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Children of the Ghetto

A Study of a Peculiar People

Israel Zangwill Edited with an Introduction by Meri-Jane Rochelson

Publication Year: 1998

In its first appearance in 1892, Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto created a sensation in both England and America, becoming the first Anglo-Jewish bestseller and establishing Zangwill as the literary voice of Anglo-Jewry. A novel set in late nineteenth-century London, Children of the Ghetto gave an inside look into an immigrant community that was almost as mysterious to the more established middle-class Jews of Britain as to the non-Jewish population, providing a compelling analysis of a generation caught between the ghetto and modern British life. This volume brings back to print the 1895 edition of Children of the Ghetto, the latest American version known to have been corrected by the author. Meri-Jane Rochelson places the novel in proper context by providing a biographical, historical, and critical introduction; a bibliography of primary and secondary sources; and notes on the text, making this ground-breaking novel accessible to a new generation of readers, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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Contents 1

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pp. 5-8

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pp. 7-9

It is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to the institutions and individuals whose generosity enabled me to carry out the research for this edition. I am grateful indeed to the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English at Florida International University, which provided me with generous grants for research travel and technical assistance. For permission to quote from documents in their ...

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pp. 11-44

When Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto first appeared in 1892, it created a sensation on two continents and established its author as the preeminent literary voice of Anglo-Jewry. A novel set in the late nineteenth century, Children of the Ghetto gave readers an inside look into an immigrant community that was nearly as mysterious to more established, middle-class Jews as it was to the non-Jewish population ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 45-50

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A Note on the Text

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pp. 51-52

The earliest known version of Children of the Ghetto is the partial typescript held by the Klau Library of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Ms.NewYork.JIR.K.ll in the George Alexander Kohut Collection). As discussed in the Introduction, a manuscript labeled "an early attempt at Children of the Ghetto" has no textual connection to the novel. The ...

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Preface to the Third Edition

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pp. 55-58

The issue of a one-volume edition gives me the opportunity of thanking the public and the critics for their kindly reception of this chart of a terra incognita, and of restoring the original sub-title, which is a reply to some criticisms upon its artistic form. The book is intended as a study, through typical figures, of a race whose persistence is the most ...

Contents 2

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pp. 57-59

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pp. 61-69

Not here in our London Ghetto the gates and gaberdines of the olden Ghetto of the Eternal City; yet no lack of signs external by which one may know it, and those who dwell therein. Its narrow streets have no specialty of architecture; its dirt is not picturesque. It is no longer the stage for the high-buskined tragedy of massacre and martyrdom; only for the obscurer ...


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CHAPTER I: The Bread of Affliction

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pp. 73-78

A dead and gone wag called the street "Fashion Street," and most of the people who live in it do not even see the joke. If it could exchange names with "Rotten Row," both places would be more appropriately designated. It is a dull, squalid, narrow thoroughfare in the East End of London, connecting Spitalfields with Whitechapel, and branching off in blind alleys. In the days ...

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CHAPTER II: The Sweater

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pp. 79-93

The catastrophe was not complete. There were some long thin fibres of pale boiled meat, whose juices had gone to enrich the soup, lying about the floor or adhering to the fragments of the pitcher. Solomon, who was a curly-headed chap of infinite resource, discovered them, and it had just been decided to neutralize the insipidity of the bread by the far-away flavor of the meat, when a peremptory knocking was heard ...

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pp. 94-107

The Sunday Fair, so long associated with Petticoat Lane, is dying hard, and is still vigorous; its glories were in full swing on the dull, gray morning when Moses Ansell took his way through the Ghetto. It was near eleven o'clock, and the throng was thickening momently. The vendors cried their wares in stentorian tones, and the babble of the buyers ...

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CHAPTER IV: The Redemption of the Son and the Daughter

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pp. 108-120

Malka did not have long to wait for her liege lord. He was a fresh-colored young man of thirty, rather good-looking, with side whiskers, keen, eager glance, and an air of perpetually doing business. Though a native of Germany, he spoke English as well as many Lane Jews, whose comparative impiety was a certificate of British birth. Michael Birnbaum was a great man in the local little synagogue if only one of the crowd ...

