“What’s the use of always complaining?” said Hannah, impatiently. “You know we must keep a Shiksah to attend to the Shabbos fire. The women or the little boys you pick up in the street are so unsatisfactory. When you call in a little barefoot street Arab and ask him to poke the fire, he looks at you as if you must be an imbecile not to be able to do it yourself. And then you can’t always get hold of one.”
The Sabbath fire was one of the great difficulties of the Ghetto. The Rabbis had modified the Biblical prohibition against having any fire whatever, and allowed it to be kindled by non-Jews. Poor women, frequently Irish, and known as Shabbos-goyahs or fire-goyahs, acted as stokers to the Ghetto at twopence a hearth. No Jew ever touched a match or a candle or burnt a piece of paper, or even opened a letter. The Goyah, which is literally heathen female, did everything required on the Sabbath. His grandmother once called Solomon Ansell a Sabbath-female merely for fingering the shovel when there was nothing in the grate.
The Reb liked his fire. When it sank on the Sabbath he could not give orders to the Shiksah to replenish it, but he would rub his hands and remark casually (in her hearing), “Ah, how cold it is!”
“Yes,” he said now, “I always freeze on Shabbos when thou hast dismissed thy Shiksah. Thou makest me catch one cold a month.”
“I make thee catch cold!” said the Rebbitzin. “When thou comest through the air of winter in thy shirt-sleeves! Thou’lt fall back upon me for poultices and mustard plasters. And then thou expectest me to have enough money to pay a Shiksah into the bargain! If I have any more of thy Schnorrers coming here I shall bundle them out neck and crop.”
This was the moment selected by Fate and Melchitsedek Pinchas for the latter’s entry.
THE NEO-HEBREW POET.
He came through the open street door, knocked perfunctorily at the door of the room, opened it and then kissed the Mezuzah outside the door. Then he advanced, snatched the Rebbitzin’s hand away from the handle of the coffee-pot and kissed it with equal devotion. He then seized upon Hannah’s hand and pressed his grimy lips to that, murmuring in German:
“Thou lookest so charming this morning, like the roses of Carmel.” Next he bent down and pressed his lips to the Reb’s coat-tail. Finally he said: “Good morning, sir,” to Levi, who replied very affably, “Good morning, Mr. Pinchas,” “Peace be unto you, Pinchas,” said the Reb. “I did not see you in Shool this morning, though it was the New Moon.”