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Chapter 18
THEY had a very noisy and jolly time down at the beach; a time which, they all agreed, was simply grand. They walked to and fro along the shore, and went in for a bath, and ate a capital dinner, and enjoyed the music, and met lots of their friends, and laughed and talked till their sides ached, and their throats were sore. Mrs. Blum, in her bathing costume, was the butt of many innocent jokes. Her husband said she resembled a blaidder. Elias had to think hard, before he caught the idea, and recognized its force. They returned to the city by the boat; and, having reached the Battery, Mr. Blum gave expression to the universal sentiment when he declared, “Vail, dot sail up the Bay, dot was maiknificent, dot was perfectly immense.”

“Come over soon now, won’t you, Mr. Bach-arach?” Mrs. Morgenthau asked, as Elias was tearing himself away.

“Yes, do,” chimed in Miss Tillie.

And he promised that he would.

He redeemed his promise about a week later. Tillie played to him to his heart’s content, and afterward she amused him with her conversation.

On his way home, “She’s a good little thing,” he soliloquized; “thoroughly well-meaning and kind—hearted. Crude, of course, and uncultivated; but a fellow must make allowances for that sort of thing. She has plenty of mother-wit; and her dash—her abundance of animal spirits—it—it’s positively stimulating. Then she plays—well, her playing is marvelous, masterly—such execution—such expression—really, no praise could do justice to her playing. And she’s not at all bad-looking, either.”

He called pretty soon again; and after that he got into the habit of calling regularly at frequent intervals. He was invariably welcomed with exceeding warmth, and treated with a certain deference that no doubt tickled his vanity. Besides, a bay-window overlooking the East River is a pleasant place to spend a hot summer’s night. And Tillie’s music, it was worth traveling miles to hear.

In his hours of solitude he led a very useless and meaningless existence. He did not paint much; and when he did, his occupation proved neither profitable nor enjoyable. He read a good many light novels; he spent a good deal of time seated at his studio window, gazing off across the tree-tops, and lapsing into a state of mental vacuity, that approached as near to total unconsciousness as is compatible with sustained animation. He even went to the theater now and then, escorting Tillie and her mother. To Mrs. Morgenthau he had taken a genuine liking. There was something so hearty and vigorous about her, something almost manly. His palate was dulled. He craved strong flavors.

“They’re going to the country before long, aren’t they?” the rabbi asked one day.

“Yes; the first week in July.”

“Well, don’t you think we ought to have them to dinner, before they go?”

“That wouldn’t be a bad idea,” confessed Elias.

And on the following Sunday to dinner they all came; Mr. Koch expatiated in his oratorical style upon the charms of the Catskills; and the others unanimously joined him in urging Elias and the rabbi to “come along.” The rabbi replied that he positively couldn’t. His professional duties were such as to compel him to remain in town.

“But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t,” he concluded, turning to his nephew; “and I think decidedly you’d better.”

At this, they concentrated their fire upon Elias; and in the end, he said, well, perhaps he would run up for a week or two some time in August.

But he did not wait till August. After they were gone, he found the city intolerably dull. What to do with himself, how to divert himself, where to seek a substitute for the excitement that they had afforded him, he did not know. He began to realize that he had grown very dependent upon their society; likewise, that he possessed but very few and feeble resources within himself. He did not like this. It damaged his self-esteem. But he could not deny it, he could not get the better of it. He craved the sound of their voices; he craved Tillie’s music; he craved the exuberant friendliness with which they treated him. The idleness, the monotony, the insipidity, of his daily life in the city, he could not endure. In the copious leisure that it left him, he would sometimes—despite his customary inanition—he would sometimes fall to thinking; and when he thought, he did not admire himself; he even sluggishly despised himself; a sense of his uselessness bore in upon him; he was anxious to escape himself. So, toward the middle of July, he packed his trunk, and went to Tanners-town. He had said that he would run up for a week or two. But he did not return to New York until the others did so, early in September.