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CHAPTER V: The Pauper Alien

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pp. 121-129

Moses Ansell married mainly because all men are mortal. He knew he would die and he wanted an heir. Not to inherit anything, but to say Kaddish for him. Kaddish is the most beautiful and wonderful mourning prayer ever written. Rigidly excluding all references to death and grief, it exhausts itself in supreme glorification of the Eternal and in supplication for peace upon the House of Israel. But its significance ...

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CHAPTER VI: "Reb" Shemuel

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pp. 130-136

... Moses Ansell only occasionally worshipped at the synagogue of "The Sons of the Covenant," for it was too near to make attendance a Mitzvah, pleasing in the sight of Heaven. It was like having the prayer-quorum brought to you, instead of your going to it. The pious Jew must speed to Shool to show his eagerness and return slowly, as with reluctant feet, lest ...

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CHAPTER VII: The Neo-Hebrew Poet

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pp. 137-147

He came through the open street door, knocked perfunctorily at the door of the room, opened it and then kissed the Mezuzah outside the door. Then he advanced, snatched the Rebbitzin's hand away from the handle of the coffee-pot and kissed it with equal devotion. He then seized upon Hannah's hand and pressed his grimy lips to that, murmuring in German: ...

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CHAPTER VIII: Esther and Her Children

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pp. 148-159

Esther Ansell did not welcome Levi Jacobs warmly. She had just cleared away the breakfast things and was looking forward to a glorious day's reading, and the advent of a visitor did not gratify her. And yet Levi Jacobs was a good-looking boy with brown hair and eyes, a dark glowing complexion and ruddy lips—a sort of reduced masculine edition of Hannah. ...

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CHAPTER IX: Dutch Debby

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pp. 160-165

A year before we got to know Esther Ansell she got to know Dutch Debby and it changed her life. Dutch Debby was a tall sallow ungainly girl who lived in the wee back room on the second floor behind Mrs. Simons and supported herself and her dog by needle-work. Nobody ever came to see her, for it was whispered that her parents had cast her out when she presented them with an illegitimate grandchild. The baby was ...

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CHAPTER X: A Silent Family

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pp. 166-170

Sugarman the Shadchan arrived one evening a few days before Purim at the tiny two-storied house in which Esther's teacher lived, with little Nehemiah tucked under his arm. Nehemiah wore shoes and short red socks. The rest of his legs was bare. Sugarman always carried him so as to demonstrate this fact. Sugarman himself was rigged out in a handsome manner, and the day not being holy, his blue bandanna peeped ...

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CHAPTER XI: The Purim Ball

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pp. 171-181

Sam Levine duly returned for the Purim64 ball. Malka was away and so it was safe to arrive on the Sabbath. Sam and Leah called for Hannah in a cab, for the pavements were unfavorable to dancing shoes, and the three drove to the "Club," which was not a sixth of a mile off. ...

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CHAPTER XII: The Sons of the Covenant

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pp. 182-191

The "Sons of the Covenant" sent no representatives to the club balls, wotting neither of waltzes nor of dress-coats, and preferring death to the embrace of a strange dancing woman. They were the congregation of which Mr. Belcovitch was President and their synagogue was the ground floor of No. 1 Royal Street—two large rooms knocked into one, and the rear partitioned off for the use of the bewigged, heavy-jawed ...

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CHAPTER XIII: Sugarman's Bar-mitzvah Party

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pp. 192-200

The day of Ebenezer Sugarman's Bar-mitzvah72 duly arrived. All his sins would henceforth be on his own head and everybody rejoiced. By the Friday evening so many presents had arrived—four breastpins, two rings, six pocket-knives, three sets of Machzorim or Festival Prayer-books, and the like—that his father barred up the door very carefully and in the middle ...

