A Picnic


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:

"Sarah, dear!"

> "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?"

"Wrong again!"

"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?"

"Try again!"

"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

wish for?"

"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

necessary calculation.

"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

the outside."

"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!"