He and Tillie were together a great deal. They sat next to each other at table. In the daytime they would take walks together, or lounge together about the piazza of the hotel, or play croquet together; or, haply, she would lie in a hammock, while he read to her, or sketched her. In the evening, if there was dancing, they would dance together; for she had taught him to dance. Or, perhaps, they would go together for a stroll by moonlight, or again sit together on the piazza in the dark. He liked her very much indeed. On closer acquaintance, her crudity became less conspicuous. Either he got accustomed to it, or it was eclipsed by her many and sterling virtues. She was a paragon of unselfishness—always doing something for somebody, always giving up something that somebody else might enjoy it. When they went for a drive, Tillie always took the least desirable seat. When there was an errand to be run, Tillie always ran it. When a letter had to be carried to the post, Tillie always carried it. Etc., etc. Her attitude toward her mother struck Elias as especially fine. Such filial respect, solicitude, obedience, unwearying devotion, he had never witnessed before. She was constantly looking after her mother’s comfort, fetching and carrying for her mother, doing for her mother. If a pretty fan were for sale in the village, she must purchase it for mamma. If there were pretty wild flowers growing along the road-side, she must gather them for mamma. If mamma breathed a wish, Tillie would devote hours, if need were, to the execution of it. For hours, if mamma had a head-ache, Tillie would stand upon her feet, stroking mamma’s forehead. Her mother appeared to be her passion, almost her religion. And how could Elias help admiring such a model daughter? And then, her music, and her pretty face. Could anybody play like that, could anybody possess such bright blue eyes, and not have a gentle soul, even a spark of divinity, glowing beneath the surface? What mattered faulty grammar, or too robust a voice? On the whole, he told himself, he had a genuine affection for Tillie. She was a rough diamond; rough, but susceptible of the highest degree of polish. She only needed time and refining influences, to make a charming lady. He liked her very much indeed, with a patronizing, brotherly sort of liking. What her sentiment for him might be, he never thought to ask himself, but tacitly assumed that it was one of cordial friendliness.

Mr. Koch and Mr. Sternberg staid but a fortnight apiece. Mr. Blum, the ladies, and Elias, staid till the beginning of September; when they all came back to town in company. Elias then resumed his frequent visiting in Beekman Place.

One evening after dinner the rabbi asked Elias to step into his study.

“I had a call from Mr. Koch this afternoon,” the rabbi said.

“Ah?” returned Elias.

“Yes. He stopped in on his way up-town.”

“That so? Any thing special?”

“Well, yes. That’s why I wanted to see you, now. He spoke about you.” Emphasis on the “you.”

“About me? Indeed? Why, what could he have had to say about me?”

“Well, he thought it was strange that you didn’t come to see him, and wanted to know why you were holding off.”

“Come to see him? Why, I went to see him only last week. Holding off? I don’t know what he can mean.”

“No, no. You don’t understand. He meant about declaring your intentions.”

“What intentions? Intentions? I don’t know what you’re driving at, I’m sure.”

“Why, your intentions in respect to his niece, of course.”

“My intentions in respect—Mercy!” gasped Elias, with honest astonishment, as the idea suddenly dawned upon him. “You don’t mean to say that—that he imagines—that—that I—Good Lord!”

“Why, certainly,” said the rabbi. “How could he help it? You haven’t taken Washington I. Koch for a fool, I hope. Besides, your attentions have been so very marked, that no great penetration was necessary. I’m not much at that sort of thing, but even I saw through them long ago. In fact, no man with half an eye open could have failed to do so.”

“Merciful Powers!” exclaimed Elias, and sat dumb.

“There’s no use making so much ado about it, either,” pursued the rabbi. “It was bound to come out, you know, sooner or later; and, at any rate, you have no reason for feeling ashamed of it.”

“But—” began Elias.

“Oh, I dare say. I dare say, it’s a little embarrassing. That’s not unnatural. But then, you couldn’t have kept it a secret forever. By its very nature, it was bound to come out.”

“But,” Elias began anew, “but it’s not true. It’s the most preposterous mistake I ever heard of. I never had any such idea, never dreamed of having any such idea. Intentions! Why, I always thought of her as—as scarcely more than a child. I don’t see how anybody could have made such a stupid, ridiculous blunder. Well, I did give Mr. Koch credit for more intelligence.”

“Elias,” demanded the rabbi, with very great seriousness, “are you in earnest, or is this a comedy?”

“A comedy? I tell you it’s outrageous. I never was more in earnest in my life.”

“And I am to understand that you have made Miss Morgenthau the object of your particular attentions—as you can’t deny you have done—and in that way have necessarily endeared yourself more or less to her—I am to understand that you have deliberately done this, without meaning eventually to make her your wife?”

“Particular attentions! I’ve paid her no particular attentions. I took a friendly interest in the girl, and behaved toward her in a friendly way. My wife! The notion never entered my head—nor hers, either, I’ll venture to say.”

