Зображення сторінки

I may say, in which the personal element on making himself agreeable to me, and as counted with him far more than family I was lonely, we had passed a pleasant connection. When the war came, though evening, when he mentioned casually a fact he was opposed to “Locofocoism," as he which sent my heart down into my boots. termed it, he enlisted as a private as soon He was a Jew. This, then, accounted for as the State seceded, and fought through the ridge of his well-carved nose, and the the war, rising to be a major and surren- curl of his soft brown hair. I tried to be as dering at Appomattox. When the war frank and easy as I had been before, but it closed, he shut himself up on his estate, was a failure. He saw my surprise as I accepting the situation without morose- saw his disappointment-a coolness took ness, and consoling himself with a philos- the place of the warmth that had been ophy much more misanthropic in expres- growing up between us for several hours, sion than in practice.

and we passed a stiff evening. My father's slender patrimony had been N ext day, I found a former acquaintance swept away by the war, but, being a scholar who offered to take me into his apartment, himself, and having a high idea of classical and that afternoon, having watched for my learning and a good estimate of my abilities opportunity, I took advantage of my room

-in which latter view I entirely agreed mate's absence and moved out, leaving a with him-he managed by much stinting to short note saying that I had discovered an send me to college out of the fragments of old friend who was very desirous that I his establishment. I admired greatly cer- should share his quarters. When I next tain principles which were stamped in him met Wolffert, he was so stiff, that although as firmly as a fossil is embedded in the solid I felt sorry for him and was ready to be as rock; but I fear I had a certain contempt civil as I might, our acquaintance therefor what appeared to me his inadequacy to after became merely nominal. I saw, inthe new state of things, and I secretly deed, little of him during the next months, plumed myself on my superiority to him in for he soon forged far ahead of me. I used all practical affairs. Without the least ap- to see him for a while standing in his doorpreciation of the sacrifices he was making way looking wistfully out at the groups of to send me to college, I was an idle dog and students gathered under the trees, or walkplunged into the amusements of the gay set ing alone like Isaac in the fields, and until I —that set whose powers begin below their formed my own set, I would have gone and foreheads-in which I became a member joined him or have asked him to join us but and aspired to be a leader.

for his rebuff. I knew that he was lonely; for My first episode at college brought me I soon discovered that the cold shoulder was some éclat.

being given to him by most of the students.

I could not, however, but feel that it served II

him right for the “airs” he put on with me.

That he made a brilliant exhibition in his THE JEW AND THE CHRISTIAN

classes and was easily the cleverest man in I ARRIVED rather late and the term had the class did not affect our attitude toward already begun, so that all the desirable him; perhaps, it only aggravated the case. rooms had been taken. I was told that I Why should he be able to make easily a would either have to room out of college or demonstration at the blackboard that the take quarters with a young man by the name cleverest of us only bungled through? One of Wolffert-like myself, a freshman. I nat- day, however, we learned that the Jew had urally chose the latter. On reaching my a room-mate. Bets were freely taken that quarters, I found my new comrade to be an he would not stick, but he stuck-for it was affable, gentlemanly fellow, and very nice John Marvel. Not that any of us knew looking. Indeed, his brow, with curling what John Marvel was; for even I, who, brown hair above it; dark eyes, deep and except Wolffert, came to know him best, luminous; a nose the least bit too large and did not know until many years later what inclining to be aquiline; a well-cut mouth a nugget of unwrought gold that homely, with mobile, sensitive lips, and a finely chis- shy, awkward John Marvel was! elled jaw, gave him an unusual face, if not It appeared that Wolffert had a harder one of distinction. He was evidently bent time than any of us dreamed of.

He had come to the institution against found that some of them—a few—did not the advice of his father, and for a singular hold the same views of Christ with the reason: that he thought it the most liberal others. Then he began to study for himinstitution of learning in the country! Lit- self, boy as he was the history of Christ, and tle he knew of the narrowness of youth! out of it came questions that his father His mind was so receptive that all that could not answer and was angry that he passed through it was instantly appropri- should put to him. He went to a young ated. Like a plant, he drew sustenance Rabbi who told him that Christ was a good from the atmosphere about him and trans- man, but mistaken in His claims. muted what was impalpable to us to forms So, the boy drifted a little apart from his of beauty. He was even then a man of in- own people, and more and more he studied dependent thought; a dreamer who peo- the questions that arose in his mind, and pled the world with ideals, and saw beneath more and more he suffered; but more and the stony surface of the commonplace the more he grew strong. ideals and principles that were to recon- The father, too proud of his son's indestruct and resurrect the world. An ad- pendence to coerce him by an order which mirer of the Law in its ideal conception, he might have been a law to him, had, neverreprobated, with the fury of the Baptist, the theless, thrown him on his own resources generation that had belittled and cramped and cut him down to the lowest figure on it to an instrument of torture of the human which he could live, confident that his own mind, and looked to the millenial coming opinions would be justified and his son reof universal brotherhood and freedom. turn home.

