: S. LIBIN
Ask Shmuel, the capmaker, just for a joke, if he would like to come for
a picnic! He'll fly out at you as if you had invited him to a swing on
the gallows. The fact is, he and his Sarah once went for a picnic, and
the poor man will remember it all his days.
It was on a Sabbath towards the end of August. Shmuel came home from
work, and said to his wife:
"Well, husband?" was her reply.
"I want to have a treat," said Shmuel, as though alarmed at the boldness
of the idea.
"What sort of a treat? Shall you go to the swimming-bath to-morrow?"
"Ett! What's the fun of that?"
"Then, what have you thought of by way of an exception? A glass of ice
water for supper?"
"Not that, either."
"A whole siphon?"
Shmuel denied with a shake of the head.
"Whatever can it be!" wondered Sarah. "Are you going to fetch a pint of
"What should I want with beer?"
"Are you going to sleep on the roof?"
"To buy some more carbolic acid, and drive out the bugs?"
"Not a bad idea," observed Shmuel, "but that is not it, either."
"Well, then, whatever is it, for goodness' sake! The moon?" asked Sarah,
beginning to lose patience. "What have you been and thought of? Tell me
once for all, and have done with it!"
And Shmuel said:
"Sarah, you know, we belong to a lodge."
"Of course I do!" and Sarah gave him a look of mingled astonishment and
alarm. "It's not more than a week since you took a whole dollar there,
and I'm not likely to have forgotten what it cost you to make it up.
What is the matter now? Do they want another?"
"Out with it!"
"I--want us, Sarah," stammered Shmuel,--"to go for a picnic."
"A picnic!" screamed Sarah. "Is that the only thing you have left to
"Look here, Sarah, we toil and moil the whole year through. It's nothing
but trouble and worry, trouble and worry. Call that living! When do we
ever have a bit of pleasure?"
"Well, what's to be done?" said his wife, in a subdued tone.
"The summer will soon be over, and we haven't set eyes on a green blade
of grass. We sit day and night sweating in the dark."
"True enough!" sighed his wife, and Shmuel spoke louder:
"Let us have an outing, Sarah. Let us enjoy ourselves for once, and give
the children a breath of fresh air, let us have a change, if it's only
for five minutes!"
"What will it cost?" asks Sarah, suddenly, and Shmuel has soon made the
"A family ticket is only thirty cents, for Yossele, Rivele, Hannahle,
and Berele; for Resele and Doletzke I haven't to pay any carfare at all.
For you and me, it will be ten cents there and ten back--that makes
fifty cents. Then I reckon thirty cents for refreshments to take with
us: a pineapple (a damaged one isn't more than five cents), a few
bananas, a piece of watermelon, a bottle of milk for the children, and a
few rolls--the whole thing shouldn't cost us more than eighty cents at
"Eighty cents!" and Sarah clapped her hands together in dismay. "Why,
you can live on that two days, and it takes nearly a whole day's
earning. You can buy an old ice-box for eighty cents, you can buy a pair
of trousers--eighty cents!"
"Leave off talking nonsense!" said Shmuel, disconcerted. "Eighty cents
won't make us rich. We shall get on just the same whether we have them
or not. We must live like human beings one day in the year! Come, Sarah,
let us go! We shall see lots of other people, and we'll watch them, and
see how they enjoy themselves. It will do you good to see the world,
to go where there's a bit of life! Listen, Sarah, what have you been to
worth seeing since we came to America? Have you seen Brooklyn Bridge, or
Central Park, or the Baron Hirsch baths?"
"You know I haven't!" Sarah broke in. "I've no time to go about
sight-seeing. I only know the way from here to the market."
"And what do you suppose?" cried Shmuel. "I should be as great a
greenhorn as you, if I hadn't been obliged to look everywhere for work.
Now I know that America is a great big place. Thanks to the slack times,
I know where there's an Eighth Street, and a One Hundred and Thirtieth
Street with tin works, and an Eighty-Fourth Street with a match factory.
I know every single lane round the World Building. I know where the
cable car line stops. But you, Sarah, know nothing at all, no more than
if you had just landed. Let us go, Sarah, I am sure you won't regret
"Well, you know best!" said his wife, and this time she smiled. "Let us
And thus it was that Shmuel and his wife decided to join the lodge
picnic on the following day.
Next morning they all rose much earlier than usual on a Sunday, and
there was a great noise, for they took the children and scrubbed them
without mercy. Sarah prepared a bath for Doletzke, and Doletzke screamed
the house down. Shmuel started washing Yossele's feet, but as Yossele
habitually went barefoot, he failed to bring about any visible
improvement, and had to leave the little pair of feet to soak in a basin
of warm water, and Yossele cried, too. It was twelve o'clock before the
children were dressed and ready to start, and then Sarah turned her
attention to her husband, arranged his trousers, took the spots out of
his coat with kerosene, sewed a button onto his vest. After that she
dressed herself, in her old-fashioned satin wedding dress. At two
o'clock they set forth, and took their places in the car.
"Haven't we forgotten anything?" asked Sarah of her husband.
Shmuel counted his children and the traps. "No, nothing, Sarah!" he
Doletzke went to sleep, the other children sat quietly in their places.
Sarah, too, fell into a doze, for she was tired out with the
preparations for the excursion.
