Read CHAPTER THREE - THE SORROWS OF SEIDEN of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on ReadCentral.com.

“Say, lookyhere!” said Isaac Seiden, proprietor of the Sanspareil Waist Company, as he stood in the office of his factory on Greene Street; “what is the use your telling me it is when it ain’t? My wife’s mother never got a brother by the name Pesach.”

He was addressing Mrs. Miriam Saphir, who sat on the edge of the chair nursing her cheek with her left hand. Simultaneously she rocked to and fro and beat her forehead with her clenched fist, while at intervals she made inarticulate sounds through her nose significant of intense suffering.

“I should drop dead in this chair if she didn’t,” she contended. “Why should I lie to you, Mr. Seiden? My own daughter, which I called her Bessie for this here Pesach Gubin, should never got a husband and my other children also, which one of ’em goes around on crutches right now, Mr. Seiden, on account she gets knocked down by a truck.”

“Well, why didn’t she sue him in the courts yet?” Seiden asked. “From being knocked down by a truck many a rich feller got his first start in business already.”

“Her luck, Mr. Seiden!” Mrs. Saphir cried. “A greenhorn owns the truck which it even got a chattel mortgage on it. Such Schlemazel my family got it, Mr. Seiden! If it would be your Beckie, understand me, the least that happens is that a millionaire owns the truck and he settles out of court for ten thousand dollars yet. Some people, if they would be shot with a gun, the bullet is from gold and hits ’em in the pocket already such luck they got it.”

“That ain’t here nor there, Mrs. Saphir,” Seiden declared. “Why should I got to give your Bessie a job, when already I got so many people hanging around my shop, half the time they are spending treading on their toes?”

“Ai, tzuris!” Mrs. Saphir wailed. “My own husband’s Uncle Pesach is from his wife a cousin and he asks me why! Who should people look to for help if it wouldn’t be their family, Mr. Seiden? Should I go and beg from strangers?”

Here Mrs. Saphir succumbed to a wave of self-pity, and she wept aloud.

“Koosh!” Mr. Seiden bellowed. “What do you think I am running here a cemetery? If you want to cry you should go out on the sidewalk.”

“Such hearts people got it,” Mrs. Seiden sobbed, “like a piece from ice.”

“’S enough!” said Mr. Seiden. “I wasted enough time already. You took up pretty near my whole morning, Mrs. Saphir; so once and for all I am telling you you should send your Bessie to work as a learner Monday morning, and if she gets worth it I would pay her just the same wages like anybody else.”

Mrs. Saphir dried her eyes with the back of her hand, while Mr. Seiden walked into his workroom and slammed the door behind him as evidence that the interview was at an end. When he returned a few minutes later Mrs. Saphir was still there waiting for him.

“Well,” he demanded, “what d’ye want of me now?”

For answer Mrs. Saphir beat her forehead and commenced to rock anew. “My last ten cents I am spending it for carfare,” she cried.

“What is that got to do with me?” Seiden asked. “People comes into my office and takes up my whole morning disturbing my business, and I should pay ’em carfare yet? An idée!”

“Only one way I am asking,” Mrs. Saphir said.

“I wouldn’t even give you a transfer ticket,” Mr. Seiden declared, and once more he banged the door behind him with force sufficient to shiver its ground-glass panel.

Mrs. Saphir waited for an interval of ten minutes and then she gathered her shawl about her; and with a final adjustment of her crape bonnet she shuffled out of the office.

Miss Bessie Saphir was a chronic “learner” that is to say, she had never survived the period of instruction in any of the numerous shirt, cloak, dress, and clothing factories in which she had sought employment; and at the end of her second month in the workshop of the Sanspareil Waist Company she appeared to know even less about the manufacture of waists than she did at the beginning of her first week.

“How could any one be so dumm!” Philip Sternsilver cried as he held up a damaged garment for his employer’s inspection, “I couldn’t understand at all. That’s the tenth waist Bessie Saphir ruins on us.”

“Dumm!” Mr. Seiden exclaimed. “What d’ye mean, dumb? You are getting altogether too independent around here, Sternsilver.”

“Me independent!” Philip rejoined. “For what reason I am independent, Mr. Seiden? I don’t understand what you are talking about at all.”

“No?” Seiden said. “Might you don’t know you are calling my wife’s relation dumb, Sternsilver? From a big mouth a feller like you could get himself into a whole lot of trouble.”

“Me calling your wife’s relation dumb, Mr. Seiden?” Sternsilver cried in horrified accents. “I ain’t never said nothing of the sort. What I am saying is that that dümmer cow over there that Bessie Saphir is dumm. I ain’t said a word about your wife’s relations.”

“Loafer!” Seiden shouted in a frenzy. “What d’ye mean?”

Sternsilver commenced to perspire.

“What do I mean?” he murmured. “Why, I am just telling you what I mean.”

“If it wouldn’t be our busy season,” Seiden continued, “I would fire you right out of here und fertig. Did you ever hear the like? Calls my wife’s cousin, Miss Bessie Saphir, a dümmer Ochs!”

“How should I know she’s your wife’s cousin, Mr. Seiden?” Sternsilver protested. “Did she got a label on her?”

“Gets fresh yet!” Seiden exclaimed. “Never mind, Sternsilver. If the learners is dumm it’s the foreman’s fault; and if you couldn’t learn the learners properly I would got to get another foreman which he could learn, and that’s all there is to it.”

He stalked majestically away while Sternsilver turned and gazed at the unconscious subject of their conversation. As he watched her bending over her sewing-machine a sense of injustice rankled in his breast, for there could be no doubt the epithet dümmer Ochs, as applied to Miss Saphir, was not only justified but eminently appropriate.

Her wide cheekbones, flat nose, and expressionless eyes suggested at once the calm, ruminating cow; and there was not even lacking a piece of chewing-gum between her slowly moving jaws to complete the portrait.

