For you everything has finished itself out, I said to myself. Everything that has had a beginning has ended. Curiosity itself has had for you a beginning and an end. All the shapes within your vision, pleasing and unsightly alike, are pitchers you have seen filled up with rain-water, then emptied out by the pitiless sun. If you had a stouter heart, and a hammer, you might do a good job of breaking them. But are you going to spend the rest of a restless day watching the heat lick them fawningly into a mass of colored fragments?
If you had, yourself, at least, a cunning for withstanding the shattering light! But there you go, running off headlong into a shade of doorway. . . . Could you but make one last tumultuous effort, lift up that two hundred pound corpse of yours, place it on a comfortable ship, and see what a power of wind and water would do for you. Why, man! you needn't ever be yourself again! The ocean is a mighty and savage cleaver. There might be nothing left of you when you reach the other shore but what is needed to identify you with the photograph on your passport!
the deck, a few steps away from me, a corpulent elaborately dressed young man,
with a good natured east-side face, was photographing a group of giggling
friends. They waved white handkerchiefs, laughed, jostled one another, and
tried to maintain a homogenous group on the shore. The ship was absolutely
motionless. The gray moldy woodwork of the pier rose devastatingly over
everything. I was still in New York. By unchangeable schedule I would continue
being there another three quarters of an hour.
prospect was intolerable, and suddenly a way out of it shone on me. I wheeled
about, tripped down to my cabin, and turned in. When I reopened my eyes I was in
the embrace of a huge
all strange to me, were scattered in groups everywhere. I looked them over
casually, quizzically, consciously trying not to see any one of them. Well
enough did I realize their importance. For at least a week, I knew, they would
be my mental and social horizon, all the world to me. I would be a little slow
discovering them, and they would be a little quicker finding out my usefulness
for them. Eventually, it would be the world and me all over again, as it has
always been. The story of creation was beginning anew.
ordered magnetic chaos of the Atlantic, gray, vast and darkening, was before me.
Looking far out, I saw deep into my own soul. I had left America and was heading
for England, a country in which I knew instinctively they liked neither
Americans nor Jews, and I was both. But that did not really matter. I was going
back to Europe which my people had cradled from infancy, and which, as a return
favor, had cradled me. That was the arrangement, I decided. Nothing must alter
it. As a mark of my resolution I sought the bar.
brought many more drinks, and my newly acquired companions began to talk
freely. Nothing in America had pleased them, not even the women. They
deliberately drew me into the conversation, for I seemed to them American, and
what have you got in America, anyway?" the older of the two demanded. His
mouth had acquired an ugly twist.
one thing," I replied, "some one hundred million rather nice
stared at me with open mouthed wonder. They had expected me to boast of the
Woolworth Building and of winning the great war. Undoubtedly they had, at their
fingers' tips, fondly cherished arguments itching to reply. "You don't
sound at all American," the younger one drawled.
made a risky experiment. "Well, to be absolutely correct, I am not entirely
American, being also somewhat of a Jew."
effect of this speech was electric. My two easily acquired companions exchanged
significant glances, gulped down the rest of their liquor, and without another
word staggered away from the table. The taintless instinctive-ness of their
procedure amazed me. My stupefaction was interrupted by the impersonal
appearance of Jim, on whose plate I flung a two shilling piece.
looked up into his face and shook my head. The realization that I was on an
English ship settled fully in me. I went below.
the long elegant saloon people were getting their assignments to tables, asking
questions with reluctant timidity, ordering children about, and slowly,
inevitably drifting into one another.
noted with satisfaction that there was not a pretty woman in sight. A pretty
woman usually spoils everything by attracting to herself more attention than
legitimately belongs to her. Like a tree standing out in a finely etched
landscape. It may be a good tree. But it ruins the landscape.
do not mix easily. Besides, I should see whether my baggage had been sorted out
and brought to my cabin, in good order. My trunk was being dragged in by a
pleasant-faced, pleasant-mannered steward, as I arrived. There was
already a trunk, under the bed I had napped in. A strange trunk. Here was
something I had not counted on at all. "Is there someone else in this cabin
with me?" I asked.
steward paused to look up at me. "Yes, sir. And you're lucky, in having
Have you seen him? What's he like?"
you'll like him, sir. He's a young gentleman, a Scotch engineer. Got two gold
medals in Japan."
gold medals, eh? That's going it some, I'll say."
he's a fine lad, sir. . . . He's with the rest of the engineers now, sir."
then the gong sounded for dinner. I turned to the dining room feeling skeptical
about the possibility of this Scotch engineer being "a fine lad" for
all of his gold medals.
me at the table sat two familiar strangers. One said he was German. The other
pleaded cosmopolitanism. The German was fair and fleshy, and spoke English with
a substantially German accent. The cosmopolitan, at least ten years older,
dressed with neat and scrupulous tightness, and displayed a shining baldness
rimmed by paye-like hair. He appeared to be a super tailor,
that is to say a tailor turned real estate agent. I rather liked him. At my
right sat a hard boiled, past middle age Canadian with whom I
enjoyed altogether one brief conversation. He asked me had I ever been to
Montreal, and I asked him where was Montreal. At my left sat two mulatto girls
who dressed like Spanish grandees and apparently got away with it. Very
appropriately, it seemed to me, they coquetted with the German and the
cosmopolitan. At the head of the table, a vivacious little woman, all black hair
and black eyes, explained that she was English and didn't like Jews. On both
sides of her, as if she were chaperoning them, sat a fair slender English girl
and her tall grave fiancé whom I always think of as the Churchman; he was
forever describing "our cathedrals." But in a corner, out of the
vision of everybody, it seemed to me, was one whom I had almost escaped seeing
such is the modesty of real beauty. To begin with, she was the only woman at
table not in evening clothes. She presented a Queen Anne bust, a white collar
rising from her white waist towards her high neck. Her hair, almost a metallic
silver, parted in a straight line in the
Table talk was dominated by the churchman who, among other things, had a goodly knowledge of Jewish affairs, and was cordial to the point of insisting that General Allenby's conquest of Palestine was the most glorious chapter of Jewish history. But I quickly tired of his spurious courtesy, and, in order not to hear him, set myself the task of making out definitely the mysterious beauty of the girl with the silver hair. But beyond the placid loveliness of her face I could make out nothing, and she had left the table in one motion of flight before I could pierce the image of her.
