Karl Emil Franzos.

Judith Trachtenberg: A Novel online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryKarl Emil FranzosJudith Trachtenberg: A Novel → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by the Web Archive

1. Page scan source:


A Novel




(Mrs.) L. P. and C. T. LEWIS


Copyright, 1891, by Harper & Brothers.
* * *
_All rights reserved_.



About sixty years ago, during the reign of the Emperor Francis the
First, there lived in a small town in Eastern Galicia an excellent man,
who had been greatly favored by fortune. His name was Nathaniel
Trachtenberg; his occupation was that of a chandler. He had inherited
from his father a modest business, which he had increased by his energy
and perseverance, by adding to it the manufacture of wax candles, and
by the admirable quality of his goods. Possibly, also, by the wise
moderation he used in demanding payment, which had secured nearly all
the noble families of the country as his patrons.

His intellectual progress kept pace with his increase of riches. Richly
endowed by nature, he acquired, by his intercourse with those of
superior position and by the numerous journeys he made to the West for
business purposes, a higher degree of culture than was usual with his
co-religionists of that period. He spoke and wrote German fluently; he
read the Vienna papers regularly, and even occasionally a poet, such as
Schiller or Lessing.

But, no matter how widely his opinions might vary from those of his
less-cultivated co-religionists as to the aims and purposes of life, he
bound himself closely to them in matters of dress and style of living,
and not only conformed to every command of the Law, but carried out
every injunction of the rabbis with punctilious exactitude.

"You do not know the atmosphere we breathe," he was accustomed to say
to his progressive Jewish friends in Breslau and Vienna. "It does not
matter as to my opinion of the sinfulness of carrying a stick on the
Sabbath, but it is important to prove to them by the example of a man
they respect that one may read German books, talk with Christians in
correct German, and still be a pious Jew. Therefore it would be a sin
if my _talar_ were replaced by a German coat. Do you suppose, either,
it would bring me closer to the gentry? No, indeed. They would only
regard it as an impotent attempt to raise myself to their level. So we
better-educated Jews must remain as we are for the present, at least,
as regards externals." This was the result of serious conviction, he
always added; and how serious, he proved by the method of education
which he pursued with his two children, his wife having died while she
was still quite young.

There was a boy, Raphael, and a girl, Judith. The latter gave promise
of great beauty. Both received a careful education, in accordance with
the requirements of the age, from a tutor, one Herr Bergheimer, who had
been brought from Mayence by Trachtenberg. But their religious training
was cared for by the father himself. "I will not say," he once told the
tutor, "whether or not I consider it a misfortune to have been born a
Jew. I have my own ideas on the subject, which might shock your simple
faith. Whether good or ill, it is our fate, and must be borne with
equanimity. Therefore I wish my children educated with the most
profound reverence for Judaism. The humiliations which will come to
them because of their nation I can neither prevent nor modify, so I
wish they should have the comfort of feeling in their struggles in life
that they are suffering for something which is dear to them and is
worth the pain."

With this feeling he strove to stifle in their minds every germ of
hatred towards Christians, and at the same time he early accustomed
them to the idea that, sooner or later, they must run the gantlet
because of their creed, and even because of the cast of their features.

"They must learn to endure," he would say, with a sad smile. And so he
allowed Raphael and Judith to associate with Christian children
belonging to families who, for private reasons, were glad to pay some
attention to the wealthy Jewish fabricant.

Trachtenberg thought this intercourse of small consequence, never
dreaming it might exercise an influence over the character of his
children quite the opposite of that he would like. And it could not but
make an impression on the youthful minds growing up on a borderland
where the musty air of the Ghetto mingled with another air no whit
purer, compounded, as it was, of the incense of a fanatical creed and
the pestilential gases of decaying Polish aristocracy.