“A girl like her should got rich relations yet,” he murmured to himself. “A Schnorrer wouldn’t marry her, not if her uncles was Rothschilds oder Carnegies. You wouldn’t find the mate to her outside a dairy farm.”

As he turned away, however, the sight of Hillel Fatkin wielding a pair of shears gave him the lie; for, if Miss Bessie Saphir’s cheekbones were broad, Hillel’s were broader. In short, Hillel’s features compared to Bessie’s as the head of a Texas steer to that of a Jersey heifer.

Sternsilver noticed the resemblance with a smile just as Mr. Seiden returned to the workroom.

“Sternsilver,” he said, “ain’t you got nothing better to do that you should be standing around grinning like a fool? Seemingly you think a foreman don’t got to work at all.”

“I was laying out some work for the operators over there, Mr. Seiden,” Philip replied. “Oncet in a while a feller must got to think, Mr. Seiden.”

“What d’ye mean, think?” Seiden exclaimed. “Who asks you you should think, Sternsilver? You get all of a sudden such großartig notions. ‘Must got to think,’ sagt er! I am the only one which does the thinking here, Sternsilver. Now you go right ahead and tend to them basters.”

Sternsilver retired at once to the far end of the workroom, where he proceeded to relieve his outraged feeling by criticising Hillel Fatkin’s work in excellent imitation of his employer’s bullying manner.

“What is the matter, Mr. Sternsilver, you are all the time picking on me so?” Hillel demanded. “I am doing my best here and certainly if you don’t like my work I could quick go somewheres else. I ain’t a Schnorrer exactly, Mr. Sternsilver. I got in savings bank already a couple hundred dollars which I could easy start a shop of my own; so I ain’t asking no favours from nobody.”

“You shouldn’t worry yourself, Fatkin,” Sternsilver said. “Nobody is going to do you no favours around here. On the contrary, Fatkin, the way you are ruining garments around here, sooner as do you favours we would sue you in the courts yet, and you could kiss yourself good-bye with your two hundred dollars in savings bank. Furthermore, for an operator you are altogether too independent, Fatkin.”

“Maybe I am and maybe I ain’t,” Fatkin retorted with simple dignity. “My father was anyhow from decent, respectable people in Grodno, Sternsilver; and even if I wouldn’t got a sister which she is married to Sam Kupferberg’s cousin, y’understand, Sam would quick fix me up by the Madison Street court. You shouldn’t throw me no bluffs, Sternsilver. Go ahead and sue.”

He waited for his foreman to utter a suitable rejoinder, but none came, for in Fatkin’s disclosure of a two-hundred dollar deposit in the savings bank and his sister’s relationship to Sam Kupferberg, the well-known legal practitioner of Madison Street, Philip Sternsilver conceived a brilliant idea.

“I ain’t saying we would sue you exactly, understand me,” he replied. “All I am saying, Hillel, is you should try and be a little more careful with your work, y’understand.”

Here Sternsilver looked over from Hillel’s bovine features to the dull countenance of Miss Bessie Saphir.

“A feller which he has got money in the bank and comes from decent, respectable people like you, Hillel,” he concluded, “if they work hard there is nothing which they couldn’t do, y’understand. All they got to look out for is they shouldn’t Jonah themselves with their bosses, y’understand.”

“Bosses!” Hillel repeated. “What d’ye mean, bosses? Might you got an idée you are my boss maybe, Sternsilver?”

“Me, I ain’t saying nothing about it at all,” Sternsilver declared. “I am only saying something which it is for your own good; and if you don’t believe me, Hillel, come out with me lunch time and have a cup coffee. I got a few words, something important, to tell you.”

For the remainder of the forenoon Sternsilver busied himself about the instruction of Miss Bessie Saphir. Indeed, so assiduously did he apply himself to his task that at half-past eleven Mr. Seiden was moved to indignant comment. He beckoned Sternsilver to accompany him to the office and when he reached the door he broke into an angry tirade:

“Nu, Sternsilver,” he began, “ain’t you got to do nothing else but learn that girl the whole morning? What do I pay a foreman wages he should fool away his time like that?”

“What d’ye mean, fool away my time, Mr. Seiden?” Sternsilver protested. “Ain’t you told me I should learn her something, on account she is a relation from your wife already?”

“Sure, I told you you should learn her something,” Seiden admitted; “but I ain’t told you you should learn her everything in one morning already. She ain’t such a close relation as all that, y’understand. The trouble with you is, Sternsilver, you don’t use your head at all. A foreman must got to think oncet in a while, Sternsilver. Don’t leave all the thinking to the boss, Sternsilver. I got other things to bother my head over, Sternsilver, without I should go crazy laying out the work in the shop for the foreman.”

Thus admonished, Sternsilver returned to the workroom more strongly convinced than ever that, unless he could carry out the idea suggested by his conversation with Fatkin, there would be a summary ending to his job as foreman. As soon, therefore, as the lunch-hour arrived he hustled Fatkin to a Bath-brick dairy restaurant and then and there unfolded his scheme.

“Say, listen here, Fatkin,” he commenced. “Why don’t a young feller like you get married?”

Fatkin remained silent. He was soaking zwieback in coffee and applying it to his face in such a manner that the greater part of it filled his mouth and rendered conversation impossible.

“There’s many a nice girl, which she could cook herself and wash herself A Number One, y’understand, would be only too glad to get a decent, respectable feller like you,” Sternsilver went on.

