Abbildungen der Seite

fessor lwhatever is my creed, then, I shall be able still to hold it unobserved, you know.”

The ancient Rabbi, coming up at this moment,-Rebecca gracefully arose, and presented to him her hand—she was quickly surrounded by a whole host of elders belonging to her family and people, ladies drest in rich blond caps, with diamonds and feathers in abundance. The old men looking as sallow and wrinkled as possible, and as if they were going to persuade you to take a counterfeit guinea for a genuine one-sly, calculating, designing, certainly was their general expression—"Surely,” thought I, " these men can never be the lineal descendants of the noble-minded Joseph; of him who behaved with such simple grandeur to his unkind brothers, who had sold him into the land of Egypt! But I forgot at the moment, that ten out of the twelve tribes of Israel, Joseph's amongst them, were now so dispersed over the face of the earth, so lost to all identity, that they cannot be recognised even by the other two tribes. Eugenius, indeed, believes that they still exist as a separate people amidst the Affghans in Persia, the inte. rior of India, the very depths of Thibet, scattered up and down throughout China, and even in the very heart of Africa, preserving many of their Hebrew words entire, and their ancient rites and ceremonies; as it is, he tells me, well known, that there are both white and black Jews.

But I was called off my private speculations on this most remarkable people, by finding that the marriage ceremony was just going to be performed.

The superb canopy under which the bride and bridegroom were to walk, now drew my attention. It was made for the occasion from one of the curtains belonging to the ark, the Rabbi having accorded that favour to the family as a high compliment, and for a certain fee, which he had no compunction in receiving for its use. It was richly ornamented, fringed with weighty gold bullion, and had supports inlaid with gold and gems. Four of the most distinguished fathers in Israel stood ready to carry it, and Mr. Levison and Rebecca took their station beneath it. The venerable Rabbi with white flowing beard and hair, but with eyes of a strongly marked, sinister, almost fox-like, expression, habited in his priestly robes, taking bis stand at the head of the procession, the relations, friends and numerous visitors following in, as they best could, with rather an indecorous and noisy crowding.

Mrs. Lascelles and myself were a good deal elbowed about at this stirring moment, so got but an indifferent and distant place to observe the ceremony, yet, being tolerably tall, I caught sight of a large beautiful cut glass goblet, of immense size, which was dashed into a thousand pieces over the head of the young bride by Mr. Levison himself, and each separate fragment distributed afterwards as an especial favor to those around - Rebecca, with a grace and a smile, that I shall never forget, sent me a piece by the hands of her young kinsman.

"What is the meaning of this part of the ceremony ?" I enquired of the youth who brought it; but he could not tell me much, saving that it was intended as a symbol, meaning, by this act of gallantry to shew, that the love of the new-made bridegroom would endure even until all the fragments of that glass should be joined together again.

As the whole rite was in Hebrew, I could not make much out of it; but it struck me how very irreverent all the relations were in their manner, and that the Rabbi himself mumbled it all over in any thing but an impressive way.

When the walking procession had ceased, and the canopy was fixed into the ground at the upper end of the room, every one approached, as at court, to pay their respects to the new-married pair, and kiss the bride's hand—as I went up in due course to render this homage, Mrs. Levison leaned towards me, and softly whispered in my ear_“You will come and see me, Mrs. Griffiths, at my new resdence at Stamford-hill ?-Remember, I shall be hurt if you do not; and shall expect you soon.'

After a reasonable time for their sitting thus in state, the dancing began; and the bride was hurried off to partake in that recreation; so after watching its gay mazes for a couple of hours or so, my friend and inyself stole off unobserved, and were conducted in her carriage home to her residence in C---place.

“ It will cost me at least twelve shillings," argued I, with myself “to hire a fly, in order that I may pay a morning call to Mrs. Levison at Stamford-hill; now is it worth while to do so ?"_"Certainly not” said Prudence—“perhaps only a mere compliment, her asking me," said Pride—“She may have forgotten that she gave it," whispered Doubt; but then what said Inclination? Why she routed all the others, as she generally does—sent Prudence, Pride and Doubt to the winds. Has she not ever out-mastered them from the commencement of the world ; and, what is still worse to say of her, triumphed over even Principle itself ?

“Cost what it will," said I, finishing the disputation at once with a high hand, “I am determined I will see that lovely young Jewess once more ; and if she likes me half as well only as I like her (and I think she has prepossession that way) we shall be friends."

