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REUBEN SACHS

A SKETCH



REUBEN SACHS



A SKETCH



BY

AMY LEVY

AUTHOR OF " A MINOR POET " AND " THE ROMANCE OF A SHOP "



MACMILLAN AND CO.

AND NEW YORK
li



ne Right of Transiation and Riprodnciion is reserved



Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,
london and bungay.



REUBEN SACHS:

A SKETCH.
CHAPTER I.

This is my beloved Son.

Reuben Sachs was the pride of his family.

After a highly successful career at one of
the great London day-schools, he had gone
up on a scholarship to the University, where,
if indeed he had chosen to turn aside from
the beaten paths of academic distinction, he
had made good use of his time in more ways
than one.

The fact that he was a Jew had proved
C? B



REUBEN SACHS. [chap.



no bar to his popularity ; he had gained
many desirable friends and had, to some
extent, shaken off the provincialism in-
evitable to one born and bred in the
Jewish community.

At the bar, to which in due course "he
was called, his usual good fortune did not
desert him.

Before he was twenty-five he had begun to
be spoken of as " rising " ; and at twenty-
six, by unsuccessfully contesting a hard-
fought election, had attracted to himself
attention of another sort. He had no ob-
jection, he said, to the woolsack ; but a career
of political distinction was growing slowly
but surely to be his leading aim in life.

" He will never starve," said his mother,
shrugging her shoulders with a comfortable
consciousness of safe investments ; " and he
must marry money. But Reuben can be
trusted to do nothing rash." In the midst



I.] REUBEN SACHS. 3

of so much that was highly promising, his
health had broken down suddenly, and he
had gone off grumbling to the antipodes.

It was a case of over-work, of over-strain,
of nervous break-down, said the doctors ; no
doubt a sea-voyage would set him right
aofain, but he must be careful of himself
in the future.

" More than half my nervous patients are
recruited from the ranks of the Jews," said
the great physician whom Reuben consulted.
" You pay the penalty of too high a civiliza-
tion."

" On the other hand," Reuben answered,
"we never die; so we may be said to have
our compensations."

Reuben's father had not borne out his son's
theory ; he had died many years before my
story opens, greatly to his own surprise and
that of a family which could boast more than
one nonogenarian in a generation.

B 2



REUBEN SACHS. [chap.



He had left his wife and children well
provided for, and the house in Lancaster
Gate was rich in material comfort.

In the drawing-room of this house Mrs.
Sachs and her dauQ^hter were sittinof on
the day of Reuben's return from his six
months' absence.

He had arrived early in the day, and was
now sleeping off the effects of a night passed
in travelling, and of the plentiful supply of
fatted calf with which he had been welcomed.

His devoted womankind meanwhile sipped
their tea in the fading light of the September
afternoon, and talked over the event of the
day in the rapid, nervous tones peculiar to
them.

Mrs. Sachs was an elderly woman, stout
and short, with a wide, sallow, impassive
face, lighted up by occasional gleams of
shrewdness from a pair of half-shut eyes.

An indescribable air of intense, but subdued



I.] REUBEN SACHS. 5

vitality characterized her presence ; she did
not appear in good health, but you saw at
a glance that this was an old lady whom it
would be difficult to kill.

" He looks better, Addie, he looks very
well indeed," she said, the dull red spot
of colour on either sallow cheek alone
testifying to her excitement.

" I have said all along," answered her
daughter, "that if Reuben had been a poor
man the doctors would never have found
out that he wanted a sea-voyage at all.
Let us only hope that it has done him
no harm professionally." She emptied her
tea-cup as she spoke, and cut herself a
fresh slice of the rich cake which she was
devouring with nervous voracity,

Adelaide Sachs, or to give her her right
title, Mrs. Montagu Cohen, was a thin, dark
young woman of eight or nine-and-twenty,
with a restless, eager, sallow face, and an



REUBEN SACHS. [chap.



abrupt manner. She was richly and very
fashionably dressed in an unbecoming gown
of green shot silk, and wore big diamond
solitaires in her ears. She and her mother
indeed were never seen without such jewels,
which seemed to bear the same relation to
their owners as his pigtail does to the
Chinaman.

Adelaide was the eldest of the family ; she
had married young a husband chosen for
her, with whom she lived with average
contentment.

Reuben was scarcely two years her junior ;
no one cared to remember the age of Lionel,
the youngest of the three, a hopeless ne'er-
do-weel, who had with difficulty been relegated
to an obscure colony.

