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He opened his eyes, to see Becky standing in the center of the cleared space before the cart.
"Look out, Becky! He's Goy. He will put a witch on you," warned Izzy, grandson of Moses, the most learned rabbi of Orchard Street, as Becky moved calmly forward to the very edge of the cart.
"A leetle Virgin, bimba mia, the finest Virgin of white, and only twentyfive cents. It is to give away the Blessed Mother, but macchè "
"It's the princess." Becky spoke quietly, and smiled at Giuseppe. Guiseppe nodded.
"Poverina, poverina, I can na make. She no like now that I sell so cheapthe leetle Queen of Heaven for twentyfive cents!"
Becky swallowed the lump rising in her throat.
"I want a little queen fur Ikey." Giuseppe beat his breast in sympathy for Ikey, but over on Forsythe Street seven fatherless children waited for their grandfather to provide a Christmas such as other children would have.
"I can no make, bimba. With all heart broke fur de Ikey, I can na do." Led now by Izzy, the crowd ven
"Si, si, bimba mia; the Queen of tured nearer. Heaven."
"Grab one an' beat it, Becky; he
Lovingly, Becky laid one grimy fin- can't run." It was the advice of ger upon the nearest image.
The children fell back, but Becky and Giuseppe smiled at each other. "What 's her name?" Becky asked softly.
Jacob, son of Rachael, the fish-seller; but Becky did not hear.
"I never had nothin' pretty like her," Becky confided through the rising tears, her finger lingering on the smooth
"Maria, Santa Maria," replied Giu- coolness of the Virgin's cheek. "She's seppe and crossed himself. -so-pretty."
"How much-is she?"
"Seguro, she is pretty-almost pretty
"Twenty-five cents, bimba; and it is like de beeg one, de Madonna of
to give away."
The smile died in Becky's eyes. "I've only got-six cents-to gitsugar for supper."
"Olà, bimba mia, it is not possible. Already it makes a sin to give away the Holy Mother for twenty-five cents, but to-morrow is the birthday of the Santo Bimbo, and I must give a fine candle to the altar and dinner for the
Eelizabet' Strit. Dio mio, wat a pretty, dat one!"
"Prettier than her?"
"Si, bimba, a leetle. I no can make de lie. Dis one she is pretty, but dat one! one! Ten feet high, hair all gold, in a dress of fine silk, and de eyes blueblue like de sea in my countree, and so sweet she smile, like de sun on de olive-tree in de house where I borned. Every night when I go home I stop
Beyond his refusal Becky's atten- in her house, and talk a leetle wid her, tion did not go. and she smile at ol' Giusepp'." "Huh!"
"But Ikey can't walk like other kids, and he ain't got nothin' to do when I got ter go to school. If he had her, he could talk to her, 'cause I told him all about her."
“Sure, bimba, she smile. By de toe of San Cristoforo in my church at San Martin, she smile, an' she make so wid de het, like to say, Si, si, Giusepp';
an' I talk jes like to talk to de Madre. I say, 'Madre de Dio, give to Giusepp' dis or dat,' an' she give. Some time, right away queek, some time not so queek. But always she give."
"Is she alive?" Becky's eyes were lighting now with the look that summoned the princess. "Can she hear and talk?”
Old Giuseppe leaned across the cart. His eyes, too, were eager and bright with faith.
"Sure, she hear. When de beeg church is all still and only a leetle light, like jes before de stars come or like now before to snow hard, and dere ain't nobody but old Giusepp' in her house, den she makka de sweet talk to me. She say-"
"Kin-I-go and see her?"
"Seguro. What for no? De beeg church on Eelizabeth' Strit wid de windows much colors an' de cross on top." "But I'm a Jew,"--Becky's voice quivered;-"mebbe she don't like
"Sure she lika Jews. She lika every body, all mens and ladies an' childs. You go. You tella dat old Giusepp' send you."
For a moment Becky stood staring beyond the old man at the princess. Ten feet high, with hair of gold and a dress of silk. Without a word she turned away, passed among the children, awed to silence, and then began to walk quickly.