Separated from the Jewish children of the town by mode of life, manner
of speech, and learning, they were not less divided from their
Christian play-fellows by instinct and prejudices which made a really
hearty sympathy and intercourse impossible. Whoever looks into a
child's heart knows well it can surrender every other necessity than
that of loving and being loved. No matter how much the father might
attempt to prevent a feeling of isolation for his darlings, the time
came when, of necessity, he acknowledged to himself that he had not
properly appreciated the bitterness which this feeling aroused, and
when he was forced to stand by and look on helplessly as they sought
for companionship with others of the same age.

This happened when Raphael had reached his twenty-first and Judith her
nineteenth year. They had just completed a course of dancing lessons,
held in the house of Herr von Wroblewski, a magistrate, and one of
Trachtenberg's most expensive acquaintances.

Raphael, who was weary of bearing slights because of his curly hair and
round eyes, resolved, bitterly, that he would never again enter the
house of a Christian, but would find associates among those to whom he
belonged by race and common woe.

Judith's experience was just the contrary. She felt more and more at
home among her Christian friends; and went to her Hebrew lessons
with a frown. But their father's authority prevented any complete
change in their way of life, so they complied with his requirements
just as little as they could. The wise man recognized the fact
that his intentions were combated by the strongest of human
emotions - self-satisfaction on the one side, on the other injured

Poor Raphael was doubly hateful to his partners in the dance because he
was a Jew, whereas the premature beauty of his sister entranced her
youthful admirers, because they could cherish hopes as regarded her on
account of her race which would not have entered their minds towards a
girl belonging to their own class.

At times it troubled Trachtenberg's mind lest this "childishness"
should have a permanent influence upon their lives. But accustomed, as
he had been for so many years, to keen calculation rather than to
doubtful presentiments, he felt his forebodings vanish when he
remembered his carefully laid plans for the future, which he thought
could not be interfered with by these inclinations, but, so he
sometimes sought to persuade himself, were even promoted by them.

He had intended his son for the law, not only because, like the rest of
his race, he considered a diploma of a doctor of laws the highest of
honors, but because he aspired to have him a model and a champion for
his co-religionists. As Raphael was to pass his life in Galicia, it was
well he should have this feeling for the oppressed awakened early,
since it would nerve him for his destined work; while Judith, whom her
father proposed to marry to some enlightened and educated German Jew,
could best acquire that knowledge of etiquette and refinement which she
would need in her future home in Christian society.

Influenced by these considerations, Trachtenberg allowed matters to
take their own course as long as he feared no break in their mutual
affection. But their relations were becoming more and more strained,
and it was difficult for the father to decide which was most to blame.
The alienation which had arisen did not spring from lack of love, or
from difference in mental constitution.

Moreover, Raphael and Judith bore not the slightest physical
resemblance to each other, he being an awkward, haggard youth with a
pale, sharply cut face, above which was a forest of crinkly-black hair;
while she was a sweet, delicate rosebud of a girl, her beautiful brow
crowned with masses of rich auburn hair; and although her cheerfulness
and love of gayety contrasted strongly with his morose and gloomy
manners, yet in vital matters they showed they were children of the
same mother.

Both were gifted, sensitive, and fastidious; both ambitious and proud;
both self-conscious to defiance, and each dearer to the other than
life. It was this very equality of mental capacity that divided and
embittered them. Each thought his own inclination the only right one,
sensible, and just; each felt sorely wounded at the other's reproof;
each worried about the other's future, and treasured up accidental or
slighting observations relating to the other. She remembered the
contemptuous sneer of the Polish ladies at the "gloomy follower of the
Talmud;" he, every poisonous jest of the Ghetto about the "renegade."

And so it came to pass that, though their love was really intact, yet
outwardly they were almost in open warfare, and, urged on by pride and
defiance, they went further than they themselves would have thought
possible. Because Judith despised Jewish acquaintances, Raphael swore
enmity towards all Christians; and because he became more and more
observant of the ritual, she neglected it altogether.

But their acquaintances were the chief cause of contention. She made
fun of his friends in the Ghetto, their modes of speech, thought, and
life; and indeed she had sufficient cause. Raphael never wearied of
speaking disdainfully of the magistrate and his social circle, and he
required no power of invention to find grounds for his criticisms.

