Presumptions Of Legitimacy and and Illegitimate Presumptions

For C.S., who brought Michael H. to my attention and noted its importance to modern American paternity jurisprudence.

We have recently been discussing conclusive presumptions in law and Halachah; an oft-touted example of such a presumption in American law, apparently originating in the English common law tradition, is the presumption of legitimacy, the presumption that the child of a married woman was fathered by her husband:

The law has always been concerned with paternity. Paternity was critical to the succession of monarchs and the inheritance of property. Paternity was a moral issue because of the church’s insistence on fidelity in marriage and celibacy outside marriage. Infidelity could mean disgrace for a man and death for a woman. The moral taint was so strong that law punished the child as well as the mother:

All the disabilities of bastardy are of feudal origin.1 With us it is of Saxon origin. The term bastard being derived from a Saxon word, importing a bad, or base, original. The disabilities of bastardy are the same under the civil as under the common law, and in all ages and nations. He has no ancestor; no name; can inherit to nobody, and nobody to him;2 can have no collaterals nor other relatives except those descended from him. He can have no surname, until gained by reputation. (Stevesons’s Heirs v. Sullivant, 1820)

The stigma of bastardy lasted a lifetime and could blight the lives of the next generation, as witnessed by the heraldic bend (or bar) sinister on the family crest, designating bastardy. In addition to inheritance, a bastard was denied entrance into several callings and certain civil rights. These harsh laws persisted until relatively recent times in England and the United States. The stigma of bastardy was such that the common law developed legal presumptions in favor of legitimacy. …

Halachah, too, has a strong presumption of legitimacy, with a similar (albeit disputed) exception for a husband with no access to his wife (although we require a twelve month separation, rather than nine months):

האשה שהיה בעלה במדינת הים ושהה שם יותר מי”ב חדש וילדה אחר י”ב חדש הולד ממזר, שאין הולד שוהה במעי אמו יותר מי”ב חדש. ויש מי שאומר שאינו בחזקת ממזר. וכיון דפלוגתא היא הוי ספק ממזר:

הגה: אבל תוך י”ב חדש אין לחוש, דאמרינן דאשתהי כל כך במעי אמו …

אשת איש שיצא עליה קול שהיתה מזנה תחת בעלה והכל מרננים אחריה, אין חוששין לבניה שמא הם ממזרים שרוב בעילות תולים בבעל. … ואם היא פרוצה ביותר חוששין אף לבנים:

הגה: ומכל מקום היא נאמנת לומר על בניה שהם כשרים …3

הגה: … אם זנתה תחת הבעל, אפילו אומרת של פלוני הוא והוא ממזר אין חוששין לדבריה, דתולין רוב בעילותיה בבעל וכשר, ומותר בקרובי אותו פלוני שאומרת עליו:4

As we see, Halachah adds one additional important exception to the presumption of legitimacy, the case of פרוצה ביותר, although there is some debate about this, and some authorities rule that this is limited to the context of the special priestly prohibitions (איסורי כהונה), or even that it merely results in the stigma of family blemish (פגם משפחה), but has no strictly legal consequence.5

As to whether Halachah views this presumption as irrebutable, the question would have been moot until fairly recently, since there would generally have been no method to reliably ascertain that the father of a married woman’s child was someone other than her husband. Nevertheless, I know of no reason to assume that Halachah considers the presumption conclusive, and as we have seen, Rav Elyashiv seems to take for granted that a D.N.A test could establish ממזרות (although as we shall see, at least some legal regimes that establish conclusive presumptions of paternity do make exceptions for D.N.A. tests, at least under certain circumstances).

The classic discussion of the legal presumption of a husband’s paternity of his wife’s child is the Rehnquist Court’s 1989 decision in Michael H. V. Gerard D., in which Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court, upheld Californian law declaring this presumption to be generally irrebutable:

Under California law, a child born to a married woman living with her husband is presumed to be a child of the marriage. Cal.Evid.Code Ann. § 621 (West Supp.1989). The presumption of legitimacy may be rebutted only by the husband or wife, and then only in limited circumstances. Ibid. The instant appeal presents the claim that this presumption infringes upon the due process rights of a man who wishes to establish his paternity of a child born to the wife of another man, and the claim that it infringes upon the constitutional right of the child to maintain a relationship with her natural father. …

The California statute that is the subject of this litigation is, in substance, more than a century old. California Code of Civ.Proc. § 1962(5), enacted in 1872, provided that “[t]he issue of a wife cohabiting with her husband, who is not impotent, is indisputably presumed to be legitimate.” In 1955, the legislature amended the statute by adding the preface: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law.” 1955 Cal.Stats., ch. 948, p. 1835, § 3. In 1965, when California’s Evidence Code was adopted, the statute was codified as § 621, with no substantive change except replacement of the word “indisputably” with “conclusively,” 1965 Cal.Stats., ch. 299, § 2, pp. 1297, 1308. When California adopted the Uniform Parentage Act, 1975 Cal.Stats., ch. 1244, § 11, pp. 3196-3201, codified at Cal.Civ.Code Ann. § 7000 et seq. (West 1983), it amended § 621 by replacing the word “legitimate” with the phrase “a child of the marriage” and by adding nonsterility to nonimpotence and cohabitation as a predicate for the presumption. 1975 Cal.Stats., ch. 1244, § 13, p. 3202. In 1980, the legislature again amended the statute to provide the husband an opportunity to introduce blood-test evidence in rebuttal of the presumption, 1980 Cal.Stats., ch. 1310, p. 4433; and in 1981 amended it to provide the mother such an opportunity, 1981 Cal.Stats., ch. 1180, p. 4761. In their present form, the substantive provisions of the statute are as follows:

