Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


The Two Pictures.

A Sketch of Domestic Life.

By Miss Celia Moss.

“Grandmamma, you have often promised to tell me why that picture hangs with its face to the wall,” said a young and lovely girl of sixteen to an aged woman at whose side she had been sitting, engaged in reading the portion of Scripture for the day, it being too wet for them to attend the Synagogue, as was their custom on the Sabbath; “and as we are not likely to have visitors today, you cannot choose a better time.”

A deep sigh broke from the lips of the old lady at the request of her granddaughter; but murmuring, “It must be done, and perhaps it is better now,” she motioned the girl to loosen the picture from its fastenings, and bring it to her. Trembling between curiosity and excitement, the young girl hastily loosened the fastenings of the mysterious picture which had so often excited her childish wonder, and on which she had so longed to look; and, without turning the painting upward, she laid it on the little table beside her grandmother. Strong emotion shook the frame of the aged woman, as with hands almost too feeble for the task, she raised the painting, and removing the crape that covered it, she displayed to view the countenance of a young and exceedingly lovely woman.

“How beautiful!” exclaimed Hannah, involuntarily; “oh, grandmamma, why has this fair face so long been hidden?” But she, whom the young girl addressed, heard her not; her glance was fixed upon the face with an expression of the most extreme anguish, and so deadly pale was her cheek, so rigid the compression of her lip and brow, that Hannah repented the indulgence of a curiosity that had caused such evident pain to one whom she loved and venerated.

“Look, Hannah,” she exclaimed at last, breaking the painful silence, “how joyous is the expression of that bright face, so sinless and pure; yet in a few, how few, years, who could have dreamed she would lose all that bright loveliness, all that innocence, forfeit a mother’s love, a father’s blessing?—Open that drawer,” she continued, pointing to one in a small cabinet, “there is another picture; bring it hither.”

Hannah obeyed her instantly, and returned to her side with a case containing a miniature; it was, naturally, much smaller than the first, but like it the portrait of a woman; yet, unlike it, the face was haggard and pinched like one suffering from famine, the hair which, in the first, was jet black, and waving in rich curls, was here partially gray, and banded over the forehead, which was furrowed by lines of thought and suffering. The whole expression of the, face was full of deep, but repressed anguish.

“Look at them well, Hannah,” said her grandmother, mournfully, “they are both excellent likenesses, and were painted for the same person within five years of each other.”

“Five years!” repeated Hannah, “why, there is at least twenty years difference in the appearance of the two.”

“We might say twenty,” replied her grandmother, “if years were measured by sorrow; but alas! I repeat to you that those portraits were painted within five years of each other. The first at the desire of a weak and worldly mother, who prized her daughter’s beauty more than her immortal soul, and the last at the request of a penitent and dying woman, who left it to her daughter, as a memorial of her sufferings, and the sin that occasioned them. “And now,” she continued with solemn earnestness, “listen while I recount to you faithfully the history of her, who was the original of both those pictures.”

The First Picture

“Bright, beautiful, and joyous as you see her there,” began the old lady, “was Sarah Emanuel at the age of eighteen, at the time the chief event of my narrative took place; she was the second of three children, the eldest of whom, a son, was in Germany attending one of its celebrated collegiate institutions, under the care of a rich uncle, whose heir it was supposed he would be. The youngest, a girl, was two years younger than Sarah, and had just finished. her education. Sarah’s parents were people of great wealth, her father having amassed a large property in the West Indies, and at the date of the commencement of my narrative he was in that country superintending some new purchase he had made. Her mother, a weak and worldly woman, who had never known the pressure of a care, and who lived in, and for the world alone, believed she did her duty by her children when she engaged for their governess a young lady who had previously taught in a nobleman’s family. They learned French and Italian, drawing, dancing, and music, and then Mrs. Emanuel thought she had done sufficient; she had provided for her childrens’ entrée into the world, she had cared for their perishing bodies, but, alas! for their immortal souls she thought not; she forgot that she was answerable to God for the charge He had bestowed on her, and that sickness or accident might render all her cares abortive, and deprive her of her children.