Hillel Fatkin acknowledged the compliment by a tremendous fit of coughing, for in his embarrassment he had managed to inhale a crum of the zwieback. His effort to remove it nearly strangled him, but at length the dislodged particle found a target in the right eye of an errand boy sitting opposite. For some moments Sternsilver was unable to proceed, by reason of the errand boy’s tribute to Hillel’s table manners. Indeed, so masterly was this example of profane invective that the manager of the lunchroom, without inquiring into the merits of the controversy, personally led Hillel’s victim to the door and kicked him firmly into the gutter. After this, Philip Sternsilver proceeded with the unfolding of his plan.

“Yes, Hillel,” he said, “I mean it. For a young feller like you even a girl which she got rich relations like Seiden ain’t too good.”

“Seiden?” Hillel interrupted, with a supercilious shrug. “What is Seiden? I know his people from old times in Grodno yet. So poor they were, y’understand, his Großmutter would be glad supposing my Großmutter, olav hasholam, would send her round a couple pieces clothing to wash. The whole family was beggars one worser as the other.”

“Sure, I know,” Philip said; “but look where he is to-day, Hillel. You got to give him credit, Hillel. He certainly worked himself up wonderful, and why? Because the feller saves his money, understand me, and then he turns around and goes to work to pick out a wife, and married right.”

“What are you talking nonsense got married right?” Hillel said. “Do you mean to told me that Seiden is getting married right? An idée! What for a family was all them Gubins, Sternsilver? The one Uncle Pesach was a low-life bum a Shikerrer which he wouldn’t stop at nothing, from Schnapps to varnish. Furthermore, his father, y’understand, got into trouble once on account he ganvers a couple chickens; and if it wouldn’t be for my Großvater, which he was for years a Rav in Telshi a very learned man, Sternsilver no one knows what would have become of them people at all.”

For the remainder of the lunch-hour Hillel so volubly demonstrated himself to be the Debrett, Burke, and Almanach de Gotha of Grodno, Telshi, and vicinity that Sternsilver was obliged to return to the factory with his scheme barely outlined.

Nevertheless, on his journey back to Greene Street he managed to interrupt Hillel long enough to ask him if he was willing to get married.

“I don’t say I wouldn’t,” Hillel replied, “supposing I would get a nice girl. Aber one thing I wouldn’t do, Sternsilver. I wouldn’t take no one which she ain’t coming from decent, respectable people, y’understand; and certainly, if a feller got a couple hundred dollars in savings bank, Sternsilver, he’s got a right to expect a little consideration. Ain’t it?”

This ultimatum brought them to the door of the factory, and when they entered further conversation was summarily prevented by Mr. Seiden himself.

“Sternsilver,” Mr. Seiden bellowed at him, “where was you?”

“Couldn’t I get oncet in a while a few minutes I should eat my lunch, Mr. Seiden?” Sternsilver replied. “I am entitled to eat, ain’t I, Mr. Seiden?”

“‘Entitled to eat,’ sagt er, when the operators is carrying on so they pretty near tear the place to pieces already!” Seiden exclaimed. “A foreman must got to be in the workroom, lunch-hour oder no lunch-hour, Sternsilver. Me, I do everything here. I get no assistance at all.”

He walked off toward the office; and after Sternsilver had started up the motor, which supplied power for the sewing-machines, he followed his employer.

“Mr. Seiden,” he began, “I don’t know what comes over you lately. Seemingly nothing suits you at all and me I am all the time doing my very best to help you out.”

“Is that so?” Seiden replied ironically. “Since when is the foreman helping out the boss if he would go and spend a couple hours for his lunch, making a hog out of himself, Sternsilver?”

“I ain’t making a hog out of myself, Mr. Seiden,” Philip continued. “If I am going out of the factory for my lunch, Mr. Seiden, I got my reasons for it.”

Seiden glared at his foreman for some minutes; ordinarily Sternsilver’s manner was diffident to the point of timidity, and this newborn courage temporarily silenced Mr. Seiden.

“The way you are talking, Sternsilver,” he said at last, “to hear you go on any one would think you are the boss and I am the foreman.”

“In business, yes,” Philip rejoined, “you are the boss, Mr. Seiden; but outside of business a man could be a Mensch as well as a foreman. Ain’t it?”

Seiden stared at the unruffled Sternsilver, who allowed no opportunity for a retort by immediately going on with his dissertation.

“Even operators also,” he said. “Hillel Fatkin is an operator, y’understand, but he has got anyhow a couple hundred dollars in the savings bank; and when it comes to family, Mr. Seiden, he’s from decent, respectable people in the old country. His own grandfather was a rabbi, y’understand.”

“What the devil’s that got to do with me, Sternsilver?” Seiden asked. “I don’t know what you are talking about at all.”

Sternsilver disregarded the interruption.

“Operator oder foreman, Mr. Seiden, what is the difference when it comes to a poor girl like Miss Bessie Saphir, which, even supposing she is a relation from your wife, she ain’t so young no longer? Furthermore, with some faces which a girl got it she could have a heart from gold, y’understand, and what is it? Am I right or wrong, Mr. Seiden?”

Mr. Seiden made no reply. He was blinking at vacancy while his mind reverted to an afternoon call paid uptown by Mrs. Miriam Saphir. As a corollary, Mrs. Seiden had kept him awake half the night, and the burden of her jeremiad was: “What did you ever done for my relations? Tell me that.”

“Say, lookyhere, Sternsilver,” he said at length, “what are you trying to drive into?”

“I am driving into this, Mr. Seiden,” Philip replied: “Miss Bessie Saphir must got to get married some time. Ain’t it?”

Seiden nodded.

“Schon gut!” Sternsilver continued. “There’s no time like the present.”

A forced smile started to appear on Seiden’s face, when the door leading to the public hall opened and a bonneted and shawled figure appeared. It was none other than Mrs. Miriam Saphir.

“Ai, tzuris!” she cried; and sinking into the nearest chair she began forthwith to rock to and fro and to beat her forehead with her clenched fist.

“Nu!” Seiden exploded. “What’s the trouble now?”