"What cool, impersonal beauty," ran
through my mind. It was the sort that I had never had in my life, and perhaps
never would live to attain.
heavy mist had settled over the sea. Our ship seemed to move through it with
round-shouldered timidity. Only a few people were on deck, those who had
not yielded to the fascination of unpacking their belongings for the journey.
They paced to and fro in short semi-circles, and puffed away in silence at
brief cigarettes. Here and there, on a deck chair, a man could be seen sprawled
out, his hands folded over his stomach, eyes half-dosed. Now and then the
ship-whistle sounded shrilly over the soft lapping of the sea about the
ship. The air seemed dying out.
this trivial monotone of sound and movement I imposed myself for a few minutes.
I could not make up my mind whether I wanted to rest or find something to do.
The bar, as I passed it, had been absolutely deserted. The deck afforded not
much more encouragement. The manner of the few who promenaded about was almost
mystical in its seclusiveness. They talked in the hushed voices of people who
are tired, rather than of those who are afraid of being overheard.
in the cabin I ran into the young engineer who was to share
you slept in my bed."
sorry. I didn't know it was your bed."
luggage was under it when you came in."
must have failed to see your luggage. Why don't you take the bed that hasn't
been slept in, then?"
don't have to. I've changed the bedding around."
"Nice boy," I thought, and began pulling off my things. "I should warn you," I began jocosly, "that my feet, under the burden of two hundred pounds -"
won't bother about your feet," he interrupted, "if you keep your Jew
head out of my affairs."
I looked up at him, and with great effort resisted a reply. Here's fate's little messenger, I vowed to myself. All ready to drag you into the Jew business again on the slightest provocation. Well, let's see how much fate can accomplish without your cooperation. I'll let this damn little squirt wilt before I take up this quarrel again.
A knock on the door of my cabin awoke me the next morning. It was the steward. "You've overslept, sir. I thought I'd call you before it was too late to get you something nice from the kitchen, sir."
Get me some ham and eggs and the exact time."
returned, within ten minutes, bearing a tray laden with ham and eggs, toast,
marmalade and coffee. "You'll find the coffee real good sir. We've a good
chef this trip." He paused in the doorway. "One more thing, sir. Shall
I reserve you a deck chair? It's a crown for the trip and that includes cushion
I said. "And there's an extra five shillings in it for you if you get it
next to a really pretty woman."
well, sir. Blonde or brunette?"
have no petty prejudices in the matter of women."
ate, shaved, and sauntered out. At the end of the saloon, I found my steward
waiting for me, a broad contented grin on his face. "I see that you've
earned that five shillings," I said, pressing it into his hands. The number
of my reservation was 76. "What's she, 75 or 77," I asked.
didn't notice, sir. But she's a beauty."
heart rose in me with a strange hopefulness. Might it not be the girl with the
How's the sea this morning?"
fine fettle, sir. Only that she looks a bit too coy."
does that mean?"
it means rough seas ahead, sir."
we'll take care of that in time." I ran eagerly up the easy circular
stairway leading to the upper deck.
on the deck was dazzling. The sun absolutely prodigal. The waters seemed to be
on promenade. The atmosphere, crowded with the flow of flesh, steel, silk and
water, was like a flawless mirror. I walked about for a few minutes in a daze of
happiness, for it is happiness when you lose yourself in mingling with the world
to the point of complete forgetfulness.
stopped to watch a ping-pong game and noticed the number on the
deck-chair nearby, 121. That reminded me. I had a quest ahead of me. I
walked on slowly, watching the numbers dwindle. My mind was on the silver image
of the night before. If only it turned out that it was she who occupied the
chair next to mine.
young woman in brown, her face half hidden by an old brown tamashanter sat in
the deckchair to the right of 76. To the left the chair was not occupied.
The glimpse I first caught of the face was pleasing. But she turned to look at
me, as I sat down, and I saw that she was very lovely. "Beautiful
morning," I said.
smiled brightly, and I got a glimpse of small white teeth and
copper-colored hair. "Yes," she replied. "English ships
invariably play to good first mornings. But as omens of the weather to come they
are not to be trusted."
English, I presume. You see I'm hopelessly American."
There's something about you which is super-American. I can't say just what
could have told her just what it was. But I realized that fate was handing me my
cue again, and I was more than ever determined not to take it. I had only to
say: Oh, yes I'm also a Jew, and the
old battle would be on. But no, this time I wouldn't say it. "Probably the
result of my first shave on board an ocean-liner," I said. "But
to get back to the weather on English ships. Why don't you do something about
but we have. We've thought out a perfectly grand solution to the problem. We've
simply sold out the stocks in our companies to the Jews. "
arrangement," I murmured. "And I suppose the Jews lose whatever money
is lost on these ships."
no. You see, losing is not their business."
no. I have a sister with me. We missed you at breakfast."
