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THE HOUSE ON
It was an old-fashioned silver brooch
of unique design, a family heirloom
bearing the name "Yehudis" in Hebrew
lettering a gift from Judy's great-
uncle Martin. He was also kind enough
to offer his unoccupied property on
Kyverdale Road as a home-base for her
research on inner-city life. For Judy
Marks, who cannot even read the in-
scription, the brooch at first seems a
meaningless relic. But from the mo-
ment she enters the dilapidated house
and finds herself inexplicably drawn to
the family next door and to an unfamil-
iar community so different from any-
thing she's ever experienced, the silver
bar-pin begins to grow in significance.
There is an unsettling quality to
Judy's new surroundings, made even
more disquieting by the confusing
dreams that begin to haunt her nights
and stalk her days, dreams people
strange character", from a century
in far-off settings. And one of those
characters is none other than Yehudis
Judy's namesake and the original
owner of the pin!
Although Judy's friend Penny, her
companion on this foray into London's
less-affluent urban centers, is bent on
sightseeing, Judy soon tires of the dis-
traction. She feels driven to unravel the
secrets of her peculiar dreams, which
she is certain connect in some way
to the neighbors, the odd community,
and her own distant past. The answer
must be in the yellowed, crumbling let-
ters and clippings she has unearthed,
but these are in an indecipherable lan-
guage and Judy has no means of un-
scrambling them...until Malka Fish-
man comes into the picture.
In this enchanting historical novel,
The HOUSE on
There really is a street named Kyverdale Road, as
anyone who lives in Stamford Hill can tell you; there
are records of Jewish families living there as far back
as the 1860s. The characters in this book, however, are
all imaginary, and any similarity to a past or present
personality is purely coincidental.
The first Sunday of every month always
brought Great-Uncle Martin down to the sea
for the day. Judy never paid much attention
to the old man's visits; a polite hello and
goodbye when he came and went was about all the con-
versation there had been between them for years. When
she was small she watched with a fascinated eye as he
gulped his coffee piping hot, and wondered if he would
exhale the steam. That was all he needed to fortify himself,
before he would make his way through the overgrown
field that backed their garden along the worn path that
marked the way to the sea.
Occasionally, Judy would catch a glimpse of him from
her bedroom window which looked out onto the pebbled
beach: a small upright figure dressed in faded black,
perched on the two-legged stool that folded out of his
walking stick. He looked to all the world like a spry old
crow on the limb of a winter tree, staring out to sea.
Then, one day, out of the blue, he brought her the
brooch the one with the Hebrew lettering.
That Sunday morning had started out cold and rainy.
By eleven, the sun was beginning to peep out blearily
from under its cloudy cover, but that did not make much
difference to Judy. She missed her daily walk along the
sea, but she was still feeling quivery and weak all over
from a two-week bout of flu. The wind that whipped
the autumn leaves onto their sprawling lawn made her
shiver and stifled any temptation she may have had to
take her first step outdoors. Somehow, even her wrinkled
bedcovers looked more inviting and she wondered if she
should just go back to sleep. Judy eyed her room with
distaste. It was littered with the debris of two weeks
of enforced idleness; crumpled tissues and unfinished
mugs of cocoa adorned the dresser and night table, and
crossword puzzle books were scattered across the carpet.
Why don't you clear up this wreck? Judy prodded
herself. Then her stomach rumbled noisily, reminding
her that she'd only picked at her breakfast that morning,
so she decided to try to appease it with a cup of tea
downstairs. Pausing uncertainly on the landing outside
her room, she could hear the clatter of cups and saucers
from the kitchen, and her uncle's wheezy chuckle floated
upstairs as if carried aloft by the fragrant cloud of hot
coffee. He hasn't gone down to the beach yet, thought
Judy. I'm not in the mood to be friendly right now. She
turned back to her bedroom door but the sound of her
name made her stop, her hand still on the doorknob.
Judith. He always called her that, even when she was
small enough to shrilly insist that her name was Judy.
"I've brought it for Judith," he was saying. "I've always
wanted her to have it."
She could hear her mother laugh. "You don't expect
her to wear it, do you, Uncle Martin?"
