: ISAAC DOB BERKOWITZ
Feivke was a wild little villager, about seven years old, who had
tumbled up from babyhood among Gentile urchins, the only Jewish boy in
the place, just as his father Mattes, the Kozlov smith, was the only
Jewish householder there. Feivke had hardly ever met, or even seen,
anyone but the people of Kozlov and their children. Had it not been for
his black eyes, with their moody, persistent gaze from beneath the shade
deep, worn-out leather cap, it would have puzzled anyone to make
out his parentage, to know whence that torn and battered face, that red
scar across the top lip, those large, black, flat, unchild-like feet.
But the eyes explained everything--his mother's eyes.
Feivke spent the whole summer with the village urchins in the
neighboring wood, picking mushrooms, climbing the trees, driving
wood-pigeons off their high nests, or wading knee-deep in the shallow
bog outside to seek the black, slippery bog-worms; or else he found
himself out in the fields, jumping about on the top of a load of hay
under a hot sky, and shouting to his companions, till he was bathed in
perspiration. At other times, he gathered himself away into a dark, cool
barn, scrambled at the peril of his life along a round beam under the
roof, crunched dried pears, saw how the sun sprinkled the darkness with
a thousand sparks, and--thought. He could always think about Mikita, the
son of the village elder, who had almost risen to be conductor on a
railway train, and who came from a long way off to visit his father,
brass buttons to his coat and a purse full of silver rubles, and piped
to the village girls of an evening on the most cunning kind of whistle.
How often it had happened that Feivke could not be found, and did not
even come home to bed! But his parents troubled precious little about
him, seeing that he was growing up a wild, dissolute boy, and the
displeasure of Heaven rested on his head.
Feivke was not a timid child, but there were two things he was afraid
of: God and davvening. Feivke had never, to the best of his
recollection, seen God, but he often heard His name, they threatened him
with It, glanced at the ceiling, and sighed. And this embittered
somewhat his sweet, free days. He felt that the older he grew, the
sooner he would have to present himself before this terrifying, stern,
and unfamiliar God, who was hidden somewhere, whether near or far he
could not tell. One day Feivke all but ran a danger. It was early on a
winter morning; there was a cold, wild wind blowing outside, and indoors
there was a black stranger Jew, in a thick sheepskin, breaking open the
tin charity boxes. The smith's wife served the stranger with hot
potatoes and sour milk, whereupon the stranger piously closed his eyes,
and, having reopened them, caught sight of Feivke through the white
steam rising from the dish of potatoes--Feivke, huddled up in a
corner--and beckoned him nearer.
"Have you begun to learn, little boy?" he questioned, and took his cheek
between two pale, cold fingers, which sent a whiff of snuff up Feivke's
nose. His mother, standing by the stove, reddened, and made some
inaudible answer. The black stranger threw up his eyes, and slowly shook
his head inside the wide sheepskin collar. This shaking to and fro of
his head boded no good, and Feivke grew strangely cold inside. Then he
grew hot all over, and, for several nights after, thousands of long,
cold, pale fingers pursued and pinched him in his dreams.
They had never yet taught him to recite his prayers. Kozlov was a lonely
village, far from any Jewish settlement. Every Sabbath morning Feivke,
snug in bed, watched his father put on a mended black cloak, wrap
himself in the Tallis, shut his eyes, take on a bleating voice, and,
turning to the wall, commence a series of bows. Feivke felt that his
father was bowing before God, and this frightened him. He thought it a
very rash proceeding. Feivke, in his father's place, would sooner have
had nothing to do with God. He spent most of the time while his father
was at his prayers cowering under the coverlet, and only crept out when
he heard his mother busy with plates and spoons, and the pungent smell
of chopped radishes and onions penetrated to the bedroom.
Winters and summers passed, and Feivke grew to be seven years old, just
such a Feivke as we have described. And the last summer passed, and gave
way to autumn.
