Mandell the Jew
Mr. Z. Murray, portly, red-faced, dressed in the height of fashion, foppishly in fact, flaunting a diamond scarf pin, diamond rings on two fingers and a massive and overly ornate fob, sat opposite Louis Mandell in the latter’s private office.
Murray’s hat was tilted at a rakish angle ill-befitting his forty-eight years. One thumb was thrust into the arm-hole of his pearl grey waistcoat, and the expression on his face, as well as his whole attitude savored of condescension and offensive familiarity.
He had been boasting of everything from his own prowess on the golf links to his wife’s triumphs in society, and was just finishing an account of his last fling in the stock market, which had ended very disastrously, though he did not dwell upon that.
Through it all ran an insulting innuendo which boldly said: “I am of the elect, I belong—you do not. I condescend to borrow from you, and in return for your filthy money I am giving you a verbal glimpse of that paradise, Christian society, which you and your wife may not enter. You are that thing accurst, apart —a Jew !”
Mandell was representative of the highest type of his or any other race. As quiet in demeanor as he was in dress, dignified, unfailingly polite, and at the same time a keen and progressive business man. Unprejudiced judges said he was the ablest Jew in the city.
Besides his banking interests he had many other irons in the fire, not the least of which was philanthropy. Not the sort, however, which gives many libraries, schools and what not, widely heralding the donor; but the sort which makes a handsome contribution anonymous, and countless modest ones of the same sort. His bounty knew no creed, no restriction, save that it be unadvertised.
In the business world he was known as “Mandell the Just.” The word, used in its true sense, means more than generous—good—kind. It is the essence of all three, and something more. Louis Mandell was absolutely just.
Now, as he listened to the talk of this man Murray, and felt a wave of disgust overwhelming him, he came near to being unjust.
All this preliminary talk he felt sure, was intended to impress upon him the great social prominence of the would-be borrower; his lofty position, and the great honor he meant to bestow upon .this money-lending Jew of what he deemed most obscure birth.
Mandell understood this, and the mean motive, and he caught himself hating Murray most heartily. Hating his pretences, his vugarity and snobbishness— his very pearl grey waistcoat! And before he knew it he was glad that he had bought up all Murray’s mortgages and “paper.”
Then he recalled himself with a start, and despised himself for an unworthy Jew. What! Let such a person ruffle him? Be annoyed at the ignorance and prejudice of an unthinking fool? Never!
He had been intending to bring the interview to a speedy close, but now he decided to let Murray talk on as he would. He would endure his society as a sort of penance, and he was curious to see just how far Murray would go.
Now he understood why Morrisohn, the retiring financier from whom he had bought Murray’s debts, had hated him so bitterly, and his determination to if not ruin Murray, at least to bring him to his arrogant knees.
“Well, to make a long story short, Mondell,” Murray was saying, “I want another loan. By Gad! It takes a pile of money to keep afloat these days. Why my wife alone uses a fortune every year I Of course, the girls are growing up, and that counts.”
“Indeed, yes,” said Mandell, smiling, “my own daughter is getting to be quite a young lady. Soon-”
“Oh, but then she will never be coming out!” interposed Murray. “At least not in the real society that my girls are born to.”
He laughed a trifle uneasily, suddenly mindful that such a remark was not becoming in a borrower, even one from the highest society, but an instant later he was reassured, for Mandell’s face did not change.
“Thick skinned Jew,” thought Murray.
“A boor,” thought Mandell, but the slow fires of anger were kindling.
Murray, his never very nimble wits slightly befuddled with his before dinner potations, was suddenly seized with the idea that Mandell meant to refuse to lend him the money he must procure in some quarter, and he was instantly furious.
While he silently cast about in his mind for a taunt, Mandell lifted his eyes. “Mr. Murray, you have not told me how much you require,” he said evenly.
“By Gad, that’s right ! I haven’t. Hang it! I never was meant for business. Fact is, Mandell, I want twelve thousand dollars.”