"Mrs. Emanuel was in name, and as far as mere outward observance went, a Jewess; that is to say, she never rode in her carriage on the feast days, never touched fire on the Sabbath, kept the two principal fasts, and had her house cleansed from leaven for the Passover; but beyond this she never thought of religion at all. Her children had been brought up by Christian nurses, educated by a Christian governess; of their own faith they knew nothing. What marvel then if their minds were open to any impression which their instructress thought fit to make on them? Miss Winter, the person to whom Mrs. Emanuel had confided the important task of rearing her daughters, in her early youth had been one whose whole energies were devoted to the enjoyment of pleasure and dissipation. The daughter of a merchant, reputed wealthy, she had received a showy education, and her attention had been directed to the task of gaining for herself a rich husband. But his own and his daughter’s extravagance deranged her father’s affairs. Too weak to meet a reverse, he committed suicide, leaving his daughter to bear alone the scorn or pity of the world. A brother of her mother’s, whom, in the day of pride, she would not have acknowledged, received the orphan into his house, and for a year she resided beneath his roof. The uncle of Miss Winter was a religious man, conscientious but bigoted to his own opinions; he belonged to all the missionary and conversion societies, and was one of the most zealous members of that for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. At his house his niece gradually learned to think seriously on the all-important subject of religion. An offer from a nobleman’s family decided her to quit her uncle; and after remaining two years with her first pupils, she unfortunately obtained a situation at Mrs. Emanuel’s.

"I have been thus particular in describing Miss Winter’s previous life to you, my dear child,” continued the narrator, “because you will hereafter learn what effect this had on the subject of my narrative. When Miss Winter had been some time established in the house of Mrs. Emanuel, she perceived the culpable neglect of the mother respecting the religious education of her daughters; and she at once conceived the plan of winning them to what she considered the right path. She took them often with her to church, and instead of the Hebrew prayers, which they repeated like parrots, because they had been drilled into them, she knelt with them by their bed-side at night, and taught them to repeat the prayers of her own faith; and as the children had no previous impression to be removed, her task was a light one to win them secretly to her belief. A Jewish nurse, or a careful mother, would have discovered the impression Miss Winter was making on the ductile minds of the children; but Mrs. Emanuel was too absorbed in pleasure to see her daughters more than half an hour daily, and the Christian nurse rejoiced too much at what she deemed was securing the eternal welfare of her charges, to betray to the careless mother what was taking place.

“Accident, or rather Providence, however, effected a change. Maria, the youngest daughter of Mrs. Emanuel, had been from her childhood in delicate health; pale, thin, and sallow, she served at all times for a foil to her beautiful sister, consequently she had never been a favourite with her mother, who was proud of the beauty of her elder daughter; and when a sister of Mrs. Emanuel, who lived in the country, and who had just lost an only daughter, prayed her to spare one of her girls for a time to solace her loneliness, for she was widowed as well as childless, Mrs. Emanuel gladly consented that Maria should visit her sister for an indefinite period. Mrs. Moses was the reverse of her sister in every respect; surrounded like her with all the luxuries that wealth can afford, she secluded herself almost entirely from every pleasure, except the supreme one of aiding the suffering end the unfortunate. In the dwelling of the wretched, at the bed-side of the sick, in the room of the mourner, she was ever foremost, her purse was ever open, and her kindly words made the gift yet sweeter. She never wounded the feelings of the poor while providing for their wants, and thus embittered the relief she afforded. A sincere Jewess, she was deeply read in Scripture, and provided for the spiritual as well as the temporal wants of the poor in the small congregation in the midst of which she dwelt, by founding a school for their instruction, which she herself visited frequently, giving time as well as money for the purposes of charity. Maria, naturally of a mild and gentle temper, was greatly pleased by the amiable manners of her aunt, whose pale face, and deep mourning garb, at once won her pity and affection. The day after her arrival Mrs. Moses took her niece with her to visit her little school, and Maria was both surprised sand delighted to hear little children of nine or ten years of age repeating and translating their prayers with a facility that appeared to her wonderful. On her return home she found the room prepared for Sabbath; she saw her aunt light the Sabbath lamp and bless it. A poor old man, who had no home of his own, and to whom her aunt was in the habit of affording hospitality on Sabbaths and holidays, read the prayers before and after the meal: she saw her aunt also repeat the prayers for the Sabbath, but Maria did not attempt to pray. When the prayers were over, and the old man was gone, Mrs. Moses called her niece to her side, and opening the Bible, bade her read the fourth and fifth chapters of Deuteronomy. Maria obeyed, and when she had concluded, her aunt mildly questioned her as to the reason why she had omitted her prayers. ‘I do not pray in Hebrew now,’ replied her niece, colouring, ‘and we never say prayers at home, except the prayers Miss Winter teaches us.’