His father was a leading man in his city; Wolffert's first experience very nearly jusone who, by his native ability and the dy- tified this conviction. The fact that a Jew namic force that seems to be a characteristic had come and taken one of the old apartof the race, had risen from poverty to the ments spread through the college with position of chief merchant and capitalist of amazing rapidity and created a sensation. the town. He had been elected mayor in a Not that there had not been Jews there betime of stress; but his popularity among fore, for there had been a number there at the citizens generally had cost him, as I one time or another. But they were memlearned, something among his own people. bers of families of distinction, who had been The breadth of his views had not been ap- known for generations as bearing their part proved by them.

in all the appointments of life, and had conThe abilities that in the father had taken sorted with other folk on an absolute equalthis direction of the mingling of the prac- ity; so that there was little or nothing to tical and the theoretical had, in the son, distinguish them as Israelites except their taken the form I have stated. He was an name. If they were Israelites, it was an acidealist: a poet and a dreamer.

cident and played no larger part in their The boy from the first had discovered views than if they had been Scotch or powers that had given his father the keen- French. But here was a man who proest delight, not unmingled with a little mis- claimed himself a Jew; who proposed that giving. As he grew up among the best class it should be known, and evidently meant to of boys in his town, and became conscious assert his rights and peculiarities on all octhat he was not one of them, his inquiring casions. The result was that he was suband aspiring mind began early to seek the jected to a species of persecution which reasons for the difference. Why should he only the young Anglo-Saxon, the most brube held a little apart from them? He was tal of all animals, could have devised. a Jew. Yes, but why should a Jew be held As college filled rapidly, it soon became apart? They talked about their families. necessary to double up, that is, put two Why, his family could trace back for two men in one apartment. The first student thousand and more years to princes and assigned to live with Wolffert was Peck, a kings. They had a different religion. But sedate and cool young man-like myself, he saw other boys with different religions from the country, and like myself, very going and playing together. They were short of funds. Peck would not have mindChristians, and believed in Christ, while ed rooming with a Jew, or, for that matter, the Jews, etc. This puzzled him till he with the Devil, if he had thought he could get anything out of him; for he had few “It is. Why?” Wolffert spoke abruptly. prejudices and when it came to calculation, “Well, I have been assigned to this aparthe was the multiplication table. But Peck ment by the Proctor. I am a new student had his way to make, and he coolly decided and have just come. My name is Marvel that a Jew was likely to make him bear his —John Marvel.” Wolffert put his arms full part of the expenses—which he never across the doorway and stood in the middle had any mind to do. So he looked around, of it. and within forty-eight hours moved to a “Well, I want to tell you before you come place out of college where he got reduced in that I am a Jew. You are welcome board on the ground of belonging to some not to come, but if you come I want you to peculiar set of religionists, of which I am stay.” Perhaps, the other's astonishment convinced he had never heard till he learned contained a query, for he went on hotly: of the landlady's idiosyncrasy.

“I have had two men come here already I had incurred Peck's lasting enmity, and both of them left after one day. The though I did not know it at the time—by a first said he got cheaper board, which was witticism at his expense. We had never a legitimate excuse—if true—the other said taken to each other from the first, and one he had found an old friend who wanted evening, when someone was talking about him. I am convinced that he lied and that Wolffert, Peck joined in and said that that the only reason he left was that I am a Jew. institution was no place for any Jew. I said, And now you can come in or not, as you "Listen to Peck sniff. Peck, how did you please, but if you come you must stay." get in?This raised a laugh. Peck, I am He was looking down in John Marvel's eyes sure, had never read “Martin Chuzzlewit”; with a gaze that had the concentrated bitbut I am equally sure he read it afterward, terness of generations in it, and the latter for he never forgave me.

met it with a gravity that deepened into pity. Then came my turn and desertion which “I will come in and I will stay; Jesus I have described. And then, after that in- was a Jew," said the man on the lower step. terval of loneliness, appeared John Marvel. “I do not know him," said the other

