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בס"ד

The Two Pictures, A Sketch Of Domestic Life.

By Miss Celia Moss.

Continued from previous issue

“He entered the room with a bounding step and a joyous air, for he had been long absent from a beloved family, and his heart was overjoyed at the prospect of meeting those beloved ones once more; but a glance turned his gladness to fear. Before him, pale as marble, with the tears streaming down her face, was Maria: she and her aunt were supporting Mrs. Emanuel, who had again relapsed into insensibility. A letter lay on the ground at his feet, but his hand trembled too much to raise it; and for a few brief moments he stood bewildered, not knowing what to dread or fear. But an exclamation from his wife, who was recovering, revealed the truth. ‘Who,’ she cried, ‘shall tell my beloved husband that my Sarah, the child of his brightest hopes, is become an apostate?’

‘Woman, woman!’ cried her husband, springing towards her and seizing her arm, with a grasp like iron, ‘unsay these words, and tell me what has chanced.—Where is my child?—But this perchance will explain all,’ and snatching up the letter he read the contents. Not a word of comment passed his lips, but staggering to a seat, he threw himself into it, and covering his face with his hands, gave way to such a burst of tears as deep anguish alone can wring from the strong heart of man. For some time he wept in silence; but at length by a strong effort the heart-stricken parent mastered his emotion, and rising, he laid his trembling hand upon his wife’s, and said in a low determined voice, ‘She has forsaken us willingly, she has renounced her parents and her faith; henceforth she is dead to us, and as one already in her grave; for is not her soul cut off from Israel? As the dead then will we mourn for her,’ and as he spoke he rent his own garment and those of his wife and child, and seating himself on the ground, as one who mourns for the dead, he bade his wife and child follow his example. Resolutely did Emanuel keep the week of mourning as if his child were indeed numbered with the dead, and after that fearful week the name of Sarah Emanuel was mentioned no more in the dwelling of her father.”

The Second Picture.

“Five years intervened, my dear child,” said Hannah’s grandmother, “from the time the events took place of which I have just spoken, and the period of which I am about to speak. In the interim, Mrs. Emanuel, taught by her wiser sister, and the daughter yet remaining to her, had become a totally different character; too late she saw the error she had committed, and became anxious to make every atonement in her power. Her husband saw the change with joy, and as he had now resigned all business to his son, he aided her in her new and more useful mode of life. She now became actively charitable, visiting the dwellings of the sick and poor, and striving to imitate her kind and benevolent sister. Maria had been for two years married to Levi, a happy and contented wife, and the mother of an infant, for whom she had procured a Jewish nurse. But of the lost one they heard not during the first year of her marriage; indeed, they had occasionally read her name in the papers, as having been present at some gay party, or a visitor at some fashionable watering-place; but gradually her name disappeared from the record of the gay world, and they heard of her no more.

“It was a bitter day in winter; snow was on the ground, and a heavy sleet was also falling. Mrs. Emanuel shivered with cold, and drew near the fire in the breakfast-room, saying, half to herself, and half aloud, ‘I shall not go out to day, the air is so very keen.’ Even as she spoke, her maid put a letter in her hand. It was written on coarse, soiled paper, and the writing was scarcely legible; but Mrs. Emanuel recognised it as the writing of a woman who had formerly lived as cook with her, and to whom she had frequently given money lately, for a poor sick woman who lived in her house, and had supported herself by her needlework and keeping an evening school. But she had lately fallen ill, and, having a child to maintain, had been at last obliged to accept of a little assistance from Mrs. Emanuel; who, however, had never seen her, as Betsy Abrahams had hinted that it might be painful for her to see one to whom she was indebted for pecuniary assistance, until it was in her power to repay what she had borrowed, as she had resolutely refused to receive it with any other view than that of repayment. This letter, however, contained an earnest request that Mrs. Emanuel would visit this poor creature immediately, as the writer feared she had not long to live; and added that she and her child were so utterly destitute, that they had even been without a fire until she accidentally discovered it and provided one. Mrs. Emanuel shivered at the idea of any one being without a fire in such bitter weather, and, bidding her maid make up a bundle of warm clothing, she wrapped herself in furs, and placing her well-filled purse in her pocket, she stepped into a comfortable carriage and was rapidly driven into the city. The splendid carriage turned up a narrow, dirty thoroughfare, between Bishopsgate Street and Whitechapel, where filth and squalid poverty seemed to have taken up their abode. Wet and cold as the weather was, dozens of half-naked children encumbered the road, some attempting to sell oranges and lemons, others playing with the snow; the narrow road was occupied by fruit and fish stalls, orange-peel, and the entrails of fish were lying on the pavement, and the shops filled with eatables of various kinds were crowded with customers. In one of the openings leading out of this miserable place, crowds of persons were engaged either in buying or selling old clothes; down this place Mrs. Emanuel’s carriage drove, stopping at the door of a small cook shop.

“Mrs. Emanuel got out, and wrapping herself in her warm mantle, entered the house. It was scrupulously neat and clean, and the mistress, although she had a large family of small children, was a proof that the truly industrious may always be cleanly if they have the inclination to be so.

‘Your lodger then is worse,’ said Mrs. Emanuel, as she seated herself by the fire. ‘I have brought some warm clothing with me, for the season is bitterly cold; but is it her wish to see me, Betsy?’

‘It is, madam,’ replied the woman, bursting into tears; ‘indeed, I sat up with her the whole of last night, and I fear that she will not last long.’

‘You seem greatly interested for her,’ said Mrs. Emanuel, kindly; ‘indeed, Betsy, it does credit to your goodness of heart; but show me the way, for I long to see the poor creature, and try to administer some relief to her necessities.’”

