The Seven Branched Candlestick
by Gilbert W. Gabriel
THE SEVEN-BRANCHED CANDLESTICK
The Schooldays of Young American Jew
GILBERT W. GABRIEL
New York Bloch Publishing Company, Inc. The Jewish Book Concern
Copyright, 1917 Bloch Publishing Company
The Seven-Branched Candlestick
I. BY WAY OF
II. IN THE
IV. THE BOY AND
V. THE MILITARY
VIII. WITHIN THE
IX. MY AUNT AND
X. THE RULES OF
XI. A MAN'S WORK
XII. THE HEART
XIII. CHILD AND
XV. COLLEGE LIFE
XVI. THE HUN'S
XX. THE CANDLES
I. BY WAY OF PROLOGUE
Years of Plenty was the name an Englishman recently gave to a book
of his school days. My own years of secondary school and college were
different from his, by far, but no less full.
I shall only say by way of preface that they numbered seven. There
were two of them at high school, one at a military school on the
Hudson, and four at our city's university.
Seven in all. Because they were not altogether happy, I have no
right to think of them as lean years. For each one of them meant much
to memeans as much now as I look back and am chastened and
strengthened by their memory. Each is as a lighted candle in the dark
of the past that I look back upon. And I like to imagine that, since
there are seven of them, they are in the seven-branched candlestick
which is so stately and so reverent a symbol of my Faith.
For it was my school days which gave me that Faith.
Born a Jew, I was not one. And this I can blame on no person
excepting myself. Before my parents' death, they had urged me, pleaded
with me to go to Sunday school at our reformed synagogue, to attend the
Saturday morning services, to study the lore, that I might be confirmed
into the religion of my fathers. That they did not absolutely insist
upon it was because they wanted me to come to my God gratefully,
voluntarily, considering his worship an exercise of love, of gladness,
and not a task of impatient duty. I know that it must have grieved
themI know it now, even if I only half-guessed it then in that
distorted but instinctive way that boys do guess thingsand yet they
said little to me of it.
Once or twice a year they took me with them to a Friday night
service. I was too young, perhaps. I am willing to use my youth as an
excuse for my falling asleep, or for my sitting uneasily, squirming,
yawning, heavy-eyed, uninterested, unmoved ... hungry only to be out
into the streets again, and back in my own room at home, with my copy
of Pilgrim's Progress, or The Talisman, between my knees.
At best, I can excuse myself only because I lived in a neighborhood
distinctly Christian. It was on one of those old, quiet streets of the
Columbia Heights section of Brooklyn that our house stood. There was a
priggish sedateness to it. There was much talk on either hand of
family: the Brooklyn peopleof that neighborhood, anyhowseem to
set much stock by their early settling ancestors. Near our house was a
preparatory school for girls and another for boys; they were hotbeds of
snobbery and prejudice, these schools. The students who attended them
had to pass down our block on their way home from school. Often, when
they saw me playing there, some of them would stop and make fun of me
and tease me with remarks about the Jews. I was a boy without much
spirit. I always resented the tauntsbut I always lacked the courage
to call back ... and if my eyes did blaze involuntarily with anger, I
usually turned away so that these bigger boys should not be able to see
My fear was behind it all. I was afraid to fight back. And, being
ashamed of my cowardice, I grew quickly ashamed of that which had
proved it. I grew ashamed of being a Jew.
Terribly, bitterly ashamed. So mortified, indeed, that it was more
than I could do to speak of it to my father. And, usually, I could talk
of anything to him. Once he himself mentioned it to me: asked me
whether I was not proud of my race, whether I could not look with true
contempt and easy forgiveness upon those rowdies who had taunted me. I
tried to take that attitude ... but I was not big and strong enough for
it. I tried it only onceand then one of the big bullies of that
fashionable preparatory school, on his way down the block, grew angry
at my lordly unconcern towards his teasing, and hit me with his fist,
and cut my lip open. I kicked him in the shins, I remember, and ran
That didn't help matters. I was as much a weakling as ever. When I
went to public school, I used to cry with a snivelling vexation because
the toughs of my class made fun of me. One of them had a little sister
in the class below us, and I was very fond of her. I remember how, on
St. Valentine's day, I stole into her class room at lunch time and,
while she was absent, stuck a lacy, gaudy and beribboned missive in her
desk. I didn't understand, then, why the teacher tittered so nervously
when I asked her permission to do it. But, when my own lunch was done,
and I was back at my desk, I lifted the lid of it only to find that
same valentine rammed into one corner, crushed and torn almost in half,
and scrawled with the word, Sheeny!
Nor did the little romantic flight end there. For the next day,
after sister and brother had been comparing notes, the former marched
straight up to me, pulled my nose, and warned me to keep away, once and
for all, from the true American daughter of a true American family, and
to confine my sentiments to some little Jew girl!
I knew none of that sort. What few boys and girls of my own race I
had met at playtime or at Sunday school, I purposely shunned. I
thought, if I went in their company, I should be inviting persecution.
I thought my only way to escape this was to escape all Jewish comrades
... to deny my religion, if possible. I was so utterly ashamed of it!
Thus I went, with all of a child's fear and a child's cowardice,
into those days which were to mean so much to me. Had I had the pride,
the devotion to my religion which is a Jewish heritage, those days
would have meant less. Less in sorrow and bewilderment, that is, and
infinitely more in the building up of my character.
There are those who go stolidly, brusquely through life without ever
needing the comfort of religion. And there are those, like me, who lack
the self-reliance ... who cannot be content with a confessed
agnosticism, but who must take faith and strength from those rites and
codes which satisfy their sense of the mystically sublime. Now that I
am grown to man's estate I can know these things of myselfbut how
could I know it then? How could a romping, light-hearted boy who cared
more for baseball and Ivanhoe than for anything else in the world
recognize, then, his own needs and cravings?
It was only after those few black, frightful days were over that I
realized that something was lacking in my life. But even then I did not
know what it was. I only felt the sharply personal loss, the inevitable
loneliness and helplessness ... and had not learned in what direction
to lift my eyes, to reach up my arms to ask for spiritual succor.
Those days were the ones in which my parents left me. My father was
killed in a railroad accident. My mother, about to give birth to
another child, was in bed at the time when the news was brought to her.
She never rose again. The shock killed her.
I remember that the funeral services were conducted by the rabbi of
our synagogue. They were according to the Jewish ritual, and I thought
them dull and unmeaning. They expressed for me none of the sorrow that
I felt. The Hebrew that was in them was mockery and gibberish to me. I
am afraid I was glad when it was over, and I was alone with my aunt
with whom I was to live.
This aunt, Selina Haberman, was a widow. Her husband had been a
devout Jew of the most orthodox type. She used to tell me with great
amusement how he would say his prayers each morning with his shawl and
phylacteries upon him, with his head bowed and a look of joyous
devotion on his face. She said she never could understand how a man, as
educated and broadminded as he was, could have had so simple and
unquestioning a loyalty to these worn old costumes of the past. But she
said wistfully that she thought he had died a much happier man because
of his religion ... and that was what was hardest of all for her to
Aunt Selina herself was a Christian. She put as little stock in
Christian Science, though, as in Judaism. It was a fad for her, and an
escape from the hindrances which connection with the Jewish faith would
have entailed. I think she had an idea that people would forget she had
ever been a Jewess and would accept her for a Christian without her
having to go through the extremer forms of proselytism. Like me, she
lacked spirit for either one thing or the other. Like me, she dreaded
to be classed among her own people. But in this we were unlike: that
her dread amounted to a vindictive and brutal antagonism towards
whatever and whoever smacked of Jewry. I think she even objected to
adopting me for a while, because my name was a distinctly Jewish one,
and because it would leave no doubt in her neighbor's eyes as to my
raceand hence, no doubt as to hers.
Aunt Selina lived on Central Park West in the City. She was full of
social ambitions. She had a good many friends from among the
intellectuals of Washington square: Christians, of course, most of
them. Her closest companion was a Mrs. Fleming-Cohen, who claimed to be
a Theosophist. Born with the name of Cohen, she had married a Mr.
Fleming who had made necessary, by his conduct, an early divorce. My
aunt, Mrs. Haberman, and Mrs. Fleming-Cohen lunched together very
often, and I suspect they had a tacit but inviolable agreement never to
mention to each other that bond of race and religion which, stronger
than their professed tastes, drew them instinctively together.
My life in Aunt Selina's apartment was a lonely one. She was hardly
the sort of woman to whom young folks would go for sympathy. She did
not mistreat me, of course, but left me entirely to my own devious
ways. For the ways of a boy of fourteenespecially of an orphan of
somewhat shy and melancholic dispositionare bound to be devious.
I had much to fight out with myself. I lacked any help from the
outsideand though I won over my impulses, my doubts and inner
conflicts, the struggle left me a weak, shy, shunning boy.
For the first year of my life with Aunt Selina I went to a nearby
public school. There were a good many Jewish boys in my classmany
more than there had been in the whole Brooklyn schoolbut I kept away
from them as a matter of course. I made a few friends among the
Gentilesnot many, because they were hard to make, and I could always
feel, in my supersensitive fashion, that they were fashioning a sort of
favor out of conferring their friendship upon me.
It will be different when I am in high school, I told myself. It
will be different because I myself shall be different. The boys will be
older there, will be more sensible and broadminded, and I shall be less
nervous about the difference between us!
The difference ... I did not know what it was, but I felt it all the
time. I tried to hide it, to disregard itbut I knew that it was
there, in my blood, in my face, in my name ... and it held me apart
from my class as if it had been a shame and a lasting disgrace.
So it was that I looked forward more and more eagerly for the change
and liberation which I thought high school would bring me. Half a year,
two months, a month ... then only a few days ... and then it was over.
My public schools days were past. I had graduated into high school with
high honors and with an equally high hatred of whatever was Jewish.
If Aunt Selina had been different ... but no, I am not going to
blame it on anyone excepting myself.
The summer after I graduated from public school I went with Aunt
Selina and her friend, Mrs. Fleming-Cohen, to a hotel in the White
Mountains. It was one of those hotels where Jews are not welcome. The
management, if I am not mistaken, had not been able to impress Aunt
Selina with that fact. They were constantly raising the price of our
rooms, but the two ladies seemed content to keep on paying what was
asked for the rare privilege of dwelling in forbidden places.
It was certainly not a pleasant summer. The other guests snubbed us
continually, left us to our own devices. I used to have to go walking
every morning and sit on the porch every afternoon in the company of
the two ladies ... because there was no one else for me to go with. For
even among the children there was a rigorous boycottingand I was the
sufferer for it. It made me very melancholy; not indignant, of course,
because at that time I lacked entirely the spirit to be indignantjust
melancholy, and hateful to myself, spiteful to my aunt, ashamed of the
things I should have gloried in, hating the things I should have
Well, I told myself, it would all be different in the fall: it would
all be different when I was at high school. For then I was to begin
those seven years which were to be my real education. So far it had
been naught but childhood's prologue. And what a shabby little part I
had played in it!
But I did not know that, then!
II. IN THE BEGINNING
Immediately upon our return from the mountains I entered high
school. My aunt did her duty by accompanying me to the office of the
principal and assuring him that I was an honest and upright boy, aged
It had been her ambition to have me attend one of the fashionable
boarding schools in Connecticut. I do not think she had me much in mind
when she made the attempt to enroll me at the St. Gregory Episcopalian
Institute. She told so many of her friends of this intentionand told
them it with such an evident pridethat I fear she was more concerned
with her own social prestige than with my education. And when St.
Gregory, through a personal visit from its headmaster, discovered that
Mrs. Haberman had no right to aspire to the exquisite preference which
God accords Episcopalians, and later sent us a polite but cursory
letter of regret that its roster's capacity was full for the year, she
bore it as a direct insult upon her ancestors. (Though, of course, even
so sharp a hurt to her pride would not let her admit openly that all of
those ancestors were Jews.)
At any rate, I went to the high school as a sort of a last resort.
My aunt dreaded the company I might have to keep thereall the public
riffraff, she called it. That was really why she accompanied me, that
first day, to assure herself that I was going to be placed among a
perfectly horrid set of rude ruffiansghetto boys, and the like! and
to have something tangible and definite to worry about during the next
The principal, busy with the hundred details of school's opening,
gave us as much time and courtesy as he could afford. As I look back
upon it, I think he was remarkably patient with my aunt.
She told him her fears in a fretful, supercilious way; it was in
exactly the same tone that she ordered things from the butcher and
grocer each morning over the telephone. The principal heard her
throughin fact, prompted her whenever she faltered, nodded
appreciatively when something she said was most flagrantly out of
place. When she was finished, he turned to look very steadily at me.
If you have such objections to the class of boys in a public high
school, why do you send your nephew here? he asked.
Because itit is convenient, she stammered.
I must confess, I wanted him to go to a boarding-school.
St. Gregory Episcopalian Institute.
The principal's mouth quivered with the smile he could hardly
Episcopalian? The boy is a Jew, is he not?
Mrs. Haberman sat up very straight. His parents had Jewish
affiliations, I believe. They are both dead.
I see. And I am sure he really did see! For a moment later he put
a deft end to the interview.
Madam, he said, this boy must take his chances like any other boy
in the school. He must make his own friends from among his own sort. He
must fight his own adversaries among those who are unlike him. That is
the law of life as well as of every school. If he is attracted to the
undesirable element, he would find it and mingle with it at St.
Gregory's as quickly as he would here. I have a fine lot of youths
here. I am proud of themeven of those who fail to come up to the
standards. I won't try to talk to you about the splendid spirit of
democracybecause you evidently don't want the boy to be democratic.
You don't want him to stand on his own merits as a Jew. If he did that,
he would be putting up an honest, spirited battle. I only know that all
men and all boys like an honest stand and a fair fight for the things
worth protecting. I know that if I were a Jew, I should neverwell,
that's your business, not mine. He took out of his desk a little
leather-covered book. It may interest you to know that this high
school is ranked very high scholastically. He turned the pages. Also
that the St. Gregory Institution is ranked among the most unsuccessful
schools in the country in the matter of scholarship. He showed her a
table of figures, then closed the book and put it away, smiling.
Also, he finished, that I am an Episcopalian, and that I should
rather send a son or a nephew of mine to prison than to so harmful a
place as St. Gregory.
His remarks did not altogether convince my aunt, of course; and he
said no more, except to assure her that he would follow my course in
his school with much interest, and would do all in his power to make me
manly. To Mrs. Haberman, the promise to make a man of me meant little.
She left me at the school door, stepping gingerly across the
pavement into her limousine in order to escape the contamination of a
group of young Italians who were coming up the steps. As she slammed
the machine door and was driven away, I felt somewhat bewilderedvery
much alone in a hallway of hundreds of boys whom I did not know, but
who jostled me, went by me, up and down the stairs with a great hollow
stamping of feet, an echoing laughter, a loud excitement of regathering
after the summer's recess. None of them paid the slightest attention to
A deep-voiced gong sounded through the hall and up the wide
stair-well. It was the signal to disperse to our classrooms.
I had a card in my hand, assigning me to room 7 on the third floor.
I climbed the stairs fearfully, my heart beating faster than usual, my
knees trembling a little. I was entering a strange and mystic land that
I had dreamed of, yet had never seen.
Room 7, third floor. It was a big, bare room, void of almost
everything excepting sunshine. There were desks, low and set decently
apart. Along the wall, behind gleaming glass, were cases of seashells
and botanical specimens. The teacher's desk, at the further end, was on
a small, shabby dais. Only a few of the boys had arrived, and the big
room rang with the echo of unfilled space.
I heard them telling each other what they had been doing over the
summer. One of them, brown and sturdy, was telling of Maine and the
camp he had attended there. Another, in ragged clothes, and of a thin,
pale face, spoke of the heated city during July and August, and of how
he had been swimming when he could get away from his summer
jobswimming in the East River. It shocked me to hear that. I had a
picture of the East River as I had seen it from the Brooklyn Bridge, a
brown, littered flood, choked with scurrying tugboats and the floating
trails of refuse. I hated that boy for a long while after I heard his
story. But he had a sharp, kindly face, and I wondered to see how
popular he was with those who knew him.
Coming, as I did, from a distant grammar school, it chanced that
there were no boys of my acquaintance in the classroom. I was
absolutely alonea stranger to them all.
The teacher, on his dais, tapped with thin, white knuckles against
the side of his desk. He was a little, timid man with one of the
saddest faces I have ever seen. Mr. Levi, he said his name was.
The boy next to me stirred in his seat. A Jew for a teacher! What
do you think of that! he said to me. A Jew for Then he stopped
short and looked at me. Oh, gee! You're one yourself, ain't you?
I felt my face grow very hot. I thought of the words which the
principal had only just spoken.... Could I stand up and fight like a
I wanted toI really do believe that I wanted to. But somehow the
impulse that came to me to face this seatmate squarely and to tell him
thatyes, I was a Jew, tooand proud of itdwindled away into a gulp
and a whimper and a sickly smile.
This other boy was red-headed, freckled. He was very tall, but I saw
a crutch at his side. Later on, when he rose, I could see that he was
very lame; also that around his neck (for he wore no collar) was a
little leather thong and tab. I did not know thenand I did not learn
for many monthsthat it was the scapular of a Roman Catholic.
He looked at me surlily, but laughing.
You are a Jew, ain't you? he demanded.
I hung my head, wondering how to evade the directness of the
question. The lame boy seemed to be waiting for my reply.
Well, nonot exactly. I stuttered. But I could feel my face
What d'yer mean, not exactly? What's yer mom and pop?
My mother and father? They are dead.
That did not seem to check him. Well, if you ain't a Jew, you look
like one. You look more like one than the teacher does. Whereupon,
much to my relief, he branched off the subject. He don't seem to be
such a bad fellow, even with a name like Levi. Oi, oi, oi, Levi! And
he chuckled with delight at the thought of how he would annoy and tease
this teacher at some future date.
There are some boys of whom we can know at a glance that they are
bullies and mischief makers. This boy, whose name was Geoghen, was one
of them. He used his very lameness as an excuse to boss and bully his
classmates. He was very strong, though as I was to learn only too
soonand his size made him an undisputed leader.
There were no lessons this first day. There were only a speech of
welcome from the teacher, and an assignment of home work for the next
But when we were dismissed and had started for the door, Geoghen
limped up to me.
So you ain't a Jew, eh? he chuckled, looking hard into my face.
So as to avoid the retort, I fled from him, down the stairs into the
main hall. I was just about to gain the street when the principal,
coming out of his office, saw me.
What's this? he said in his deep likable voice. Running away so
Yes, sir. We're dismissed for today.
Oh, I see. Well, I suppose you've already begun to fight like a
man, haven't you? I hope so.
Oh, yes, sir!
But, as I went, I knew in my heart that it was not true. The whole
first day had been false.
III. FRIDAY NIGHT
Those first days at high school seemed terrible in the intensity of
new experiences. Had I but had my parents to encourage me, perhaps I
should not have felt so bitterly the loneliness of this new turn in the
I do not care how manly and resolute he is, a boy will always need
the kind words, the clasp and kiss which only his parents can give him.
And I was not half so resolute then, nor half so hardened to battle as
I am now.
I worried a good deal about my standing in the class room. It seemed
to me that I could not possibly pass each day's recitations creditably.
And yet I did, as I remember. It was only that I so sorely lacked
My aunt, Mrs. Haberman, did her duty in taking me to a nerve
specialist. He charged her a pretty price to examine me and to assure
her that, physically, there was nothing wrong with me.
Mentally, he is a little too active, was his sentence upon me.
And that is what makes him melancholy. Let him study, let him get out
and meet boys of his own age.... Let him find something to be proud of,
to be interested in.
My aunt gave this last a few pettish, impatient moments of thought.
After the doctor was gone, and she and I sat opposite each other at the
table, where the glass and silver made so ostentatious a showing, she
did her best to be practical about it.
Now, dear, let's see, she pondered, her long white fingers
stroking the table cloth, I'm sure we can find something to interest
and amuse you, dear. How about basket weaving? or coloring photographs
or something artistic like that?
I wasn't very polite in my refusals. I declined basket weaving and
coloring photographs and even balked at the idea of installing a
billiard table in our apartmentwhich seemed to relieve Mrs. Haberman
immensely, since she considered billiards a brutal and vulgar game.
All her suggestions came to naught. Once she spoke of religion, but
her eyes fluttered and she changed the subject quickly, as if she had
accidently hit upon the truth and found it unpleasant. It was enough to
put an idea into my head.
I did not know then, but I do now, that the thing I needed was
Faith. A boy needs itneeds it as much as he needs his parentsand I
had neither one nor the other.
The days retreating into a gloomy background of autumn chills and
fogs, left me thoroughly weakened in spirit. OftentimesI could not
guess whyI came home from high school so exhausted that I could only
throw myself upon my bed, behind a locked door, and sob and sigh and
shiver as if with the ague. Everything that had happened during the day
would come pouring back into my memory with a distorted clarity,
tinctured with despair, hopelessly sombred with a boy's sense of wrong
I did actually have enough to contend with at high school. I had
begun to feel the racial distinctions, the thoughtless slurs and
boycottings which Jewish lads must everywhere encounter. I tried to
tell myself that it didn't matterthat these were only rough, ill-bred
boys to whom I ought not lower myself to pay attention. But a boy of
fourteen finds it hard to argue himself into bravery, and I failed
miserably, ridiculously at the task. Years later, I was to learn that
it was all naturalthat I was passing, as every boy must pass, through
the difficult period of adolescence. It was mostly that I was lonely,
balked by the unappreciative attitude of my aunt, without guidance or
If in all this personal recital I am harsh to the memory of my aunt,
you will perhaps see that I have the right. I am grateful, truly
grateful, for all that she attempted to do for me, but I know that all
her care was misdirected. It was, besides, cruelly lacking in all of
the finer things which should have been mine; things which my parents
would have given me, things that, in my aggravated state, I needed.
