The Light Which Is Darkness
The Light Which Is Darkness
Take heed therefore, that the light which is
in thee be not darkness.—Luke XI, 35.
THE little Jewess sat and stared into the fire. Three of us Christians were sitting there beside her; we had tried our best to entertain all of our guests—members of a little club of working-girls—but especially we had tried to "make conversation" with this speechless Russian. Our efforts were fruitless. The other girls answered volubly our platitudes about the weather, or the Christmas crowd in the shops, or whether there would be much of a shut-down after New-Year's. But the Jewess was silent, except to say, gently, in her guttural voice, "Yes," or, "No," when I asked some direct question. I almost gave it up and was going to let her sit there, staring with mournful black eyes at the blazing logs; but I made a last effort:
"Tell me," I said, "what do you Jews think of Christ?"
She looked at me gravely. "When I wass in Russia," she said, "I did dislike Chessus."
She nodded. "Yess. His beoples hav' done mooch harm to my beoples. In my village dare wass a pogrom, an' my gran'fadder wass hurted. An' my niece ..." She looked away. "My niece wass ... hurted. I saw"—her voice dropped to a whisper: "I saw—ze plood." She shivered, and her shoulders seemed to quail at the word. "And we wass ver' frightened. My mutter hided us under ze barn. So zen we comed to America."
"You were not frightened here?" I said, encouraging and banal. I don't think she heard me.
"An' when I wass come to Boston, I hated Chr-rist. I would not walk on ze same side of ze street wit' a Chr-ristian church, I hated Heem so mooch. Zen der wass one of my beoples, an' s'e say to me, ' Come wit' me to Fordt Hall.'
"An' I say, 'Who iss Fordt Hall?'
"An' s'e say, 'It iss a blace where Mistair Coleman hav' ze meetings on Sundays.'
"An' I say, 'What iss doze meetings for?'
"An' s'e say, 'We talk how to reform ze world.'
"An' I say, 'I go.' "
Here she smiled a little. I nodded, and said, "Yes?" I knew about Ford Hall, and its founder, Mr. Coleman, and its Forum safety-valve for alien discontents in Boston. "You liked Ford Hall?" I said, with the cheerfulness which we most of us use on such occasions. (Do they see through us, I wonder?)
"I lak ze talk. An', after a while, I lak Mistair Coleman. But I did not lak ze beoples. Dare wass many Chr-ristians. I wass ver' un'appy. I t'au't mooch of my gran'fadder, an' ... my niece. An' zat—plood. An' I wass un'appy. When I go to Fordt Hall, I look aroun' an' "—her pale lips suddenly snarled back from her teeth—"I look at doze beoples, all aroun' an' I say, in my heart: 'I hate you! All of you!' So I wass ver' un'appy. It iss un'appy to hate." She sighed, and stared again at the fire. "But"—she smiled faintly—"after a while I got some 'appy. Mistair Coleman wass ver' kind to me; an' he say zat beoples are kind, dough dey don't know it demselfs, always. An' I say, 'I don't know it, eider!' But Misrair Coleman 'e say, 'Beoples iss not so badt.' An' I found he wass right. Efferyboty iss not badt. No. So I got 'appier. I did not hate so mooch. An' after a while I look aroun' on ze beoples, on Sunday effenings, an' I say in my heart: 'I lofF you! I loff you all!' An' zen I wass 'appy-because I lofft. But I did not forget my gran'fadder ... an' my niece, an'—ze plood. ... An' zen, one day, one of my fr'en's s'e say to me, 'Will you be to ze meeting on Sunday?'
"An' I say, 'No; of course I will not be to ze meeting! It iss ze Feast of ze Passover.'
"An' my fr'en' say, 'Mistair Coleman 'e will be sorry not to see you to zat meeting.'
"An' I laugh, an' I say, 'Mistair Coleman? 'E will not be dare.'
"An' my fr'en' say, "E will be dare.'
"An' I say, "E will not! It iss ze Feast of ze Passover.'
"An' s'e say, 'But Mistair Coleman iss not a Jew.' An' "—she struck her hands together, her eyes flashing under suddenly scowling brows—"an' I wass ver' angry to have any one to say such a t'ing of Mistair Coleman. An' I say, "E iss a Jew! Mistair Coleman iss not a Chr-ristian—'e iss a goodt man.'"
Her thin hands, all knotted with work, clenched with the passion of her defense of Mr. Coleman; then they relaxed, and she sighed. "But my fr'en' s'e say to me, "E iss a Chr-ristian.' An' I wass obligedt to belief what s'e say. ... An' I wass ... of mooch confusement, for Mistair Coleman iss goodt. An' I t'au't an' I t'au't. An' one day I say to myself: 'Mistair Coleman a Chr-ristian? Well ... I will study dis Chr-rist.' So, I study Heem. An'—" She broke off, her eyes widening with the remembered astonishment of her discovery. "An', Mistair Delan'! No! 'E wass not a badt man, dat Chr-rist. Oh no! 'E wass not badt. 'E wass a great social reformer!"
She looked at my husband, as if to see how he bore the shock of this amazing information.
"Oh," she ended, passionately, "'E wass not badt. ... But"—she looked back again into the fire; she spoke gently, tenderly, even—"when I see His beoples, I—I am zorry for Chessus."
We three "people of Jesus," listening, looked at one another, and found nothing to say.