Chapter Thirteen - The History of the Baron Adelberg
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
The baron began his story this way: "In the year 1665, many Jewish families fled from Spain. They were the remaining survivors of the cursed inquisition who escaped the teeth [Ps. 58:7] of that horrible and cruel time. They were spared from the rending teeth and not devoured because up to that year they lived under the trappings [Ex. 34:33] of Christianity, but their hearts remained whole with the Lord and his holy people. That year, Phillip the Fourth of Spain died, and his father-in-law, Ludwig the Fourteenth, the King of France, knew how to purchase the loyalty of the French nation. They aspired to blood in the wars he promised them he would fight, and he decided after the death of his son-in-law to take the kingdom of Spain under his rule. Spain fell into disorder. Robbery, violence and murder occurred on every street and corner, by the priests and by the people. Then these Jewish families trembled even more, and they began to think about how they could be saved from the trap. But, to their great joy, the Spanish people had much to do to prepare everything to stand against the King of France. At this time, those few families took their wives and children and possessions and scattered one after another from that cursed land, because the path wasn't guarded against them. Amongst these families was also our family, Adelberg. Some of the familes fled to Constantinople and found refuge under Turkish rule. Some fled to Britain and others to Russia, but my father's household, which included six members, along with a few other households, fled to France and settled on the island of Corsica. The name of the man was Don Phillip Adelberg and his wife's name was Finalia. The names of their three daughters were Maria, Elizabeth and Dora, and the name of their son was Meir. A few of these families intermarried with the gentiles, but the household of my father remained faithful to the Lord."
"At this time, Ludwig the Fourteenth's Minister of Interior arrived in Corsica, and his name was Calbart. This is the same Calbart who is remembered in the annals of France because he was beloved and honored by the King and his people for his heroism, and his name was known throughout the land. When he came Corsica, he saw Adelberg's oldest daughter, Maria, a maiden of eighteen years who was beautiful beyond compare. He fell in love with her and spoke to her heart, but she didn't listen to his words because he was a Christian. He turned and left her in great anger, and Maria, who saw how angry he was, feared for her life. She said, "Haven't we come out of the fire only to enter into eternal flames [Is. 33:14]. What can I do if he comes and takes me by force? Therefore I suggest that my mother and I travel to mighty Russia, where Alexi the son of the great Romanov Czar rules. I have heard that in the land of Russia are many who are fully in the faith of Israel, because the Czars of Russia don't discriminate between nation and nation. Every man who is faithful to his czar can also be faithful to his religion without interference [note that this novel was published the year before the assassination of Nicholas the First, who was a reformer.] So they did, and Finalia and Maria traveled to the land of Russia, and there she found a man of her own heart. Her two younger sisters also went there afterwards, and the three of them settled in the land of Russia. But the son Meir married a woman of one of the rich families of France and made Paris his home. His mother returned to France and his parents remained with him for the remainder of their lives. In 1725, Meir died at the age of seventy five, and his son Yakov inherited all of his wealth, which was approximately five million francs. He continued in the business of his father and he made a success of it. In 1760, Yakov died, and his son, who was my grandfather, inherited his fortune, which was then around eight million francs. He was well respected by both Jews and Christians, because if he saw somebody in hard times, he generously supported him whether Jew or Christian. He had two sons, the first was named Isaac and the second was David, my father. He educated them both in science and wisdom, and also in military skills. He was one of the happiest men in the land, but riches don't last forever [Pr. 27:24], as the ancient proverb says [1S. 24:13]."
"In the year 1793 began the period in which Ludwig the Sixteenth was executed by the guillotine because the French accused him of being a traitor to the land of his birth and seeking to deliver the her into the hands of her enemy. At this time there was a civil war in France, because the supporters of King Ludwig sought to put his son on the throne, an eight year old boy, and they prepared to fight the Republicans. The rebels did whatever they wanted, murdering, plundering and seizing property. These bitter men also fell on the house of my grandfather, plundering and despoiling his trading house. Even though they were only seeking gold and silver, there was no protection for the goods either, because they trampled the finery underfoot. Then my grandfather grew angry, and he cried, 'Enough, you robbers and rebels! You have taken everything, leave me the crumbs. You have taken the gold and silver. What gain is there in trampling the goods with your feet so that they are no good to either of us.' Then one of the rebels said with a wild laugh, 'The Jew requested us to leave him something with which to support himself, but he didn't ask to escape with his life [Jer. 38:2]. Who will decide take an oath with me whether we leave his head on his shoulders.' The second responded, 'His money and his life!' Others cried energetically, 'His money and his life! Didn't you hear him call us rebels? He wouldn't do this unless he was a supporter of Ludwig,' and some of them approached to fall upon him and kill him. Then his two sons who had remained in the background rose up, and they stood with drawn swords and said, 'Any attacker who lifts a hand against our father, his blood is on his head, because we will fight until the last breath.' They waved their swords here and there, and then a roar rose from the rebels, and they all yelled, 'Strike all three of them and take revenge for our honor because they shame us all.' And they drew up to accomplish their purpose. Then the two brothers were dressed in strength and heroism, and they cut to the left and the right. The end of the matter was that my grandfather and his