All went smoothly till they got some way up town, when Sarah gave a
"I don't feel very well--my head is so dizzy," she said to Shmuel.
"I don't feel very well, either," answered Shmuel. "I suppose the fresh
air has upset us."
"I suppose it has," said his wife. "I'm afraid for the children."
Scarcely had she spoken when Doletzke woke up, whimpering, and was sick.
Yossele, who was looking at her, began to cry likewise. The mother
scolded him, and this set the other children crying. The conductor cast
a wrathful glance at poor Shmuel, who was so frightened that he dropped
the hand-bag with the provisions, and then, conscious of the havoc he
had certainly brought about inside the bag by so doing, he lost his head
altogether, and sat there in a daze. Sarah was hushing the children, but
the look in her eyes told Shmuel plainly enough what to expect once they
had left the car. And no sooner had they all reached the ground in
safety than Sarah shot out:
"So, nothing would content him but a picnic? Much good may it do him!
You're a workman, and workmen have no call to go gadding about!"
Shmuel was already weary of the whole thing, and said nothing, but he
felt a tightening of the heart.
He took up Yossele on one arm and Resele on the other, and carried the
bag with the presumably smashed-up contents besides.
"Hush, my dears! Hush, my babies!" he said. "Wait a little and mother
will give you some bread and sugar. Hush, be quiet!" He went on, but
still the children cried.
Sarah carried Doletzke, and rocked her as she walked, while Berele and
Hannahle trotted alongside.
"He has shortened my days," said Sarah, "may his be shortened likewise."
Soon afterwards they turned into the park.
"Let us find a tree and sit down in the shade," said Shmuel. "Come,
"I haven't the strength to drag myself a step further," declared Sarah,
and she sank down like a stone just inside the gate. Shmuel was about to
speak, but a glance at Sarah's face told him she was worn out, and he
sat down beside his wife without a word. Sarah gave Doletzke the breast.
The other children began to roll about in the grass, laughed and played,
and Shmuel breathed easier.
Girls in holiday attire walked about the park, and there were groups
under the trees. Here was a handsome girl surrounded by admiring boys,
and there a handsome young man encircled by a bevy of girls.
Out of the leafy distance of the park came the melancholy song of a
workman; near by stood a man playing on a fiddle. Sarah looked about her
and listened, and by degrees her vexation vanished. It is true that her
heart was still sore, but it was not with the soreness of anger. She was
taking her life to pieces and thinking it over, and it seemed a very
hard and bitter one, and when she looked at her husband and thought of
his life, she was near crying, and she laid her hands upon his knee.
Shmuel also sat lost in thought. He was thinking about the trees and the
roses and the grass, and listening to the fiddle. And he also was sad at
"O Sarah!" he sighed, and he would have said more, but just at that
moment it began to spot with rain, and before they had time to move
there came a downpour. People started to scurry in all directions, but
Shmuel stood like a statue.
"Shlimm-mazel, look after the children!" commanded Sarah. Shmuel caught
up two of them, Sarah another two or three, and they ran to a shelter.
Doletzke began to cry afresh.
"Mame, hungry!" began Berele.
"Hungry, hungry!" wailed Yossele. "I want to eat!"
Shmuel hastily opened the hand-bag, and then for the first time he saw
what had really happened: the bottle had broken, and the milk was
flooding the bag; the rolls and bananas were soaked, and the pineapple
(a damaged one to begin with) looked too nasty for words. Sarah caught
sight of the bag, and was so angry, she was at a loss how to wreak
vengeance on her husband. She was ashamed to scream and scold in the
presence of other people, but she went up to him, and whispered
fervently into his ear, "The same to you, my good man!"
The children continued to clamor for food.
"I'll go to the refreshment counter and buy a glass of milk and a few
rolls," said Shmuel to his wife.
"Have you actually some money left?" asked Sarah. "I thought it had all
been spent on the picnic."
"There are just five cents over."
"Well, then go and be quick about it. The poor things are starving."
Shmuel went to the refreshment stall, and asked the price of a glass of
milk and a few rolls.
"Twenty cents, mister," answered the waiter.
Shmuel started as if he had burnt his finger, and returned to his wife
more crestfallen than ever.
"Well, Shlimm-mazel, where's the milk?" inquired Sarah.
"He asked twenty cents."
"Twenty cents for a glass of milk and a roll? Are you Montefiore?" Sarah
could no longer contain herself. "They'll be the ruin of us! If you want
to go for another picnic, we shall have to sell the bedding."
The children never stopped begging for something to eat.
"But what are we to do?" asked the bewildered Shmuel.
"Do?" screamed Sarah. "Go home, this very minute!"
Shmuel promptly caught up a few children, and they left the park. Sarah
was quite quiet on the way home, merely remarking to her husband that
she would settle her account with him later.
"I'll pay you out," she said, "for my satin dress, for the hand-bag, for
the pineapple, for the bananas, for the milk, for the whole blessed
picnic, for the whole of my miserable existence."
"Scold away!" answered Shmuel. "It is you who were right. I don't know
what possessed me. A picnic, indeed! You may well ask what next? A poor
wretched workman like me has no business to think of anything beyond the
Sarah, when they reached home, was as good as her word. Shmuel would
have liked some supper, as he always liked it, even in slack times, but
there was no supper given him. He went to bed a hungry man, and all
through the night he repeated in his sleep:
"A picnic, oi, a picnic!"