Ҥ 621. Child of the marriage; notice of motion for blood tests
  • “(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), the issue of a wife cohabiting with her husband, who is not impotent or sterile, is conclusively presumed to be a child of the marriage.
  • “(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (a), if the court finds that the conclusions of all the experts, as disclosed by the evidence based upon blood tests performed pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 890) of Division 7 are that the husband is not the father of the child, the question of paternity of the husband shall be resolved accordingly.
  • “(c) The notice of motion for blood tests under subdivision (b) may be raised by the husband not later than two years from the child’s date of birth.
  • “(d) The notice of motion for blood tests under subdivision (b) may be raised by the mother of the child not later than two years from the child’s date of birth if the child’s biological father has filed an affidavit with the court acknowledging paternity of the child.
  • “(e) The provisions of subdivision (b) shall not apply to any case coming within the provisions of Section 7005 of the Civil Code [dealing with artificial insemination] or to any case in which the wife, with the consent of the husband, conceived by means of a surgical procedure.” …

While § 621 is phrased in terms of a presumption, that rule of evidence is the implementation of a substantive rule of law. California declares it to be, except in limited circumstances, irrelevant for paternity purposes whether a child conceived during, and born into, an existing marriage was begotten by someone other than the husband and had a prior relationship with him. As the Court of Appeal phrased it:

” ‘The conclusive presumption is actually a substantive rule of law based upon a determination by the Legislature as a matter of overriding social policy, that given a certain relationship between the husband and wife, the husband is to be held responsible for the child, and that the integrity of the family unit should not be impugned.’ ” 191 Cal.App.3d, at 1005, 236 Cal.Rptr., at 816, quoting Vincent B. v. Joan R., supra, 126 Cal.App.3d, at 623, 179 Cal.Rptr., at 10.

Of course the conclusive presumption not only expresses the State’s substantive policy but also furthers it, excluding inquiries into the child’s paternity that would be destructive of family integrity and privacy.

This Court has struck down as illegitimate certain “irrebuttable presumptions.” See, e.g., Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972); Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 93 S.Ct. 2230, 37 L.Ed.2d 63 (1973); Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974). Those holdings did not, however, rest upon procedural due process. A conclusive presumption does, of course, foreclose the person against whom it is invoked from demonstrating, in a particularized proceeding, that applying the presumption to him will in fact not further the lawful governmental policy the presumption is designed to effectuate. But the same can be said of any legal rule that establishes general classifications, whether framed in terms of a presumption or not. In this respect there is no difference between a rule which says that the marital husband shall be irrebuttably presumed to be the father, and a rule which says that the adulterous natural father shall not be recognized as the legal father. Both rules deny someone in Michael’s situation a hearing on whether, in the particular circumstances of his case, California’s policies would best be served by giving him parental rights. Thus, as many commentators have observed, see, e.g., Bezanson, Some Thoughts on the Emerging Irrebuttable Presumption Doctrine, 7 Ind.L.Rev. 644 (1974); Nowak, Realigning the Standards of Review Under the Equal Protection Guarantee Prohibited, Neutral, and Permissive Classifications, 62 Geo. L.J. 1071, 1102-1106 (1974); Note, Irrebuttable Presumptions: An Illusory Analysis, 27 Stan.L.Rev. 449 (1975); Note, The Irrebuttable Presumption Doctrine in the Supreme Court, 87 Harv.L.Rev. 1534 (1974), our “irrebuttable presumption” cases must ultimately be analyzed as calling into question not the adequacy of procedures but-like our cases involving classifications framed in other terms, see, e.g., Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 97 S.Ct. 451, 50 L.Ed.2d 397 (1976); Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89, 85 S.Ct. 775, 13 L.Ed.2d 675 (1965)-the adequacy of the “fit” between the classification and the policy that the classification serves. See LaFleur, supra, 414 U.S., at 652, 94 S.Ct., at 802 (Powell, J., concurring in result); Vlandis, supra, 412 U.S., at 456-459, 93 S.Ct., at 2238-2240 (WHITE, J., concurring), 466-469, 93 S.Ct., at 2243-2245 (REHNQUIST, J., dissenting); Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 95 S.Ct. 2457, 45 L.Ed.2d 522 (1975). We therefore reject Michael’s procedural due process challenge and proceed to his substantive claim.

