He turned away from the child, put on his hat hurriedly, and went out, locking the door behind him. He walked on aimlessly, but with no peace of mind… The baby’s cries kept ringing in his ears, as if it were calling to him… In fancy he could see it before him, kicking its little legs about, wailing frantically… No! he must turn back. …“Oh, if I could get a-hold of her now!” he thought to himself, “I’d nab her by the throat and choke her!… choke her till her tongue stuck out, damn her!”
He entered a bakery, bought a roll, and went back to the house. The baby lay as before, uncovered, but smiling.
“Devil take the brat! he looks comfortable enough, the little cuss.” .. .And he left the house again. But he couldn’t make himself walk on. All the time he fancied he heard the little one wailing… and it made him feel such a gnawing anguish at heart. …
He clenched his fists and returned to the house. Now the baby was crying with a prolonged wail, “Mam-m-m-ma!… mam-m-m-ma!…”
“Your mamma, eh? The brat! … Go and look for your precious mamma—plague take her!”
He took the child in his arms. It nestled up to him, seeking something eagerly with its little lips.
“Blast her ugly soul,” he kept on cursing, while he patted the infant’s cheek and body. “Don’t cry, Shloimale… be quiet now… be quiet, I beg you.”
Baby with a Spoon
The baby continued to seek with its little mouth, waved its hands about, and nodded its head, as if on the point of speaking. He drew it closer to him, at the same time looking about for some milk. He found a little on the stove, and soaked some of the roll in it. Then he began to feed the baby with a spoon, talking to it meanwhile, in a gentle voice. … “Eat, sonny, eat. … Your mother—devil take her—has deserted you. … Even a dog doesn’t abandon its young. … She’s worse than a dog. … Don’t cry. … No, I won’t abandon you … on my word of honor, I won’t.”
When the baby had quieted down, he wrapped it in a cloth, and took it into the street.
His presence in the market-place created quite a stir. Burih Kulock* with a baby! … From his “stand,” Kradnick called out: “Hey, Kulock! where did you get the kid?”
Kradnick’s wife got up excitedly, and hurried up to the baby with open arms. She wiped her face with her apron several times out of sheer gladness… laughed, and slapped the tiny urchin on the buttocks.