Another wheezy chuckle floated up the steep cottage
steps. "I suppose not. But I've always wanted Judith to
have it anyway."
Judy poked her head cautiously over the railing, cu-
riosity overcoming her get-back-into-bed mood. What
could Great-Uncle Martin possibly have brought her?
she wondered. For a moment, wild images flashed across
her mind, of going off to school dressed in a long bil-
lowing dress with a bustle, nineteenth-century style, or
sauntering along the beach in a long feather boa from the
roaring twenties. She stifled a giggle. Her mother, sharp-
eared as ever, peered out of the kitchen door and called,
"Judy? Is that you? Come on downstairs. Uncle Martin
wants to say hello."
Uncle Martin looked up as Judy entered the warm
fragrant kitchen. She gave him her usual perfunctory
smile and polite hello, while her eyes traveled down to the
small oblong box that sat on the table beside his coffee
cup. It was an old wooden box in a dark rusty black color
with bits of beige glimmering through. The top and the
bottom parts of the old-fashioned jewelry box now lay
open, side by side on the table, held together by small
metal hinges. Yellowing bits of tissue paper emerged from
Uncle Martin smiled. "I've finally brought this for you,
Judith," he said. 'Told your mum about it ages ago but I
thought I'd wait until you were old enough not to laugh.
At sixteen, you might like owning something without
actually wearing it. Here, take a look."
Judy reached out to take whatever it was that he
was holding. For a moment though, she stared at the
old man's face. That was the longest stretch of words
that he'd ever said to her and she was surprised to see
the emotion that lurked in his eyes behind the fixed,
determined smile. Then she looked down at the bit of
jewelry in her hand. It was a three-inch-long oblong bar
pin made of heavy silver, the type worn by ladies long
ago, just below their high ruff collars. Not quite a taffeta
dress with a bustle, but surely a suitable accessory for
THE HOUSE ON KYVERDALE ROAD
one. Judy could readily picture the beautifully engraved
brooch perched above a long row of glittering Jet buttons
marching down the front of a severe black dress, pinched
at the waist, swirling out at the ankles. But whose dress?
She looked up to find her great-uncle's eyes, surpris-
ingly clear for a man in his eighties, resting upon her, a
curious expression on his face.
Judy didn't quite know what to answer. "I...I guess
I should say thank you very much. But...Why me? You
did say you wanted me to have it, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did," Uncle Martin answered. "Well, why don't
you look at the name?"
'The name?" Judy stared at him blankly and then
looked down at the intricate pattern etched into the
metal bar. She could make out the faint outline of what
appeared to be a pair of hands above a sea of loops
and whirls. Then the swirling lines and circles suddenly
resolved themselves into definite shapes and she could
discern two small hook-shaped figures, one in the middle
and one at the end of the line. She looked up at her uncle.
"Are these some sort of letters?"
Uncle Martin snorted. "You haven't taught her much,"
he said wryly, turning to her mother. "Not even to read a
Her mother's cheeks burned red as her chin came up
defensively. "What on earth does she need all that for,
out here in this town?" Mrs. Marks replied, trying to keep
the belligerence out of her voice. "Read what? Something
she'll never see? Something she'll observe as little as you
Judy was astounded to see a crimson blush slowly
cover the old man's face as his eyes shifted in embar-
rassment. He hemmed and hawed to cover the awkward
silence that suddenly chilled the kitchen.
"Well, Shirley," he finally responded, "you've got a
point there. But still, not even to recognize the alphabet?"
Judy put the bar pin down in front of her great-uncle,
her face alive with curiosity. "Is it Hebrew?" she asked.
"What does it say?"
Uncle Martin picked up the brooch and slowly traced
the pattern with his gnarled finger. Then he reached into
his pocket and withdrew an old-fashioned fountain pen,
the type Judy had been forced to do her handwriting
exercises with back in Junior 3. Judy watched with fas-
cination as the old man carefully scratched six spidery
shapes onto the back of an old envelope. He started with
the hook she had noticed at the end of the line and copied
the tracing right to left.