“‘How old are you, Maria,’ said her aunt, gently.

“‘Turned fifteen.’

“‘And you speak French, I suppose.’

“‘Yes, ma’am, and Italian,’ replied Maria, timidly.

“‘You have taken the trouble to learn these and many other accomplishments, doubtless,’ said her aunt, ‘and yet the sacred language, the language of our prayers, the common bond of union amongst our people, you have not learned.’

“‘Mamma thought Hebrew too difficult, and quite useless,’ said Maria; ‘she did not care about our learning it, and French and Italian are so fashionable that she would not have us neglect them.’

Mrs. Moses sighed deeply, but as she did not wish to compromise her sister in the eyes of her child, she contented herself with asking Maria to repeat her daily prayers.

“‘When we were very little,’ said Maria, ‘mamma taught us a short prayer in Hebrew, but Miss Winter said it was useless our repeating it, as we did not understand it, and so she taught us others;’ and at the bidding of her aunt she repeated the prayers Miss Winter had taught her. Shocked and astonished, Mrs. Moses made no comment, although she felt deeply the sinfulness of her sister’s conduct, in thus trusting her most important duties to another. She contented herself, however, with reading some of the beautiful night prayers in English to her niece, with a mind harassed by many painful feelings. When the Sabbath was over, Mrs. Moses wrote to her sister a kind and affectionate letter, pointing out to her the danger to which she had exposed the religious principles of her children. Mrs. Emanuel was dressing for a party when the letter came.

“‘It is wrong of Miss Winter,’ she said, angrily, ‘to teach the children Christian prayers; however, as Sarah has nearly finished her education, and it will be a great advantage for Miss Winter, who has much experience, to form her manners, and Maria is quite away from her, I will content myself with desiring Miss Winter to abstain from taking Sarah to church; and I will tell Sarah, also, that it is wrong to repeat Christian prayers.’

“Accordingly, Miss Winter and Sarah were reprimanded, and then the whole affair was forgotten.

“A year went by, a happy year, for Maria; under the instruction of her gentle aunt, mind and body had rapidly improved. Mrs. Moses had more particularly directed her niece’s attention to the subject of religion, and under her tuition she became in reality, as well as in name, an Israelite. She wrote to her sister often, explaining the life she was leading, and striving to awaken her mind to the important knowledge she had herself acquired. But Sarah was too much delighted with the anticipation of her fist ball to pay much heed to her sister’s letters; alas! that ball was fatal to her future happiness. It was a charity ball at the Mansion House; many of the nobles of the land were to be present; and, dressed in the robe she was to wear on this memorable occasion, Sarah sat for her likeness: it is the one before you. Miss Winter accompanied her fascinating pupil, and through her means Sarah was introduced to the son of a former acquaintance of her own, whom she had recognised, a Mrs. Herbert. Young, good-looking, and. graceful, Henry Herbert was exactly the sort of man to make an impression on the heart of an inexperienced girl, and Sarah was intoxicated by an admiration and attention yet new to her. She danced with him nearly the whole evening, and her mother was equally flattered by the universal notice her beautiful daughter excited.