Mrs. Saphir ceased rocking. On leaving home she had provided herself with a pathetic story which would not only excuse her presence in Seiden’s factory but was also calculated to wring at least seventy-five cents from Seiden himself. Unfortunately she had forgotten to go over the minor details of the narrative on her way downtown, and now even the main points escaped her by reason of a heated altercation with the conductor of a Third Avenue car. The matter in dispute was her tender, in lieu of fare, of a Brooklyn transfer ticket which she had found between the pages of a week-old newspaper. For the first ten blocks of her ride she had feigned ignorance of the English language, and five blocks more were consumed in the interpretation, by a well-meaning passenger, of the conductor’s urgent demands. Another five blocks passed in Mrs. Saphir’s protestations that she had received the transfer in question from the conductor of a Twenty-third Street car; failing the accuracy of which statement, she expressed the hope that her children should all drop dead and that she herself might never stir from her seat. This brought the car to Bleecker Street, where the conductor rang the bell and invited Mrs. Saphir to alight. Her first impulse was to defy him to the point of a constructive assault, with its attendant lawsuit against the railroad company; but she discovered that, in carrying out her project to its successful issue, she had already gone one block past her destination. Hence she walked leisurely down the aisle; and after pausing on the platform to adjust her shawl and bonnet she descended to the street with a parting scowl at the conductor, who immediately broke the bell-rope in starting the car.

“Nu!” Seiden repeated. “Couldn’t you open your mouth at all? What’s the matter?”

Mrs. Saphir commenced to rock tentatively, but Seiden stopped her with a loud “Koosh!”

“What do you want from me?” he demanded.

“Meine Tochter Bessie,” she replied, “she don’t get on at all.”

“What d’ye mean, she don’t get on at all?” Seiden interrupted. “Ain’t I doing all I could for her? I am learning her the business; and what is more, Mrs. Saphir, I got a feller which he wants to marry her, too. Ain’t that right, Sternsilver?”

Philip nodded vigorously and Mrs. Saphir sat up in her chair.

“Him?” she asked.

“Sure; why not?” Seiden answered.

“But, Mr. Seiden ” Sternsilver cried.

“Koosh, Sternsilver,” Seiden said. “Don’t you mind that woman at all. If Bessie was my own daughter even, I would give my consent.”

“Aber, Mr. Seiden ” Sternsilver cried again in anguished tones, but further protest was choked off by Mrs. Saphir, who rose from her seat with surprising alacrity and seized Philip around the neck. For several minutes she kissed him with loud smacking noises, and by the time he had disengaged himself Seiden had brought in Miss Bessie Saphir. As she blushingly laid her hand in Sternsilver’s unresisting clasp Seiden patted them both on the shoulder.

“For a business man, Sternsilver,” he said, “long engagements is nix; and to show you that I got a heart, Sternsilver, I myself would pay for the wedding, which would be in two weeks at the latest.”

He turned to Mrs. Miriam Saphir.

“I congradulate you,” he said. “And now get out of here!”

For the next ten days Mr. and Mrs. Seiden and Miss Saphir were so busy with preparations for the wedding that they had no leisure to observe Sternsilver’s behaviour. He proved to be no ardent swain; and, although Bessie was withdrawn from the factory on the day following her betrothal, Sternsilver called at her residence only twice during the first week of their engagement.

“I didn’t think the feller got so much sense,” Seiden commented when Bessie Saphir complained of Philip’s coldness.

“He sees you got your hands full getting ready, so he don’t bother you at all.”

As for Seiden, he determined to spare no expense, up to two hundred and fifty dollars, in making the wedding festivités greatly redound to his credit both socially and in a business way.

To that end he had dispatched over a hundred invitations to the wholesale houses from which he purchased goods.

“You see what I am doing for you,” he said to Sternsilver one morning, a week before the wedding day. “Not only in postage stamps I am spending my money but the printing also costs me a whole lot, too, I bet yer.”

“What is the use spending money for printing when you got a typewriter which she is setting half the time doing nothing, Mr. Seiden?” Philip protested.

“That’s what I told Mrs. Seiden,” his employer replied, “and she goes pretty near crazy. She even wanted me I should got ’em engraved, so großartig she becomes all of a sudden. Printing is good enough, Sternsilver. Just lookyhere at this now, how elegant it is.”

He handed Philip an invitation which read as follows:

MR. AND MRS. I. SEIDEN AND MRS. MIRIAM SAPHIR

REQUEST THE HONOUR OF

THE INTERCOLONIAL TEXTILE COMPANY’S

PRESENCE AT THE MARRIAGE OF HER DAUGHTER

BESSIE

TO

MR. PHILIP STERNSILVER

ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 1909, AT SIX O’CLOCK

NEW RIGA HALL, 522 ALLEN STREET, NEW YORK


Bride’s Address:
c/o SANSPAREIL WAIST COMPANY

ISAAC SEIDEN, Proprietor Waists in Marquisette, Voile,
Lingerie, Crepe and Novelty Silks also a Full Line of Lace
and Hand-embroidered Waists

800 GREENE STREET, NEW YORK CITY

“What’s the use you are inviting a corporation to a wedding, Mr. Seiden?” Philip said as he returned the invitation with a heavy sigh. “A corporation couldn’t eat nothing, Mr. Seiden.”

“Sure, I know,” Seiden replied. “I ain’t asking ’em they should eat anything, Sternsilver. All I am wanting of ’em is this: Here it is in black and white. Me and Beckie and that old Schnorrer, Mrs. Saphir, requests the honour of the Intercolonial Company’s presents at the marriage of their daughter. You should know a corporation’s presents is just as good as anybody else’s presents, Sternsilver. Ain’t it?”

Sternsilver nodded gloomily.

