Motti takes the boys for a ride and feeds them well. They reminisce about Berl and Fisch until Kalonymous is overcome with sad memories. Motti asks him to explain their life before rescue, but he finds that he can’t speak about it.
* * *
“I don’t understand why he’s doing this,” Emanuel said to Esther. He had just received the letter Motti wished for him to send to Copenhagen. “Why can’t he leave the past in the past?”
Esther took his comment as a cue to sit down and give her full attention.
“What does the letter say?” she asked.
“I’m not going to open it, but I already know what he’s looking for. He wants more information about the Sperling boys. I told him already he doesn’t need to look further than his own nose, that the point of bringing the boys over was to move them forward into the future, not drag them backwards.” He shook his head in dismay. “He’s always looked for the reason behind things. It might end up being harmful.”
Esther chuckled lightly despite the gravity of their conversation. “It’s hard to reconcile the Motti of today, so serious and responsible, with that mischievous imp he was when we married.”
Emanuel remained grim. “Well, he’s still my little brother and he’s still a nuisance.”
“Are you going to mail the letter?” Esther asked.
“Believe me, I’ve already considered tossing it into the garbage and leaving well enough alone.” He gave a heavy sigh. “But I can’t.”
Before the Sperlings’ arrival, she had spent days getting ready for them, filling the pantry with dry goods, washing and ironing linens, towels, and the good-quality clothing their children had grown out of. They would have slept in real beds in their home, eaten plenty of nutritious food and slept comfortably in the warmth of a kerosene heater.
They had both known, the moment they laid eyes on the boys, before Breindl had said a word, that Esther would not be able to take them in. As wide and deep as Esther’s heart was, she’d been too horrified by their wasted condition. She wouldn’t have known where to start, and her relief was almost palpable when it became clear that Breindl would be caring for them.
Esther had tried to hand over everything she’d prepared for them, but Breindl had gently refused. “I don’t want to separate them from the others,” she’d explained. “It will be difficult enough for both sets of children to adjust. If the Sperlings are given preferential treatment it might make things worse.”
Correctly interpreting her sister-in-law’s expression, she pulled her into a warm hug. “You are like a sister and a mother and a dear friend all rolled into one. I don’t think there is anyone more fortunate than I am to have you in my life, except perhaps Emanuel!” They’d parted warmly, but the sting hadn’t entirely passed.
“Even though I don’t know what good can come from it, I will still post it for him. They are the ones responsible for the children, and if he thinks it can help, I can’t stand in his way. In this case I must defer to him.” Emanuel got up then. “I guess I’ll take care of it right away.”
When Esther didn’t respond a little warning bell went off in his mind, but he forced himself to ignore it. “Have a good day, then,” he said to her back. “I’ll go to the beis medrash directly after, so I’ll be home later on this evening.”
“I’ll keep dinner warm for you,” she said, her voice small and hidden.
“Good. Good.” He took the hat hanging from a nail on the wall near the door — a far cry from the ornate coat stand they’d had in New York — and stepped out into the warm afternoon.
* * *
The letter wended its way from the blue waters of the Mediterranean to the icy Scandinavian fjords, travelling by land and sea and making many ports of call before its unceremonious arrival on the desk of Dagfin Gassner.
“What is this?” he asked his assistant, holding up the slim, hand-folded envelope. “Mandate postmark from Palestine?”
“We’ve sent a few of the refugees there, the ones with relatives willing to claim them,” said the efficient assistant, who was never seen without a clipboard in his hand and a pen behind his ear.
Gassner nodded, waiting for the assistant who, although his real name was Karl Olsen, was only referred to as Bruno. Instead of feeling insulted, he took pride in the name, being a rare brunette among the strapping Danes. He was, of course, a Jew, which, in Denmark was not yet a crime but still required a fair amount of discretion.
When Gassner saw the name at the top of the notepaper he knew immediately who the sender was. There weren’t many child refugees brought into their offices covered in blood. He’d been angry at first, but ultimately agreed with their rescuer that it was an important detail on many levels. It had certainly sped up the search for relatives, but even more than that, their image had been engraved upon every pair of eyes that beheld them.
To be continued . . .