If I admired the fair Rebecca dazzling in jewels and lace, the cynosure of all eyes the day of her marriage; still more delightful did she appear to me in her simple morning robe, made of the softest whitest muslin confined with a blue ribbon; no ornament on hier head, saving those that adorned the head of Eve in Paradise, her own natural ringlets, but, whether they were of the glossy blackness of Rebecca's, of the shade of Prior's nut-brown maid's, or fair as unspun flax, history has not determined; but I can almost swear she had not tresses like some of Eve's daughters, red as the autumnal leaf: how they have become engrafted upon the human head, let naturalists decide.

The raven hair of Rebecca Levison was parted from her fair high forehead like one of Vandyke's beauties. I will not speak again of her eye, it would be a twice told tale, but the long dark fringes edging the white curtains of these orbs, I may be allowed to mention, as I have never seen them equalled for length, blackness, and regularity, each particular hair having a fine curve upwards, the whole casting a shadow beneath them.

But enough of personal attractions--methinks I hear the reader cxclaim, “What's in an eye?” I answer, “ What is there not within one little rolling world, whatever may be its colour? What myriads of expressions pour forth from the small round orifice, there denominated the pupil, and an apt pupil is it; for the mighty spirit, enthroned invisibly at its depth, teaches it all things that it expresses, and is the preceptor and the master !”

Mrs. Levison advanced to meet and welcome me with a smile, and an assurance that she should have been quite hurt, if I had failed to visit her; “for," added she," there was a contract of friendship entered into by glance of eye, if not by word of mouth, between you and myself, when last we met; and they, you know, are equally binding, or ought to be so, as if we had signed, sealed, and delivered."

“ You are come to spend the day with me, Mrs. Griffiths "eagerly demanded Mrs. Levison, “ I am going to be quite alone; at least if we are not broken in upon by morning-callers, as Joel will be engaged in the city until a very late hour, for you must know this is the most important day in the whole year at our Synagogue, the • Day of Atonement,' which takes place on the 10th of the month, Tishri, or the seventh month.”

" I know very little of your rites and ceremonies," I replied: “ but do not the women partake in them ?

It is not necessary they should do so," answered she, “but I am not over-particular about these matters. Still you have not satisfied me, respecting your stay with me to-day: send off your little equipage, and I will undertake for your safe conveyance home this evening, for our fat lazy coach-horses want exercise much. Levison prefers riding on horseback, and I hate taking an airing alone.”

We are easily persuaded to do what we like ; so I sent off the Fly,' and arranged my bonnet-cap in the best manner I could, congratulating myself that it happened to be trimmed with a little clean, white satin ribbon, and that with my nicely plaited lace ruff, and new French kid gloves, I should do very well for a chance visitor; and more especially, as I had put on my splendid diamond ring, before setting off; that ring of which I am for ever talking, and therefore must be proud.

And how did we spend the day together, this beautiful young Hebrew woman, and the matronly " Monthly Nurse" of Kensington? Was it in looking over the various bijoux, and expensive trinkets casketed in their morocco cases belonging to her? or in turning over the superb portfeuilles of coloured engravings, that were ensconced within the library? or in inspecting the cabinet of minerals, gems, and ancient coins, that her husband had fitted up for her, knowing that she was fond of these things ? No: she gave me a more curious and interesting study than all these combined together: she entrusted to me the secret, that she had been reading with breathless attention, the truths contained in the New Testament ! that she had endeavoured to compare them with those of the Old, but felt herself incompetent to the task : she owned that she was almost compelled to become a Christian, from the evidence: but still she wavered in some of her opinions. “ And it was for this reason, that I wanted to know more of you, Mrs. Griffiths," added she, with the most amiable ingenuousness; as I felt convinced you were no bigot, and would with patience and kindness listen to my doubts, and with candour meet them, either to confute them or to grant they were well founded."

** And how come you, at your tender age, to entertain this subject at all ?" demanded Î, “ Who has put the New Testament into your hands?"

“ It is surprising," answered my lovely young hostess, “ how small a circumstance sometimes make a deep impression on us, and yet how very long it may be before it produces any active results ! When I was a very little girl, I was allowed to have a child about my own age, the daughter of our gardener, to come and play with me; for I am an only child, and they thought I languished for companions.