"There you are," he finally said with a flourish. "Behold
the letters of your name! Or ratherthe Hebrew original:
"Yehudis." Judy felt the strange syllables swirl plea-
surably over her tongue. "Who was she?"
Uncle Martin smiled in satisfaction. "My grandmother.
And your great-great grandmother! Thought you might
like to have this. You have the same name. Yehudis is
Judith, you know." He eyed Judy's mother curiously.
"What made you give the child that name, Shirley? I've
Mrs. Marks laughed softly. "You won't believe this, but
Granny Vi made me promise I would."
"Granny Vi! My mother?" Uncle Martin looked aston-
ished. "When was that?"
"Oh, I was only twelve at the time. She started out one
day, patiently trying to explain to me that twelve was an
important birthday for me, but she gave up somewhere in
the middle. And finished off in her own imperious way
she always was an old Tartar, wasn't she? I was frankly
petrified of her, old as she was."
The two adults laughed.
"So was I," Uncle Martin admitted. "But you know,
she did have her softer side. I loved to watch her as she
lit the candles each week. She looked warm and gentle
then. Sometimes she even cried."
"Really?" Judy's mother was astonished. "She lit can-
dles every week?"
Uncle Martin looked surprised. "Of course she did. So
did my sister your Granny Bess. Every week. No sense
in lighting them now and again, is there, Shirley?" he
She blushed and began to rub an imaginary stain on
her sleeve. "I suppose not," she admitted. "My mother lit
every Friday night that we ate together as a family. And so
do I. But that doesn't happen very often, I must confess."
They were quiet for a moment while the clock ticked
steadily in the warm fragrant kitchen.
"So she made you promise," Uncle Martin prompted
her to continue. "Promise what?"
Judy's mother smiled, remembering. "'If you ever have
a daughter,'" she quoted, "'promise me you'll name her
Judith.'" She laughed. "I somehow got up the nerve to ask
Grandma why but she just waved her hand impatiently.
'Never you mind why,' she said. 'Just promise me.' So I
did. And then she looked at me and said, 'Judith means
Daughter of the Jewish People. You know that, don't you?'
I nodded my head dutifully even though I didn't. That was
the last time I saw her; she died two weeks later. But I
did keep my promise."
She looked at Judy affectionately. "You don't mind, do
Judy shook her head absently; she was still examining
the silver bar. "What about the hands?" she asked.
The hands?" This time her uncle wore a blank look
and he took the bit of silver to examine it again. "Oh yes!
The hands. See their position? I believe that's the way the
kohen er, the priest holds his hands when he blesses
the people." His brow furrowed as he seemed to see the
brooch for the very first time. "Now, I wonder what those
hands are doing there. I never really noticed them."
Finally he shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know much
about this pin, actually," he admitted. "My mother got it
from her mother. I vaguely remember seeing my grand-
mother only once, when I was a very little lad."
Judy blinked. "Really? Where did she live?"
Uncle Martin smiled gently, remembering. "She lived
up in North London. In a house on Kyverdale Road."
Uncle Martin's visits continued like clockwork the
first Sunday of each month he would come down to
the sea. But ever since the day that he brought her the
brooch, Judy no longer tried to avoid him. She was nearly
eighteen now and she considered herself mature enough
to appreciate the visits of her elderly uncle.
The morning had started out cold and blustery, but
Judy bundled up and went out to brave the November
wind. She walked along the sea wall down to the Bill,
the outermost point on the promontory, where the land
poked a long spindly finger out into the sea. From here
the shore receded on either side; on a clear night, you
could see the lights of Portsmouth, miles down along the
coast. Today, thick gray clouds scudded across the leaden
skies, obscuring the horizon, drawing along behind them
a thick gray mist that shrouded the sky and sea and
melted the two together.
Her feet automatically went their usual route, and
although every step drew her nearer to the spot where
Great-Uncle Martin was sitting, Judy did not change
direction. She had not spoken much to him since that
conversation at the kitchen table when he had brought
her the silver brooch, but her stay-out-of-his-way atti-
tude had long disappeared. Besides, he had picked a
perfect spot for this weather; the bank of pebbles and
shells that marked summer high tide level provided some
shelter from the wind.
