“Ven you like,” said the Jewess. “Everyding is ready.”
So, early next morning I bade farewell to my good Welsh landlady (who looked grave when I told her what I was going to do) and to Emmerjane (who cried when I kissed her smudgy face) and, taking possession of my new home, began work immediately in my first and only employment.
Perhaps it was a deep decline after the splendours of my dreams, but I did not allow myself to think about that. I was near to Ilford and I could go to see Isabel every day.
Isabel! Isabel! Isabel! Everything was Isabel, for now that Martin was gone my hopes and my fears, my love and my life, revolved on one axis only—my child.
My employer was a Polish Jew, named Israel Abramovitch.
He had come to England at the time of the religious persecution in the Holy Cities of Russia, set himself up in his trade as a tailor in a garret in Whitechapel, hired a “Singer,” worked with “green” labour for “slop” warehouses, and become in less than twenty years the richest foreign Jew in the East End of London, doing some of the “best bespoke” work for the large shops in the West and having the reputation (as I afterwards found) of being the greatest of Jewish “sweaters.”
In spite of this, however, he was in his own way a deeply religious man. Strict, severe, almost superstitious in obeying the Levitical laws and in practising the sad and rather gloomy symbolism of his faith. A famous Talmudist, a pillar of the synagogue, one of the two wardens of the Chevra in Brick Lane, and consequently a great upholder of moral rectitude.
His house seemed to be a solid mass of human beings, chiefly Jewish girls, who worked all day, and sometimes (when regulations could be evaded or double gangs engaged) all night, for the Jew drove everybody at high speed, not excepting his wife, who cooked the food and pressed the clothes at the same time.
In this hive of industry I needed no spur to make me work.
Every morning Mrs. Abramovitch brought up a thick pile of vests to my room, and every evening she took them down again, after counting my earnings with almost preternatural rapidity and paying me, day by day, with unfailing promptitude.
At the end of my first week I found I had made ten shillings. I was delighted, but after I had paid for my room and my food there was not enough for baby’s board, so the second week I worked later in the evenings, and earned fourteen shillings. This was still insufficient, therefore I determined to take something from the other end of the day.
“Morning will be better,” I thought, remembering the painful noises at night, especially about midnight, when people were being thrown out of a public-house higher up the street, where there was a placard in the window saying the ale sold there could be guaranteed to “make anybody drunk for fourpence.”