It was in sad and hopeless mood that Antosh watched the autumn making

its way into his peasant's hut. The days began to shorten and the

evenings to lengthen, and there was no more petroleum in the hut to fill

his humble lamp; his wife complained too--the store of salt was giving

out; there was very little soap left, and in a few days he would finish

his tobacco. And Antosh cleared his throat, spat, and muttered countless

> times a day:

"No salt, no soap, no tobacco; we haven't got anything. A bad business!"

Antosh had no prospect of earning anything in the village. The one

village Jew was poor himself, and had no work to give. Antosh had only

one hope left. Just before the Feast of Tabernacles he would drive a

whole cart-load of fir-boughs into the little town and bring a tidy sum

of money home in exchange.

He did this every year, since buying his thin horse in the market for

six rubles.

"When shall you have Tabernacles?" he asked every day of the village

Jew. "Not yet," was the Jew's daily reply. "But when shall you?"

Antosh insisted one day.

"In a week," answered the Jew, not dreaming how very much Antosh needed

to know precisely.

In reality there were only five more days to Tabernacles, and Antosh had

calculated with business accuracy that it would be best to take the

fir-boughs into the town two days before the festival. But this was

really the first day of it.

He rose early, ate his dry, black bread dipped in salt, and drank a

measure of water. Then he harnessed his thin, starved horse to the cart,

took his hatchet, and drove into the nearest wood.

He cut down the branches greedily, seeking out the thickest and longest.

"Good ware is easier sold," he thought, and the cart filled, and the

load grew higher and higher. He was calculating on a return of three

gulden, and it seemed still too little, so that he went on cutting, and

laid on a few more boughs. The cart could hold no more, and Antosh

looked at it from all sides, and smiled contentedly.

"That will be enough," he muttered, and loosened the reins. But scarcely

had he driven a few paces, when he stopped and looked the cart over


"Perhaps it's not enough, after all?" he questioned fearfully, cut down

five more boughs, laid them onto the already full cart, and drove on.

He drove slowly, pace by pace, and his thoughts travelled slowly too, as

though keeping step with the thin horse.

Antosh was calculating how much salt and how much soap, how much

petroleum and how much tobacco he could buy for the return for his ware.

At length the calculating tired him, and he resolved to put it off till

he should have the cash. Then the calculating would be done much more


But when he reached the town, and saw that the booths were already

covered with fir-boughs, he felt a pang at his heart. The booths and the

houses seemed to be twirling round him in a circle, and dancing. But he

consoled himself with the thought that every year, when he drove into

town, he found many booths already covered. Some cover earlier, some

later. The latter paid the best.

"I shall ask higher prices," he resolved, and all the while fear tugged

at his heart. He drove on. Two Jewish women were standing before a

house; they pointed at the cart with their finger, and laughed aloud.

"Why do you laugh?" queried Antosh, excitedly.

"Because you are too soon with your fir-boughs," they answered, and

laughed again.

"How too soon?" he asked, astonished. "Too soon--too soon--" laughed the


"Pfui," Antosh spat, and drove on, thinking, "Berko said himself, 'In a

week.' I am only two days ahead."

A cold sweat covered him, as he reflected he might have made a wrong

calculation, founded on what Berko had told him. It was possible that he

had counted the days badly--had come too late! There is no doubt: all

the booths are covered with fir-boughs. He will have no salt, no

tobacco, no soap, and no petroleum.

Sadly he followed the slow paces of his languid horse, which let his

weary head droop as though out of sympathy for his master.

Meantime the Jews were crowding out of the synagogues in festal array,

with their prayer-scarfs and prayer-books in their hands. When they

perceived the peasant with the cart of fir-boughs, they looked

questioningly one at the other: Had they made a mistake and begun the

festival too early?

"What have you there?" some one inquired.

"What?" answered Antosh, taken aback. "Fir-boughs! Buy, my dear friend,

I sell it cheap!" he begged in a piteous voice.

The Jews burst out laughing.

"What should we want it for now, fool?" "The festival has begun!" said

another. Antosh was confused with his misfortune, he scratched the back

of his head, and exclaimed, weeping:

"Buy! Buy! I want salt, soap! I want petroleum."

The group of Jews, who had begun by laughing, were now deeply moved.

They saw the poor, starving peasant standing there in his despair, and

were filled with a lively compassion.

"A poor Gentile--it's pitiful!" said one, sympathetically. "He hoped to

make a fortune out of his fir-boughs, and now!" observed another.

"It would be proper to buy up that bit of fir," said a third, "else it

might cause a Chillul ha-Shem." "On a festival?" objected some one else.

"It can always be used for firewood," said another, contemplating the


"Whether or no! It's a festival----"

"No salt, no soap, no petroleum--" It was the refrain of the bewildered

peasant, who did not understand what the Jews were saying among

themselves. He could only guess that they were talking about him. "Hold!

he doesn't want money! He wants ware. Ware without money may be given

even on a festival," called out one.

The interest of the bystanders waxed more lively. Among them stood a

storekeeper, whose shop was close by. "Give him, Chayyim, a few jars of

salt and other things that he wants--even if it comes to a few gulden.

We will contribute."

"All right, willingly!" said Chayyim, "A poor Gentile!"

"A precept, a precept! It would be carrying out a religious precept, as

surely as I am a Jew!" chimed in every individual member of the crowd.

Chayyim called the peasant to him; all the rest followed. He gave him

out of the stores two jars of salt, a bar of soap, a bottle of

petroleum, and two packets of tobacco.

The peasant did not know what to do for joy. He could only stammer in a

low voice, "Thank you! thank you!"

"And there's a bit of Sabbath loaf," called out one, when he had packed

the things away, "take that with you!"

"There's some more!" and a second hand held some out to him.



"And more!"

They brought Antosh bread and cake from all sides; his astonishment was

such that he could scarcely articulate his thanks.

The people were pleased with themselves, and Yainkel Leives, a cheerful

man, who was well supplied for the festival, because his daughter's

"intended" was staying in his house, brought Antosh a glass of brandy:

"Drink, and drive home, in the name of God!"

Antosh drank the brandy with a quick gulp, bit off a piece of cake, and

declared joyfully, "I shall never forget it!"

"Not at all a bad Gentile," remarked someone in the crowd.

"Well, what would you have? Did you expect him to beat you?" queried

another, smiling.

The words "to beat" made a melancholy impression on the crowd, and it

dispersed in silence.