Kalonymous finds matches and kindling to keep them all from freezing. Suddenly they realize they are being hunted by men with dogs and they flee into the forest in the pouring rain.
* * *
The experience in the forest had terrified all of them, but it had the worst effect on Hershel. He was the one who, through nearly superhuman strength, had saved Kalonymous’s life. The thought of losing Kalonymous plagued his thoughtss, even after they had reached safety in the caring home of the Rothsteins.
Hershel longed to trust them, but when he would try to reach out, the memory of that cold and rainy night would return to haunt him. One day, Kalonymous gathered them together and took them out for a walk away from the house. Hershel was initially wary, fearing that Kalonymous was going to tell them that it was time to pack up and move on. He did not know what he would do if that happened; he could no longer imagine being anywhere else than where he was at this moment.
Kalonymous finally found a quiet spot and set them down in a small circle, their legs crossed and their shoulders touching. Kalonymous took out a fat slice of Breindl’s homemade crumbly cheese and handed each of them a portion, along with a hunk of fresh black bread.
Dovid’l devoured his piece immediately, but Hershel hung back, choosing to nibble at the cheese instead.
“What’s wrong?” said Kalonymous. “Why aren’t you eating?”
Hershel looked down at the new trousers Breindl had sewed for him. They were much lighter and softer than the heavy breeches he’d worn in Germany.
“What is it? Tell me,” Kalonymous demanded.
Hershel’s voice finally crept out of his mouth. “Aren’t we supposed to wash our hands before we eat bread? That’s what we do at the Rothsteins.”
Kalonymous frowned. “We didn’t wash our hands before we ate while we were running from the dogs, did we?”
Hershel shook his head.
“Well, this is no different. We are still on the run, and the same rules apply. Now eat your bread.” The tone of his voice left no room for discussion, so Hershel broke off the bread in small pieces, feeling every crumb as it slid like sand down his throat.
After they had finished eating, Hershel tried to say the words of Birkat Hamazon that he recalled from the chanting he often heard at the Rothsteins. Without realizing it, he began to hum the niggun softly, where he couldn’t recall the words.
“Stop that,” said Kalonymous, clearly annoyed with him. “Hershel, Dovid’l, we are in trouble.”
“No, we’re not,” said Dovid’l. “Fetter Motti never hits or punishes me.”
“What do you mean?” asked Hershel, his little forehead creased with worry.
Kalonymous didn’t mention his run-in with Yehudah. “We have to start doing more around the house.”
“What do you mean?” said Dovid’l. “We do lots of stuff.”
“I just think we should start making ourselves useful. Volunteer to do chores, things like that.”
Hershel sat quietly for a moment, thinking. Then he said, “Do you think they will tell us to go if we don’t? I don’t want to go.”
Kalonymous stared at him for a long moment, hints of betrayal drawing thin, barely perceptible lines in his face. “I know you don’t. That’s why I think we should get busy.”
“What should we do?” asked Dovid’l.
“All kinds of things. Never walk past the broom without picking it up and giving a sweep. Take all the scraps out for the chickens and sheep. Collect the eggs. Bring in water. There’s a million things. You just have to keep your eyes open.”
“My eyes are always open,” said Dovid’l hotly. “I never close them.”
Hershel chuckled warmly. He envied Dovid’l, in a way, in that he was not as fiercely bonded to Kalonymous as he was. All Dovid’l wanted and needed was love, and he took it freely from wherever it was offered. Hershel could feel him melding into life with the Rothsteins; soon he would be one of them altogether. Hershel wondered if Dovid’l would eventually take their name. He had already decided to remain a Sperling, because he wanted always to be reminded of his mother and the family as it was in Germany.
“In any case,” said Kalonymous. “This is what we must do if we want to remain here, at least for now.”
They suddenly heard a rustle of leaves and quiet footsteps approaching. Kalonymous rose immediately, placing himself in front of his brothers, instinctively accustomed to protecting them at all costs.
A tall figure was slowly approaching; after a moment they could see it was Zayit.
“Shalom yeladim,” he greeted them. He noted the waxed paper they’d left on the ground. “Be sure to pick up the papers when you go.”
“We will, we will!” Kalonymous nodded his head vigorously.
“Of course you will,” said Zayit warmly. “I have no doubt. Say, Kalonymous, could I take you away from your dear brothers for a short while? I have something I’d like to show you.”
Kalonymous looked uncertainly at Hershel and Dovid’l.
“It’s okay,” said Hershel. “I know the way home.”
To be continued . . .