Other children, I am told, are brought up listening to stories about Cats in Hats or animals named Piglet and Phooh. Not so Samuel Reuben’s children. Neither at home nor in his letters to us after we had left home.

September 21, 1970

My Dear Shelly:

This is the first letter to you since you left Chicago; I hope this find you well and happy. A famous philosopher once wrote that “The world desires to know what a man can do, not what he knows.” Last week my brother Meyer came to Chicago from Miami Beach. Yesterday he spent the afternoon here and told us about his travels and experiences in Hong Kong, Tokyo and the Far East. It would have been nice for you to have swapped stories about your different travels – but maybe next time.

“Vivae ... ma non Troppa Presto” which as you well know means “Lively ... But not too quickly.” I was in a downtown hardware store when I saw an Italian man and his wife waiting to get a package wrapped, and I could not resist saying it to him, just to see if my Italian was any good. The Italian turned to me and replied, “Not so fast! Watt-sa de hurry, man.”

There were a few exchanges of conversation between the graceful Lady Rowena and the beautiful Rebecca in the tale of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott:

“Damsel,” said Rowena, “Wilfred of Ivanhoe on that day rendered back but in slight measure your unceasing charity towards him in his wounds and misfortunes. Speak. Is there anything remaining in which he or I can serve thee?”

“Nothing,” said Rebecca calmly, “unless you will transmit to him my grateful farewell.”

“You leave England then?” said Rowena scarcely recovering the surprise from this extraordinary visit.

“I leave it lady ere this noon again changes. My father hath a brother high in favor with Mohammed Boabdil, King of Granada– thither we go secure of peace and protection, for the payment of such ransom as the Moslems extract from our people.”

“And are you not then as well protected in England,” said Rowena. “My husband has favour with the King. The king himself is just and generous.”

Then Rebecca tells Lady Rowena that the people of England are a fierce race quarrelling even with their neighbors and among themselves ~ Not in a land of war and blood, surrounded by hostile neighbors and distracted by internal factions can Israel hope to nest during her wanderings.

“But you maiden,” replies Rowena. “You surely have nothing to fear. She who nursed Ivanhoe,” Rowena continued rising with enthusiasm. “She can have nothing to fear in England where Saxon and Norman will contend who shall most do her honour.”

“Thy speech is fair, Lady,” said Rowena. “They purpose is fairer; but it may not be – there is a gulf betwixt us. Our breeding, our faith alike forbid either to pass over it. Farewell. Yet ere I go, indulge me one request. The bridal-veil hangs over thy face, deign to raise it and let me see the features of which fame speaks so highly.”

“They are scarcely worthy of being looked upon,” said Rowena. “I remove the veil.” She took it off accordingly and partly from the consciousness of beauty and partly from bashfulness, she blushed so intensely that cheek, brow, neck and bosom were suffused in crimson. Rebecca blushed also, but it was a momentary feeling and mastered by higher emotions passed slowly from her features like the crimson cloud which changes colour when the sun sinks beneath the horizon.

“Lady,” said Rebecca, “the countenance you have deigned to show me will long dwell in my remembrance. Long will I remember your features and bless God that I leave my noble deliverer united with – She.” Rebecca stopped short; her eyes filled with tears. She hastily wiped them and answered to the anxious inquiries of Rowena. “I am well, lady. Well. Farewell. Please accept this casket, startle not at its contents. Yet keep it, Lady. To me the jewels in it are valueless.”

“You are unhappy,” said Rowena, struck with the manner in which Rebecca uttered the last words. “Oh, remain with us – the council of holy men will wean you from your erring law, and I will be a sister to you.”

“No, Lady,” answered Rebecca, the same calm melancholy reigning in her soft voice and beautiful features. “That may not be. I may not change the faith of my fathers, like a garment unsuited to the climate in which I seek to dwell. And unhappy, Lady, I will not be ...”

The remaining few pages of the story are on page 413, Classics Paperback Series, Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.

In the Yiddish language “Ingle” is a little boy. “Maidel” is young lady. I join with Mother, Michael and Chucky to wish you lots of “Mazel,” which means good luck – a happy life, and great deeds – for a Happy New Year.

Dad ~ Mom

Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit shellyreuben.com.

Copyright © 2009, Shelly Reuben.

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