Scalia endorses the argument of the appellate court that California law is really establishing a דין of paternity, irrespective of the biological מציאות; Justice William J. Brennan, in a dissent joined by Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice Harold Andrew Blackmun, rejects this as specious sophistry:

Gerald D. and the plurality turn a blind eye to the true nature of § 621 by protesting that, instead of being a conclusive presumption, it is a “substantive rule of law.” Ante, at 119. This facile observation cannot save § 621. It may be that all conclusive presumptions are, in a sense, substantive rules of law; but § 621 then belongs in that special category of substantive rules that presumes a fact relevant to a certain class of litigation, and it is that feature that renders § 621 suspect under our prior cases. To put the point differently, a conclusive presumption takes the form of “no X’s are Y’s,” and is typically accompanied by a rule such as, “. . . and only Y’s may obtain a driver’s license.” (There would be no need for the presumption unless something hinged on the fact presumed.) Ignoring the fact that § 621 takes the form of “no X’s are Y’s,” Gerald D. and the plurality fix upon the rule following § 621-only Y’s may assert parental rights-and call § 621 a substantive rule of law. This strategy ignores both the form and the effect of § 621.

In a further effort to show that § 621 is not a conclusive presumption, Gerald D. claims-and the plurality agrees, see ante, at 119-that whether a man is the biological father of a child whose family situation places the putative father within § 621 is simply irrelevant to the State. Brief for Appellee 14. This is, I surmise, an attempt to avoid the implications of our cases condemning the presumption of a fact that a State has made relevant or decisive to a particular decision. See, e.g., Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971). Yet the claim that California does not care about factual paternity is patently false. California cares very much about factual paternity when the husband is impotent or sterile, see Cal.Evid.Code Ann. § 621(a) (West Supp.1989); it cares very much about it when the wife and husband do not share the same home, see Vincent B. v. Joan R., 126 Cal.App.3d, at 623-624, 179 Cal.Rptr., at 11; and it cares very much about it when the husband himself declares that he is not the father, see Cal. Evid.Code Ann. § 621(c) (West Supp.1989). Indeed, under California law as currently structured, paternity is decisive in choosing the standard that will be used in granting or denying custody or visitation. The State, though selective in its concern for factual paternity, certainly is not indifferent to it. More fundamentally, California’s purported indifference to factual paternity does not show that § 621 is not a conclusive presumption. To say that California does not care about factual paternity in the limited circumstances of this case-where the husband is neither impotent nor sterile nor living apart from his wife-is simply another way of describing its conclusive presumption.

  1. Our laws of ממזרות date back to the Biblical and Talmudic eras, and have nothing to do with feudalism. []
  2. Our laws of inheritance do not in any way discriminate against a ממזר; see, e.g., Shulhan Aruch Hoshen Mishpat 276:6. []
  3. שלחן ערוך אה”ע סימן ד’ סעיפים י”ד-ט”ו []
  4. שם סעיף כ”ו בהגה []
  5. עיין בית שמואל שם ס”ק כ”ו ובאוצר הפוסקים ס”ק ס”ח אותיות א’, ז-ט []

Breaking Eggs To Make An Omelette

For Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, author of (inter alia) The Right and the Good: Halakhah and Human Relations.

א וַיקוָק פָּקַד אֶת-שָׂרָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר אָמָר; וַיַּעַשׂ יְקוָק לְשָׂרָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר. ב וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד שָׂרָה לְאַבְרָהָם בֵּן, לִזְקֻנָיו, לַמּוֹעֵד, אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים. ג וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָהָם אֶת-שֶׁם-בְּנוֹ הַנּוֹלַד-לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר-יָלְדָה-לּוֹ שָׂרָה–יִצְחָק. ד וַיָּמָל אַבְרָהָם אֶת-יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ, בֶּן-שְׁמֹנַת יָמִים, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה אֹתוֹ, אֱלֹקים. ה וְאַבְרָהָם, בֶּן-מְאַת שָׁנָה, בְּהִוָּלֶד לוֹ, אֵת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ. ו וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה–צְחֹק, עָשָׂה לִי אֱלֹקים: כָּל-הַשֹּׁמֵעַ, יִצְחַק-לִי. ז וַתֹּאמֶר, מִי מִלֵּל לְאַבְרָהָם, הֵינִיקָה בָנִים, שָׂרָה: כִּי-יָלַדְתִּי בֵן, לִזְקֻנָיו. ח וַיִּגְדַּל הַיֶּלֶד, וַיִּגָּמַל; וַיַּעַשׂ אַבְרָהָם מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל, בְּיוֹם הִגָּמֵל אֶת-יִצְחָק.1

היניקה בנים שרה, היניקה בן אין כתיב כאן, אמנו שרה היתה צנועה יותר מדאי.
אמר לה אבינו אברהם: אין זו שעת הצניעות, אלא גלי את דדיך כדי שידעו הכל, שהתחיל הקדוש ברוך הוא לעשות נסים! גלתה את דדיה והיו נובעות חלב, כשני מעינות והיו מטרוניות באות ומניקות את בניהם ממנה, והיו אומרות: אין אנו כדי להניק את בנינו מחלבה של צדקת.2

ומהו בנים לשון רבים? ביום המשתה הביאו השרות את בניהן עימהן והיניקה אותם שהיו אומרות לא ילדה שרה אלא אסופי הביאה מן השוק:3

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein attributes to Rav Chaim Soloveitchik an explanation for why Sarah could not have performed this demonstration prior to the weaning of Yitzhak:

ונשאל מרן רבי חיים מבריסק, אם רצתה שרה להוציא מליבן את החשד הנ”ל, מדוע המתינה אם כן עד יום היגמל את יצחק, ולא הזמינה את הנכריות כבר בתחילה?

