Chapter Twenty Four - A Brother in Sorrow
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
"Who is knocking on the door?" asked Finalia in anxiety.
"Don't fear, gentle one. I'm not here to harm you. Pray open up quickly."
Finalia heard the voice, which was not strange to her, and she opened the door. "Ha!" cried the maiden with wholehearted joy, "It is you, Azaria! Certainly you are like your name. You saved Victor from the hands of the wicked who sought to swallow him, and you come forth for me like a brother in sorrow."
"Pray be quiet, gentle one," he said to her. "I didn't come here in order to save you. I only came in order to give you some news. Pray listen to what the villains are doing. After they kidnapped you from your father's house, they left a letter behind on the table written in your name. It said that you requested pardon from your parents, and that you were going to Victor because you were afraid that the minister might take you by force."
"My God! My God!" cried the maiden and clapped her hands in despair. "That letter will put an end to my dear parents lives. Cursed is love, cursed forever, for it has destroyed me and removed the protection of the minister from my dear parents."
"Not so, gentle one," said Azaria. "When the minister saw the letter he was very angry with you, but he had mercy on your parents and took them into his palace. But listen to what else they did. They sent a letter to Victor in your name, and wrote that you gave your hand to the minister because you were forced to do so on behalf of your parents, and commanded him not to dare to come to Milano."
"God in Heavens," cried the maiden and fell to the earth in a faint.
"Pray get up," said Azaria, and he lifted her from the floor. "Wake up now. Now isn't the time for fainting, while you walk [1S. 20:3] between happiness and damnation."
She opened her eyes and she asked him, "Did they truly send a letter to Victor?"
"Yes it is true."
"Ha! My last hope in the world is lost. If I am saved from this trap, where can I flee! Who can I escape to for help? Can I flee to Milano? Won't I be a joke to all those who see me, and won't the minister despise my name, thinking that Victor drove me away? Can I flee to Victor in Rome in whom I placed all of my trust? Will he even look at me? Will he not scorn and despise me, turning my honor into shame [Hos. 4:7]. Now I remember the few words that I saw in the letter which I was forced to sign before I fainted. How can I lift my eyes before him? No! No, I won't go there, but can I stay here in the hands the evil and unrighteous [Ps. 71:4]? Won't he then revel [Is. 61:6 - Heb. Uncertain] because he hunted me with a high hand and caught me in his net? Pray tell me, Azaria my dear, are you speaking the truth in these matters, or did Yechidiel order you to tell me this in order that I see there is no salvation for me and cooperate with him! You must believe that I have sworn by the Lord to choose all the wounds of time that the future brings, and not him."
"On my life and soul, gentle one, I spoke the truth. When I was in Milano, he made everything known to me. Now, to my joy, he brought me with him in order that I speak with you to incline your heart to him."
"Has Yechidiel also returned here?" the maiden asked in fear.
"The two of us arrived this morning. He is presently wrapping up everything he had started, and therefore the villains who aided him in evil are asking to be paid their reward. He said that he won't pay them a cent until you are his wife. Now you must know and decide what you will do."
"I implore you, my dear Azaria. Save me from the hands of this animal and I will never forget you."
"With all my heart I am here to save you if only the Lord will be my helper, but how can I smuggle you out before him? You know that it means my life!"
"Why do you remain here? Look, I'm just a maiden, and despite that I won't be afraid as long as the Lord sets me free. Can't you earn your bread any place you go? Especially a man skilled in his work [Pr. 22:29} like you. My advice is that the two of us flee together to another city, and there we'll take counsel on where to turn, and I'll put my trust in you."
"And where will we flee to? You can't go to Milano or Rome, so where?"
"Where you ask me? Is not the land broad?"
"Good," said Azaria. "It is settled that from today on I will think only about your rescue."
"Thank you, good man," said the maiden, and she extended her hand to him.
"Let me advise you that if Yechidiel comes to you today, don't quarrel with him too much," said Azaria. "I hope that you will be able to compose your words in correctly. You have a wise heart beyond compare, as the kidnappers also say."
Finalia laughed bitterly and said, "So I have also found favor in the eyes of the kidnappers?"
"You find favor in the eyes of all who see you."
"But not in the eyes of the Lord," said the maiden and sighed.
"Hope in the Lord, gentle one, and you will yet stand on your own again," said Azaria.
"Like a standing sheep that has to ask every day of a different shepherd," said the maiden sighed. "But if the Lord will set me free I will be happy."
Azaria looked out the window and said, "Yechidiel is coming." Finalia started, but she quickly regained her strength and found her courage.
