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A RABBINICAL TALE

Once on a time a stranger came
At midnight to a wealthy man--
Rabbi Ben-ammi was his name--
And thus his salutation ran:

 

"Rabbi! I have a child at home
Who on the morrow's early light
Is eight days old--and thou must come
And celebrate the sacred rite."

 

Now this Ben-ammi, be it known,
Though few indeed were rich as he,
With growing wealth, alas! had grown
A miser to the last degree.

 

And yet he held, it should be told,
His office in such pure regard,
With all his sordid lust of gold,
He served the poor without reward.

 

So at the word Ben-ammi rose,
And when the sacred Law was read,
Forth in the night the Rabbi goes,
To follow where the stranger led.

 

The night was dark, and, sooth to say,
The road they trod was rough indeed;
Yet on and on they took their way,
Where'er the stranger chose to lead.

 

At last they reached, towards the dawn,
A rock so huge (without a wood)
A hundred steeds could not have drawn
The mighty stone from where it stood!

 

Now mark the wonder that occurred:
The stranger touched it with his hand,
Spoke to himself some mystic word,
And straight it moved from off the land!

 

And now the wondering Rabbi found
The earth was open for a space,
With steps that led beneath the ground,
As if to some mysterious place.

 

Descending these with prudent care,
And going far and farther down,
They reached an open country, where
They found, at length, a peopled town.

 

Among the houses, large and small,
There stood a palace vast and grand,
And here, within a spacious hall,
Were fairy-folks on every hand.

 

Now going where the woman lay
Whose child the sacred rite required,
The stranger bade Ben-ammi stay,
And, bowing, silently retired.

 

"Rabbi, pray listen!" said the dame;
"These people here whom thou hast seen
Thou knowest not except by name--
The fairy race of Mazakeen!

 

"They are not human like ourselves
(For I, indeed, was once of earth),
But queer, uncouth, uncanny elves,
Who find in mischief all their mirth.

 

"And yet they have religions too;
All kinds of creeds, like folks above;
And he who rules them is a Jew--
My husband whom I dearly love.

 

"And hence it was he made so bold
To bring thee hither in the night,
That for our babe, now eight days old,
Thou mayst perform the holy rite.

 

"He stole me from the earth away;
Of this I do not now complain:
But listen well to what I say,
If thou wouldst e'er return again.

 

"Beware! taste neither food nor drink
Whilst thou are here, on any plea,
Or in a moment thou wilt sink
Thy manly form to--what you see!"

 

The king returning with his suite,
The holy rite was duly done,
And all sat down to drink and eat
In merry glee--save only one.

 

Ben-ammi (fearing the abuse
The dame had borne) did not partake
Of bread or wine, but made excuse
Of three days' fast for conscience' sake.

 

Whereat the king was moved to say,
"How then shall I reward thy task?"
"Let me return to earth this day!"
Ben-ammi said; "'tis all I ask!"

 

"Nay!" answered he; and led him forth
'Mid heaps of gems and golden ore.
"I would return this day to earth,"
Ben-ammi said; "I ask no more!"

 

Entering another room, he sees
(And marvels much, we may suppose)
Along the walls, a thousand keys
In bunches, hung in rusty rows!

 

While gazing at each brazen line,
Ben-ammi cries, with startled tone:
"This bunch so much resembles mine
That I should take them for my own!"

 

"Thou sayest well," the king replied;
"They are thine own; 'tis here I hold
The keys of men who basely hide,
And do not use, their gathered gold.

 

"Here, take the keys!--henceforth thy heart
Will melt in pity for the poor;
And all thou givest will impart
A double blessing on thy store.

 

"Now, wouldst thou go, first, shut thine eyes,"
Then waves his hand towards the dome;
Up and away Ben-ammi flies,
And quickly finds himself at home!

 

And from that day Ben-ammi knew
The use of wealth, and understood
(While more and more his riches grew)
The bless├ęd art of doing good!