והשיב הגר”ח על פי המבואר ברמב”ם (אישות, פרק כ”א הלכה י”ב):

“הרי שרצתה להניק בן חברתה עם בנה, הבעל מעכב ואינו מניחה אלא להניק את בנה בלבד”.

הוי אומר, שכל זמן שהבן יונק, משועבדת אמו אליו, ורק אליו. משום כך כל זמן שהיה עליה להניק את בנה, נמנעת שרה מלהניק את בניהן של הנכריות, והמתינה עד יום היגמל את יצחק, כדי שלא לגרוע מחלקו.

נמצאנו למדים, שאף על פי שאברהם ושרה היו מקדשי שם-שמים הגדולים ביותר בתולדות האנושות, וכל חפצם ומגמתם להגדיל שם רבונם, ברם, את כל החשבונות המקודשים הללו אסור לעשות על חשבון ילד קטן4

But this would seem to be a category error, of precisely the sort to which Rav Chaim was acutely sensitive, for the exclusive right to the lactation of a mother belongs to the husband, not the child, as is clear from the cited language of Rambam, that it is the husband who has the right to object to the nursing of an additional child, and that insofar as he does not mind, she is not bound by the child’s interest in the matter. Indeed, a woman’s entire responsibility to nurse at all is solely an obligation to her husband, as is evident from the Halachah that a divorcée may not be compelled to nurse her child if she does not wish to do so (unless the child has become attached to her and will not nurse from another, and will therefore be endangered if she refuses to nurse him):

האשה שנתגרשה אן כופין אותה להניק את בנה אלא אם רצתה נותן לה שכרה ומניקתו ואם לא רצתה נותנת לו את בנו והוא מיטפל בו

במה דברים אמורים שלא הניקה אותו עד שהכירה אבל אם הכירה (ואינו רוצה להניק מאחרת) אפילו הוא סומא אין מפרישין אותה מפני סכנת הולד אלא כופין אותה ומניקתו עד כ”ד חדש:5

Therefore, insofar as Avraham approved of Sarah’s demonstration (as R. Zilberstein explicitly assumes he did, and as the Medrash actually declares that it was he who impelled her to begin with), there would be no Halachic objection to its performance while Yitzhak was still nursing.

Perhaps Rav Chaim merely meant to derive from the Halachah the basic fact that a child can be harmed by his mother’s diversion of some of her milk to another child, and we can therefore assume a moral responsibility to refrain from doing so, independent of the technical legal right vested in the father, similar to the lesson R. Zilberstein himself proceeds to extrapolate:

לפעמים קורה שהורים מקיימים בביתם פעילות צבורית עניפה ומסועפת, באמצעותה הם עושים חסד עם כל העולם. הכל טוב ויפה, אבל לפי מה שלמדנו כאן צריך להשגיח שהפעילות לא תבוא על חשבון הילדים העלולים להינזק מכך. מותר להורים לקחת על עצמם פעילות שכזו, רק כאשר הדבר הינו לטובתם של הילדים, שילמדו מזה כיצד להיטיב עם הבריות.

But this understanding would completely blunt the characteristic tightness and acuity of the Soloveitchikean insight …

Rav Chaim’s sensitivity to this sort of lomdus / legal analysis is illustrated by this classic anecdote related by Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin

בביתו של ר’ חיים ישבו פעם הגר”י אברמסקי (עכשיו בירושלים) ועוד רב אחד. נכנס יהודי אחד לר’ חיים בקובלנא על גבאי “החברא קדישא” בבריסק. ומעשה שהיה כך היה: שני אנשים נפטרו בעיר ביום אחד, ואחד מהם היה קרובו של זה. לפי הדין חייבים לקבור ראשון את המת שנפטר ראשון. והגבאים, משום שנפטר השני היה עשיר או נכבד, קברוהו קודם קרובו של זה, שנפטר ראשון. שמע ר’ חיים את הקבולנא, הוציא מתוך ארון הספרים את הרמב”ם, פתח אותו בהלכות אבל, עיין שם והשיב להמתאונן:

אני אגעור בהגבאים, אבל לך אין הדבר נוגע.

תמהו הרבנים, שהיו באותו מעמד, בשתים: א) אף הם עיינו ברמב”ם באותו מקום ולא מצאו בו שום רמז מהלכה זו בכלל. מה ראה אפוא ר’ חיים שהשיב מה שהשיב דוקא מתוך הרמב”ם? ב) מה זו תשובה להמתאונן: ממה נפשך, אם צדק האיש והגבאים חייבים נזיפה, מדוע אין הדבר נוגע אליו, והרי הנפטר היה קרובו?

