The vocational school. - An opening ceremony [khanuke habais - simkhe tsu banayen a hoyz]. - Misery from Grodman. - A new manager. - I can't stand it anymore. - Wandering on.
Fried had completed the vocational school for which Polyakov had put up two hundred thousand rubles. The Governor-General inspected the building with a commission of engineers. The building had pleased him and he thanked Fried.
My relative contributed money to the project himself. A normal contractor would have made several tens of thousand rubles on such a contract, but Fried put in five thousand rubles of his own.
They organized a lavish opening ceremony.
Count Loris-Melikov was present and also the Governor, the Metropolite and other dignitaries.
During the wine drinking the Govenor-General proposed a toast to the czar and then to the great benefactor Shmuel Polyakov and after that to the contractor who had put a lot of energy and effort into it, moreover voluntarily adding a considerable sum of money to the project.
The opening ceremony was a great success and Fried was as happy as a lark.
But I remained pretty depressed and my prospects were gloomy.
Grodman continued to make my life a hell and I had to keep my mouth shut about it.
One time I worked on a job, renovating the house of a sector-chief [distants-natshalnik].
I recall that one day we needed ten little doors for stoves and some other things. I had to go and buy them. I had a letter of credit with me made out to an iron-monger in Charkov, who made sixty to seventy thousand rubles a year on us.
We were working on the outskirts of the city, so I ordered someone to hitch a horse and drove into town to buy the things we needed. It was about one o'clock. When I arrived at the shop I saw that all doors were pad-locked.
I didn't realise that it was lunch-time and that the shop was always closed at that hour, but simply thought that the shopkeeper had gone bankrupt. Why I thought that? That's a question for those who want to make fun of me to answer.
Anyway, the workmen were waiting for these doors, so, what next?
These doors would cost ninety five rubles in all and I happened to have a hundred ruble note on me.
So I went to another shop and bought all I needed for cash.
I didn't pay ninety five rubles, but bargained and got the same goods for sixty two rubles. I paid and rode back in a very good mood. That was quite something, to have saved my employer thirty three rubles. I got more and more pleased with myself, up to a point that I just felt like I had discovered America.
Now I could bring to Fried's attention that his affairs were not conducted well at all. Really, who had ever heard that a shop, were one bought for seventy thousand rubles a year, overcharged thirty three rubles asking ninety five rubles for goods worth sixty two rubles. Highroad robbery it was!
Arriving with the doors I showed them to Grodman and said proudly to him: "A good thing I had cash with me. Now I had a chance to see what a swindler our store-keeper is. His stealing will reduce us to poverty!
When I had said my piece I was ready for "dear" Grodman to stare at me in amazement while at the same time complementing me for my dedication and my discovery.
But my interpretation proved the be completely an bitterly wrong.
Instead of showing amazement and giving compliments Grodman's eyes started bulging from anger, his neck swelled up and he started fuming at me as a boiling pot: "What business did you have to buy for cash money! Who asked you to? He gave you orders? How do you know, you good for nothing, that you paid too much? Tell me, what do you know about paying too much or not paying too much? Your hopeless! An ordeal! Go home, get out! He fired a barrage of base, hateful invectives at me, so bad that I could not control myself and broke down crying.
Had I made such a terrible mistake that I should have been punished by taking the joy out of my heart so swiftly and replacing it by pain and tears?
I felt terribly downcast and in the evening I told the whole story to Fried and his wife, including the abuse Grodman had poured out over me as thanks for my devotion.
"Don't eat out your heart," Fried's wife said to me, "have a look at my nose!
She had a red mark on her nose.
"That's what I got from Grodman last week. I just made a remark to him about a contract that he had written up and he threw something at me hitting me on the nose. How about that? But we've got to suffer", she added in a soft voice, "he has hands of gold."
But in the end Fried got fed up with him. Golden hands alone, it turned out, were not enough for him. Some weeks after the incident, during a visit to Petersburg, Fried met with a man who he thought suitable to become a manager.
Fried brought him to Charkov secretly. It was a very tall and handsome man about fifty years old with a vast black beard showing the first streaks of gray in it. His gait, the way he carried himself - a benediction in the flesh.
In order to acquaint him with the business and to ensure that Grodman wouldn't get wise to it Fried put him on a distant post, somewhere in sector twelve,
There was a minor job to be done there. A station had to be built, on a budget of ten thousand rubles. Fried carefully weaned away this job from Grodman's supervision and put the new manager in complete charge. It was also intended as a test.
But we, the people who knew the secret that this tall fellow might sooner or later take over Grodman's position, were very pleased and decided that we would throw him a party on the day he oustedour foe.
But it was our bad luck that the cunning Grodman soon got wind of it and found out that the tall man with his big beard wasn't just another clerk, but his rival.
I don't have to tell you that he was furious about it and that we had to suffer more from him than before.
Actually he didn't even need his job. He had already money of his own, roughly thirty thousand rubles, so he could have taken on contracts himself. Apparently he loved the shouting, the browbeating and hurting people and he thought it a shame to give that up. He became even more offensive, but we suffered through it with great self-sacrifice comforted by the thought that the new man would finish his test-contract any day now and deliver us from this vile creature.
We were badly surprised by the news that the work of the new manager, that small station, had been rejected. The engineer had judged it sub-standard.
It was a heavy blow to us, a terrible blow, but it hit Fried even worse.
He didn't care about the ten thousand rubles, but about the disgrace that a contract of his had turned out badly, had been rejected.
Fried was very upset about it and of course he had to decide to give notice to the manager and to pay him eighteen thousand rubles over three years, six thousand rubles a year, as stipulated in the contract.
The prospective manager arrived in Charkov crestfallen. He maintained that someone, he didn't know who, had tripped him up.
Fried retorted with bitterness that a real man should not be susceptible to such things.
I am sure that it was our dear Grodman himself who had put a spoke in his wheel, trying to get rid of him. For Grodman such a feat, tripping up someone, was no big thing: a little slander, a little pulling strings and the thing was done.
The tall man with the black beard received his payment and took off while Grodman stayed on as a scourge to all and to everyone's regret and misery he started dominating even more.
With this outcome my old addiction put up its head: roaming.
I couldn't stay there any longer. I didn't fit in there, they didn't suit me.
One day I had a talk with Fried on the subject. He agreed with me and advised me to go to Moscow.
The Rov there, Mr. Khaim Berlin1, was family of ours. He would write a letter to him asking him to get me a job with one of the wealthy people there. The Rov was very much respected by them. He would also give me a letter for one of his good friends, a big merchant in sugar and owner of a factory. He was sure do something for me as well.
1The most famous Lituanian Misnaged was de Goen of Vilne: 'Elliyah ben Salomon Zalman', the "ha-Gra" (1720-1797).
His disciple Khaim of Volozhin (1749-1821) opened the yeshive of Volozhin in 1802.
His son Yitskhok [Itsele] of Volozhin (1790-1849) became head of the yeshive after the death of his father.
In 1849 his eldest son-in-law, Eliezer Yitskhok [Leyb-Itse] Fried of Volozhin (1809-1853), who had married his daughter Rivke, became head of the yeshive, aided by his younger son-in-law,
'Naftali Tsevi Yehoudah Berlin' (1817-1893). After the death of Eliezer Yitskhok Fried in 1853 he became director of the yeshive (in 1854). Mr. Khaim Berlin must have been a son or grandson of 'Naftali Tsevi Yehoudah Berlin'.
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