A Ghetto Wedding
HAD you chanced to be in Grand Street on that starry February night, it would scarcely have occurred to you that the Ghetto was groaning under the culmination of a long season of enforced idleness and distress. The air was exhilaratingly crisp, and the glare of the cafés and millinery shops flooded it with contentment and kindly good will. The sidewalks were alive with shoppers and promenaders, and lined with peddlers.
Yet the dazzling, deafening chaos had many a tale of woe to tell. The greater part of the surging crowd was out on an errand of self-torture. Straying forlornly by inexorable window displays, men and women would pause here and there to indulge in a hypothetical selection, to feast a hungry eye upon the object of an imaginary purchase, only forthwith to pay for the momentary joy with all the pangs of awakening to an empty purse.
Many of the peddlers, too, bore piteous testimony to the calamity which was then preying upon the quarter. Some of them performed their task of yelling and gesticulating with the desperation of imminent ruin ; others implored the passers-by for custom with the abject effect of begging alms ; while in still others this feverish urgency was disguised by an air of martyrdom or of shamefaced unwontedness, as if peddling were beneath the dignity of their habitual occupations, and they had been driven to it by sheer famine, —by the hopeless dearth of employment at their own trades.
One of these was a thick-set fellow of twenty-five or twenty-six, with honest, clever blue eyes. It might be due to the genial, inviting quality of his face that the Passover dishes whose praises he was sounding had greater attraction for some of the women with an “ effectual demand ” than those of his competitors. Still, his comparative success had not as yet reconciled him to his new calling. He was constantly gazing about for a possible passer-by of his acquaintance, and when one came in sight he would seek refuge from identification in closer communion with the crockery on his pushcart.
“ Buy nice dishes for the holidays! Cheap and strong! Buy dishes for Passover! ” When business was brisk, he sang with a bashful relish ; when the interval between a customer and her successor was growing too long, his sing-song would acquire a mournful ring that was suggestive of the psalm-chanting at an orthodox Jewish funeral.
He was a cap-blocker, and in the busy season his earnings ranged from ten to fifteen dollars a week. But he had not worked full time for over two years, and during the last three months he had not been able to procure a single day’s employment.
Goldy, his sweetheart, too, had scarcely work enough at her kneebreeches to pay her humble board and rent. Nathan, after much hesitation, was ultimately compelled to take to peddling ; and the longed-for day of their wedding was put off from month to month.
They had become engaged nearly two years before; the wedding ceremony having been originally fixed for a date some three months later. Their joint savings then amounted to one hundred and twenty dollars, — a sum quite adequate, in Nathan’s judgment, for a modest, quiet celebration and the humble beginnings of a household establishment. Goldy, however, summarily and indignantly overruled him.
One does not many every day,” she argued, “ and when I have at last lived to stand under the bridal canopy With my predestined one, I will not do so like a beggar-maid. Give me a respectable wedding, or none at all, Nathan, do you hear? ”
It is to be noted that a “ respectable wedding” was not merely a casual expression with Goldy. Like its antithesis, a “ slipshod wedding,” it played in her vocabulary the part of something like a well-established scientific term, with a meaning as clearly defined as that of “centrifugal force” or “geometrical progression.” Now, a slipshod wedding was anything short of a gown of white satin and slippers to match; two carriages to bring the bride and the bridegroom to the ceremony, and one to take them to their bridal apartments ; a wedding bard and a band of at least five musicians ; a spacious ballroom crowded with dancers, and a feast of a hundred and fifty covers. As to furniture, she refused to consider any which did not include a pier-glass and a Brussels carpet.
Nathan contended that the items upon which she insisted would cost a sum far beyond their joint accumulations. This she met by the declaration that he had all along been bent upon making her the target of universal ridicule, and that she would rather descend into an untimely grave than be married in a slipshod manner. Here she burst out crying ; and whether her tears referred to the untimely grave or to the slipshod wedding, they certainly seemed to strengthen the cogency of her argument; for Nathan at once proceeded to signify his surrender by a kiss, and when ignominiously repulsed he protested his determination to earn the necessary money to bring things to the standard which she held up so uncompromisingly.
Hard times set in. Nathan and Goldy pinched and scrimped ; but all their heroic economies were powerless to keep their capital from dribbling down to less than one hundred dollars. The wedding was postponed again and again. Finally the curse of utter idleness fell upon Nathan’s careworn head. Their savings dwindled apace. In dismay they beheld the foundation of their happiness melt gradually away. Both were tired of boarding. Both longed for the bliss and economy of married life. They grew more impatient and restless every day, and Goldy made concession after concession. First the wedding supper was sacrificed ; then the pier-mirror and the bard were stricken from the programme ; and these were eventually succeeded by the hired hall and the Brussels carpet.