“Also I am sending invitations to a dozen of my best customers and to a couple of high-price sales-men. Them fellers should loosen up also oncet in a while. Ain’t I right?”

Again Sternsilver nodded and returned to the factory where, at hourly intervals during the following week, Seiden accosted him and issued bulletins of the arrival of wedding presents and the acceptance of invitations to the ceremony.

“What do you think for a couple of small potatoes like Kugel & Mishkin?” he said. “If I bought a cent from them people during the last five years I must of bought three hundred dollars’ worth of buttons; and they got the nerve to send a half a dozen coffee spoons, which they are so light, y’understand, you could pretty near see through ’em.”

Sternsilver received this news with a manner suggesting a cramped swimmer coming up for the second time.

“Never mind, Sternsilver,” Seiden continued reassuringly, “we got a whole lot of people to hear from yet. I bet yer the Binder & Baum Manufacturing Company, the least you get from ’em is a piece of cut glass which it costs, at wholesale yet, ten dollars.”

Sternsilver’s distress proceeded from another cause, however; for that very morning he had made a desperate resolve, which was no less than to leave the Borough of Manhattan and to begin life anew in Philadelphia. From the immediate execution of the plan he was deterred only by one circumstance lack of funds; and this he proposed to overcome by borrowing from Fatkin. Indeed, when he pondered the situation, he became convinced that Fatkin, as the cause of his dilemma, ought to be the means of his extrication. He therefore broached the matter of a loan more in the manner of a lender than a borrower.

“Say, lookyhere, Fatkin,” he said on the day before the wedding, “I got to have some money right away.”

Fatkin shrugged philosophically.

“A whole lot of fellers feels the same way,” he said.

“Only till Saturday week,” Sternsilver continued, “and I want you should give me twenty-five dollars.”

“Me?” Fatkin exclaimed.

“Sure, you,” Sternsilver said; “and I want it now.”

“Don’t make me no jokes, Sternsilver,” Fatkin replied.

“I ain’t joking, Fatkin; far from it,” Sternsilver declared. “To-morrow it is all fixed for the wedding and I got to have twenty-five dollars.”

“What d’ye mean, to-morrow is fixed for the wedding?” Fatkin retorted indignantly. “Do you want to get married on my money yet?”

“I don’t want the money to get married on,” Sternsilver protested. “I want it for something else again.”

“My worries! What you want it for?” Fatkin concluded, with a note of finality in his tone. “I would oser give you twenty-five cents.”

“’S enough, Fatkin!” Sternsilver declared. “I heard enough from you already. You was the one which got me into this Schlemazel and now you should get me out again.”

“What do you mean, getting you into a Schlemazel?”

“You know very well what I mean,” Philip replied; “and, furthermore, Fatkin, you are trying to make too free with me. Who are you, anyhow, you should turn me down when I ask you for a few days twenty-five dollars? You act so independent, like you would be the foreman.”

Hillel nodded slowly, not without dignity.

“Never mind, Sternsilver,” he said; “if my family would got a relation, y’understand, which he is working in Poliakoff’s Bank and he is got to run away on account he is missing in five thousand rubles, which it is the same name Sternsilver, and everybody in Kovno the children even knows about it, understand me, I wouldn’t got to be so stuck up at all.”

Sternsilver flushed indignantly.

“Do you mean to told me,” he demanded, “that I got in my family such a man which he is stealing five thousand rubles, Fatkin?”

“That’s what I said,” Hillel retorted.

“Well, it only goes to show what a liar you are,” Sternsilver rejoined. “Not only was it he stole ten thousand rubles, y’understand, but the bank was run by a feller by the name Louis Moser.”

“All right,” Fatkin said as he started up his sewing-machine by way of signifying that the interview was at an end. “All right, Sternsilver; if you got such a relation which he ganvered ten thousand rubles, y’understand, borrow from him the twenty-five dollars.”

Thus Sternsilver was obliged to amend his resolution by substituting Jersey City for Philadelphia as the seat of his new start in life; and at half-past eleven that evening, when the good ferryboat Cincinnati drew out of her slip at the foot of Desbrosses Street, a short, thick-set figure leaned over her bow and gazed sadly, perhaps for the last time, at the irregular sky-line of Manhattan. It was Sternsilver.

When Mr. Seiden arrived at his factory the following morning he found his entire force of operators gathered on the stairway and overflowing on to the sidewalk.

“What is the matter you are striking on me?” he cried.

“Striking!” Hillel Fatkin said. “What do you mean, striking on you, Mr. Seiden? We ain’t striking. Sternsilver ain’t come down this morning and nobody was here he should open up the shop.”

“Do you mean to told me Sternsilver ain’t here?” Seiden exclaimed.

“All right; then I’m a liar, Mr. Seiden,” Hillel replied. “You asked me a simple question, Mr. Seiden, and I give you a plain, straightforward answer. My Großvater, olav hasholam, which he was a very learned man for years a rabbi in Telshi used to say: ’If some one tells you you are lying, understand me, and ”

At this juncture Seiden opened the factory door and the entire mob of workmen plunged forward, sweeping Hillel along, with his quotation from the ethical maxims of his grandfather only half finished. For the next quarter of an hour Seiden busied himself in starting up his factory and then he repaired to the office to open the mail.

In addition to three or four acceptances of invitations there was a dirty envelope bearing on its upper left-hand corner the mark of a third-rate Jersey City hotel. Seiden ripped it open and unfolded a sheet of letter paper badly scrawled in Roman capitals as follows:

“December 12.

“I. SEIDEN:

“We are come to tell you which Mr. Philip Sternsilver is gone out West to Kenses Citter. So don’t fool yourself he would not be at the wedding. What do you think a fine man like him would marry such a cow like Miss Bessie Saphir?

“And oblige yours truly,

“A. WELLWISHER.”