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CHAPTER XIV: The Hope of the Family

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pp. 201-211

It was a cold, bleak Sunday afternoon, and the Ansells were spending it as usual. Little Sarah was with Mrs. Simons, Rachel had gone to Victoria Park with a party of school-mates, the grandmother was asleep on the bed, covered with one of her son's old coats (for there was no fire in the grate), with her pious vade mecum in her hand; Esther had prepared her lessons and was reading ...

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CHAPTER XV: The Holy Land League

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pp. 212-223

... "I have presented my book to every one of them, but they have paid me scarce enough to purchase poison for them all," said the little poet scowling. The cheekbones stood out sharply beneath the tense bronzed skin. The black hair was tangled and unkempt and the beard untrimmed, the eyes darted venom. "One of them—Gideon, M. P., the stockbroker, engaged me to teach ...

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CHAPTER XVI: The Courtship of Shosshi Shmendrik

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pp. 224-236

Meckisch was a Chasid, which in the vernacular is a saint, but in the actual a member of the sect of the Chasidim whose centre is Galicia. In the eighteenth century Israel Baal Shem, "the Master of the Name," retired to the mountains to meditate on philosophical truths. He arrived at a creed of cheerful and even stoical acceptance of the Cosmos in all its aspects and a conviction ...

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CHAPTER XVII: The Hyams's Honeymoon

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pp. 237-246

..."No, is there aught between them?" The listless old woman spoke a"Only that a man told me that his son saw our Daniel pay court to the"The man is a fool; a youth must dance with some maiden or other."Miriam came in, fagged out from teaching. Old Hyams dropped fromEach avoided the other's eye. Beenah dragged herself about the room,...

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CHAPTER XVIII: The Hebrew's Friday Night

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pp. 247-257

"Ah, the Men-of-the-Earth!" said Pinchas to Reb Shemuel, "ignorant fanatics, how shall a movement prosper in their hands? They have not the poetic vision, their ideas are as the mole's; they wish to make Messiahs out of half-pence. What inspiration for the soul is there in the sight of snuffy collectors that have the air of Schnorrers? with Karlkammer's red hair for a flag ....

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CHAPTER XIX: With the Strikers

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pp. 258-268

"Ignorant donkey-heads!" cried Pinchas next Friday morning. "Him they make a Rabbi and give him the right of answering questions, and he know no more of Judaism," the patriotic poet paused to take a bite out of his ham-sandwich, "than a cow of Sunday. I lof his daughter and I tell him so and he tells me she lof another. But I haf held him up on the point of my pen to the contempt of posterity. I haf written ...

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CHAPTER XX: The Hope Extinct

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pp. 269-276

The strike came to an end soon after. To the delight of Melchitsedek Pinchas, Gideon, M. P., intervened at the eleventh hour, unceremoniously elbowing Simon Wolf out of his central position. A compromise was arranged and jubilance and tranquillity reigned for some months, till the corruptions of competitive human nature brought back the old state of things—for employers have quite a diplomatic reverence ...

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CHAPTER XXI: The Jargon Players

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pp. 277-281

"No, don't stop me, Pinchas," said Gabriel Hamburg. 'Tin packing up, and I shall spend my Passover in Stockholm. The Chief Rabbi there has discovered a manuscript which I am anxious to see, and as I have saved up a little money I shall speed thither." ...

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CHAPTER XXII: For Auld Lang Syne,My Dear"

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pp. 282-288

The learned say that Passover was a Spring festival even before it was associated with the Redemption from Egypt, but there is not much Nature to worship in the Ghetto and the historical elements of the Festival swamp all the others. Passover still remains the most picturesque of the "Three Festivals" with its entire transmogrification of things culinary, its thorough taboo of leaven. ...

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CHAPTER XXIII: The Dead Monkey

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pp. 289-295

An old Maaseh the grandmother had told her came back to her fevered brain. In a town in Russia lived an old Jew who earned scarce enough to eat, and half of what he did earn was stolen from him in bribes to the officials to let him be. Persecuted and spat upon, he yet trusted in his God and praised His name. And it came on towards Passover ...