" There is always either a ne'er-do-weel
or an idiot in every Jewish family!" Esther
Kohnthal had remarked in one of her appal-
ling bursts of candour.



I.] REUBEN SACHS. 7

The mother and daughter sat there in the
growing dusk, amid the plush ottomans,
stamped velvet tables, and other Philistine
splendours of the large drawing-room, till
the lamp-lighter came down the Bayswater
Road and the gilt clock on the mantel-piece
struck six.

Almost at the same moment the door
was flung open and a voice cried :

"Why do women invariably sit in the
dark ? "

It was a pleasant voice ; to a fine ear,
unmistakably the voice of a Jew, though
the accents of the speaker were free from
the cockney twang which marred the speech
of the two women.

" Reuben ! I thought you were asleep,"
cried his mother.

'' So I was. Now I have arisen like a
giant refreshed."

A man of middle height and slender build



8 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

had made his way across the room to the
window ; his face was indistinct in the dark-
ness as he stooped and put his arm caress-
ingly about the broad, fat shoulder of his
mother.

" Dressed for dinner already, Reuben ? "
was all she said, though the hard eye under
the cautious old eyelid grew soft as she
spoke.

Her love for this son and her pride
in him were the passion of her life.

" Dinner ? You are never going to kill the
fatted calf twice over ? But seriously, I
must run down to the club for an hour or
two. There may be letters."

He hesitated a moment, then added : " I
shall look in at the Leunigers on my way
back."

" The Leunigers ! '' cried Adelaide in open
disapproval.

" Reuben, there's the old gentleman. He



I.] REUBEN SACHS. 9

won't like your going first to your cousins,"
said his mother.

" My grandfather ? Oh, but my arrival
isn't an official fact till to-morrow. We were
sixteen hours before our time, remember.
Good-bye, Addie. I suppose you and Monty
will be dining in Portland Place to-morrow
with the rest of us. What a gathering of
the clans ! Well, I must be off. " And he
suited the action to the word.

" Why on earth need he rush off like that
to the Leunicjers ? " said Mrs. Cohen as
she drew on her gloves.

Her mother looked across at her through
the dusk.

" Reuben will do nothing rash," she
said.



CHAPTER II.

Whatever my mood is, I love Piccadilly.

LondoJi Lyrics.

Reuben Sachs stepped into the twillt
street with a distinct sense of exhilaration.

He was back again ; back to the old, full,
strenuous life which was so dear to him ; to
the din and rush and struggle of the London
which he loved with a passion that had
something of poetry in it.

With the eager curiosity, the vivid interest
in life, which underlay his rather impassive
bearing, it was impossible that foreign travel
should be without charm for him ; but he
returned with unmixed delight to his own
haunts ; to the work and the play ; the



CH. II.] REUBEN SACHS. ii

market-place, and the greetings in the market-
place ; to the innumerable pleasantnesses of an
existence which owed something of its pi-
quancy to the fact that it was led partly in
the democratic atmosphere of modern London,
partly in the conservative precincts of the
Jewish community.

Now as he lingered a moment on the
pavement, looking up and down the road
for a hansom, the light from the street
lamp fell full upon him, revealing what the
darkness of his mother's drawinsf-room had
previously hidden from sight.

He was, as I have said, of middle height
and slender build. He wore good clothes, but
they could not disguise the fact that his figure
was bad, and his movements awkward ; unmis-
takably the figure and movements of a Jew.

And his features, without presenting any
marked national trait, bespoke no less clearly
his Semitic origin.



12 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

His complexion was of a dark pallor ; the
hair, small moustache and eyes, dark, with
red lights in them ; over these last the lids
were drooping, and the whole face wore for
the moment a relaxed, dreamy, impassive air,
curiously Eastern, and not wholly free from
melancholy.

He walked slowly in the direction of an
advancing hansom, hailed it quickly and
quietly, and had himself driven off to Pall
Mall. To every movement of the man
clung that indescribable suggestion of an
irrepressible vitality which was the leading-
characteristic of his mother.

There were several letters for him at
the club ; having discussed them, and been
greeted by half a dozen men of his ac-
quaintance, he dined lightly off a chop and
a glass of claret, and gave himself up to
what was apparently an exceedingly pleasant
reverie.



II.] REUBEN SACHS. 13

The club where he sat was not, as he
himself would have been the first to
acknowledge, in the front rank of such insti-
tutions ; but it was respectable and had its
advantages. As for its drawbacks, supported
by his sense of better things to come, Reuben
Sachs could tolerate them.