Once I was asked by some other Jewish boys at high school to join a
little club which they were forming. I hesitated about it. They were
jolly, healthy boysmost of them from the poorer sections of the
citywho went up to Van Cortlandt Park on Saturday afternoons and
Sundays to play ball or to skate. It would have done me good to be one
of them, to join their sports and laughterand yet....
Well, my aunt did not approve. I knew she wouldn't, long before I
asked her. If I was the least bit undecided before, she gave me clearly
to understand that companionship with Jewish boys would not be right
for me; that I must avoid this stigma of Judaism as I would avoid a
crime. She said it was for my own goodbut I cannot believe it
very heartily. She was trying at that time to make me join a dancing
class of Gentile boys and girls. She told me she thought their company
would counteract the effect of having to endure a high school's rabble.
There came a night, after a day of niggardly discouragements, when
the strange moroseness seemed too heavy to bear. I told my aunt that I
did not want any suppera fact which did not worry her too much, since
she was in a hurry to dress and go off to a studio party of some silly
sort. And when she was gone and I was alone in the apartment, I could
not read or rest or do anything. I tried to study my next day's
lessons, but had to give them up.
And at last I put on my hat and coat and went down to the street.
The air was bracing, but I was not used to the streets at nightand a
white, wraith-like fog was beginning to seep up from the pavements and
cluster in misty, yellow patches around the lamp-lights.
Shivering, I went on. I did not know where I was bound. The old,
savage lonelinesshere in the open, where the dampness brought the
scent of withered grass and lean, bare treeswas sharper, more
embittering than ever.
I went across the street and into the nearest entrance of Central
Park. The quietness of everything there frightened me, called up every
foolish, childhood fear and superstition. I went through dark lanes
that were branched over with creaking branches. I saw the lake, black,
cold, with the stippled reflections of shore lights shining up from its
edges. I felt the moist, chilly wind that came across the big lawns and
struck my face and chest and shoulders. I feltI could not help but
feel that I must go on, go on and onin search of I know not what.
I came at length to the Fifth Avenue side of the park. The huge
white stone and marble houses that flanked the street beyond were half
lost in the mist. The automobiles that went up and down the pavements,
which were wet and shining like the backs of seals, made no noisewent
silently, mystically, sweeping blurred trails of light upon the
sidewalks as they passed.
Against that white, low horizon of houses I saw one thing that
loomed dark and gropingly conspicuous.
I did not know what it was. Not then. But it held my attention: the
darkness, the gray curve of it against the sky. There was something
about it that was forbidding, deep, sombre. The lower front of it
seemed to be arched and pillaredand under each arch the shadows were
There were automobiles waiting in front of it, at the sidewalk's
edge. A long string of them, too, as if many persons were within upon
some mysterious business.
Then, softly, as if from far distant recesses, there came from
within the soft, resonant voice of an organplaying.
Was it a church?
Then I remembered that it was Friday nightand I knew that this was
a synagoguea temple of the Jewish Faith.
At first realization, I moved a little away from it, down the
street. A synagogueand all that it brought to my mind was the memory
of my parents. In former years they had been wont to take me with them
when they went on Friday nights. And those had been dull, wearisome
nights for mebut I had spent them at my parent's side. So that now,
in the shadow of God's house, my loneliness for them came back to me in
wild deluge, breaking the dam of reserve and doubts and petty
The music of the organ swelled louder, richer, blending all the
majesty of its bass notes with the triumph and fancy of its treble.
Louder, richer, louderand I, who stood outside in the choking fog,
felt my heart give way to its pain and my eyes to the solace of their
Until the service was ended, and the organ had ceased to play I
stayed there. Once or twice I heard the voice of the cantor at his
solemn chantingsand this too brought me a distinct memory of the
cantor in our Brooklyn synagogue, and of how I had listened to him with
my hands locked in my mother's.
Outside it was all so dark, so clammy with mistand in there
theymy own sort of peoplewere worshipping Godmy God. And when,
soon thereafter, the doors swung open in the black of the arches and
bathed the steps below with a great, glad, golden light, I ran forward,
almost involuntarily, to gaze within.
I caught a glimpse of rich things, bright and gleamingof carpets
glowing, walls resplendentof golden tracery and colors. And then
people began coming through the doors down the steps, blackening and
obscuring my view of the interior.
I saw some of their faces. They were Jewish people, of courseand I
heard a man among them talking rather loudly and laughingly. He talked
with an accent.
For me the spell was broken. All the old, petty prejudice which
circumstance had nurtured in me sprang up anew. A sense of anti-climax,
of disgust came over me: yes, thesesuch as these were my peopleand
I hated them.
And I turned and ran away, back through the park, and home.
I did not ever tell my aunt where I had been, nor anything else of
the adventure. I knew she would not have understood it. But I did. And,
boy as I was, I knew now that I needed some Faith, some link to the
company and comfort of Godand that, sooner or later, as Jew or
Christian, I must seek and find that link.
But I knew, too, that my antipathy to my own people had become
deep-seatedhad grown to be part of my whole life's code.
IV. THE BOY AND THE SCHOOL
High school's terrors developed for me into a more personal terror
of that young tough, Jim Geoghen. A thorough bully, he made me feel
always that he was aware of my religion, that he could at any moment
disclose it to the rest of my classmates and make me the subject of
their taunts. No doubt, they all knew as well as he that I was a
Jewbut, for the most part, they paid little attention to that fact. A
large number of them were Jews themselves: bright-eyed, poorly-dressed
little fellows who led the class in studies, but who mingled little
with any other element.
Something stronger than myself made me take up a half-hearted
companionship with these Jewish boys. I did not want to: I dreaded
being one of themand yet, for all my aunt's sneers and warnings, and
my own perverted pride, I always felt more comfortable with themmore
as if, in walking home with one of them after school, instead of with
some Christian boy, I was where I belonged. I know it was only
self-consciousness that gave me this feelingbut after all, comfort
must play a big part in our companionships.
Geoghen, with his towering, menacing form, his dull, animal's face,
his swinging crutch, his mysterious scapular, haunted me continuously.
I remember distinctly dreaming of him once or twice at nightand that
he stood over my bedside, in those dreams, with his crutch upraised to
strike, and his little leather scapular writhing and hissing like a
One day he did strike me. It was during the noon recess when a group
of us were in the asphalted yard, eating our lunches. Mine was always
an elaborate package of dainties, wrapped in much tissue paper and
doilies. Geoghen, on the other hand, had just a chunk of rye bread,
covered over with a slice of ham. His glance, long and greedy, betrayed
how envious of me he was.
Eat ham? he asked with a snicker.
He did not wait for an answer, but crammed a few shreds of it
towards my mouth, his dirty fingers striking my teeth. I jumped away
from him and he followed after me, hobbling with amazing swiftness.
Tried to bite me, eh? he cried.
I denied itbut he did not listen and, raising his crutch, dealt me
a stinging blow with the smaller end of itthough, at that, I was let
Towards our teacher, Mr. Levi, Geoghen and some of the other boys
acted with all the pent-up meanness and savagery of mischievous youth.
Mr. Levi's manner invited the twitting, perhaps: his pale, thin face
bore always a nettled look, his eyes seemed ever hungry with some dark
sorrow, and his mouth was always twitching. There was a fine timidity
about his way of handling us. He did not seem to be able to scold or be
But when he would be teaching us our Roman History, for instance,
and would tell us of the beauties of Italian scenery or of Caesar's
centurions lost in the dark, tangled German forests or of how Cleopatra
came with purple sailsor of how Cleopatra came to meet Mark Antony in
a golden barge with purple sailsthen his face would light up with a
look that was glorious, and even the rattiest, coarsest of us would
thrill and be hushed with the thrilland know, no matter how dimly,
that he was in the presence of a great and beautiful spirit.
But those times were rare; and, as a rule, we made life miserable
for Mr. Levi. He seemed to feel, I am sure, the handicap of his
religionto know that the Irish boys of the class, and dark,
sullen-faced Italians, were thinking it an insult to be taught by a
Jewand that they were only waiting for the opportunity for an
It came at the end of my year in high school. That last month is
always a rebellious one. The spring weather, the sense of approaching
vacation make gamins of the quietest of us.
Mr. Levi had been absent from the room for a little while. Geoghen
in that time had left his seat, hobbled up to the dais and opened the
teacher's desk. This bit of boldness drew a crowd of laughing boys to
the front of the room. They rummaged the desk, overturning and
scattering its papers, tumbling books to the floor.
Suddenly one of them stooped and picked up a book which lay sprawled
with its pages open. There was an immediate shouting, coarse and
repellent to hear.
The book of Mr. Levi's which they had found, was a Hebrew prayer
Geoghen took it from the other boy. He held it open and up close to
his leering face. Then slowly, with the others in his trail, he began
to march around the room, making believe to sing a heathenish jargon
which he must have thought to resemble Hebrew, twisting his face
grotesquely to seem like a Jew's, making lewd gesturesbreaking off
now and again to shriek with laughter at the comicality of it all.
Then suddenly Mr. Levi returned.
He charged into the line, spun Geoghen about and tore the book from
his hands. Geoghen reached for it, as if loath to let go of so much
funhis face impudent, grossly humorousand Mr. Levi knocked him
I shall never forget how the teacher looked. His pale face, paler
than ever, gleamed as if it were cut smooth out of marble. The eyes
flashed with a noble fury. The mouth had stopped its twitching and was
drawn taut, and his teeth showed at the corners of it. And when he
struck at Geoghen his whole slender tenseness seemed to be thrown into
The crippled lad lay there for a moment, stunned. Then he got
unsteadily to his feet and picked up his crutch. A stream of profanity
began to come from his mouth. I don't think any of us had ever heard
such talk before. All the obscene things which the lowest scum of
humanity can pick up in the course of living years in the gutter, he
spat out at Mr. Levi.
But the teacher had gone back to his dais and desk and stood facing
him silently, calmly, a look of mild reproach taking the place of the
anger in his eyes. He let Geoghen have his miserable say, and then
silently pointed to the door and motioned to him to get out. And
That wasn't the end of it, though. For, within a week the newspapers
had taken up the incident and enlarged it, exaggerated itand
Geoghen's father who, it seems, was a political vassal of the alderman
of this district, had managed to have Mr. Levi brought before the Board
of Education for an investigation.
Mr. Levi had no show in that trial. He told his story truthfully. I
remember that, according to the newspapers, he made scarcely any effort
to defend himself. He merely explained that he had caught this boy
defiling the traditions of the Jewish faith, mocking what was most
sacred to him, and that he was indeed sorry that, in order to wrest the
book away from his impure hands, he had had to strike and knock down a
The newspapers called Mr. Levi a dangerous and cruel fanatic, the
Board of Education decided that he was incompetent, and Mr. Levihis
face paler than ever, his manner more mild and saddenedannounced to
us on the last day of school that he would not be with us in the next
I felt somehow that I would have liked to say goodby to him, but I
was afraid that he would ask me why I, in his absence on that terrible
day, had not prevented Geoghen from doing what he didand my
conscience made a coward of me. I had a foolish idea, besides, that he
did not like me. Any man who cared so much for his religion would not
be able to respect a boy in my position. It was all very unfortunateI
was sorry for him, to be surebut I must not sympathize too much with
I told my aunt of the affair, of course, and she shuddered with
What a fearful lot of ruffians they must be! she sighed. And
worst of all, a Russian Jew for a teacher!
I spent the summer at a Y. M. C. A. camp on the Maine coast. There
were no other Jewish boys there, but my aunt had managed to have me
placed on the roll-call somehow. I was glad enough of it. I did not
want another summer at a fashionable hotel in her and other ladies'
Of course, I was Ike to the boys of the camp. They were a good,
rough-and-ready sort who swam well, ran, tramped, sang rollicking songs
on weekdays and hymns on Sundays, grew brown and muscle-bound and
manly. Such teasing as I had from them was good-natured, and I suppose
I should have taken it in the same spirit. But I had none of their
assurance, was like a stranger in a strange landand came out of the
summer with a still deeper shrinking from contact with other boys.
High school began again, went on and on from lagging month to month,
and soon enough was over for a second year. But this time my aunt had
been as much aroused as she could be to the baffling condition of my
mind and spirits. I had by no means lost the old loneliness. I had
learned to bear it with greater patience, but it still galled and
Only, after that evening when I stood outside the synagogue, I had
some dim conception of what the inevitable cure would have to be.
At any rate, my aunt called in the nerve specialist a second time.
He insisted that I must be sent away. Perhaps he saw into the
unsympathetic quality of our home life.
This sent my aunt into tremors of delight. She had now a legitimate
excuse for shipping me off to a fashionable boarding school of some
sort. For days she made a feverish study of monogrammed and
photogravured catalogues from various schools in the East. It was upon
a military school on the upper Hudson that her choice finally fell. And
I am sure that this was due to the expensive appearance, the coat of
arms and Latin motto of the catalogue's cover.
What ever it was, her choice was made. She talked a good deal of
splendid uniforms, of flags unfurled to the sunsetand fired me with a
lust for the new chapter in my life.
V. THE MILITARY ACADEMY
My introduction to military school was hardly auspicious. I was now
sixteen years oldnearly seventeen. I did not look that old, however;
the commandant of the school, in examining me, took me for much less
and assigned me to a room with a boy of twelve.
At seventeen, our age is a most important item. We think so, anyhow.
And this incident dampened my spirits most disproportionately.
Especially when I discovered that this roommate was to be the only
other Jew in the school. It seemed to me a very pointed and personal
He was a meek little boy, thoughmeeker even than I. And all
through that first night he wept aloud, smothering his tears upon his
pillow and crying for his mamaand for kartoffel salat. It was
a Friday night, I remember, and it must have been a Sabbath custom in
his house to have potato salad for supper. At any rate he kept me awake
long into the night.
And once, taking savage pity on him, I got up and went over to him
in my bare feet and nightgown, and told him brusquely how satisfied he
ought to be to have a mother at all; that both my father and mother
were dead, and I should never see them again, no matter how homesick I
grew or how long I waited for their coming. This silenced him on that
score, but he went on whimpering for the kartoffel salat.
The next day I screwed up my courage to complain to the commandant.
He was a very tall, majestic figure of a soldier who had fought through
the Spanish and Boer wars and now, in times of peace, was reduced to
teaching the manual of arms and simple drill formations to young sons
of the rich. He was the most pompous, mean and utterly selfish man I
ever met. One could see it on his handsome face.
He heard my complaint through. Then, because, being an ignorant
plebe, I had forgotten to salute him, he made me perform that act and
retell the whole story word for word. But he could not change my room
until I had agreed to take a cot in the general dormitorythis being
reserved for students who paid less tuition.
You may write your aunt, he said stiffly, twirling his long
mustaches, that we did all we could to make you comfortable. We
purposely put you in a room with young Private Ornstein because we
thought it would be moreer, more congenial.
I saw what he was driving at, and went away miserable. So they knew
it up here, too: I was a Jew, and must be separated from the others as
if I had the plague! I felt sorry for myself.
I was not particularly homesick, though I had never been able to
develop much love for my Aunt Selina. She had not given me the chance.
But the unaccustomed severing from all that was mine: my room at home,
the street that I saw from its window, the burly, Irish cop who stood
on the corner and passed me an occasional lofty jestand a thousand
other things, intimate and absurdly unimportant I missed with dull
The school was comfortable enough. It was a huge, barn-like affair,
built in the previous generation and hardly ever repainted since then,
to look at it. The towers at either end of it had tin and battered
battlements, and the flanks of steps which went up the hill on which it
stood were worn with the tread of the hundreds of boys who had marched
upon them, each succeeding year. It was so with the stairs all through
the building: each step had a shallow, smooth cup which years of
treading had ground out. It gave me a creepy sense of the place's
There was a large parade ground at the back of the building. Its
grass was brown and mealy, and a flag pole, sagging slightly to one
side, jutted up from the center of it like a long, lone fin.
In the quadrangle where we formed in line to march to the mess-hall,
stood a huge oak tree, century-old, with twisted limbs and browning
leaves. On one of those limbs, they told me, an American spy was hanged
by the British in Revolutionary daysbut it may have been only a
fable. I have since learned that almost every military school along the
Hudson has its Revolutionary oakbut, at the time, it made a deep
impression on me, so that I could not bear to hear the creaking of the
branches against my dormitory window.
This dormitory, to which I and my belongings repaired, was a long,
narrow, whitewashed room, crowded with iron cots and intruding
wardrobes. At night, when the bugle had blown taps and the lights were
dimmed, there was a ghostly quality to the rows of white and huddled
figures that lay the length of the room. There was never absolute
quiet. Sometimes some little boy would be sobbing, sometimes two of the
older ones would be telling each other the sort of jokes that daylight
forbidsand sometimes it would be the heavy, asthmatic breathing of
the proctor who was there to keep charge.
Of the boys themselves I could not judge at first. I was too young
to judge, at that: but I was not too young that I could not realize
they were not of the same sort as I had known in the city. There I had
known the pupils of a public school, poor, rough, almost always hard
workers, eager for whatever seemed fair and quick and democratic. But
these boys were of wealthy parents, most of them. There were only a few
of them who held scholarships, and these did jobs so menial and
embarrassing that, even under the most ideal conditions, they must have
suffered in the opinions of the rest of the school. As a matter of
fact, we were a brutal little crowd of snobs, and made life miserable
for these poorer scholars who must sweep the halls and wash dishes.
I do not think all military schools are like the one I attended. I
hope not. I gained from my year there much in the way of physical
developmentbut that is all. For every inch of muscle that I put on I
lost something worth incalculably more: honesty and cleanliness of mind
and what little shred of self-reliance I possessed. Somehow or other,
it seemed to me that I had reached the lowest rung of boyhood
hereand, as I look back upon it, I know that I was not much mistaken.
I wrote to ask my aunt to take me away. She refused to come to see
mebut scribbled a few empty lines to accuse me of homesickness, and
to assure me I should soon be rid of it.
We did much more drilling than studying. Though nearly all of us
intended to go to college, our school day was confined to about three
hours at the mostand under teachers who were always surly, sneering
and uncouth. The standard of work in the classroom was very low. At
first I did not have any trouble at all in leading the entire school in
scholarship; but gradually, under the careless and relaxed conditions,
I grew unambitious, lazyand found myself failing among a class of
boys who, I secretly knew, were my mental inferiors. It is so much a
matter of competition, of environment.
Of friends I made few: even of those schoolboy friends who are your
pals one day, your sworn enemies the next. I had one or two
sentimental encounters with a brewer's sona great, beefy ox of a boy
who lorded it over all of us because he kept his own private horse in
the town livery stable and had his room furnished with real mission
furniture. But he had no use for me when he realized that I was a Jew,
and took particular pains to transfer me from the company of which he
was first sergeant into the band.
The band, so-called in spite of the fact that it was composed of
only fifes, drums and bugles, was a sadly amateurish thing. The little
knowledge of music that I had was just so much more than that possessed
by any other member of the organization. As a result I soon rose to the
magnificence of cadet drum-major, an office which involved a tall,
silvered stick and a shako of sweltering bear-skin. Thus, my military
training consisted mostly of learning to twirl the baton; and when
semi-annual examinations resulted in disaster for me, I was reduced to
the humility of a private without having gained more than the knack of
sending a silvered rod in rapid circles about my stiff and sorely-tried
At that, I was glad to return to the ranks. There had been plenty of
criticism of the fact that a plebe should have risen so quickly to an
officership. And, of course, as Jewish boys always do, I imagined that
the demonstration was just another evidence of race prejudice.
Undoubtedly it was, to some extentbut I know that I have always been
too suspicious in that direction. Had I been braver about it, I should
have been less suspicious.
One friend I did make: a lieutenant-adjutant whose first name was
Sydney and who was in charge of the punishment marks that were allotted
us for our various misdemeanors. Many a time did Sydney, for my sake,
forget to record the two or four marks which some crabbed teacher had
charged against me for inattention or disorderly conduct.
He was a big, handsome chap, with the most attractive manners I have
ever met. He was a scholarship boyso that he had begun his school
year with a hundred and one unpleasant tasks to perform. But somehow or
other he had managed to be rid of them all excepting this dignified one
of keeping the booksand I am sure it must have been a lucrative
one, in a small way, for Sydney's room was full of pictures which had
been given him from other boys' rooms, of canes and bannerseven of a
half dozen pair of patent leather shoeswhich may or may not have come
to him in return for his apt juggling of those hated punishment marks.
I am not attempting to judge himand I will tell you much more of
him later onbut I must remember him as one of the most wonderful of
friends: always smiling, always ready to join in upon whatever lark was
planninga bit of a daredevil, very much of a protector when the
bullies of the school were pressing too close for comfort.
During the year, of course, I saw or heard nothing that could remind
me of my Faith. We had to go to church on Sunday mornings. I was given
my choice, and tried accompanying one squad after another. I went to
the Episcopal, the Methodist, the Presbyterianand it was the last
that I finally selected for good. There was a splendid old pastor
there; his white hair and trumpeting voice gave him venerableness, even
when he spoke of things that seemed to me very childish and obvious.
Once the commandant, twirling his mustaches, asked me whether I
should not like to go to the synagogue on Friday nights (there was a
small one at the edge of the town). I did not care much about the
religious inspiration to be gained from the Hebrew service, but I did
think it would be jolly fun to be allowed to go down into the town at
night. And yet I knew that some of my schoolmates would come to know
why I went, and what sort of services I attended, andreluctantlyI
declined the opportunity.
