“No, no, don’t talk like that,” said Esther. “Think of your parents—and Addle.”
WHAT THE YEARS BROUGHT.
The next morning Esther sat in Mrs. Henry Goldsmith’s boudoir, filling up some invitation forms for her patroness, who often took advantage of her literary talent in this fashion. Mrs. Goldsmith herself lay back languidly upon a great easy-chair before an asbestos fire and turned over the leaves of the new number of the Acadaeum. Suddenly she uttered a little exclamation.
“What is it?” said Esther.
“They’ve got a review here of that Jewish novel.”
“Have they?” said Esther, glancing up eagerly. “I’d given up looking for it.”
“You seem very interested in it,” said Mrs. Goldsmith, with a little surprise.
“Yes, I—I wanted to know what they said about it,” explained Esther quickly; “one hears so many worthless opinions.”
“Well, I’m glad to see we were all right about it,” said Mrs. Goldsmith, whose eye had been running down the column. “Listen here. ’It is a disagreeable book at best; what might have been a powerful tragedy being disfigured by clumsy workmanship and sordid superfluous detail. The exaggerated unhealthy pessimism, which the very young mistake for insight, pervades the work and there are some spiteful touches of observation which seem to point to a woman’s hand. Some of the minor personages have the air of being sketched from life. The novel can scarcely be acceptable to the writer’s circle. Readers, however, in search of the unusual will find new ground broken in this immature study of Jewish life.’”
“There, Esther, isn’t that just what I’ve been saying in other words?”
“It’s hardly worth bothering about the book now,” said Esther in low tones, “it’s such a long time ago now since it came out. I don’t know what’s the good of reviewing it now. These literary papers always seem so cold and cruel to unknown writers.”
“Cruel, it isn’t half what he deserves,” said Mrs. Goldsmith, “or ought I to say she? Do you think there’s anything, Esther, in that idea of its being a woman?”
“Really, dear, I’m sick to death of that book,” said Esther. “These reviewers always try to be very clever and to see through brick walls. What does it matter if it’s a he, or a she?”
“It doesn’t matter, but it makes it more disgraceful, if it’s a woman. A woman has no business to know the seamy side of human nature.”
At this instant, a domestic knocked and announced that Mr. Leonard James had called to see Miss Ansell. Annoyance, surprise and relief struggled to express themselves on Esther’s face.
“Is the gentleman waiting to see me?” she said.
“Yes, miss, he’s in the hall.”
Esther turned to Mrs. Goldsmith. “It’s a young man I came across unexpectedly last night at the theatre. He’s the son of Reb Shemuel, of whom you may have heard. I haven’t met him since we were boy and girl together. He asked permission to call, but I didn’t expect him so soon.”