Chapter 20: The Deal
Wolf returned from Warsaw agitated and nervous. Moses had cautioned him to try one last time, but not to insist on a deal that would cause him to expend a lot of energy, which certainly would not good for his health. Rosa would come for an hour or two every day to help Wolf and Izio with various house chores. She would always scold Wolf for not napping in the afternoon and for running around as if possessed by a demon.
It had been a week since Wolf had visited the count and he was now emotionally and mentally prepared to meet with him again. Moses gave Wolf his assurance that he would personally come to the signing of the agreement and give the count the money. This would be after the count had given Wolf his final consent and Wolf had reviewed and made sure that all the guarantees were in order.
That morning, the day before the three women returned from Turkey, Wolf went to visit his old friend the jeweler, Leib Lewita.
“Leib, I need your help. But first, you must know that what I am about to tell is confidential and must be kept a secret. You must promise me not talk about it to a soul, not even your wife or children. Is that understood?” Wolf said.
Leib raised his eyebrows in surprise and responded, “May I be buried like an onion, head first in the ground, if I tell anybody.”
“Would you stop kidding around? This is a serious matter. I would like you to come to appraise some jewelry for me,” Wolf said.
“I will gladly come, but why all the mystery?” Leib asked.
“There is no mystery, just secrecy. The people in question are very important and therefore everything must be done confidentially and not a word may leak out,” Wolf said sternly.
“Like I said, with my head in the ground,” Leib replied.
A meeting was set up between Wolf, Leib and the count.
At the appointed time, Wolf came with his car to pick Leib up and together they went to the town of Maluszyn.
While traveling the narrow road that connected the town of Wloszczowa with Maluszyn, Leib turned to Wolf and said, “I do not want to meddle in your private affairs, but do you know that your daughter Lilly is very friendly with Lolek, the son of a pharmacist?”
“Lolek is like a family member. I see nothing wrong with what you just told me,” Wolf answered.
“Perhaps you do not understand what I am saying. There is love between them and too much closeness. I saw them riding together on his bike,” Leib said.
“You’re pushing your Jewish nose too deeply into places it should not be. I would appreciate it if you busied yourself with other things,” Wolf replied angrily.
Leib did not say another word until they arrived at the estate of the count. Wolf parked the car and they both walked toward the count, who was waiting for them at the door. Wolf shook his hand but did not show excessive warmth, whereas Leib almost doubled over while taking a low bow.
When they entered the large sitting room, Leib’s eyes darted in all directions and Wolf had to kick his leg to get him to concentrate on the job ahead.
The count brought out a leather bag and placed its contents on the table as Leib took a magnifying glass and began appraising the jewelry.
When he completed the appraisal, he added up the estimated value of each item and came to grand total of eighty thousand zlotys.
“That is what I have to offer,” Count Sosnowski said.
Wolf then turned to Leib and asked him, “Are you sure that you have not miscalculated? Perhaps you want to calculate again?”
“Everything depends on the economic and business climate. Today the prices are low because there is an oversupply of jewelry on the market and not much demand. At other times they may be evaluated much higher,” Leib answered.
“I will speak to the lender and we will be in touch. If he is satisfied with this amount, the money will be in your hands in a few days. I will leave a draft of the contract with you,” Wolf said to the count.
As they were leaving, the count apologized once again to Wolf for the incident that had taken place between them. Wolf assured him that as far as he was concerned the matter was forgotten..
“I know the song and it goes on and on, each stanza telling a different episode,” Cesia said as she laughed.
She then became more solemn as she continued to speak.
“Tell me my dear Lilly, what are your plans for your future? I am sure you have some. Your mother called me a few days ago and told me that you want to go to drama school and become an actress. Are you serious about it? Do you really know what you want to do?”
Lilly was taken aback by such blunt questions and a little surprised. However, she quickly regained her composure and answered her aunt very emphatically.