That autumn the smith's wife was brought to bed of a seventh child, and
before she was about again, the cold, damp days were upon them, with the
misty mornings, when a fish shivers in the water. And the days of her
confinement were mingled for the lonely village Jewess with the Solemn
Days of that year into a hard and dreary time. She went slowly about the
house, as in a fog, without help or hope, and silent as a shadow. That
year they all led a dismal life. The elder children, girls, went out to
service in the neighboring towns, to make their own way among strangers.
The peasants had become sharper and worse than formerly, and the smith's
strength was not what it had been. So his wife resolved to send the two
men of the family, Mattes and Feivke, to a Minyan this Yom Kippur.
Maybe, if two went, God would not be able to resist them, and would
soften His heart.
One morning, therefore, Mattes the smith washed, donned his mended
Sabbath cloak, went to the window, and blinked through it with his red
and swollen eyes. It was the Eve of the Day of Atonement. The room was
well-warmed, and there was a smell of freshly-stewed carrots. The
smith's wife went out to seek Feivke through the village, and brought
him home dishevelled and distracted, and all of a glow. She had torn him
away from an early morning of excitement and delight such as could
never, never be again. Mikita, the son of the village elder, had put his
father's brown colt into harness for the first time. The whole
contingent of village boys had been present to watch the fiery young
animal twisting between the shafts, drawing loud breaths into its
dilated and quivering nostrils, looking wildly at the surrounding boys,
and stamping impatiently, as though it would have liked to plow away the
earth from under its feet. And suddenly it had given a bound and started
careering through the village with the cart behind it. There was a
glorious noise and commotion! Feivke was foremost among those who, in a
cloud of dust and at the peril of their life, had dashed to seize the
colt by the reins.
His mother washed him, looked him over from the low-set leather hat down
to his great, black feet, stuffed a packet of food into his hands, and
"Go and be a good and devout boy, and God will forgive you."
She stood on the threshold of the house, and looked after her two men
starting for a distant Minyan. The bearing of seven children had aged
and weakened the once hard, obstinate woman, and, left standing alone in
the doorway, watching her poor, barefoot, perverse-natured boy on his
way to present himself for the first time before God, she broke down by
the Mezuzeh and wept.
Silently, step by step, Feivke followed his father between the desolate
stubble fields. It was a good ten miles' walk to the large village where
the Minyan assembled, and the fear and the wonder in Feivke's heart
increased all the way. He did not yet quite understand whither he was
being taken, and what was to be done with him there, and the impetus of
the brown colt's career through the village had not as yet subsided in
his head. Why had Father put on his black mended cloak? Why had he
brought a Tallis with him, and a white shirt-like garment? There was
certainly some hour of calamity and terror ahead, something was
preparing which had never happened before.
They went by the great Kozlov wood, wherein every tree stood silent and
sad for its faded and fallen leaves. Feivke dropped behind his father,
and stepped aside into the wood. He wondered: Should he run away and
hide in the wood? He would willingly stay there for the rest of his
life. He would foregather with Nasta, the barrel-maker's son, he of the
knocked-out eye; they would roast potatoes out in the wood, and now and
again, stolen-wise, milk the village cows for their repast. Let them
beat him as much as they pleased, let them kill him on the spot, nothing
should induce him to leave the wood again!
But no! As Feivke walked along under the silent trees and through the
fallen leaves, and perceived that the whole wood was filled through and
through with a soft, clear light, and heard the rustle of the leaves
beneath his step, a strange terror took hold of him. The wood had grown
so sparse, the trees so discolored, and he should have to remain in the
stillness alone, and roam about in the winter wind!
Mattes the smith had stopped, wondering, and was blinking around with
his sick eyes.
"Feivke, where are you?"
Feivke appeared out of the wood.
"Feivke, to-day you mustn't go into the wood. To-day God may yet--to-day
you must be a good boy," said the smith, repeating his wife's words as
they came to his mind, "and you must say Amen."
Feivke hung his head and looked at his great, bare, black feet. "But if
I don't know how," he said sullenly.
"It's no great thing to say Amen!" his father replied encouragingly.
"When you hear the other people say it, you can say it, too! Everyone
must say Amen, then God will forgive them," he added, recalling again
his wife and her admonitions.