השיב להם ר’ חיים:

– כשבא האיש והרצה את טענתו, נסתפקתי ביסוד של דין שצריכים לקבור ראשון את הנפטר ראשון: אם זהו הדין הכללי של “אין מעבירין על המצות”, או שהוא דין מיוחד בקבורה, משום כבוד המת. עיינתי ברמב”ם וראיתי שאינו מביא כלל בהלכות אבל את הדין. סימן, שאין הטעם משום כבוד המת, שאילו כן הרי זה דין מיוחד בהלכות אבל, אלא הרי זה דין כללי בכל המצות כולן, ולכן אין עניינו להלכות אבלות. ומכיון שכן, הרי שהגבאים לא פגעו בכבוד הנפטר, אלא סתם עברו על הדין. ובכן, אני בתורת רב דמתא, מוטל עלי לגעור בהגבאים, אבל מה זה נוגע להאיש?

אנו למדים מעובדא זו אף מידתו של ר’ חיים ללמוד את אשר .. לא כתוב. לא בלבד להבין דבר מתוך דבר, אלא להבין דבר מתוך לא דבר. הרי כאן הגיון יפה בצירוף תשובה פקחית על יסוד “נייר חלק”. “בארץ לא זרועה” – שגם ה”לא” היא זרועה ומושרשת. [“לקוטי תורה”, לבעל ה”תניא”, פקודי.]6

Rav Zilberstein’s basic point that Kiddush Ha’Shem does not legitimize the infringement of the rights of another is nicely articulated in a pair of cognate rulings of Maharam of Rothenberg cited by his student Rosh and codified by Maran, although the contexts may disturb those with modern, Western sensibilities:

וזה לשון רבינו מאיר ז”ל מעשה היה בראובן שאמר לשמעון תקיף לי בגדים מן עובד כוכבים וכן עשה לאחר זמן נתן ראובן לשמעון המעות ליתנם לעובד כוכבים ושכחה העכו”ם ולא תבעם והלך העכו”ם ואין יודע להיכן הוא. נשאלתי למי ישארו המעות. ואמרתי יחזרו לראובן. …

ולא מצי שמעון למימר אני חפץ לקדש שם שמים לחזור אחר העובד כוכבים להשיב לו כעובדא דירושלמי (דבבא מציעא פ”ב) דשמעון בן שטח. דבשלו יש לו לעשות קדושת השם ולא בשל אחר.7

פסק רבינו מאיר ז”ל כותי שהלוה את ישראל על המשכון ונפל המשכון מיד הכותי ומצאו ישראל אחר חייב להשיבו לבעליו לפי שגוף המשכון שלו ולא היה לכותי עליו אלא שיעבוד וכיון דנפל מיניה ומצאו ישראל פקע מיניה השיעבוד דאסור להחזיר אבידה לכותי ואם בא לומר משום קדושת השם אחזירנו לכותי יקדש השם בשלו ולא יקדש בשל אחרים בלא דעתם.8

For a survey of Aharonic discussion of these rulings, as well as a comprehensive analysis of the basic question raised by Maharam of the permissibility of aiding a non-Jew in securing his (legitimate) claim against a Jew who wishes to evade it, see my article בענין מוסר ממון ישראל לעכו”ם9.

  1. בראשית כא:א-ח – קשר []
  2. בראשית רבה פרשה נג – קשר []
  3. פירוש רש”י שם – קשר []
  4. רב יצחק זילברשטיין, עלינו לשבח, בראשית (פרשת וירא) עמודים רלו-ז []
  5. שלחן ערוך אה”ע פב:ה []
  6. רב שלמה יוסף זוין, אישים ושיטות (תל-אביב תשי”ב), רב חיים סולוביצ’יק, עמודים 55-6 – קשר []
  7. פסקי הרא”ש, בבא קמא פרק הגוזל ומאכיל סימן כ”א, וכן נפסק בשלחן ערוך חו”מ סימן קפ”ג סעיף ח []
  8. שם, פרק שור שנגח את הפרה סימן ו’, וכן נפסק בשו”ע סימן ע”ב סעיף ל”ח []
  9. קובץ נהוראי (תשס”ד), עמודים תרעד-תרפב []

Extreme Makeovers

אין מעידין אלא על פרצוף פנים עם החוטם אע”פ שיש סימנין בגופו ובכליו …

תנו רבנן פדחת ולא פרצוף פנים פרצוף פנים ולא פדחת [מצח] אין מעידין עד שיהו שניהם עם החוטם

אמר אביי ואיתימא רב כהנא מאי קרא הכרת פניהם ענתה בם

אבא בר מרתא דהוא אבא בר מניומי הוה מסקי ביה דבי רישא גלותא זוזי אייתי קירא דבק בבלייתא [הדביקה במעט מטלית בלויה] דבק באפותיה [במצחו] חלף קמייהו ולא בשקרוה:1

‘No,’ said Kim. ‘I will beg a tikkut for the te-rain.’ One does not own to the possession of money in India.

‘Then, in the name of the Gods, let us take the fire-carriage. My son is best in his mother’s arms. The Government has brought on us many taxes, but it gives us one good thing – the te-rain that joins friends and unites the anxious. A wonderful matter is the te-rain.’