It was nearly half past eight when Reuben's
cab drew up before the Leunigers' house in
Kensington Palace Gardens, where a blaze of
liorht from the lower windows told him that
he had come on no vain errand.

Israel Leuniger had begun life as a clerk
on the Stock Exchange, where he had been
fortunate enough to find employment in the
great broking firm of Sachs & Co. There his
undeniable business talents and devotion to
his work had met with ample reward. He
had advanced from one confidential post to
another ; after a successful speculation on his
own account, had been admitted into partner-



14 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

ship, and finally, like the industrious apprentice
of the story books, had married his master's
daughter.

In these days the reins of government in
Capel Court had fallen almost entirely into
his hands. Solomon Sachs, though a won-
derful man of his years, was too old for
regular attendance in the city, while poor
Kohnthal, the other member of the firm, and,
like Leuniger, son-in-law to old Solomon,
had been shut up in a madhouse for the
last ten years and more.

As Reuben advanced into the large,
heavily upholstered vestibule, one of the many
surrounding doors opened slowly, and a
woman emerged with a vague, uncertain
movement into the light.

She might have been fifty years of age,
perhaps more, perhaps less ; her figure was
slim as a girl's, but the dark hair, uncovered
by a cap, was largely mixed with gray. The



II.] REUBEN SACHS. 15



long, oval face was of a deep, unwholesome,
sallow tinge ; and from its haggard gloom
looked out two dark, restless, miserable eyes ;
the eyes of a creature in pain. Her dress
was rich but carelessly worn, and about her
whole person was an air of neglect.

" Aunt Ada ! " cried Reuben, going
forward.

She rubbed her lean sallow hands together,
saying in low, broken, lifeless tones : " We
didn't expect you till to-morrow, Reuben.
I hope your health has improved." This was
quite a long speech for Mrs. Leuniger, who
was of a monosyllabic habit.

Before* Reuben could reply, the door
opposite the one from which his aunt had
emerged was flung open, and two little boys,
dressed in sailor-suits, rushed into the hall.

One was dark, with bright black eyes ; the
other had a shock of flame-coloured hair,
and pale, prominent eyes. " Reuben !" they



i6 REUBEN SACHS. [chap. ii.

cried in astonishment, and rushed upon their
cousin.

" Lionel ! Sidney ! " protested their mother
faintly as the boys proceeded to take all sorts
of liberties with the new arrival.

The door by which they had come opened
again, and a man's voice cried, half in fun :

" Why on earth are you youngsters making
this confounded row ? Be off to bed, or
you'll be sorry for it ! "

Reuben was standing under the light of a
lamp, a smile on his face, as he lifted little
red-haired Sidney from the ground and held
him suspended by his wide sailor-collar.

" It's Reuben, old Reuben come back ! "
cried the children.

An exclamation followed ; the door was
flung open wide ; Reuben set down the child
with a laugh and passed into the lighted
room.



CHAPTER III.

How should Love,
Whom the cross-hghtnings of four chance-met eyes
Flash into fiery life from nothing, follow
Such dear familiarities of dawn ?
Seldom ; but when he does, Master of all.

Ayhner's Field.

The Leunigers' drawing-room, in which
Reuben now found himself, was a spacious
apartment, hung with primrose coloured
satin, furnished throughout in impeccable
Louis XV. and lighted with incandescent gas
from innumerable chandeliers and sconces.
Beyond, divided by a plush-draped alcove,
was a room of smaller size, where, at present,
could be discerned the intent, Semitic faces
of some half-dozen card-players.

c



i8 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

In the front room four or five young
people in evening dress were grouped, but
at Reuben's entrance they all came forward
with various exclamations of greeting.

" Thought you weren't coming back till
to-morrow ! "

" I shouldn't have known you ; you're as
brown as a berry ! "

" See the conquering hero comes ! "

This last from Rose Leuniger, a fat girl
of twenty, in a tight-fitting blue silk dress,
with the red hair and light eyes d Jieur de
tHe of her little brother.

" I am awfully glad to see you looking
so well, " added Leopold Leuniger, the
owner of the voice.

He was a short, slight person of one or
two-and-twenty, with a picturesque head
of markedly tribal character.

The dark, oval face, bright, melancholy
eyes, alternately dreamy and shrewd ; the



III.] REUBEN SACHS. 19

charming, humorous smile, with its flash
of white even teeth, might have belonged
to some poet or musician, instead of to the
son of a successful Jewish stockbroker.