Feivke was silent, and once more followed his father step by step. What
will they ask him, and what is he to answer? It seemed to him now that
they were going right over away yonder where the pale, scarcely-tinted
sky touched the earth. There, on a hill, sits a great, old God in a
large sheepskin cloak. Everyone goes up to him, and He asks them
questions, which they have to answer, and He shakes His head to and fro
inside the sheepskin collar. And what is he, a wild, ignorant little
boy, to answer this great, old God?
Feivke had committed a great many transgressions concerning which his
mother was constantly admonishing him, but now he was thinking only of
two great transgressions committed recently, of which his mother knew
nothing. One with regard to Anishka the beggar. Anishka was known to the
village, as far back as it could remember, as an old, blind beggar, who
went the round of the villages, feeling his way with a long stick. And
one day Feivke and another boy played him a trick: they placed a ladder
in his way, and Anishka stumbled and fell, hurting his nose. Some
peasants had come up and caught Feivke. Anishka sat in the middle of the
road with blood on his face, wept bitterly, and declared that God would
not forget his blood that had been spilt. The peasants had given the
little Zhydek a sound thrashing, but Feivke felt now as if that would
not count: God would certainly remember the spilling of Anishka's blood.
Feivke's second hidden transgression had been committed outside the
village, among the graves of the peasants. A whole troop of boys, Feivke
in their midst, had gone pigeon hunting, aiming at the pigeons with
stones, and a stone of Feivke's had hit the naked figure on the cross
that stood among the graves. The Gentile boys had started and taken
fright, and those among them who were Feivke's good friends told him he
had actually hit the son of God, and that the thing would have
consequences; it was one for which people had their heads cut off.
These two great transgressions now stood before him, and his heart
warned him that the hour had come when he would be called to account for
what he had done to Anishka and to God's son. Only he did not know what
answer he could make.
By the time they came near the windmill belonging to the large strange
village, the sun had begun to set. The village river with the trees
beside it were visible a long way off, and, crossing the river, a long
"The Minyan is there," and Mattes pointed his finger at the thatched
roofs shining in the sunset.
Feivke looked down from the bridge into the deep, black water that lay
smooth and still in the shadow of the trees. The bridge was high and the
water deep! Feivke felt sick at heart, and his mouth was dry.
"But, Tate, I won't be able to answer," he let out in despair.
"What, not Amen? Eh, eh, you little silly, that is no great matter.
Where is the difficulty? One just ups and answers!" said his father,
gently, but Feivke heard that the while his father was trying to quiet
him, his own voice trembled.
At the other end of the bridge there appeared the great inn with the
covered terrace, and in front of the building were moving groups of Jews
in holiday garb, with red handkerchiefs in their hands, women in yellow
silk head-kerchiefs, and boys in new clothes holding small prayer-books.
Feivke remained obstinately outside the crowd, and hung about the
stable, his black eyes staring defiantly from beneath the worn-out
leather cap. But he was not left alone long, for soon there came to him
a smart, yellow-haired boy, with restless little light-colored eyes, and
a face like a chicken's, covered with freckles. This little boy took a
little bottle with some essence in it out of his pocket, gave it a twist
and a flourish in the air, and suddenly applied it to Feivke's nose, so
that the strong waters spurted into his nostril. Then he asked:
"To whom do you belong?"
Feivke blew the water out of his nose, and turned his head away in
"Listen, turkey, lazy dog! What are you doing there? Have you said
"Is the Jew in a torn cloak there your father?"
"Y-yes ... T-tate...."
The yellow-haired boy took Feivke by the sleeve.
"Come along, and you'll see what they'll do to your father."
Inside the room into which Feivke was dragged by his new friend, it was
hot, and there was a curious, unfamiliar sound. Feivke grew dizzy. He
saw Jews bowing and bending along the wall and beating their
breasts--now they said something, and now they wept in an odd way.
People coughed and spat sobbingly, and blew their noses with their red
handkerchiefs. Chairs and stiff benches creaked, while a continual
clatter of plates and spoons came through the wall.
In a corner, beside a heap of hay, Feivke saw his father where he stood,
looking all round him, blinking shamefacedly and innocently with his
weak, red eyes. Round him was a lively circle of little boys whispering
with one another in evident expectation.