Herr Ludwig von Wroblewski was in position, though not in public
estimation, the most important man in the town; for the people could
not pardon certain traits which, good in themselves, were not in him
because of his office. While many men in similar position, with
antiquated ideas, tried to supervise the entire parish, urging the
rate-payers to improve their roads and bridges, he was of the opinion
that full-grown men ought to be able to manage their own affairs best;
and while they hunted down criminals, he, so it appeared, thought the
consciousness of crime sufficient punishment for the evil-doer.
Squabbles about money and land were painful to him also, if plaintiff
and defendant happened to be poor people, in which case he found it
best to let the case slide. When, however, it was otherwise, he gave
his undivided attention; and while other judges contented themselves
with acting upon the written case, he allowed each party to present his
arguments _cum solo_. There were few judges who were so careful, under
such circumstances, to be just to each. For instance, if the plaintiff
brought a thousand proofs and the defendant but five hundred, he gave
himself no rest till he had produced another five hundred. This, of
course, delayed justice very much. If there was no other way, Herr von
Wroblewski left it to fate, and cut cards about it - the highest card
winning. One need not be astonished at that, for he was very much at
home with cards, since every busy man must have his recreation.

Indeed, Herr von Wroblewski not only recruited himself every evening
with this amusement, but mornings and afternoons as well, when he could
find a partner. He played everything, but as a liberal and an enemy of
bureaucracy, chiefly the forbidden games of hazard. Away from home his
luck often changed, but at his own table - he lived in the _bel étage_
of Trachtenberg's house - he always won. This curious circumstance was
frequently mentioned, and did not tend to increase the respect in which
he was held. Perhaps here, too, the proverb, "If good luck in play,
then bad luck in love," held good with Herr von Wroblewski, for, though
he had been dangerous to many ladies of the town, he could lay claim to
very little tenderness within his own four walls.

His wife, Lady Anna, a stout fair lady on the verge of forty, belonged
to an old Polish family, was an ardent adherent of the Metternich
_régime_, and leaned on the church and the army. It was rather
difficult for her to decide whether she would rather be supported by
the fat Dominican prior, Pater Hieronymus, or the supple Rittmeister,
Herr von Bariassy.

Her girlish years had been passed in the house of her aunt, the wife of
the highest official in Lemberg, and she had become so agreeable to the
childless pair that her grateful uncle had given her a dowry and a
husband, and was so good as to provide for her even after marriage. She
seemed to have preserved pleasant reminiscences of him, which possibly
accounted for the freak of nature which made her eldest daughter Wanda
so singularly like her dear uncle.

This influential man sustained Herr Ludwig in his office, despite the
incessant complaints raised against him; and so it got to be that the
worthies of the town considered themselves justified in being neither
stricter nor severer than the government.

The receptions at the magistrate's house were the most brilliant in the
neighborhood, no one absenting himself voluntarily. Judith used to
taunt her brother with this when he expressed his contempt for the man,
and even Trachtenberg would say: "You are young, and think to better
the world. But when you are older you will find there is but one way of
doing it, which is to better yourself. It is impossible for me to do
more in our times and circumstances. Certainly, Wroblewski is a
corruptible judge, a card-sharper, and a scoundrel. But would he change
if I ceased to hold intercourse with him? I have never used my
influence with him for evil; and when he has proposed I should be his
agent in a disreputable affair, I have always declined. He brings me
custom, and therefore he lives in this house rent-free. He decides in
my favor when I am obliged to sue, and for that receives twenty per
cent. If I declined to give that, he would recommend other
manufacturers, and I should lose my eighty per cent."

"Very good! But Judith?" said Raphael. "Does your business require she
should go to their receptions every Tuesday?"

"Why should I not allow her this pleasure?" was the reply. "The host is
contemptible, the wife not blameless, but the guests are different. The
daughters of the physician and the chemist come regularly - carefully
trained daughters of good parents. They run no danger; why should your

"They not, but Judith!" How often had Raphael had these words on his
tongue and withheld them! What ground could he give for his fears? He
had no facts to offer, only observations which his father would have
condemned as the result of prejudice.