By his side stood a small, dark, gnome-
like creature, apparently entirely overpowered
by the rich, untidy garments she was wear-
ing. She was a girl, or woman, whose
age it would be difficult to determine, with
small, glittering eyes that outshone the
diamonds in her ears.

Her trailing gown of heavy flowered
brocade was made with an attempt at
picturesqueness ; an intention which was
further evidenced by the studied untidiness
of the tousled hair, and by the thick strings
of amber coiled round the lean brown neck.

This was Esther Kohnthal, the only
child of poor Kohnthal ; and, according
to her own account, the biggest heiress and
the ugliest woman in all Bayswater,

c 2



20 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

Shuffling up awkwardly behind her came
Ernest Leuniger, the eldest son of the
house, of whom it would be unfair to say
that he was an idiot. He was nervous,
delicate ; had a rooted aversion to society ;
and was obliged by his state of health
to spend the greater part of his time in
the country.

Esther used to shrug her shoulders and
smile shrewdly and unpleasantly whenever
this description of what she chose to con-
sider the family skeleton was given out
in her hearing ; she told every one, quite
frankly, that her own father was in a
madhouse.

Judith Quixano came up a little behind
the others, with a hesitation in her man-
ner which was new to her, and of which
she herself was unconscious.

She was twenty-two years of age, in the
very prime of her youth and beauty ; a



III.] REUBEN SACHS. 21

tall, regal-looking creature, with an ex-
quisite dark head, features like those of
a face cut on gem or cameo, and wonder-
ful, lustrous, mournful eyes, entirely out
of keeping with the accepted characteristics
of their owner.

Her smooth, oval cheek glowed with
a rich, yet subdued, hue of perfect health ;
and her tight-fitting fashionable white
evening dress showed to advantage the
generous lines of a figure which was
distinguished for stateliness rather than
grace.

Reuben Sachs had looked straight at this
girl on entering the room ; but he shook
hands with her last of all, clasping her
fingers closely and searching her face
with his eyes. They were not cousins,
her relationship to the Leunigers coming
from the father's side ; but there had always
been between them a fiction of cousinship.



22 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

which had made possible what is rare all
the world over, but rarer than ever in the
Jewish community — an intimacy between
young people of opposite sexes.

" I thought I had better come while I
could. We were before our time," said
Reuben as they sat down, the whole party
of them grouped close together, with the
exception of Ernest, who returned to his
solitaire board, a plaything which afforded
him perpetual occupation. After several
years of practice he had never arrived
at leaving the glass marble in solitary
state on the board ; but he lived in
hopes.

" While you could ! Before, in fact,
fashion had again claimed Mr. Reuben
Sachs for her own," cried Esther.

" I don't know about fashion," answered
Reuben with perfect good temper ; Esther
was Esther, and if you began to mind what



III.] REUBEN SACHS. 23

she said, you would never know where to
stop ; " but there are a hundred things to
be attended to. I suppose every one is going
to the grandpater's feed to-morrow ? "

Every one was going ; then, turning to
Leo, Reuben said: "When do you go
up :

" Not till October 14th."

Leopold Leuniger was on the eve of
his third year at Cambridge.

" What have you been doing this Long ? "

" Oh .... staying about."

" Leo has been stopping with Lord
Norwood, but we are not allowed to mention
it," cried Rose in her loud, penetrating
voice, " in case it should seem that we
are proud."

Leo, who was passing through a sensitive
phase of his growth, winced visibly, and
Reuben said in a matter-of-fact way : " Oh,
by the by, I came across a cousin of Lord



24 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.



Norwood's abroad — Lee-Harrison ; a curious
fellow, but a good fellow."

" A howling swell," added Esther, " with
a double-barrelled name."

" Exactly. But the point about him is
that he has gone over body and soul to
the Jewish community."

There was an ironical exclamation all
round. The Jews, the most clannish and
exclusive of peoples, the most keen to resent
outside criticism, can say hard things of
one another within the walls of the ghetto.

" He says himself, " went on Reuben,
" that he has a taste for relisrion. I believe
he flirted with the Holy Mother for some
years, but didn't get caught. Then he
joined a set of mystics, and lived for three
months on a mountain, somewhere in Asia
Minor. Now he has come round to thinking
Judaism the one religion, and has been
regularly received into the synagogue."