She saw you at the table last night. I was too ill to eat, myself. You can
imagine what an impression you made on her because I recognized you from the
minute description of you she gave me."
Hope burned bright within me. "Where is she now?"
the deck with her fiance. He's been in the Far East for more than a year. We
traveled all the way over to New York in order to meet him half way back.
They're to be married as soon as we reach London. There they are now."
looked up. It was she, and yet the impression was now an entirely different one.
The night before she had seemed to me so slight, almost a wisp of beauty. And
now. . . . But of course I had only seen her face; and the perfection of her
features framed by her silver hair gave her an elfin littleness. But really, she
had such majestic feminine form and bearing, and as she approached
proceeded to introduce myself, and Stewart, my cabin-mate, was obviously
not particularly pleased to meet me formally. I made no effort to appear
enthusiastic myself, but happily Alma appeared entirely oblivious to this
difference between us, and sank happily into the vacant chair next to mine.
Stewart grudgingly sat down at the right of Ada. "Ada paints, you
know," began Alma. "She'll tell you that she paints badly. But every
year she gets one or two pictures into the Royal Academy exhibition. I told her
last night that she simply would have to have you sit for her."
you?" I asked.
I divide my time between doting on Ada and preparing myself to be a good wife to
some good man. And you?"
you write the sort of books that keep children frozen stiff in their beds?"
heavens, no. What gave you that impression?"
hesitated. "I guess it must have been the way you stared at me last
don't. I wouldn't have missed it for worlds. I assure you I had never been so
thrilled before. Promise me you'll never stop staring at me that way."
don't see how I can very well stop," I said.
much too easily scared," said Ada dryly, turning from a whispered
conversation she had had with Stewart. "But if your stare is anything like Alma
describes it to be, I shall most certainly insist on your letting me pin it on
canvass. Before you know it you'll find yourself hanging in the Royal Academy. "
bowed. "If I must hang, dear ladies, let it be in the Royal Academy."
rest of the morning was given over to talk of pictures. Ada spoke slowly,
hesitantly, almost as though she were not sure
might have let the matter rest there. What difference would it make to me now, I
ask you, what these people thought of my taste in art? But there was that damn
bitch fate working away at my side, like the ghost of Abraham's wife impeaching
me for slander. . . . I went on to explain: "My choice must depend, of
course, on what I can get out of English painting. I certainly would not go to
English art in order to increase my enjoyment of the spectacle of nature. Even
if one had to learn French in order to enjoy a French picture, it would still be
easier to gather delight from the meanest of the French naturalists than from
the illustrious but tiresome Turner. As for the new dimensions which the moderns
have been digging out of paint and marble, I would not try to learn new tricks
from people who have not yet fully mastered the old ones. Isn't Augustus John
learning to do today what Theodore Rousseau had learnt to do perfectly a half
century ago? But what Rossetti gives me I cannot find anywhere else in the
what does Rossetti give you?" There was just a tinge of contempt in Ada's
women," I said. "The most beautiful women in the world."
cried Ada. "Britannia rules the waves."
explain yourself," urged Alma.
you dare," warned Ada's eyes severely. "You know damn well you're only
going to make love to the poor child."
must," my eyes answered her. "I simply can't help it." I spoke
without looking at Alma, but that only made the application
English women have come to mean so much to me not because they are more English
than the women of many another English painter. It is just that the things which
I find most delightful about English women are in Rossetti's pictures most
will notice, for instance, when I name you Rossetti's five most English women,
that no one of them is really English in origin: Lilith, who came before Eve,
and wouldn't be acknowledged by the rabbis because, they claimed, she had no
soul, was originally a Jewess. Pandora whose curiosity, Juvenal claimed, had no
spiritual side to it at all, was Italian; as were also, Boccaccio's Fiammetta,
and Pluto's bride Proserpine. Venus, the Goddess of Love, was, of course, Greek.
Yet every one of these five women, whose origin in the mind of mankind is
associated with sensual objects, Rossetti reproduces in the fresh and rich
purity of a kew orchard in first bloom.
for instance, does Rossetti let us see of Lilith? A lovely placid woman in a
white nightgown, combing out her long brown hair before a hand-mirror held
almost vertically in her left hand. The eyes, perfectly elliptic and brown, are
wide open; out of them seems to flow the light by which you see her. The lips,
curved and full, suggest no passion; they are lips with which to modulate the
voice, not to kiss. Of his Pandora you see eyes, lips, neck and one hand, the
most exquisite hand but one in the whole world. Her bosom is covered, and I
swear to you that the curiosity in her eyes is purely intellectual. Nor would
you know, from looking at her, that this Fiammetta of his had ever known a man
with as sensual a memory as that of Boccaccio. In the midst of a shower of
spring flowers, she stands tall and erect as if she had grown there in that
garden. The arms, long, cold, and naked, are not such as you would wish to
enfold you. Her limpid eyes are two small pools of moonlight in her delightful
little head. In Proserpina,
never saw those picture in that light before," said Alma breathlessly.