“Sarah Emanuel had attracted the attention of another person beside Herbert on that memorable evening. This was a young man, of her own faith, named Levi. He sought and obtained admission to Mrs. Emanuel’s house, and as he was wealthy and well educated, she did not object to his paying attention to her daughter. At every party she visited, Levi was there; at every theatre, Levi was at her side; but Sarah herself gave no encouragement to him; her heart was another’s, unknown to her mother. She had met Herbert frequently at Miss Winter’s, for that lady had quitted Mrs. Emanuel, having been fortunate enough to receive a large legacy from a distant relative; and of course her mother, who had no idea of what was going forward, did not object to her child’s often visiting her former governess.

“While affairs were in this state, Mrs. Emanuel, to her great joy, received letters from her husband, announcing his speedy return; but Sarah, who, under other circumstances, would have felt her heart bound with delight at the anticipation of once more beholding a beloved parent, looked forward with dread and anxiety to her father’s coming. That he would ever consent to her marrying a Christian, she knew him too well to believe; and yet, with this knowledge, she still continued to meet Herbert and listen to his protestation of affection, and his earnest desire that she should become his wife, either with or without the consent of her parents.

“‘My dear Sarah,’ said Miss Winter to her one day when her pupil was faintly urging the difference of creeds as an argument for refusing to yield to the entreaties of Herbert, ‘I should think my teaching indeed thrown away, if I believe you to be a Jewess, except in name: and as you are certain your father will never consent to your marrying Henry, why not prove the reality of your attachment by marrying privately? The forgiveness of your parents is sure to follow, as I am certain your mother loves you too well to refuse to pardon her favourite child, merely for matching more brilliantly than she can ever hope to do amongst her own people. Besides, you tell me this Levi only waits your father’s return to propose for you, and your mother wishes for the match. Therefore, what alternative have you but the one I propose to prevent yourself from going sacrificed on the altar of Mammon?’ Many more arguments like these did Miss Winter urge to gain her pupil’s consent to a private marriage, and Sarah left the former governess that day with her feelings and her duty strongly at variance.

“It was not religious impressions and a fear of offending her God which caused her to pause before she took the irrevocable step; for alas! Mrs. Emanuel had never considered it a point of her duty to implant the sound principles of her creed in the heart of her child, and she, who sowed tares only, could not expect to reap corn. It was worldly influences and impressions only that swayed her resolution. She found Levi in the drawing-room at her return; he looked pale and thoughtful, and requested the pleasure of a few moments’ private conversation with her. Sarah would have refused, but her mother had quitted the room upon some slight pretext, and they were alone together, so that without positive rudeness she could not deny his request. Briefly, but earnestly, he acquainted his unwilling listener that her mother had that day consented to accept him as a son-in-law, provided he could obtain her consent also, and for the purpose of attempting to do so, he had asked for that interview. Then bespoke eagerly and passionately, as those who love deeply only speak, of the delight, the happiness, he should experience if it were his happy lot to call her his own. A haughty and scornful refusal was the reply to his proposal, and crushed both by a rejection so unexpected, and the humiliating manner of it, Levi snatched up his hat and was about to quit the room, but a moment’s thought changed his resolution, and he come again to the side of the fair girl who had rejected him so scornfully.

“‘Sarah—Miss Emanuel,’ he said, in a voice of much emotion, ‘although I fear you will not thank me for my interference, still I love you too well to allow you to bring misery on yourself without an effort to save you. Forgive me, if what I am about to say appears intrusive, or impertinent; but the love I must ever bear you urges me to speak. This Christian—this Herbert—whom you see so often, loves you; nay, hear me,’ he continued imploringly, as he noted the indignant flush on the cheek of Sarah, ‘I have noted you both for some time, and the eye of true affection is watchful. He is young, rich, noble, handsome, and doubtless worthy a maiden’s love; but he is an alien to your faith and to your people; should you wed him, you must renounce for ever home, kindred, and friends; the past must be blotted from your memory, your trust for the future must be in those who perchance will scorn your name and race. You must never hope again for a father’s blessing, or a mother’s kiss, in weal or woe; and, oh, more than all, in the hour of sickness and sorrow, and in life who is exempt from these? you will not dare to call upon that God whom you have forsaken for the allurements of rank and wealth; and moreover, you will have to teach your children a faith you do not believe, and—’

“‘Hold, sir,’ interrupted Sarah, in a voice choked with passion, ‘who has given you the privilege to insult me thus, and to become a spy over my actions? I need neither your counsel, nor your presence;’ and without giving him time to reply, the indignant girl quitted the room, leaving her rejected lover alone. His reasoning, however, hastened the crisis, for on that evening Sarah asked and obtained leave of her mother to spend a few days with Miss Winter, and within a day of Levi’s rejection, Sarah Emanuel became the wife of Henry Herbert.