For at least a quarter of an hour after reading the letter Mr. Seiden sat in his office doing sums in mental arithmetic. He added postage on invitations to cost of printing same and carried the result in his mind; next he visualized in one column the sum paid for furnishing Bessie’s flat, the price of Mrs. Seiden’s new dress estimated; caterers’ fees for serving dinner and hire of New Riga Hall. The total fairly stunned him, and for another quarter of an hour he remained seated in his chair. Then came the realization that twenty-five commission houses, two high-grade drummers, and at least five customers, rating L to J credit good, were even then preparing to attend a groomless wedding; and he spurred himself to action.

He ran to the telephone, but as he grabbed the receiver from the hook he became suddenly motionless.

“Nu,” he murmured after a few seconds. “Why should I make a damn fool of myself and disappoint all them people for a greenhorn like Sternsilver?”

Once more he sought his chair, and incoherent plans for retrieving the situation chased one another through his brain until he felt that his intellect was giving way. It was while he was determining to call the whole thing off that Hillel Fatkin entered.

“Mr. Seiden,” he said, “could I speak to you a few words something?”

He wore an air of calm dignity that only a long rabbinical ancestry can give, and his errand in his employer’s office was to announce his impending resignation, as a consequence of Seiden’s offensive indifference to the memory of Hillel’s grandfather. When Seiden looked up, however, his mind reverted not to Hillel’s quotation of his grandfather’s maxims, but to Sternsilver’s conversation on the day of the betrothal; and Hillel’s dignity suggested to him, instead of distinguished ancestry, a savings-bank account of two hundred dollars. He jumped immediately to his feet.

“Sit down, Fatkin,” he cried.

Hillel seated himself much as his grandfather might have done in the house of an humble disciple, blending dignity and condescension in just the right proportions.

“So,” he said, referring to Mr. Seiden’s supposed contrition for the affront to the late rabbi, “when it is too late, Mr. Seiden, you are sorry.”

“What do you mean, sorry?” Mr. Seiden replied. “Believe me, Fatkin, I am glad to be rid of the feller. I could get just as good foremen as him without going outside this factory even for instance, you.”

“Me!” Fatkin cried.

“Sure; why not?” Seiden continued. “A foreman must got to be fresh to the operators, anyhow; and if you ain’t fresh, Fatkin, I don’t know who is.”

“Me fresh!” Fatkin exclaimed.

“I ain’t kicking you are too fresh, y’understand,” Seiden said. “I am only saying you are fresh enough to be a foreman.”

Fatkin shrugged. “Very well, Mr. Seiden,” he said in a manner calculated to impress Seiden with the magnitude of the favour. “Very well; if you want me to I would go to work as foreman for you.”

Seiden with difficulty suppressed a desire to kick Hillel and smiled blandly.

“Schon gut,” he said. “You will go to work Monday morning.”

“Why not to-day, Mr. Seiden?” Hillel asked.

Seiden smiled again and this time it was not so bland as it was mechanical, suggesting the pulling of an invisible string.

“Because, Fatkin, you are going to be too busy to-day,” Seiden replied. “A feller couldn’t start in to work as a foreman and also get married all in one day.”

Hillel stared at his employer.

“Me get married, Mr. Seiden! What are you talking nonsense, Mr. Seiden? I ain’t going to get married at all.”

“Oh, yes, you are, Fatkin,” Seiden replied. “You are going to get married to Miss Bessie Saphir at New Riga Hall, on Allen Street, to-night, six o’clock sharp; otherwise you wouldn’t go to work as foreman at all.”

Hillel rose from his chair and then sat down again.

“Do you mean to told me I must got to marry Miss Bessie Saphir before I can go to work as foreman?” he demanded.

“You got it right, Fatkin,” Seiden said.

“Then I wouldn’t do no such thing,” Fatkin retorted and made for the door.

“Hold on!” Seiden shouted, seizing Fatkin by the arm. “Don’t be a fool, Fatkin. What are you throwing away a hundred dollars cash for?”

“Me throw away a hundred dollars cash?” Fatkin blurted out.

“Sure,” Seiden answered. “If you would marry Miss Bessie Saphir you would not only get by me a job as foreman, but also I am willing to give you a hundred dollars cash.”

Fatkin returned to the office and again sat down opposite his employer.

“Say, lookyhere, Mr. Seiden,” he said, “I want to tell you something. You are springing on me suddenly a proposition which it is something you could really say is remarkable. Ain’t it?”

Seiden nodded.

“Miss Bessie Saphir, which she is anyhow her own best friend would got to admit it homely like anything, Mr. Seiden,” Fatkin continued, “is going to marry Sternsilver; and just because Sternsilver runs away, I should jump in and marry her like I would be nobody!”

Seiden nodded again.

“Another thing, Mr. Seiden,” Hillel went on. “What is a hundred dollars? My Großvater, olav hasholam which he was a very learned man, for years a rabbi in Telshi ”

“Sure, I know, Fatkin,” Seiden interrupted. “You told me that before.”

“ for years a rabbi in Telshi,” Hillel repeated, not deigning to notice the interruption save by a malevolent glare, “used to say: ’Soon married, quick divorced.’ Why should I bring tzuris on myself by doing this thing, Mr. Seiden?”

Seiden treated the question as rhetorical and made no reply.

“Also I got in bank nearly three hundred dollars, Mr. Seiden,” he concluded; “and even if I was a feller which wouldn’t be from such fine family in the old country, understand me, three hundred dollars is three hundred dollars, Mr. Seiden, and that’s all there is to it.”

Seiden pondered deeply for a minute.

“All right, Fatkin,” he said; “make it a hundred and fifty dollars und fertig.”

“Three hundred dollars oder nothing!” Fatkin replied firmly; and after half an hour of more or less acrid discussion Fatkin agreed to accept Miss Bessie Saphir plus three hundred dollars and a job as foreman.

