Chapter Four - The Baron and the Minister of Justice
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
"Are you one Meir Adleberg, baron of France?" asked the handsome and well set up man of thirty as he sat writing at his desk, but the moment the man standing in front of him began to speak, he rested his pen.
"I am," answered the man in question.
"How long have you lived in our city of Milano?"
"Ten years now."
"So you came in 1851, the year that Napoleon ascended to the throne of France.
"Does Napoleon know your current place of residence?"
"That's for me to know."
The baron's face paled a little and he said, "Do you imagine, sir, that I was one of the revolutionaries?"
"And what have you to fear on that account? Are you in France? Surely his rage cannot reach you here. Be so kind as to tell me why you abandoned all the honor that was your inheritance in your homeland and chose to dwell in a foreign land."
"It is as I said, sir! Don't imagine that I was one of the revolutionaries. It was only on account of my love for my country and my people that I left all the honor that was mine to be a wanderer in a foreign land."
"Did you journey from there with all the members of your household?"
"My son remained there, and he now wears the rank of a general on his shoulder."
"What is his name."
"I know your son because I am also a native of France; I grew up in her breast and played on her knees. For twenty years I was her playful child [Jer: 31:20], but then a black cloud darkened the pure skies, until many of her children were forced to seek a place of light."
"Did you also, sir, leave the land of your birth on that night of rage, the night prepared for slaughtering [Is. 14:21] all innocents."
"That is so."
"And may I know your honorable name?"
"I am Emil, the son of the Minister Asaf Maranya, and I studied together with you son at the military school. Here I am called Emanuel."
"So you, sir, are Emil the son of Asaf the Minister? How is your father?"
"At the moment, I don't know myself, but in the course of our conversation I will tell you everything," and he rose from his place and opened the book cupboard and took out a letter. Then he sat back in his place and gave the letter to the baron, and watched as his expression change.
"Why do you become agitated, baron?" he asked.
"From the address of the letter I recognize my son's handwriting."
"Do not fear, all is well with him. Pray, read." said the Minster, "And you will recognize the feelings of a noble man."
And he read:
I have heard, to the rejoicing of my heart and soul, that you are in that good land blessed with tranquility and quiet as befitting your honor. You are far from this bloody land containing only robbery and murder, where whoever washes his hands [Is. 33:16] of such acts is sent into exile. How unlike the land you dwell in now, which is honestly ruled and where every man lives in peace and quiet. Be happy sir, and friend of my youth, that the times worked out well for you, I share in your joy and pleasure from afar. Not so is my lot here, and even though I wear a high rank on my shoulder, my heart is always anxious when I go out to do my work not knowing if I will return, because hypocrites at heart [Job. 36:13] make their presence known. But I have nothing to complain about since I desired this. As heaven is my witness [Job. 16:19] it was not for my own honor that I abandoned my dear worthy parents and my beautiful and gentle sister, who if you stood her amongst lilies they would pale before her glow. For their sakes I took my life in my hands and remained here, because I thought, 'Here I will know what is coming. The provocation of my father towards the emperor is an offence marked before him [Jer. 2:22] forever, and the strong hand of the emperor can reach him from a distance.' Therefore I decided to be on my guard and position myself to hear what was said concerning my father's household which is dearer to me than my own life, and so I did. Now, noble sir, whose loving friendship has honored me since youth, I have made up my mind to petition you. Use your strength to guard and save the remnants of this family which previously shone like the firmament, who in exchange for her pure heart and her love for her land had all of her honor stripped form her. Therefore, I request you, be a shielding cherub [Ez. 28:16] over the remains of this family, over my parents and my only sister. Be informed that the ruler of our land has sent secret agents [Josh. 2:1] to travel to Milano and take revenge on the man he has doomed, in saying that he was one of the chief republicans.
Your servant who bows to you from afar,
When he finished reading, the baron's face paled from sudden fear, and he stood silent.
"What do you say now," asked the minister.
"And what do you say, kind sir," answered the baron. "I'm sure that my son knows your gentility, and I hope you will be for us the guardian angel he requested."
"Certainly, I will exert all of my power to protect you and save you from all evil, no matter how serious the matter. Do not fear nor dread, because I will attain my goal [Is. 53:10 - in original sequence reads "Through him the Lords purpose will be fulfilled] to set your feet firm [Ps. 40:3] and immovable, but speak softly with me[Job 15:11]."
The baron wished to thank this noble man, but the minister refused, saying, "Do not thank me. What I am doing is required of every man, and besides, we are brothers," and as he spoke he extended his right hand to the baron, then sat next to him on the bench. And he said, "Let me tell you what has occurred since that criminal night."
"Ten years ago, on the first of October in 1851, my father came to me at night and said, 'The time has come for us to part. Flee from this land to Italy, to the city of Milano, to the bosom companion of my youth, Julius Von Piemont. He is currently the minister of the courts, and you will bring him this letter and it is certain that he will receive you with love and be a shield for you, for great was our love for one another. Do not delay even one moment, lest you perish. Do as you are commanded.' With this I asked, 'Are you and mother coming with me?' 'I cannot leave my people in this terrible time,' said my father, gave me his separated blessing, and went. My mother, even though she cried and moaned that it was hard for her to be parted from her only son, still counseled me to do as my father commanded. That night I left Paris, and it was as my father has said, because the minister Julius loved my father and received me with open arms. Afterwards, he tested my aptitudes and found within me more than he had hoped. He made me an Italian citizen and changed my name to Emanuel. For a full year I lived in his house and worked in his service, and after this he made me minister of a quarter of the city. Two years later I rose to be minister over half the city. Then, two years ago, minister Julius was elevated to the District Administrator. All of the townspeople liked me very much and they appointed me to fill his place, so I was promoted to this level. Aside from minister Julius, none of the Italians know that I'm a Jew, because minister Julius ordered me to hide this until the proper time. In 1854, minister Julius received a letter from one of his supporters, written a couple months previously, saying that my father had been sentenced to transport to Cyan. They found that on the night of rioting he had conspired to alert two families of the nobility of France whom he had been commanded to arrest and send into that land of exile. They fled to the land of Russia where they remain until today. When Napoleon was informed of the matter, he passed sentence with his criminal hand to send my father there. My mother died, because she couldn't bear the hardness of that day the husband of her youth was fettered in irons [Ps. 105:18], but after a year passed my father escaped from that desolate place. Even though I don't know where he is now, I can find comfort in my soul, because if he escaped from there than he must be alive. But seven years have passed and I haven't heard anything further concerning him. That is my story, so now, my friend baron, be so kind as to tell me your history."
"I am yours to command," said the baron, "But first I will ask you how Ludwig my son determined to write a letter like this without fearing lest it fall into the hands of his enemy, because at every step our enemies wait in ambush for us."
"Be at ease," said the minister, "Your son was very careful in his actions. He sent the letter by the hand of a fast runner he knew to be a loyal and faithful messenger [Pr. 25:13] in his mission. Nobody else knows. I didn't even tell my faithful scribe."
Just as the baron began to tell his history, the servant entered and said, "The District Administrator has sends to summon you, sir."
The minister said, "I am called to go to the District Administrator now, but at another time, perhaps in a few days, I will visit at your home."
"I will be honored to receive an important guest as yourself under the shelter of my roof [Gen. 19:8]," said the baron and he blessed him and left.