Chapter Eleven - The Unexpected Guest
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
"Finalia! Go, call your mother in here for a few minutes. I have something urgent to discuss with her," said the baron to his daughter.
"Mother can't move from the stove right now or the three sided pastries [2S. 13:6] will be ruined."
The baron rose from his place and went, himself, to the kitchen, and he said, "Dina, my dear. I want to speak a few words with you."
"I don't have time on my hands right now, because I have a lot to prepare for the holiday tomorrow."
"Such is always the case with princesses. If the time comes that they have to bake three Challot and cook a little soup, then they will think it hard work," jested the baron.
"I am happy and delighted," said Dina, "That you call me a king's daughter. But it you don't approve of our methods, please try and see if you can do our work, and see if you don't think it a great punishment. (So did the Pharoh when he wanted to torture them and cause them to suffer. He commanded the men to do the women's work, to bake, cook and watch the children. (Talmud Bavli, Sotah. 11b)). Therefore, you shouldn't make fun of us."
"This I do know, that women are always correct in their judgement," said the baron. "But look. I had a matters that I urgently wanted to discuss with you and you said you couldn't, but just now you had plenty to say to no purpose."
Dina looked at him reproachfully on his last words, but she didn't say a thing.
"Dina, my dear," said the baron. "I intend to leave you at home alone this evening and to go to the prayer house."
"That a net will be cast over you."
"You're justified, but I won't be going alone because I'll take John with me."
"Do as you wish," she said, and returned to her work, and the baron also returned to his room.
There Finalia was cleaning all the household utensils; the lamps, the spoons, knives, forks. She arranged the flowers and everything else in the proper order, and so the women did their work until evening. Then the humble dwelling was like a pleasure palace in its purity and beauty.
The baron and the servant went out, and Dina and Finalia remained. "Woe! Woe!" Dina groaned when the baron left with the servant. "How good were the early days. How happy I was when I saw my young man dressed in respectable clothes and his face always beaming with joy. Great and respected leaders came and went from our house constantly, and it seemed to everyone like God's Garden of Eden. The house was so beautiful and its splendor was known throughout the city of Paris. Now, how we have come down wonderfully [Lam. 1:9]. The hand of the Lord has chastised us so he can no longer leave the house without a guard, because enemies lay in wait for us on all sides." As she spoke she wiped the tears from her eyes with the corner of the white apron that she wore over her clothes.
"Why are you crying, dear mother/" the daughter said to her. "Isn't father like a king now, because a king won't go anywhere without a body guard. Why do you want to recall the past. Won't father come and find you crying and be made very unhappy?" She wanted to speak more, but the door opened and the baron came in and gazed at Dina, and the signs of crying were apparent on her face.
"You make a jest of me today, my dear," he said. "Everyone is celebrating the fall of Haman and you are crying."
"It is not over the fall of Haman, but on the sorrows of Mordechai that I cry," answered Dina, and she blotted more of her tears on the edge of the apron.
"Don't fear, my perfect one, for the sorrows of Mordechai won't continue, and the fall of Haman will soon come," said the baron. He went into the large room where the table had been arranged, and everyone sat to eat, including John. They had not yet concluded eating when the sound of a bell was heard.
"Who could that be who wants to come now?" asked the baron.
"Who is this unexpected guest?" said Dina. But when Finalia rose from the table, John also got up and said, "Sit back in your place, honorable maiden, and I will open the door." A moment later her returned and said, "A young man who is unknown to me wishes to speak with the baron, but I didn't want to let him inside before asking you."
"Many thanks to you, faithful man," said the baron. "Go now, Finalia, and see who is there." Finalia went unwillingly and petulantly inquired "Who is it?"
"Be so good as to open the door, because I have urgent business for the baron," said the man on the other side of the door. Shaking and trembling seized the maiden on hearing the voice of her lover, and that he wanted to speak urgently with her father. She hurried to open the door and she said, "What are you doing here Victor?"
"Hello my beauty. Don't be afraid, but go and tell your father that a strange man wants to talk with him." And as he spoke he put a small letter in her hand and said, "Hide this letter because it is for you." She took it, and she went to tell her father these words. Her knees were failing from anxiety and happiness as she walked, but she found her courage and gave her father the message.
"Bring him here," said the baron, and when he came in, the baron rose from his chair and respectfully welcomed him. And he said, "Peace to he who comes under the shelter of my roof, young sir," and extended him his hand.