oldest son fell slain and my father was wounded in his right arm. One of his friends took him home to recover, and to ease his sad heart, which had found no consolation for the deaths of his father and brother and the loss of his fortune. He hoped the day would come that he could revenge the blood of his father and brother, so he went to serve in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte , who was then a field marshal. He fought in his wars and he went with him to Italy and to the rest of the lands which warred with them, and he distinguished himself before Napoleon by his heroics, his sharpness and his intelligence. Napoleon loved him greatly, and once after a heavy battle he said to my father, 'Know, Adelberg, that I'm impressed with your diligence, and when we return in peace to the land of our birth, I'll elevate you as befits you and see to your future happiness.' When they returned mighty and victorious to the city of Paris, the whole city received them with tumultuous rejoicing, Napoleon was elevated to be First Counsel for all of France. Then my father was given the rank of Colonel, and after that the title baron. When Napoleon rose to the royal throne of France, his love for my father increased further, and he promoted him to the rank of general. My father was then one of the happiest men in the land and many were jealous of him. My mother told me that when I was born in the year 1810, my father made a great feast, and all of Napoleon's distinguished household came to congratulate my father on the birth of his son. So my father lived in peace and tranquility until the year 1812, and then in the great and terrible war between Russia and France, my father fell slain on the field of battle. Then the storms of war became calm [Ps. 107:29] and my mother, who was a woman of worth, raised me in the manner that my father would have, had he lived. When I was seventeen years old I enlisted in the army, when I was in my twenties I rose to be a major, and so it went until I became a general. My honor and glory grew every day in the eyes of the French. I was also honored by Napoleon the Third in the days when he was First Counsel. But, when he ascended to the royal throne in the year 1851 and wanted me to help him do wrong, I didn't heed his voice. Then he was changed into my enemy. Even though I fled from him, he has pursued me in hot anger as you know, and this is the story of my life."
The minister thanked him, and he turned his face to Finalia to engage her in conversation. But behold, the sound of the bell was heard and Finalia's face whitened like a sheet, because she knew who was ringing. She excused herself from the minister and went with a stormy heart to warn the guest against entering the house at this time.
'Why" asked Victor, once the two of them were in the hallway and she told him he couldn't enter right now.
"Because the District Minister is in the house and he ordered that no stranger be in the house at the same time he is here. He also said that he would take my father into his home to be able to guard him against those who seek his life."
"If that's the case," said Victor, "I'll return home without regret [2Chr. 21:20], but will you come to Albert's house at the appointed time tomorrow as I requested in my letter yesterday?"
Finalia's face paled and she said in a sad voice, "I'm very sorry that I can't fulfill even this desire. The district Minister has invited us tomorrow to the banquet celebrating his new position, and all of the great men of the city will be there. Victor was seized by trembling when he heard this, his knees failed him and he couldn't stand.
Finalia understood and she said, "Why are you so frightened? If you think it's wrong, then I won't go to the banquet, but know that my father's life depends on it. If the minister changes his attitude and removes his protection from my father, then he will be lost, and we will all be lost. But if you think it's wrong, tell me and I won't go."
"Not for nothing has the Minister come to your father's house. Do you imagine that he loves your father? Didn't he only come here in order to invite all of you to the banquet?"
"Please relax, my friend, the utterance of my lips is holy to me, and I won't give myself to another."
"I know your pure heart," said Victor, "But also this I know, that this banquet will prepare great pains for us."
"If so, I won't go."
"That can't be, because the lives of your parents are very dear to me. But when will we see each other again, because I have urgent matters to discuss with you."
"On Tuesday I'll go to Albert's house."
"Be well," said Victor weakly, and departed. Finalia looked after him for a few moments, sighed, then returned to the house.
"Who was here?' asked her father.
"The Goldberg's maid. She came to invite me to the party they have made for their daughter's birthday and to urge me to go."
The minister's stormy spirits relaxed a little with her answer to her father, because the whole time she was talking to Victor he had been pacing powerfully [Job. 18:7] back and forth in the room. He thought, "Who has come that Finalia is afraid to invite him in?" But when he heard her explaining to her father, he addressed he saying, "I am sorry, gentle one, that I have disrupted your pleasures, as certainly you would have gone now to your friend's party."
"And to sit in the company of a respectable minister like yourself is lightly esteemed by me? Know that I wouldn't exchange this evening for all the pleasure in the world."
The minister gazed at her pleasantly, and his heart was gladdened to hear such words from the mouth of the maiden he loved. He rose from his place, gave his hand to Finalia, said goodbye to everybody, and left. The baron accompanied him to the carriage that was prepared for him and they parted in good fellowship. The wagon flew off, and in a few moments it had vanished from their eyes.
"I imagine that it wasn't Goldberg's maid who was here," said the baron when they returned inside, "But rather Victor Shonfeld."
"So it was."
"And why didn't you bring him inside? Doesn't he also work for our benefit and our wellbeing?"
"Could I bring a stranger into our house at the time the minister was here,?"
"Correct, my daughter," said the baron. "I only brought it up to test you." Finalia looked at her father searchingly, but she didn't say a thing. She went to her room to recover and to consider whether or not to go to the banquet. In the end, she decided to go, but not to dress fancy. So she was thinking as drowsiness overcame her and she slept.