After Nathan went into peddling, a few days before we first find him hawking chinaware on Grand Street, matters began to look brighter, and the spirits of our betrothed couple rose. Their capital, which had sunk to forty dollars, was increasing again, and Goldy advised waiting long enough for it to reach the sum necessary for a slipshod wedding and establishment.
It was nearly ten o’clock. Nathan was absently drawling his “ Buy nice dishes for the holidays ! ” His mind was engrossed with the question of making peddling his permanent occupation.
Presently he was startled by a merry soprano mocking him : “ Buy nice di-i-shes ! Mind that you don’t fall asleep murmuring like this. A big lot you can make ! ”
Nathan turned a smile of affectionate surprise upon a compact little figure, small to drollness, but sweet in the amusing grace of its diminutive outlines, — an epitome of exquisite femininity. Her tiny face was as comically lovely as her form : her apple-like cheeks were firm as marble, and her inadequate nose protruded between them like the result of a hasty tweak ; a pair of large, round black eyes and a thick-lipped little mouth inundating it all with passion and restless, goodnatured shrewdness.
“ Goldy ! What brings you here ? ” Nathan demanded, with a fond look which instantly gave way to an air of discomfort. “ You know I hate you to see me peddling.”
“ Are you really angry ? Bite the feather-bed, then. Where is the disgrace ? As if you were the only peddler in America! I wish you were. Would n’t you make heaps of money then ! But you had better hear what does bring me here. Nathan, darling,dearest little heart, dearest little crown that you are, guess what a plan I have hit upon ! ” she exploded all at once. “ Well, if you hear me out, and you don’t say that Goldy has the head of a cabinet minister, then — well, then you will be a big hog, and nothing else.”
And without giving him time to put in as much as an interjection she rattled on, puffing for breath and smacking her lips for ecstasy. Was it not stupid of them to be racking their brains about the wedding while there was such a plain way of having both a “ respectable ” celebration and fine furniture — Brussels carpet, pier-glass, and all—with the money they now had on hand ?
“ Come, out with it, then,” he said morosely.
But his disguised curiosity only whetted her appetite for tormenting him, and she declared her determination not to disclose her great scheme before they had reached her lodgings.
“ You have been yelling long enough to-day, anyhow,” she said, with abrupt sympathy. “ Do you suppose it does not go to my very heart to think of the way you stand out in the cold screaming yourself hoarse ? ”
Half an hour later, when they were alone in Mrs. Volpiansky’s parlor, which was also Goldy’s bedroom, she set about emptying his pockets of the gross results of the day’s business, and counting the money. This she did with a preoccupied, matter-of-fact air, Nathan submitting to the operation with fond and amused willingness ; and the sum being satisfactory, she went on to unfold her plan.
“ You see,” she began, almost in a whisper, and with the mien of a careworn, experience-laden old matron, “ in a week or two we shall have about seventy-five dollars, shan’t we ? Well, what is seventy-five dollars ? Nothing ! We could just have the plainest furniture, and no wedding worth speaking of. Now, if we have no wedding, we shall get no presents, shall we ? ”
Nathan shook his head thoughtfully.
“Well, why should n’t we be up to snuff and do this way? Let us spend all our money on a grand, respectable wedding, and send out a big lot of invitations, and then — well, won’t uncle Leiser send us a carpet or a parlor set? And aunt Beile, and cousin Shapiro, and Charley, and Meyerke, and Wolfké, and Bennie, and Soré-Gitké, — won’t each present something or other, as is the custom among respectable people ? May God give us a lump of good luck as big as the wedding present each of them is sure to send us! Why, did not Beilké get a fine carpet from uncle when she got married ? And am I not a nearer relative than she ? ”
She paused to search his face for a sign of approval, and, fondly smoothing a tuft of his dark hair into place, she went on to enumerate the friends to be invited and the gifts to be expected from them.
“ So you see,” she pursued, “ we will have both a respectable wedding that we shan’t have to be ashamed of in after years and the nicest things we could get if we spent two hundred dollars. What do you say ? ”
“ What shall I say ? ” he returned dubiously.
The project appeared reasonable enough, but the investment struck him as rather hazardous. He pleaded for caution, for delay ; but as he had no tangible argument to produce, while she stood her ground with the firmness of conviction, her victory was an easy one.
