A Livelihood


The two young fellows Maxim Klopatzel and Israel Friedman were natives

of the same town in New Bessarabia, and there was an old link existing

between them: a mutual detestation inherited from their respective

parents. Maxim's father was the chief Gentile of the town, for he rented

the corn-fields of its richest inhabitant; and as the lawyer of the rich

citizen was a Jew, little Maxim imagined, when his father came to lose

/> his tenantry, that it was owing to the Jews. Little Struli was the only

Jewish boy he knew (the children were next door neighbors), and so a

large share of their responsibility was laid on Struli's shoulders.

Later on, when Klopatzel, the father, had abandoned the plough and taken

to trade, he and old Friedman frequently came in contact with each other

as rivals.

They traded and traded, and competed one against the other, till they

both become bankrupt, when each argued to himself that the other was at

the bottom of his misfortune--and their children grew on in mutual


A little later still, Maxim put down to Struli's account part of the

nails which were hammered into his Savior, over at the other end of the

town, by the well, where the Government and the Church had laid out

money and set up a crucifix with a ladder, a hammer, and all other

necessary implements.

And Struli, on his part, had an account to settle with Maxim respecting

certain other nails driven in with hammers, and torn scrolls of the

Law, and the history of the ten martyrs of the days of Titus, not to

mention a few later ones.

Their hatred grew with them, its strength increased with theirs.

When Krushevan began to deal in anti-Semitism, Maxim learned that

Christian children were carried off into the Shool, Struli's Shool, for

the sake of their blood.

Thenceforth Maxim's hatred of Struli was mingled with fear. He was

terrified when he passed the Shool at night, and he used to dream that

Struli stood over him in a prayer robe, prepared to slaughter him with a

ram's horn trumpet.

This because he had once passed the Shool early one Jewish New Year's

Day, had peeped through the window, and seen the ram's horn blower

standing in his white shroud, armed with the Shofar, and suddenly a

heartrending voice broke out with Min ha-Mezar, and Maxim, taking his

feet on his shoulders, had arrived home more dead than alive. There was

very nearly a commotion. The priest wanted to persuade him that the Jews

had tried to obtain his blood.

So the two children grew into youth as enemies. Their fathers died, and

the increased difficulties of their position increased their enmity.

The same year saw them called to military service, from which they had

both counted on exemption as the only sons of widowed mothers; only

Israel's mother had lately died, bequeathing to the Czar all she had--a

soldier; and Maxim's mother had united herself to a second

provider--and there was an end of the two "only sons!"

Neither of them wished to serve; they were too intellectually capable,

too far developed mentally, too intelligent, to be turned all at once

into Russian soldiers, and too nicely brought up to march from Port

Arthur to Mukden with only one change of shirt. They both cleared out,

and stowed themselves away till they 'fell separately into the hands of

the military.

They came together again under the fortress walls of Mukden.

They ate and hungered sullenly round the same cooking pot, received

punches from the same officer, and had the same longing for the same


Israel had a habit of talking in his sleep, and, like a born

Bessarabian, in his Yiddish mixed with a large portion of Roumanian


One night, lying in the barracks among the other soldiers, and sunk in

sleep after a hard day, Struli began to talk sixteen to the dozen. He

called out names, he quarrelled, begged pardon, made a fool of

himself--all in his sleep.

It woke Maxim, who overheard the homelike names and phrases, the name of

his native town.

He got up, made his way between the rows of sleepers, and sat down by

Israel's pallet, and listened.

Next day Maxim managed to have a large helping of porridge, more than he

could eat, and he found Israel, and set it before him.

"Maltzimesk!" said the other, thanking him in Roumanian, and a thrill of

delight went through Maxim's frame.

The day following, Maxim was hit by a Japanese bullet, and there

happened to be no one beside him at the moment.

The shock drove all the soldier-speech out of his head. "Help, I am

killed!" he called out, and fell to the ground.

Struli was at his side like one sprung from the earth, he tore off his

Four-Corners, and made his comrade a bandage.

The wound turned out to be slight, for the bullet had passed through,

only grazing the flesh of the left arm. A few days later Maxim was back

in the company.

"I wanted to see you again, Struli," he said, greeting his comrade in


A flash of brotherly affection and gratitude lighted Struli's Semitic

eyes, and he took the other into his arms, and pressed him to his heart.

They felt themselves to be "countrymen," of one and the same native


Neither of them could have told exactly when their union of spirit had

been accomplished, but each one knew that he thanked God for having

brought him together with so near a compatriot in a strange land.

