only, if the borrower had neglected to treat him to a glass of rum to clench his signing as surety, the shake of Bear’s head would become more reproachful than sympathetic, and he would mutter bitterly: “Five pounds and not even a drink for the money.” The jewelry he generously lavished on his womankind was in essence a mere channel of investment for his savings, avoiding the risks of a banking-account and aggregating his wealth in a portable shape, in obedience to an instinct generated by centuries of insecurity. The interest on the sums thus invested was the gratification of the other oriental instinct for gaudiness.