With another warm smile, the Professor counted out five gold coins and set them in Tevye’s hand.
“If you would like to change them into smaller coins, there is a currency exchange on the other side of the lobby. The black market rate may be higher on the street, I really don’t know, and it isn’t my job to offer financial advice, especially when it is against the law of our good friends, the Turks.”
“May their rule be erased from the land,” Tevye said.
“Precisely,” Glazebrook agreed. “But, as I am sure you understand, there are certain things my position doesn’t allow me to say.”
“Thank you,” Tevye said. He reached out and grasped the Consul’s hand. “May the Lord bless you for helping us.”
“My work is blessing enough. I feel very privileged to have been chosen for this great and holy task.”
The Professor escorted Tevye back to the door and bowed in a respectful farewell. The Jewish farmer bowed back.
“If I can help you in the future, please let me know,” the kind Consul added.
With his hand on the money in the pocket of his pants, Tevye made his way back to the door. Soldiers escorted him to the lobby as another Jew was led toward the Consul’s office. Not wanting to chance being swindled in the black market, Tevye exchanged three of his gold coins in the building before venturing out to the street. Though evening was approaching, the line extended all of the way down the block. As Tevye passed, people rushed forward to ask him for money, as if he were the Baron Rothschild himself. True, a Jew was commanded to give a tenth of his earnings to charity, but charity began at home. Tevye had to take care of his daughters, plus Moishe and Hannei, and Guttmacher’s two children, not to mention his own little boy. And his friends on the settlement needed money as well. Hurrying along, he brushed away the outstretched hands.
“The Lord have mercy,” he thought. “May the British army soon come and chase the cursed Turks from the Land.”
Suddenly, two men stepped forward and grabbed Tevye by the arms.
“Come with us,” one said in an urgent whisper. His hand held Tevye’s arm like a vise.
“What do you want from me?” Tevye asked in alarm. The men pushed him forward.
“We won’t hurt you, don’t worry.”
Quickly, they herded Tevye into an alley.
“Thieves!” Tevye screamed out.
One of the assailants covered Tevye’s mouth with his hand. The other shoved Tevye up against a wall.
“We aren’t thieves,” the larger man said.
If Tevye thought of fleeing, the sight of a revolver changed his mind.
“Have you ever heard of “Nili?” one asked
“No,” Tevye answered.
“Never,” Tevye said, sweating.
“Tell us the truth, grandfather. We’re on your side.”
Tevye shook his head no. The man holding the gun slipped it back into his jacket.
“We’re with “Nili,” he said.
Tevye stared at them. He tried to keep a blank expression on his face, as if he didn’t know what they were talking about.
“One of the passengers in the carriage you took to Jaffa told us about you. You told him you were on your way to Jerusalem to pick up some money.”
“Me and my big mouth,” Tevye thought. Golda had been right – if he hadn’t bragged to her cousin, Menachem Mendel, about the money the rich ladies of Boiberik had given him for rescuing them in the woods, he would still have been a rich man today.
“We need money to continue the struggle against the Turks.”
“I am a poor man,” Tevye said.
“We are all poor men. The Turks have kept us that way. Now is our chance to topple their government and expel them from the Land.”
One way or the other, God collects His tithes, Tevye thought. If he hadn’t been so tight-fisted when he turned all of the beggars outside the Consulate away, these two rogues would never have been sent in his path. True, their cause was just, but how could he become a benefactor of “Nili?” He could be hanged by the Turks for collaborating with spies!