Frightened and curious, they followed. Out from the familiar streets, across the great dividing-line of the Bowery, into the land of the Guineas, most dangerous of all Goys, for they can buy as cheaply and sell as high as the chosen themselves, and they were always pushing and working their way in everywhere. Huddled, silent, they
followed up one street, down another, until Becky stopped before the house of the princess. Cold, gray, and hostile it loomed above her. And Becky's uncle was the holiest man in Moscow.
Slowly Becky's right foot rose until it rested upon the first step. More slowly the left followed.
"Becky, don' you do it. Dey'll kill you an' drink your blood."
Little Jenny Markowitz made the last effort, but Becky turned upon her.
"She won't let 'em." Nevertheless, her voice shook, for it was really a terrible risk. Once closed from her own world behind those great doors, there was only the princess to save her, ten feet high, it was true, but, after all, only a woman.
"Shut up!" Becky hurled the words over her shoulder, drew a deep breath, and ran straight up the long flight of steps, through the huge door, into the cold, dim vestibule, eery in the winter dusk. Trembling, she crossed to the green baize door and pushed it open. Far, far away a dazzling structure rose like the frosting on a gigantic cake. Hundreds of tall, white candles pierced the settling gloom. A golden lamp suspended from the high dome held a ruby light, perhaps the heart of a little Jew! Becky closed her eyes, and with arms extended before her moved slowly and noiselessly forward, on through the terrible stillness, on and on, farther and farther from the safety of the world outside.
Was there no end? Even unfriendly Elizabeth Street now lay miles behind; and Rivington Street and her own tenement, and Ikey, waiting alone. Becky's trembling fingers touched something icy cold. She bit back a scream and opened her eyes. She had reached the altar rail, a rail of gleaming silver beyond which the high altar, draped in lace as fine as the frosting on their own windows before Ikey breathed it away, towered into space. "Oh!" Becky gasped, and forgot the burning heart of the little Jew hanging in the huge emptiness above her.
She almost forgot the princess until, turning at last, she saw Her, standing in an alcove to one side, Her golden head a faint spot of color in the shadow, dressed in blue silk, a naked baby in Her arms.
At the unexpected sight of the baby Becky's awe vanished. She went swiftly to the princess and smiled up at her.
"You see, last summer Ikey got the paralyzed sickness in his legs, and he can't walk no more. He jus' sits in a chair and looks out the winder till I come home from school, and then I tell him about you while I do the coats. He knows all about you and the golden coat and the diamond shoes and everything."
The kind eyes smiled down, but no nod accepted this devotion. So, after a short pause, Becky continued:
"It 's awful to have that sickness. I hope your baby never gets it. But I s'pose you 'd take him right away to the country, where there's a lots of fresh air and nature, and he 'd git better. My mama she could n't take Ikey, because we ain't got no money."
Straining up into the deepening dusk, Becky waited some sign of sympathy, but none came. The kind eyes smiled, the naked baby seemed about to chuckle aloud in pride of its own chubby legs. With a smothered sigh, Becky shifted her position a little and changed the subject. After all, it was rude to break so instantly into her troubles.
"You 've got a lovely house. It's the prettiest house I ever saw. I guess that 's the parlor, ain't it?" Becky pointed to the high altar. "And you got such a lot of pretty things on your table. Some day I 'm going to have a pretty thing," she added in the mysterious tone that had never failed to prick the interest of even fat little Jenny Markowitz.
But the princess, aloof in the splendor of blue silk, surrounded by the luxurious furnishings of her wonderful "You got one, too! He did n't tell house, heard unmoved. Becky's lips
trembled, and for an instant her head drooped. She was so far from Becky's social experience. Suddenly, a fear gripped her.
"You speak English, Missis, don't you? The old man said you talked to him every night. You know-your friend, old Giusepp'."
Not a sound broke the enveloping stillness. Becky's throat tightened.
"Mebbe he was lyin', after all, but he said he talked to you, and you gave him everything he wanted. I would n't-ask-fur a lot of things." Becky hesitated, eliminating one by one all the beautiful things she had planned to ask for. "I would n't ask fur nothin' but new legs fur Ikey."