"I bless the events for which I am so honored as to meet the baron and his honorable family, and certainly I come in peace," said the young man.
"I seems to me that you are in the business of Raphia of Granavitch," said the baron, while placing before him a chair to sit. "What is your honorable name?"
"My name is Victor Shonfeld of Rome."
"You name is Shonfeld!" exclaimed the baron, putting his hand to his forehead as if he was trying to raise something from his memory. "What is your relation to Reb Aaron Shonfeld?"
"He is my father."
"You are the son of Reb Aaron?"
"That is so, my lord baron."
"I knew your father well, because many times he was in Paris to consult with us on how to save his people, a poor and weak people, from those stout hearted Roman churchmen who place a heavy burden on them and pursue them with hot cruelty. He was a wise and hopeful man without compare."
"And how great was our sorrow when we heard he had disappeared into the hands of those barbarians and how his whereabouts were unknown."
"You haven't heard anything from him?"
"We don't know a thing, but this isn't the only thing they did. They multiplied the evil and the destruction to my father's house, because they also kidnapped my only sister, a girl of twelve, and hid her in a convent. There is no salvation from their hands."
"They also did this?" the baron asked in shock.
"A terrible thing! Very terrible! Said the baron, but when he saw he was depressing the young man's spirits, he said, "Come here, my wife, my daughter!" because he wanted to change the subject.
Dina approached respectfully and he greeted her politely.
"Finalia," the father cried, seeing she wasn't in the room. But he didn't know that Finalia wasn't able to show her face until the terrible turmoil roiling inside her had passed. But when she heard her father calling her, she gathered her courage, and appeared a moment later on the threshold of the room. She said in a weak voice, "Did you call me dear father?"
"Yes you. Here is an honorable guest, Victor Shonfeld."
"I am honored to meet you, honorable maiden," said Victor, extending his hand to her. He felt that all the limbs of her body were trembling strongly and he knew that they were of one spirit, because this emotion left him either. In order not to not to reveal their secret, he turned to the baron and said, "Two days ago I was sent on my master's business to the head of the railroad. When I returned, it was midnight, and pouring rain slashed earthwards. I sought a place to shelter a little from the torrent under the roof of a house. I could hear strange men speaking from the other side, and this I overheard. Either they will ambush you or deal subtly with you [1S. 23:22] until they can catch you, then they will take you to France and deliver you into the hands of Napoleon. Your son they will strike with their tongues and denounce him as a rebel to his king. Therefore, I came here to tell you and warn you in order that you should know and take heed." But on the matter of Finalia, that they conspired to stalk her and deliver her to the fool Yechidiel for sin money, this he didn't hear.
"Many thanks to you, young sir, for the goodness of your heart," said the baron. "What did I do to find favor with you that you should worry about me."
"The heart knows his own bitterness,"[Pr. 14:10] answered the young man. "I have suffered greatly since my father and my sister were lost from the midst of the community, and the wounds of my heart will never be healed. Therefore, when I heard these evil schemes, I hastened to come and tell you."
Finalia stood by the window the whole time, listening to the words of her lover with open ears, but she feared to look upon his face lest their eyes meet. But now that she heard the integrity of his heart and how he took his life in his hands on their behalf, standing in the middle of the night and eavesdropping on villains, from this she found the strength to approach him and to thank him in the presence of her father. And she said, "What a great day, sir, that in it you have made known your abilities and your courage. You didn't fear the villains in the night in order to raise the veil from their hidden trap for any injustice in their hands [Job 16:17]. Receive thanks, therefore, from the heart of a maiden who swears this day to bless you, because her father's peace is also her own peace." As she spoke she extended her right hand to him.
Victor grasped her hand and their eyes met. Finalia lowered her gaze to the ground, but Victor continued to look in her face and he thought in his heart, "Oh, but she is brave." The father looked searchingly at them and understood a little, but he didn't say anything other then to request Victor to tell him about his history. Victor was agreeable to this and he sat down, along with the baron, Dina and Finalia, and he told them his history from start to finish.
Finalia's face glowed with happiness and joy on seeing her father bonding with her lover, and they parted in love and kisses. And the baron requested that he come back and visit them the next evening.