Here the speaker, overcome by emotion, stopped for some moments, unable to proceed; while Hannah, who felt for the grief of her kind relative, entreated her to delay the narrative. But murmuring that it would be better to finish now, she proceeded in a low and faltering voice:

“Mrs. Emanuel ascended the narrow stairs, following her guide, until she reached a small dark chamber, in the second floor. It was bare of furniture, with the exception of two old chairs, a table, and a stump bedstead; the bed, which was of flock, was clean, but the bedclothes were so scanty as barely to afford a covering to the shivering limbs of the unhappy woman who rested beneath. A child of four years old was seated by an apology for a fire, trying to warm its little hands, blue with cold; it was a pretty creature, but its features were hollow and pinched with famine; it had on a thin dress, made out of some worn-out finery, but the room and the child were thoroughly clean. For the picture of the woman,—it is there before you.”

“My mother!” shrieked Hannah, throwing herself into the arms of her aged grandparent. “I remember the room and the picture now; and you are her guilty, her most unhappy mother.”

“It was her wish,” continued the narrator, “that you should know all this; and now listen while I have strength to finish her history. Her last request you shall know hereafter. Little I dreamt who lay before me,” proceeded Mrs. Emanuel, “for how could I recognise in that care-worn and emaciated woman, the lovely, blooming girl, from whom I had parted but five years before. She spoke to me; I advanced to her side; but her voice was low and weak, her words were inaudible; but mastering her weakness with a mighty effort, she raised herself upright in the bed, and fixed her eager gaze on me.

‘You do not know me,’ she said in a hollow voice; ‘have sorrow and remorse indeed so changed me, that those who once loved me best, do not now recognise me? ‘Mother,’ she continued, convulsively, ‘have you forgotten your sinful and wretched child?’

‘Father of mercy!’ I exclaimed, gazing wildly in her face; ‘can this miserable creature be indeed my lost, my beautiful—oh! my Sarah, you have indeed suffered fearfully, and were you ten times more guilty, the sight before me would expiate all.’

‘You forgive me, then, my dear, dear mother; and you will not deny me the blessing in death, of which, living, I was unworthy? Mother, bless your dying child, and forgive me all the grief I have caused you.’

‘I do forgive my child,’ I replied, in a voice choked by sobs, ‘as I trust God will pardon me for my part in your sinful­ness;’ and I put my hand upon her head and blessed her fervently. It was some minutes after this ere either of us could speak; and then my poor child beckoned you to her side, and put your little hand in mine with such an appealing look, that I caught you in my arms, and pressing you to my heart, exclaimed, ‘Fear not, Sarah, I will not forsake your little one.’ A faint smile illuminated the emaciated features of Sarah for a moment, and then she fell back in her wretched bed, senseless. Summoned by the shriek I uttered, Betsy came into the room; and with her aid, and that of the medical man who had been attending Sarah, and who fortunately called at that time to pay his daily visit, the poor sufferer was restored to consciousness. Eagerly did I question him as to the chance of her ultimate recovery; but he informed me, that although warm clothing, better air, and nutritious diet, might avert the stroke for a time, it was impossible that she could ever recover, as she was far gone in consumption. I need not describe to you the bitter affliction this intelligence caused me; however, I determined on removing my child immediately, to my own house; and to this the doctor did not object. The faithful Betsy aided me in preparing Sarah, who was too weak to stand, for her removal to the happy home in which her childhood had been passed; supported by me she was led to the carriage, and Betsy accompanied us home. I wrapped you, my darling, in my warm furs, and held you on my knee; and your childish exclamations of delight, as we drove slowly homeward, caused your suffering mother from time to time to raise her eyes to my face with an expression of gratitude I can never forget. She, however, relapsed into insensibility before, we reached home, and when she was again restored to consciousness, she lay on her own bed, in the well-known room in which she had passed her happy girlhood. I shall pass over the few months that followed, during which my poor child lingered on this earth. Her father, when he saw the situation to which she was reduced, joined his blessing to mine; her brother and sister visited her frequently; but it was to my kind and gentle sister she was most indebted for the consolations her situation demanded. She, who had suffered affliction herself, administered the spiritual comfort the sufferer most needed. She prayed with her, read the Scriptures to her, and explained to her as far as she herself knew, the comments on those portions of Holy Writ that seemed obscure to Sarah. Besides this, one of those religious teachers, who united those qualities, alas so rarely joined by those in England, that of preacher as well as reader, was frequently a visitor at our house. He had been educated with your uncle, and was one of those rare persons, endowed with a fervent spirit of religion; he was spiritually, as well as outwardly, a Jew. He preached to the stray sheep from the fold of Israel, and, praised be God, she died a true believer.

“Ere my poor child died, however,” continued Mrs. Emanuel, with much emotion, “she employed the time not devoted to religious instruction in committing her past history to writing, for the perusal of her child: you will find it in the cabinet from which you took the picture; read it attentively; for that, with the picture, is the last legacy of your mother.” Hannah brought the papers from the drawer; they were sealed, and the dust had gathered on the envelope, yellow from age. At all times there is something peculiarly affecting in the perusal of papers written by a hand we know to be mouldering in the dust; and as the aged mother and youthful daughter of the dead looked on those papers, the memory of the past came so strongly upon them both, that, bursting into tears, they rushed into each other’s arms, and wept bitterly; and it was not until this natural burst of emotion had passed, that Mrs. Emanuel untied the papers, which were addressed to her, and commenced the history of her lost child.

(To be continued.)