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CHAPTER XXIV: The Shadow of Religion

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pp. 296-305

The little servant girl who opened the door for him looked relieved by the sight of him, for it might have been the Rebbitzin returning from the Lane with heaps of supplies and an accumulation of ill-humor. She showed him into the study, and in a few moments Hannah hurried in with a big apron and a general flavor of the kitchen. ...

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CHAPTER XXV: Seder Night

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pp. 306-319

To an imaginative child like Esther, Seder night was a charmed time. The strange symbolic dishes—the bitter herbs and the sweet mixture of apples, almonds, spices and wine, the roasted bone and the lamb, the salt water and the four cups of raisin wine, the great round unleavened cakes, with their mottled surfaces, some specially thick and sacred, the special Hebrew melodies ...


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CHAPTER I: The Christmas Dinner

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pp. 323-337

... It was not a large party. Mrs. Henry Goldsmith professed to collect guests on artistic principles—as she did bric-a-brac—and with an eye to general conversation. The elements of the social salad were sufficiently incongruous to-night, yet all the ingredients were Jewish. ...

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CHAPTER II: Raphael Leon

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pp. 338-352

When the gentlemen joined the ladies, Raphael instinctively returned to his companion of the dinner-table. She had been singularly silent during the meal, but her manner had attracted him. Over his black coffee and cigarette it struck him that she might have been unwell, and that he had been insufficiently attentive to the little duties of the table, and he hastened to ask if she had a headache. ...

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CHAPTER III: "The Flag of Judah"

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pp. 353-365

The call to edit the new Jewish paper seemed to Raphael the voice of Providence.133 It came just when he was hesitating about his future, divided between the attractions of the ministry, pure Hebrew scholarship and philanthropy. The idea of a paper destroyed these conflicting claims by comprehending them all. A paper would be at once a pulpit, a medium for organizing effective human service, and an incentive ...

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CHAPTER IV: The Troubles of an Editor

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pp. 366-375

The new organ did not create a profound impression. By the rival party it was mildly derided, though many fair-minded persons were impressed by the rather unusual combination of rigid orthodoxy with a high spiritual tone and Raphael's conception of Judaism as outlined in his first leader,137 his view of it as a happy human compromise between an empty unpractical spiritualism and a choked-up over-practical formalism, ...

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CHAPTER V: A Woman's Growth

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pp. 376-383

The sloppy Sunday afternoon, which was the first opportunity Raphael had of profiting by Mr. Henry Goldsmith's general invitation to call and see Esther, happened to be that selected by the worthy couple for a round of formal visits. Esther was left at home with a headache, little expecting pleasanter company. She hesitated about receiving Raphael, but on hearing that he had come to see her rather than ...

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CHAPTER VI: Comedy or Tragedy?

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pp. 384-401

The weeks went on and Passover drew nigh. The recurrence of the feast brought no thrill to Esther now. It was no longer a charmed time, with strange things to eat and drink, and a comparative plenty of them—stranger still. Lack of appetite was the chief dietary want now. Nobody had any best clothes to put on in a world where everything was for the best in the way of clothes. ...

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CHAPTER VII: What the Years Brought

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pp. 402-408

The next morning Esther sat in Mrs. Henry Goldsmith's boudoir, filling up some invitation forms for her patroness, who often took advantage of her literary talent in this fashion. Mrs. Goldsmith herself lay back languidly upon a great easy-chair before an asbestos fire and turned over the leaves of the new number of the Acadceum.148 Suddenly she uttered a little exclamation. ...

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CHAPTER VIII: The Ends of a Generation

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pp. 409-411

The same evening Leonard James sat in the stalls of the Colosseum Music Hall, sipping champagne and smoking a cheroot. He had not been to his chambers (which were only round the corner) since the hapless interview with Esther, wandering about in the streets and the clubs in a spirit compounded of outraged dignity, remorse and recklessness. All men must dine; and dinner at the ...

