Chapter the Fifth.
My uncle Khone Mates - Quite a different house - At peace - Sender Rozenblum. - They give me hope. - Lady Liubovitshove. - Rozenblum's energy. - His love for the Lady or the other way around. - People love to see a man at work1. - I stay in Makarovtsi.
One fine morning, actually it was rather a horrible morning, I took off for the district of Grodno. When I arrived in Krinik and still had eight verst to go I didn't have a penny left in my pocket to make it to Makarovtsi with. In Krinik I started asking people about Sender Rozenblum of Makarovtsi. They told me in no uncertain terms: the lady who owned the estate had fallen in love with him. She was a bit old, but then, besides her love she had given him a fortune of hundred thousand rubles. They also said, that he, though an absolute apostate, was a very good and decent man, a charitable person.
I hired a cart to bring me to Makarovtsi. In order to pay the driver for the cart I pawned some of my clothes in Krinik. Having arrived in Makarovtsi the driver brought me straight to my uncle, Khone Mates, the father of Sender and a brother of my grandmother Beyle Rashe. He lived in a separate house next to the farm, with his daughter, who was divorced. I introduced myself as a grandson of Beyle Rashe and received a warm reception.
My uncle was a learned man, a Maskl, very sensible and easy going; the type that can come up with a joke that makes your seventh rib hurt laughing. [vos ken zogn a guten wits, az yenem zol a shtokh ton in der zibeter rip]. He had been blind for several years now. One day the steam of the bath house in Krinin had suddeny blinded him. It was very nice talking with him. The daughter was far from pretty, but she was a clever and practical woman.
Escaped from the city, back amidst fields and forests, among good, honest, simple provincial people; what a relief! I forgot all my problems. My uncle was well pleased to have someone to pass the time with. I told him the reason for my coming.
Uncle said that his son would deal with that and told me to be patient.
"Things will turn out all right." he told me, and I took courage from that.
In the evening Sender came with the lady. I was stunned. Sender, a young man about twenty eight years old was very handsome. The lady was a woman of ripe age, but her lively eyes beamed with youthfulness. She behaved unpretentiously, but was clearly a shrewd one.
They spoke to me in Polish, which unfortunately, I could not understand. I paid close attention to them though. They stayed for about an hour. Uncle went out of the house with them and when they were sitting on their wagon he sounded them out to find out whether they had any use for me. He got out of them that they were interested, they needed a young man. Uncle told me what they had said. How good it was to be in that house; a clever and educated man and the prospect of a good job, what more could I wish for?
In the course of the long winter evenings my uncle told me about his son. His son had graduated from a small state school. As a boy he had been gifted at languages and by being diligent as well he had fully mastered Russian, German and Polish. Polish was the main language used in Brisk. When his son had turned twenty, uncle had asked Arn-Leyzer to give his son a position with the excise office where he had a lot of influence. Grandfather Arn Leyzer had found him a position as supervisor at a distillery, for a lord on an estate.
The manager there had taken a liking to him and when this manager moved to the district of Grodno, he had taken Sender along, offering him a better position. He settled down on a farm resorting under the town Krinik, a leasehold of Shliakhtshits Liubovitsh. Liubovitsh had been a very wealthy man, worth two hundred thousand rubles, but he was also a modest man. He used to walk barefoot over his farm and the lady of the house did the same. While riding through his fields he would bring along bags with cooked peas, to eat on the road.
His wife was of very good family. Her first husband had been a 'Chief-Auditor2' in the government of Grodno. After the Chief-Auditor had taken ill with consumption he had suffered for four years. When he died a poor man, she did not have anything to live on. But she was a woman with brains. When her husband was still alive the Minister of Justice had spent a couple of hours at their place and during his visit to Grodno and he had been impressed with her wits. He had promised to introduce her at the Imperial Court.
She waited a long time for the Minister to fulfill his promise, but he was ousted before he could do so.
After her husband's death she became destitute and she thought about taking a job somewhere on an estate as a steward. But then she got a marriage proposal from the rich Liubovitsh. Though he was an elderly man, she accepted. After all, it was much better to manage a household of her own than to serve a stranger.
Being clever and skillful she managed things in such a way that her husband obeyed her like a little child.
Since he was stingy, she showed herself to be stingy as well. It was only a pretense for in secret she did whatever she pleased. It must be said though that she was quite frugal herself.
Sender arrived at her place as supervisor of the distillery.
Soon after Liubovitsh died, leaving her an inheritance of forty thousand rubles. She had already put aside thirty thousand. Liubovitsh' son, a medical doctor by profession, inherited the farm, but she had leased Makarovtsi from Prince Dobrozhinski, a well known spendthrift and a profligate, for a period of twenty four years. Because she had paid him in cash he had let it go very cheaply, with a remainder of fifteen thousand rubles for the farm to be paid after the period of twenty four years. Then everything had been handed over to her. Rozenblum had given up his job as an excise officer and had become her steward. He never regretted giving up the excise job, because shortly after the excise office moved to Kazne anyway and almost all Jews were fired.
