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PAGE 2

A Rose Of The Ghetto
by [?]

“And why dost thou not have her?” said Rose. It was more than an inquiry; there was contempt in it, and perhaps even pique.

Leibel did not reply. The embarrassing silence reigned again, and reigned long. Rose broke it at last.

“Is it that thou likest me better?” she asked.

Leibel seemed to see a ball of lightning in the air; it burst, and he felt the electric current strike right through his heart. The shock threw his head up with a jerk, so that his eyes gazed into a face whose beauty and tenderness were revealed to him for the first time. The face of his old acquaintance had vanished; this was a cajoling, coquettish, smiling face, suggesting undreamed-of things.

Nu, yes,” he replied, without perceptible pause.

Nu, good!” she rejoined as quickly.

And in the ecstasy of that moment of mutual understanding Leibel forgot to wonder why he had never thought of Rose before. Afterward he remembered that she had always been his social superior.

The situation seemed too dream-like for explanation to the room just yet. Leibel lovingly passed a bottle of ginger-beer, and Rose took a sip, with a beautiful air of plighting troth, understood only of those two. When Leibel quaffed the remnant it intoxicated him. The relics of the bread and cheese were the ambrosia to this nectar. They did not dare kiss; the suddenness of it all left them bashful, and the smack of lips would have been like a cannon-peal announcing their engagement. There was a subtler sweetness in this sense of a secret, apart from the fact that neither cared to break the news to the master tailor, a stern little old man. Leibel’s chalk marks continued indecisive that afternoon, which shows how correctly Rose had connected them with love.

Before he left that night Rose said to him, “Art thou sure thou wouldst not rather have Leah Volcovitch?”

“Not for all the boots and shoes in the world,” replied Leibel, vehemently.

“And I,” protested Rose, “would rather go without my own than without thee.”

The landing outside the workshop was so badly lighted that their lips came together in the darkness.

“Nay, nay; thou must not yet,” said Rose. “Thou art still courting Leah Volcovitch. For aught thou knowest, Sugarman the Shadchan may have entangled thee beyond redemption.”

“Not so,” asserted Leibel. “I have only seen the maiden once.”

“Yes. But Sugarman has seen her father several times,” persisted Rose. “For so misshapen a maiden his commission would be large. Thou must go to Sugarman to-night, and tell him that thou canst not find it in thy heart to go on with the match.”

“Kiss me, and I will go,” pleaded Leibel.

“Go, and I will kiss thee,” said Rose, resolutely.

“And when shall we tell thy father?” he asked, pressing her hand, as the next best thing to her lips.

“As soon as thou art free from Leah.”

“But will he consent?”

“He will not be glad,” said Rose, frankly. “But after mother’s death–peace be upon her–the rule passed from her hands into mine.”

“Ah, that is well,” said Leibel. He was a superficial thinker.

Leibel found Sugarman at supper. The great Shadchan offered him a chair, but nothing else. Hospitality was associated in his mind with special occasions only, and involved lemonade and “stuffed monkeys.”

He was very put out–almost to the point of indigestion–to hear of Leibel’s final determination, and plied him with reproachful inquiries.

“You don’t mean to say that you give up a boot and shoe manufacturer merely because his daughter has round shoulders!” he exclaimed, incredulously.

“It is more than round shoulders–it is a hump!” cried Leibel.

“And suppose? See how much better off you will be when you get your own machines! We do not refuse to let camels carry our burdens because they have humps.”

“Ah, but a wife is not a camel,” said Leibel, with a sage air.

“And a cutter is not a master tailor,” retorted Sugarman.

“Enough, enough!” cried Leibel. “I tell you, I would not have her if she were a machine warehouse.”