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CHAPTER IX: The "Flag" Flutters

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pp. 412-419

The Flag of Judah, price one penny, largest circulation of any Jewish organ, continued to flutter, defying the battle, the breeze and its communal contemporaries. At Passover there had been an illusive augmentation of advertisements proclaiming the virtues of unleavened everything. With the end of the Festival, most of these fell out, staying as short a time as the daffodils. Raphael was in despair at the meagre ...

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CHAPTER X: Esther Defies the Universe

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pp. 420-429

Esther wore a neat black mantle, and looked taller and more womanly than usual in a pretty bonnet and a spotted veil. There was a flush of color in her cheeks, her eyes sparkled. She had walked in cold sunny weather from the British Museum (where she was still supposed to be), and the wind had blown loose a little wisp of hair over the small shelllike ear. In her left hand she held a roll of manuscript. It contained her ...

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CHAPTER XI: Going Home

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pp. 430-437

No need to delay longer; every need for instant flight. Esther had found courage to confess her crime against the community to Raphael; there was no seething of the blood to nerve her to face Mrs. Henry Goldsmith. She retired to her room soon after dinner on the plea (which was not a pretext) of a headache. Then she wrote: ...

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CHAPTER XII: A Sheaf of Sequels

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pp. 438-455

Within half an hour Esther was smiling pallidly and drinking tea out of Debby's own cup, to Debby's unlimited satisfaction. Debby had no spare cup, but she had a spare chair without a back, and Esther was of course seated on the other. Her bonnet and cloak were on the bed. ...

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CHAPTER XIII: The Dead Monkey Again

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pp. 456-461

Esther woke early, little refreshed. The mattress was hard, and in her restricted allowance of space she had to deny herself the luxury of tossing and turning lest she should arouse Debby. To open one's eyes on a new day is not pleasant when situations have to be faced. Esther felt this disagreeable duty could no longer be shirked. Malka's words rang in her ears. How, indeed, could she earn a living? Literature had failed her; ...

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CHAPTER XIV: Sidney Settles Down

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pp. 462-467

Mrs. Henry Goldsmith's newest seaside resort had the artistic charm which characterized everything she selected. It was a straggling, hilly, leafy village, full of archaic relics—human as well as architectural— sloping down to a gracefully curved bay, where the blue waves broke in whispers, for on summer days a halcyon calm overhung this magic spot, and the great sea ...

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CHAPTER XV: From Soul to Soul

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pp. 468-481

On the Friday that Percy Saville returned to town, Raphael, in a state of mental prostration modified by tobacco, was sitting in the editorial chair. He was engaged in his pleasing weekly occupation of discovering, from a comparison with the great rival organ, the deficiencies of The Flag of Judah in the matter of news, his organization for the collection of which partook of the happy-go-lucky character of little Sampson. ...

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CHAPTER XVI: Love's Temptation

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pp. 482-491

Raphael walked out of the office, a free man. Mountains of responsibility seemed to roll off his shoulders. His Messianic emotions were conscious of no laceration at the failure of this episode of his life; they were merged in greater. What a fool he had been to waste so much time, to make no effort to find the lonely girl! Surely, Esther must have expected him, if only as a friend, to give some sign that he did not ...

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CHAPTER XVII: The Prodigal Son

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pp. 492-496

The New Year dawned upon the Ghetto, heralded by a month of special matins and the long-sustained note of the ram's horn. It was in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance which find their awful climax in the Day of Atonement that a strange letter for Hannah came to startle the breakfast-table at Reb Shemuel's. Hannah read it with growing pallor and perturbation. ...

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CHAPTER XVIII: Hopes and Dreams

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pp. 497-502

The morning of the Great White Fast broke bleak and gray. Esther, alone in the house save for the servant, wandered from room to room in dull misery. The day before had been almost a feast-day in the Ghetto—everybody providing for the morrow. Esther had scarcely eaten anything. Nevertheless she was fasting, and would fast for over twenty-four hours, till the night fell. She knew not why. ...


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pp. 503-505


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pp. 507-523

E-ISBN-13: 9780814340028
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814325933

Page Count: 528
Publication Year: 1998