Rozenblum took the management of the farm in hand resolutely, with all the means at his disposal. Being a solid and capable man he knew how to bring a farm up to scratch. He had worked day and night. He never took a minutes rest and in order to encourage and stimulate the farm hands he did the same work they did. If the labourers rode out manure, he would spread manure. If they brought in the hay, he brought in hay; put it in stacks, piled it on wagons. He would plow, harrow, sow, harvest, thrash, work with a rake in the barn, all together with the workers. During the winter he would go out with a lantern at four in the morning to wake up the labourers and then start working in the barn. He paid the farm hands more than the normal wages.
As a result the production was three times higher than that of other farms. At night, after the work had finished, he took his bread with the lady of the house and read German magazines on agricultural husbandry.
He had hired expert gardeners to work in the fruit garden . He had cleaned out the ponds, which had been in a state of neglect before. In the clean water he had set out expensive, good quality fish. He had built a beautifully designed little bridge amidst flower beds and placed benches to sit on. In short, he had improved and embellished everything.
In the stables where the cows were kept, the walls were thickly packed with hay, to keep winter out completely. It was as warm there as in a house. He had bought a lot of cows. Within three years time the rye and wheat production of the fields had gone up from five 'shok3' per acre4 to eight 'shok'. At some places the soil yielded as much as a full twelve 'shok'. And that all in three years time.
The lady was of course delighted with his work, his know how and his diligence. According to her he possessed all virtues: he was skillful, nice , an able worker, bold, daring, handsome, intelligent, clever. He could work like a born farmer and comport himself like a born aristocrat; he talked Polish like a Warsaw born Polack and Russian like a Moscovite.
She had fallen in love with him, head over heels, as Shomer5 would say, and had written over her whole fortune to him. It seemed she had gone crazy, but if you think about it, why should she be anxious? Her 'beloved' was a real man, not a misfit, she would get enough profit from her money.
The lady had a love of horses. They bred thoroughbred horses. They were her weakness. People would pay a fortune for a horse from her stable. She used to caress these fine, clean and slender beasts like children.
She also had the choicest carriages. Pardon me, the carriages were not hers, but Dobrozhinski's. They were all he had left. I remember a sleigh, an enormous one, as big as a room, built from planks covered on the outside with expensive leather and decorated with ornaments in gold and silver and the inside was upholstered with rich brocade and all kinds of ornaments. This vehicle had four corners with two brocade sofas to sit on in each of them. You had to put six strong horses in front of this sleigh, with four average horses you could hardly get this type of 'battleship' from its place.
They had lots of visitors, landowners from around Krinik, from Sokolke and Brestevits, doctors, umpires6, Justices of the Peace7 , assessors etc. The District Police Superintendent8 and his clerk often came down from Grodno for a visit, sometimes in the company of their wives, sometimes by themselves, staying for days or weeks.
The guest were not shocked by Rozenblum's background, or they did not dare to comment on it. Amidst those very distinguished guests Rozenblum just did his job. And she hers, moving at ease amongst many rich visitors. At their place they would drink almost like Jews: Small glasses with sweet liqueurs...
As I said before, I was glad that I had come to Makarovtsi. My hopes were on the rise. I would certainly not have to worry about getting an income while in the vicinity of such a rich relative; there might even be some future for me here. And then there was Grodno, a Haskole city, with books, bright people.
I decided to stay in Makarovtsi.
1layt lebn dos. - men arbeyt. - both titles seem to be wrong; possibly: layt libn es, az men arbet.
3shok - a shock (of grain, straw.). A shock of grain is usually 12 sheaves, sometimes 10. Comp. P. kopa (60) threescore; (stos) pile; kopasiana - hay-cock. Comp. P. kupa - heap, pile.
4Text has: morg. Comp. Hark.: morg(e) - acre - a morg land. An acre = 4047 sq. metres. Comp. Du. morgen. Orig.: as much land as can be plowed in one morning. Amstellandse morgen: 8129 sq. m.
5Shomer is an acronym for the well known Yiddish writer Nachum Meir Shaykevitch (1849-1905), who wrote romance and 'shund' literature. Sholem Aleichem disliked him and wrote his 'shomers mishpet', 1888, against him.
6R. posrednik - mediator, intermediary; go-between; middleman; umpire. (farmitler).
7mirovoye richter (R. mirovoi - oysgleich) = Hark. mirovoy syezd - justice of the peace.
8R. ispravnik - district police superintendent. Hark. bailiff.
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