They all piled into it a couple of hours later, and slept through the heat of the day. The Kamboh plied Kim with ten thousand questions as to the lama’s walk and work in life, and received some curious answers. Kim was content to be where he was, to look out upon the flat North-Western landscape, and to talk to the changing mob of fellow-passengers. Even today, tickets and ticket- clipping are dark oppression to Indian rustics. They do not understand why, when they have paid for a magic piece of paper, strangers should punch great pieces out of the charm. So, long and furious are the debates between travellers and Eurasian ticket- collectors. Kim assisted at two or three with grave advice, meant to darken counsel and to show off his wisdom before the lama and the admiring Kamboh. But at Somna Road the Fates sent him a matter to think upon. There tumbled into the compartment, as the train was moving off, a mean, lean little person – a Mahratta, so far as Kim could judge by the cock of the tight turban. His face was cut, his muslin upper-garment was badly torn, and one leg was bandaged. He told them that a country-cart had upset and nearly slain him: he was going to Delhi, where his son lived. Kim watched him closely. If, as he asserted, he had been rolled over and over on the earth, there should have been signs of gravel-rash on the skin. But all his injuries seemed clean cuts, and a mere fall from a cart could not cast a man into such extremity of terror. As, with shaking fingers, he knotted up the torn cloth about his neck he laid bare an amulet of the kind called a keeper-up of the heart. Now, amulets are common enough, but they are not generally strung on square-plaited copper wire, and still fewer amulets bear black enamel on silver. There were none except the Kamboh and the lama in the compartment, which, luckily, was of an old type with solid ends. Kim made as to scratch in his bosom, and thereby lifted his own amulet. The Mahratta’s face changed altogether at the sight, and he disposed the amulet fairly on his breast.

‘Yes,’ he went on to the Kamboh, ‘I was in haste, and the cart, driven by a bastard, bound its wheel in a water-cut, and besides the harm done to me there was lost a full dish of tarkeean. I was not a Son of the Charm [a lucky man] that day.’ …

‘Art thou anything of a healer? I am ten leagues deep in calamity,’ cried the Mahratta, picking up the cue. …

‘Show me the cuts.’ Kim bent over the Mahratta’s neck, his heart nearly choking him; for this was the Great Game with a vengeance. ‘Now, tell thy tale swiftly, brother, while I say a charm.’

‘I come from the South, where my work lay. One of us they slew by the roadside. Hast thou heard?’ Kim shook his head. He, of course, knew nothing of E’s predecessor, slain down South in the habit of an Arab trader. ‘Having found a certain letter which I was sent to seek, I came away. I escaped from the city and ran to Mhow. So sure was I that none knew, I did not change my face. At Mhow a woman brought charge against me of theft of jewellery in that city which I had left. Then I saw the cry was out against me. I ran from Mhow by night, bribing the police, who had been bribed to hand me over without question to my enemies in the South. Then I lay in old Chitor city a week, a penitent in a temple, but I could not get rid of the letter which was my charge. I buried it under the Queen’s Stone, at Chitor, in the place known to us all.’

Kim did not know, but not for worlds would he have broken the thread.

‘At Chitor, look you, I was all in Kings’ country; for Kotah to the east is beyond the Queen’s law, and east again lie Jaipur and Gwalior. Neither love spies, and there is no justice. I was hunted like a wet jackal; but I broke through at Bandakui, where I heard there was a charge against me of murder in the city I had left – of the murder of a boy. They have both the corpse and the witnesses waiting.’

‘But cannot the Government protect?’

‘We of the Game are beyond protection. If we die, we die. Our names are blotted from the book. That is all. At Bandakui, where lives one of Us, I thought to slip the scent by changing my face, and so made me a Mahratta. Then I came to Agra, and would have turned back to Chitor to recover the letter. So sure I was I had slipped them. Therefore I did not send a tar [telegram] to any one saying where the letter lay. I wished the credit of it all.’

Kim nodded. He understood that feeling well.

‘But at Agra, walking in the streets, a man cried a debt against me, and approaching with many witnesses, would hale me to the courts then and there. Oh, they are clever in the South! He recognized me as his agent for cotton. May he burn in Hell for it!’

‘And wast thou?’

‘O fool! I was the man they sought for the matter of the letter! I ran into the Fleshers’ Ward and came out by the House of the Jew, who feared a riot and pushed me forth. I came afoot to Somna Road – I had only money for my tikkut to Delhi – and there, while I lay in a ditch with a fever, one sprang out of the bushes and beat me and cut me and searched me from head to foot. Within earshot of the te- rain it was!’

‘Why did he not slay thee out of hand?’

‘They are not so foolish. If I am taken in Delhi at the instance of lawyers, upon a proven charge of murder, my body is handed over to the State that desires it. I go back guarded, and then – I die slowly for an example to the rest of Us. The South is not my country. I run in circles – like a goat with one eye. I have not eaten for two days. I am marked’ – he touched the filthy bandage on his leg – ‘so that they will know me at Delhi.’

‘Thou art safe in the te-rain, at least.’