And when the battle of Mukden had made Maxim all but totally blind, and

deprived Struli of one foot, they started for home together, according

to the passage in the Midrash, "Two men with one pair of eyes and one

pair of feet between them." Maxim carried on his shoulders a wooden box,

which had now became a burden in common for them, and Struli limped a

little in front of him, leaning lightly against his companion, so as to

keep him in the smooth part of the road and out of other people's way.

Struli had become Maxim's eyes, and Maxim, Struli's feet; they were two

men grown into one, and they provided for themselves out of one pocket,

now empty of the last ruble.

They dragged themselves home. "A kasa, a kasa!" whispered Struli into

Maxim's ear, and the other turned on him his two glazed eyes looking

through a red haze, and set in swollen red lids.

A childlike smile played on his lips:

"A kasa, a kasa!" he repeated, also in a whisper.

Home appeared to their fancy as something holy, something consoling,

something that could atone and compensate for all they had suffered and

lost. They had seen such a home in their dreams.

But the nearer they came to it in reality, the more the dream faded.

They remembered that they were returning as conquered soldiers and

crippled men, that they had no near relations and but few friends, while

the girls who had coquetted with Maxim before he left would never waste

so much as a look on him now he was half-blind; and Struli's plans for

marrying and emigrating to America were frustrated: a cripple would not

be allowed to enter the country.

All their dreams and hopes finally dissipated, and there remained only

one black care, one all-obscuring anxiety: how were they to earn a


They had been hoping all the while for a pension, but in their service

book was written "on sick-leave." The Russo-Japanese war was

distinguished by the fact that the greater number of wounded soldiers

went home "on sick-leave," and the money assigned by the Government for

their pension would not have been sufficient for even a hundredth part

of the number of invalids.

Maxim showed a face with two wide open eyes, to which all the passers-by

looked the same. He distinguished with difficulty between a man and a

telegraph post, and wore a smile of mingled apprehension and confidence.

The sound feet stepped hesitatingly, keeping behind Israel, and it was

hard to say which steadied himself most against the other. Struli limped

forward, and kept open eyes for two. Sometimes he would look round at

the box on Maxim's shoulders, as though he felt its weight as much as


Meantime the railway carriages had emptied and refilled, and the

locomotive gave a great blast, received an answer from somewhere a long

way off, a whistle for a whistle, and the train set off, slowly at

first, and then gradually faster and faster, till all that remained of

it were puffs of smoke hanging in the air without rhyme or reason.

The two felt more depressed than ever. "Something to eat? Where are we

to get a bite?" was in their minds.

Suddenly Yisroel remembered with a start: this was the anniversary of

his mother's death--if he could only say one Kaddish for her in a Klaus!

"Is it far from here to a Klaus?" he inquired of a passer-by.

"There is one a little way down that side-street," was the reply.

"Maxim!" he begged of the other, "come with me!"

"Where to?"

"To the synagogue."

Maxim shuddered from head to foot. His fear of a Jewish Shool had not

left him, and a thousand foolish terrors darted through his head.

But his comrade's voice was so gentle, so childishly imploring, that he

could not resist it, and he agreed to go with him into the Shool.

It was the time for Afternoon Prayer, the daylight and the dark held

equal sway within the Klaus, the lamps before the platform increasing

the former to the east and the latter to the west. Maxim and Yisroel

stood in the western part, enveloped in shadow. The Cantor had just

finished "Incense," and was entering upon Ashre, and the melancholy

night chant of Minchah and Maariv gradually entranced Maxim's emotional

Roumanian heart.

The low, sad murmur of the Cantor seemed to him like the distant surging

of a sea, in which men were drowned by the hundreds and suffocating with

the water. Then, the Ashre and the Kaddish ended, there was silence. The

congregation stood up for the Eighteen Benedictions. Here and there you

heard a half-stifled sigh. And now it seemed to Maxim that he was in the

hospital at night, at the hour when the groans grow less frequent, and

the sufferers fall one by one into a sweet sleep.

Tears started into his eyes without his knowing why. He was no longer

afraid, but a sudden shyness had come over him, and he felt, as he

watched Yisroel repeating the Kaddish, that the words, which he, Maxim,

could not understand, were being addressed to someone unseen, and yet

mysteriously present in the darkening Shool.

When the prayers were ended, one of the chief members of the

congregation approached the "Mandchurian," and gave Yisroel a coin into

his hand.

Yisroel looked round--he did not understand at first what the donor

meant by it.

Then it occurred to him--and the blood rushed to his face. He gave the

coin to his companion, and explained in a half-sentence or two how they

had come by it.

Once outside the Klaus, they both cried, after which they felt better.

"A livelihood!" the same thought struck them both.

"We can go into partnership!"