HI.] REUBEN SACHS. 25

"And expects, no doubt," said Esther,
" to be rejoiced over as the one sinner that
repenteth. I hope you didn't shatter his
illusions by telling him that he would
more likely be considered a fool for his
pains :

Reuben laughed, and with an amused
expression on his now animated face went
on : " He has a seat in Berkeley Street,
and a brand new talith, but still he is not
happy. He complains that the Jews he
meets in society are unsatisfactory ; they
have no local colour. I said I thought
I could promise him a little local colour ;
I hope to have the pleasure of introducing
him to you all."

They all laughed with the exception of
Rose, who said, rather offended : " I don't
know about local colour. We don't wear
turbans."

Reuben put back his head, laughing a



26 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

little, and seeking Judith's eyes for the
answering smile he knew he should find
there.

She had been keeping rather in the
background to-night, quietly but intensely
happy.

Reuben was back again ! How delight-
fully familiar was every tone, every inflection
of his voice ! And how well she knew
the changes of his face : the heavy dream-
iness, the imperturbable air of Eastern
gravity ; then lo ! the lifting of the mask ;
the flash and play of kindling features ; the
fire of speaking eyes ; the hundred lights
and shades of expression that she could
so well interpret.

" What do his people say to it all ? "
asked Leo.

" Lee- Harrison's ? Oh, I believe they
take it very sensibly. They say it's only
Bertie," answered Reuben, rising and hold-



III.] REUBEN SACHS. 27

ing out his hand to his uncle, who sauntered
in from the card-room.

He was a short, stout, red-haired man,
closely resembling his daughter, and at the
present moment looked annoyed. The play
was high and he had been losing heavily.

" Let's have some music, Leo," he said,
flinging himself into an arm-chair at some
distance from the young people. Rose, who
was a skilled musician, went over to the
piano, and Leopold took his violin from its
case.

Reuben moved closer to Judith, and,
under cover of the violin tuning, they ex-
changed a few words,

" I can't tell you how glad I am to get
back."

" You look all the better for your trip.
But you must take care and not overdo it
again. It's bad policy."

" It is almost impossible not to."



2 8 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

" But those committees and meetings and
things" (she smiled), ''surely they might
be cut down ? ''

" They are often very useful, indirectly,
to a man in my position," answered Reuben,
who had no intention of saying anything
cynical.

There was a good deal of genuine be-
nevolence in his nature, and an almost
insatiable energy.

He took naturally to the modern forms
of philanthropy : the committees, the
classes, the concerts and meetings. He
found indeed that they had their uses,
both social and political ; higher motives
for attending them were not wanting ; and
he liked them for their own sake besides.
Out-door sports he detested ; the pleasures
of dancing he had exhausted long ago ;
the practice of philanthropy provided a
vent for his many-sided energies.



III.] REUBEN SACHS. 29

The tuning had come to an end by
now, and the musicians had taken up
their position.

Immediately silence fell upon the little
audience, broken only by the click of
counters, the crackle of a bank-note in the
room beyond ; and the sound of Ernest's soli-
taire balls as they dropped into their holes.

Mrs. Leuniger, at the first notes of the
tuning, had stolen in and taken up a
position near the door ; Esther had moved
to a further corner of the room, where she
lay buried in a deep lounge.

Then, all at once, the music broke
forth. The great, vulgar, over-decorated
room, with its garish lights, its stifling
fumes of gas, was filled with the sound
of dreams ; and over the keen faces stole,
like a softening mist, a far-away air of
dreamy sensuousness. The long, delicate
hands of the violinist, the dusky, sensitive



30 REUBEN SACHS. [chap.

face, as he bent lovingly over the
instrument, seemed to vibrate with the
strings over which he had such mastery.

The voice of a troubled soul cried out
to-night in Leo's music, whose accents
even the hard brilliance of his accompanist
failed to drown.

As the bow was drawn across the
strings for the last time, Ernest's solitaire
board fell to the ground with a crash, the
little balls of Venetian glass rolling audibly
in every direction.

The spell was broken ; every one rose,
and the card-players, who by this time
were hungry, came strolling in from the
other room.

Reuben found himself the centre of
much handshaking and congratulation on
his improved appearance. He was popular
with his relatives, enjoying his popularity
and accepting it gracefully.



III.] REUBEN SACHS. 31

" No airs, like that stuck up Leo," the
aunts and uncles used to say.

" There's a spread in the dining-room ;
won't you stay ? " said Rose, as Reuben
held out his hand in farewell.


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