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village before night falls.” “Well,
IV then just let him sleep until I bathe his feet.” The man consented. Two things I recall distinctly of Father's boots were worn and wet that time. Grandmother, believing through, and were hard to get off, children to be prophets, often asked but he never woke while mother us to predict the future. One day tugged away at them. At last they
At last they she asked my brother, a little seriouswere off and the socks also.
faced, wide-awake boy of six, who “Thank God that his mother is looked upon himself as one of the fublind,” she whispered, covering her ture great rabbis, “Tell me, my face for a moment. Father's feet child, will father reach America were red, blistered, and swollen. As safely?”
safely?” “Yes," he said with so she lifted them into the basin I saw much conviction in his voice that her her tears falling into the water. face lit up with hope. From that When I looked at Yonko, he turned moment she was more cheerful. The away quickly and became interested second thing is that there was an in a crack in the ceiling.
awful storm and the snow lay piled Our parting, like our greeting, up almost as high as our windows. was restrained. Father embraced But on Friday it cleared. The sun grandmother, then he smiled a quick came out bright and warm. “It is a farewell from the door and was gone. good sign that it cleared in honour Sister and I ran out on the road and of Sabbath," said grandmother, stood watching him until he looked turning her pale, thin face hopefully like a black speck against the white to the window. That afternoon we snow. Then we ran back to the saw the mistress of the inn and posthouse, she to help and I to pray, office walking up to her waist in
snow, coming toward our house. mother spoke about America from “Nothing but a letter would bring morning till night. her here on a day like this,” mother Having a lively imagination, she cried and rushed out of the house. gave us her ideas of what she When she came back she had a letter, thought America was like, the kind but she stood in the middle of the of people father would be likely to room holding it in her hand as meet, how soon he would find work, though she feared to open how much he would earn, and how “Look," said the post-mistress, soon he would be able to take his fampointing to the post-mark. It was ily over. Here she cried a good deal, stamped Memel, Prussia.
saying, "If I had been told a year Mother ran to grandmother and ago that my only son would go away they embraced, and stood so long to the other end of the world, and and so silently with their faces hid that I would continue to live knowden from us, that we children were ing that I would never see him again, frightened and begged them to speak I would not have believed it possible. to us.
Then mother turned and And yet it has come to pass and I caught us all into her arms with a am not only alive, but contented that cry of joy, while grandmother raised he should be away. Ah, how strange her tear-stained face to heaven in is life and its ways!” Then she
would dry her tears and begin to
wonder how he would live without her V
care, who would look after his socks,
and who would cover his feet on cold Spring came. The snow which lay nights. But soon she consoled herhigh all winter began to melt, and self by saying, “Oh, but socks are here and there green spots appeared. cheap out there, as no doubt everyThen the dandelions began to show thing else must be, and they say that their yellow heads, and the storks it is not as cold in America as in came flying back to build their nests Russia." in the old stump in the cemetery.
And we children were as happy as Hens, followed by groups of black if we had been released from a dark, and yellow-headed chicks, walked damp prison cell. It seemed to us about, scratching in the soft warm that the lake was never so clear and earth and cackling cheerfully. blue or sparkled so brightly, and the
As for us, mother and grand birds never sang so gaily before. We mother having lived in fear and anx ran about visiting one familiar place iety about father for thirteen years, after another, unable to stop long and then having come near losing anywhere. him, found it hard to believe at first When grandfather came home, we that he was really beyond the reach were shocked at the change in him. of Russia. But once they realised His hair and beard, grey before, had this fact, they were happy as they turned white, and his eyes, they were had never been before.
the trustful eyes of a child, had a Mother, who never sang except strange questioning look in them. when rocking baby to sleep, and He had become quite deaf. But then only hummed, sang now as she otherwise he was as sprightly as ever. went about her work. And grand Now the chief part of the support
of the family fell to mother, and the father dug up the garden and we rest of us helped. Grandmother planted some vegetables. Of this knitted stockings for the women of work I liked planting potatoes best. the village. Of course the stockings I enjoyed walking after the plough had to be looked over, the lost in the cool moist earth with my bare stitches found and mended carefully. feet. And while doing so, it pleased That was my work.
me to imagine that I was Yonko, the Grandmother also peeled the po sower. I took long even strides and tatoes for the house: These, too, I
swung my arm back and forth in a had to go over, and cut away the circle, as I took and dropped the peelings she had left. I disliked this potatoes. work and dropped many a tear on Mother saw me and scolded, saythe potatoes. Then mother would ing that I dropped them too far say, “What? crying? So much the apart. “You are always playing," better, we won't need to salt the po she said. “Your sister, almost three tatoes." And grandfather, after
years younger, is already a little bringing the wood, building the fire, woman; look!" fetching water from the spring, Bent almost double under a bag would go to the village to see if there of potatoes, sister was coming towere any pots to mend.
ward us, walking unsteadily under Grandfather had clever hands. the weight. He could do wonders with a penknife When she reached us mother took and a piece of wood. And in mend the bag and asked, "Is it not too ing pots he was a perfect artist.
a perfect artist. heavy?” And so whenever he walked through The love in her eyes, and tenderthe village, the women would call him ness in her voice made heart ache into their homes, bless him for the with envy. And so as usual I went pots he made whole, and fill his little for consolation to my bush. bag, which he always carried upon While walking along, I determined his back, with potatoes, carrots, tur never to play again. But as soon as nips or onions. On coming home he I sat down, the twigs and flowers would look as happy as if he had a turned into fanciful girls and boys whole fortune in his bag. “Come, who adored me. I named each one of children, and see what I have," he them and myself I called Dena. And would call out while still on the then we went romping about in the threshold. Then he would open his fields. bag, take out a carrot, and holding I was extremely happy among it up high for our admiration, he these imaginary companions. But would say, his face beaming, “Is it often they were the cause of punishnot a perfect beauty? And sweet ment. For like real companions, and juicy! Just wait till you taste they lured me away from my work it !" Then he would scrape it, di in the house, to play. vide it among us and sit looking at Among these companions there us while we ate.
was one who at first was just a name
I liked. But after a while at the VI
thought of the name I saw a vision After Easter there was some of a tall, dark, handsome youth. pleasant outdoor work. Grand- And as I always wished for a big
brother who would take care of me, thought of that, he did not seem so I adopted him.
