But Miriam, the wife of Ephraim, looked out of the window at the dead as the biers passed and said that she was afraid. Ephraim comforted her with hopes of the synagogue to be, and collected bills as was his custom.

In one night the two children died and were buried early in the morning by Ephraim. The deaths never appeared in the City returns. ‘The sorrow is my sorrow,’ said Ephraim; and this to him seemed a sufficient reason for setting at naught the sanitary regulations of a large, flourishing, and remarkably well-governed Empire.

The orphan boy, dependent on the charity of Ephraim and his wife, could have felt no gratitude, and must have been a ruffian. He begged for whatever money his protectors would give him, and with that fled down-country for his life. A week after the death of her children Miriam left her bed at night and wandered over the country to find them? She heard them crying behind every bush, or drowning in every pool of water in the fields, and she begged the cartmen on the Grand Trunk Road not to steal her little ones from her. In the morning the sun rose and beat upon her bare head, and she turned into the cool wet crops to lie down and never came back; though Hyem Benjamin and Ephraim sought her for two nights.

The look of patient wonder on Ephraim’s face deepened, but he presently found an explanation. ‘There are so few of us here, and these people are so many,’ said he, ‘that, it may be, our God has forgotten us.’

In the house on the outskirts of the city old Jackrael Israel and Hester grumbled that there was no one to wait on them, and that Miriam had been untrue to her race. Ephraim went out and collected bills, and in the evenings smoked with Hyem Benjamin till, one dawning, Hyem Benjamin died, having first paid all his debts to Ephraim. Jackrael Israel and Hester sat alone in the empty house all day, and, when Ephraim returned, wept the easy tears of age till they cried themselves asleep.

A week later Ephraim, staggering under a huge bundle of clothes and cooking-pots, led the old man and woman to the railway station, where the bustle and confusion made them whimper.

‘We are going back to Calcutta,’ said Ephraim, to whose sleeve Hester was clinging. ‘There are more of us there, and here my house is empty.’

He helped Hester into the carriage and, turning back, said to me, ‘I should have been priest of the synagogue if there had been ten of us. Surely we must have been forgotten by our God.’

The remnant of the broken colony passed out of the station on their journey south; while a Subaltern, turning over the books on the bookstall, was whistling to himself ‘The Ten Little Nigger Boys.’

But the tune sounded as solemn as the Dead March.

It was the dirge of the Jews in Shushan.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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