“ It will all come right, depend upon it,” she said coaxingly. “ You just leave everything to me. Don’t be uneasy, Nathan,” she added. “ You and I are orphans, and you know the Uppermost does not forsake a bride and bridegroom who have nobody to take care of them. If my father were alive, it would be different,” she concluded, with a disconsolate gesture.
There was a pathetic pause. Tears glistened in Goldy’s eyes.
“ May your father rest in a bright paradise,” Nathan said feelingly. “ But what is the use of crying ? Can you bring him back to life ? I will be a father to you.”
“ If God be pleased,” she assented. “Would that mamma, at least, — may she be healthy a hundred and twenty years, — would that she, at least, were here to attend our wedding! Poor mother ! it will break her heart to think that she has not been foreordained by the Uppermost to lead me under the canopy.”
There was another desolate pause, but it was presently broken by Goldy, who exclaimed with unexpected buoyancy, “ By the way, Nathan, guess what I did! I am afraid you will call me braggart and make fun of me, but I don’t care,” she pursued, with a playful pout, as she produced a strip of carpet from her pocketbook. “ I went into a furniture store, and they gave me a sample three times as big as this. I explained in my letter to mother that this is the kind of stuff that will cover my floor when I am married. Then I inclosed the sample in the letter, and sent it all to Russia.”
Nathan clapped his hands and burst out laughing. “ But how do you know that is just the kind of carpet you will get for your wedding present ? ” he demanded, amazed as much as amused.
“ How do I know ? As if it mattered what sort of carpet! I can just see mamma going the rounds of the neighbors, and showing off the ‘ costly tablecloth ’ her daughter will trample upon. Won’t she be happy ! ”
Over a hundred invitations, printed in as luxurious a black-and-gold as ever came out of an Essex Street hand-press, were sent out for an early date in April. Goldy and Nathan paid a month’s rent in advance for three rooms on the second floor of a Cherry Street tenementhouse. Goldy regarded the rent as unusually low, and the apartments as the finest on the East Side.
“ Oh, have n’t I got lovely rooms ! ” she would ejaculate, beaming with the consciousness of the pronoun. Or, “ You ought to see my rooms ! How much do you pay for yours ? ” Or again, “ I have made up my mind to have my parlor in the rear room. It is as light as the front one, anyhow, and I want that for a kitchen, you know. What do you say ? ” For hours together she would go on talking nothing but rooms, rent, and furniture ; every married couple who had recently moved into new quarters, or were about to do so, seemed bound to her by the ties of a common cause ; in her imagination, humanity was divided into those who were interested in the question of rooms, rent, and furniture and those who were not,— the former, of whom she was one, constituting the superior category ; and whenever her eye fell upon a bill announcing rooms to let, she would experience something akin to the feeling with which an artist, in passing, views some accessory of his art.
It is customary to send the bulkier wedding presents to a young couple’s apartments a few days before they become man and wife, the closer relatives and friends of the betrothed usually settling among themselves what piece of furniture each is to contribute. Accordingly, Goldy gave up her work a week in advance of the day set for the great event, in order that she might be on hand to receive the things when they arrived.
She went to the empty little rooms, with her lunch, early in the morning, and kept anxious watch till after nightfall, when Nathan came to take her home.
A day passed, another, and a third, but no expressman called out her name. She sat waiting and listening for the rough voice, but in vain.
“ Oh, it is too early, anyhow. I am a fool to be expecting anything so soon at all,” she tried to console herself. And she waited another hour, and still another ; but no wedding gift made its appearance.
“ Well, there is plenty of time, after all; wedding presents do come a day or two before the ceremony,” she argued ; and again she waited, and again strained her ears, and again her heart rose in her throat.
The vacuity of the rooms, freshly cleaned, scrubbed, and smelling of whitewash, began to frighten her. Her overwrought mind was filled with sounds which her overstrained ears did not hear. Yet there she sat on the window-sill, listening and listening for an expressman’s voice.
“ Hush, hush-sh, hush-sh-sh ! ” whispered the walls; the corners muttered awful threats ; her heart was ever and anon contracted with fear; she often thought herself on the brink of insanity ; yet she stayed on, waiting, waiting, waiting.
