It was of no good discussing it with his wife. Those two had rather halved their joys than their sorrows. They had been married forty years and had never had an intimate moment. Their marriage had been a matter of contract. Forty years ago, in Poland, Mendel Hyams had awoke one morning to find a face he had never seen before on the pillow beside his. Not even on the wedding-day had he been allowed a glimpse of his bride’s countenance. That was the custom of the country and the time. Beenah bore her husband four children, of whom the elder two died; but the marriage did not beget affection, often the inverse offspring of such unions. Beenah was a dutiful housewife and Mendel Hyams supported her faithfully so long as his children would let him. Love never flew out of the window for he was never in the house. They did not talk to each other much. Beenah did the housework unaided by the sprig of a servant who was engaged to satisfy the neighbors. In his enforced idleness Mendel fell back on his religion, almost a profession in itself. They were a silent couple.
At sixty there is not much chance of a forty year old silence being broken on this side of the grave. So far as his personal happiness was concerned, Mendel had only one hope left in the world—to die in Jerusalem. His feeling for Jerusalem was unique. All the hunted Jew in him combined with all the battered man to transfigure Zion with the splendor of sacred dreams and girdle it with the rainbows that are builded of bitter tears. And with it all a dread that if he were buried elsewhere, when the last trump sounded he would have to roll under the earth and under the sea to Jerusalem, the rendezvous of resurrection.
Every year at the Passover table he gave his hope voice: “Next year in Jerusalem.” In her deepest soul Miriam echoed this wish of his. She felt she could like him better at a distance. Beenah Hyams had only one hope left in the world—to die.
THE PURIM BALL.
Sam Levine duly returned for the Purim ball. Malka was away and so it was safe to arrive on the Sabbath. Sam and Leah called for Hannah in a cab, for the pavements were unfavorable to dancing shoes, and the three drove to the “Club,” which was not a sixth of a mile off.
“The Club” was the People’s Palace of the Ghetto; but that it did not reach the bed-rock of the inhabitants was sufficiently evident from the fact that its language was English. The very lowest stratum was of secondary formation—the children of immigrants—while the highest touched the lower middle-class, on the mere fringes of the Ghetto. It was a happy place where young men and maidens met on equal terms and similar subscriptions, where billiards and flirtations and concerts and laughter and gay gossip were always on, and lemonade and cakes never off; a heaven where marriages were made, books borrowed and newspapers read. Muscular Judaism