“ This little protegée of mine I grew exceedingly fond of: we dressed our dolls together; and she amused me much, by repeating to me Fairy tales and wonderful stories. Amongst the rest, she told me the Scripture History, as she called it, of Jesus of Nazareth-his miraculous birth-his purity of life, and the astonishing cures he performed, and the parables he related. From that hour, I have longed to know more of this most extraordinary being; have felt a deep reverence for his character; and whenever I have heard him by my own people styled Impostor,' .Deceiver,'' Hypocrite,' I have had great difficulty in suppressing my resentment, and bidding bis detractors to go and do as he did.”

"I believe even the most prejudiced Jew," said I," allows that the Nazarene's' life, as they call him, was an example for all men ; that never man spake as he spake.'

“ Indeed, you are much mistaken," replied my young Hebrew friend; "they often feel and express the bitterest rancour towards a being, who, whatever might be his office, they cannot deny went about doing good :' but I want to come to particulars, to have the advantage of your reasoning upon this matter, and you will not, I am sure, look shocked or offended at my questions; for, indeed, they will not be vexatious ones, but only put forth with a hope that you may be able to satisfy my mind upon them."

“ You have given me a task of much responsibility,” said I, " and I wish my friend Eugenius, a young clergyman I know, were the champion in this case, instead of myself: but at any rate speak out freely, and have no fear that I shall feel hurt or impatient at your doubts. I am only charmed, that situated as you have been, you could thus far surmount the prejudices in which you have been educated; but I think I hear the voice of your good mother in the hall: it is too peculiar a one for me to be deceived." And as I spoke, Mrs. Salamons entered the room.

There needed not a look of admonition from the fair Rebecca, to keep me silent on the subject of our late conversation, before the lady who now made one of our little party: she was a gay, portly, landsome woman, most expensively attired, and came, she said, “ to take her daughter a drive, now all the men were huddled together in the different synagogues."

However much we might have wished to spend the day tête à tête, still Mrs. Levison was of too kind and filial a nature, to show the smallest sign of dissatisfaction at her mother's unexpected visit.

Guessing more than discerning my discomforture, the beautiful Rebecca gave me a smile of ineffable sweetness, as she asked me, “ If I were fond of old Hebrew melodies ? for,” said she, “ if so, I will give you that one my mamma and Mr. Levison are so fond of—it is a chaunt supposed to be very ancient indeed, as far back as the time of David, and has a simplicity and solemnity about it that ever delights myself.”

Mrs. Levison obliged me with this ancient chaunt (of which she wrote me out the melody also). No less than three times that day did she sing it to us, so much was I charmed with its sublime expression ; and her mother seeing how much I was pleased with it, asked me if I knew any thing whatever of the Jewish ceremonies, as now practised ; and finding 1 did not, she very good naturedly began to describe some of them

at my request, much to my edification. “Our Feast of the Passover is kept on the fourteenth day of the first month, as we reckon time, which is about that of your Easter; but the first month Nisan, did not always stand the first even with ourselves. King Hezekiah caused our style to be changed; but we still reckon in our own minds from the ancient dates, as they are traced back to the creation of the world."

“ Do we reckon, Mamma, from the creation of the world, or the birth of Adam, the first man ?" enquired her daughter, with a slight shade of irony in her tone; but of so very covert a kind, that her lady mother did not perceive it.

“ My dear Rebecca,” answered her mother, “ you ought to know these things even better than I, after the pains Dr. has taken with you: of course we date from the birth of this planet itself, and not from that of the first rational creature.


it.' “ And yet, my dear mother," argued Rebecca, with that arch and beautiful smile of hers, “ it should not be so : time could not be said to exist, until man, who alone could take account of it, existed also ; besides, could Adam know himself how many days old the world was, when he found himself upon it; before then it must have been eternity; the boundless extent of incalculable infinity that then prevailed-depend upon it, mother, with man, came also time."

“ You always were a little casuist; Rebecca,” said her mother rather petulantly, “ and that your father and all our elders ever thought. Surely Moses ought to know better than you; and he dates from the day of the creation of the world itself.”

“ I give up the point to him, dear mother," said her daughter meekly, “as in duty bound."

“Since our dispersion," continued Mrs. Salamons, looking kindly and approvingly at the pretty disputant, " we have never actually

« ZurückWeiter »