“I can hardly believe it,” said the rabbi, shaking his head incredulously. “I don’t like to believe it. I don’t like to believe you capable of—of such—”

“Such what? What have I done? Is it my fault, if people jump to false conclusions? Am I to blame for their lack of sense? Can’t a young man be ordinarily polite and decent to a young girl, without every body fancying that he is spoony over her?”

“No, he can’t; not if you call it ordinarily polite and decent to visit a young lady regularly every week or so, and spend a couple of months at her side in the country. From that sort of politeness and decency, her parents always infer that he means matrimony. It gives the same impression to society, also, and frightens other young men away.”

“Well,” groaned Elias, “I suppose it’s needless for me to say I’m sorry. I am sorry; but that’s neither here nor there. If I had at all foreseen—But what’s the use of iffing? Now that you have opened my eyes, I’ll stop visiting her. That’s at once the least and most I can do. Well, I’m glad it went no further. So far, at any rate, no harm has been done.”

“No harm done! Well, I must say, your complacency astounds me. No harm done! You—you get a young girl’s expectations all aroused—get her heart set on you—get her and her family to taking for granted that you want to marry her—get the whole world to talking about her as your sweetheart—and then coolly dismiss the matter with a No harm done! No harm done, forsooth!”

“Oh, come,” protested Elias; “you exaggerate. It’s not so bad as all that. Whatever you and her uncle and the others may have suspected, she never misconstrued my feeling for her. She has too much good sense. Why, I never spoke a word to her that could, by torturing it even, be interpreted as any thing more than friendly. As for her heart being set upon me, and her expectations aroused, that’s rubbish, pure and simple rubbish.”

“Is it, though?” retorted the rabbi. “Her uncle didn’t seem to think so.”

“What do you mean?” cried Elias.

“I mean that Mr. Koch gave me to understand that Miss Morgenthau is in love with you.”

“Gave you to understand? Oh, you misunderstood.”

“I could scarcely have done that. He told me so in just so many words.”

“Well, then, he didn’t know what he was talking about.”

“Perhaps not; but he had it directly from Mrs. Morgenthau. When he asked why you didn’t pop the question, I said it might be that you were doubtful about what kind of an answer you’d get. Then he assured me that you could set your mind at rest on that score, for Mrs. Morgenthau had told him that Tillie thought all the world of you. The young girl has confided in her mother, as a young girl should.”

“Oh, this is horrible!” Elias gasped.

“Yes, horrible; I think that’s the right name for it, if what you say about your own feeling is true. If you don’t mean to marry her, I can’t see how it could be much worse. But now, honestly, are you sure you don’t?”

“Why, I tell you, I never thought of such a thing—never dreamed of it.”

“Well, it isn’t too late to think of it, even now. It’s a fine chance. I advise you to consider a little before you throw it away. She’d make you an excellent wife, and bring a snug sum of money with her. Mr. Koch mentioned something like twenty thousand dollars. You can have her for the asking. Such an opportunity may never occur again.”

“You speak as though it were a bargain—just as I should expect Mr. Blum to speak of what he calls a chop-lot. You don’t suppose I want her twenty thousand dollars? I have more money than I’ve any right to, already; I, who do nothing to earn any. I think it ought to settle the question, when I say I don’t love the girl.”

“What do you mean by love?”

“What is generally meant by love? I mean that I don’t care for her in any way except a friendly one.”

“Well, what do you mean by friendly?”

“I mean that I like her—just as a fellow might like his sister.”

“You make a distinction without a difference. Or rather, no; the difference is against you. Love, in the sense in which you use the word, isn’t what’s wanted. A strong liking, an affection, is more to the point. I was struck the other day, when looking in the dictionary, to find, among its other definitions, love defined as a ‘thin silk stuff.’ Well, affection is a stout woolen fabric. For matrimonial purposes, for daily wear and tear, the latter is by far the better.”

“There’s room for two opinions about that. I may be allowed to have my own.”

“Certainly; though your opinion would coincide with mine, if you were wiser. But let us confine ourselves to the practical aspects of the case. You say you like the young lady very much?”

“Yes, but—”

“Not so fast. Now, if you like her very much, would you not wish, if possible, to spare her the pain and the mortification of having her hopes in your regard disappointed?”

“If possible, of course. But it isn’t possible.”

“One moment. Now, don’t you think she’s a very estimable young woman? Don’t you think the man who got her for his wife would be a fortunate fellow?”

