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PETER couldn't sleep. He tossed and turned on his bed all night, and the sheets were damp with sweat. Quietly Esther lay beside him. She lay awake watching him, a curious hurt within her for his suffering.
"If there were only something I could do for him," she thought, "something I could say to make him really feel that it doesn't matter what happens—that the only important thing is that he tried. But there's nothing."
Peter looked up through the dark at the ceiling. He knew Esther was awake and he wanted her to sleep. The kids kept her running around all day. It was too much that she should have to spend the night up with him. He lay quiet and tried to simulate the slow breathing of sleep.
"If I had only taken Segale's offer things would be all right now," he thought, his mind going over the same ground for the thousandth time. "Johnny wouldn't have said anything then. He knew there wasn't anything else I could have done." He reproached himself silently. "Johnny didn't have anything to do with it. I wanted to make the picture, he didn't force me.
It was my own fault, I was too stubborn in Segale's office." He stirred restlessly. He wanted a cigar, then he remembered he wan ted Esther to think he was sleeping, so he lay quiet.
The night wore on and neither of them slept. Each lay as quietly as possible, wanting the other to get some rest, but neither of them succeeded in fooling the other.
At last Peter couldn't lie still any more. Slowly, carefully, he sat up in bed, listening for a change in Esther's breathing. She was quiet. He slipped his feet softly into the slippers at the foot of the bed and stood up. He stood there for a second and then silently tiptoed into the kitchen. He shut the door softly behind him so that the light would not shine into the bedroom and waken her.
The bright light hurt his eyes for a moment. As soon as his eyes cleared, he went to the table and picked up a cigar and lit it. He heard the door open behind him. He turned around.
Esther stood there. "Maybe you'd like a cup of coffee?"
He nodded his head silently and watched her as she went over to the stove and lit the flame under the coffee pot. She came over to the table and sat down opposite him.
Her hair was loose and hung over her shoulders in thick, luxuriant waves. He wanted to reach out and touch it, it looked so alive and warm, but he didn't. He just puffed silently at his cigar.
"When my father used to have troubles," she said, "he always came into the kitchen and smoked a cigar and drank a cup of coffee. 'It clears the head,' he used to say, 'it helps a man to think.' It's funny you should do the same thing."
He looked down at his cigar. "I'm not as wise a man as your father was. I make too many mistakes."
She reached across the table and put her hand on his. "My father used to tell me a story that went something like this. There was once a very wise old man known in his village as Yacov the Wise. And people used to come from all the countryside to sit at his feet and thus gain in wisdom from the pearls the Wise One would drop from his lips. One day there came a young, impetuous man who wanted to learn all he could from the master in one sitting, He did not have time to sit, as the others did, for weeks at the feet of the Wise One. He had to learn everything at once so he could be about his business. 'O Wise One,' he said, 1 am overcome with the wonders of
your knowledge and would like to know how I could gain the wisdom so necessary in order to avoid the foolish mistakes of youth.' The Wise One turned and looked at the brash young man. He looked at him for a long, long time. At last he spoke. 'Impetuous young seeker after knowledge,' he said gently, 'you can learn to avoid the mistakes of youth by living to a ripe old age.' The young man thought this over and at last he got to his feet and thanked the Wise One for answering his question. For it was the truth the Wise One had spoken, A mistake is not recognized until it has been made and passed.-For a mistake recognized before it was made would not be made and therefore would not be a mistake."
Peter turned his hand over and held her hand in his. He looked at her seriously and spoke softly in Yiddish. "Thy name was not given thee for nought. Thy wisdom is that of the good Queen whose name thou bearest."
The coffee bubbled over on the stove. Startled, she jumped to her feet and turned off the flame. She looked back at him over her shoulder. "Of what good is the wisdom of Queen Esther in a wife if she can't make her husband a good cup of coffee?"
They laughed and suddenly began to feel better. Peter stood up and put out his cigar. He was smiling warmly at her. "Come," he said, "let's go to bed. The worries can keep for the morrow."
"No coffee?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No coffee. That can wait for the morrow too."
They were sleeping when the telephone began to ring. Esther sat up in bed, frightened. To her, the telephone ringing in the night meant tragedy. She sat there in the dark, her heart pounding; her hand reached out for Peter.
He picked up the phone. "Hello," he said, "hello." Johnny's voice came excitedly through the receiver. "Peter, are you up'?"
Peter answered in a testy voice: "To whom would you be talking it 1 was asleep?"
"It's fixed, Peter," Johnny was shouting. "We can make the picture!"
"You're drunk," Peter said flatly. "Go home and go to sleep." "I was drunk," Johnny answered, "but honest, Peter, I'm sober as a judge now. It's all set. We can make the picture!"
Peter was wide awake. "You mean it?" His voice was incredulous, he couldn't believe his ears.
"Would I call you up at four o'clock in the morning if it weren't the truth?" Johnny asked. "Now go back to sleep and be at the studio at eight o'clock and I'll give you all the dope." Johnny hung up the phone.
Peter clicked the empty receiver in his hand. "Johnny!" he said. "Johnny!"
There was no answer, the phone was dead.
Peter hung up and turned to Esther, his eyes shining with tears. "Did you hear him? Did you hear that crazy kid?"
She was excited. "I heard him," she said.
"Isn't it wonderful?" he cried, putting his arms around her and kissing her.
"Now, Peter," she laughed happily, "remember. You want the neighbors should think we're newlyweds?"
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