At the slightest noise in the hall she would spring to her feet, her heart beating wildly, only presently to sink in her bosom at finding it to be some neighbor or a peddler ; and so frequent were these violent throbbings that Goldy grew to imagine herself a prey to heart disease. Nevertheless the fifth day came, and she was again at her post, waiting, waiting, waiting for her wedding gifts. And what is more, when Nathan came from business, and his countenance fell as he surveyed the undisturbed emptiness of the rooms, she set a merry face against his rueful inquiries, and took to bantering him as a woman quick to lose heart, and to painting their prospects in roseate hues, until she argued herself, if not him, into a more cheerful view of the situation.
On the sixth day an expressman did pull up in front of the Cherry Street tenement-house, but he had only a cheap huge rocking-chair for Goldy and Nathan ; and as it proved to be the gift of a family who had been set down for nothing less than a carpet or a parlor set, the joy and hope which its advent had called forth turned to dire disappointment and despair. For nearly an hour Goldy sat mournfully rocking and striving to picture how delightful it would have been if all her anticipations had come true.
Presently there arrived a flimsy plushcovered little corner table. It could not have cost more than a dollar. Yet it was the gift of a near friend, who had been relied upon for a pier-glass or a bedroom set. A little later a cheap alarm clock and an ice-box were brought in. That was all.
Occasionally Goldy went to the door to take in the entire effect; but the more she tried to view the parlor as half furnished, the more cruelly did the few lonely and mismated things emphasize the remaining emptiness of the apartments : whereupon she would sink into her rocker and sit motionless, with a drooping head, and then desperately fall to swaying to and fro, as though bent upon swinging herself out of her woebegone, wretched self.
Still, when Nathan came, there was a triumphant twinkle in her eye, as she said, pointing to the gifts, “ Well, mister, who was right ? It is not very bad for a start, is it ? You know most people do send their wedding presents after the ceremony, — why, of course ! ” she added in a sort of confidential way. “ Well, we have invited a big crowd, and all people of no mean sort, thank God; and who ever heard of a lady or a gentleman attending a respectable wedding and having a grand wedding supper, and then cheating the bride and the bridegroom out of their present ? ”
The evening was well advanced ; yet there were only a score of people in a hall that was used to hundreds.
Everybody felt ill at ease, and ever and anon looked about for the possible arrival of more guests. At ten o’clock the dancing preliminary to the ceremony had not yet ceased, although the few waltzers looked as if they were scared by the ringing echoes of their own footsteps amid the austere solemnity of the surrounding void and the depressing sheen of the dim expanse of floor.
The two fiddles, the cornet, and the clarinet were shrieking as though for pain, and the malicious superabundance of gaslight was fiendishly sneering at their tortures. Weddings and entertainments being scarce in the Ghetto, its musicians caught the contagion of misery : hence the greedy, desperate gusto with which the band plied their instruments.
At last it became evident that the assemblage was not destined to be larger than it was, and that it was no use delaying the ceremony. It was, in fact, an open secret among those present that by far the greater number of the invited friends were kept away by lack of employment : some having their presentable clothes in the pawnshop ; others avoiding the expense of a wedding present, or simply being too cruelly borne down by their cares to have a mind for the excitement of a wedding ; indeed, some even thought it wrong of Nathan to have the celebration during such a period of hard times, when everybody was out of work.
It was a little after ten when the bard — a tall, gaunt man, with a grizzly beard and a melancholy face — donned his skull-cap, and, advancing toward the dancers, called out in a synagogue intonation, “ Come, ladies, let us veil the bride! ”
An odd dozen of daughters of Israel followed him and the musicians into a little side-room where Goldy was seated between her two brideswomen (the wives of two men who were to attend upon the groom). According to the orthodox custom she had fasted the whole day, and as a result of this and of her gnawing grief, added to the awe-inspiring scene she had been awaiting, she was pale as death ; the effect being heightened by the wreath and white gown she wore. As the procession came filing in, she sat blinking her round dark eyes in dismay, as if the bard were an executioner come to lead her to the scaffold.
The song or address to the bride usually partakes of the qualities of prayer and harangue, and includes a melancholy meditation upon life and death ; lamenting the deceased members of the young woman’s family, bemoaning her own woes, and exhorting her to discharge her sacred duties as a wife, mother, and servant of God. Composed in verse and declaimed in a solemn, plaintive recitative, often broken by the band’s mournful refrain, it is sure to fulfill its mission of eliciting tears even when hearts are brimful of glee. Imagine, then, the funereal effect which it produced at Goldy’s wedding ceremony.
The bard, half starved himself, sang the anguish of his own heart; the violins wept, the clarinet moaned, the cornet and the double-bass groaned, each reciting the sad tale of its poverty-stricken master. He began: —
To-night, bride, thou dost stand before the Uppermost.