“Other things equal—that is, if he loved her—yes, I think so.”

“Well and good. Then what I want you to consider is this. In the first place, here is a young lady, whom you like very much, ready and willing to become your wife. You’ve got to take her or leave her. Unless you profit by your chances, and secure her now, you’ll have to give her up altogether, and lose her for good. In the second place—whether intentionally or unintentionally doesn’t matter—you have, by your assiduous devotion, contrived to win her love, and to cause her and her family to expect that you were going to ask for her hand in marriage. Consequently, in the event of your now abruptly breaking off with her, and discontinuing your visits, you will occasion the young lady herself much unmerited grief and humiliation, you’ll set busy-bodies far and wide to gossiping, and you’ll bring no end of odium down upon yourself. Consider these things, and you’ll see that you’ve got yourself into a very unpleasant situation, a very tight fix. There’s only one way out of it; but that way is strewn with roses. Matrimony! Marry her! Why, if I were in your place, I shouldn’t hesitate an instant.”

“If you were in my place, I don’t think you’d know what to do.”

“If I were in your place, I should congratulate myself. I should be thankful for my tremendous good-luck, in winning such a wife. Tillie Morgen-thau is a jewel, if there ever was one. She has certain peculiarities of manner, I admit; but six months of intimate association with you, would tone them down to nothing. She’s as pretty as a picture; she plays wonderfully; and her character is pure gold. Just think, boy, that this prize is within your grasp! Then, besides, you ought to get married, anyhow. Such an opportunity comes but once in a lifetime. I’m an old man; and I know what I’m talking about.”

“That may be; but that makes no difference. I simply repeat, I don’t love her, I’m not in love with her. I shall never be in love with any body. My capacity for loving has been exhausted. I shall remain a bachelor all my life.”

“Oh, you try my patience. Your talk is silly. Your head is full of romantic notions, like a schoolgirl’s. Remain a bachelor! Don’t you know that every man is required by our religion to marry and bring up a family? Love? Gammon! Love marriages in nine cases out of ten are unhappy. Hundreds, thousands, of better men than you, have married without the sickish sentiment which you call love; and happier marriages were never made. I tell you, if you don’t marry Miss Tillie Morgenthau, you’ll live to repent it bitterly. Think of how she would brighten up this gloomy old house. Think of the children. Think—Oh, you’re throwing away the flower of your life. The Lord—yes, sir—the Lord God of Israel has put this woman in your path; and you, with your imbecile delusions about love, see fit to spurn her!”

Elias held his peace.

By and by, “Well?” questioned the rabbi.

“Well, what?”

“Well, what are you going to do? Have you thought better of it?”

“I am still of the same mind.”

“You still mean to fly in the face of Providence?”

“Well, if it pleases you to phrase it that way, yes.”

“And your knowledge of the wound you are going to inflict upon Miss Tillie—you don’t flinch, you don’t falter a little, at that?”

“What can I do? I can’t help it. I—I suppose I was born to cause sorrow in the world. I have already spoiled the life of one young girl. Now, it looks as though I were in a fair way to spoil the life of another.”

“Elias, the two affairs ought not to be mentioned in the same breath. In that one, you weren’t responsible. In this, you are. Being responsible, and seeing your duty plain before you, I don’t understand how you can hesitate. Don’t you realize what you have done? You have gone to work and compromised this young girl; yes, sir, compromised her. And having done that, you are bound in common honor to marry her. Why, sir, throughout this city, in every Jewish family in this city, if you don’t marry her, she’ll be talked about. Think of that. Furthermore, I tell you, it’s the will of the Lord. If you don’t marry her, the Lord will punish you. You’d better consider a little. You’d better think twice, before you determine in cold blood to break this young girl’s heart, and make her name a by-word among gossips, and defy the will of the Lord our God. It’s a fearful responsibility.”

“Oh, don’t tell me that. I know that. It couldn’t be worse. I should very gladly marry her, or do any thing else, to mend matters, to repair the mischief which, it seems, I have wrought; only, I can’t believe that it is right to marry without love. If, as you say, it is the will of the Lord, why hasn’t the Lord made me love her?”

“He has made you love her—with the best sort-of love—with a genuine, strong affection. If you don’t feel a flimsy, volatile passion for her, it is because that isn’t the thing that’s needed in marriage. Who’s the better judge of right and wrong, who’s the better qualified to interpret the will of God, you or I? You’d do well to call to mind how once before I warned you, and you chose to make light of my warning; and then, what happened? Now, here is my last word. You marry Miss Morgen-thau, or you’ll regret it to your dying day.”

