The Dagger of Ali Ibn Masrur
AFTER the death of her husband, Yehuda Prosper Luria, known by both Jews and Muslims throughout the old Yishuv as Yehuda Prosper Luria Bey-a title conferred on him many years before by the Turkish Sultan-our landlady, Mrs. Gentilla Luria, stopped visiting all her friends and went out only once a week to call on Judge Dan Gutkin who helped her wind up her late husband’s estate to her complete satisfaction, just as he had always helped the old man himself to settle his affairs in the most satisfactory way. This judge, a member of the Supreme Court, was himself also a famous man in the Palestine of those days, much sought after by dignitaries and notables of both the Jewish and the Arab communities because of his supposed influence with the British Mandatory authorities. He remembered not only the days of Mrs. Luria’s greatness, when, as the wife of the Spanish consul at Jaffa, she took her place among the wives of all the other pashas and beys of the Ottoman Empire, but also the days of her beauty, when she felt on her back the eyes of men turning to look at her as she passed.
Soon, however, Gentilla began to return disappointed from her visits to the judge because of the dark alleyways into which his conversation tended to stray. Instead of dwelling on the memory of those days when she had been singled out from all the other girls at the Evelina de Rothschild School for Girls, he began returning in his thoughts and conversation to the days which had preceded that golden age, to her obscure early childhood as a carpenter’s daughter in Midan Street in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, a ragged, barefoot little girl peeping out of the attic window above her father’s workshop where the whole family lived in a kind of box, reeking of carpenter’s glue, sawdust, and turpentine. All his life Yentele’s father (for that had been her name until the day Consul Yehuda Prosper Luria Bey came to pay a courtesy call on the Evelina de Rothschild School for Girls, and she was the one chosen to present him with a bunch of flowers on behalf of the graduating class) lived in abject poverty, although he was the best carpenter in Jerusalem, had studied cabinet- making in the metropolis of Vienna, and had made the Ark of the Law for the Kahal Zion synagogue (which had an underground passage leading directly to Mount Zion and the sepulchers of the House of David).
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