I do not know what the bumptious commandant thought of it, but he
pulled his mustaches very, very hard.
VI. MY STEERFORTH
I wish I could write this episode in quite a different tone from all
the others. I wish I could summon all the tenderness of which boyhood
hasand which it losesand put it into the lines of the recital that
is now due. Because, then, perhaps, you would have some knowledge and
appreciation of what the last few months of my stay at the military
school meant for me.
David Copperfield had his Steerforth. Every boy must have one.
Certainly, I did. And I worshipped him with all the ardor and
unquestioning devotion that could come fresh from a boy-heart which had
never yet given itself to friendship. Steerforth was a villain; but in
David's eye he was always, unalterably, a glorious hero. This is how it
was, perhaps, with Sydneythough he was no villain, I am sure.
I spoke of him in my last chapter: told you that he was a poor
student, much in favor with the commandant for his good services. I
have told you, he was tall, fair-haired, with locks that waved back
from his white forehead (as Steerforth's did, as I remember) and merry,
He befriended me because it was of his generous nature to befriend
all the lonelier boys. He used to pal with all the school freaks, to
counsel them, to drill them privately, so that they should be more
proficient on parade. He used to make me very jealous of his large
circle of small worshippers. I thought that privilege ought to be kept
for me alone.
He used to read with me, on spring nights, in the school's dingy
library. We read David Copperfield together; and would glance up from
the page to watch, from the windows, the pale but glowing battle of
sunset colors over the hills and mirrored in the darkling stretch of
the Hudson. And sometimes, when the story would not give us respite, he
would smuggle the book up into the dormitoryand when all was dark
there, and the proctor slept, we would creep into the hall and read by
its dusky light until long into the night. I have read David
Copperfield again since thenbut not with so exquisite a thrill.
And reading of Steerforth, I used to look up at Sydney and imagine
that he was that fine, attractive fellowand that I, dumb but ecstatic
in my pride of friendship, was little David.
It seemed so wonderful to me, especially, that he was a Christian
and I a Jew, and yet there had never been any question of difference
between us. Other boys who had given me something of their friendship
had made such a brave point of telling me that they didn't mind my
being a Jewthat there were just as many good Jews as there were bad
onesand all those other stupid and inevitable remarks that we must
swallow and forget. But with Sydney it was not like that. He had never
mentioned it, and it seemed as if he knew that I dreaded the
subjectand so kept silent on it out of kindness.
Sometimes, when the days were warm and the trees were budding, we
went off together on long walks through the country. Sydney taught me
to smoke cigarettes, and we would stop on our way at a little village
store that lay at the end of a hilly road.
An old man, who was an invalid, owned the store. But he sat all day
at his little card table in the dark, untidy rear, playing solitaire;
and it was his young daughter who would wait on us behind the counter.
She was a thin, dull-looking girl, scarcely pretty, yet with large,
sombre eyes that her lonely task explained. She was ignorant, I am
sure, and knew little of what went on in the town at the river's edge
or in the big city, fifty-odd miles away. But there was something
pathetic about her positionand when Sydney made it more and more a
custom to talk to her, to make friendly advances, I thought it only the
big generosity of his heart pouring out to succor another such shy soul
Once or twice it was not until evening that we could steal off
bounds, and then we would make straight for the little store, as if we
knew that, if we did not hurry, it would be closed for the night. And
we would have only a few hurried words, but laughing, with the
girland she would look up at Sydney with a light in those big eyes of
hers that I had never seen before in any woman's. She left her counter,
once, and walked all the way home with us; and I saw, in the blue of
the gloaming, that her hand was tightly clasped in Sydney's, and that
he whispered things to her under his breath, as soon as I was gone a
little way ahead of them, and that they both laughedand she looked up
at him as a dumb animal to its master. She came as far as the school
gate; and after I had gotten within, they stood for a moment
togetherand I thought I could hear the sound of kissing. It was only
then that I began to be troubled.
Sydney, who was a lieutenant in the cadet battalion, had more
privileges than I. He could leave the premises when he pleased. He
never had to sign the big book in the hall when leaving and arriving
back. He needed never to give account of what he did off bounds. It
was an easy matter for himand there were many times, now, that he
went off alone. No one knew why he used to take that little country
road that led up the hill towards a stupid old country store. No one,
that is, but me.
At first I did not think much of the girl's side of it. I was
bitterly disappointed that some one else had come between my friend and
me. I was jealous of all the time he spent with her, of the hours of
reading and walking and jesting that once were mineand of which the
lure of her had robbed me.
But once, when we were at the store, and I stood aside from them,
watching the humped back of her old father, bent over his card table,
and saw the feeble shaking of his hand, I began to comprehend what it
might mean to him if anything should happen. Not that I knew what might
happen. I was still very youngbut I felt the chill foreboding of
tragedy lurking somewhere in the background of it all. The dingy little
shop, with its flyspecked glass cases and its dusty rows of untouched
stock; the lights dimmed and blackened by clusters of whirling insects;
the old father with his bent backand the two of them standing there
and laughing, gazing into each other's faces with the look of youth and
And I went out quickly and stumbled my way home alone, leaving
Sydney to follow after.
When Sydney came in, after taps, I stole from my bed to his to speak
to him of it. But the words would not form themselves suitably, and he
laughed at my poor stammerings, and sent me off to bed again.
But one night, just before tattoo, when the fruit trees were
frothing with light blossoms and the scent of lilacs was heavy in the
air, Sydney sent for me. He was officer-of-the-day, today, and could
not leave the premises. He wanted me to go in his place, to meet the
girl and to explain why he could not keep his appointment.
I looked at him in amazement. Do you mean to say, you've been
meeting her every night. As late as this? Alone?
He was playing with the tassel at the end of the red sash which the
officer-of-the-day wears about his waist. He let it drop and gave me a
Yes, he said, and mind you don't tell anybody, either. You'll
have to sneak off boundsbut I'll see you don't run much of a risk.
You can leave that part to me.
Then, when he saw me hesitate, he began to plead. Oh, say, you
won't go back on me, will you? I've been a good friend to you and done
you lots of favorsand now when I ask you to take a little risk for
I smiled. You don't understand, Sydney, I said. It isn't the
Then what is it?
It'sit's the girl.
He stepped back from me, and his face took on a coldness I had never
seen before. Don't worry about that, he exclaimed. That's my
Then, as I hesitated, he burst out: Hurry up, now, you little Jew!
I stood very still for a minute. Then I felt my face flush hot and I
flung away from him.
It had come at last. He, my best friendmy only friendhe had
called me a Jew!
I wanted to scream back at him, to beat him with my fist, to
denounce him and curse him. I felt betrayed, degraded as I had never
been before. Then I gulped hard and controlled myself.
I said nothing. I merely saluted and set off upon his errand.
But I did not find the girl at the street corner he had mentioned. I
went on, only a few hundred yards, to the store. There was a dim blue
light in one of its windows, and I crept up and pressed my face against
the glass, knowing that she was probably sitting up and waiting.
Yes, she was therebehind the counter with her shawl still over her
head and her eyes fixed on the cheap wall clock. She could not see me
in the darkness outsidenot even when she turned her head and gave me
a full view of her face, so that I could see how strangely pale and set
it was, and how deeply lurking in her eyes was the fear of the moment.
I did not go in and tell her anything. I could not. The sight of her
and the appeal of her thin, tragic little body sent me hurrying back
with my errand uncompletedand glad, madly glad that it was so.
I crept up to bed as soon as I was in bounds again. I wanted to
avoid Sydney. Nor would I give him a chance to speak to me the next
morning. I felt that I knew now, almost in its entirety, the scheme he
was layingand the climax which was fast approaching. And, after
having seen her, as I did last night, I knew that I could never go
walking with him again or have more to do with him, and that I must go
back to her, some day soon, traitor-wise, and warn her against him who
had been my best friend.
In the afternoon, after school was done, a crowd of us obtained
permission to go swimming in a nearby lake. Sydney was among us: the
leader of us, in fact. He tried to speak to meperhaps he was going to
apologize to me for having called me a JewI do not know. But, though
I did not give him the chance, I remember well how tall and brave he
looked, and how his hair waved back from his forehead like
And like Steerforth, too, he was drowned.
Schoolboys are careless of their swimming. We did not notice until
it was long too late that Sydney had disappeared. When his body was
recovered, the doctors worked over it for fully two hours. But it was
* * * * *
His funeral was held in the school parlor the next morning. But it
had been a night of terrors, of whispering groups, of Death's shadow
over us alland we were but children. His empty bed, his dress uniform
tossed carelessly over the back of a chair, the knowledge of his
insensible presence in the undertaker's shop at the other end of town
... brought fear and wakefulness to us all.
And as for me, I sat all night at the dormitory window and listening
to the creak and groan of the old Revolutionary oak in the quadrangle,
thought of many things: of the walks we had taken, of the hundred
smiling adventures we had shared, of all the glad things he had taught
meand then, of the girland of the tragic face of heras I had seen
And I wished that he had lived only a few minutes longer so that I
might have pleaded with him and shown him where he was wrong. And,
perhaps, in those few minutes he would have reached out his hand to me,
and begged forgiveness for having called me what he didperhaps he
might have done soand oh, I wanted with all my heart to forgive him
and tell him it did not matterand to wish him God-speed.
But in a few days, when I summoned enough courage to go up the hilly
road in search of the little old store, I found it closed. The cracked
shades were down before the windows, and a For Sale sign was on the
door. The father and daughter had moved away, I heard in the town; but
no one knew whereor why.
But when I was back in the dormitory, I took the book of David
Copperfield from under my pillow, and put it back in the library, and
did not attempt to read further in it, then.
VII. FRESHMAN YEAR
New adventures must be prefaced by new hopes. My entering college
meant the starting of a thousand new dreams, ambitionsand seemed to
me an opening gate to a land stronger than any I had yet heard of: a
land of real men, virile, courteous and kind, whose thoughts were never
petty, whose breadth of mind unfailing.
It was only a few weeks after Sydney's death that I took my college
entrance examinations. I had taken the preliminaries the year before,
and I entered upon these finals low in spirit, disinterested, very
much aware of how poor a training for them this last year at military
school had given me.
Nevertheless, I managed to pass them. Not brilliantly, to be sure,
but by a small margin which left no doubt but that I should be accepted
in the freshman class of the city's university.
I have not called my alma mater by any other name than this: I do
not wish, out of a sense of loyalty, to define it more closely. You
will say, before I am through, that I am perverse in that loyalty;
perhaps sobut I do not wish to transgress upon it. Suffice it then,
that my college days were spent at one of the two universities which
New York has within its borders.
I shall never forget how my heart bounded when I received, through
the mail, that little leather covered book which college men know as
the Freshman Bible. It is the directory of undergraduate activities
issued by the university Y. M. C. A., and is sent to all members of the
incoming class. I read each little page and its small, fine print as if
my life depended upon its reading. When I came to understand that
freshman must wear a black, green-buttoned cap upon the campus, a deep
awe of collegiate law and order came over me. When I saw the little
half-tone prints of the chapel, the gymnasium, the baseball field, I
felt that I was glimpsing, before my proper time, the sacred precincts
of a land which would be magical, splendid with an eternal sunlight,
peopled only with a chivalrous and knightly manhood. I suppose that
college was to me, as to most subfreshman, a place of green swards and
track meets and those musical harmonies which glee clubs can so
I was at the hotel in New Hampshire when this book arrived. The very
same mail brought me the definite results of my college entrance
examinations. I remember that I was just starting to walk down to the
lake with my aunt when they arrived. I knew what was in the big ominous
envelopeand I was afraid to open it. I crammed it into my coat
pocket, careful not to let my Aunt Selina see it, and went on to the
boat house, hired a boat and rowed her dutifully around the lake for a
full two hours. She remarked upon my silencebut I did not tell her
that my fate was in my pocketand that I dared not look upon it.
But when I was back at the hotel, I went straightway to my room and
opened the envelope, stripped out the blue, bank-note sheet and
readyes, I had passed every examination. And I was a regularly
enrolled student at the university.
I told my aunt of it at lunch, as if it were a casual thingand she
treated it as such, too. If I had had any doubts of her lack of genuine
interest in me, I knew it now for certain. It was just a matter of
course to herthis entrance into collegeand to me, in turn, it meant
so much: a new work, a new land, a life entirely new and shot through
with hopes. I did not tell her that, but let her change the topic
quickly. She was intent upon talking fashions with Mrs. Fleming-Cohen.
I had hated to come to this hotel for another year. The people
persisted in making things graciously unpleasant for us. I was
beginning to be old enough to feel it keenlyand not old enough to
overlook. I wonder, for that matter, if Jews are ever old enough to
But Aunt Selina was dictatress of my destinies. She had declared I
must either come along to the hotel or else I would not be allowed to
enter college. In the face of such an alternative I had yielded
quickly. But there had already begun between my aunt and me a chasm
that grew daily wider, deeper, more hopelessly incapable of bridging.
When one has been away for a year, one returns to find grim truths. I
had met other people, seen other lives and other souls since I had been
in boarding school: I was not clouded now by my blood relationship to
Mrs. Haberman or by day after day of close but unintimate
companionship. I saw her as she was: a shallow, flighty woman whose
thoughts were always upon that sort of society which spells itself with
a capital S, whose petulance found no easealways restless, always
ambitious for petty things, wanting only what she could not havean
idle woman, foolish in her idleness.
In spite of her taking it as a matter of course, she spent the whole
day, after she had learned my news, in spreading it about the porch and
parlors of the hotel. She seemed to imagine that it would interest
every oneeven Mrs. Van Brunt, the arbiter of elegance of the mountain
clique, who, on hearing it, sniffed, patted her lorgnette with a lace
handkerchief, and inquired if a great many Jews did not attend this
Really, I should not think of sending any relative of mine there,
she sniffed. Not that I have a prejudice against Jews, of coursein
fact, I consider myself very democratic. I have many Jewish
acquaintances. Many of my best friends are Jews.
My aunt, who had undoubtedly had to listen to these catchwords as
often as any other Jew or Jewess must, attempted not to understand why
Mrs. Van Brunt had spoken them. A few minutes later she made a few
unblinking and pointed remarks about having to attend a convention of
Christian Science workers in the fallas if to protest that Mrs. Van
Brunt had made a grievous and embarrassing error.
I asked my aunt, a few days later, if I was not to be allowed to
live in one of the university dormitories. Whether or not his college
is in his home town, every boy wants the full flavor of undergraduate
lifewants to live on the campus, to throw himself heart and soul into
the college games and customs. I could not see how college would mean
anything to me if I were to go on living at home in that dull,
comfortless apartment of Aunt Selina's.
Youth is always eager for emancipationalways a little too
thoughtless in its eagerness.
Perhaps I was wrong in forgetting what I owed Aunt Selina. She took
great offense at my wish. She spoke, her voice choked with tears, of
the many years that she had cared for me, fostered me, guarded me from
a world of foreign thingsruffians and kikes and niggers, was the
way she described it.
At any rate, I remember that I spent a whole day in thinking it out
for myself upon a lonely walk, and that, at the end of it, I came to
tell her that she was right and that I was ashamed of wanting to leave
herthat I would live home with her, and try to gain the best of
college in that way. Privately, I knew that I could never gain as
muchbut I had made up my mind not to pain her, confident that it
would be worth the sacrifice.
The days lagged slowly to the end of that summer. I was preparing in
a hundred little ways for the great adventure: sending for all sorts of
stereotyped books on the moral conduct of college men, on the art of
making friends, on the history and traditions of my university. I was
prepared to be its most loyal son. I could hardly wait for the stupid
weeks at this mountain hotel to pass by, for the opening day to arrive.
And then, when the trees were beginning to fleck with scarlet and
the summer heather streaked with goldenrod, we did depart for the city.
It was only a week before college would begin.
Then five days, four days, three, two, one. And on the night before
registration day, which would commence the college year, I sat for a
long while at my table-desk, dreaming high thingshope and fear
mingling with my dreams, charging them with an exquisite uncertainty,
making them pulse with the things that were innermost in me.
I was old enough, I thought, to review all the pastto see myself
with youth's over-harsh criticism of itselfto realize that, so far, I
had made a miserable, cringing, cowardly botch of my conduct and
convictions. Some day, soon, I seemed to feel, there would come a
moment of crisisa moment when all the shy, stammering manhood that I
knew to be in my heart would fling itself suddenly into the open and
make me strong and confident, helpful to myself and many others. I had
always longed to be a leaderas every boy doesand so far I had been
a slaveslave, most abjectly of all, to my own fears and prejudices.
But it would be different at college: there would be somethingI did
not know whatwhich would fling courage into me, fill my veins with
flameand it troubled me to wonder what that thing would be. Had any
one told me, then, that it would be Judaism, I should have either
laughed or been insulted.
For I was just as much afraid as ever of what hardships my religion
might work for me at college. I had as much fear, as much abhorrence of
the truth, in that regard. I wanted so much to forget itto be one of
the other sort, little caring for creed in any form, but wishing I were
safe in the comfort of having been born into the faith of the majority.
As I looked at it then, I was going into these new four years with a
tremendous handicap scored against me. It seemed so unfair: I cared so
little for Jewish things, yet I would have to be identified with them
throughout my entire course. I had learned, by now, that I could not
I went into college with a deeper sense of the injustice of it all
than I had ever had. I was going with the feeling that, come what may,
I should have to bow before the inevitable stigma of my raceAnd yet,
I hoped so yearningly that it would be otherwise. I hopedand
dreamedand laughed at my dreams, and told myself that college men
were only boys, after all: boys as bigoted, as cruel in their
prejudices as any that I had met at high school or military academy.
And perhaps I was justified in this last opinion. For, when I
appeared on the campus the next morning, headed for the dean's office
to file my registration, I was met by a ratty, little sophomore who
made me buy a second-hand freshman cap from him at four times its
And when he had my money in his pocket, and was a safe distance
across the green from me, he began to laugh and shout:
Oi, oi! oi, oi!
So that this was my introduction into college life.
VIII. WITHIN THE GATES
This initial experience did not frighten me. I came up to the first
day of college in the firm and joyous belief that here, if anywhere,
that old bugbear of my past school days would be absent. I came into
sight of buildings that were new to me, and oh, how stately to my
freshman eyes! I came across a campus that was golden with the autumn
grass, where red leaves filtered down from old elms, and where, from
heights, I caught glimpses of the university's private parks, still
green and soft, and of the river beyondand of the clean flanks of
white stone buildings and marble colonnades, half hidden in the trees.
It was all so beautiful. It was the promised land and I was within its
The giddy knowledge of it buoyed me up and sent me across the campus
humming to myself one of the alma mater songs which I had so
religiously learned from that Freshman Bible. I was on my way to my
first class. Directly ahead of me was the broad, lofty door of the
recitation building and, a little to the left, a fountain's water
spilled itself singingly over into a shallow marble basin.
Suddenly a trio of sophomores bounded out from behind a clump of
bushes. They came about me in a whooping circle, took me by the head
and feet and tossed me into the fountain.
I clambered out, dripping, spluttering, butbe it said to my
creditstill smiling. I had heard that this was the customary hazing
which all freshmen must endureand I knew enough to take it with as
good a grace as they gave it.
I started on my way to the recitation hall again, my clothes leaving
a trickling line behind me on the walk. But they pulled me back and
thumped me into the water again. It happened a third time before they
let me go. And then one of thema big, stocky fellow who wore a thick,
rolling sweater on which the college letter was emblazonedlaughed
heartily and thwacked me on the back and roared that I was a good kid,
even for a Jew!
The kindness of his remark was perhaps deeply meant. I've no doubt,
he thought to be paying me a complimentbut I went away, wetter than
ever, fast contracting a coldand with a lump in my throat for which
the cold was not at all responsible.
In the class room I found a number of my new classmates in quite as
damp a condition as I. I was glad to be among them, to know that I had
not been singled outand, being miserable, enjoyed their company. The
instructor seemed to be making a point of paying no attention to our
wetness. It made me wonder how the faculty felt about hazing. Evidently
they shut their eyes to it.
The class was soon over, since we were only kept for a preliminary
explanation of the course and a few words of supercilious greeting on
behalf of the young instructor. We came out upon the campus again,
locked arm in wet arm, paradoxically proud of what we had suffered.
But some more sophomores were waiting for us. We had to go into the
fountain over and over again. My own personal score was nine times. Nor
did my good naturekept at what a cost!serve to bring me any
In fact it was only when I showed a trace of anger that the
sophomores finally released me and took me over to the gymnasium to
give me a sweater and a pair of old pants, much too big for me, to wear
until my other suit was dry.
I went home from that first day jubilant, excited, sure of my coming
four years. I had proven to myself and to all these others that I was
ready to take a joke, to share it and enjoy it even when it was on
me. I had come out of it all with a tame but conclusive triumph of
patience and good nature.
I told my aunt of what had happened, when we sat down to dinner. She
was shocked at the recital. She wanted to know what sort of boys these
sophomores werewere they of good family and all that? Otherwise, if
they were ruffians, common street boysshe was going to write a letter
of complaint to the Dean of the university. I had a hard time
restraining her from it: I only did succeed by maintaining stoutly that
hazing was part of the social scheme, and was indulged in only by boys
of the best families!
The next morning, when I had traveled uptown to the college site, I
was met by more than one sophomore and upper classman who gave me a
broad smile or a humorous wink. The story of my dousings had probably
gone the rounds of the campus.
That night there was to be a reception given to the freshman class
by the college Y. M. C. A. I had arranged with Aunt Selina that I would
not be home until late.
There was a baseball game between the two classes in the afternoon.