Azaria went on his way and met Yechidiel who said, "How is the maiden?"
"Fine. She is in her room," Azaria replied to him.
The joy was apparent on Yechidiel's face because the hope was strengthened within him that slowly, slowly, she was becoming accustomed to him. He fixed his hair and his mustache in the big mirror that was before him, and he even examined his back to reassure himself that he was perfect in his splendor. He went to her room and slowly, slowly, opened the door and stood on the threshold. Finalia remained in her place, and he stepped in.
"How are you, my beauty," he said. "Does your heart still rage against me?" Finalia didn't answer him a word. Yechidiel approached her and said, "Lift up your beautiful eyes to me, honorable maiden. You will see a man pleading before you, and if you only hearken his voice, he will be your slave forever. But now I don't request anything from you, only that you take from my hand a small present that I brought you."
Finalia lifted up her eyes against her will and saw a star of purest gold encrusted in expensive stones that shined like the stars in the sky, but she remained motionless in her place. The heart of the Galician, who had thought that she would certainly throw it on the floor to burst into fragments, was filled with joy and happiness. The calmness of her spirit was like a door of hope to him, because he didn't know the thoughts of her heart. He thought that the time was favorable, and he took the ornament and fastened it over her breast as white as snow, which was exposed a little by the black dress. "Ha!," he said, "How beautiful and delightful, lovely Finalia. There is no limit to your beauty, and these jewels add further to it until you seem like a star in the heavens on a bright night." He seized her hand and tried to bring it to his lips.
Finalia sat the whole time without moving, but when he grabbed her hand she jumped up and cried, "Let me alone, Yechidiel, and get out! Did you bring me here to abuse me? I know that you are stronger than I, and that a maiden like myself can't stand up against a strong, courageous and powerful man like yourself. But pray know that a man doesn't prevail with strength. Verily you came to me like a wolf to a lamb, which has strayed a little from the flock and is without a shepherd. Will it flee and be saved? I am in your hands for you are stronger than I. Tear me to pieces, tear the arm with the crown of the head [Dt. 33:20]. But before you fall on your prey, behold I will surely expire and die before you," and as she spoke, she covered her face with both hands and wept bitterly.
For a long while Yechidiel stood, seeing her in tears, and finally he said, "Why are you crying? What did I do to you? God forbid I should tear you to pieces. I want you to live and I only seek your wellbeing."
"If you want me to live, Yechidiel, then I ask you to have mercy. Leave me now, because my spirit storms inside me, it rages to injury me and will quickly steal my life."
"Behold, I will hearken your voice this time also," said Yechidiel. "But not for long, because you will be mine. Even if I lose all of my fortune and even my soul, such is the great strength of my love for you."
"Pray tell me, Yechidiel. How can the natural order change? A Galician man, from the day he can say 'Father' and 'Mother,' knows no other love aside from love for the Tzaddik alone. You know that if you love me then you will be forced to hate the Tzaddik. I ask you, have you utterly rejected the Tzaddik and do Hassidim disgust you? Pray tell me, Yechidiel."
"Believe me, gentle one," he said. "Everything you tell me I will do, even this contemning. From the moment I recognized you high value, I changed into another man. I have despised the Tzaddik and I have hated the community of Hassidim. What are they to me with all their delusions [Jer. 23:16] and foolishness? Surely the Tzaddik himself knows that all of his deeds are empty. But my portion with them is a fat one [Hab. 1:16], therefore I make common cause with them. If I'm successful in my suit, then I will make my place of dwelling wherever you chose, even if you say to distance myself from them to the ends of the earth. But don't think that you will evade me forever. Do you imagine that a beautiful maiden like yourself will live in my house like a pretty picture hung on the wall, just to look at? But now I will leave you as I promised you."
"Pray sit now," said the maiden, "Because I want to talk to you." With joy in his heart, he took a chair and sat. "One more thing I will ask you and you answer me, Yechidiel," and she turned to him. Over her heart was displayed the star of sapphires, as she carried it upon her breast. Yechdiel's heart expanded with happiness he thought, 'She is in my hand, now. Certainly the jewels I brought her did all this work. Tomorrow I'll bring more, bigger than this one. Behold, she was right in saying that a man triumphs not through strength but through wise counsel.' And he regarded her to hear her question.
"Tell me, pray, Yechidiel. When were you in Milano?" Yechidiel's face paled from anger and rage but he stopped it up in his bosom and said, "What is Milano to you?"