After a long pause, “Well,” said Elias, “I’ll think about it.”

“You’ll have to think quickly,” rejoined the rabbi; “for I promised Mr. Koch that he should hear from you by to-morrow evening at the latest.”

“Oh, you ought to have allowed me more time than that. I really need more time than that.”

“Time? What do you want time for? Are you absolutely lacking in decision of character? Why, in a case like this, a man, who is a man, ought to say yes or no on the spot. There’s nothing that needs deliberation. You have to make the simplest kind of a choice, the easiest possible choice. You have to choose between obvious, palpable right, and obvious, palpable wrong. If you took a year to think about it, the matter would still stand precisely as it stands to-day. I’m surprised at you—surprised that you can hesitate a minute.”

“Well, if you object to my taking time, then the only thing left for me to do, is to repeat what I’ve said already.”

“That you won’t marry her?”

“If I’ve got to decide instantly, on the spot, yes.”

“Well, then, take time; and much good may it do you. We’ll talk about this again to-morrow. I hope meanwhile the Lord may enlighten you, and move your stubborn spirit. Now, good-night.”

When they met at breakfast next morning, “Well,” began the rabbi, “have you thought about it?”

“Yes,” replied Elias, “I have thought about it—all night long.”

“Contrived to make up your mind?”

“Yes, I have made up my mind.”

The rabbi’s pale skin turned a shade paler. He waited a little, before asking, “Well?” His voice was faint and tremulous.

“Well,” said Elias, “I have made up my mind to do as you wish—to call upon Mr. Koch this evening, and do as you wish.”

The rabbi jumped up from his seat, grasped Elias’s hand, wrung it fervently, and cried, “It is the will of the Lord! The Lord be praised!” Elias held his tongue. He was looking very grave this morning.

“Oh, but you have lifted a load from off my spirit,” pursued the rabbi, returning to his place. “At last I shall be contented. If only your mother might have lived to enjoy this day!”

“I am glad you are pleased,” said Elias.

“But tell me, boy, tell me all about it. What finally decided you?”

“Oh, it’s a long story. It wouldn’t interest you.”

“On the contrary, I’m most anxious to hear it. Go on. Out with it. Come.”

“Well, it isn’t very exciting. It’s simply this. I have tried to be honest, and to get at the real truth. I have tried to analyze and comprehend my own feelings, and to look the circumstances squarely in the face. The result is, I believe that you are right—that I have more or less seriously compromised her, and am bound in duty, therefore, to marry her, if she wants me to. I don’t think I am swayed by any selfish motive. I think my desire to act honorably, to do the right thing, is sincere and genuine. The prospect of having her for my wife gives me no pleasure at all. I must confess that it is no longer repugnant to me, either. It awakes no emotion of any kind. It leaves me totally indifferent. This evening, as I say, I shall propose for her hand. If, as you expect, I am accepted, well and good. If I should be rejected, equally well and good. I shall neither be pleased nor disappointed, in the one event or in the other. The long and short of the business is, that I never hope to be happy in this world; nor to be much of any thing, except listless and sluggish. I’ve used up my share of happiness, already. So far as I can see, I’m utterly good-for-nothing, besides. I have already caused plenty of misery. If, by marrying this young girl, I can keep from causing any more, and perhaps even become the means of a little positive happiness—why, I can’t think of any better use to which to put myself. I dare say I shall be able to make her a tolerable husband, as husbands go. I shall try to, any how. It’s a pity I was ever born; but that can’t be helped at this late date. If I could be quietly annihilated, wiped out of existence, I think that would be the best thing all around; but I haven’t the courage to do away with myself. So, as long as I’ve got to go on cumbering the face of the earth, when I see a chance to render myself comparatively inoffensive, it seems as though I’d better seize it and improve it.”

“Elias,” said the rabbi, “I don’t know whether to scold you, or to laugh at you. You’re morbid, abominably morbid. This marriage is exactly what you need, to brace you up, and put a little health into you. You talk like a French novel. You have cut open your doll, and found it stuffed with saw-dust. Poor, pessimistic fellow! Bah! I shall neither scold you, nor laugh at you. I shall congratulate you. And in a few months now, I shall have the satisfaction, in my professional capacity, of pronouncing you the happiest of husbands.”