“Right away, as soon as possible. I’ll return it inside of three months.”
“It is very close to the end of the year, and I don’t think the directors care to lend so much to an individual at this time —still—what security do you offer?”
“Security ! Pshaw, Mandell—for twelve thousand? Why you could lend me four times that amount yourself; it’s a mere bagatelle. If you want security, put it on the building. Hang it ! I think it’s good for twelve thousand. Well, say! One of the best little office buildings in town !”
“Indeed, it is worth twelve thousand, many times that—which it carries, but as security for a further loan, I’m afraid not.”
“The deuce you say!” said Murray, flushing guiltily and wondering how Mandell happened to know so much about it. Recovering himself, he successively tendered a block of houses, some unimproved real estate, his interest in a theatre, and finally his city home, but Mandell refused them all on the same grounds.
“Well, then,” cried Murray, desperately at last, “I’ll give you my word of honor!”
“I’m afraid you do not understand banking methods. Whatever my own inclinations might be, I, as an officer of this bank, cannot lend its funds unsecured.” This refusal angered Murray afresh, and now he realized that Mandell possessed full information as to his real standing, fully appreciated the fact that he had tried to deceive him into lending money on worthless collateral and despised him for it, that he saw through his shallow shams and bluster and with the realization every vestige of caution left him. He leaned forward, purple in the face. “Then you mean to refuse me, eh?”
“I am afraid we shall be compelled to.” “We,” sneered Murray, “we, eh? You are the president of this bank, and you are Czar. You dictate the policy. Oh, I know, it’s common talk. Well, you look out or you will be investigated along with the other crooks some day.”
Mandell laughed. “My dear Mr. Murray, truly that is childish, and funny.” He laughed again and then rose. “Sorry, but we cannot accommodate you.”
Murray sprang to his feet. As he did so he brandished his cane and somehow contrived to upset a small oval frame which stood on the desk. It rolled off on to the floor, and he stooped to recover it. As he straightened, his eye fell upon the picture it contained.
“A woman-, eh?” The tone was
Mandell extended his hand for the portrait. “My wife,” he said coldly, but now the smouldering anger in his heart burned up brightly in his eyes.
“Same thing,” said Murray brutally, glad to have given pain at last. Hurrying on the heels of malice came inspiration.
“Excuse me,” he added hastily. “I meant no harm, and to prove it I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You let me have that twelve thousand and I’ll have my wife take up yours and boost her into society, our set. It will be a hard job, of course, but we can do it. What do you say?”
Mandell could not trust himself to speak, and Murray, in love with the idea, rattled on. At length he paused for want of breath, and by that time, Mandell was his own man again.
“No thank you. My wife has no ambition to appear in your set.”
“What! How do you know? Just ask her. Why you have no idea how eager all the women who are “out” are to be “in.” Just ask her, and I’ll warrant you she will soon make you see what a mistake you are making. She will count twelve thousand dollars cheap for it, too, if she is a Jewess.”
“You are quite mistaken. I know. Good afternoon.”
“Know! You crazy fool, you seem to
know a-of a lot. You Sheenies are
all know and nose. I’m sorry I made that proposition. Why, our friends would never forgive us. The idea of your wife in the same set as Mrs. Murray-she
“Stop!” Mandell’s voice had the edge of chilled steel, and it quieted Murray.
He pointed to a chair. “Sit down.” Murray obeyed.
“Mr. Murray, for a man in your position in life, you are singularly iacking in breeding and ordinary common sense. You evidently believe that by calling me a Jew repeatedly, that you are insulting me. That is a mistake, but since you mean it as an offense and have had the bad taste to extend it to my wife, I think a lesson may teach you to be more polite in future.