Great-Uncle Martin smiled at her from his perch above
the sand. 'Take a seat," he invited, pointing to the nearest
boulder. "Make yourself at home."
Judy laughed as she complied. For a while, the old
man and the girl sat in companionable silence, watching
the surf crash onto the shore. Each foam-drenched wave
tried to outreach the other as the tide brought the sea
gradually closer to the spot where the two were sitting.
"Won't be long till it reaches us," Uncle Martin said at
last. Time to move on."
"I suppose so," Judy answered reluctantly. "I've got
stacks of homework waiting for me. I should be getting
The old man smiled down at her sympathetically. "Lots
of work, isn't it? Last year of school?"
"No, I'm staying on for sixth form," Judy answered.
"But it is a lot of work. GCSE's, you know."
"Afraid I'm a bit out of it," Uncle Martin admitted. 'Tell
me about it."
Judy eyed her uncle curiously, surprised at his ap-
parent interest in her studies. "I'm trying hard for at least
three A's," she heard herself tell him. Then come A levels.
If I do the same then, I hope I get my first preference in
University choice. There's really only one place I want to
"Winchester University College," Judy answered in a
sudden rush. 'They've got the best Journalism course
around and I simply must do it."
Uncle Martin's smile was not patronizing, just friendly.
"Oh, is that what you're planning? Feel you're cut out to
be a reporter?"
Judy laughed ruefully. "I think I've got an inquiring
mind. Mum calls it just plain nosy."
The old man chuckled. "Isn't it always like that?" he
asked. "You know, I'm the one who has a healthy ego, is
steadfast and strong-minded while the other fellow is the
one who is arrogant, obstinate, aggressive and pushy!"
They both laughed.
"So what are you so busy with right now?"
"It's my Geography project," Judy confided. "I've got
a great idea that could really land me an A. Problem is,
I can't decide how to actually do it." She poured some
pebbles between her fingers reflectively. "Mum won't let
me stay in a Bed-and-Breakfast in the middle of London.
Even if Penny comes with me like she said she would.
Mum says it's too dangerous. So how do I write up a
project about Inner City life without actually experiencing
it? Isn't that what a good reporter does?"
"I'm not sure I follow you." Uncle Martin said carefully.
"You've got to do some sort of project on the Inner City,
you say. Company isn't the problem, I take it; you've got
a friend to come with you."
Judy nodded. "Penny and I have always been friends
even though she is older. She's finished school already
and is working in her father's shop. But it's slow season
now so he won't mind her taking a break and coming
along to London. She says she'd love to do some shopping
at the sales there."
"So what's the problem? You need a fairly decent place
Judy nodded again. "Just somewhere to sleep and
observe the natives, you know."
Uncle Martin laughed. 'The natives, you say. Well, I
happen to own a place in what you might call an Inner City
area. It's about to be renovated after the last tenant, but
the electricity is still on and I even think the telephone's
in working order. Sound good?"
"Sounds great!" Judy beamed. "Where is it?"
"I think I've mentioned it to you before," Uncle Martin
said, smiling. "It's the old house on Kyverdale Road."
It was morning on Kyverdale Road and the orange
sun shone in at an odd angle through the split in
the board that covered the window, bouncing off
the stack of old brittle newspapers in the corner.
Judy scuffed at the yellowing heap with her sneaker, and
watched a bold black headline crumble into nothingness
at the touch of her toe. She prodded the pile with her
broom, searching for hidden treasures, then sneezed as
a cloud of dust billowed up from the bristles and fanned
out across the room. Judy idly followed its path as it
rose up past the skirting boads, drifting past the ornate
mantlepiece as it poked spindly smoky fingers along the
narrow ledge that hugged the height of the walls.
Looking up at the high gray ceiling stretched above
her, Judy suddenly shivered. The lone bare lightbulb
that hung at the center seemed all at once to loom above
her from a great height. There was something about this
room, she mused. It was not just that the old Victorian
ceiling was about as high as the second floor of their
modern seaside cottage back home. There was a definite
atmosphere that filled it as surely as the dust she'd just
Tsst! Judy, open up! It's me!"
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