: S. LIBIN
It was a stifling summer evening. I had just come home from work, taken
off my coat, unbuttoned my waistcoat, and sat down panting by the window
of my little room.
There was a knock at the door, and without waiting for my reply, in came
a woman with yellow hair, and very untidy in her dress.
I judged from her appearance that she had not come from a distance. She
had nothing on her head, her
leeves were tucked up, she held a ladle in
her hand, and she was chewing something or other.
"I am Manasseh's wife," said she.
"Manasseh Gricklin's?" I asked.
"Yes," said my visitor, "Gricklin's, Gricklin's."
I hastily slipped on a coat, and begged her to be seated.
Manasseh was an old friend of mine, he was a capmaker, and we worked
together in one shop.
And I knew that he lived somewhere in the same tenement as myself, but
it was the first time I had the honor of seeing his wife.
"Look here," began the woman, "don't you work in the same shop as my
"Yes, yes," I said.
"Well, and now tell me," and the yellow-haired woman gave a bound like a
hyena, "how is it I see you come home from work with all other
respectable people, and my husband not? And it isn't the first time,
either, that he's gone, goodness knows where, and come home two hours
after everyone else. Where's he loitering about?"
"I don't know," I replied gravely.
The woman brandished her ladle in such a way that I began to think she
"You don't know?" she exclaimed with a sinister flash in her eyes. "What
do you mean by that? Don't you two leave the shop together? How can you
help seeing what becomes of him?"
Then I remembered that when Manasseh and I left the shop, he walked with
me a few blocks, and then went off in another direction, and that one
day, when I asked him where he was going, he had replied, "To some
"He must go to some friends," I said to the woman.
"To some friends?" she repeated, and burst into strange laughter. "Who?
Whose? Ours? We're greeners, we are, we have no friends. What friends
should he have, poor, miserable wretch?"
"I don't know," I said, "but that is what he told me."
"All right!" said Manasseh's wife. "I'll teach him a lesson he won't
forget in a hurry."
With these words she departed.
When she had left the room, I pictured to myself poor consumptive
Manasseh being taught a "lesson" by his yellow-haired wife, and I pitied
Manasseh was a man of about thirty. His yellowish-white face was set in
a black beard; he was very thin, always ailing and coughing, had never
learnt to write, and he read only Yiddish--a quiet, respectable man, I
might almost say the only hand in the shop who never grudged a
fellow-worker his livelihood. He had been only a year in the country,
and the others made sport of him, but I always stood up for him, because
I liked him very much.
Wherever does he go, now? I wondered to myself, and I resolved to find
Next morning I met Manasseh as usual, and at first I intended to tell
him of his wife's visit to me the day before; but the poor operative
looked so low-spirited, so thoroughly unhappy, that I felt sure his wife
had already given him the promised "lesson," and I hadn't the courage to
mention her to him just then.
In the evening, as we were going home from the workshop, Manasseh said
"Did my wife come to see you yesterday?"
"Yes, Brother Manasseh," I answered. "She seemed something annoyed with
"She has a dreadful temper," observed the workman. "When she is really
angry, she's fit to kill a man. But it's her bitter heart, poor
thing--she's had so many troubles! We're so poor, and she's far away
from her family."
Manasseh gave a deep sigh.
"She asked you where I go other days after work?" he continued.
"Would you like to know?"
"Why not, Mister Gricklin!"
"Come along a few blocks further," said Manasseh, "and I'll show you."
"Come along!" I agreed, and we walked on together.
A few more blocks and Manasseh led me into a narrow street, not yet
entirely built in with houses.
Presently he stopped, with a contented smile. I looked round in some
astonishment. We were standing alongside a piece of waste ground, with a
meagre fencing of stones and burnt wire, and utilized as a garden.
"Just look," said the workman, pointing at the garden, "how delightful
it is! One so seldom sees anything of the kind in New York."
Manasseh went nearer to the fence, and his eyes wandered thirstily over
the green, flowering plants, just then in full beauty. I also looked at
the garden. The things that grew there were unknown to me, and I was
ignorant of their names. Only one thing had a familiar look--a few tall,
graceful "moons" were scattered here and there over the place, and stood
like absent-minded dreamers, or beautiful sentinels. And the roses were
in bloom, and their fragrance came in wafts over the fencing.
"You see the 'moons'?" asked Manasseh, in rapt tones, but more to
himself than to me. "Look how beautiful they are! I can't take my eyes
off them. I am capable of standing and looking at them for hours. They
make me feel happy, almost as if I were at home again. There were a lot
of them at home!"
The operative sighed, lost himself a moment in thought, and then said:
"When I smell the roses, I think of old days. We had quite a large
garden, and I was so fond of it! When the flowers began to come out, I
used to sit there for hours, and could never look at it enough. The
roses appeared to be dreaming with their great golden eyes wide open.
The cucumbers lay along the ground like pussy-cats, and the stalks and
leaves spread ever so far across the beds. The beans fought for room
like street urchins, and the pumpkins and the potatoes--you should have
seen them! And the flowers were all colors--pink and blue and yellow,
and I felt as if everything were alive, as if the whole garden were
alive--I fancied I heard them talking together, the roses, the potatoes,
the beans. I spent whole evenings in my garden. It was dear to me as my
own soul. Look, look, look, don't the roses seem as if they were alive?"
But I looked at Manasseh, and thought the consumptive workman had grown
younger and healthier. His face was less livid, and his eyes shone with
"Do you know," said Manasseh to me, as we walked away from the garden,
"I had some cuttings of rose-trees at home, in a basket out on the
fire-escape, and they had begun to bud."
There was a pause.
"Well," I inquired, "and what happened?"
"My wife laid out the mattress to air on the top of the basket, and they
were all crushed."
Manasseh made an outward gesture with his hand, and I asked no more
The poky, stuffy shop in which he worked came into my mind, and my heart
was sore for him.