“I will overlook your attempt to get a further loan from me on worthless security, and-”
“Yes, worthless. That office building, that land, those houses, the theatre, your city home and country place, are all mortgaged up to the last notch—and I hold the mortgages. One mortgage is due, and the interest on two others, on December 24th, and I expect payment on time, that’s all.”
Murray’s face went gray. “You hold the mortgages! All of them?”
“I do, every one.”
Murray could read nothing but cold determination in Mandell’s face, and at length he got to his feet and stumbled out in silence.
As Mandell left the bank to go home the same evening, a shabby urchin with a bundle of bills under his arm thrust one of them into his hand. It advertised some political meeting.
“It is appalling what power the present system puts into the hands of a few to wield over the mass of their fellow men,” declared a sentence in bold type.
“Home, John,” he said to the chauffeur, and climbed into the car. “Appalling power,” lie muttered. “Yes, it is appalling.” His face hardened, then softened, looked ashamed, and by the time he greeted his wife at dinner he was almost his old self again.
Rhea Mandell at forty was still a beautiful woman. She lived a quiet, useful life, sweet with good works and kind thoughts, and she was in every way a worthy wife to a good man. She believed that every woman to be quite happy should study her husband, and she had been studying hers most conscientiously for twenty years.
Mandell had scarcely unfolded his napkin before she was aware that something was amiss, but she was far too clever to say so. She told him the small news of the day in her brightest manner. Gifted with a talent for story telling and mimicry, she told him a story she had heard, and was rewarded with a laugh, but the faintly troubled look returned to Mandell’s eyes, and she decided that he meant to wait until after dinner for confidences. She settled back in her chair, and while she idly watched the maid removing the dishes, Mandell looked at her.
The richly furnished room, the leathern chair in which she sat, her artistic dress, all seemed merely a setting for her lovely self. He was glad that the children were not at home to-night, for he felt that he wanted her all to himself. How soft her silvered hair looked. How exquisite her face, lit with great brown stars and faintly lined with the souvenirs of thousands of kindly smiles. She was smiling now at the maid.
“Tell Maggie this has been a delicious dinner, and we have enjoyed it very much. You have served it very daintily, too, Nora. How hard you try to please us! But I am afraid you are tired; you must go to bed early. If the bell rings after eight o’clock never mind, we will answer it. Now bring Mr. Mandell’s smoking things and have your own dinner,” she smiled again at the beaming Nora.
“Always kind, Rhea,” said Mandell adoringly.
“Am I, Louis? Well, I should be, for you set me an example. I discovered today, quite by accident, that it was you who paid poor Casson’s doctor bill, and put him into that little business where he is so happy. Why didn’t youf tell me?” She came and sat on the arm of his chair.
“Well, Miss, must you know everything? Isn’t it enough that I confess my faults to you?” said Mandell, pinching her ear.
“Faults? Though I know I am spoiling you, I must say it; I don’t believe you have any.”
He puffed reflectively at his cigar. “Don’t you, Rhea? Then listen to this.” And he related his conversation with Murray.
“Now,” he concluded, “this Murray, scion of an old family, supposedly rich, supposedly honorable, has borrowed the bank’s money through me, and spent it in wasteful living. To-day he tried to trick me, then bribe me, and insulted me over and over, or tried to, which comes to the same thing, but he has done it om>e too often. He must be taught a few of the realities of life, a little truth, and I’m going to teach him!”
Rhea was silent, but her eyes questioned, “How?”