“On the same evening that her sister had taken this irrevocable step, Maria returned to town with her aunt, for the purpose of meeting her father, who was hourly expected. Mrs. Emanuel was delighted at the improvement in the appearance of Maria, she also felt rejoiced to see her sister once more; but as it was late she deferred sending for her eldest daughter until the next day. On the morrow the party at Mrs. Emanuel’s were seated at breakfast, when a letter was brought in; ‘It is in Sarah’s writing,’ said Mrs. Emanuel, ‘I suppose, not knowing you are here, she wishes to remain a few days longer with Miss Winter.’

“‘With Miss Winter!’ said Mrs. Moses gravely; ‘sister, take care you do not sow the wind to reap the whirlwind; why my dear Maria was almost a Christian when she came to me.’

“‘I do not fear for Sarah,’ said Mrs. Emanuel, haughtily, ‘she has always seen me do what was right in regard to religion, therefore I have no reason to mistrust her;’ and as she spoke she tore the letter open and commenced reading, but she had scarcely glanced her eye over the first few lines, when with a wild shriek she fell back on her seat utterly senseless. Surprised and alarmed, Maria and Mrs. Moses flew to the aid of the unhappy mother, although neither of them was acquainted with the contents of the letter which had produced so fatal an effect upon her. The care of her child and sister soon restored Mrs. Emanuel to consciousness.

“‘What has happened, sister?’ said Mrs. Moses; ‘no evil I trust to my dear niece?’

“Without answering, Mrs. Emanuel placed the letter in the hands of her sister. It was brief, stating only the fact that she had become the wife of Herbert, and entreating pardon and forgiveness for the step she had taken. Miss Winter also had enclosed a few lines, in which she staled that her dear Sarah had been already for some years in heart a Christian, and that such being the case no religious scruples could have prevented her giving her hand, where her heart was already bestowed. She concluded by stating that Sarah had not yet received baptism; but she trusted that it would not be long before that last seal was set to her conversion. Mrs. Moses and Maria strove on learning the truth to console and calm the wretched mother.

“‘Speak not to me of comfort,’ she exclaimed, wildly; ‘she who was my joy and support. The light of my eyes is gone from me utterly. Worse, worse than dead, apostate!—cursed—and I, blinded and infatuated, have brought this misery upon myself, by my willful neglect. Ungrateful and ungenerous girl, is this the reward of my unbounded love for her? The father, too, expected home so soon;—oh, would that when a little one I had laid her in the grave; then, then I had been spared this suffering: I am rightly rewarded.’

“But even in this bitter hour Mrs. Emanuel deceived herself,” continued the aged narrator, her voice trembling with emotion. “That which she had characterized as love for her daughter had been, in fact, but a mixture of pride and selfishness; pride in her talents and exceeding beauty, and a selfish gladness because so rare a creature was her child. But all the higher and holier attributes of a mother’s love, Mrs. Emanuel had never known. She had never soothed her children’s cares in infancy; in sickness strangers had watched over them. Their gladness—their first childish confidences—strangers had shared. She had never directed the opening of their dawning intellect, crushed the evil of their nature, and aroused them to good. Religion—the fear of God—the kindly feelings of charity—she had never awakened. The education of their hearts she had not thought of; the formation of their principles she had trusted to the care of hirelings: and verily she had her reward.

“While Mrs. Emanuel was yet in the first agony of grief, alternately weeping and giving utterance to the wildest ravings, the door of the room suddenly opened, and her husband stood before her.

(To be continued.)