So real did this imaginary brother When winter came, mother bought become that when I found myself feathers to pick. Having three alone in the dark, trembling with daughters, she said she needed many fear, I would call out, “Oh, Ephraim, pillows for their dowry. I liked where are you?” Then I seemed to picking feathers, as I liked sewing, hear him say, “Ah, you little 'fraid not so much for itself as because it cat, I knew you would want me. left my mind free to dream. Here, take my hand.” Then my two hands would clasp each other and I
VII seemed to feel safer. As soon
as the warm weather Grandmother had two children became, the women of the village gave sides father, both daughters. The all their time and thought to the elder was happily married and lived work in the fields. And so now we
about two or three days' journey had no stockings to knit, no sewing, from us. Whether through indifferand no pots for grandfather to erence or because of the distance, I mend. He would often come home do not know, but she never came to from the village with his little bag see her parents or wrote to them. empty and sadness in his eyes. In Sometimes a traveller from her part stead, there were many days when of the country, passing through our we had not enough even of potatoes. village, would stop at our house and But this hardship did not last long. give us her greetings. Soon a letter and money came from
twenty-one father. This was the first letter years of age now and was working from America. Father did not tell in Minsk, a large city. She left us much about his life out there. He home when she was sixteen and, bejust said that he was boarding with ing fond of children, she became a a nice Russian Jewish family and nurse girl. As grandmother exthat he was already working and pected her to be a seamstress, this earning ten dollars a week. The rest choice of occupation caused grandof the letter was just good cheer and mother as many tears as father's beloving messages to each one of us. coming a tailor instead of a rabbi.
Grandmother kept the letter un For a nurse girl was thought to be der her pillow and soon the writing as much below a seamstress as was defaced by her tears.
tailor below a rabbi. One day I managed to get hold Father had been in America but a of it. I put it into my pocket, short time when grandmother realslipped out of the house, then I took ised that his émigration had lessened it out and looked at it.
Aunt Masha's prospects of marIt seemed to me so wonderful that riage. When she came to this cona letter posted in America found its clusion, her peace was gone. She way into our little village.
wept night and day. “Poor Masha,” “And this is American paper and she moaned, “what is to become of here is an American stamp! And her? Her chances had been small no doubt father touched this very enough without a dowry. And now, stamp with his fingers !” When I burdened with an aged father and a
blind, helpless mother, the best she But you had better go back to your can expect is a middle-aged widower place or you will catch cold." with half a dozen children!”
When I went back and as grandMother tried to comfort her by mother tucked me in, I asked her why telling her that she would remain in she cried so. “Never mind, you litRussia as long as grandmother tle busybody," she said, "go to lived, so that she would not have to sleep.” But I teased her to tell me. live with Masha. But this only irri- And finally she said with a sigh, and tated her. “You talk like a child,” speaking more to herself than to me, she wept. "You stay here and wait "It is about Masha. Go to sleep for my death, while my son, at the now, you will hear all about it toother end of the world, will be lead morrow.” ing a life of loneliness. And as for She sat down on the edge of the me, would I have any peace, knowing bed, gently patting my shoulder, as that I was the cause?”
she had often done when I was a litMother, seeing that she could do tle child. Soon I fell asleep. nothing to comfort her, silently The next day the rings under her awaited results.
eyes were darker, and her eyelids One night I woke, hearing a muf were more red and swollen than fled sound of crying.
I felt for usual. But otherwise she seemed grandmother, with whom I slept. more calm than she had been for a But she was not beside me. Fright- long time. ened, I sat up and peered into the After dinner she said to mother, darkness. The crying came from the hesitating at every word as she foot of the bed. And soon I dis spoke, “You know, I decided last cerned grandmother sitting there. night, that when you go to America With her hands clasped about her Masha should go with you.” This knees and her face buried in her lap, startled mother so that she almost she sat rocking gently and weeping. dropped the baby whom she was
I called to her in a whisper to swinging on her foot. come and lie down, but she did not “What are you saying? Masha answer. For a while I sat trembling go to America and you left here with cold and fear. Then I slipped alone?" far back under the warm comforter “Yes, alone,” she sighed, “as if I and tried to sleep. But the picture never had any children. But so it of grandmother, sitting alone in the must be. True, I have not had a dark and cold, haunted me. And so
But happy or not, I again I arose.
have lived it. And now, it is almost Creeping over to her quickly, I at an end. But Masha has just becurled up close to her and put my gun to live, and in America she will arms around her cold, trembling have a better chance, for there are form. At first she did not take any fewer women there, they say. As for notice of me. But after a few min me, I shall not be without comfort utes she lifted her head and unclasp in my last days. When I am lonely, ing her hands, she drew me under her I shall think of her happily married shawl, saying as she laid her wet and surrounded by dear little chilface against mine, "Oh, you little dren like yours. And now listen to mouse, how you do creep up to one! this plan. Of course I cannot be