The sophomores won, of courseas I believe they almost always do in
that first game. But after that there was a class rush around the flag
pole. I was light enough to climb up, stockinged-feet, upon the
shoulders of some of the taller classmates. I managed, somehow or
other, to reach that silly little flag and to tear it down, and then to
dive down into the twisting, jammed crowd below me, hugging the rag to
my breast in bulwarked hiding. And when the whistle blew I was still in
possession of it.
Popularity is a heady wineand I had my fill of it that day and
evening. Ilittle Ihad won the class rush for the freshmen.
Everybody seemed to know my name, to recognize me, to want to speak to
me. At the reception, later on, I was surrounded by a great group of
freshmen too shy to stand by themselves. Under ordinary circumstances,
of course, I should have been more shy than any of thembut these were
not ordinary circumstances. I was a suddenly awakened hero, a wolf who
had thrown off his meek lamb's outfit.
As I was leaving for home, full of ice cream, punch and much
self-conceit, a junior came toward me hesitatingly. He seemed to be
near-sighted, for he groped rather pitifully for my sleeve, and thrust
his face close to mine.
Aren't you the freshman that won the rush? he asked me.
I told him promptly that I was.
Well, won't you come around for lunch tomorrow at our fraternity
house? We'll be mighty glad to have you.
I had learned a little of fraternities at school. They had not
amounted to anything there; but I knew that college fraternities were
differentwere big, powerful organizations which could make or break a
man's college career. My aunt had spoken to me of fraternities, too;
she wanted me to join one which should give meand hera deal of
social prestige. And I, hungering for new experiences andas every boy
doesfor things that are mysterious and secretive, wanted, too, the
distinction and glory of making a fraternity. It seemed to my freshman
mind the most important thing upon the horizon.
And so, when this upper classman invited me to luncheon, my heart
bounded high with expectation. I knew from other college men that an
invitation to lunch was but the beginning of the usual system of
rushing a prospective member: the preliminary skirmish of festivities
which would prelude the final invitation to join the fraternity. And I
was going to lunch at one of the most influential and exclusive of the
It is needless to say, I was dressed in my Sunday-best the next
morning. And, after my 11 o'clock recitation, I hurried out to find the
upper classman waiting for me by the side of the fountain which had
been the scene of my yesterday's wetting. I smiled indulgently at the
thought of it. How changed everything was since then! The upper
classman waited for me to come up to him. I saw that he did not
recognize me at once, and a tremor of suspicion came over me. What if
it were all a hoaxanother bit of hazing?
He was immensely cordial; took me by the arm and marched me across
the campus, down a side street and into the palatial, pillared house of
his fraternity. On the way, his genial face full of a stupid, expansive
smile, and his near-sighted eyes twinkling vacantly, he told me of the
men I should meet.
Inside, in the magnificent hall, with its weathered oak beams and
mission furniture and bronze plaques upon the tapestried walls, I met a
host of good-looking, well-dressed men. There was evidently a rushing
committee of upper classmen, who took me about and introduced me to
all the others. There were one or two freshmen, too, whom I recognized;
and these were wearing in their lapels a strange, gleaming little
button. I was to learn later than this was the pledge button which
announced that these men had been offered membership to the fraternity
and had accepted it.
When we went into luncheon the near-sighted junior sat me next to
him. He seemed tremendously embarrassed. Once or twice he leaned over
to whisper to other men; then he would steal a glance at me and blush a
brick red, his inefficient eyes puckering to squint closely.
The other men, for the most part, disregarded me. A classmateone
of the pledged freshmenspoke to me now and then, but loftily and as
if it were an effort of hospitality.
As I felt the coldness increase, I grew glum and silent. My
new-found confidence oozed out into bewilderment. What had I done? What
had I said to insult them all, to hurt my chances of election to their
midst? I could not figure it out.
They were courteous enough. They were what they claimed to be: a
crowd of young gentlemen. But I could sense, electric in the air, the
disapproval and amusement which they felt.
And after lunch was over, I did not join the others in the big,
leather-walled smoking room. I made a mumbled apology and went. They
accepted it blandly, smiling, smirking a little, and let me go.
I had just gone down the steps and towards the campus when the
near-sighted junior came after me, redder than ever of face, his eyes,
blinking very hard. He hurried up behind me and put his hand on my
See here, 'fresh,' he said thickly, I owe you an explanation. I
don't want the other fellows to see me giving it to you. Come on, walk
along with me.
At the corner, out of range of the windows of his fraternity house,
he began his hurried, jumbling speech.
I could see, he said, how uncomfortable they made you. They tried
to be decent, honestly they did. But theythey've never hadnever had
to entertain aone of your sort before, don't you see? Wewe don't
ever takewell, it's all my fault. I'm so darn near-sighted that I
didn't realize. I couldn't seeI didn't know
He could not go on, for his dull, honest face was fearfully
What didn't you know? I demanded.
That you werenow, don't get sore, because I like Jews as much as
any folksand I can't see why we don't take them in our fraternity.
Only you didn't realize I was a Jew, I said hotly.
That's itI'm so near-sighted that I
I did not wait for his stammered finish. I went swiftly away and
home, my heart well-nigh bursting.
IX. MY AUNT AND I
It isn't true, snapped my aunt, when I told her of what had
happened at the fraternity house. I can't imagine that young gentlemen
of such an aristocratic set could act so meanly. You must have done
something wrong. You must have insulted them personally, yourself. I'll
wager, you're to blamenot they.
I was too sickened by it all to protest. I repeated to her slowly
the words of apology which the near-sighted junior had spoken to me at
our parting, and, when they did not convince her, gave up the task and
went to bed without any supper. I was old enough to have cured myself
of the habit of tearsthough, as a matter of fact, no men ever do
quite want to cure themselves of itbut I remember that my pillow was
damp the next morning, and the grey, foggy sky, through the window,
seemed in sad tune with my spirits.
I dressed and went up to college, fearful to meet any of that
fraternity crowd again, wondering how they would act towards me, trying
to be indignant, but succeeding only in a shriveled self-debasement.
Because I was a Jewthat was their one and only reason for showing me
the door in so polite and gentlemanly a fashion.
But when, at the chapel entrance, I bumped into one of the pledged
freshmen, he simply did not pay any attention to me at all. He appeared
not to know me, murmured an unhurried and general, Excuse me, and
went on. A few yards further on, I met with one of the seniors at whose
fraternity table I had been sitting the noon before. He bowed hastily
and walked past.
Neither one nor the other of them seemed to be much perturbed by the
meeting, nor to notice my own discomfiture. I could not imagine that
such incidents as mine of yesterday were common occurrences and yet
they seemed to take it so much as a matter of course.
I fought with my pride in the matter for a long while. Then, at the
end of a noon-time recitation, I spoke of it to a freshman with whom I
had struck up a friendship two days old. The friendship ended there. He
seemed scandalized at my mentioning fraternities at all: it was a
subject far too sacred for discussion, evidently. He merely snapped
back stiffly that he expected to be pledged to another fraternity
sometime during the day, and that he did not care to hurt his chances
by talking too freely. It made me see the secretiveness of the system
from another angle.
I received no more invitations to lunch. I contented myself
henceforth with a humble sandwich and glass of milk at the Commons
eating hall. It was galling to see classmates being escorted across the
campus to the fraternity houses, to overhear them accepting invitations
to theater in the evening, to watch the process of their conversion to
this fraternity or that one. It was like being in a bustling crowd with
hands tied and mouth gaggedand the sullen rage of a disappointed
boyhood in my heart.
Aunt Selina did not know how to comfort me. I think she tried to, in
her superfluous way. At first she wanted to make light of the
fraternities, gibing at them whenever opportunity arose at the dinner
table. But she did not feel lightly about itand her disappointment
was too great to be laughed away. She still had a dim suspicion that I
had made some fearful misstephad brought the failure on myself. And
so, after a while, she kept silent on the subject, and would not speak
of it at all. But her silence was more harshly eloquent than all her
foolish talk had been.
It seems that Paul Fleming, a nephew of Mrs. Fleming-Cohen, had
belonged to a fraternity at college; and Mrs. Fleming-Cohen was always
alluding to it, as if it gave her a social security which my own aunt
could never attain. Aunt Selina wanted me to make a fraternity to prove
to Mrs. Fleming-Cohen how easy a matter it was. She had implied as
much, when we had first come back from the country.
Our life together as days went by, seemed to be going peacefully and
smoothly into some sort of a makeshift groove. I knew well enough that
she and I would never grow to be genuinely fond of each other. Our aims
were different; and the beginning of college had given me some inkling
of what my aims were going to be. I was only eighteen, to be sure; but
I was older, more settled than most youths of twenty or more. I blamed
myself a little for my impatience with her, for my hasty conclusions
concerning those friends of hers who came up from Washington square to
eat her meals and to fill her with senseless chatter of art and
literature. And yet I could not help loathing them. Whenever they came
to dinner, I made an excuse of studying at the house of another
freshman for the evening, and thus escaped them.
The first month of college was not yet over when I went, on one of
those evenings, to hear an extra-curriculum lecture on the social
duties of a college man. I had expected to hear a fop of some sort
deliver dicta on the proper angle of holding a fork or inside
information as to the most aristocratic set in college. It was that
word social that misled me.
Instead, the speaker was a rough, business-like man, rather shabbily
dressed, who heaped fiery anathema upon the idle rich. And he spoke of
the true social duties. He spoke mainlybecause he knew most about
itconcerning the opportunities for college men in settlement work.
I had never heard of settlement work before. It was a new thing to
meand perhaps it was its newness that at first attracted me so
strongly. I waited until the end of the lecture, and joined a little
group of listeners who gathered around the man with eager questions. I
had a few of my own to ask, tooand he answered mine as he answered
all of them, simply, kindly, directly.
The speaker was Lawrence Richards, director of one of the largest
settlement societies in New York. There was something powerful,
magnetically enthusiastic about himand his face was tremendously keen
He was gathering up his papers to depart when he chanced to remark
See here, will you come over to my fraternity house with me and
talk things over? We can sit in the library, and I'll tell you lots
more that I know will interest you. We'll be comfortableand fairly
Mr. Richards, it seems, had gone to my university ten years ago. I
asked him the name of the fraternity. When he told me it, I shook my
It was the house at which I had had that memorable luncheonand
whither I was not to be invited any more.
Why not? he persisted. I want you down in my settlement. I want
to show you how you can be of help to us. Won't you come over to the
fraternity house? And when I again declined, he insisted on knowing
But I did not tell him. Perhaps some of the members of your active
chapter will tell you, I replied, but I will not.
He looked at me sharply, and his face grew grim. I see, he said
warmly. The nasty little cads. Well, it's harder for me to excuse them
than it is for youand I'm their sworn brother!
So I made an appointment to come down to the settlement, instead,
and to take supper with him there some evening. He wanted to show me
the splendid organization of things there: the club rooms, the dance
hall, the gymnasium and reading room. He wanted to introduce me to the
resident leaders. He wanted to persuade me to become a leader, myself:
to attend one of the clubs of young boys, to join with them in their
meetings, their debates, their entertainments and studies, to help them
by friendliness and example.
I suppose, he said, when he left me at a subway kiosk, that you
feel mighty sorry that you didn't make a fraternity, don't you? Well,
I'm offering you a membership in a bigger and better one than ever had
a chapter in a collegethe brotherhood of humanity. You'll be proud of
it, little fellow, if you'll join. So come along down and let us 'rush'
It was so good-natured a joke that I could not resent it. I had had
my eyes opened, tonight, by some of the things that Mr. Richards had
told me. I had learned that the city has its poor, its sick and wicked,
its boys and girls embroiled in wrong environments, its lonely and
unambitious, who must be comraded and wakened. And I had learned that
I, young as I was, was able to help, to foster, to do good for such as
On the way home, I passed a street corner where boys a few years
younger than myself were loitering in obscene play. A little further on
I came to a girl, not more than fifteen or sixteen, who was being
followed by some toughs. She was a Jewish girl, too, I noticedand she
was crying with fright. I put her on a street car to get her out of
It was of just such as these, both boys and girls, that Mr. Richards
had spoken this evening. Perhaps he was rightand what a noble thing
to be able to join in the help and companionship which the settlement
could give them. I resolved to go down to him the very next evening.
When I reached home, Aunt Selina was just getting ready for bed. She
came out into the hall in a pink silk dressing-gown, all frills and
ruffles, and asked me complainingly where I had been so long. She was
angry at my abrupt departure when her evening's guests arrived.
I have been to hear a lecture delivered by a Mr. Lawrence
Richards, I told her.
Oh! That settlement man? she asked.
She almost snorted. I met him once at a meeting of our Ladies'
Auxiliary. He is such a plain, undistinguished fellow!
I hesitated a moment. Aunt Selina, I said, I am going down
tomorrow night to have supper with him. He wants me to become a leader
in one of the settlement clubs. It would take only one night a week, he
My aunt was so affected by the announcement that I had to run and
fetch her smelling salts. Oh, oh, down into that awful tenement house
district? Down among those dreadful people? Indeed, you shan't go. If
you do, I shall never allow you to come back! Think of the diseases you
And she carried on so hysterically that, after a while, I gave in
and promised I would not gonot for a while, anyhow.
Why aren't you like other boys of your class? she demanded. Why
aren't you content to make the best of things and be satisfied with the
splendid opportunities you have?
That's just what I'm trying to do, Aunt Selina, I told her.
Trying to make the bestthe really best of everything that comes into
But she was unimpressed, and went off sobbing to bed.
X. THE RULES OF THE GAME
I became rather friendly with that near-sighted junior. He was so
genial, good-hearted, apologetic a chap that I could not harbor any
resentment against him for the events which took place at his
fraternity house. They were not his fault, anyhow.
His name was Trevelyan, and he came from one of the oldest families
in New York; one of the wealthiest, too. At college he was considered
somewhat of a fool, his never-failing good nature giving justification
for the opinion. I don't think that, since that first embarrassing
luncheon, I have never seen him unhappyand even then it was on my
account he was discontented, not on his own. And outside of college he
must have been respected with all the awe which New Yorkers accord to
the Sons of the American Revolution and five or six million dollars.
But he was the least lofty, least snobbish man that I have ever known.
Most of his college friends thought he was too much of a fool to play
the snob; I thought he was too much of a gentleman.
He came to dinner at my aunt's apartment after he had known me for
about a month. I do not know who of us was the more proud, my aunt or
Ifor to me the idea of having a junior and a member of one of the
most powerful fraternities visiting at my home was quite as much of a
marvel as my aunt seemed to feel it, that a member of the Trevelyan
familythe Trevelyan's of Fifth avenue and Sixty-fourth street, don't
you knowshould be seated at her table and giving gracious attention
to her gossipy conversation. For a whole week after his visit Aunt
Selina made a great point of itand of telling her friends of it. The
distinction of having a Trevelyan to dinner was a great triumph over
Mrs. Fleming-Cohen, who had once entertained a Jewish mining magnate
from the Far Westbut who had never attained anything like a
I think Trevelyan began at first feeling very much ashamed and
sorry; he was just trying to square up matters with his own conscience.
He had a room in one of the college dormitories. He seldom used it, but
when he did he would invite me to stay up there with him and to sit
until the wee, quiet hours, talking over our briar pipes, interspacing
the layers of blue smoke with argument and stirring plans. Trevelyan
had great hopes for me. He had discovered that I was a runner.
As a matter of fact, I had done a little practicing with the track
team at military school. I had never amounted to much, had never stood
out tremendously in meets. I liked to run, I liked the healthy trim
that the exercise gave me, but I'm afraid I never took it very
But Trevelyan saw things differently. Here was my great chance.
Never mind the college papers, the literary societies and all that tame
coterie of lesser institutions. If I made the track team I would be a
college heroand, after seeing me capture the flag in the class rush,
he had no doubt of my vim and nerve. I must make the track team.
(Trevelyan, by the way, was assistant manager of the track
So, soon enough, I was out on the windy field in my old school
track-clothes, racing around and around with a sturdy intention of
proving myself worthy of Trevelyan's friendship. That was my chief
reason for coming out for track, after all.
The coach, a taciturn, gray old fellow, whose muscles were running
too fat and whose temper had frayed out in the years of snarling at
prospective champions, paid little attention to me until the week
before the freshman-sophomore track meet. Then he tried me out at a
44-yard run. That was what I had been used to doing at school. There
was only one man in the freshman class who could beat me in this run
for certain. There was no reason, said Trevelyan, why I should not be
absolutely sure of my place on the class team.
Three days before the meet the other 44 man sprained his knee. He
was out of the race for the time being. There was no doubt now that I
would be put in. So said Trevelyan, and so, in surly, semi-official
fashion, said the coach.
But we had not counted on the captain of the freshman track team.
This was one of my classmates, chosen from among the many candidates by
the captain of the 'varsity team. This freshman leader I did not know
personally. I had met him almost every day on the field, but he had
never recognized me. His track shirt bore the monogram of a noted
preparatory school; and it was echoed that he was the handsomest man in
the class. He was most certainly the most snobbish. He was thrown into
contact with me in various organizations during our four years. I do
not remember his ever having bowed to me. In his college world I, and
such as I, did not exist.
At any rate, the college newspaper came out one noon to announce the
members of the freshman track team, as chosen by its captain. My name
was not among them.
In vain did Trevelyan protest to the 'varsity captain, to the
coachI even think he took the matter as high as a meeting of the
faculty athletic advisory committee. Nothing could be done. The
'varsity captain shrugged his shoulders, the old coach growled but said
nothing, the faculty advisers kept away from the topic as if it were
beneath their tutelary notice. And the freshman-sophomore track meet
was held with me on the side-lines, among the spectators. I have no
reason to gloat over it, but it is a rather amusing point that we lost
the entire meet through losing the four-forty yard run.
It's a dirty shame, said Trevelyan, his squinting eyes full of rue
and anger. I knew that sort of thing went on in the 'varsity
circlebut I didn't think they'd carry it down into the class teams.
It's all college politicsand college politics are the meanest, most
vindictive intrigue on earth.
I didn't ask him for a further explanation, and I suppose he felt it
would be kinder not to make one. But I knew well enough to what he
referredand why there had been this sudden, underhanded
discrimination. I made up my mind to forget the whole episode. I had
not been so tremendously anxious to make the track team that I would
let the disappointment of it rankle and grow and ruin my year's fun. I
put it all behind me, resolving to take my enthusiasm into some other
of the college activities where it would be more sincerely appreciated.
I consulted Trevelyan about it. He suggested the college newspaper.
But after he had made the suggestion, he began to stammer and make
strange protests. I asked him to tell me plainly what was wrong.
Why, it's the same with that as with the track team. The
editor-in-chief of the paper is in my 'crowd.' I'll speak to himand
save you any trouble. If he says yes, then you go out and win a place
on the board of editors. But if he says no, I want you to promise me
that you won't subject yourself to any more of this puppy-dog
I did promise. And two days later I received a postcard from
Trevelyan, telling me that it would hardly be worth my while to try for
the college paper. He added, in the large, unruly handwriting which his
near-sightedness made necessary:
You may go on breathing, however, if you don't make a noise at it.
He supplemented this, a few nights later, when he and I were at our
old places in his room. He threw down his pipe in the midst of talking
about something carefully unimportant, and sat up with a laughably
See here, 'fresh,' he bawled out, you're getting the rottenest
deal I ever saw. You know whyso do I. And we're going to show them a
thing or two. We're going to buck up against the strongest thing in the
worldand that thing is prejudice. We're going to beat it, too. Do you
understand? Were going to beat it out! Smash it to pieces!
Yes, I understood, I said. I understood it all only too well. So
well, indeed, that I knew there was no use trying to fight. I knew that
prejudice of race and religion was the strongest shield of the ignorant
and mean, that neither he nor I could fight it fairlyand that, if he
came into the fight by my side, he would ruin his own chances of being
one of the biggest men in the college world when his senior year
A lot I care for being a big man in a place of little thoughts, he
snapped back at me. I'm ready to take the consequences, now and
Have you thought of what your fraternity brothers might say about
it? I asked him.
I don't careI don'twell, if they. His voice died away in
perplexity. I had hit upon his weak spot. He was an easy-going,
likeable chap; he hated a rumpus. If he made any sort of fight against
the anti-Jewish prejudice, he would have his whole fraternity against
him, he would perhaps be shunned by all his sworn brothers, by his best
college friends. His enthusiasm became a little dulled, then died down
into a great good-natured sigh.
I suppose you're right, 'fresh,' he admitted slowly. I'm not of
the fighting sort. And I have my fraternity to consider. That's the
worst of belonging to a fraternity. He took up his pipe again and
smoked in silence for a while. I suppose you think you'll never be
happy, now that you know you aren't going to be in a fraternity. Take
my word for it, you're ten times luckier in having your freedom. Wait
until you're an upperclassman and you'll agree with me.
It seemed a dreadful sacrilege for him to be saying it. Besides, I
thought he was blaming his own lack of fighting power on his fraternity
in too heavy and unjust a degree. I wasn't any more of a fighter than
hebut I was disappointed, somehow, that his pugnacity had died out so
I can't do it, 'fresh,' he confessed, with a grin. I'm not the
scrapper I thought I could be. I just want to go through college
lazily, happily, respectablyand all that. I wouldn't know how to make
a rumpus if I wanted to. But listen here. He pointed his finger at me
sternly. If I were you, I wouldn't rest until I had made the fight and
won it. Fight it not only for yourself but for the hundred other Jewish
fellows in college. See that they get a square deal. See that they
don't lose out on all the things that make college worth while. A Jew
is just as good as anyone else, isn't he?
Yes, I answered him only faintly.