Pray to him to bless thy union,
To let thee and thy mate live a hundred and twenty peaceful years,
To give you your daily bread,
To keep hunger from your door.”
Several women, including Goldy, burst into tears, the others sadly lowering their gaze. The band sounded a wailing chord, and the whole audience broke into loud, heartrending weeping.
The bard went on sternly : —
This is a time of tears.
Think of thy past days:
Alas ! they are gone to return nevermore.”
Heedless of the convulsive sobbing with which the room resounded, he continued to declaim, and at last, his eye flashing fire and his voice tremulous with emotion, he sang out in a dismal, uncanny high key : —
And thy father in his grave
Near where thy cradle was rocked, —
Weep, bride, weep!
Though his soul is better off
Than we are here underneath
In dearth and cares and ceaseless pangs, —
Weep, sweet bride, weep ! ”
Then, in the general outburst that followed the extemporaneous verse, there was a cry, — “ The bride is fainting! Water! quick!”
“ Murderer that you are ! ” flamed out an elderly matron, with an air of admiration for the bard’s talent as much as of wrath for the far-fetched results it achieved.
Goldy was brought to, and the rest of the ceremony passed without accident. She submitted to everything as in a dream. When the bridegroom, escorted by two attendants, each carrying a candelabrum holding lighted candles, came to place the veil over her face, she stared about as though she failed to realize the situation or to recognize Nathan. When, keepingtime to the plaintive strains of a timehonored tune, she was led, blindfolded, into the large hall and stationed beside the bridegroom under the red canopy, and then marched around him seven times, she obeyed instructions and moved about with the passivity of a hypnotic. After the Seven Blessings had been recited, when the cantor, gently lifting the end of her veil, presented the wineglass to her lips, she tasted its contents with the air of an invalid taking medicine. Then she felt the ring slip down her finger, and heard Nathan say, “ Be thou dedicated to me by this ring, according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
Whereupon she said to herself, “ Now I am a married woman ! ” But somehow, at this moment the words were meaningless sounds to her. She knew she was married, but could not realize what it implied. As Nathan crushed the wineglass underfoot, and the band struck up a cheerful melody, and the gathering shouted, “ Good luck ! Good luck ! and clapped their hands, while the older women broke into a wild hop, Goldy felt the relief of having gone through a great ordeal. But still she was not distinctly aware of any change in her position.
Not until fifteen minutes later, when she found herself in the basement, at the head of one of three long tables, did the realization of her new self strike her consciousness full in the face, as it were.
The dining-room was nearly as large as the dancing-hall on the floor above. It was as brightly illuminated, and the three tables, which ran almost its entire length, were set for a hundred and fifty guests. Yet there were barely twenty to occupy them. The effect was still more depressing than in the dancing-room. The vacant benches and the untouched covers still more agonizingly exaggerated the emptiness of the room in which the sorry handful of a company lost themselves.
Goldy looked at the rows of plates, spoons, forks, knives, and they weighed her down with the cold dazzle of their solemn, pompous array.
“ I am not the Goldy I used to be,” she said to herself. “ I am a married woman, like mamma, or auntie, or Mrs. Volpiansky. And we have spent every cent we had on this grand wedding, and now we are left without money for furniture, and there are no guests to send us any, and the supper will be thrown out, and everything is lost, and I am to blame for it all! ”
The glittering plates seemed to hold whispered converse and to exchange winks and grins at her expense. She transferred her glance to the company, and it appeared as if they were vainly forcing themselves to partake of the food, — as though they, too, were looked out of countenance by that ruthless sparkle of the unused plates.
Nervous silence hung over the room, and the reluctant jingle of the score of knives and forks made it more awkward, more enervating, every second. Even the bard had not the heart to break the stillness by the merry rhymes he had composed for the occasion.
Goldy was overpowered. She thought she was on the verge of another fainting spell, and, shutting her eyes and setting her teeth, she tried to imagine herself dead. Nathan, who was by her side, noticed it. He took her hand under the table, and, pressing it gently, whispered, “ Don’t take it to heart. There is a God in heaven.”
She could not make out his words, but she felt their meaning. As she was about to utter some phrase of endearment, her heart swelled in her throat, and a piteous, dovelike, tearful look was all the response she could make.