So tensely did Becky wait an answer that she did not hear a side door open
quietly, or Marian Armsby enter, drop her nurse's bag and, with a sigh of relief, slip into a near-by pew for a moment's rest in the crowded, exhausting day. Nor did Marian see Becky until, with a muffled sob, Becky rose and stood small and disappointed before the Virgin.
"Excuse me, Missis, but I guess you don't like Yids, after all." "Oh, yes, she does."
It was so unexpected that Becky jumped back in fear, and only Marian's reassuring arm about her shoulders at last stopped the trembling.
"Suppose we sit down awhile, and you tell me all about it," Marian suggested. Becky did. She told of Ikey and the two ugly rooms, the never-ending coats, and the mother
who worked all day in the factory, and "finished" long after Becky herself was asleep.
"And you were asking the Virgin to cure Ikey's legs?" "Yes, 'm. But I guess she don't help Jew kids."
"I'm sure she does. She heard you, even if she did n't talk to you. She often gets me to attend to these jobs for her, and perhaps, if I go home with you and see just exactly how sick Ikey's legs are"
"Kin you talk to her? Kin you get her to make Ikey's legs well?"
"I don't know, Becky. I can't tell until I see, but I should n't wonder a bit but what we can do something."
So silently they went down the long aisle and out to the terrified children, waiting to hear the shrieks of Becky being eaten alive by Gentile
priests. Straight through them, without seeing, Becky walked, holding fast to Marian Armsby's hand. Nor did she utter a word until in triumph she delivered Marian to Ikey.
"O Ikey, I brought her, an' she 's goin' to fix your legs an' git mama another job, an' mebbe we 'll all go to the country in the spring an'"Not so fast, Becky, please. have a look at those legs first. should n't wonder in the least are n't simply lazy."
We'll But I if they
As she removed her things, Marian Armsby tried hard not to see the terrible eagerness in Ikey's eyes, the fear of possible disappointment on Becky's face, the deadening ugliness of the rooms. So that, when she turned again, it was in her usual, quick, quiet way that she directed:
"If you'll turn down the bed, Becky, we 'll be able to get at things better. But, first, perhaps we'd better take off all these clothes, so we can see just where we are." And before Ikey's masculine pride could protest, his many garments were deftly removed, and he was lying in his worn little nightgown, while Marian's cool, firm hands were padding and prodding lightly along his spine and down his legs and doing strange, sudden things to his knees and toes.
Beside the bed, Becky stood rigid in suspense. But as Marian straightened, and drew up the coverlet, Becky touched her hand.
"Kin you do it?" she whispered.
"O Ikey, then you kin beat up Solly Applebaum like you always wanted to, and you kin carry the papers again, and we kin get-"
"Stop, Becky!" Marian Armsby forced her voice to a hardness that
brought Becky back to reality with a thud. "We can do something; just how much I don't know. But we 'll find out. I'm going to write a note, and I want you to take it over to the settlement house on Henry Street. Do you know where it is? Yes, that's right."
While she talked, Marian wrote a few lines rapidly, folded the note, addressed it, and gave it to Becky.
"Here! here! Wait a moment," for Becky was at the door. "Now Dr. Stuart will come to see Ikey sometime this evening, and then he 'll know just how much can be done for Ikey. Run along with the note now."
But there was no need to urge Becky to haste. She was gone before Marian had finished. Like a streak she passed through the group of children, grown now until it blocked the entrance to this house where strange things were happening. Dazed, they watched her vanish round the corner.
And then, before they had agreed upon the cause of her swift flight, she reappeared. With doubled fist she advanced upon Solly Applebaum and shook it in his face.
"Ikey 's goin' to git new legs, and then you look out. He 'll punch the daylights out of you."
Solly retreated, but, her warning delivered, Becky ignored him, and turned to a wider audience. Breathless, they listened while she told of the marvelous house of the princess, with its furnishings of silver and lace; and of the princess herself, dressed always in silk, and with nothing to do but give things away.
"You did n't bring nottin' out." Trained to analytic thinking, Izzy, grandson of rabbis, objected.
"You don't s'pose she keeps things