An inexplicable phase of the criminal’s character is the instinct which impels him to revisit the scene of his crime; and, whether he was led thither by a desire to gloat or by mere vulgar curiosity, Philip Sternsilver slunk within the shadow of an L-road pillar on Allen Street opposite New Riga Hall promptly at half-past five that evening.

First to arrive was Isaac Seiden himself. He bore a heavily laden suitcase, and his face was distorted in an expression of such intense gloom that Sternsilver almost found it in his heart to be sorry for his late employer.

Mrs. Seiden, Miss Bessie Saphir, and Mrs. Miriam Saphir next appeared. They were chattering in an animated fashion and passed into the hall in a gale of laughter.

“Must be he didn’t told ’em yet,” Sternsilver muttered to himself.

Then came representatives of commission houses and several L to J customers attired in appropriate wedding finery; and as they entered the hall Sternsilver deemed that the pertinent moment for disappearing had arrived. He left hurriedly before the advent of two high-grade salesmen, or he might have noticed in their wake the dignified figure of Hillel Fatkin, arrayed in a fur overcoat, which covered a suit of evening clothes and was surmounted by a high silk hat. Hillel walked slowly, as much in the realization that haste was unbecoming to a bridegroom as on account of his patent-leather shoes, which were half a size too small for him; for the silk hat, fur overcoat, patent-leather shoes, and dress suit were all hired, and formed Combination Wedding Outfit N in the catalogue of the Imperial Dress-suit Parlour on Rivington Street. It was listed at five dollars a wedding, but the proprietress, to whom Hillel had boasted of his rabbinical ancestry, concluded to allow him a clerical discount of 20 per cent. when he hesitated between his ultimate selection and the three dollar Combination N, which did not include the fur overcoat.

The extra dollar was well invested, for the effect of Combination N upon Miss Bessie Saphir proved to be electrical. At first sight of it, she dismissed forever the memory of the fickle Sternsilver, who, at the very moment when Bessie and Hillel were plighting their troth, regaled himself with mohnkuchen and coffee at a neighbouring cafe.

He sat in an obscure corner behind the lady cashier’s desk; and as he consumed his supper with hearty appetite he could not help overhearing the conversation she was carrying on with a rotund personage who was none other than Sam Kupferberg, the well-known Madison Street advocate.

“For a greenhorn like him,” said Sam, “he certainly done well. He ain’t been in the place a year, y’understand, and to-night he marries a relation of his boss and he gets a job as foreman and three hundred dollars in the bargain.”

The cashier clucked with her tongue. “S’imagine!” she commented.

“Mind you,” Sam continued, “only this afternoon yet, Seiden tells him he should marry the girl, as this other feller backed out; and he stands out for three hundred dollars, y’understand, and a job as foreman. What could Seiden do? He had to give in, and they’re being married right now in New Riga Hall.”

“S’imagine!” the cashier said again, adjusting her pompadour.

“And, furthermore,” Sam continued, “the girl is a relation of Seiden’s wife, y’understand.”

“My Gawd, ketch him!” the cashier exclaimed; and Sam Kupferberg grabbed Philip Sternsilver just as he was disappearing into the street. It was some minutes before Philip could be brought to realize that he owed ten cents for his supper, but when he was at length released he made up for lost time. His progress down Allen Street was marked by two overturned pushcarts and a trail of tumbled children; and, despite this havoc, when he arrived at New Riga Hall the ceremony was finished by half an hour or more.

Indeed, the guests were gathered about the supper table and soup had just been served, when the proprietor of the hall tiptoed to the bridal table and whispered in Isaac Seiden’s ear:

“A feller by the name of Sternsilver wants to speak a few words something to you,” he said.

Seiden turned pale, and leaving half a plateful of soup uninhaled he rose from the table and followed the proprietor to the latter’s private office. There sat Philip Sternsilver gasping for breath.

“Murderer!” he shouted as Seiden entered. “You are shedding my blood.”

“Koosh, Sternsilver!” Seiden hissed. “Ain’t you got no shame for the people at all?”

“Where is my Bessie my life?” Sternsilver wailed. “Without you are making any inquiries at all you are marrying her to a loafer. Me, I am nothing! What is it to you I am pretty near killed in the street last night and must got to go to a hospital! For years I am working for you already, day in, day out, without I am missing a single forenoon even and you are treating me like this!”

It was now Seiden’s turn to gasp.

“What d’ye mean?” he cried, searching in his coat pocket. “Ain’t you wrote me this here letter?”

He produced the missive received by him that morning and handed it to Sternsilver, who, unnoticed by the excited Seiden, returned it without even glancing at its contents.

“I never seen it before,” he declared. “Why should I write printing? Don’t you suppose I can write writing, Mr. Seiden?”

“Who did send it, then?” Seiden asked.

“It looks to me” said Sternsilver, who grew calmer as Seiden became more agitated “it looks to me like that sucker Fatkin writes it.”

“What!” Seiden yelled. “And me I am paying him cash three hundred dollars he should marry that girl! Even a certified check he wouldn’t accept.”

Although this information was not new to Sternsilver, to hear it thus at first hand seemed to infuriate him.

“What!” he howled. “You are giving that greenhorn three hundred dollars yet to marry such a beautiful girl like my Bessie!”

He buried his face in his hands and rocked to and fro in his chair.

“Never mind, Sternsilver,” Seiden said comfortingly; “you shouldn’t take on so she ain’t so beautiful; and, as for that feller Fatkin ”

“You are talking about me, Mr. Seiden?” said a voice in the doorway.

Sternsilver looked up and once again Wedding Outfit Combination N conquered; for assuredly, had Fatkin been arrayed in his working clothes, he would have suffered a personal assault at the hands of his late foreman.