"That is his boy, with the lip," said the chicken-face, presenting
At the same moment a young man came up to Mattes. He wore a white collar
without a tie and with a pointed brass stud. This young man held a whip,
which he brandished in the air like a rider about to mount his horse.
"Well, Reb Smith."
"Am I ... I suppose I am to lie down?" asked Mattes, subserviently,
still smiling round in the same shy and yet confiding manner.
"Be so good as to lie down."
The young man gave a mischievous look at the boys, and made a gesture in
the air with the whip.
Mattes began to unbutton his cloak, and slowly and cautiously let
himself down onto the hay, whereupon the young man applied the whip with
might and main, and his whole face shone.
"One, two, three! Go on, Rebbe, go on!" urged the boys, and there were
shouts of laughter.
Feivke looked on in amaze. He wanted to go and take his father by the
sleeve, make him get up and escape, but just then Mattes raised himself
to a sitting posture, and began to rub his eyes with the same shy smile.
"Now, Rebbe, this one!" and the yellow-haired boy began to drag Feivke
towards the hay. The others assisted. Feivke got very red, and silently
tried to tear himself out of the boy's hands, making for the door, but
the other kept his hold. In the doorway Feivke glared at him with his
obstinate black eyes, and said:
"I'll knock your teeth out!"
"Mine? You? You booby, you lazy thing! This is our house! Do you know,
on New Year's Eve I went with my grandfather to the town! I shall call
Leibrutz. He'll give you something to remember him by!"
And Leibrutz was not long in joining them. He was the inn driver, a
stout youth of fifteen, in a peasant smock with a collar stitched in
red, otherwise in full array, with linen socks and a handsome bottle of
strong waters against faintness in his hands. To judge by the size of
the bottle, his sturdy looks belied a peculiarly delicate constitution.
He pushed towards Feivke with one shoulder, in no friendly fashion, and
looked at him with one eye, while he winked with the other at the
freckled grandson of the host.
"Who is the beauty?"
"How should I know? A thief most likely. The Kozlov smith's boy. He
threatened to knock out my teeth."
"So, so, dear brother mine!" sang out Leibrutz, with a cold sneer, and
passed his five fingers across Feivke's nose. "We must rub a little
horseradish under his eyes, and he'll weep like a beaver. Listen, you
Kozlov urchin, you just keep your hands in your pockets, because
Leibrutz is here! Do you know Leibrutz? Lucky for you that I have a
Jewish heart: to-day is Yom Kippur."
But the chicken-faced boy was not pacified.
"Did you ever see such a lip? And then he comes to our house and wants
to fight us!"
The whole lot of boys now encircled Feivke with teasing and laughter,
and he stood barefooted in their midst, looking at none of them, and
reminding one of a little wild animal caught and tormented.
It grew dark, and quantities of soul-lights were set burning down the
long tables of the inn. The large building was packed with red-faced,
perspiring Jews, in flowing white robes and Tallesim. The Confession was
already in course of fervent recital, there was a great rocking and
swaying over the prayer-books and a loud noise in the ears, everyone
present trying to make himself heard above the rest. Village Jews are
simple and ignorant, they know nothing of "silent prayer" and whispering
with the lips. They are deprived of prayer in common a year at a time,
and are distant from the Lord of All, and when the Awful Day comes, they
want to take Him by storm, by violence. The noisiest of all was the
prayer-leader himself, the young man with the white collar and no tie.
He was from town, and wished to convince the country folk that he was an
adept at his profession and to be relied on. Feivke stood in the
stifling room utterly confounded. The prayers and the wailful chanting
passed over his head like waves, his heart was straitened, red sparks
whirled before his eyes. He was in a state of continual apprehension. He
saw a snow-white old Jew come out of a corner with a scroll of the Torah
wrapped in a white velvet, gold-embroidered cover. How the gold sparkled
and twinkled and reflected itself in the illuminated beard of the old
man! Feivke thought the moment had come, but he saw it all as through a
mist, a long way off, to the sound of the wailful chanting, and as in a
mist the scroll and the old man vanished together. Feivke's face and
body were flushed with heat, his knees shook, and at the same time his
hands and feet were cold as ice.