"Didn't you promise me to fulfill whatever I asked? Why do you repent?"
"You are justified, gentle one," he said "Let me answer you. It's been three days since I returned from there."
"Was there news?"
"I don't know. I only heard that Emilia the daughter of Raphia was betrothed to Shlomiel her step-brother."
"Emilia and Shlomiel? Was her fathers hand that strong upon her?"
"This I don't know."
"How is Henrietta?"
"Now she is fine."
"Now? What about before?"
"She jumped in the river because she wanted to put an end to her life, but Zevchiel and I saved her from death. Now her parents are sending her with her husband to Hamia."
"I'm very sorry for my dear friend. Do you know, Yechidiel, she won't last long in a small town, in a mountainous place. There she will be an permanent offering on the altar of her father's stupidity."
"Don't worry, she won't die."
"If only it will be as you say, but let's speak no longer about this. Have you heard anything about my parents?"
"I heard that the minister took them into his palace, and that they are alive and well."
"Thank you, Yechidiel. Please leave me now because I wish to rest a little." Yechidiel said goodbye to her and left.
"Woe, what a fool and imbecile!" the maiden said with a bitter laugh after he left her. "He thinks that he has caught me in his net, but wait a bit and you will know who I am. And you, Victor, forgive me for speaking with him peacefully, because we can't hunt a fox without grapes. Truly I will draw him very near with my words, but I do this in order to distance myself from him forever. You will see my heroism and the strength of my spirit. How I fought with all the injuries of time and chance, and how I fought with wild animals and overcame them. Then you will see and be enlightened. But what am I saying? Didn't he receive a letter from me that I utterly despised him and chose the minister. Ha! My strength abandons me instantly when I recall this."
"How was she today," Azaria asked Yechidiel. "Was she raging like yesterday? Verily I spoke with her a long time today and I hope in a few days to bend her whole heart to you."
"Thank you Azaria," Yechidiel said in great joy, and took a bag of money from his pocket and gave it to the servant. Yechidiel went on to the city buy some excellent jewels for her, more expensive than the earlier ones, and he hoped to give them to her the next day. But who can boast about tomorrow if he doesn't know what the day will bring? When Yechidiel was gone, Azaria opened the door of her room and put a short note in her hand, in which the following was written:
Be prepared, for if the Lord will help us, you will be free this night. The skies are darkening with clouds and surely it will be a dark night, and if so, it will be tonight. Will not the darkness be light for us?
Finalia's heart was filled with joy and happiness when she read the letter, and also with a new hope. This way she passed the day and also most of the night.
Midnight arrived and there was black darkness. Thick dark clouds covered the splendor of the heavens and applied a dark wrapping over all the lights in the heavens, absorbing their glow. Pouring rain also sliced earthwards, and thunder and lightening were heard and seen on all sides. The stormy night cast a trance on every man. Yechidiel returned from his business tired and weary, fell upon his bed and slept. A few minutes later, the sound of his snoring was heard throughout the house. His mother slept in her room, and only Azaria was awake. He said to himself, "Now the time has arrived that I can save the gentle and upright maiden lest she sink in the mud, because she won't be able to retain her honor for much longer." He approached the door and opened it slowly, but Finalia wasn't sleeping because her heart was greatly anxious, and she waited for him in hope and fear.
"Are you dressed?"
"Then get up quickly and come, because everyone lays dreaming [Is. 56:10].' He held her trembling hand and guided her from the house and down the steps, and in a few moments, they stood in the street. The servant covered his face with his mantle, and Finalia covered her head and face with a thick kerchief to shelter herself from the heavy rain, and they walked to the train station.
"How can I thank you, kind man and my angel of salvation?" said the maiden to Azaria as they sat in the carriage. Thick clouds of smoke [Ez. 8:11 - incense in Biblical context] from the engine wound upwards [Is. 9:7] to the heavens. Quick as lightening, with a tortured cry, the engine ran from its place dragging the carriages after it. In a few minutes, the city and everything in it had disappeared from their eyes. "How can I thank you for saving me from that shameful man? Now I can breathe the air of freedom and independence and I can go wherever I want."
"Don't thank me, but the Lord who emboldened my heart to save you," replied Azaria.
"Where are we going now?" asked the maiden. "In all my joy I forgot to ask you."
"To Vienna, the capitol. There we can consult with one another on what to do."
"Oh, that it will be as you say," said the maiden, and she took the kerchief from her head. Then she put it on the bench under her head as she lay down to rest a little, because her heart was pounding from fear and happiness, and she slept.
End of Part I