"If you ask me," said Stewart, "I think it's downright obscene."
mean Rossetti or myself?" I asked.
of you," he stormed.
you notice he didn't ask you," put in Alma severely. "I think I want
to take another turn about the ship before we go down to luncheon. Will you take
me?" she asked, turning to me.
saw the scowl darken on Stewart's brow, but there was nothing to do but take
you known many English women?" she asked.
the five I have already described," I replied, "there are a few I have
you have never known an English woman in the flesh and blood?" she cried.
gallantry of the words flesh and blood thrilled
me. The warmth of her arm against mine became sweet and personal. I didn't dare
look at her. "I hope to - in England," I said.
other words passed between us, till we returned to Ada and Stewart who said that
it was time to go down to the dining room.
lightened for me by the discovery that Stewart would not be at our table, for
sharing one set aside exclusively for the engineers, was full of the zest of
trivial talk and venture. From where I sat I could see Alma clearly. She had
changed places with her sister, and smiled continually at me. The churchman,
whom we had not missed, came late, and he was full of story.
had been quite a bit of excitement in first class which, this trip, was
particularly well spotted with society, dramatic and film celebrities, among
them a certain famous and temperamental Polish Pianist. There were also,
returning as guests of the line, the four amateur pugilistic champions of
England who had come over to America and had wiped the floors of the Commodore
with America's four amateur fighting champions. The Pianist and the ship's
captain, who was making this his last voyage, were old friends, the Pianist had
always graciously consented to play for the Seaman's Fund, which was quite a
prize for any voyage. They had been standing on deck that morning in the midst
of a breezy conversation when the English amateur heavyweight champion hove into
view. "There's a lad I'd like you to meet," cried the captain who was
a great boxing enthusiast, and called the fighter by name.
fighter came up and shook hands with the captain. "Mr. Przenski," he
said proudly, "I want you to meet the amateur heavyweight champion of
England, Mr. Isaac Cohen."
Pianist stood stiffly and made no move to touch the young hand that was
outstretched for his. "You will excuse me," he said, "but I think
I will go back to my cabin. I see that you will have no difficulty whatever
filling your Seaman's Fund quota this trip."
that mean that he won't play this trip?" asked the black-eyed,
black-haired little woman.
not," said the churchman. "The captain followed him immediately and
apologized. He might really have known better because Przenski's attitude
towards Jews is very well known."
thank God it won't keep him from playing," sighed the little Englishwoman.
about the Jew?" asked Ada.
he's going about with a chip on his shoulder. He had his things transferred
immediately to second class, and he threatens that he'll ruin Przenski's concert
by fighting someone here that night. He's got a good prospect too in Battling
O'Brien - see him at that table to your left - who was once light
heavyweight champion of America. And if you ask me, a good fight will outsell a
good concert anytime."
would be a dirty Jewish trick!" exclaimed Ada.
looked at the German and the cosmopolitan but they were staring deep into their
plates. "Why?" I asked.
you think it was very nice of Przenski to snub Cohen so cavalierly?" I
eyes seemed to narrow into a hard glint. "You're a Jew, aren't you?"
don't see what difference that makes."
this. You wouldn't ask such a question if you were not a Jew. And if your Cohen
fights O'Brien I hope O'Brien knocks his damn head off."
looked at Alma, but I couldn't find her eyes any more. A whole world of
loveliness seemed to have passed out of my life. "Alright," I said,
turning back to Ada. "I'll give odds on Cohen."
take you," she snapped. "It'll be a pleasure even to lose against
There was nothing to say to this. As soon as I could I got away from the table. I avoided the cabin, because I wanted to see as little as possible of Stewart, and I felt unable to face the sunlight of the deck. So I spent the rest of the day at an open window of the ship's library. Fate and I had had our first open clash, and, as usual, I had come out second best.
if to utterly confound me, everyone came to dinner that night in evening
clothes. The negresses looked more than ever like Spanish grandees. The dark
little Englishwoman showed surprising lines of voluptuousness. Even Ada looked
soft in her aloofness.
Several small drinking parties were already in progress. I could recognize no one I knew, so I sat down at a little table occupied by a tall swarthy looking fellow about whom there was such an air of dejection that I thought I guessed who he was. "You're Mr. Cohen, aren't you?" I said.
turned to look at me. I could tell by the wetness of his mouth that he was
hostile to any intrusion, and that he had already drunk considerable for that
day. "Well, what's it to you?" he growled.
But as one Jew to another, I don't think you've been very tactful. In fact I'm
afraid you're going to find it rather rough sailing."
made an ugly grimace. "Me find it a tough trip? You're crazy. You think
they've counted me out because I happen to be a Jew. I can count myself out if I
want to. But they can't count me out,
see? I've got something on them, but they've got nothing on me. I'm not just a
bloody Jew, see? I'm a fighter. I don't care what they think of Jews. When they
see me fight they'll go crazy over me. Why? I got something to give them no
other Jew can. There's that guy Einstein people talk about. What can he give
them? Ideas. Or Lord Melchett; he can only give them money. But me, I got
something to give them that they want more than ideas, yeh, even more than money.
You know what?" He paused dramatically as if to wait for an answer.
"I'm sure I haven't a notion."
yet I heard them say that you're not only a Jew but a writer," he said
contemptuously. "This is a Christian ship, isn't it? And these are bloody
Christians, mostly, traveling on it, aren't they? Well, what do Christians like
even more than love and money? You don't know. Well, I'll tell you. It's blood.
And when I fight I give them blood, plenty of it. You wait and see if they don't
go nuts over me."