“If I talk like a French novel,” returned Elias, “I talk, at least, as I feel. I mean every word I say. The one conviction that abides with me all the time, lies heavily upon my conscience day and night, is the conviction of my utter uselessness and worthlessness in the world. Why, the cook in our kitchen, the man who looks after our furnace, does more practical good, has a better claim to his bread and butter, than I. I have lived twenty-seven years. All that I have been able to accomplish in all that time, is the irretrievable ruin of an innocent young girl’s life. That’s the one ponderable result of my twenty-seven years’ existence—the one thing I’ve got to show for it.”

“And your pictures? Do your pictures count for nothing?”

“Oh!” cried Elias, with a sudden outburst of passion, “don’t talk to me of my pictures. I should like to burn every stitch of canvas that I have ever put my hand to, and spoiled for better purposes. I have burned all that remained in my possession. As long as I live, I shall never touch a brush again.”

From which it would appear that our hero had wrought himself into a very unenviable, frame of mind.

To narrate at length what followed would be melancholy; and it would be superfluous. Tillie and Elias became engaged. Their engagement was cele-brated by three redoubtable dinners—one at the Sternbergs’, one at the Kochs’, and one at the dark house on Stuyvesant Park. Their wedding was set down for the following January. Then, according to the regular Jewish custom, for three successive Sunday afternoons, they were “at home” at the residence of the prospective bride. Hither flocked scores, even hundreds, of their friends, and offered their congratulations—their friends, and their friends’ friends, and the friends of all relatives and connections, far and near. Much wine was drunken at these receptions, much cheese-cake eaten, much tobacco smoked; and oh, what a quantity of talk, in what a variety of accents, from best to worst, roused cacophonic echoes in the walls and ceiling! Among our New York Jews, it may be said with material literalness, a subtle chain of countless rings the next unto the farthest brings. If one had wished to obtain a bird’s-eye-view of the metropolitan Jewish world, to behold in indiscriminate procession all sorts and conditions of Jews and Jewesses, one could not have done better than arrive early and remain till the end of one of these Sunday afternoons. Old and young, good and bad, wise and foolish, rich and poor, savage and civilized; fat Jews and lean Jews, shabby Jews and shoddy Jews, gentlemanly Jews and rowdy Jews; petty tradesmen, banker princes, college professors, commercial travelers, doctors, lawyers, students, musicians: all came, accompanied by their wives and their children, their parents, and their parents-in-law, and their brothers and sisters-in-law, to add their quota to the great jubilation. And such a lot of hand-shaking as there was transacted among them, to be sure; for, at a congratulation-party of this description, you must not only shake hands with the betrothed couple and their immediate family, but likewise with each of your fellow-guests, pronouncing, as you do so, the shibboleth: “Congratulate you,” or, “Gratulire.” Then, as has been said, there was an unceasing flow of wine, tobacco smoke, and talk; and the place sounded like a stock exchange or bedlam.

This sort of thing—sitting for joy, it is sometimes called—may be sufficiently amusing for a while; but three successive Sundays of it are rather too much; and Elias and Tillie were both heartily glad when at last it was over.

Tillie, all smiles and blushes and animation, was the happiest of happy little persons. Over and above the generous settlement he was to make for her at her marriage, Mr. Koch had drawn a check to her order for no less dazzling a sum than two thousand dollars, the proceeds of which she and her mother were now very busy spending for her trousseau. Elias could not help catching something of her good spirits. He could not remain quite dejected or impassive in the presence of such an exuberant joy as hers. He began to be fonder of her than ever, even, he sometimes told himself, to love her after a fashion; but it was a neutral, passionless sort of love, and had its source, not in impulse, but in habit. He looked forward with a certain mild pleasure to his union with her, and was mildly thankful that he had followed the rabbi’s counsel. They were not much alone together, he and she; and when they were, their deportment was far enough from lover-like. He, indeed, seldom opened his mouth, save to answer a question, or to utter a sympathetic oh or ah; but listened to Tillie’s vivacious descriptions of the dresses she was having made, or sat silent in the bay-window, and watched the boats sail by on the river, while she played his favorite music to him. He took her and her mother to the theater as often as either expressed a desire to go, and tried heroically not to yawn or appear bored. He escorted them, also, to a good many dancing parties, and dinner parties, as well as to the famous Advance Club ball, where Tillie excited a vast deal of admiration as an ear of corn, and just narrowly missed the prize, getting instead an honorable mention.

