The Charitable Loan


The largest fair in Klemenke is "Ulas." The little town waits for Ulas

with a beating heart and extravagant hopes. "Ulas," say the Klemenke

shopkeepers and traders, "is a Heavenly blessing; were it not for Ulas,

Klemenke would long ago have been 'aeus Klemenke,' America would have

taken its last few remaining Jews to herself."

But for Ulas one must have the wherewithal--the shopkeepers need wares,

and the
traders, money.

Without the wherewithal, even Ulas is no good! And Chayyim, the dealer

in produce, goes about gloomily. There are only three days left before

Ulas, and he hasn't a penny wherewith to buy corn to trade with. And the

other dealers in produce circulate in the market-place with caps awry,

with thickly-rolled cigarettes in their mouths and walking-sticks in

their hands, and they are talking hard about the fair.

"In three days it will be lively!" calls out one.

"Pshshsh," cries another in ecstasy, "in three days' time the place will

be packed!"

And Chayyim turns pale. He would like to call down a calamity on the

fair, he wishes it might rain, snow, or storm on that day, so that not

even a mad dog should come to the market-place; only Chayyim knows that

Ulas is no weakling, Ulas is not afraid of the strongest wind--Ulas is


And Chayyim's eyes are ready to start out of his head. A charitable

loan--where is one to get a charitable loan? If only five and twenty


He asks it of everyone, but they only answer with a merry laugh:

"Are you mad? Money--just before a fair?"

And it seems to Chayyim that he really will go mad.

"Suppose you went across to Loibe-Baeres?" suggests his wife, who takes

her full share in his distress.

"I had thought of that myself," answers Chayyim, meditatively.

"But what?" asks the wife.

Chayyim is about to reply, "But I can't go there, I haven't the

courage," only that it doesn't suit him to be so frank with his wife,

and he answers:

"Devil take him! He won't lend anything!"

"Try! It won't hurt," she persists.

And Chayyim reflects that he has no other resource, that Loibe-Baeres is

a rich man, and living in the same street, a neighbor in fact, and that

he requires no money for the fair, being a dealer in lumber and


"Give me out my Sabbath overcoat!" says Chayyim to his wife, in a

resolute tone.

"Didn't I say so?" the wife answers. "It's the best thing you can do, to

go to him."

Chayyim placed himself before a half-broken looking-glass which was

nailed to the wall, smoothed his beard with both hands, tightened his

earlocks, and then took off his hat, and gave it a polish with his


"Just look and see if I haven't got any white on my coat off the wall!"

"If you haven't?" the wife answered, and began slapping him with both

hands over the shoulders.

"I thought we once had a little clothes-brush. Where is it? ha?"

"Perhaps you dreamt it," replied his wife, still slapping him on the

shoulders, and she went on, "Well, I should say you had got some white

on your coat!"

"Come, that'll do!" said Chayyim, almost angrily. "I'll go now."

He drew on his Sabbath overcoat with a sigh, and muttering, "Very

likely, isn't it, he'll lend me money!" he went out.

On the way to Loibe-Baeres, Chayyim's heart began to fail him. Since the

day that Loibe-Baeres came to live at the end of the street, Chayyim had

been in the house only twice, and the path Chayyim was treading now was

as bad as an examination: the "approach" to him, the light rooms, the

great mirrors, the soft chairs, Loibe-Baeres himself with his long, thick

beard and his black eyes with their "gevirish" glance, the lady, the

merry, happy children, even the maid, who had remained in his memory

since those two visits--all these things together terrified him, and he

asked himself, "Where are you going to? Are you mad? Home with you at

once!" and every now and then he would stop short on the way. Only the

thought that Ulas was near, and that he had no money to buy corn, drove

him to continue.

"He won't lend anything--it's no use hoping." Chayyim was preparing

himself as he walked for the shock of disappointment; but he felt that

if he gave way to that extent, he would never be able to open his mouth

to make his request known, and he tried to cheer himself:

"If I catch him in a good humor, he will lend! Why should he be afraid

of lending me a few rubles over the fair? I shall tell him that as soon

as ever I have sold the corn, he shall have the loan back. I will swear

it by wife and children, he will believe me--and I will pay it back."

But this does not make Chayyim any the bolder, and he tries another sort

of comfort, another remedy against nervousness.

"He isn't a bad man--and, after all, our acquaintance won't date from

to-day--we've been living in the same street twenty years--Parabotzker


And Chayyim recollects that a fortnight ago, as Loibe-Baeres was passing

his house on his way to the market-place, and he, Chayyim, was standing

in the yard, he gave him the greeting due to a gentleman ("and I could

swear I gave him my hand," Chayyim reminded himself). Loibe-Baeres had

made a friendly reply, he had even stopped and asked, like an old

acquaintance, "Well, Chayyim, and how are you getting on?" And Chayyim

strains his memory and remembers further that he answered on this wise:

"I thank you for asking! Heaven forgive me, one does a little bit of


And Chayyim is satisfied with his reply, "I answered him quite at my


Chayyim resolves to speak to him this time even more leisurely and

independently, not to cringe before him.

