Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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ROTH----GREAT JEWISH BOOKS: OLD AND NEW
5
I had heard something like it before, but where or when I
could by no means remember. A pause now ensued, the figure
stalking on as before with the most perfect indifference, and
seemingly with no disposition either to seek or avoid con-
versation.
‘Are you not afraid,’ said I at last, ‘to travel these roads in
the dark? I t is said that there are robbers abroad.’
‘Are you not rather afraid,’ replied the figure, ‘to travel
these roads in the dark — you who are ignorant of the country,
who are a foreigner, an Englishman?’
‘How is it that you know me to be an Englishman?’ de-
manded I, much surprised.
‘That is no difficult matter,’ replied the figure; ‘the sound of
your voice was enough to tell me that.’
‘You speak of voices,’ said I. ‘Suppose the tone of your
own voice were to tell me who you are?’
‘That it will not do,’ replied my companion. ‘You know
nothing about me. You can know nothing about me.’
‘Be not so sure of that, my friend. I am acquainted with
many things of which you have little idea.’
‘Por
exemplo,’
said the figure.
‘For example,’ said I, ‘you speak two languages.’
The figure moved on, seemed to consider a moment, and
then said slowly, ‘
Bueno
.’
‘You have two names,’ I continued, ‘one for the house and
the other for the street. Both are good, but the one by which
you are called at home is the one which you like best.’
The man walked on about ten paces in the same manner
as he had previously done. All of a sudden he turned, and
taking the bridle of the burro gently in his hand, stopped her.
I had now a full view of his face and figure, and those huge
features and herculean form still occasionally revisit me in
my dreams. I see him standing in the moonshine, staring me
in the face with his deep calm eyes. At last he said —
‘Are you also of us?’
Remember this was written over a hundred years ago, a full
eighty years before Schwartz came again on the tracks of the still-
existing Marrano communities during the First World War. But
I ’m not thinking of that. My point is that here we have a great
book of permanent, although peripheral, Jewish interest because
of the human character of its many Jewish episodes, a book which
may therefore be included, with charity perhaps rather than
with pedantic accuracy, in our tentative list of Great Jewish
Books.