"What a faithful soul and rare spirit he has," said the baron to Dina after Victor had left them. "Believe me, Dina, one only looks at his face and feels the love of a father for his son. Believe me, if only he was in a good situation, I wouldn't withhold my only daughter from him. Verily I saw how she looked at him with love."
"Why should we speak in vain [Job. 16:13]," said Dina. "Isn't he lacking a father, and is he not miserable and poor? Cease talking about such things or maybe Finalia will hear and run after him without thinking, forgetting her standing her situation."
Finalia heard these words from the second room and laughed inside. But when they finished speaking, she went to her room to read the letter, and she opened it and read:
My ruler amongst maidens! Be so good as to come Tuesday after midnight to the house of our friend Albert, as I have secret tidings for you. Your lover forever.
Trembling took hold of the maiden as she read these words. What could the secret news be? Maybe the minister was not being truthful with her father, or maybe it was news concerning her. "On my life, I don't know what to think. My head is spinning like a wheel and from these few words I'm left standing on burning coals. How can I wait until Tuesday?" She got into her bed to rest but her sleep was not sweet [Jer. 31:25, Pr. 2:24] and she had a terrible and frightening dream. She was looking about in every direction, but she was alone and abandoned, far from her parents, far from the city where she lived, and far from the love of her life. She sat crying, shut up and imprisoned [Is. 24:2] in a room with no companion, only a wild and cruel leopard lurking outside the door. When she unwillingly looked upon it, all of her bones shook [Jer. 23:9] to the core. So she sat desolate in her room, weeping and waiting [Jer. 9;9]. "Oh, Victor! Victor! If you only knew the grief of your lover and the torment of her soul, then, as on the wings of an eagle you would soar to save her. An enlightened hero who doesn't fear any jump, you would leap high walls in order to rescue me. But what if instead you stood at a distance and said that you'd forgotten me?" As she spoke she raised her voice and sobbed. But afterwards she repented on her words and said, "Forgive me, my dear, that I could think such of you. Could you lie in you loyalty? You? After you swore faith by God? No! No, I won't believe it! But why haven't you come to save me? But who knows, maybe he is suffering more than me?" And she approached the small window in order to breathe some fresh air and maybe revive a little. But behold. What a strange view was before her eyes, a threatening and terrible scene. Mobs and mobs of people flowed from every direction. This one screamed and so did that one, and she couldn't understand a thing. Suddenly, in the midst of the huge multitude, she saw the love of her live chained in fetters [Jer. 40:1]. His face was white like the face of death. His head hung to the earth and he was laid prone. But suddenly, he lifted up his eyes and saw the love of his life standing and looking at him through the lattice window, and her eyes were full of tears. He opened his mouth and he said, "Oh, Finalia. My soul and the light of my life! What will become of you? I won't complain about my myself or my worldly days, which will soon be cut off [Ps. 90:10] and over, only about you, delight of my soul. This worry will embitter my life until the last moment." He spread his hands to the heavens, and his hands rang from the iron upon them, and he cried, 'My God! My God! Hear me! I am depositing me spirit in your hands to do with me as you please, but before I go and am no longer, promise me to watch over the my soul's companion. From the Holy, send your helper to her to bolster her. Then I will be greatly comforted and die tranquilly." Frightened and terrified she stood by the window listening to the words of her love. She tried to break the window in order to jump to her freedom [Ps. 118:5] but her strength abandoned her and she wasn't able. She held out her hand towards him from inside the window and cried, "Victor, my breath and my every happiness! I said that I would live in your shelter all of my existence. Take me with you and so I can be with you in misfortune or rejoicing, in death or in life." Suddenly, the cruel, ferocious leopard fell on her and crushed her head between its great and powerful paws, like bars of metal [Job. 40:18]. She screamed a great and bitter scream, and she awoke. She saw her mother standing by the bed, and she was rousing her and saying, "Finalia, why are you screaming so? It's nothing but a frightening nightmare."
"You speak rightly, mother," said the daughter, opening her eyes and passing her hand over her forehead to prove to herself it was a dream.
"Don't be afraid, dear daughter," said the mother, "Because dreams say nothing."
"May the Lord grant that it be as you say," sighed the maiden, as she hurriedly rose from her bed as if she feared to be laying down, lest she dream a second time. "But my heart prophesizes bad and frightening times are being prepared for us." When she finished speaking, she dressed and put on a bright face in order not to depress her parents in their seeing her contrary and gloomy.