Once, while Feivke was standing by the table facing the bright flames of
the soul-lights, a dizziness came over him, and he closed his eyes.
Thousands of little bells seemed to ring in his ears. Then some one gave
a loud thump on the table, and there was silence all around. Feivke
started and opened his eyes. The sudden stillness frightened him, and he
wanted to move away from the table, but he was walled in by men in white
robes, who had begun rocking and swaying anew. One of them pushed a
prayer-book towards him, with great black letters, which hopped and
fluttered to Feivke's eyes like so many little black birds.
He shook visibly, and the men looked at him in silence: "Nu-nu, nu-nu!"
He remained for some time squeezed against the prayer-book, hemmed in by
the tall, strange men in robes swaying and praying over his head. A cold
perspiration broke out over him, and when at last he freed himself, he
felt very tired and weak. Having found his way to a corner close to his
father, he fell asleep on the floor.
There he had a strange dream. He dreamt that he was a tree, growing like
any other tree in a wood, and that he saw Anishka coming along with
blood on his face, in one hand his long stick, and in the other a
stone--and Feivke recognized the stone with which he had hit the
crucifix. And Anishka kept turning his head and making signs to some one
with his long stick, calling out to him that here was Feivke. Feivke
looked hard, and there in the depths of the wood was God Himself, white
all over, like freshly-fallen snow. And God suddenly grew ever so tall,
and looked down at Feivke. Feivke felt God looking at him, but he could
not see God, because there was a mist before his eyes. And Anishka came
nearer and nearer with the stone in his hand. Feivke shook, and cold
perspiration oozed out all over him. He wanted to run away, but he
seemed to be growing there like a tree, like all the other trees of the
Feivke awoke on the floor, amid sleeping men, and the first thing he saw
was a tall, barefoot person all in white, standing over the sleepers
with something in his hand. This tall, white figure sank slowly onto its
knees, and, bending silently over Mattes the smith, who lay snoring
with the rest, it deliberately put a bottle to his nose. Mattes gave a
squeal, and sat up hastily.
"Ha, who is it?" he asked in alarm.
It was the young man from town, the prayer-leader, with a bottle of
"It is I," he said with a degage air, and smiled. "Never mind, it will
do you good! You are fasting, and there is an express law in the Chayye
Odom on the subject."
"But why me?" complained Mattes, blinking at him reproachfully. "What
have I done to you?"
Day was about to dawn. The air in the room had cooled down; the
soul-lights were still playing in the dark, dewy window-panes. A few of
the men bedded in the hay on the floor were waking up. Feivke stood in
the middle of the room with staring eyes. The young man with the
smelling-bottle came up to him with a lively air.
"O you little object! What are you staring at me for? Do you want a
sniff? There, then, sniff!"
Feivke retreated into a corner, and continued to stare at him in
No sooner was it day, than the davvening recommenced with all the fervor
of the night before, the room was as noisy, and very soon nearly as hot.
But it had not the same effect on Feivke as yesterday, and he was no
longer frightened of Anishka and the stone--the whole dream had
dissolved into thin air. When they once more brought out the scroll of
the Law in its white mantle, Feivke was standing by the table, and
looked on indifferently while they uncovered the black, shining, crowded
letters. He looked indifferently at the young man from town swaying over
the Torah, out of which he read fluently, intoning with a strangely free
and easy manner, like an adept to whom all this was nothing new.
Whenever he stopped reading, he threw back his head, and looked down at
the people with a bright, satisfied smile.
The little boys roamed up and down the room in socks, with
smelling-salts in their hands, or yawned into their little prayer-books.