By and by, however, when the foaming lager was served, tongues were loosened, and the bard, although distressed by the meagre collection in store for him, but stirred by an ardent desire to relieve the insupportable wretchedness of the evening, outdid himself in offhand acrostics and witticisms. Needless to say that his efforts were thankfully rewarded with unstinted laughter; and as the room rang with merriment, the gleaming rows of undisturbed plates also seemed to join in the general hubbub of mirth, and to be laughing a hearty, kindly laugh.
Presently, amid a fresh outbreak of deafening hilarity, Goldy bent close to Nathan’s ear and exclaimed with sobbing vehemence, “ My husband ! My husband ! My husband ! ”
“ My wife ! ” he returned in her ear.
“ Do you know what you are to me now ? ” she resumed. “ A husband ! And I am your wife! Do you know what it means, — do you, do you, Nathan ? ” she insisted, with frantic emphasis.
“ I do, my little sparrow ; only don’t worry over the wedding presents.”
It was after midnight, and even the Ghetto was immersed in repose. Goldy and Nathan were silently wending their way to the three empty little rooms where they were destined to have their first joint home. They wore the wedding attire which they had rented for the evening: he a swallowtail coat and high hat, and she a white satin gown and slippers, her head uncovered, — the wreath and veil done up in a newspaper, in Nathan’s hand.
They had gone to the wedding in carriages, which had attracted large crowds both at the point of departure and in front of the hall ; and of course they had expected to make their way to their new home in a similar “respectable ” manner. Toward the close of the last dance, after supper, they found, however, that some small change was all they possessed in the world.
The last strains of music were dying away. The guests, in their hats and bonnets, were taking leave. Everybody seemed in a hurry to get away to his own world, and to abandon the young couple to their fate.
Nathan would have borrowed a dollar or two of some friend. “ Let us go home as behooves a bride and bridegroom,” he said. “ There is a God in heaven : he will not forsake us.”
But Goldy would not hear of betraying the full measure of their poverty to their friends. “ No! no ! ” she retorted testily. “ I am not going to let you pay a dollar and a half for a few blocks’ drive, like a Fifth Avenue nobleman. We can walk,” she pursued, with the grim determination of one bent upon self-chastisement. “ A poor woman who dares spend every cent on a wedding must be ready to walk after the wedding.”
When they found themselves alone in the deserted street, they were so overcome by a sense of loneliness, of a kind of portentous, haunting emptiness, that they could not speak. So on they trudged in dismal silence; she leaning upon his arm, and he tenderly pressing her to his side.
Their way lay through the gloomiest and roughest part of the Seventh Ward. The neighborhood frightened her, and she clung closer to her escort. At one corner they passed some men in front of a liquor saloon.
“ Look at dem ! Look at dem ! A sheeny fellar an’ his bride, I ’ll betch ye ! ” shouted a husky voice. “Jes’ comin’ from de weddin’.”
“ She ain’t no bigger ’n a peanut, is she ? ” The simile was greeted with a horse-laugh.
“ Look a here, young fellar, what’s de madder wid carryin’ her in your vestpocket ? ”
When Nathan and Goldy were a block away, something like a potato or a carrot struck her in the back. At the same time the gang of loafers on the corner broke into boisterous merriment. Nathan tried to face about, but she restrained him.
“ Don’t! They might kill you ! ” she whispered, and relapsed into silence.
He made another attempt to disengage himself, as if for a desperate attack upon her assailants, but she nestled close to his side and held him fast, her every fibre tingling with the consciousness of the shelter she had in him.
” Don’t mind them, Nathan,” she said.
And as they proceeded on their dreary way through a sombre, impoverished street, with here and there a rustling tree, — a melancholy witness of its better days, — they felt a stream of happiness uniting them, as it coursed through the veins of both, and they were filled with a blissful sense of oneness the like of which they had never tasted before. So happy were they that the gang behind them, and the bare rooms toward which they were directing their steps, and the miserable failure of the wedding, all suddenly appeared too insignificant to engage their attention,— paltry matters alien to their new life, remote from the enchanted world in which they now dwelt.
The very notion of a relentless void abruptly turned to a beatific sense of their own seclusion, of there being only themselves in the universe, to live and to delight in each other.
“ Don’t mind them, Nathan darling,” she repeated mechanically, conscious of nothing but the tremor of happiness in her voice.
“ I should give it to them ! ” he responded, gathering her still closer to him. “ I should show them how to touch my Goldy, my pearl, my birdie ! ”
They dived into the denser gloom of a side-street.
A gentle breeze ran past and ahead of them, proclaiming the bride and the bridegroom. An old tree whispered overhead its tender felicitations.