Alone, Elias persistently fought shy of himself, persistently shunned self-communion. He dared not open his eyes, and look himself squarely in the face. He knew that it would not be an inspiriting spectacle. His studio he had locked up, with the resolution never to touch his paints any more forever. He sought to escape from himself in reading; and, indeed, he read an astonishing multitude of books upon an astonishing multitude of subjects. But now and then, in spite of his efforts to be blind, the actual Elias Bacharach would loom up big before him, in all his ghastly demoralization; and sick with self-loathing, he would bury his face in his hands, and demand bitterly, impotently, why he had ever been born? what single earthly purpose he was good for? why he could not be abolished utterly forthwith? But these dark moods, or lucid intervals, were commonly of short duration. He was generally able to forget them in a novel. He watched his wedding-day draw near and nearer, without the slightest quickening of the pulse. As I have said, he took a certain insipid pleasure in the thought of his marriage. He fancied it would be rather agreeable than otherwise to have Tillie a constant inmate of his house. She would brighten it up, put a little electricity into its atmosphere, relieve the excessive tedium of life in it. But this pleasure was very mild indeed; the languid pleasure that one might experience at the prospect of becoming the owner of a languidly admired vase or piece of furniture. Yes, he was glad enough that it was going to be his; but he did not care a great deal one way or the other; and as the day approached which was to inaugurate his proprietorship, he felt no flutter of the heart, no accession of eagerness or interest. Tillie’s excitement, on the contrary, intensified perceptibly. It had the effect of beautifying her, and of civilizing her. With heightened color and brightened eyes, she was an exceedingly pretty girl, one that any man might have been proud of for his bride. Then, she did not talk half so loudly as she had used to do; and her choice of words, phrases, and figures, underwent a notable modification for the better. The adjectives, grand, ideal, elegant, fearful, and such like, for example, dropped almost entirely out of her daily speech.

Of course, before long, the wedding-presents began to come in. Tillie’s delight knew no bounds. Every evening Elias discovered her in an ecstasy over the things that had arrived that day, and joyfully anticipating those that would arrive to-morrow. Some of these presents made the poor fellow groan inwardly. Mr. Blum, for instance, sent an enormous worsted-work picture of Ruth and Boaz, with a charming, though misapplied, inscription cunningly embroidered in gold thread: “Whither thou goest, I will go,” etc. Elias knew that this would have to be hung in a conspicuous place in his house; for, of course, when Mr. Blum came to see them, he would look for it, and, if it wasn’t visible, would feel hurt and slighted. Mrs. Blum sent a pair of diamond ear-rings. Tillie at once put them on; and she never afterward appeared without them; so that, from this point, whenever she figures upon these pages, the reader will kindly imagine a lustrous solitaire pendent from each of her tiny ears. They were large and handsome; and Mr. Blum confidentially informed Elias that he had got them at a bargain, but that they had coast him a heap of money all the same.

Neither Mr. Sternberg’s parlors, nor Mr. Koch’s, were spacious enough to accommodate a tithe of the people who would have to be invited to the wedding; and therefore it was decided to follow the common Jewish practice, and engage for the occasion a public hall. Mr. Koch engaged the hall of the Advance Club.

There, accordingly, in the afternoon of Monday, the seventh of January, 1884, and in the presence of rather more than three hundred witnesses, Mr. Elias Bacharach and Miss Matilda Morgenthau were pronounced irrevocably man and wife; the Reverend Dr. Gedaza, assisted by the Reverend Mr. Lewis, as cantor, officiating. The ceremonies were conducted in the strictest orthodox style. The happy couple stood beneath a silken canopy, supported by four young gentlemen designated by the groom; all the men present covered their heads, some with hats, some with handkerchiefs; the cantor intoned an invocation, a prayer, a benediction; the rabbi put the requisite questions, and got the regulation responses, both in Hebrew; after which, he made a very pretty and touching speech, kissed the bride, and said, “Mrs. Bacharach, accept my heartiest congratulations.” The wine, meanwhile, had been spilled and drunken, and the goblet crushed under the bridegroom’s heel. For upwards of an hour afterward, there was a wild clamor of talk; and every body shook hands with Elias, and gave Tillie a kiss. Then they all sat down to dinner. The chazzan chanted a grace. The banqueters fell to. By and by toasts were proposed, and harangues delivered. The dancing began at eleven o’clock, and held out until five the next morning.

So they were married.


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