A year passed by with these unpleasant episodes. Raphael was to visit a
university, and the father decided upon Heidelberg. Bergheimer was to
accompany him and remain for some months.

Trachtenberg also gave the old master another commission. He was to
look out for a suitable husband for Judith. For, as she had developed
into a greater beauty than the tenderest of fathers could have
expected, and as he was not unmindful of his wealth, he thought no one
too good for her. So, too, since he had learned to appreciate the Jews
of West Germany during his journeyings there, an educated, cultivated
bridegroom from that quarter was the height of his ambition.

Judith surmised nothing, partly, perhaps, because she was so filled
with sorrow over the departure of her dearly loved brother. True, she
was doubly eager just then in her intercourse with Christians,
declining no invitation to dance or picnic; but she would have
relinquished a whole year of this pleasure if Raphael had, by a single
word, given her a chance to confess her penitence and love. Yet it was
impossible to make this avowal without some encouragement, especially
as Raphael became more and more gloomy and inaccessible, really because
he was burdened with the same misery.

The day before his departure finally arrived - a sunny September
day - and early that morning Judith made up her mind to pocket her pride
and have the longed-for interview. A chance prevented it.

This day, ill-omened for the house of Trachtenberg, was a festival day
for the other inhabitants of the town. The new lord of the manor, Count
Agenor Baranowski, was to take possession of his estates. Much depended
on winning his good-will, as, owing to his immense property, he was the
most influential man in the province. Therefore they had decorated the
houses, improved the roads, and even swept the streets.

The Jews had been most zealous in all this, and had used quantities of
garlands and much colored paper, not because they were particularly in
favor with him, but because he had the reputation of hating the Jews.

Raphael used his severest satire in criticising this "slavish
humility," but his father differed from him. His house was the most
handsomely decorated of any, and from the gables there actually flew
the light-blue and silver colors of the Baranowski. But he did not
interfere with Raphael, who wished to go for a walk till the comedy
should have been played out; though he himself went to the triumphal
arch, which had been erected near his house, so that he might welcome
the count as deputy for the Jews, while Judith went to the first

The magistrate's apartment did not make a very good impression by
daylight. The threadbare velvet of the furniture, with dust in every
nook and cranny, and the curious medley of grand and shabby furniture
were very apparent. It was quite in harmony for Lady Anna, her full
form squeezed into a red silk dress, and her head surmounted by a
pyramid of artificial flowers, to be bustling about with a duster in
her hand, giving orders to her servants and receiving her guests at the
same time.

For Herr von Wroblewski had made the count's acquaintance in Lemberg,
and had taken care to have the honor of receiving him in his house the
very first evening. Many guests had been invited from the neighborhood,
and part of them had arrived in the morning. The gentlemen were at the
triumphal arch, while the ladies were to view the procession from the

The handsome hostess was fuming inwardly, still she had a friendly word
for all, even for Judith.

"Why, child, how pretty you have made yourself today!" she exclaimed;
and in truth the girl, in a dress of blue print, looked charming. The
curls, clustering around her delicate forehead, shone like spun gold,
and her neck was circled by a white silk ribbon with long ends.

"And you are wearing the count's colors," she continued, playfully
shaking her finger. "How clever you are!"

"A mere coincidence," stammered Judith, blushing painfully; and she
spoke the truth.

Lady Anna laughed. "You need not fib about it. I only wish I had been
clever enough to think of it for Wanda. It is a pity you are not coming
this evening; but, as it is, there are over a hundred invited, and I
shiver when I think of the supper. At any rate, I have kept a good
place for you at the window," and she led her to the most distant
corner, where she had stowed away some poor relations, who had to
consider the invitation as an undeserved honor, and so could not
grumble at the company of the Jewess.