‘Live a year at the Great Game and tell me that again! The wires will be out against me at Delhi, describing every tear and rag upon me. Twenty – a hundred, if need be – will have seen me slay that boy. And thou art useless!’

Kim knew enough of native methods of attack not to doubt that the case would be deadly complete – even to the corpse. The Mahratta twitched his fingers with pain from time to time. The Kamboh in his corner glared sullenly; the lama was busy over his beads; and Kim, fumbling doctor-fashion at the man’s neck, thought out his plan between invocations.

‘Hast thou a charm to change my shape? Else I am dead. Five – ten minutes alone, if I had not been so pressed, and I might -‘ …

It was the usual collection of small oddments: bits of cloth, quack medicines, cheap fairings, a clothful of atta – greyish, rough- ground native flour – twists of down-country tobacco, tawdry pipe- stems, and a packet of curry-stuff, all wrapped in. a quilt. Kim turned it over with the air of a wise warlock, muttering a Mohammedan invocation. …

‘Quick! Be quick!’ gasped the Mahratta. ‘The train may stop.’

‘A healing against the shadow of death,’ said Kim, mixing the Kamboh’s flour with the mingled charcoal and tobacco ash in the red- earth bowl of the pipe. E, without a word, slipped off his turban and shook down his long black hair. …

‘I see hope,’ said E23. ‘What is thy scheme?’

‘This comes next,’ said Kim, plucking the thin body-shirt. E23 hesitated, with all a North-West man’s dislike of baring his body.

‘What is caste to a cut throat?’ said Kim, rending it to the waist. ‘We must make thee a yellow Saddhu all over. Strip – strip swiftly, and shake thy hair over thine eyes while I scatter the ash. Now, a caste-mark on thy forehead.’ He drew from his bosom the little Survey paint-box and a cake of crimson lake.

‘Art thou only a beginner?’ said E23, labouring literally for the dear life, as he slid out of his body-wrappings and stood clear in the loin-cloth while Kim splashed in a noble caste-mark on the ash- smeared brow.

‘But two days entered to the Game, brother,’ Kim replied. ‘Smear more ash on the bosom.’

‘Hast thou met – a physician of sick pearls?’ He switched out his long, tight-rolled turban-cloth and, with swiftest hands, rolled it over and under about his loins into the intricate devices of a Saddhu’s cincture.

‘Hah! Dost thou know his touch, then? He was my teacher for a while. We must bar thy legs. Ash cures wounds. Smear it again.’

‘I was his pride once, but thou art almost better. The Gods are kind to us! Give me that.’

It was a tin box of opium pills among the rubbish of the Jat’s bundle. E23 gulped down a half handful. ‘They are good against hunger, fear, and chill. And they make the eyes red too,’ he explained. ‘Now I shall have heart to play the Game. We lack only a Saddhu’s tongs. What of the old clothes?’

Kim rolled them small, and stuffed them into the slack folds of his tunic. With a yellow-ochre paint cake he smeared the legs and the breast, great streaks against the background of flour, ash, and turmeric.

‘The blood on them is enough to hang thee, brother.’

‘Maybe; but no need to throw them out of the window … It is finished.’ His voice thrilled with a boy’s pure delight in the Game. ‘Turn and look, O Jat!’

‘The Gods protect us,’ said the hooded Kamboh, emerging like a buffalo from the reeds. ‘But – whither went the Mahratta? What hast thou done?’

Kim had been trained by Lurgan Sahib; E23, by virtue of his business, was no bad actor. In place of the tremulous, shrinking trader there lolled against the corner an all but naked, ash- smeared, ochre-barred, dusty-haired Saddhu, his swollen eyes – opium takes quick effect on an empty stomach – luminous with insolence and bestial lust, his legs crossed under him, Kim’s brown rosary round his neck, and a scant yard of worn, flowered chintz on his shoulders. The child buried his face in his amazed father’s arms. …

E23, with relaxed mouth, gave himself up to the opium that is meat, tobacco, and medicine to the spent Asiatic.

So, in a silence of awe and great miscomprehension, they slid into Delhi about lamp-lighting time.2

‘I have found my heart again,’ said E23, under cover of the platform’s tumult. ‘Hunger and fear make men dazed, or I might have thought of this escape before. I was right. They come to hunt for me. Thou hast saved my head.’

A group of yellow-trousered Punjab policemen, headed by a hot and perspiring young Englishman, parted the crowd about the carriages. Behind them, inconspicuous as a cat, ambled a small fat person who looked like a lawyer’s tout.

‘See the young Sahib reading from a paper. My description is in his hand,’ said E23. ‘Thev go carriage by carriage, like fisher-folk netting a pool.’

When the procession reached their compartment, E23 was counting his beads with a steady jerk of the wrist; while Kim jeered at him for being so drugged as to have lost the ringed fire-tongs which are the Saddhu’s distinguishing mark. The lama, deep in meditation, stared straight before him; and the farmer, glancing furtively, gathered up his belongings.

‘Nothing here but a parcel of holy-bolies,’ said the Englishman aloud, and passed on amid a ripple of uneasiness; for native police mean extortion to the native all India over.