Well, then, go ahead and prove that fact to the whole college
But, though I did not answer him, I knew that I was not any more
able to make the fight than he. Less able, perhaps, because I was more
handicapped. I made myself a thousand excuses as I sat there thinking
it overI was not brave enough, that was all.
But one thing my acquaintanceship with Trevelyan did bring me. He
was a dabbler in light verse, and had been elected to the college funny
paper. He also contributed to the undergraduate literary magazine at
timesthough he was a bit ashamed of being taken seriously. At any
rate, he encouraged me to go into these two activities.
Whether or not it was due entirely to his influence, or whether
these two college publications were broader and less exacting as to the
ancestry of contributors, my work for them was welcomed. Before the
year was over I had been elected an associate editor of the funny
paper, and had four articles accepted by the literary magazineenough
to put me among the list of probables for election, next winter.
At the same time I went through a successful trial for membership in
the college dramatic association. I was not given a part in the annual
play, however. I made up my mind to consider this a just decision, and
that I had no right to impute it to anything other than my lack of
talent. The president of the association, however, met me at lunch hour
one day and made some rather lame remarks about the embarrassment to
which the dramatics would be put if I were in the cast.
Yer see, he said, we go on an annual tour. And we get entertained
a lot, yer see. And it's big social stunts in every city. And it's the
cream of society wherever we goso, it'd be funny ifwell don'tcher
Yes, I admitted, I do see. I see further than you do.
I was beginning to wonder if that fight that Trevelyan planned
wouldn't be worth while, after all.
XI. A MAN'S WORK
I talked to Trevelyan, too, of my interest in the work of Lawrence
Richards. Trevelyan had heard of him and of his settlement, and was
rather at sea to give an opinion about it. He was only mildly
What's the use of bothering with things so far away from your
college life? he protested lazily. Of course, the idea of being
useful to people in need is splendid and all that. But somehow, it
doesn't fit in with college life.
Why not? Why shouldn't it? I argued.
He waved his hand as if to begin some generalization, but made no
Wait until you're through with college before you settle down to
manhood, he said a little later. College is just the sport of kids,
It came to methough I did not tell him soof how, in the
beginning, I had thought of college as a place of full manhoodand of
the misgivings I had had, that perhaps, after all, college would be
only another stepping stone to that manhood. And so it was: just a
stepping stone, through brambles of prickly prejudice and childish
pranks. When would it come, that manhood?
You know, Trev, I said to him hesitatingly, I sometimes feel I am
much older than most fellows. Almost old enough to do a man's work.
He looked at me and laughed, refusing to take me too soberly. You
are older, he admitted. Only what do you call a man's work?
I didn't know, and told him so. He seemed to consider it a triumph
for his own argument.
See here, he said, what's the use of all this stewing about the
slums and the wretched poor and that sort of thing, if you're just
aching to make trouble for yourself? If you want manhood, you'll reach
it ten times sooner if you'll slip into it comfortably, gracefully,
lying quietly on your back and floatingand not splashing too hard.
You'll never get anywhere if you insist on getting there with a
I admired the studied grace of his similes, but had to confess that
they did not impress me as true. But, at the same time, I did not try
to explain any further to him how I felt.
That did not end the questioning for me, however. I even broached it
to Aunt Selina once, and she threw up her hands in despair. I think I
did it somewhat with the idea of seeing her do just that. It was
beginning to amuse me, how hopeless she thought I was.
So that was why I did not tell her of my intention to go, one
evening, to see Mr. Lawrence Richards at his East Side Settlement. But
immediately after supper, I bade my aunt good night, and answered her
suspicious query with the information that I was bound for a social
affair. The answer seemed to reassure her and she gave me gracious
permission to go.
I took the subway to Spring street, walked across to the Bowery, and
a few blocks on the other side of it, came to the Settlement. It was in
the heart of a noisy crowded section, towering high above the shabby
buildings like a great, clean, shining bulwark.
Mr. Richards was at supper, I was told. A bright-eyed little Jewish
boy, neatly dressed and careful of speech, offered to show me the way
to the dining room on the fifth floor.
I had a hearty welcome from the Head Worker when he recognized me.
He was disappointed that I had already had my supper; made me sit down
beside him and introduced me to all his associates. They were mostly
young men, I was surprised to find; one of them told me that he had
graduated from one of the New England colleges only the year before.
Mr. Richards showed me all about the place, as he had promised he
would. Then he took me with him into his den as he called ita
little room, just off the gymnasium, where he had his desk and filing
cabinets and books. He sat me down opposite him on a canvas-covered
chair, and, when he had gone over some reports which needed his
signature, looked up at me and smiled.
Well, he said, what's the trouble?
Oh, I didn'twell, how did you know there was any trouble?
The smile broadened. None of you ever come down here unless you are
in trouble. Trouble's a sort of bait that lands ambitious youths into
doing settlement workand into coming to me for advice. They say I'm
pretty good at giving it. Why don't you try me?
I did. I told him exactly how I felt: that I was growing impatient
of all the tomfoolery of college; that I wanted work more sure of manly
results, more broadening, more full of character. Then, too, I told him
of what Trevelyan had said, and he laughed at it merrily.
Trevelyan? he said. Oh, yes, I know him. He belongs to my
fraternity, doesn't he? I've met him at one or another of our affairs.
A good enough fellowa little too much money, and a little too easy
with himself in consequence. But he's a thorough gentleman at heart,
I almost gasped. He had summed up Trevelyan marvelously well in
those few words. He saw my wonderment and smiled.
I've only met him once or twice, he said, but I have the faculty
of knowing men. It's a faculty I have to have in this sort of work. It
depends so much on the human equation. I meet thousands of young men
and women every yearmeet them, talk with them a little while, give
them the best I have to give in that short spaceand like to think
that, even if I never see them again, I've helped them along a bit.
That's all that a settlement can do, after all.
Outside the door, in the gymnasium, we could hear the joyful shrieks
of a crowd of young boys playing basketball. From the upper floors came
a scraping of feet to tell that the clubs were beginning to meet for
the evening. From across the hall came the sound of young girls singing
the parts of a cantataand this was all planned, all created by
Lawrence Richards who sat there at his desk and had a smile for each
and everyone who came before him.
Don't think you're different from all the other fellows at the
university, he said to me. You're not. You're all as much alike as a
row of pins. Your problems are youth's problemsand you needn't be
ashamed to have them, as long as you work them out to suit the best
that is in you. You've nothing definite in mind, have you?
I said, No. I only had an idea that he might be able to use me
here at the settlement in some capacity.
There's a good deal in what Trevelyan said, he told me. While
you're at college you might as well give college all that it needs of
your time and energy. College will surely pay you back. All the work
that you do on a team, for a college paper, for any of the
undergraduate organizations, will be just so much of a pledge on the
part of your college that she will honor you, give you power and
position and the opportunity to do bigger things. Don't you want those
honors? Doesn't that power mean anything to you?
I could not answer him; I did not want to tell him that I thought
myself above these little things. He understood me, however, even in my
They are things worth while, he said. There is a senior society
worth 'making,' if you can. It would be something to be proud of to be
the only Jew ever to have 'made' it. But it's more than an honor. That
senior society practically governs the student bodymolds its thought,
holds sway over all campus opinion. Think what you could do if you were
a member of it. You could fight for the other Jewish boys, make things
easier and fairer for themcould spare them the unpleasant things you
had to bear. You could master all snobbery, could make the university a
place of real American democracy and gentlemanliness. Don't you think
that that's worth while?
I admitted it was. I had not thought of it in that way.
Now, this is what I suggest, he said. It's getting near the end
of the term, and there's no use in your beginning any work down here at
the settlement while college is still in session. But when vacation
begins, I want you to come down here to live for a couple of months.
I'll make you a resident club-leader, and you'll have your full share
of the best sort of work. He paused a moment. Will you come?
Will I? You bet I will!
Good! And in the meanwhile, take Trevelyan's adviceit's mine, to.
Stick to your college work and your college play, and don't bother
about the outside world for a while. That is your worldthe college.
Fight hard in it. The whole world likes a stiff upper lip, and the
college world likes it best of all. And, sooner or later, Jew or
Gentile, the college world will repay you for all that you give it. If
you go through college shunning everyone, afraid of your own shadow,
surly to the approach of all who would be friendly to you, you will
reap nothing but loneliness and a bitter 'grouch.' If you loaf and play
cards and hang about the billiard parlors all day long, you won't make
a friend worth having, you won't gain anything worth remembering. If
you work at your studies only, you'll gain nothing but Phi Beta
Kappaand, for all its worth, that'll mean nothing to you unless it
brings along with it the respect and good will of all the men from whom
you wrested it. At college as much as in any business office a smile
will beget a smile, willingness to work will reap willingness to
rewardand Alma Mater, if only you prove your love for her by working
for her, will return your love tenfold.
He reached over the desk and touched my arm.
I don't mean to be just rhetorical, he continued. I have been
through the same inner struggle and wonder and repugnance that you
haveand I know how deeply you feel it. Well, I worked blindly ahead
at the things that college gave me to work atthe football team and
the newspaper and all thatand soon enough I knew that I had been
working into manhood by the only right road. Manhood is a matter of
disposition, not of work. There's a place for manhood in your little
college world. Go and find that placeand give it all that is manly
and courageous in you.
I left him, I confess, doubting his words a little to find that
place of which he spoke so feelingly.
Well, perhaps I would find it. Perhaps an opportunity would spring
up from out of the sing-song ordinariness of my daily lifeand what
would I do then?
XII. THE HEART OF JUDEA
My promise to Mr. Richards brought more than one result. The first
of them was a serious quarrel with my Aunt Selina. Her horror at the
idea of my spending the summer at a slum-settlement was beyond curbing.
She had planned that I should accompany her and Mrs. Fleming-Cohen upon
a trip to Europe. They did not need me; they would be in no way
dependent on my company ... and I flatly declined. Aunt Selina,
outraged at my actual intentions, left for France a week earlier than
she had expectedand, in high indignation, gave me leave to do
whatever I pleased by way of disgracing her reputation.
Her letter from the steamer warned me to bathe every day in very hot
water, lest I should be contaminated by the filth of that section of
the city which I had chosen for my summer home ... and to be sure and
give her warmest regards to that delightful Mr. Trevelyan!
I lost no time in moving into Mr. Richards' company at the East Side
settlement. I was given a room there which was small, dark, but neat
and comfortable enough. College had no sooner closed than I was settled
in it, ready for the two months of work which had been allotted me.
In return for my board and lodgings, the settlement demanded all my
time. There was hardly an hour which was not given to some sort of club
or class, rehearsal or supervision or gymnastic training. Almost
immediately after breakfast the playground work began; by noon I was
helping a crowd of little ragamuffins to forget the heat in the
splashing fun of the swimming pool, in the basement. In the afternoon
there were classes for young boys who needed tutoringhungry-eyed,
eager little fellows who reminded me of what I must have been when I
was their age.
I would not have you believe that I was readily sympathetic with
every case I met. These boys and girlsthough I rarely had to do with
the latterwere all Jewish. The appearance of some of them would
perhaps have justified my aunt's antipathy to the East Side. Those that
were new to the settlement, I noticed, were shabby, dull, rough of
speech, surly of manners. It would need a few weeks before I could see
how subtle, yet how fundamental, were the changes which the settlement
would have wrought in them.
I was shy, too, in the presence of so many boys: shy of their
hastily-offered friendship, their rushing eagerness to bring me into
all their schemes and boyish dreams. But I was still young enough to
know those dreams upon my own account: young enough to feel with little
Mosche, a cripple, who wanted so much to become an expert at the
swinging of Indian clubs, and who was forever dropping the heavy things
in clumsy weakness; young enough to realize how much his mother's love
meant to thirteen-year-old Frank Cohen, who had been caught stealing
fruit from a corner grocery and was on parole.
But the feeling in itself was not enough, evidently. I must try and
try to make that feeling eloquentto make these boys feel, in turn,
the sureness and helpfulness of my understanding. Sometimes it was
torture. It is harder to conquer shyness than to slap a dragon.
Mr. Richards saw this in mewatched the struggle, appreciated it.
He spoke of it to me, once, and I did not hesitate to tell him how I
felt. How inadequate, how chagrined and humbled in the face of all the
poverty and suffering which life down here disclosed.
It was the same when I first came down here, he said to me in
turn. But I gained courage. Thank God for that!
He said it quietly, but there was a good deal of fervor in the
tones. It surprised me, somehow, because, I had never before heard him
mention the name of the Deity. It gave me a new question to ask.
Why is it that you don't lay more stress on religion down here?
Don't the boys and girls need it?
Need it? Who doesn't? A shadow crossed his face. His vivacity gave
way for a moment before deep thoughtfulness. But they get all they
need, these kids. They are mostly all of them members of strictly
orthodox Jewish families. Religion is given them at all hours in their
own homes. Many of them get more of it than they can ever need. They
get so much of it that they flee from it, just anxious for the freedom
of the streets and the novelty of the bar room and the brothel and the
gambling den. I have made investigations. I know that half of the East
Side boys who land in the police court have been driven there by the
religious strictness of their parents.
Mr. Richards, I began ... but stopped in dismay. What I had been
about to say was no more nor less than a hot, strong denial of his
opinion. I felt sure he was wrongand yet it seemed humorous to me
that I, who a year ago, had hated all things Jewish, was now defending
all the worth and venerability of its ritual.
I do not agree with you altogether, I said lamely. But ... but
still, don't think I am a very enthusiastic Jew. Because I'm not.
Aren't you? Why not?
I did not answerhad no answer to make, in fact. I did not want to
tell him of my aunt, of her influence, of my own cowardice. But,
looking at me, I think he did guess something of the longing I had had
... something of that strange night when I had stood outside the
synagogue and heard the music coming from within the depths of its
golden haze. For he put his hand on my shoulder and bade me think for a
moment why I was not a Jew in spirit as well as in name.
You're not a snob, he said, trying to help me. You're not
thinking that, because your religion is in the minority in the midst of
a Christian land, it is necessarily an ignominy to be a Jewand to act
My silence held. I let him go on talking. Anyhow, you need
religion. Every man does to a variable extent. I should feel sorry for
the man who didn't. And do you mind my telling you he paused only
for a secondthat you are one of those who need it most?
I hung my head. He had hit so truly upon what was right, what was
most secret in me.... I could not ask him how he had guessed it, I
remembered his assertion that he knew menall menand saw now that he
had not been boasting.
He went on, presently, to explain that religion was a thing for the
fathers and mothers and rabbis to teach to the childrennot for the
settlement to teach them. He knew that boys needed the guidance of
religion ... but he felt that it was supplied in even too large doses
The pity of it is, he said in closing, that wherever Jewish
children turn away from the faith of their fathers, they have nothing
to turn towards next. They are at sea ... he gave me another of his
quick, deep set glances ... and that applies to rich and poor alike.
Christians forget their religion when they feel they have outgrown it
... because they have lost interest in it. Jews forsake theirs but
never forget it. Under certain circumstances they grow impatient with
it, slink from the inconveniences which it entails ... but their hearts
are always desperate for the Faith. It is a hidden loneliness, a
stifled longing to them.
I thought of Aunt Selina and wondered if she had ever felt that
loneliness, that longing, as I had. I could hardly imagine her happy in
devoutness to Judaism. It was so comical, I laughed aloud ... and got
up and left Mr. Richards, lest he should ask me at what I was laughing.
It was his remark about Jewish children getting all the religion
they need which nettled me the most. I felt that I would like to go out
upon the streets and see for myself. The streets are the East Side's
parliament, its court of law and high opinion.
They were hot and glaring with the noonday sun when first I appealed
to them. Their pavements, white and littered with unspeakable
confusion, gave off a dancing wave of heat. Old women, squatting on
their doorsteps, their coarse wigs low upon perspiring foreheads, dozed
and woke and gabbled to each other and dozed again. Old men, with long
grey beards, long, tousled hair and melancholy eyes shuffled listlessly
up and down, stopping only to make way for playing children or to pat
them on the head. The gutters had their Jewish peddlers, each window
its fat Jewish matron who leaned upon a cushioned window-sill and gazed
apathetically at nothing. There was a Babel of Yiddish and Russian and
guttural English. At one corner there was a crap-game going on in full
sight of the policeman across the street. Young men of my age were in
it; youths with mean, furtive faces and laughs that were cruel and
So this was Judea? This was where religion played too strong a part
... where parents and rabbis taught so fully to their charges the word
and the comfort of God? It did not seem so to me. It seemed all
hateful, smeared, repellant. And, with the question unanswered, I fled
But the next morning, in the settlement playground, something
happened which began the solution for me. It was an accident and I
regretted it for a long while, feeling that it was my fault.
I had been teaching little Frank Cohen some tricks on the horizontal
bar. Frank, the boy on parole for petty theft, was daring in this
gymnastic work. No sooner was my back turned on him than he tried one
of the tricks without my help. His fingers slipped, he fell heavily
from the bar to the ground. When we picked him up, his arm was found to
We got him home in Mr. Richards' little run-about, and put the boy
to bed. The doctor set his arm and put it into splints. I met Frank's
mother here, and, later on, his father who, having heard of the
accident, came rushing upstairs from his bakery shop. They were a
nervous, frightened pair; and it needed all the talk my lungs were
capable of to assure them that their son would soon recover the use of
his arm and be out of his bandage.
As I left their stuffy little flat, they were reciting some Hebrew
prayers of gratitude. Tears were on the cheeks of both of them, and
their eyes were uplifted to a God I could not know. I went downstairs
bitterly conscious of that.
And this was why, when Frank Cohen, pale, his arm in a sling, but
the hero of his comrades, came again to the settlement, I sought him
out and made an especial friend of him. Of what that friendship should
become I had then no plan.
XIII. CHILD AND PARENT
One hot evening, when the fire-escapes were crowded with hundreds of
sleeping children, and the streets were shrieking canyons of heated
stone and iron, and men and women lay in the grass of little parks,
breathing heavily as if in prayer for coolness, I learned the secret in
the heart of young Frank Cohen.
He was sitting beside me in the amateur roof-garden which Mr.
Richards had contrived atop the settlement. We had wicker chairs there,
a few potted palms and a solitary, tiny goldfish in a small glass bowl.
That was the extent of its furnishings; but in the later afternoons the
old Jewish mothers would come and sit here and doze in the sun,
grateful for the breeze, city-fed and redolent, which might carry
relief towards them.
This afternoon Frank's mother had been among them. I had seen her
there, a pale, little woman who sat with her sewing in her lap, staring
dully out over the roofs below her. I had been detailed to go around
among these women and to make them as comfortable as I could. Hardly a
one, however, could understand English; and Frank's mother, when I came
to her, took no notice of anything that I said or mentioned. She looked
at me from under lowered eyebrows. Later on Mr. Richards, who had had
her under his attention for some months, told me how frightened she had
been by her son's misdemeanorit had been no more than that, according
to the police reportand it was easy to imagine that she looked with
suspicion upon every comrade whom Frank followed, now. The fact that I
was so much older and was a member of the staff of the settlement
workers was not enough to overcome the whole of her distrust.
And when the evening came, and Frank and I had emerged from one of
the club meetingsfor he was president of his particular club of boys
of his own agehot and tired from wrangling over Robert's Rules of
Order and the wording of a baseball challenge to be sent to a rival
organization, he told me the entire story of that misdemeanor. He would
not speak of it readily. He too felt the shame of it, differently of
course, but no less heavily. He had been in bad company. He had been
going for months with some sons of one of the East Side's notorious
gamblersboys who were wise beyond their years and brutal beyond their
strength. Cowardly, sneaky, they had prompted him to steal things at
the counters of all the shops on their street. He had never realized,
under their whispered urgings, how wrong it wasand he had never had a
chance to profit by his thefts himself. The petty business had gone on
for a couple of weeks, the other boys praising him, bullying him by
turn, and dividing the loot between them. And when the inevitable
happened and Frank found himself locked for the night in a police
court, frantic at the disgrace which the loathsome night exaggerated,
these boys informed against him.
When he told me of this, and how they had come snivelling before the
police lieutenant, and had lied to make that fat, gruff, old master
believe that Frank had stolen even more than he actually had, and all
for the sake of becoming the chief of their gangthen his narrow
face darkened and writhed with a hate that was too great for him to
bearand presently tears came into his black eyes.
Were they Jewish boys? I asked him. No, he answered
passionately. I think I should have gone crazy if they had been.
I glanced at him quickly. He did not smile as he said it, nor was
there anything too melodramatic about his manner.
Why do you say that? That you would have gone crazy?
Don't you see? You're a Jew, ain't you?
I said, Yes.
Well, I couldn't talk about it to you at all if you wasn't. And if
they had been Jewsmy own peopleand had gone back on me like that,
it would've been just a little too much. They were just tough kidsand
so they didn't know any better. If they had been Jews they wouldn't
have taught me to steal, they wouldn't have done what theyGod, my
father and mother were right about it, for sure!
Your father and mother? Why, what had they to do with it?
Oh, you know how parents are. They used to warn me against going
with those tough kids. They seemed to know from the beginning that
something'd happen out of it. They saidyou know, it's like old
folksthat Christian boys would never want to go with me unless to
gain their own endsand then to desert me, see? They wanted me to go
with the Jewish boys I'd been going with all my life, before then. But
I laughed and didn't listen. Andand when I had to pay back for all
the things I stole, it waswell, it was the Jewish boys I knew who
clubbed together and earned money by odd jobs after schooland if it
wasn't for them, I'd be in the workhouse.
But all Christian boys aren't like the ones you went with, I
No, I suppose not. But I like to think that all Jewish boys are
like the ones on this street. They made a good Jew of me!