"I hope so," I said. His vehemence had astonished me and taken me completely off my guard.
a drink?" he asked me. Jim had come up alongside us.
you let me set them up," I conditioned. "And I should warn you,"
I. added when Jim was gone, "that if you pass out on me I'm not sure
whether I'm strong enough to carry you back to your cabin."
you worry about having to carry me," he growled, and drank down the new
glass of brandy at a gulp. "If you're not careful you're gonna be in a hell
of a lot more trouble yourself."
few of those English engineers were in drinking this afternoon. That's how I
heard about you. One of them sounded particularly sore. Talk about my not being
tactful. How about your going off with that engineer's dame the first day of the
ridiculous. I've barely exchanged greetings with her."
don't doubt you. But you know how touchy those fellows are about their
boy seems an utter idiot to me," I said, "and I'm not taking any
further notice of him."
he's taking plenty of notice of you, I can tell you. If you really don't want to
get into trouble with him I'd advise you to keep away from that dame of
indignation was rising. "You mean to tell me," I cried, "that he
sat here discussing me and his fiancee so that you could overhear him?"
him. I'd have to be deaf not to hear him. But he was a bit drunk, I can tell
you. And so were his friends. It looks as if they're going to make one grand
souse out of the whole trip."
"I see where I'm going to have a grand time," I murmured.
exactly. But you see, he shares my cabin with me."
is sure tough," he said sympathetically, and suddenly leaned forward with a
bright suggestion. "They gave me a cabin all to myself down here. Why don't
you ask your steward to move your things in with me?"
like to," I said. "But I'm afraid I can't."
not? It'll be alright with the steward. You haven't any idea what an English
steward will do for five shillings."
"I'm not worrying about the steward, Cohen. But about myself. I've never run away from anything in my life, before. Do you think I can afford to start with this fool of a young Scotchman?"
scowled. "A question of courage again. How is it that when cowards meet it
is always courage that is most talked about. Here we are talking courage, a
couple of prize cowards. Yes, and in the very stuff we count ourselves heroes - this
Jewish-ness of ours. I go about the world calling myself Cohen, and
you let on to innocent bystanders that you're a Jew - like a leper who tells
you that he's a leper not to warn you but to extract sympathetic alms. You know
what a Cohen is? When I was a kid I learned that to be a Cohen was to be like a
priest, a Jewish priest, a sort of holy man, a holiness one is born with. Well,
if I was born with holiness, it's been shot so full of holes the best Cohens in
the world couldn't recognize it. And you call yourself a Jew. You make me laugh.
me tell you something about this hero, drunk in my chair on his fifth glass of
gin. As a kid, would you believe it, I was a particularly good Jew. And holy?
Holy smoke! I believed practically everything I was told on the business of
holiness. I used to spend Saturday afternoons with my nose against the
windowpane waiting for the sun to go down before beginning the new
week's devilry. You see I'd been told what it meant to be a Cohen, and I tried
to live up to the bloody thing. All the hell in me was frozen to a sort of white
of my parents are dead now. So if you must make copy
started the day my father first caught me whistling behind the barn on a Sabbath
afternoon. We had a particularly good dinner, and mother had made me happy by
pinching my neck in a way she had when she was really pleased with me. I had
wandered out of the house in a daze of ecstasy, with the day drifting over the
meadows before me like a ship. I felt so pleased with myself there was only one
way to express it, with no other children about to play it out with. I whistled.
I whistled a holy tune, the Friday night Lechu
Dodi. When my father, who I thought was dozing in his bed, appeared, I
stopped whistling even before I realized that I was doing something wrong. But
there he stood glaring at me, his face purple. "Shaigetz!
Goy!" he cried, and slapped me twice, once on each cheek, a slap with
each epithet. I think the words hurt more than the blows.
next time he hurled those words at me was when he caught me swinging my legs
under the table at meal time. What does a boy think of when he swings his feet
under the table that it can merit punishment? It seemed as if I could do nothing
to please myself without arousing the anger of my father. There were always
blows. And with the blows always came those terrible words: "Shaigetz! Goy!"
grew worse as I grew older. If I went out into the windy sunlight without a
hat, which was always a glorious thing to do; when, while begging my mother's
pardon for some accidental rudeness, I sank down on my knees before her;
everything that was beautiful to me seemed goyish to my father. And I began to
be afraid that there must be something wrong with me. I seemed instinctively to
do the things which were un-Jewish.
night mother told us the story of the Ger
Tzadick, a gentile
do you think he was a good Jew?' I asked her.
not?' she replied. 'He was more than just good. He was beautiful. Beautiful, I
me the story was a great relief. I no longer had to be afraid of whether I was a
Jew or not. Because, if a goy could be a Jew and a saint . . . At worst, if I
lived honestly and sincerely, I would be a
Ger Tzadick, and entitled to a certain amount of love . . .
is a legend, I think, in every man's childhood up which the rest of his life
crawls like a vine. If you look back into your own origins you'll find some such
tale which began by striking your fancy, made itself at home in your mind, and
became the unconscious guide to every growing action of yours ever afterwards.
My mother's version of the Ger Tzadick was
mine. It grew up with me and I grew up with it.
having any inkling of the matter myself, I became a Ger
Tzadick in my own sub-consciousness. I began to divide the world into Jews I
didn't like and those who were Ger
Tzadickim, like myself. All
the Jews around me were just Jews. But when a Jew I met said a fine thing or
gave expression to a beautiful gesture I thought immediately he was a Ger
is a strange sort of fantasy to discover roaming about in one's blood. But we
must live by what we have, for we can live by nothing else. Day by day I found
myself consciously growing away from the ordinary type of Jew. When my mother
died I left my father's house altogether and went to live by myself. It was
because I couldn't bear the old associations, I told the people. And it was
true. I couldn't stand the horrible Jewish faces about me.
tormented me, of course, this repulsion of mine for my own people. I remember
that there was a man in Cambridge, a Jew whom I confided in, and he tried to
talk me out of it. "The feeling
would be,' I replied, 'If I were certain they were really Jews.'
looked amused. 'Even Houston Chamberlain does not deny us Spinoza.'
