Translated and edited by Joachim Neugroschel


"Listen, mother-in-law, if it's not too expensive, I'd really like to have a necklace of coral beads. Good heavy coral."
"Well, how often have I told you: Just go over to Freydel and pick out whatever your heart desires. If you like, we'll go right now. For my sake, she won't charge you much."
Our dark-haired Freydel, who lent money on interest and took security, mostly coral, had gradually, almost for fun, started dealing in the coral itself, on the side, she bought it very cheap from her debtors and then offered it much cheaper than any coral vendors, and leer moonlighting grew and grew until she was actually doing business with all the dealers in Berditchev and Brody. Everyone in Mazepevke knew that you could get it decent string of coral from Freydel, Stempeniu's wife Freydel.
Miraculous! Where did Freydel get her sales talent, her way of dealing with the customers, her ability to talk them into buying? When Dvosse-Malke and her daughter-in-law stepped into her house, Freydel welcomed them with open arms:
"Hello, hello! How are you, Dvosse-Malke? You know, I've had my eye on you for a long time?"
"On me? How come, Freydel?"
"How come, you ask? Why, a year ago, you brought a gem into your home - and that was that! You should have come here with your daughter-in-law at some point and picked out something for her. Why, I tell you, Dvosse-Malke, it's a crying shame!"
"You're so right, Freydel darling, but it's not my fault. What can I do if my daughter-in-law doesn't want coral, no matter how much I beg her?"
"Now that's a new one on me! What do you mean she doesn't want coral? With you, she doesn't want, but with me she will want, don't worry!"
And Freydel quickly opened a huge green chest, and began pulling out one set of coral beads after another, placing them in front of the customers, talking all the while and uttering all sorts of good wishes and compliments like a true businesswoman.
"Just look, Dvosse-Malke, if you take my word for it, you'll have your daughter-in-law buy this string of beads, may you and I be as pure as these beads. Why they're pure Orleans beads! just try them on, if you please, on your throat, that's right. Oh, I'm absolutely envious, they look so beautiful on your white throat! Wear them in good health and may God grant that your mother-in-law can buy five strings of such big pearls a year from now. Oh, how wonderfully they dress your face! Tell me, Dvosse-Malke, you're a jewelry mayven, what's your opinion? It should only happen to me, by God!"
With these words, Freydel pulled a mirror out of the chest and held it up in front of Rachel, Freydel's green eyes glittered with pride and joy, and she had worked up a sweat with all her talking and swearing and wishing.
"And is your Stempeniu working hard?" Dvosse-Malke asked, pointing to the room where rare and sweet sounds were coming from.
"Yes, he's playing," Freydel replied and began showing other strings of coral, all kinds, and meanwhile she and Dvosse-Malke got into a long conversation, which is what happens when two shopkeepers get together and talk shop.
Rachel sat on the side, not listening to their conversation. Rachel heard another conversation, another voice, other words, that could be heard from Stempeniu's violin, words that went straight to her heart, and she stood up only when the violin stopped playing and Stempeniu appeared in the doorway. Their eyes met and both he and she turned a fiery red .... Stempeniu halted at the door, unsure of what to do next. And as she looked at him, Rachel told her mother-in-law that it was time to go home. Dvosse-Malke gasped and wrung her hands:
"Oh, for goodness' sake! Just look at how long we've been talking! Well, Freydel, what are you going to charge me for the beads. You can't ask too much from me, Freydel. You've got to be straight with me!"
"As straight as a ramrod! Listen, Dvosse-Malke, let me choke on the first food I eat if I tell you a lie! Sossi wanted to force eighteen rubles on me for the beads, may the Good Lord preserve me and my husband! What can I do? I hesitated - Sossi is Sossi, and you're Dvosse-Malke. I'll give them to you for fifteen rubles, and believe me, I swear on my grandmother's grave, I'm not earning a kopek on them, as God is my witness!"
"Well, fifteen is fifteen, I'll give you twelve, Freydel, twelve rubles in cash."
"Oh, the Lord preserve us, Dvosse-Malke, don't haggle!" shouted Freydel heatedly, grabbing Dvosse-Malke's hands as if they were about to dance a jig.
In that moment, Rachel and Stempeniu could quickly exchange a few words.
"I want to tell you something, Stempeniu."
"I want to tell you something too, Rachel."
"You already did tell me something."
"In the letter."
"it wasn't much."
"It was too much."
"No, it wasn't even one one-hundredth."
"You're wrong."
"I swear by my life, I'm dying! Where can I meet you?"
"I don't know where we can meet."
"In the evening?"
"On Monastery Street."
"Saturday night. You can go out on the other side to Monastery Garden."
"I can't, I won't."
"You have to, Rachel. Please, just come out for one minute! Be there, I'll wait for you, on Saturday night, for God's sake, Rachel...."
"I won't come."
"You will come, Rachel, you will come!..."
"Well, daughter," called Dvosse-Malke. "Come on, let's go home. We barely got it for fourteen rubles. Why, I didn't realize you were such an expert businesswoman, Freydel!"
"Oh, Dvosse-Malke, God preserve you, you're a hard bargainer, upon my word! Good day to you and stay well! Wear the necklace in the best of health! Use it in the best of health! May it last forever, and may you live even longer!"

"She can go on crutches, the bitch, the way she haggled me to death!" said Freydel to Stempeniu, closing the door behind them. "And that daughter-in-law, the white heifer, she just sits there and keeps her mouth shut. She looks about as good in that coral as a pig!..."

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