The air was filled with the dust of the trampled hay. The sun looked in
at a window, and the soul-lights grew dim as in a mist. It seemed to
Feivke he had been at the Minyan a long, long time, and he felt as
though some great misfortune had befallen him. Fear and wonder continued
to oppress him, but not the fear and wonder of yesterday. He was tired,
his body burning, while his feet were contracted with cold. He got away
outside, stretched himself out on the grass behind the inn and dozed,
facing the sun. He dozed there through a good part of the day. Bright
red rivers flowed before his eyes, and they made his brains ache. Some
one, he did not know who, stood over him, and never stopped rocking to
and fro and reciting prayers. Then--it was his father bending over him
with a rather troubled look, and waking him in a strangely gentle voice:
"Well, Feivke, are you asleep? You've had nothing to eat to-day yet?"
Feivke followed his father back into the house on his unsteady feet.
Weary Jews with pale and lengthened noses were resting on the terrace
and the benches. The sun was already low down over the village and
shining full into the inn windows. Feivke stood by one of the windows
with his father, and his head swam from the bright light. Mattes stroked
his chin-beard continually, then there was more davvening and more
rocking while they recited the Eighteen Benedictions. The Benedictions
ended, the young man began to trill, but in a weaker voice and without
charm. He was sick of the whole thing, and kept on in the half-hearted
way with which one does a favor. Mattes forgot to look at his
prayer-book, and, standing in the window, gazed at the tree-tops, which
had caught fire in the rays of the setting sun. Nobody was expecting
anything of him, when he suddenly gave a sob, so loud and so piteous
that all turned and looked at him in astonishment. Some of the people
laughed. The prayer-leader had just intoned "Michael on the right hand
uttereth praise," out of the Afternoon Service. What was there to cry
about in that? All the little boys had assembled round Mattes the smith,
and were choking with laughter, and a certain youth, the host's new
son-in-law, gave a twitch to Mattes' Tallis:
"Reb Kozlover, you've made a mistake!"
Mattes answered not a word. The little fellow with the freckles pushed
his way up to him, and imitating the young man's intonation, repeated,
"Reb Kozlover, you've made a mistake!"
Feivke looked wildly round at the bystanders, at his father. Then he
suddenly advanced to the freckled boy, and glared at him with his black
"You, you--kob tebi biessi!" he hissed in Little-Russian.
The laughter and commotion increased; there was an exclamation: "Rascal,
in a holy place!" and another: "Aha! the Kozlover smith's boy must be a
first-class scamp!" The prayer-leader thumped angrily on his
prayer-book, because no one was listening to him.
Feivke escaped once more behind the inn, but the whole company of boys
followed him, headed by Leibrutz the driver.
"There he is, the Kozlov lazy booby!" screamed the freckled boy. "Have
you ever heard the like? He actually wanted to fight again, and in our
house! What do you think of that?"
Leibrutz went up to Feivke at a steady trot and with the gesture of one
who likes to do what has to be done calmly and coolly.
"Wait, boys! Hands off! We've got a remedy for him here, for which I
hope he will be thankful."
So saying, he deliberately took hold of Feivke from behind, by his two
arms, and made a sign to the boy with yellow hair.
"Now for it, Aarontche, give it to the youngster!"
The little boy immediately whipped the smelling-bottle out of his
pocket, took out the stopper with a flourish, and held it to Feivke's
nose. The next moment Feivke had wrenched himself free, and was making
for the chicken-face with nails spread, when he received two smart,
sounding boxes on the ears, from two great, heavy, horny hands, which so
clouded his brain that for a minute he stood dazed and dumb. Suddenly he
made a spring at Leibrutz, fell upon his hand, and fastened his sharp
teeth in the flesh. Leibrutz gave a loud yell.
There was a great to-do. People came running out in their robes, women
with pale, startled faces called to their children. A few of them
reproved Mattes for his son's behavior. Then they dispersed, till there
remained behind the inn only Mattes and Feivke. Mattes looked at his boy
in silence. He was not a talkative man, and he found only two or three
words to say:
"Feivke, Mother there at home--and you--here?"
Again Feivke found himself alone on the field, and again he stretched
himself out and dozed. Again, too, the red streams flowed before his
eyes, and someone unknown to him stood at his head and recited prayers.
Only the streams were thicker and darker, and the davvening over his
head was louder, sadder, more penetrating.
It was quite dark when Mattes came out again, took Feivke by the hand,
set him on his feet, and said, "Now we are going home."