“You see, he is saturated with prejudices against the Jews, and, absurd as it sounds, he believes in this ‘society’ of his; in his ‘friends’ in it. I am going to give him an excellent chance to put them to the test. Morrisohn hated him, and bought up all his debts, unknown to him, except the ones with our bank. When he decided to retire and go abroad he sold them all to me, personally. I bought them purely and simply as a good business investment. In less than a month, December 24th to be exact, three payments aggregating ten thousand dollars fall due. He came to me to borrow that money, not knowing that it was to me he owed it; and I refused him. I meant to make him a proposition that was not unfair to him, until he made it impossible. He cannoi raise another dollar unless his friends give it to him, outright and unsecured, and I can force him to the wall, ruin him utterly, before January 1st, if I am so minded. I have made it a point to investigate him thoroughly, and have found that some of his transactions are irregular, though 1 think mainly through ignorance. He has been despoiled by his own people, and put by them in case of need, in the pos'lion of scape-goat, criminally liable, you understand. He and his wife and daughters are about as capable as butterflies, but that don’t alter things. I can seize everything —land, houses, the very home he lives in, and turn him and his, dishonored and penniless, into the streets!”
“Louis! Don’t talk so. It sounds dreadful. Why should Mrs. Murray and her children suffer for his foolishness? What would become of them?
“That’s Murray’s lookout, I’m not responsible.”
“Is that right or just? Wouldn’t that be a stern revenge for a little bit of foolish talk? Who cares for it? Not we. If his prejudices and ignorance make him cruel, that is his misfortune, not ours. We, as Jews, must not do unworthy things just because one Christian does.”
“But, Rhea, even from a business viewpoint I am justified,” said Mandell, with averted eyes.
Mrs. Mandell laughed happily. “Now, Louis, I know I owe you an apology for thinking even for a moment that you meant to be harsh. You are merely hairsplitting for the sake of getting me to argue. You have no idea nor intention of ruining Murray or any man. There come our children !”
Mandell brought his first down on the table with a bang. “Rhea! I mean to teach that fellow a lesson he will never forget!”
She was silent an instant while she studied his scowling face, but she laughed as she opened the door. “I am not deceived, Louis.”
On December 23rd, the office boy ushered into Louis Mandell’s private office, a greatly altered /. Murray.
He was a wreck of his former self. Gone was his paunch, his face was aged and worn and pallid, dejection and defeat in every line. Gone was the overbearing manner, the diamond rings, the fob, the gold-headed cane, the pearl grey waistcoat and the vinuous breath. ín their places were gravity, a clear, though saddened eye, and strangely enough, a certain dignity.
“Sit down,” said Mandell, evenly.
“Thanks, you will pardon me if I stand. What I have to say I want to say standing.”
“As you like.”
“Mr. Mandell,” the banker noticed that he used the prefix now for the first time, “I have two things to say to you, and because I know you can’t have very much of an opinion of me, I’ll say this first. I’m down and out. I can’t raise the money I owe you. You will have to foreclose.” He paused and then went on with trembling voice. “But Mandell, for God’s sake put it off until after the holidays. Magiris don’t know yet. They are away, and will not be home until Christmas Eve. 1—I can’t tell them then. Let us keep the house a few days longer, for their sakes and my wife’s. Will you?”
“That is not usual,” said Mandell, in a deliberate toneless voice, “but I will consider it.”
“Thanks. I hope you will. Now, I want to apologize for my offensive remarks, especially about your wife. For her sake I hope she will never give society a chance to treat her as it has treated me. It’s heartless and bad, Mandell, and I never knew it until I needed my friends, my own fault. I am ashamed of the 1 have not a single one—and I guess it’s things I said to you about the Jews, and 1 beg your pardon for them.”
He turned without waiting for an answer and started for the door.
“Wait a moment!” cried Mandell, springing to his feet. He overtook Murray in the ante-room and grasped his hand.
“You are a man ! I admire you,” he said warmly. “As for that money—the papers are my personal property, not the bank’s so don’t worry about it. Any time will do, six months, a year, whenever you are on your feet again.”
The office boy was ushering in a newcomer.
Murray, utterly surprised, stared at Mandell half dazed.
“Do—do you mean that?”
“I surely do. You’ll excuse me now. 1 must see this gentleman at once.”
Murray began incoherent questions and thanks, but Mandell stopped him.
“Good-bye now, you really must excuse me and, now that we understand each other better, I hope we shall be friends.”