I turned on him quickly. Did they? How?
They made me proud of being one of them. They made me feel the
close something-or-otherwell, I ain't much when it comes to speeches
but you know what I mean.
Perhaps I did, but I would not admit it to myself. Perhaps I did see
the faith reborn in him through the faith that other boys had given
him. Perhaps, too, I could picture something of the welling joy that
had come to his parents when he returned to the only right path that
their simple, unquestioning eyes could see. And how jealously they must
be guarding him now, to keep him in that code which was their life's
law and had become his daily lesson!
Don't you see? he begged. Can't you? Why, a fellow's just got
to have a side to fight onand to fight for. And he's got to believe
that his side is the only one, the right one. Life wouldn't be worth
living without it. You don't know what it means to be fighting for
From below came the droning of the unquiet streets. A little higher
up a hot wind went almost noiselessly among the chimneys, so that we
heard but faint sighs. The roof garden was in darkness, naught gleaming
but the little glass bowl of gold fish. There was a sense of utter
darkness and lonelinessand yet into it had come, like the glad, brave
blast of New Year's trumpet, a battle cry of the One God. A battle cry
which made throb the heart of a young, rough boy; a battle cry which
would be his whole life's secret well of gratitude and bravery.
You don't know what it means to be fighting for the right!
He was so slight, so meagre in appearance, that I could not help
finding something gently humorous about his utterance. But when I
looked at him and saw how his eyes glowed through the dark, and how he
stood straight and at full height, his narrow shoulders thrown back, in
spite of his bandaged arm, and his face upraised to the summer stars,
my smile passed quickly.
There came over me that same queer panging sense of being only on
the outside of thingsonly on Life's outermost border. I was looking
straight into the heart of a boy and seeing the gladness which blazed
thereand yet I could not have it, as he had it. Here was this sudden,
all-forgetting boldness of belief which he had wonand I could only
watch it covetously through the bars of my exiled doubts.
No, no, he was righta thousand times more right than I. If faith
in the One God did all of this for him, then that faith was surely
And if I could only bring myself to believe as deeply, as powerfully
as he didthen my whole life would be remade as his had beenand I,
too, would fight for what I must believe: would fightfor the right!
I did not let him talk any further, but sent him home. I did not
want his parents to be worrying as to where he was, this time of night.
I stayed on a little while, looking over the roofs and the white-faced
huddlings of the fire-escapes, and then I went to bed, to toss with
heat and battle with my thoughts throughout the night.
When the morning came, I went early to Frank's house. The pavements
were fresh and damp with the water of a sprinkling cart, and the shops,
just beginning to open, had a Sabbath air of cleanliness. It was cooler
than yesterday, too, and the street corners were still cleared and
I had been granted permission to take Frank and two other boys on a
picnic to Westchester. He was ready for me when I knocked at his door,
and let me into the darkened kitchen.
His mother was there, too, cutting bread for sandwiches which we
would take along. Her old morning wrapper and her hastily-shawled head
gave her an even more forbidding appearance than ever. But when her
sandwiches were packed into a box and wrapped and tied, she wiped her
hands on a towel and looked at me steadfastly, not unkindly, for fully
I could not understand what she said. It was in Yiddish, and I have
never learned that tongue. But here and there I caught a word which
gave me enough of her meaning.
She was telling me that Frank had spoken to her of me last night
when he returned from the blessed settlement. He always came to her
bedside, nowadays, knowing that she would be awake and waiting to hear
where he had been. And so he had whispered, while his father slept, of
the strange young man who was so kinda Jew, like themand yet who
had no faith in God.
Then suddenly she began to beg something. Mutter, mutter, was all
I could make of itand I guessed that she was asking me of my mother,
and wondering why I did not listen at her knee as Frank had done at his
own mother's. And when I told her that my mother was dead, tears came
into her eyes, and this was the finest sympathy I had ever known.
For she put her big, buttery hand on mine and shook her head. You
must learn to know God, I think she said. He alone can take your
mother's place. He made my son what I longed he should be. He will make
you what you most desire. In God alone is there happiness.
And so Frank and I went out and down the dirty, narrow stairs, and
came into a street of Heaven itselfa street of early sunlight, and a
clear sky aboveand morning smiles upon the faces of all passersby. Or
so it seemed to me, at any rate.
Because, for once in my life, I had seen the happiness of mother and
child swept up into glory that is God's.
And I laughed to think of Mr. Richard's remark that religion works
harm among these East Side people.
XIV. AN UNGRATEFUL NEPHEW
The summer came to an end only too quickly. I had enjoyed every
moment of it, every opportunity. I had built up three clubs of which I
was personal leader; I had given service in the gymnasium and
playground; I had helped in the development of a roof-garden cordiality
between the settlement workers and the mothers of children on the
street. Mr. Richards, the last night I was there, presented me with a
loving-cup on behalf of the other workers.
It was at supper that he did this, in front of them all. He called
upon me, then, to describe to them the most interesting experience I
had had in the course of the summer. So I told them the incident of
Frank Cohen and his motherbut I do not think they saw much that was
interesting about it. Mr. Richards may have, perhaps, because he must
have remembered that dictum of his which the incident disproved; but
even he could guess little of the impression it had made upon my
thought and character.
I had had a letter from my Aunt Selina, to tell me curtly that she
was back in New York, but intended starting out immediately upon an
automobile tour through New England into Canada, in company with Mrs.
Fleming-Cohen and some ship-board acquaintancespersonages, she
called them in her much underlined letter, which probably meant that
she had succeeded in capturing some stray society folk. She bade me go
back to our apartment and to have it ready for her on her return. The
servants, she said, were already there, engaged in cleaning away the
summer's dust. She hoped I would be able to start the college year
without her, and that I would comport myself on the campus in a manner
creditable and befitting, etc., etc.
But in spite of the servants' efforts to make things bright and
comfortable, the apartment was a dismal and lonely place. College kept
me uptown all day long, of course, but when the evening came and I must
return to the big, empty rooms that were our substitute for home, I did
not like it. I began to linger more and more about the campus at night:
it was truly the most beautiful time to be there, when the autumn moon
silvered its lawns and gave the buildings a marble whiteness. There was
singing on the fences, then, and all sorts of meetings of all kinds of
college organizations. The campus hummed with a hundred undergraduate
activitiesso that I saw, as never before, how much I missed through
having to go downtown each night to live. But so long as my aunt wanted
it, I felt I owed it to her to obey, and would not even consider the
renting of Trevelyan's suite of rooms in the principal dormitory.
Trevelyan had given up these rooms to move into his fraternity house.
It's a dreadful bore, he said to me in his lazy, rueful way. I'd
be ten times more comfortable herebut I don't want to insult the
brothers. However, you'll come up to the house and see me just as
often, won't you?
I promised him I would, but he seemed to know as well as I that I
would not. A sophomore paying nightly visits to a senior in the
fraternity house where that sophomore had only a year ago been smiled
politely outno, it didn't seem even probable. And so, when I had
helped Trevelyan put his last bit of furniture upon a truckand had
tucked among the rungs of many Morris chairs the bundle of flags and
college shields which he had overlookedI could hardly bear to shake
hands with him. We both knew that it was something in the nature of a
definite goodbye; at any rate, so far as college was concerned.
A damned nuisance, this, he said thickly, his short-sighted eyes
screwing up oddly. And if it wasn't for the brothers But the
brothers did win him, and I lost a friend thereby.
The home to which I must go seemed lonelier than ever now. I was not
expecting Aunt Selina for two more weeks, and so I hit upon the idea of
inviting some one to stay with me until then.
Frank Cohen! Yes, I would ask Frank Cohen. He was going to high
school now, and the branch which he attended was not so far from where
I lived. It would be convenient for him, and perhaps a happy change
from the East Side crowdedness which he had had to encounter all his
He was as glad to come as I to have him. I gave him Aunt Selina's
room to sleep in, and we sat there, when our homework was done, many
evenings until past midnight, talking gently and thoughtfully of many
things. He was a boy much as I had beenand perhaps, still was. He was
shy to an uncomfortable degree, low of voice, dreamy in manner. But
when he was aroused to something especial, he became uncontrollably
intense, his eyes flashing and his knees trembling, so that his whole
small body seemed but the sheer vibration of his thoughts.
He was hoping to go to college, when his high school days were over.
He had not dared mention it at home, though, because he knew how poor
his father was, and how much of a help he would be when he could go to
work and begin to carry home his weekly earnings. He hated to go into a
shoddy little business; he wanted to study further, to take up some
professionperhaps the law. Or if he did go into business, he wanted
to have had a few years of college first, so that he might see things
broadly and with a mind trained for bigness. But he had only dreamed
all this, only longed for it in secret. He would rather forego all of
it than urge his father to make the big sacrifice.
I had come to be so fond of him, it was not long before I decided
upon what seemed to be a proper solution. Without a word to Frank, I
escaped from college early one afternoon and went downtown to that East
Side street where he lived. I found his father in the cellar of the
bakery shop which he owned, his beard all whitened with flour dust, his
thin, bare arms thick with the paste of dough.
With rehearsed gesticulations I made him understand what I offered.
My own father had left me fairly well off; I wanted to lay out the
money which would be necessary to afford Frank a college education.
They could pay it back when they pleasednot for many years would I
I had a distinct surprise, then. My generosity was taken somewhat
aback by the man's apparent anger. He seemed to be resenting any
suggestion of charity. I tried to assure him that this was not what I
intended, but he did not understand. At length we had to call in one of
the bakery's oven-tenders to act as interpreter. And through this third
party Mr. Cohen thanked me kindly. He appreciated all I offered, but he
had long ago made arrangements for Frank.
And what are those arrangements? I asked anxiously, picturing the
boy at work in this dark, mouldy cellar.
It is a secret, said Mr. Cohen. But it is time now for me to
disclose what his mother and I have planned for him. For ten years we
have saved. And we have saved enough to send him to college. He shall
go there and we ourselves shall send him. He drew himself up as he
said it, so that I had a glimpse of that pride which all Jewish fathers
seem to take in hardships which they undergo for their children. It is
so with the son of the president of my synagogue, he said. It shall
be no less so with my son, either. He shall have what his father could
not have, though his father starve and slave to give it to him!
The dull interpreter gave me this in flat, spiritless tones; but I
could see the clenched hands and the earnest face of Mr. Cohen, and I
I am very glad, I told him. And I know it will mean ten times
more in happiness to you because you are giving him all this with your
own hands. Frank said to me he dared not ask it of youhe thought the
sacrifice too greatand that is why I came to you with my offer. Do
not think me rude, therefore.
He answered gravely. I was not rude, he assured me, and he owed me
deep thanks. He had only one favor to ask; that I should not tell Frank
the secret, but would leave it and the joy that it would bring, for
him, his father. He would tell him immediately after Frank had returned
home from his stay at my apartment.
I hurried home, for it was now nearly suppertime. To my amazement I
found Frank sitting in the lobby of the apartment, his old suitcase
beside him, his look one of fevered disconsolement.
What's the trouble? I asked him.
Oh, I just wanted to say goodby to you, he said hurriedly. I did
not want to go without doing that. I'veI've had a pleasant time.
But why are you going?
Oh, I want to be home ... you know, I get a little homesick. But
he said it so stumblingly that I was sure he was not telling me all.
Frank, I demanded, tell me the truth. Has anything gone wrong? I
had hoped you would stay until my aunt returned.
He laughed at that, and mystified me the more. Have any of the
servants offended you in any way? I asked, searching my brain for some
reason for his change of attitude.
The servants? Oh, no, of course not! He picked up his suitcase and
started for the street. Well, goodby, he said. He stopped as if he
wanted to explain, then thought betteror worseof it, and went on. I
was a little nettled by this time, and let him go.
As I went up in the elevator, it seemed to me a mighty mystery. But
no sooner had I let myself into the apartment than I was due for a
For there, blocking the hallway, a figure of offended pride, stood
I went to her to kiss her, but she stepped back and glared into my
It's a lucky thing I came back unexpectedly, she said. The idea
of finding a little Jew boy like that in my roomsitting in my own
bedroom with his copy books spread all over my directoire desk! A
common little boy with an accent!
I saw it all, now.
That boy was one of my best friends, I told her as calmly as I
could. Had I thought you would have objected to his presence here, I
would never have invited him to stay with me for these weeks.
Weeks? What, you have had that little East Side creature here for
weeks? She began to walk up and down the hall in feline fury. Haven't
you any idea of what is proper? Here I go away with some of the most
cultured and well-known society people in New Yorkan absolute
triumphand you use my home as a refuge for nasty little scum of the
slums. It isn't bad enough for you to spend your summer in such
disgusting company. You have to cap it all by bringing them up into my
own home. Think of the disgrace it would mean if any of these new
friends of mine were to discover it!
I have my own friends to consider, I told her patiently. And this
boy is one of them. What did you tell him?
Tell him? What should I tell him? She made a great show of
shuddering. I told him to get out. Toto get out as fast as he
I looked at her evenly for as long a while as she could stand it.
Then her miserable pose gave way to pettishness, and she cried:
And what's more, you'll have to get out yourself, if you insist on
trying any more of these outrageous things. I can't bear it, that's
all. You'll have to get out before you disgrace me!
I shall, I agreed, and, passing her, went into my own room and
began to pack.
We had a silent, sullen supper. At the end of it I told her that my
clothes were packed and that I intended moving on the morrow to
Trevelyan's empty suite, up at college. I would take none of the
furniture from my room, however, since I did not wish to inconvenience
her. I would not trouble her at all after tonight.
She may have thought this was pure bragging, she may have been
reconciled to it. At any rate she made no answer, and let me go to my
room without a word of comment.
And it was only two weeks later, when I was comfortably settled in
my room on the campus, that I received a stormy letter from her,
calling me a most ungrateful monster of a nephew.
XV. COLLEGE LIFE
Across the hall from Trevelyan's rooms lived one of the college
grinds. Now that I had moved there and came and went at all hours of
the day, I saw this man often.
Fallonthat was his namestood fully six-feet four, and had about
a thirty-two-inch waist. He stooped until his thin shoulder blades were
at directly right angles to each other. He would never talk to any one
he met on his way; his nose was always deep in the book which he held
outspread. He was the most ferocious grind I have ever known.
Next to Fallon lived Waters, a cheery, well-dressed little person,
who had pink cheeks and no disturbing thoughts. Waters was a member of
one of the minor fraternities; he spoke longingly of the day when he
would be living in his chapter lodge. Waters was easy company. He had
four hundred friends around the campus, and when I met him was
engaged in capitalizing on those friendships by canvassing votes for
his election to a team managership.
That perhaps is why he came into my room so often to sit and chat
pleasantly, lightly, about almost every topic known to the college man.
He was very much of a type. There were at least thirty other men in
that class who were like him, no better nor worse, nor more nor less
attractive than he was. Popularity was an end and a means with him. It
was all he wanted of college.
Well, how are you, old top? was the greeting that came singing
from his room, each time I passed its open door. It was a door
perennially open, lest some passerby might escape without the greeting.
D'you know, old chap, he'd say, sweeping into my room in the midst
of a study-hour and slumping down upon the divan with a great show of
silk socks and shirtings, it's high time you and I did something for
that 'grind' across the hall.
He was tremendously interested in Fallon, it would appear. Not
personally, he explained to mebut just because Fallon might become a
valuable friend in time. A college man needed friendsand he, Waters,
had only four hundred of them!
Fallon, however, had something of his own opinion about it. He went
about the building with his book before him, bowing neither to me nor
Waters nor any one else. It was dreadful to have to speak to him. He
could scarcely answer; his big Adam's-apple would go juggling painfully
up and down, and finally he would succeed in emitting a barely audible
whisper. He would blush, stammer, clap his mouth shut, then hurry away.
That was Fallon, worst of grinds. He was beginning to be the butt
of all sorts of miserable jokes. Even the freshmen over-stepped the
line to make fun of him. For, like Waters and myself, he was a
In the guise of helping a classmate, Waters took charge of him. He
gave him nightly lectures in cordiality, in self-confidence, in the
bettering of one's appearance. Once, when I chanced to go by, I heard
him delivering glib advice upon what Fallon, old top ought to eat, in
order that he might grow stouter and more favorable to look upon. And
Fallon sat through it all and clutched his bony knees and grinned the
grin of the helpless.
But one day, the story goes, he surprised Waters by finding his
voiceand a very full-toned, convincing voice it proved to be, not at
all like his usual whisper. And he told Waters to keep out of his room
in study hour; he told him that he did not care to have his chances of
becoming class valedictorian spoiled through having to divert his
attention and listen to such superficial tommy-rot. And he told him to
keep himself away, now and forever more, from his room and its owner.
Oh, very well! I heard the injured Waters say. A second later he
had come across into my room and was pouring into my ear a complaint
concerning the beggarly rudeness of that grind, Fallon, who never
would amount to anything in the college world, anyhow!
He had just returned from a very important meeting, he told me, for
the express purpose of having that heart-to-heart talk with Fallonand
the big, uncouth beggar didn't appreciate it at all. No wonder some
fellows never did get along in collegeand here he was, absent from
this most important meeting, with no results at all.
He didn't mind telling me(here his voice died down into an
impressive whisper)that it was from a fraternity meeting he had come.
They were great things, these fraternity meetings. It was really too
bad that I had never been able to join a fraternitybut then, of
course, I must realize that fraternities had to draw the line
somewhere! Now, I mustn't take that as a reflection on me
personallybecause it wasn't. I was all right, I wasand some day, he
was sure, I was going to be a big man in the college worldbigger than
he himself ever hoped to be. But Jews were a funny peopleand I must
admit, if I wanted to be fair, that some of them weren't fit to come to
college at all, not to speak of joining fraternities.
And so he went on, until, thoroughly nauseated by the bland niceness
of his speech, I followed Fallon's example and threw him out, though he
refused to be insulted at this move, and promised to come around the
next night and discuss the question of who should be elected our next
A little while after he was gone, Fallon came across the hall and
knocked at my door. It was a timid, scared sort of a knock, and it
needed a loud and repeated, Come in, before he finally obeyed my
He was pitifully wrought up over the incident. He had wanted to be
polite to Waters, but he had had to study. He hadn't wanted to insult
him, but somehow Waters never did understand how valuable time was, and
what it would mean to Fallon's mother if he could come out a
valedictorian at the end of our four years.
Which would you rather have, I asked him, a valedictory or a
He stammered a good deal over it. He knew that Waters was right
about that: he did not have a single friend in the whole
collegedidn't know how to go about itbut he didn't want such men as
Waters trying to teach him the way either.
That began my friendship for Fallon. I had acquaintances enough on
the campus, but I was almost as friendless as hefor friendlessness, I
think, is not so much a matter of other people's as of one's own habit
of mind. And there was something so grotesquely miserable about his
lonelinesssomething so like a grinning gargoyle, solitary in its
elevationthat I was drawn to him without much conscious effort.
I began by taking him for long walks. It was the first exercise of
any sort, outside of the required freshman gymnasium course, which he
had had in college. At first he would not talk at all; would just walk
beside me through the city's fringes into the half-suburban roads, his
eyes drinking in the green vistas as if they were astounding novelties,
his breath coming fast with exertion, his cheeks glowing with new
color. Gradually I urged him into talkingand, like all beginners, he
talked of himself entirely. It was good for him. The more he spoke of
himself, the more highly he thought of himself. He needed pride.
I had already been elected an editor of the college joke paper. I
was qualified, therefore, to persuade Fallon to contribute what he
could to that periodical. But he had not a jot of humor, and his
contributions turned out to be very long and serious bits of verse in
studied French rhyme schemes. I did not even risk reading them at a
meeting of the board, but always turned them over to Trevelyan who
could have them used in the coming issue of the other magazine, the
literary monthly. This set Fallon writing entirely for the lit, as we
called itand, as a result, when the elections to that paper were
announced in the middle of the sophomore year, Fallon's name and mine
But the happiest inspiration came to me one Sunday when at noon
Fallon and I were resting atop the Palisades, whither we had gone upon
an all-day tramp. I watched him pick up a flat rock and sent it sailing
out and down through space. His long thin arm gave the toss a
I asked him, had he ever seen a discus. He said, No.
The next day I had overcome all his scruples as to the immodesty of
a track costume and had led him out upon the field to practice with the
discus. It was hard work, because he was by far the clumsiest man I
have ever known. Later on I interested the old coach on his behalf.
Before Thanksgiving Fallon gave promise of becoming one of the
college's best discus throwers.
When winter began, I took him down to the gymnasium. At first I had
in mind only to keep him in good condition; but his handling of the
heavy medicine ball gave me another idea. I put him to work with a
basketballand here the training I had given the young boys at the
settlement served me in good stead. He was so tall, he need only swing
up his arms to drop the ball into the basket. He was the ideal build
for a center, and our 'varsity team needed a center.
He did not make the 'varsitynot that year, anyhow. But he did make
our class team, and won his numerals.
Also when spring came in, he was chosen as one of the track team's
discus throwers. Add to this the fact that he had lately been elected
to the board of the literary monthly, and it will be seen that Fallon
had had a skyrocket rise. No wonder that Waters, the genial, now forgot
that autumn affront and paid nightly visits upon his particular friend
Fallon. And Fallon, of course, having had his attention diverted into
so many foreign channels, no longer cared so singularly for his
studies, but was willing to receive Waters and such as Waters with an
The inevitable happened. Fallon, exhibiting his latest
developmenta full-sized, roistering swaggercame into my room one
evening and told me jubilantly that he was pledged to join Waters'
It's not the best in college, he admitted loftily, but it'll tone
up a bit when I get the track captaincy and Waters gets elected to a
And how about that senior year valedictory? I asked him.