‘The trouble now,’ whispered E23, ‘lies in sending a wire as to the place where I hid that letter I was sent to find. I cannot go to the tar-office in this guise.’

‘Is it not enough I have saved thy neck?’

‘Not if the work be left unfinished. Did never the healer of sick pearls tell thee so? Comes another Sahib! Ah!’

This was a tallish, sallowish District Superintendent of Police – belt, helmet, polished spurs and all – strutting and twirling his dark moustache.

‘What fools are these Police Sahibs!’ said Kim genially.

E23 glanced up under his eyelids. ‘It is well said,’ he muttered in a changed voice. ‘I go to drink water. Keep my place.’

He blundered out almost into the Englishman’s arms, and was bad- worded in clumsy Urdu.

‘Tum mut? You drunk? You mustn’t bang about as though Delhi station belonged to you, my friend.’

E23, not moving a muscle of his countenance, answered with a stream of the filthiest abuse, at which Kim naturally rejoiced. It reminded him of the drummer-boys and the barrack-sweepers at Umballa in the terrible time of his first schooling.

‘My good fool,’ the Englishman drawled. ‘Nickle-jao! Go back to your carriage.’

Step by step, withdrawing deferentially and dropping his voice, the yellow Saddhu clomb back to the carriage, cursing the D.S.P. to remotest posterity, by – here Kim almost jumped – by the curse of the Queen’s Stone, by the writing under the Queen’s Stone, and by an assortment of Gods “with wholly, new names.

‘I don’t know what you’re saying,’ – the Englishman flushed angrily – ‘but it’s some piece of blasted impertinence. Come out of that!’

E23, affecting to misunderstand, gravely produced his ticket, which the Englishman wrenched angrily from his hand.

‘Oh, zoolum! What oppression!’ growled the Jat from his corner. ‘All for the sake of a jest too.’ He had been grinning at the freedom of the Saddhu’s tongue. ‘Thy charms do not work well today, Holy One!’

The Saddhu followed the policeman, fawning and supplicating. The ruck of passengers, busy, with their babies and their bundles, had not noticed the affair. Kim slipped out behind him; for it flashed through his head that he had heard this angry, stupid Sahib discoursing loud personalities to an old lady near Umballa three years ago.

‘It is well’, the Saddhu whispered, jammed in the calling, shouting, bewildered press – a Persian greyhound between his feet and a cageful of yelling hawks under charge of a Rajput falconer in the small of his back. ‘He has gone now to send word of the letter which I hid. They told me he was in Peshawur. I might have known that he is like the crocodile – always at the other ford. He has saved me from present calamity, but I owe my life to thee.’

‘Is he also one of Us?’ Kim ducked under a Mewar camel-driver’s greasy armpit and cannoned off a covey of jabbering Sikh matrons.

‘Not less than the greatest. We are both fortunate! I will make report to him of what thou hast done. I am safe under his protection.’

He bored through the edge of the crowd besieging the carriages, and squatted by the bench near the telegraph-office.

‘Return, or they take thy place! Have no fear for the work, brother – or my life. Thou hast given me breathing-space, and Strickland Sahib has pulled me to land. We may work together at the Game yet. Farewell!’

Kim hurried to his carriage: elated, bewildered, but a little nettled in that he had no key to the secrets about him.

‘I am only a beginner at the Game, that is sure. I could not have leaped into safety as did the Saddhu. He knew it was darkest under the lamp. I could not have thought to tell news under pretence of cursing … and how clever was the Sahib! No matter, I saved the life of one … Where is the Kamboh gone, Holy One?’ he whispered, as he took his seat in the now crowded compartment.

‘A fear gripped him,’ the lama replied, with a touch of tender malice. ‘He saw thee change the Mahratta to a Saddhu in the twinkling of an eye, as a protection against evil. That shook him. Then he saw the Saddhu fall sheer into the hands of the polis – all the effect of thy art. Then he gathered up his son and fled; for he said that thou didst change a quiet trader into an impudent bandier of words with the Sahibs, and he feared a like fate. Where is the Saddhu?’ …

‘It is more, chela. Thou hast loosed an Act upon the world, and as a stone thrown into a pool so spread the consequences thou canst not tell how far.’

This ignorance was well both for Kim’s vanity and for the lama’s peace of mind, when we think that there was then being handed in at Simla a code-wire reporting the arrival of E23 at Delhi, and, more important, the whereabouts of a letter he had been commissioned to – abstract. Incidentally, an over-zealous policeman had arrested, on charge of murder done in a far southern State, a horribly indignant Ajmir cotton-broker, who was explaining himself to a Mr Strickland on Delhi platform, while E23 was paddling through byways into the locked heart of Delhi city. In two hours several telegrams had reached the angry minister of a southern State reporting that all trace of a somewhat bruised Mahratta had been lost; and by the time the leisurely train halted at Saharunpore the last ripple of the stone Kim had helped to heave was lapping against the steps of a mosque in far-away Roum – where it disturbed a pious man at prayers.3

  1. יבמות קכ.ופירוש רש”י – קשר []
  2. Rudyard Kipling, Kim, Chapter 11. []
  3. Id. Chapter 12. []