"I tried to explain myself: 'I grew up among Jews like you,' I said to him. 'The Jews I saw and listened to every day were shrewd, ambitious and law-abiding at home, but perfect anarchists abroad, outside their own homes. When I met a Jew who was sober, orderly and scrupulously honest he never looked to me like a Jew, or even sounded like one. When I began reading the Old Testament I found myself thinking the same way. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were Jews alright. They were hardy, domineering, profoundly calculating, and instinctively thieving. But Moses did not seem to me, at all like a Jew. Neither did Isaiah nor Jesus.
I was fifteen I was struck in Genesis by the peculiar wording of the description
of Rebekah's pregnancy: "And the Lord
said unto her: Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated
from thy bowels." How, I asked
myself, could two nations be in a woman's womb unless two nations had placed
them there? Was that possible?
might have gone to the rabbis with my perplexity. Luckily I didn't like them. So
I went to the teacher of biology in my school, and he explained the matter to
me, to my complete satisfaction. A woman, a promiscuous woman, could have twins
of two different fathers. The author of Genesis
could have had nothing else in mind, for he goes to such pains to show that,
both by his heritage and because of his glorious personal qualities, Esau was
certainly not a Jew.
do not imply that all Jewish women are lusty promiscuous bitches like Rebekah.
Towards the production of a whole stream of Esaus in Jewish life, this is not an
essential condition. Every generation of Jews is plentifully pogrommed, raided
and raped, so that the seed of Esau is constantly sown in the womb of Rebekah.
It is my sincere conviction that it is of this sowing that Jewish mothers give
birth to Montaignes, Spinozas, and Heines who bear no resemblance whatever to
the unbearable merchants and swindlers who spring everlastingly from the seed of
did not convert this Cambridge friend of mine, any more than I am trying to
convert you. But I have always believed it myself. So you see how my carrying on
under the name Cohen is the sheerest and emptiest bravado."
told him that I had really had no intention of posing as a hero. That nasty
little Scotchman might, for all I cared, get as nasty as he liked!
have it your own way. But if you ever find yourself needing any help -"
But I think I can manage things well enough. Why don't you and I get out of this
stuffy room and promenade the deck and get some of these kinks out of our
paid and left. But it had suddenly grown very cold on deck and after a few
minutes we returned each to his own cabin.
Next morning the window of our cabin was engulfed. The sea was in an uproar.
Ada nor Alma showed up for breakfast or luncheon. All thought of going on deck
was abandoned by everyone.
distinct card parties grew up in the saloon. One of English men and women.
Another of engineers. And a third of Americans and Jews, which I joined.
was at our table a little Canadian Jew called Zauber, en route to Galicia with
funds for the starving, entrusted to him by their relatives in Montreal. He
attracted to himself attention not at our table alone. Small, meager, of a
sallow complexion, he talked rapidly and excitedly about everything and quarreled
interminably at the drop of a card. His manners and mannerisms became
the butt of the merriment of the ship.
other things Zauber was very keen on "exchange." You knew that the
pound had risen to three dollars and eighty cents when he offered you three
dollars and seventy five cents for it. He had two busy vest coat pockets, one
for American quarters, the other for Canadian ones. When an American quarter
fell on the table he
might have been able to bear the Canadian Yiddle if it weren't for the prize
fighter O'Brien at our table. O'Brien - a burly raucous fellow with a
coarse infectious laugh - addressed Zauber as "kike." If Zauber
was hurt he didn't show it. On the contrary. It appeared to please him so much,
I half suspected he realized how deeply it annoyed me.
Zauber 'kike' O'Brien's biggest pleasure came from slapping Zauber's
hand every time it fell innocently on the table, of digging him in the ribs and
kicking his shins on the slenderest pretenses. He laughed uproariously every
time he sounded the word "kike," and every time he slapped and kicked
the Jew. The table joined him without prejudice. The Jew was good game.
when the uproar following one of O'Brien's particularly hilarious pranks on
the Jew had attracted some of the unattached passengers to our table, I caught
sight of Solomon towering over the rest. There was a scowl in the face with
which he regarded O'Brien's, but when he saw me staring at him he made a sour
grimace and walked off.
was glad when dinner time came and put a temporary end to Zauber and O'Brien's
tricks. The table was even barer than it had been for luncheon. But in the midst
of the meal a steward brought me a note. It was from Alma, and it asked me to
step into her cabin after dinner.
in," said Alma. I found her, when I entered her cabin, seated at her little
writing table, a pen poised in her hand over some letter paper. "Please sit
down," she murmured, pointing to a chair opposite her. "And because
I've not come to the table today please do not treat me like an invalid. It's
just a touch of seasickness, and I wouldn't be surprised to find myself coming
up for breakfast tomorrow."
gone visiting - so that we might have this conversation. She was
sure, though, you wouldn't come. She offered me odds on it."
you didn't take her up?"
leaned back magnificently and looked at me with tremendous intentness. "I
don't bet on a sure thing. I knew that you'd come because you're in love with
how, pray, do you know that?"
looked defiant. "I know."
know only that I'm in the habit of staring at you. Don't other men stare at
course. Many of them. But don't you see, the staring of other men means nothing
she said quietly. "I love you, too."
looked at her. It was as if a picture I admired had found voice and returned me
the compliment. I felt absolutely incapable of continuing the conversation
from that point. I thought of the nearest subterfuge. "And Stewart?" I
going to tell him tomorrow."
will you tell him?"