Wolffert, who was one of the most social bitterly. men I ever knew, was sitting in his room “But you will. I know Him." meditating on the strange fate that had Wolffert's arms fell and John Marvel made him an outcast among the men whom entered and stayed. he had come there to study and know. This That evening the two men went to the was my interpretation of his thoughts: he supper hall together. Their table was would probably have said he was thinking near mine and they were the observed of of the strange prejudices of the human race all observers. The one curious thing was -prejudices to which he had been in some that John Marvel was studying for the sort a victim all his life, as his race had ministry. It lent zest to the jokes that were been all through the ages. He was steeped made on this incongruous pairing, and in loneliness, and as, in the mellow October jests, more or less insipid, were made on the afternoon, the sound of good-fellowship Law and the Prophets; the lying down tofloated in at his window from the lawn out- gether of the lion and the lamb, etc. side, he grew more and more dejected. OneIt was a curious mating—the lightevening it culminated. He even thought of haired, moon-faced, slow-witted Saxon, writing to his father that he would come home and the dark, keen Jew with his intellectual and go into his office and accept the position face and his deep-burning eyes in which that meant wealth and luxury and power. glowed the misery and mystery of the ages. Just then there was a step outside, and some- John Marvel soon became well known; one stopped and after a moment, knocked for he was one of the slowest men in the at the door. Wolffert rose and opened it and college. With his amusing awkwardness, stood facing a new student-a florid, round- he would have become a butt except for his faced, round-bodied, bow-legged, blue- imperturbable good-humor. As it was, eyed, awkward lad of about his own age. he was for a time a sort of object of ridi

" Is this number —?” demanded the new- cule to many of us-myself among the comer, peering curiously at the dingy door number-and we had many laughs at him. and half shyly looking up at the occupant. He would disappear on Saturday night and not turn up again till Monday morning, room and remained with him some time, dusty and disheveled. And many jests and when they left, he walked some diswere made at his expense. One said that tance with them. Marvel was practising preaching in the It was at first rumored and then genermountains with a view to becoming a sec- ally reported that they were Marvel's father ond Demosthenes; another suggested that, and mother. It became known later that if so, the mountains would probably get up they were a couple of poor mountaineers and run into the sea.

named Shiflett, whose child John Marvel When, however, it was discovered later had nursed when it had the fever. They that he had a Sunday-school in the moun- had just learned of his illness and had come tains, and walked twelve miles out and down to bring him some chickens and other twelve miles back, most of the gibers, ex- things which they thought he might need. cept the inveterate humorists like myself, This incident, with the knowledge of were silent.

Marvel's devotion, made some impression This fact came out by chance. Marvel on us, and gained for Marvel, and incidisappeared from college one day and re- dentally for Wolffert, some sort of respect. mained away for two or three weeks. Wolffert either could not or would not give any account of him. When Marvel returned, he

III looked worn and ill, as if he had been starying, and almost immediately he was taken

THE FIGHT ill and went to the infirmary with a case of fever. Here he was so ill that the doctors ALL this time I was about as far aloof quarantined him and no one saw him ex- from Marvel and Wolffert as I was from cept the nurse-old Mrs. Denny, a wrink- any one in the college. led and bald-headed, old, fat woman, some- I rather liked Marvel, partly because he thing between a lightwood knot and an appeared to like me and I helped him in angel-and Wolffert.

his Latin, and partly because Peck sniffed Wolffert moved down and took up his at him, and Peck, I cordially disliked for quarters in the infirmary-it was suggested, his cold blooded selfishness and his plodwith a view to converting Marvel to Juda- ding way. ism-and here he stayed. The nursing never I was strong and active and fairly goodappeared to make any difference in Wolf- looking, though by no means so handsome fert's preparation for his classes; for when as I fancied myself when I passed the large he came back he still stood easily first. But plate-glass windows in the stores; I was poor Marvel never caught up again, and conceited, but not arrogant except to my was even more hopelessly lost in the be- family and those I esteemed my inferiors; fogged region at the bottom of the class was a good poker-player; was openthan ever before. When called on to recite, handed enough, for it cost me nothing; and his brow would pucker and he would per- was inclined to be kind by nature, spire and stammer until the class would be I had, moreover, several accomplishin ill-suppressed convulsions, all the more ments which led to a certain measure of enjoyable because of Leo Wolffert's agoniz- popularity. I had a retentive memory, and ing over his wretchedness. Then Marvel, could get up a recitation with little trouble; excused by the professor, would sit down though I forgot about as quickly as I and mop his brow and beam quite as if he learned. I could pick a little on a banjo; had made a wonderful performance (which, could spout fluently what sounded like a indeed, he had), while Wolffert's thin face good speech if one did not listen to me; would grow whiter, his nostrils quiver, and could write, what some one has said, looked his deep eyes burn like coals.