Indoors everything had come to an end, and the room had taken on a
week-day look. The candles were gone, and a lamp was burning above the
table, round which sat men in their hats and usual cloaks, no robes to
be seen, and partook of some refreshment. There was no more davvening,
but in Feivke's ears was the same ringing of bells. It now seemed to him
that he saw the room and the men for the first time, and the old Jew
sitting at the head of the table, presiding over bottles and
wine-glasses, and clicking with his tongue, could not possibly be the
old man with the silver-white beard who had held the scroll of the Law
to his breast.
Mattes went up to the table, gave a cough, bowed to the company, and
said, "A good year!"
The old man raised his head, and thundered so loudly that Feivke's face
twitched as with pain:
"I said--I am just going--going home--home again--so I wish--wish you--a
"Ha, a good year? A good year to you also! Wait, have a little brandy,
Feivke shut his eyes. It made him feel bad to have the lamp burning so
brightly and the old man talking so loud. Why need he speak in such a
high, rasping voice that it went through one's head like a saw?
"Ha? Is it your little boy who scratched my Aarontche's face? Ha? A
rascal is he? Beat him well! There, give him a little brandy, too--and a
bit of cake! He fasted too, ha? But he can't recite the prayers? Fie!
You ought to be beaten! Ha? Are you going home? Go in health! Ha? Your
wife has just been confined?--Perhaps you need some money for the
holidays? Ha? What do you say?"
Mattes and Feivke started to walk home. Mattes gave a look at the clear
sky, where the young half-moon had floated into view. "Mother will be
expecting us," he said, and began to walk quickly. Feivke could hardly
drag his feet.
On the tall bridge they were met by a cool breeze blowing from the
water. Once across the bridge, Mattes again quickened his pace.
Presently he stopped to look around--no Feivke! He turned back and saw
Feivke sitting in the middle of the road. The child was huddled up in a
silent, shivering heap. His teeth chattered with cold.
"Feivke, what is the matter? Why are you sitting down? Come along home!"
"I won't"--Feivke clattered out with his teeth--"I c-a-n-'t--"
"Did they hit you so hard, Feivke?"
Feivke was silent. Then he stretched himself out on the ground, his
hands and feet quivering.
"Aren't you well, Feivke?"
The child made an effort, sat up, and looked fixedly at his father, with
his black, feverish eyes, and suddenly he asked:
"Why did you cry there? Tate, why? Tell me, why?!"
"Where did I cry, you little silly? Why, I just cried--it's Yom Kippur.
Mother is fasting, too--get up, Feivke, and come home. Mother will make
you a poultice," occurred to him as a happy thought.
"No! Why did you cry, while they were laughing?" Feivke insisted, still
sitting in the road and shaking like a leaf. "One mustn't cry when they
laugh, one mustn't!"
And he lay down again on the damp ground.
"Feivele, come home, my son!"
Mattes stood over the boy in despair, and looked around for help. From
some way off, from the tall bridge, came a sound of heavy footsteps
growing louder and louder, and presently the moonlight showed the figure
of a peasant.
"Ai, who is that? Matke the smith? What are you doing there? Are you
casting spells? Who is that lying on the ground?"
"I don't know myself what I'm doing, kind soul. That is my boy, and he
won't come home, or he can't. What am I to do with him?" complained
Mattes to the peasant, whom he knew.
"Has he gone crazy? Give him a kick! Ai, you little lazy devil, get up!"
Feivke did not move from the spot, he only shivered silently, and his
"Ach, you devil! What sort of a boy have you there, Matke? A visitation
of Heaven! Why don't you beat him more? The other day they came and told
tales of him--Agapa said that--"
"I don't know, either, kind soul, what sort of a boy he is," answered
Mattes, and wrung his bands in desperation.
* * * * *
Early next morning Mattes hired a conveyance, and drove Feivke to the
town, to the asylum for the sick poor. The smith's wife came out and saw
them start, and she stood a long while in the doorway by the Mezuzeh.
And on another fine autumn morning, just when the villagers were
beginning to cart loads of fresh earth to secure the village against
overflowing streams, the village boys told one another the news of