Chapter Ten - The House of Plila ben Amzi
Translation Copyright 2001 by Morris Rosenthal
Translations from Hebrew
Copyright 2001 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
A Righteous Love
By Sarah Faiga Menkin - Published in Hebrew in Vilna 1880
I will bring you now, honorable reader, to one of the streets of Milano, the dwelling place of the rabble. A street that is rarely cleaned, because those who live on the street are all dealers in rotten old rags [Jer. 38:11], used clothing and patched shoes [Jos. 9:5]. You will pass by all the shop fronts with me, to the far end of the street. Here is the house of Pillia ben Amzi, and even though all of the houses are low and sunken, this house is lower then them all, to the point where the roof touches the dust and is covered by grass and weeds. A stranger would not be capable of believing that human beings live within. Yechidiel was the leader, and his friends went after him, and they descended the ten steps. Even though a dark light illuminated the hallway, he wasn't able to find the handle, because of the tremendous fumes and the pressing wind [Am. 2:13] that went up their noses and struck them with blindness [Gn. 19:11], so they didn't know where they were. Then the door was opened from within, and Yechidiel's feet slipped [2S. 22:37] and he fell full length into the house, covering the entire sill. All the drinkers saw this from a distance and laughed wildly, but these gales were quickly silenced, because those who were with Yechidiel lifted him up from the ground. Then drinkers examined the guest who had come and cried, "Hey, the Galician is here! Come let us praise his name so he will buy wine for us."
"Sit in your places," he said to them, "I will fill your desires and your mouths. Bring wine," Yechidiel called to the servant, "And summon the master of the house." The owner came and extended his right hand to Yechidiel, and the servant quickly brought the wine and set it before the company. Yechidiel promised them three pitchers of wine, and ordered that the remainder be brought to a second room where they could be alone. He took a book from his pocket and said, "Here is your money Pillia, my dear. Now write that I paid you for six pitchers of wine." Pillia took the money with one hand, and with the other he wrote that he'd been paid.
The other men who saw this wondered, and when they went into the second room and closed the door behind them, they asked him, "What is this, that he wrote in your book?"
"Do they call him Pillia for nothing?" [the name Pillia is a play on a Hebrew word for criminal] he answered them. "A man who doesn't know to be wary of him will leave him naked and lacking everything. Here everybody pays in advance, because this house is a refuge for thieves and robbers. Pillia says, 'Maybe the police will come and you will have to flee for your lives, so you must pay in advance.' Anybody who doesn't know the procedure of requesting a receipt that he has paid will end up paying twice. If a man wants to argue with Pillia, he will say, 'If you don't want to pay me, come to the court.' This he knows for sure: Those who come to visit his wine house won't find favor in the court. But I know him well, and therefore I won't pay him twice. His father was the same way, but even more so. If a man didn't want to give him a cut of his loot, he would say, 'Behold, I will show you the strength of my fist.' He was brave and strong and he always invited blows [Pr. 18:6], and everybody was afraid of him because they revealed their secrets to him, and now to his son."
"I recognize from the look of his face that he is armed and capable," said Bela.
"You have seen well," said Yechidiel, "But how was it known to you, my friend, that the Baron's daughter Finalia loves Victor?"
"Last week, when we arrived in the city, we wandered the streets to their length and breadth in order to see what goes on in the city. There is no city in which a man won't find his counterpart, and if we could find men of our values, then it would be easier for us to finish what we had started. Then behold, there were two men before us, and when we met, we stared at one another and remained stuck as if nailed to our spots. It was like looking in a polished mirror as we gazed, each man, at his neighbor. Finally I said, 'Tell me my brothers. Would you like to throw your hand in with us? We can plainly see that we are brothers from birth and from the womb.' 'Brothers we are,' said one of them, extending his hand. In a few minutes we were four, like the four wheels of a wagon, that if one is lacking, the wagon will behave sluggishly."