The spectators in the street below were squeezed in between the guards
of honor, composed of peasants of the vicinity, and made futile
attempts to reach the triumphal arch, where the worthies of the town
had taken their position - on the right the magistrate, the prior, the
burgomaster, and some others; on the left Nathaniel, the rabbi, and
some Jews who carried the Thora rolls under a red baldachino. Judith
could not see much of it, and Lady Anna's nieces used their elbows;
but, fortunately, they did not wait long.

The salvos of artillery boomed, the monastery bells began to peal, and
then the committee of peasants, chosen to escort their master,
appeared, followed by his carriage, from which he alighted quickly.

The burgomaster (he was the apothecary of the town) began his address.
He was a small, thin man, with a shrivelled-up face, who, when silent,
made one think of a sick chicken; but he had a lion's voice in his
throat, and was celebrated as the Demosthenes of the countryside. He
did not discredit his reputation on this occasion, as he plunged with
enthusiasm into the depths of the Middle Ages, raising the query as to
whether the family of the Baranowskis was more ancient than that of the
Jagellon, and thus embracing a comprehensive glance over Polish

Count Agenor, a young, well-built man, with a sad, handsome face, which
was very pale by contrast with his jet-black beard, listened
attentively at first, and then began to look about him. His eyes swept
the windows of the Trachtenberg house, and Judith colored violently,
for she saw distinctly how his face kindled as they rested on her
window. Was this for her?

Her neighbors remarked it, too, and one hissed to the other, "The
colors have had effect!" She heard it distinctly, and was about to
withdraw, but the apothecary just at that moment ended his speech; the
crowd shouted "Huzza!" The count said a few words of thanks, and was
about to enter his carriage again, when Nathaniel stepped forward.

She saw how the young nobleman turned impatiently away and looked up at
her window, and again she blushed painfully.

Her father said but a few words; the count thanked him by an
inclination of his head, and, preceded by his escort, he drove on. As
he passed the window, he looked up and saluted, placing his hand on his
jewelled _konfederatka_.

"It is evident he has no liking for us," Trachtenberg remarked at
dinner, a few hours later; but when Raphael made another cutting
observation, he said, good-humoredly, "Do you think he would like us
better if, contrary to usage and good-breeding, we had taken no part in
his welcome?"

Raphael made no reply, but sat looking moodier than ever, until, dinner
ended, he quitted the room, going, as he said, to pack his trunks.
Judith then plucked up courage and offered her assistance, somewhat
flippantly, indeed, making a jest of his awkwardness.

She adopted this manner to keep up her courage and to prepare an
opening for escape in case of a snub; but Raphael heard only the
mockery, and answered, bitterly, that he would be able to do without
help, and left the room angrily. Still she kept to her good
resolutions, and was glad when another opportunity was thrown in her

Late that afternoon, shortly after Von Wroblewski had returned from the
reception at the Baranowski castle, Wanda came running down-stairs to
beg Judith, in her mother's name, to go up that evening, as several
young ladies had declined just at the last moment. This had frequently
occurred, and, owing to their intimacy, Judith had taken it in good
part. But on this occasion she declined, since it was Raphael's last
evening at home. Wanda, however, would not allow this. "You must come!
Bring Raphael with you."

He had not gone on their stairs for more than a year, and that Lady
Anna should invite "that gloomy follower of the Talmud" to her most
brilliant party was surprising. It shot through her brain - "She is
inviting him because she knows he will not go." So she answered she
would accept the invitation with pleasure if she could induce Raphael
to do so too.

When Wanda grew excited, protesting she scarcely dared go up-stairs
with such a reply, as "mamma and papa laid such stress on her coming;
papa in particular," Judith was surprised, but answered all the more
obstinately, until, after repeated entreaties from Wanda, she at last
went to her brother.

Her heart throbbed as she opened the door. He sat at his empty
work-table, his head resting on his hand, gazing at the candles.

With difficulty she made her request.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryKarl Emil FranzosJudith Trachtenberg: A Novel → online text (page 1 of 13)