I don't love him and will never marry him. It wouldn't make any difference now
what is to be the outcome of you and me. I simply don't love him any more, and I
wont have him annoying us."
shook my head. "How do you think he'll take it?"
"I don't know," she snapped. "And I don't think I care. He'll be much more sensitive about what the boys think of it than of how it affects him with me. I'm ready to forget that I've ever known Stewart." She paused. "You're not afraid of him, darling?"
exactly. But I would not think of underrating the force of his displeasure.
Stewart's not a child, although he is quite as uncivilized as one. There's
sure to be a mess. But let's say no more about it."
put down her pen and drew her chair closer to mine. "We've two and a half
days more at sea," she whispered. They're going to be terribly long, aren't
nodded. I couldn't speak. I had never found my energies so completely tied up
leaned forward so that I could feel her sweet breath on my
took her head in both of my hands gently and touched her curved lips with my
gave me a little pleasure of her own and drew her mouth back, laughing.
"You kiss like - like a virgin," she cried.
do adore you," I pleaded.
eyes adore me," she said with assumed severity. "But your mouth treats
me entirely too respectfully. Have you never kissed before?"
used to kiss my prayer-book," I said to her.
prayer-book!" she exclaimed.
And I explained to her, like every other Jewish child, I had been taught to kiss
the covers of a book on opening and closing it, as a token of my affection for
you must have kissed living people. Your mother -"
never kissed my mother and I do not remember that she ever kissed me."
I've kissed women, yes. But I have never given myself over to the business with
then," she said, "I have at last found myself the occupation of a
lifetime. I shall teach you how to kiss. But you know, you are terribly wistful
when you speak of your Jewishness. It sounds like the beginning of a story. Some
day you must tell it to me. But in the meantime you must kiss me."
now lifted her bodily out of her chair and drew her to me so that I clasped her
wholly in my arms.
are learning already," she cried, drawing away her warm face. "Tell me
are you married?"
beautiful and relentlessly intelligent. I assure you I am not at all worthy of
course, or you would not throw yourself into my arms. And the children?"
ask. They're both born into the courts of the Sun."
caught her breath swiftly. "And how could it be otherwise! But tell me:
what are you going to do with me?"
looked at her a moment. "I don't know," I said. "I don't see how
I can have anything to say about disposing of you."
don't understand you, darling."
feel like a beggar who has been invited to the office of a banker, and the first
thing the banker asks him is how he expects to dispose of all the money in the
bank. I can't believe that you are mine to dispose of."
got off my lap and resumed her place opposite me. "Maybe I'm not for you to
dispose of," she said, and a moment later was kneeling before me.
"Don't believe me when I say things like that, darling," she pleaded.
"I do love you. We'll find a way out, too, in time."
just about managed to kiss her once more, hurriedly, before Ada, in a majestic
black cape, swept in. "I'm glad you're still here, Roth," she said
breezily. "I've got some good advice for you. Alma's little boy friend's
found out about your coming here, and if you want to sleep soundly tonight I
suggest that you ask your steward for another cabin. The boy's at the bar now,
with the rest of the engineers in his party, all stewed to the gills."
should have changed my cabin before," I replied. "But I'm afraid it's
too late now. Stewart'll think I'm running away from him."
you?" asked Ada archly.
did everyone take it for granted that because that worm was angry, I had to be
afraid! Was I afraid! I'd find out soon enough.
I replied to Ada, and added: "Good night." It was all I could do to
restrain myself from banging the door as I went out.
the blind rush for my cabin, I could only think of two people. It would probably
upset me completely to meet Cohen - of that I was certain. As for
the other, I did want to encounter him. The cabin which he shared with me seemed
the logical place to seek him
felt a distinct sense of mystery enveloping me as I opened wide the cabin door
and shut it slowly behind me. The cabin seemed quite bare. The Scotchman was out
- probably drinking again. Yet for all of the cabin's bareness I did not
feel alone. I felt cornered, shadowed as though my destiny had suddenly become
embodied and was haunting me. I stepped forward hesitantly, paused at the water
basin, and caught sight of the mysterious presence.
so familiar and yet so strange! Either I had never been quite so near him
before, or I had never glimpsed him in the proper moment of space. The whole man
before me seemed to blaze like a torch, as I tried to make up my mind why so
much more of me feared him than had ever feared anything else before in a lonely
universe. His brow darkened so that it was like a shadow cast by his fierce
shock of black hair. His eyes stared with startling intelligence out of their
deep sockets. They seemed more afraid of being seen than of what they might see
if they dared to receive vision. His full thick lips were pressed together with
the contemptuous despair of an animal which is cornered, but knows that it
will be allowed to escape. Without apparently opening his mouth he made distinct
JUDAS: What do you want with me?
I want you to order the pride to die out in your eyes. I want you to be ashamed
and confess your guilt.
But I am guilty of nothing. So what is there to be ashamed of?
Perhaps you can explain what you happen to be doing here. Spying on me, aren't
you? But what is spying to you that it should worry your conscience? And whom do
you think you serve by imposing your unpleasant presence on me?
Perfect. It's what I expected you to say. It wouldn't properly
I do love you.