Oh, I was a fool in those days, wasn't I?
He mistook my silence. Say, old chap, he went on, this is no time
for you to be jealous of me. I know well enough, you ought to be in a
fraternityin the very best one. I wish I could get you into
oursbut, say, you know how it is about Jews.
Yes, I knew, I assured him, and gave him the heartiest hand-clasp I
You know, my mother's going to be awfully proud of this, he
But though Waters did succeed in winning himself a team managership,
Fallon never became the captain of the track team. For his election to
that fraternity meant his ruin. He lost his grip upon everything.
Perhaps it was his fellow-members, perhaps he had only himself to
blame. He began to drink. At the end of junior year he was expelled
And I wondered if the mother, who had wanted him to be the class
valedictorian, was as proud of him as ever.
XVI. THE HUN'S INVASION
So far in my college course I had met with actually little outspoken
insult. Once or twice in my freshman year some loutish sophomore had
not stopped at making comments upon my religion. There had been that
incident at Trevelyan's fraternity house, too. But, generally speaking,
the prejudice had been of a negative sort, restricting rather than
drivingthough none the less offensive and chafing on that account.
There was nothing on which I could actually lay my finger to complain.
I had no actual proof that I had been kept off any college organization
because of my religion. I might have had, had I cared at the time to
follow up the favoritism shown in the dramatic societybut that was a
small affair, by now, and I preferred to let it rest forgotten.
Otherwise, I was treated with a fair amount of kindness by almost
all of the college. The members of my own class, in which I was
gradually acquiring such positions as work and merit could win me, had
begun to show me a good, clean respect; and those in the class above
soon followed their lead. All that I asked was fair play, and the
chance to overcome that handicap which I knew existed. This was easier,
now that I lived at college, and I gave to the various activities in
which I was interested, all the spare time which I could afford from my
studies. I was beginning to realize what that preachment meant: The
college will give you back all that you give to it in work.
Thus, at the end of my sophomore year, when I again went to the
settlement for the summer, I was planning big and enthusiastic things
for the autumn term.
Mr. Richards placed me in charge of one of the settlement's
fresh-air camps, up the state. I had two other boys to help me in my
work, and one of them was Frank Cohen. It had taken me a long time to
overcome Frank's sensitiveness, after his encounter with my aunt; but
we were fast friends again now, and it was good to have him with me
where I could help him with his daily noon-time studying for his
preliminaries. When the fall came, he passed them easilyand it was
now definitely decided that he would enter my college when I was a
My own return to the university, however, gave me an unpleasant
shock. I had arrived a few days late, because I had wanted to help Mr.
Richards with some of his coming year's programs. The campus was
already alive and crowded, therefore, and the dormitory windows were
all thrown open and overflowing with the rugs and chair cushions of
autumn cleaning. The campus teemed with a thousand youths who grasped
each other cordially by the wrist and went through all sorts of
contortions to prove that they were glad to see you, old man!
But there was a difference! The first glimpse I had of it, I called
myself a self-conscious fool. I tried to reassure myself, everybody's
greeting had been as cordial as I could expect. Everybody had said he
was glad to see meandyet!
Then, the second day that I was at college, I had my first proof of
the truth of my suspicions. I had it through eavesdroppingbut I was
justified. For I heard little Waters, the genial popularist, talking of
it to another classmate in front of the laboratory steps.
It's a rotten shame, he was declaiming. Haven't you noticed? I
don't see how it could escape you! Jews and Jews! The freshman class is
just swarming with 'em!
Honestly. If there's one Jew in the freshman class, there are
fifty. And such Jewy-looking Jews!
Gee whizz, it's a disgrace. It was bad enough when they used to
come in four or fiveor even tenin a class. But fifty! Are there
Oh, easily! Maybe a hundredI don't know. They are swarming all
over the place! Gosh, we'll have to do something to get rid of them. It
just simply ruins the college name to have so many of them around.
You bet! A campaign for ours!
I watched them going off together, arm in arm, towards fraternity
rowand wondered what that campaign would be.
It did not take me long to investigate the real state of affairs.
There were some thirty members of the freshman class listed in the
dean's office under the designation of Jew, Hebrew or Ethical
Culturist. And the faces that I met under freshman caps were certainly
Semitic, to a large percentage.
At first it annoyed me. Annoyed me more, too, when the first member
of the freshman class to be expelled for ungentlemanly conduct was a
Jew. There were one or two others, I noticed, who would sooner or later
reach the same end if they did not keep away from the city at
nightand from the things the city teaches.
These one or two gradually became scape-goats for the rest of the
Jewish boys in the class. They were sons of rich fathers; they paraded
their automobiles about the campusand thus broke the rule number one
in the freshman bible. They had unbridled tongues, and used them
ungraciously. One of them, a big, swaggering chap, went out for his
class football teamand, having been selected to play in a minor game,
developed a dying aunt overnight and disappeared for the day. When he
came back, on Sunday night, he was caught and hazed. His automobile was
dumped on its side in the middle of the campus. His face, when I saw
him the next day, was a network of plaster strips. Three days after
that he left collegeand I, for one, was devoutly thankful for his
resigning. He did not belong in our college, had done nothing to fit
himself into its environment, had talked loudly, acted the cad and the
cowardand had reaped the reward of such a person, Jew or Gentile, in
The persecutionfor it had taken on proportions worthy of that
namewent forward, however. There was an annual freshman parade, for
instance, when the entering class was dressed in grotesque costumes and
sent marching in and out a lane of laughing spectators to the football
field. In my own freshman year this was a good-natured affairand each
class, including the victimized one, took it for the boisterous joke
that it was.
But this year, when the parade was starting at the gymnasium, and
the big, card-board placards were being lifted to the marchers'
shoulders, I noticed that all the Jewish boys were being put
conspicuously into one group. They would march together. And those
placards! The sickening succession of them was only a repetition of Oi
oi and the pawnbroker's symboland humor of that high order. And
these Jewish freshmen went down the street amid the jeeringand I had
to stand by and see them, some with heads high and eyes blazing with
pride, others stumbling and bowed, one of them with tears running
inanely down his cheekshad to stand there and watch it all, and curse
myself for a coward because I would not, could not, go out into the
middle of the road and tear down, one by one, the daubed, cheap jests
that they had to carry.
A few weeks later there was another such celebration. There were
speeches to be made. The class witsand what class is without
them?were to have their turn.
And their witwhat did it consist of? One after another, they made
blunt, exaggerated references to the invasion of the Huns, to the
Jews coming unto Jordan, to the lost Ten Tribes ... and hoots of
applause went up to the night sky like the roar of a Philistine army!
One of the men who spoke was a classmate of minea fellow-member of
the joke paper's board. I knew him well, for he had been to see me
often. It was only a few nights ago that he had told me he was chosen
to speak at this celebration, and had promised me he would make no
reference to the Jewish influx.
I don't agree with you about it, he had said. You're too
sensitive, all you Jewsand anyhow, you know perfectly well we're not
aiming this campaign at you personally. It's against this big bunch of
them in the freshman class.
So it's a regular campaign, is it? I demanded.
He evaded the questionbut satisfied me with his promise.
But when I heard him break itheard him, more than any other
speaker, launch one smiling epithet after another against the sons of
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I lost all the gnawing consciousness that I
had had as to the justice of this remark about Jewish
sensitivenessand I went forward to the cart-end from which he was
speaking. I meant to pull him down and get up there in his place, and
to speak hotly, straight from the shoulderI didn't care what I said
so long as I put them all to disgrace!
But when I was within a few feet of him in the jostling, laughing
crowd, I could go no further. I tried to cry out, but that was denied
me. My courage gave me only the power to glare and sneer at himand
once, as he spoke, he looked down and saw my face, I think. For his own
grew paler in the light of the gas lantern which flared windily beside
him, and he faltered in his speech.
Later on he came over to my room and asked to speak to me. I heard
him through; listened to his smooth explanation about the committee of
arrangements demanding that he put something into his speech about the
Jewsand he was sorry he had broken his word to meonly, of course, I
was to consider myself an exception to all this sort of thing.
Everybody knew I was a good fellow and was doing bully work for the
name of the collegeand what right had I to class myself with these
insignificant little Jews in the Freshman class? and he didn't want it
to break up our friendship, because he thought the world of me.
And so I showed him the door.
The next day I began to pay for that stroke of arrogance. The
classmates who belonged to that man's fraternity snubbed me on the
It didn't matter much, I thoughtbut in reality, it did. Because
these men, as it happened, had been my closest friends. I was beginning
to worry myself into a maudlin state, and no doubt did attribute
hostility to altogether too many of the undergraduates. But it is hard
to choose and distinguish surely in a land that is generally hostile
and strange. I began to stay more and more within the shelter of my
room, working at my studies and at those activities which had already
given me recognition. I wanted to be plucky about it. I wanted to keep
on smilingbut there were times, I must confess, when I wished that I
were through with college and all its rough-and-tumble boyishness.
I did not care so much myself. There were all these freshmen who
were probably ten times lonelier than I was, ten times more bewildered
and disheartened by the welcome they had had. I tried to visit as many
of them as lived in dormitories. I wanted to talk things over with
them, to help them in some possible way. But it wasn't much of a
successI could make no progress out of condonement and asking them to
wait patiently until the foolish campaign had dwindled away.
Then, one day, as I crossed the campus to a first recitation, I saw
that the brick walls of the oldest of the dormitories had been adorned
with huge painted letters:
OUT WITH THE JEWS.
I went into a telephone booth and called up the house of one of the
professors with whom I had become friendly. He was a kindly,
well-meaning man, and an alumnus of the college.
His telephone line was busy when I called it. I heard him talking
with some one. I was about to ring off when suddenly I heard my own
The professor was an alumnus member of one of the college
fraternities. And this other manevidently an undergraduate, though I
never tried to identify himwas asking the professor what he thought
of offering me an election to this fraternity.
And I heard the professor sigh in his patient way.
I like himI like him very much, mind you, I heard him say,
buter, erI do think it would be disastrousnothing short of
disastrous to elect a Jew to any of our fraternities in the present
I rang off. It was something to know that I was even being
considered for membershipbut it was disastrous, that was
When I was out upon the campus again I saw that painters were
already at work obliterating the sign. They had whitewashed the Out
With the away, and there was nothing left upon the wall but a
And thank God, I could laugh at the incident!
XVII. MANY IMPULSES
Fair play comes firstand reasoning follows it. For fair play is
always an impulse. It comes when least expected.
That is how it was at the university. The incident of the big,
painted sign was practically the last demonstration against the influx
of Jewish boys. Waters, who made capital of everything, attempted to
found a formal organization dignified by the title of the Anti-Hebrew
Collegiate League, but when, at the first meeting, he was not elected
to the presidency, abandoned the project with bitter complaints against
the ingratitude of his fellow members. A little later on, when the tide
had turned in the opposite direction, he became the head of the Helping
Hand League, and was atop the wave of contrition.
For the tide did turn. Men are always afraid to carry their
propaganda beyond the point of the ridiculous. When tomfoolery turns to
foolishness its perpetrators are only too anxious for a chance to
It was impossible to keep the thing out of the newspapers. The day
after that sign incident, there was a lurid story to be read at each of
the city's breakfast tables and in the evening subways. New York took
it up and made it a matter of shocked debate for a day and a half. The
president of the university, in his quarterly sermon in chapel, spoke
fervently of toleration and the gentle spirit.
The reaction was almost as hysterical as the movement itself. The
little Jewish freshmentimid, frightened little mice, who had been
going about their classroom work and scurrying home and out of reach
for so many monthssuddenly found themselves lauded as martyrs, as the
best of fellows.
One evening a deputation of them were waiting for me when I came in
from supper. They had formed a Jewish fraternity, and wished me to join
with them. Appeal to a Jewish philanthropist had brought them enough
money to lease a house near the campus. They were sure that they would
have sanction and support from the rest of the college, now that the
prejudice had abated. And since they could not join any of the other
fraternities, why should they not have one of their own?
I thought it over carefully. I wanted to be fair to myself as well
as to them. That same old repugnance of being identified with a
distinctly Jewish propaganda troubled me and made me turn from them.
And yet it wasn't only that, either. For when I thought it out, I knew
that, according to my point of view, theirs was not the proper
solution. Fire can fight fire, perhapsin proverbs, anyhowbut
discrimination is not to be overpowered by a like amount of secularity.
If Jewish college men objected to that unwritten rule of fraternities;
if they contended that fraternities should be democratic; if they
wanted equal rights in those fraternities ... how, then, were they
justified in standing apart and founding a fraternity of their owna
brotherhood which should be open only to Jews?
That is what I thought. I may have been wrongand the excellent
records of the Jewish fraternity chapters in various colleges and
universities do perhaps prove me wrongbut I could not bring myself to
join them. I was heartily glad the whole heated question of race and
race prejudice was abated. I asked, for myself, only that I be given
something of the fair-play that other men had. I was working hard for
the college. I was doing all that my talents enabled me to do and I was
sure that, sooner or later, there would be the reward.
This reward did come, definitely. It came at the end of May when, at
the height of the reaction against the whole year of prejudice, I was
chosen for the college senior society. It was a public election, held
on the afternoon of one of the most important baseball games. There
were crowds to watch the ceremonystudents and graduates, young girls
and parents ... so that the memory of the green campus and the banks of
pretty gowns and parasols, the sunshine and the cheering will be with
me till I die. I remember that there were tears in my eyes as I was
chosen ... and that there came to me, with all the cool freshness of
the spring winds, the thought that this was the end, the salvation from
out of all the year's mean, squalid troubles. Here was I, a Jew, raised
above all the other Jews who had ever entered this college ... raised
among the highest, to be a power in the land, to be the champion of all
those who had suffered, the winner through hardship and handicap, a
vindicated Dreyfus, an example to all the lower classes.... For, at
twenty-one, alas, we are our own best heroes, and none can take our
College closed in a blaze of glory for me. There was even a note
from Aunt Selina Haberman, wishing me well of this new honor and
informing me that Mrs. Fleming-Cohen, when she heard it, was green
with envy! Aunt Selina wanted to know, was I going to be a wicked boy,
however, and stay away from her all next year, too. She was sure that,
now I had won out, we could get along much more smoothly than we had.
I fear I began to think a little too highly of my position in the
community. I was now capable of going to no less a person than the dean
of the college and talking over with him, as if man to man, the
possibility of an anti-Jewish agitation, the next year, and demanding
in none too deferential tones that, should it come, the college
authorities must do their share to stamp it out.
Really, Mr.-er-er-,what's your name?
I told him very slowly, but it did not mean much to him. I rather
pitied the old gentleman for not paying more attention to the
undergraduate contests and triumphs.
But he did hear me out, and gave me information which I thought
worth acting on. The large majority of the Jewish boys in the freshman
class had prepared for college at one schoola large private
preparatory school in New York City. Perhaps it would be as well,
suggested the dean, for me to go to the principal of this school and
talk things over with him.
Do you mean, I should warn him against sending so many of his boys
to our college? I asked.
The dean appeared dreadfully shocked. Oh, nodear me, no. That
wouldn't do at all. Onlywell, it seems that this school caters almost
entirely to the sons of wealthy Jewish menand that this principal is
very fond of our college ... and so he grievously sends us all the boys
that he can. You know, so many boys don't know where to go to
collegeand the principal often has a chance to suggest one, don't you
The dean had a very sober face, but his eyes were twinkling. It
relieved me to know, he was not taking this principal's bad judgment
So you think it would be wiser if there weren't so many Jewish boys
in next year's entering class?
Preciseoh, no, I shouldn't dare say that, even if I thought so.
Remember, I am in an official capacity here. But come around to my
house tonight, when I've doffed my scholastic robe and am in my shirt
sleevesand perhaps I'll tell you, then, the name of that principal.
I did not even bother to do this. Without waiting for further
advice, I went down to this school to beard the foolish principal in
It was a hard matter to work my way into his presence. He had an
office and inner office, and stenographers to guard them both. I wrote
on my card, however, that I wished to speak to him regarding affairs at
my college, and evidently piqued his curiosity to the extent of his
giving me the interview.
In that inner office I found a youngish man whose face was adorned
with a heavy black beard. He seemed strangely familiar, but I could not
Come in, he said, looking hard at me. His restless eyes did not
leave my face all the while I was talking.
What is it you want me to do? he asked me when I had given him
some stumbling hint of my mission.
I think you ought to keep Jewish boys out of my college, I told
him. Itit isn't altogether fair, and it would only provoke a renewal
of the prejudice, if there should be as many freshmen next year as
there were this.
You are a Jew yourself, he said accusingly.
Yes, I am. But don't judge by me.... I have always been an
exception to all that prejudice.
Oh, have you? I wonder why?
I resented his tone, but went on to explain how I had entered
college long before the antagonism had broken out; had worked hard,
with Christian friends to help me, until I had won honors which assured
me immunity from any unpleasantness.
I congratulate you, he said dryly. You no doubt deserve these
honors. Your sort always does.
I stood up angrily and looked him square in the face. Then suddenly
I recognized him.... Pictures of my public school days came up before
me.... The class room and the big, crippled bully, Geoghen.... That
finding of the Hebrew prayer book when the teacher was out of the room,
and the hooting and mocking ... and then the teacher's returnand the
It was Mr. Levi.
He smiled when he saw that I knew him, now. I remembered you more
readily, he said. You have no beard to change your appearance. But
it was more than his beard: there was a complete change in him from the
dreamy, pale young man who had learned so harsh a lesson in those old
days. There was a bitter twist to his mouth. His lips were set sternly,
his eyebrows were lowered, his brow crossed by scowling lines.
There's one thing about you that I remember, he snapped at me.
You were a Jewand yet you stood aside and let those little cads take
the book of God and make nasty fun of itand never raised your hand or
even your voice to stop them. That's the sort of boy you were. And, I
suppose, you're still the same. It'd seem so, anyhow. You probably won
all your college honors through standing aside. And now you have the
audacity to ask me to do the same, lest you be made uncomfortable by
the number of other Jewish boys at your college. You want me to stand
aside, do you? Well, I wish I had a thousand Jewish boys to enter into
your college's next year's class!
He glared at me. If you want to know the truth, I can't get a
single boy in my school to go to your college, now. I wish I could.
Because I'm training them to fight like men. They aren't the sort who
win honors by allowing themselves to be classed as exceptions....
As for myself, I knew that he was half wrong, half rightand that
there was nothing more for me to say. I had learned what I came to
learn. So I got up to go.
And if there's another such demonstration, next year, he sneered,
you and your precious honors will have to stand aside again, eh? It
must keep you very light on your feet!
XVIII. I STANDBUT NOT ASIDE
Thus it happened that only five Jews enrolled in the entering
freshman class. One of them, of course, was Frank Cohen.
Mr. Levi's accusations had stung deeply. My anger at them was all
the more intense because my heart admitted half their truth.
Nevertheless, I was glad to see that there could be no possible
aggravation this year: surely, with only five Jewish freshmen, the
percentage would be small and unnoticed. It was all very well, that
venom of Mr. Levi'sbut it was unreasonable. I would be glad if the
Jewish question would never again be mentioned during my college
The opening of the senior year found Frank Cohen and me on the
Palisades, talking eagerly of what his college course would mean to
him. He made me smile, his dreams were so like my own had been when I,
too, was a freshman. Made me wonder, too, how much I had fulfilled
those dreams. Something accomplished, yesand as much unfulfilled,
disregarded, left undone. Well, perhaps, in this last year, I would
have the chance againand would not flinch.
The chance came just two days after the opening of college. It came
when Frank Cohen burst into my room about nine o'clock at night, in
company with another Jewish freshman. The other one was dogged,
frightened, and, when he was behind my closed door, began to cry
noiselessly. As for Frank, who was made of stronger stuff, he sat
silent in his chair, grasping its arms and trying to control the
intensity of some revulsion which had come over him.
They told me quickly what had happened. They were just from a
meeting of freshman candidates for the college newspaper. The meeting
had been called in order to instruct these candidates in the rules and
qualifications of the competition. All men who cared to enter the
competition had been invited. Two men had made speeches: the
editor-in-chief and the managing editor of the paper, Sayer and Braley
These had been cordial speeches, urging all men present at the
meeting to work hard in this competition. There had been speeches of
encouragement, in glowing colorsand then, at the end of it all, in
front of the fifty-odd youths who were assembled there, Braley had
closed his speech with this:
We wish to say that any Jew who may have it in mind to enter this
competition might as well save himself the pains. We shall not even
consider the election of a Jew to the board.
Immediately a gasp, then a snicker had run through the roomful; then
necks had craned and heads turned to catch looks at Frank and the other
freshman who stood, flushed and humiliated, in their midst.
Then the meeting had broken up, and the other candidates, taking
their cue from Braley's speech, stood aside to let Frank and his
companion pass down through whispering, giggling aisles. They had tried
to go calmly, unconcernedly, as if the shock of the insult meant
nothing to them. But the other Jewish freshman had broken down, and
Frank had to put his arm around him to keep him up and straight upon
his path through the crowd's midst, out upon the campus and over to my
I sat a little while silent after I heard them tell of it. I was as
much stunned as theyand sickened too. I had thought all that sort of
thing was done with. I had hoped it was all past, even forgottenand
here it was, leaping up again to confront, to threaten, to jeer at us.
I had only dimly imagined the possibility of it. I had no plan, no hint
of how I should go about it.
Two years ago, if this had happened, I should not have cared one way
or the other. I should have crawled away into a corner and buried my
face to hide my fear's approach. I should have waited to see how others
acted, how others foughtand then, at best I should have fought along
in a half-hearted, half-dreading fashion. Even now, I had nothing to
fight for. I knew what Judaism wasand that it was for the God and the
people of Judaism that I should be making my little fightbut
I turned about and saw the eyes of the two freshmen glued upon me.