“Mr. Seiden,” Fatkin continued, “never mind; I could stand it somebody calls me names, but Mr. Latz wants to know what is become of you for the last quarter of an hour. Mr. Latz tells me during November alone he buys from us eight hundred dollars goods.”

“Us!” Seiden cried, employing three inflections to the monosyllable.

Before Seiden could protest further, however, Sternsilver had recovered from the partial hypnosis of Combination N, and he gave tongue like a foxhound:

“Oe-ee tzuris!” he wailed.

“Koosh!” Fatkin cried, closing the door. “What do you want here?”

“You know what I want,” Sternsilver sobbed. “You are stealing from me three hundred dollars.”

Fatkin turned to Seiden and gazed at him reproachfully.

“Mr. Seiden,” he said, “what for you are telling me that Sternsilver wouldn’t get a cent with Bessie? And you are trying to get me I should be satisfied with a hundred dollars yet. Honestly, Mr. Seiden, I am surprised at you.”

“Schmooes, Fatkin!” Seiden protested. “I never promised to give him nothing. Dreams he got it.”

Sternsilver rose from his seat.

“Do you mean to told me that a greenhorn like him you would give three hundred dollars,” he asked, “and me you wouldn’t give nothing?”

“You!” Fatkin bellowed. “What are you? You are coming to me throwing a bluff that you got a relation by the name of Sternsilver, which he ganvers ten thousand rubles from Moser’s Bank, in Kovno; and this afternoon yet, I find out the feller’s name was Steinsilver not Sternsilver; which he ain’t got a relation in the world, y’understand. Faker!”

Sternsilver nodded his head slowly.

“Faker, am I?” he said. “All right, Mr. Fatkin; if I am a faker I will show you what I would do. You and this here Seiden fix it up between you, because I am all of a sudden sick in the hospital, that you steal away my Bessie and the three hundred dollars also. Schon gut! I would sue you both in the courts und fertig!”

“Sternsilver is right, in a way,” Seiden said, “even though he is a bum. What for did you write me this letter, Fatkin?”

“Me write you that letter, Mr. Seiden!” Fatkin protested as he looked at the document in question. “Why, Mr. Seiden, I can’t write printing. It is all I can do to write writing. And, besides, Mr. Seiden, until you are telling me about getting married, the idée never enters my head at all.”

There could be no mistaking Fatkin’s sincerity, and Seiden turned to Sternsilver with a threatening gesture.

“Out!” he cried. “Out of here before I am sending for a policeman to give you arrested.”

“Don’t make me no bluffs, Seiden!” Sternsilver answered calmly. “Either you would got to settle with me now oder I would go right upstairs and tell them commission houses and customers which you got there all about it. What do you take me for, Seiden a greenhorn?”

“Fatkin,” Seiden commanded, “do you hear what I am telling you? Take this loafer and throw him into the street.”

“Me?” Fatkin said. “What are you talking nonsense, Mr. Seiden? I should throw him into the street when I am standing to lose on the coat alone ten dollars!”

Seiden looked at Fatkin and the validity of his objection was at once apparent.

“Nu, Sternsilver,” he said. “Be a good feller. Here is five dollars. Go away and leave us alone.”

Sternsilver laughed aloud.

“You are talking like I would be a child, Seiden!” he said. “Either you would give me cash a hundred dollars oder I would go right away upstairs to the customers.”

Seiden turned to Fatkin.

“Fatkin,” he said, “I am giving you this evening three hundred dollars. Give him a hundred dollars and be done with it.”

“What d’ye mean, me give him a hundred dollars, Mr. Seiden?” Fatkin demanded. “They ain’t my customers.”

At this juncture the proprietor of the hall opened the door.

“Mr. Seiden,” he said, “everybody is through eating; so, if you would give me the key to the suitcase which you got the cigars and Schnapps in, Mr. Seiden, I would hand ’em around.”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” Seiden replied. He turned to Sternsilver and made one last appeal. “Nu, Sternsilver,” he said, “would you take a check?”

“Oser a Stueck,” Sternsilver declared; but, although for five minutes he maintained his refusal, he finally relented.

“Well, Mr. Seiden,” he said, offering his hand, “I congradulate you.”

Seiden refused the proffered palm and started for the door. Before he reached it, however, Fatkin grabbed him by the arm.

“At such a time like this, Mr. Seiden,” he said, “you couldn’t afford to be small.”

Once more Sternsilver held out his hand and this time Seiden shook it limply.

“No bad feelings, Mr. Seiden,” Sternsilver said, and Seiden shrugged impatiently.

“You, I don’t blame at all, Sternsilver,” he said. “I am making from my own self a sucker yet. A feller shouldn’t never even begin with his wife’s relations.”

At the end of a year Hillel Fatkin left the employ of the Sanspareil Waist Company to embark in the garment business on his own account. Many reasons contributed to this move, chief of which was the arrival of a son in Fatkin’s household.

“And we would call him Pesach,” Hillel said to his mother-in-law shortly after the birth of his heir, “after your Uncle Pesach Gubin.”

“My Uncle Pesach Gubin!” Mrs. Miriam Saphir protested. “What are you talking nonsense, Hillel? That lowlife is Mrs. Seiden’s uncle, not my uncle.”

“Your cousin, then,” Hillel continued. “What’s the difference if he’s your cousin oder your uncle we would call the boy after him, anyhow.”

“Call the boy after that drinker that bum! What for? The feller ain’t no relation to me at all. Why should we call the precious lamb after Beckie Seiden’s relations?”

“Do you mean to told me,” he said, “that Pesach Gubin ain’t no relation to Bessie at all?”

Mrs. Saphir nodded and blushed.

“The way families is mixed up nowadays, Hillel,” she said, “it don’t do no harm to claim relation with some people.”

Her face commenced to resume its normal colour.

“Especially,” she added, “if they got money.”