Of course. I do not doubt it. You love me, just as you love your mother, your
wife, your sons or your daughters. For you are
I cannot understand this passion of yours. I have done nothing wrong, nothing
I do not accuse you of being unlawful, but of being inhuman. Why, pray tell me,
do you praise only what you sell, and invariably scowl at what you buy? Is that
not against all sense of decency and humanity? You purchase what seems fair in
your eyes, and certainly it must be precious to the one who parts with it. Yet
when you are making the fatal exchange - money for beauty - you have not
a smile or a kind word for the man who is about to enrich you by yielding
something of a reluctant order to your grasping faculties. Have you ever seen
yourself when you offer something for sale? What you sell may have usefulness.
If it ever had beauty the beauty died in it the moment you touched it. Yet
as you offer your awful offal your face lights up with animation, your lips
curve with joyous anticipation, and only words of praise tinkle from your
That's handel, business.
Maybe. Handel seems to justify you in almost every one of your monstrous
acts. But if I were you I would try to change about a bit. I would be a little
critical of what I sell, and a bit appreciative of what I buy. If only as a
first exercise in elementary honesty. And I have another major recommendation to
make. You have already got yourself into the habit of wearing glasses. Why not
wear smoked glasses?
So that you will see less and find what you do see a little less desirable.
Nothing in the world seems to me to be quite as extensive and as destructive
as your vision. You seem to see everything. And whatever you see you want.
But my wants have never been immoderate.
You mean you never thought your wants were immoderate. How could you consider
any want of yours immoderate when in your black heart you feel that as a son of
that old thief Jacob you are the true owner of everything lovely and desirable
on earth? Maybe if you will see less your heart will lust less and your arms and
your hands will not always be reaching out for the property of others. If I were
you I would lose no time finding densely smoked glasses to cover the eyes.
Otherwise hands might be extended to pluck them out.
One or two eloquent gestures in that direction have already been made.
Yes, I know. And you are not frightened. Not because you are unafraid. Because
you know that always, at the last moment, the world is softened by your pleas,
and withholds its hands. You have learned thoroughly the trick of falling on
your knees before it and imploring mercy in the names of all your sacred devils.
So frequently have you given this performance that the world has almost come to
regard those sacred devils as its own. The grand result may be that instead of
the world plucking out your terrible eyes, it will be you who, with your filthy
fingers, will nail out the eyes of the world. For you have succeeded in teaching
the world mercy without ever seriously entertaining the idea yourself.
So you even fear for the world on account of me?
And with good reason. In the struggle for civilization the issue has always been
between the world and you: the world striving upward, you pulling down, down. It
will be a wonderful thing for the world when you are quite completely gone.
You hate me, don't you?
Yes, I hate, I loathe you.
I can't understand why?
I don't fully understand it myself. But I do know that I hate you. I
particularly hate your face, face of a Judas, of a Satzkin. The revengeful heels
left their tracks on that horrible face of yours. It is a face which has
absorbed an ocean of outraged spit, and it is drooping with a dark greenness out
of the mean corners of your mouth.
And that you think is a good enough reason for your hatred?
Look at you. You have no bank, yet your are represented at all bank counsels.
You have no army of your own, yet you dictate wars in which armies of the young
of the world are destroyed. You have no honor, no decency, and yet you talk
continually of your pride. You have no real possessions of your own, yet you are
always prepared to advise other people how to divide what is their own. All the
things in the world which are hateful are hateful in you. And the things which
in the rest of the world are lovely and lovable in you are hateful and
contemptible. If it is a beautiful thing in a brother to love a sister it is a
mean thing when it is a Jewish brother loving a Jewish sister. If it is a
beautiful thing for a man to stand up for his country, when it is a Jew who
stands up for his country the act is corroded with hatefulness. I know that the
whole arrangement of the universe, as I am living in it, is a sort of
benevolent democracy in which the smaller as well as the more monstrous
the insects which attack one's blood from within and those planetary powers
which shape us from without, each has a function, a usefulness, a justification.
So have you, I suppose. But I abhor you even more than I abhor lice, spiders,
diseased orifices of the body, roaches, the germs of syphilis and gonorrhea, and
those rebellious little aristocrats who compose cancer. You seem to me to
 "The difference," says Boris Abramovitch in Skolom Ash'es Three Cities, "between the Russians and the Jews consists rather in this: that the Russian loves to confess the evil that he does to his fellow-men, while the Jew prefers to confess only his good deeds. He conceals the evil within him, or forces himself to express it. The reason at the back of this is that the Russian likes to have something on his conscience; without a few pecks of sin, as it were, he doesn't like to show himself in the street, and if he shouldn't happen to have committed any he thinks up a few sins simply that he may be able to promenade with the mark of Cain on his brow. The Jew, on the other hand, likes always to have a clean conscience so as to be on the sure side. The slyness for which Jews are so famed consists in keeping their 'account' in the spiritual ledger perpetually balanced, as if an inspector might come along at any minute. A Jew may commit the meanest offenses, but he will always find some way of putting them in such a pure light in his own mind that they are changed into little virtues. If nothing else will serve, then he will make the good Lord his accomplice, as Jacob did. If a Christian had tricked Laban like Jacob - even if only in a small fraud like the peeled wands - he certainly would have felt guilty; but Jacob actually made a good deed out of it, on the excuse that it was necessary for his wife and children. The Jew is always prepared to transform his dirty, brutally egotistic interests into holy virtues. That's the kernel, if you'll excuse my saying so, of Jewish cunning."