“Yes, I would like to study drama and become an actress. The theater appeals to me very much. My problem is the wretched location and situation in which I find myself. My parents have chosen to live in the town of Wloszczowa, which is surrounded by villages full of farmers and hog growers. I would have no choice, but to marry a farmer and have ten children. He will come home drunk every evening, and instead of giving me a kiss on my cheek he will plant his fist on my cheek, because that is what he is used to doing. I will have to stand all day and cook pigs’ intestines stuffed with potatoes and fat for him.”
“Oh, how you exaggerate. Who said that you will marry a Polish farmer? Where do you get these ideas from?” Cesia remarked.
“Well, ok, not a Polish farmer,” Lilly retorted.“Then I will marry a yeshiva student with a beard and side locks, a big black hat and have ten children with him. He will sit in his room all day praying and studying, talk to me in Yiddish, which I do not understand, while I cook gefilte fish, which I hate.”
Cesia doubled over with laughter.“I see why you want to study acting. You are really funny,” she remarked.
Lilly pulled out the camera from her bag.
“Auntie, please pose for me so that I can take your picture,” Lilly requested Cesia as she stepped back to get the desired angle.
Cesia tipped her black hat to one side and stood ready to be photographed.
“Auntie, please lift your dress up so that your thighs are visible. Look a bit vulgar and sexy,” Lilly demanded.
That evening, he packed a few belongings, took his wife who is sick and suffers from cancer, their ten year-old daughter and fled the country in his car without informing any of his friends or his family. They are presently in Wloszczowa, being cared for by the Jewish Labor Bund, the political party which promotes political, cultural and social autonomy of Jewish workers and seeks to combat anti-Semitism.They would like to continue to the United States; however they are in need of visas.”
Everybody listened intently to Stanislaw’s story, and silence reigned for a long time. Ilia broke the silence and said, “Yes, the situation in Germany is not a good one. Let’s hope it doesn’t get worse or reach us in Poland.”
Adam sat down next to Lilly and hugged her warmly, while she beamed from happiness. She really loved her arrogant red-headed cousin.
“So what is news in your love life, my sweet Lilly,” he asked. “Is there a man in your life?”
“You’re the man of my life,” she laughed and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I am serious, Lilly. You can tell me. I am as silent as the grave and will not tell anybody,” he laughed.
“There is somebody, but it is not serious” she replied.
“Do you love him, that lucky person?” he asked.
“I really do not know, but he loves me a lot,” Lilly answered.
“That is not good. You have to decide logically if he is right for you, not with your heart,” Adam said.
“I prefer to follow my heart, but it seems that it will not happen,” Lilly replied.
“I know sweetheart, you were always very rational,” he said.
Lilly noticed that Adam could hardly sit straight. He was tilting to one side as if about to topple over. She stood up and Adam lay down on the couch.
She walked over to Caesar who was smoking a cigarette near the window, as some of the guests also came over to take leave of him.
“Lilly, did you enjoy yourself this evening?” he asked.
“It was terrific. The two of you make a lovely couple. You are two talented, beautiful and smart people. May you have a wonderful life together,” Lilly said.
“Wow, those were some compliments,” Caesar said as he lowered his head with humility.
“Where will you be living?” Lilly asked.
“Ilia insists that for the time being we live with him,” Caesar answered.
“It makes sense. This way you can save some money and buy your own apartment,” Lilly responded.
“We already own an apartment. Ilia bought two apartments in a nearby building, one for Stefania and one for Mila. They are currently empty and all they need is furniture” he told Lilly.
“That is wonderful. I did not know all this,” Lilly commented.
“Do you still have any relatives in Russia?” She then asked
“Yes,” he answered. My father and my step brother live close to Moscow.”
“Do you not want to go to visit them,” she was curious.
“At this time it is very dangerous. It would be a one-way trip. I don’t want to endanger myself.”
While Lilly and Caesar were talking, other guests began coming over to bid him farewell.
Lilly went over to her father, who was sitting in an armchair with his head leaning to one side and sleeping. She woke him and together with David and Izio, they helped him down to the car. David drove the whole family back to Wloszczowa.
“Don’t you dare even tell her that you met him. I still suspect that the stone that was thrown through our window was somehow connected with that scoundrel. I have no proof, but that is my feeling,” Wolf said to Stanislaw.