Chayyim could already see Loibe-Baeres' house in the distance. He coughed

till his throat was clear, stroked his beard down, and looked at his


"Still a very good coat!" he said aloud, as though trying to persuade

himself that the coat was still good, so that he might feel more courage

and more proper pride.

But when he got to Loibe-Baeres' big house, when the eight large windows

looking onto the street flashed into his eyes, the windows being

brightly illuminated from within, his heart gave a flutter.

"Oi, Lord of the World, help!" came of its own accord to his lips. Then

he felt ashamed, and caught himself up, "Ett, nonsense!"

As he pushed the door open, the "prayer" escaped him once more, "Help,

mighty God! or it will be the death of me!"

* * * * *

Loibe-Baeres was seated at a large table covered with a clean white

table-cloth, and drinking while he talked cheerfully with his household.

"There's a Jew come, Tate!" called out a boy of twelve, on seeing

Chayyim standing by the door.

"So there is!" called out a second little boy, still more merrily,

fixing Chayyim with his large, black, mischievous eyes.

All the rest of those at table began looking at Chayyim, and he thought

every moment that he must fall of a heap onto the floor.

"It will look very bad if I fall," he said to himself, made a step

forward, and, without saying good evening, stammered out:

"I just happened to be passing, you understand, and I saw you

sitting--so I knew you were at home--well, I thought one ought to


"Well, welcome, welcome!" said Loibe-Baeres, smiling. "You've come at the

right moment. Sit down."

A stone rolled off Chayyim's heart at this reply, and, with a glance at

the two little boys, he quietly took a seat.

"Leah, give Reb Chayyim a glass of tea," commanded Loibe-Baeres.

"Quite a kind man!" thought Chayyim. "May the Almighty come to his aid!"

He gave his host a grateful look, and would gladly have fallen onto the

Gevir's thick neck, and kissed him.

"Well, and what are you about?" inquired his host.

"Thanks be to God, one lives!"

The maid handed him a glass of tea. He said, "Thank you," and then was

sorry: it is not the proper thing to thank a servant. He grew red and

bit his lips.

"Have some jelly with it!" Loibe-Baeres suggested.

"An excellent man, an excellent man!" thought Chayyim, astonished. "He

is sure to lend."

"You deal in something?" asked Loibe-Baeres.

"Why, yes," answered Chayyim. "One's little bit of business, thank

Heaven, is no worse than other people's!"

"What price are oats fetching now?" it occurred to the Gevir to ask.

Oats had fallen of late, but it seemed better to Chayyim to say that

they had risen.

"They have risen very much!" he declared in a mercantile tone of voice.

"Well, and have you some oats ready?" inquired the Gevir further.

"I've got a nice lot of oats, and they didn't cost me much, either. I

got them quite cheap," replied Chayyim, with more warmth, forgetting,

while he spoke, that he hadn't had an ear of oats in his granary for


"And you are thinking of doing a little speculating?" asked Loibe-Baeres.

"Are you not in need of any money?"

"Thanks be to God," replied Chayyim, proudly, "I have never yet been in

need of money."

"Why did I say that?" he thought then, in terror at his own words. "How

am I going to ask for a loan now?" and Chayyim wanted to back the cart a

little, only Loibe-Baeres prevented him by saying:

"So I understand you make a good thing of it, you are quite a wealthy


"My wealth be to my enemies!" Chayyim wanted to draw back, but after a

glance at Loibe-Baeres' shining face, at the blue jar with the jelly, he

answered proudly:

"Thank Heaven, I have nothing to complain of!"

"There goes your charitable loan!" The thought came like a kick in the

back of his head. "Why are you boasting like that? Tell him you want

twenty-five rubles for Ulas--that he must save you, that you are in

despair, that--"

But Chayyim fell deeper and deeper into a contented and happy way of

talking, praised his business more and more, and conversed with the

Gevir as with an equal.

But he soon began to feel he was one too many, that he should not have

sat there so long, or have talked in that way. It would have been better

to have talked about the fair, about a loan. Now it is too late:

"I have no need of money!" and Chayyim gave a despairing look at

Loibe-Baeres' cheerful face, at the two little boys who sat opposite and

watched him with sly, mischievous eyes, and who whispered knowingly to

each other, and then smiled more knowingly still!

A cold perspiration covered him. He rose from his chair.

"You are going already?" observed Loibe-Baeres, politely.

"Now perhaps I could ask him!" It flashed across Chayyim's mind that he

might yet save himself, but, stealing a glance at the two boys with the

roguish eyes that watched him so slyly, he replied with dignity:

"I must! Business! There is no time!" and it seems to him, as he goes

toward the door, that the two little boys with the mischievous eyes are

putting out their tongues after him, and that Loibe-Baeres himself smiles

and says, "Stick your tongues out further, further still!"

Chayyim's shoulders seem to burn, and he makes haste to get out of the