at a distance like poetry and, thanks to my One day a spare, rusty man with a father, could both fence and read Latin. frowzy beard, and a lank, stooping woman These accomplishments served to bring me strolled into the college grounds and after into the best set in college and, in time, to wandering around aimlessly for a time, undo me. For there is nothing more dangerasked for Mr. Marvel. Each of them car- ous to a young man than an exceptional ried a basket. They were directed to his social accomplishment. A tenor voice is almost as perilous as a taste for drink; When I rose the second time, I was and to play the guitar, about as seductive cooler. I knew then that I was in for it. as to play poker.

Those blows were a boxer's. They came I was soon to know Wolffert better. He straight from the shoulder and were as and Marvel, after their work became known, quick as lightning, with every ounce of the had been admitted rather more within the giver's weight behind them. By this time, circle, though they were still kept near the however, the crowd had interfered. This perimeter. And thus, as the spring came was no place for a fight, they said. The on, when we all assembled on pleasant professors would come on us. Several afternoons under the big trees that shaded were holding me and as many more had the green slopes above the athletic field, Wolffert; among them, John Marvel, who even Wolffert and Marvel were apt to join could have lifted him in his strong arms and us. I would long ago have made friends held him as a baby. Marvel was pleading with Wolffert, as some others had done since with him with tears in his eyes. Wolffert he distinguished himself; for I had been was cool enough now, but he took no heed of ashamed of my poltroonery in leaving him; his friend's entreaties. Standing quite still, but, though he was affable enough with with the blaze in his eyes all the more vivid others, he always treated me with such because of the pallor of his face, he was marked reserve that I had finally aban- looking over his friend's head and was doned my charitable effort to be on easy cursing me with all the eloquence of a rich terms with him.

vocabulary. So far as he was concerned, One spring afternoon we were all loafing there might not have been another man under the trees, many of us stretched out but myself within a mile. on the grass. I had just saved a game of In a moment an agreement was made by baseball by driving a ball that brought in which we were to adjourn to a retired spot three men from the bases, and I was sur- and fight it out. Something that he said rounded by quite a group. Marvel, who led some one to suggest that we settle it was as strong as an ox, was second-base- with pistols. It was Peck's voice. Wolffert man on the other nine and had missed the sprang at it. “I will, if I can get any genball as the centre-fielder threw it wildly. tleman to represent me,” he said with a Something was said I do not recall what bitter sneer, casting his flashing, scornful -and I raised a laugh at Marvel's expense, eyes around on the crowd. “I have only in which he joined heartily. Then a dis- one friend and I will not ask him to do it.” cussion began on the merits in which Wolf- “I will represent you," said Peck, who fert joined. I started it, but as Wolffert had his own reasons for the offer. appeared excited, I drew out and left it to “All right. When and where?” said I. my friends.

“Now, and in the railway-cut beyond Presently, at something Wolffert said, I the wood," said Wolffert. turned to a friend, Sam Pleasants, and said We retired to two rooms in a neighboring in a half-aside, with a sneer: “He did not dormitory to arrange matters. Peck and seeit; Sam, you"Inodded my head, mean- another volunteer represented Wolffert, and ing, “You explain it.”

Sam Pleasants and Harry Houston were Suddenly, Wolffert rose to his feet and, my seconds. I had expected that some atwithout a word of warning, poured out on tempt at reconciliation would be made; me such a torrent of abuse as I never heard but there was no suggestion of it. I never before or since. His least epithet was a saw such cold blooded young ruffians as deadly insult. It was out of a clear sky, all our seconds were, and when Peck came and for a moment my breath was quite to close the final cartel he had an air betaken away. I sprang to my feet and, with tween that of a butcher and an undera roar of rage, made a rush for him. But taker. He looked at me exactly as a he was ready, and with a step to one side, butcher does at a fatted calf. He posiplanted a straight blow on my jaw that, tively licked his chops. I did not want to catching me unprepared, sent me full length shoot Wolffert, but I could cheerfully have on my back. I was up in a second and made murdered Peck. While, however, the aranother rush for him, only to be caught in rangements were being made by our the same way and sent down again. friends, I had had a chance for some re

« НазадПродовжити »