"And what are their names?" asked Yechidiel
"The name of the first is Achbor [The Rat], and the name of the second is Ye'alum[He will dissapear]," answered Bela. When we consulted over our secrets, and we mentioned the name of Baron Adelberg, they stood to attention, and said, 'Do you also know the baron? And what do you seek from him?' 'This will be made know to you later,' I told them, 'But tell me, pray. What is between you and the baron?' 'Here I will tell you,' said Achbor to me. 'A young man, one of the Polish nobility who is here at the moment and whose parents make their home in Rome, once saw the daughter of the baron. He swore that he wouldn't budge from Milano until she was his. When he was told that she was a Jewess and she wasn't interested in a Christian man, he made up his mind to stalk and waylay her, and to bring her to Rome, the city of his birth. For this purpose he employed us, that we be his helpers. He will pay us much money if we succeed in his desire. He ordered us to dog her every step, and a couple weeks ago we saw her walking with a young man who was very handsome. By their words, they were seeing each other for the first time, because we stood concealed in the shadows of the street and overheard a little of what they were saying. They talked until nine o'clock in the evening, then from a ways off we saw them parting. She went and he stood in his place gazing after her. But, when we wanted to trail her until she reached some dark place, he ran after her until he caught her and walked with her to her father's house. When we told to the Pole Milkovaski, he told us that from then on we should stay on her trail, but first he wanted to know who was the man. Certainly he was a Jew, and woe to him who dared steal from the Pole this valuable treasure. He will pay for such impudence with his life.
'A thousand in silver I will pay for his head! A thousand in silver, do you hear me?' he screamed like a madman. 'You will do as you're commanded.' Five days later we saw him walking in the street, first in this direction, then it that, and thus we knew he was waiting for the maiden. Every minute he looked at his watch by the streetlight, and then we saw him take a pistol from his breast, stare at it for a few moments, then put it in his pocket. Therefore we couldn't try anything with him. From a distance we saw the maiden coming towards him, and they went together to some other place. We wanted to go after them, but we saw a ways off some police of the court coming towards us, so we moved off the street. Eventually they disappeared from our sight. But the next day, Yalum was walking in the street, and he spotted the young man. He asked his name from one of the passerbys, who told him, 'He is Victor Shonfeld, and he works in the trading house of Raphia from Granavich.' Then we both ran to the house of the Pole and told him of his identity."
"'He will pay with his blood for this scorn and ridicule,' the Pole poured out his wrath, screaming. 'I will give my whole fortune for his head! My whole fortune, do you hear me?' As he spoke he gave us five hundred Italian Lira, and for this we have been numbering their steps. One day the two of them met in the street even though it was pouring rain, so great is their love. When we saw them, we went after them to see wither they were heading [Ez. 21:21], and they came to a house. We stood watching the house from a distance to see if they would come out quickly, but they lingered there until evening. As we were standing watch for the time of their departure, we met you.' This is what Achbor and Yalom told us," said Bela to Yechidiel, "And now I have told you where I knew all of this from."
Yechidiel was sitting as if on glowing coals the whole story, and afterwards he said, "And what was the conclusion of all this?"
"Here, I will tell you," said Bela. "After we consulted, we concluded that we would lead the Pole on [Job. 12:17] as long as we are stalking the maiden, in order to collect more money, but the maiden will be yours. In the beginning we didn't agree, but our words prevailed over them and they consented [Gn. 34:15] if you will just give them a lot of money."
Yechidiel the goal of their desire and he said, "Everything you tell me to do I will do, but you must do as you say." As he spoke he got up from his place and said, "Come to me tomorrow, all of you, and I will fill your pockets with silver. Now, let us go, because dawn is breaking. And they all rose and parted from each other, in fellowship and good spirits.
"Such is always the rule with poisonous snakes," said Pillia as he watched them leaving his house. "So is their rule always when they want to strike a man and catch him in their net [Hab. 1:15]. They are unified as one man in order to do evil and get dishonest gain [Ez. 22:27]. The machinations of their hearts are engraved on their foreheads with the point of a diamond [Jer. 17:1] and woe to whoever falls into their hands."