Frank's especiallyand they were beginning to fill with a troubled
distrust which I had never allowed to be there before. I could not fail
Frank. I would do what I could.
All right, I said, drawing on my coat. Go ahead home and get to
bed. I will see what I can do.
I went with them across the campus to the other freshman's room.
Frank would sleep there for the night, though he usually went back to
his parents. I think he did not have the heart tonight to face them,
and when they asked their usual breathless questions of the day's work
and play, lie to them and hide from them the galling incident. He did
not seem to feel the insult for his own sake; he was thinking, rather,
of his mother and of how she would feel, should she ever know.
Good night, said the other freshman soberly.
Good night, said Frankand I felt in his voice all of the cheery
obligation of friendship. He was expecting wonders of me.
Walking on alone, across the open gloominess of deserted paths and
night winds in the shrubbery, a thousand foolish fears tramped by my
side and sang into my ears. I had hidden my empty spirit from those two
boysbut I could not hide it from myself. I wondered what sort of a
fight was ahead of me, and how long it would last, and what would be
the final result. Those two men, Sayer and Braley, were among the most
influential of the class. They were members of my senior society. They
could hold me down by sentimental ties of brotherhood, much as
Trevelyan had been held down by his fraternity mates; failing that,
they could use their popularity, their clinch upon college opinion to
force me literally into silence. They could run me out of college, if
they pleased. I knew this, did not deny it to myself as I went forward
to the first skirmish.
Once I turned around and almost retreated to my rooms. But the
remembrance of the sting that was in Frank's reproachful look would not
let me do that.
So I came to the steps of the big Y. M. C. A. building. They were
many, these white stone steps, and they shone in the moonlight with a
mottling of hazardous shadows. I mounted them and went into the huge
assembly hall on the first floor. I heard the awkward, self-conscious
benediction and adjournment of the meetingfor they were all young
fellows, and had not yet learned to be entirely glib towards their
meetingsand stood aside to let them pass out. As the first of them
went through the door and out upon the campus, they burst into the
giddy laughs which moonlight conjuresand I heard them singing foolish
gleessnatches of song that were utterly pagan and gleeful, and far
from the heated stuffiness of their prayer meeting. They seemed to have
found their Kindly Light more easily in the open.
The man for whom I now waited had always been the leader of my
class; this year, he was the idol of the entire university. Captain of
football, a 'varsity baseball man, he had the finest, sincerest
character that I had ever known. He was not merely popular, in our
undergraduate sense. Underclassmen worshipped him from afar, and
upperclassmen, who knew him and the life that he led, loved him and
respected him with a love and respect which few men can ever win.
He and I had become friendly, lately. It was due, perhaps, to the
fact that we now belonged to the same senior society. Before, I had
worshipped from afar; now I knew him well and warmlyand, as I look
back upon my college life, I am amazed to realize how much of his
influence went into the making of it.
As he came out, I noticed how his broad shoulders filled the doorway
and blocked out its light completely. But his face was above the
shadows, and I had a sudden sense of comfort from the resolute
kindliness that shone upon it.
Fred, I said, I want your help on something.
As president of the Y. M. C. A. he had a room allotted him in the
building where he might sleep. I knew that he had a suite in his
fraternity house, toobut he preferred to stay here, for some reason,
in this smaller, simpler place, where he would be nearer his duties.
When he had me in the plain little den, sitting before the miniature
wood fire which he heaped with broken twigs, he sat me down and gave me
a few minutes of tactful silence. I was thinking it all out. I wanted
to tell it to him fairly, concisely, with no imprecations, and yet with
no weakening of attitude. Then I did tell it, simply, just as the two
boys had told it to me.
I saw Fred's face grow troubled. Before I was through he had begun
to walk up and down the little room with a nervousness that made his
pace almost such a jog as football players use when they come out upon
You're right, he said when I was done. You're so right that
everything else connected with the incident is wrongand that's the
hardest part for me to admit. You deserve to fight this out aloneit
belongs to you. I wish I had a fight like yours to make. But if you'll
let me help you?
Let you? Why, I need your help!
Then you'll have it. I'll be gladmighty glad to chime in with
He stopped short, his tremendous frame red-lined in the fire's glow,
his cheeks above his square jaw as bright as the flames themselves.
I could not answer him sentimentally. My comfort and gratitude were
too deep, my suddenly gained encouragement too surging for the narrow
outlet of words. But after a while we began to plan. We would fight it
When I got up to go, his Bible was lying open at the beginning of
the New Testament, with a ribbon and tiny silver cross to mark the
place. When Fred saw me looking at it, he must have felt some part of
the strange, shivery misgiving which had come over me. For he took the
ribbon in his fingers, so that the cross lay gleaming in his palm.
It is Christ's symbol, he said. It is the sign of one who
sufferedand who was a Jew.
Then, as if he must leave me no doubt of his meaning in my mind:
Don't worry. The cross won't stand between us. Though His eyes
travelled slowly to the shelf above the fireplace. Look! There's a
symbol of your religion, too.
So I looked. Gleaming brass, its seven uplifting arms gracefully
curved, stood aMenorah!
XIX. BATTLE ROYAL!
I awoke the next morning to an insistent knocking at my door. I
sprang out of bed and opened it. In the hall, their dress showing signs
of much haste, stood Sayer and Braley. They did not wait my invitation,
but strode at once into the room and, throwing the rumpled covers from
the bed, plumped down upon it.
See here, said Braley, without prelude, what's this talk about
Fred's calling a special meeting of the senior class for tonight? Do
you know anything about it?
I smiled my way out of a pajama top. Really? I exclaimed. Well, I
did hear Fred say something about it last night.
Oh, so you talked it over with him? Did you ask for the meeting?
I had thrown on a bathrobe. Yes, I did. Why?
That's what we want to know. Why, why?
I looked up from tying the cord about my waist. That's just what
I'm not going to tell. Not until the meeting.
Well, perhaps we know.
You probably do. You deserve to.
What do you mean by that? Sayer jumped up and towards me. He was
doing his best to fight, I could seebut I would not give him the
Braley waved a conciliatory hand. He was a large, stoop-shouldered
fellow with long, light hair and an enormous forehead. He had the most
important and sumptuous manners I have ever met.
See here, now, he said, you really must tell us all you know
about this thing. You really must. He was very earnest about it. They
were both uneasy, it was easy to see.
I'll tell you nothing, I said. You will have to wait until
tonight, and then
Threatening us, are you?
No. I'm kind enough to warn you, that's all. I don't want you to go
to the meeting unprepared.
Oh, so it has to do with my remarks to the freshmen candidates, has
I've given you all the warning that fair play demands, I said.
Look to your consciences for means of defense. And, flinging a towel
over my shoulder, I darted away for my morning shower, leaving them in
possession of the room. When I came back, a few minutes later, it was
apparently empty, and I thought them gone.
I was almost dressed when I went into the clothes closet to select a
tie from the rack I had there. There was a sudden rustle and movement
of the clothes at the back of the dark little place. Two men closed in
on me, dragged me into the depths of the closet. I reached out blindly,
furiously. My fists hit only against the rows of my own clothes hanging
there. A couple of coat-hangers clattered down. I stumbled and fell
over my satchel. Then the door slammed shut. As I lay there, stunned,
in the darkness, I heard the key turning in the lock, from the outside.
They had sealed me in.
I had no doubts but they had been Sayer and Braley. Though I had
never imagined they would go as far as thisand the fools! what did
they think they could accomplish by locking me up for the day?
It was easy enough to breathe in the tiny, black square. I was in no
danger. I groped my way to the suitcase and sat down on it for a few
minutes. My head pained me terrifically. My forehead was hot. I put my
hand up to it and felt a fast-swelling bruise. My fingers grew wet with
something warm. It wasn't just perspiration.... I knew thatand that,
in the struggle, I must have hit my head against one of the hooks. Or
had one of them hit me in the dark with some sharp thing that he held
in his hands?
I stood up again unsteadily, found the door handleyes, it was
locked. I was in my stocking feet; I could not kick through a panel. I
reached along the wall, found a hook. I flung the clothes from it, gave
it both my hands and all my strength in a sudden pull. It gave way with
a spurting of loosened plaster.
It was a large, heavy hook. It made a good ram. I crashed upon the
two upper panels with it. One of them split at lengthand when I
rammed the ugly iron thing against it again, it broke into splinters
and my arm went through it. Light came through dimlyand, three
minutes later, I had knocked out the whole panel, climbed through and
staggered out into the room.
The mirror showed me a bad cut over my right eye. I staunched the
flow of blood as best I could. It was so humorous an incidentlike one
of the famous adventures of Frank Merriwell!
I played it out, though. I did not go out of my room the whole day.
In the afternoon I telephoned Fred, the class president, about it. He
came over to see meand he didn't treat it as lightly as I did. He
wanted me to have a doctor, for one thing. I promised I would see one,
as soon as the meeting was over, that night.
You'd better, he said. That cut is mighty close to some of the
most important nerves of the eye.
It was evening when I ventured out. Over in the big assembly hall
the meeting of the senior class had already begun. I stole across the
campus with my coat collar turned up and my hat far down to hide my
face. I did not want to be recognized until I was ready. I hung about
outside the ruddy windows of the hall, watching the crowded groups that
sat within. They were listening intently to someone on the platform
that I could not seebut I knew that it was Fred, presiding. Fredand
he was explaining it all to them, perhaps, in that deep-voiced way of
Then, as I watched, I saw how the heads of all who sat within the
scope of my spying craned suddenly towards the side of the room. I knew
what that meant, too. It meant that either Sayer or Braley had risen
from his seat to make reply to the president's accusation.
Then, amazed, I heard applause and laughter. The muffled clapping of
hands went on for minutes. So they approved these things that the two
editors had done, did they? So they could laugh and clap to hear how
Sayer and Braley had crushed the spirit out of two young Jews in front
of fifty other freshmen?
I grew too angry to wait. I was not going to dawdle idly in the
background, waiting for a foolish, theatrical entrance cueI wasn't
going to stand aside a moment longer!
I hurried into the building, up stairs and around corners until I
was at the very threshold of the hall. The big mass of men there, the
lights, the noise of their clapping, ten times louder from withinall
of it gave a tightening to my throat. My knees began to tremble
It was Braley who was speaking. He was waving his hand with his
usual sense of the grandiloquence of his remarks. I heard, I suppose,
only the last of thembut that was enough:
I regret, of course, that I should have had to give pain to these
two poor little kike freshmen. I regret that I have thereby offended no
less a person than the president of the class. But there is the broader
way of looking at this thing: that of the interest of the whole
community. And I believe, as every man in this room believes, that it
would be ten times better that all Jews be debarred from our college.
If not that, then certainly from all our college activities, in order
that real Anglo-Saxon fair play may prevail! If any man, including the
Jew who has instigated this protest against Sayer and myself, wishes to
refute this, let him step forward now or be forever silent.
He sat down grandly, amid huzzas.
I do not know whether he or Sayer actually meant me to be
incarcerated during all that day and night, while the meeting went
forward so famously. Probably they had had it in mind when they played
the vindictive little prank, and had been ashamed, when in better
senses, to come back and release me. Certainly Sayer, who sat close to
the door, turned pale when he saw me now.
I went slowly to the front of the room. My eyes pained me and I was
nauseated. But I had ceased to tremble and was calm with a fury that
checked all nervousness.
The Jew who instigated this protest is here to back it up, I said
slowly. He is here to appeal to the 'real Anglo-Saxon fair play.'
I could feel in the air the antagonism which I must down. I knew, as
never before, how bitter and insensate was the prejudice which I must
conquer by fifteen minutes of quiet words.
What I said doesn't count: I hardly remember most of it, anyhow.
Before me, as I talked, the faces swam away into a dim and meaningless
strip. I was not talking to these raw, swankering college boys. I was
talking to something beyondto something that was infinitely brighter
and more glorious than I had ever known before. I was talking to
something beyond all earthto Someone....
And I was appealing, was summoning, calling Him down to my aid. I
was speaking His words, in the spirit of His ancient fighting prophets.
I was fighting His fight. The calm frenzy in my heart was of His
instillation. For years I had sought Him. For years I had shunned Him,
knowing my need of Him. For all the days of my life I had borne the
fierce justice of His words as a lonely burdenand now, now....
And I shall fight and fight, I cried, in the name of Godthe God
that is over all of us, of whatever race, creed or colorfor the
things that are fair and right and just. I shall have justice for a
little East Side Jewish freshman as you shall have it, too.
Then suddenly, as if blinded by the refulgence of what I saw, my
eyes began to water and grow dim. I stood there, tense, and did not
mind the pain that was in them. But I could speak no more.
And slowly the men rose and went out, quietly, strangelylooking
back sometimes to where I stoodnot comprehending everything, I
suppose, but moved beyond all common approbation. They had been
Braley remained alone with me in the deserted hall. I looked at him
across a row of seats and began to laugh.
You didn't even say a word to them about that rotten trick we
played on you, he said, shamefacedly, his glib manners gone.
I didn't have to, I replied. Besides, I forgot.
Wellerthanks! You could have had us expelled!
But the pain and dizziness were beyond standing now. I tore off my
hat, so that he had a glimpse of the long, sullen cut over my eye.
Look out! he cried, leaping up on the platform, to hold mefor I
was falling to the floor.
I remember laughing again, long but weakly. I didn't have to! I
didn't have to!
And after so much light, there came the darkness.
XX. THE CANDLES ARE LIGHTED
When I rose from a hospital bed of fever and darkness, ten days
later, it was with a feeling of rebirthas if, in the dripping
delirium of threatened blindness, the last doubts had sloughed away.
And when the bandage was taken from my eyes, and I had, for the
first time in so long a while, a short and tempered bit of sunshine
that came through the shaded windows and across the clean, white
floors, it was as if I saw things, now, as I had never seen themface
I must not return immediately to college, the doctors said. There
must be another fortnight of convalescence, with absolute rest for my
eyes. They gave me my choice as to where I wanted to goand I chose
the settlement. I should be among friends, down there; I should have
the sunny roof-garden to loiter inand Jewish faces everywhere about
It was good old Trevelyan, squinting and stuttering and strangely
moved, who called for me in his car and took me away from the hospital.
He had wanted me to go to his Adirondack lodge, instead, and resigned
me into Mr. Richards' care at the settlement as if he were consigning
me reluctantly to one of the Inferno's inner limbos.
It was then the second day of the Jewish New Year. The whole teeming
neighborhood was in holiday garb and mood. From the roof that night Mr.
Richards and I stood watching the streets and their carnival crowds,
swarming indistinctly under the lamps and about the corners.
The little people, quoted Mr. Richards, God and the little
They are not little when they have God, I answered.
He nodded. I was wrong in what I said in that argument of ours. Do
you remember? I said they didn't need their religionthat it was
working more harm than good among the younger generation. I've learned,
now.... There isn't a person on earth that doesn't need itall that he
can get of itand these little people of the East Side most of all.
From below there rose to us the clang and clatter of traffic, the
indescribable rustle of the crowd, the shriek of a demon fire engine,
many streets away. But, above it all, we heard singing, on the floor
below us, of a solemn chant in rehearsal. It was the settlement Choral
Society, singing the plaintive Kol Nidreand when the parts swelled
into unison, all other sounds seemed suddenly engulfed in the rich,
melancholy texture of the harmony.
Mr. Richards smiled. There it is, you see: the grim, sad faith of
the Jewish people. It is all they have had in all their wanderingsbut
it is everything.
* * * * *
The cut across my forehead healed quickly. Resting from all tasks,
my eyes regained their strength without relapse.
I had visitors. Several of the men from college came down each day.
I had not known there were so many persons who cared. Braley was among
them, onceand he sat and twisted his hat and said nothing. Whether or
not his friendship is worth anything to me, I have made a friend of
him. Once or twice, since then, he has tried to speak of the trick
which he and Sayer attempted, but I have stopped him. There is no need
of going over that.
Only, a few days after I went to the hospital, there was a long and
flowery retraction published in the college newspaper, inviting all
freshmen of whatever race or creed to enter the editorial competition,
with the assurance that the most democratic principles would prevail.
At any rate, when Frank Cohen ran in to see me, on his way home, a
few days later, I advised him to re-enter the contest. Frank, with a
freshman's capacity for hero worship, leaped to act on my advice.
And hurry up back to college, he said, with a little catch in his
voice. There are twenty other Jewish underclassmen who want the same
sort of counsel from you. You seethey didn't know they had a
leaderand they do need one!
It is not part of the tale, perhaps, but I cannot help intruding the
fact that Frank was the first freshman to be elected to the editorial
board of the college paperand that, in his senior year, he became its
* * * * *
My aunt came, too. I had been secretly expecting herhoping,
perhaps, for no especial reason, that she would come.
She wept a little at the sight of my healing scar. It was a long
while since I had seen her, and it shocked meshe looked so worn. She
clung to my hand for several minutes before she would speak.
I read about it, she sobbed. It was in the papersand they said
the nicest things of you.... But I didn't come sooner becausebecause
I didn't know whether you wantedyou wanted
Yes, Aunt Selina, I am very glad to see you.
She drew a deep sigh. It has been so longand I am growing old.
I'm just a lonely old woman, boy. And there's no comfort in old age.
I looked at her. She had changed much, I thought. But you had so
many friends, I remonstrated. All those intellectual society folk!
I don't knowthey don't seem to interest me any more. I'm growing
old. That's allold and lonely. And they are such fools, every one of
themalmost as foolish as I amand hypocrites, all.
Her hand went tighter about mine, and her rheumy eyes sought mine
and searched them. You seem so happy, boyso changed. What's the
secret of itcan't you tell me?
I shook my head. It would be of no use, I thought.
I want it, she begged. The comfort of itI did not know I should
need it when I was oldand when all else fell away.
So I reached for a book which was on a table nearby, and gave it to
her. It was an old Union Prayer Book.
She took it with the barest flicker of lashes. It'sit's Hebrew,
she protested. I don't know how to read it.
There is always an English translation on the opposite page, I
showed her. You will be able to read that. Perhaps it will help you.
Perhaps, she said after me, her thin voice quavering.
Read it all. You will come at any rate to a better understanding of
your fellow Jews.
Her head went down, as if in shame of some unpleasant reminiscence.
PerhapsI will try, anyhowand perhaps
Aunt Selina, I told her hastily, I am coming home to live with
you at the end of this college year. We shall begin all over again.
Then her tears began afresh. I did not dare ask itbut oh, if you
could only know how I have wanted itand for how long! I would have
prayed for ityes, really, prayed for itif I had only had someone to
And then, as if suddenly remembering, she hugged the shabby leather
book to her breast, and smiled.
But, before she left, I opened it up to show her why I prized this
particular copy. For, on the yellowed flyleaf in old ink, was the name,
Isidore Levi. And below it, newly written, these words:
To a Jew who could not stand aside.
He had sent it to me immediately after he had learned of that last
incident at college. And he did not need to explain where I had seen
this prayer book last.
* * * * *
Yom Kippur was my last day at the settlement before returning to
college. I went with Frank Cohen and his father to the service of their
orthodox congregation. The little synagogue, just off the Bowery, had
had to be abandoned, for once, in favor of a huge bare hall that
usually served political meetings. But, large as it was, it was packed
tightly; and from the gallery, where I stole once to look on, it seemed
a vast black seawave upon wave of derbies and shiny top hats, with
the flicker of white prayer shawls for froth. The prayers and the
chantings came up to me almost like mystic exhalations. The great,
drab, smeared walls had the splendor of the afternoon sun upon them;
the cheap chairs, the improvised altar, the temporary gilt ark behind
itthe long gray beards of the patriarchs, the wan faces of the
fasting childreneverything, childreneverything, every one had been
gradually drenched in the glory that poured through the windows.
It was the setting sun upon Israeland Israel prayed and sang in
the gold of it.
* * * * *
I went back to college the next day. Mr. Richards and I had
breakfast together, so that we might say slowly and easily the last
things that were to be said.
I'm glad you're going to finish it out, he began. You've proved
what I once told you; that college isn't all child's play. Some things
about it are, of course. He paused a moment, a little embarrassed.
Trevelyan phoned me last night, after you'd gone to bed.
Yes? About me?
Well, in a way. He'd just come from one of our fraternity meetings.
He wanted to tell me that, when you are back, they will probably offer
you an election.
What? To your fraternity?
Yes. He paused and watched me amusedly. It doesn't seem to thrill
I smiled back at him. No, not the way I would have in freshman
Yesthat's how I thought you'd feel. You needn't be afraid of
hurting my feelingsor Trevelyan's, eitherby declining. They're a
little too late, aren't they?
Oh, it isn't that. I don't want them to think me ungrateful, you
seebut I've passed that stage. There are so many other things for me
to care about, now. I was thinking of Frank Cohen's remark about the
number of Jewish underclassmen who wanted counsel, leadershipand, now
more than ever, I was sure of myself.
I understand, said Mr. Richards, shaking my hand at parting. Good
luck to youor better still, good faith to you! A man's work and a
man's Godyou've found them at last.
* * * * *
That night, in my room at college, I found on the mantle shelf the
big, brass, seven-branched candlestick which I had seen in the room of
the class president. It was Fred's gift to me.
And, thinking of those years, I lit the seven candles, one by one,
and watched them struggle feebly, desperately, until all of them were
calm and bright, their flicker endeduntil the Menorah, with its
uplifted arms, and all the little space about it, shone with a radiance
that was firm and beautiful.