Chapter Seven - The Sabbath
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
"Isn't it pouring rain outside? Where are you going?' said the baron to Finalia, on seeing her put on her cloak to go out, even though she hadn't yet finished eating lunch.
"I won't go just yet," she said and sat at the table. But could she remain in her place when she knew the appointed hour had arrived? Wasn't it certain that Victor was waiting for her, that he hadn't been stopped by the heavy rain? Could she be late again today? She rose and went quickly, and the whirling storm [Jer. 23:19] and the drenching rain were like a game to her, in her knowing that she would soon be in the arms of happiness. Before she arrived at the place, Victor ran to greet her and made much of her bravery.
"Come now, my soul's companion," he said, "And I will bring you to the house of my friend Albert, the beloved friend of my youth."
"Is he also a native of Italy?"
"How do you know that I am Italian?"
"I have great resect for all the people of Italy, on account of their energy and their uprightness. I have found that you are as one of them, so I assumed that you are also an Italian."
Victor gazed into Finalia's face, chuckled pleasantly, and said, "Why have you never asked me about my background?"
"Why should I do that? This much I do know, that you aren't born of wood and stone. If you have parents and siblings then I will honor them, because your parents or siblings they are."
"In this you are correct," said Victor, "And today I will tell you of my origins," and as they spoke they arrived at the dwelling of Albert.
"I am honored to receive such respectable guests in my home," a man of about twenty five years said to the arrivals. He placed before them chairs to sit, and both Finalia and Victor thanked him and sat.
"What is the title of the book you are holding," Victor asked Albert.
"The laws of Italy."
"What is his job?" Finalia asked Victor.
"He is the scribe of the Minister of Justice."
"Minister of Justice Emanuel Maranya," said Albert. "He has promised when he is promoted to the District Administrator he will place in my hands a higher position."
"The Minister of Justice Emanuel Maranya is being promoted to the District Administrator?" asked Finalia, turning her face to Albert.
"That is so, gentle one. Do you know the honorable minister?"
"I know him," said Finalia, and if she has looked at Victor's face as she answered then things would have proceeded differently, because the appearance of his face changed and his strength abandoned him. He was forced to lean on the arm of the chair to listen further, and plunged deep into thought. "How could Finalia know the Minister of Justice, who according to many people is actually a Jew. And maybe he loves her? He has in his hands the means to take her by force, and her father would not prevent him, because he's a great minister. He is also handsome and a fine picture of a man, and uniquely educated, understanding, and rich. Beyond this he bears a high rank on his shoulder, and soon he will be the District Administrator. Who amongst all the maidens would not fall in love with a man like him? That is the nature of most maidens, that if they see before them a man with gold buttons on his jacket and a badge of honor on his chest, then they don't look any further. They don't examine his nature and his feelings. And with a happy heart and a willing mind [1Ch. 28:9] she will go after him, especially a man like the minister who has no second. " These thoughts confused and spoil his good judgement to the point he thought her a traitor who profanes oaths to the Lord. And he wanted to put her on trial before him, out of angry male jealousy, because by his thinking she had betrayed him. But he pulled himself together a little and remained in his place to listen further. Such is always the way with men. When you [the author speaks here to her readers here as if they were all male] see a maiden who finds favor in your eyes, you will be like a slave to her, bowing to her with your noses to the earth. However, if she is caught in the trap you spread for her, how much you will distance her from delight, and she will groan under your hard burden. But haven't we seen the uprightness of Finalia and her faithfulness to Victor? Behold, he merely hears from her that she knows another man, and he thinks it treason. But let us not become dismayed and pass faulty judgement [Hab. 4:1] also on the honest men. Such is the nature with all of the most valuable objects; we follow with utmost care [Za. 3:9, lit. "with seven eyes"] their every step. If a bit of dust gets on a valuable garment, it will be though a stain in the eyes of its owner, and he will clean it with all his strength until it is clean and pure. Love is what brought about these thoughts, a boundless love. He thinks that there is none like her in the whole world, and when he heard from her mouth that she knew the Minister, he considers it a transgression. But he quickly calmed down, forgave her in his heart, and braced himself to hear more of their conversation.
"Please be so kind, sir, as to tell me how you know that Emanuel Maranya will be promoted to district minister?"
"It's ten years now that I've known him, because when he arrived here he was like any of us. But he found favor in the eyes of Julius von Piemont, who loved his father, and he elevated Emanuel. But Emanuel didn't forget his comrades, and he improved everybody's condition to the best of his ability, Jews and Christians alike. When he was made the Minister of Justice, he took me to supervise his establishment, and yesterday he told me that Julius had summoned him and said, 'Know that the time has come when I can repay you for the life and kindness your father did for me. I will soon be summoned by the king to be the District Administrator in Vanadig, and I hope to put you in my place. You are liked by the citizens of the city, and if they will approve, I will write to the king, and I hope that my efforts succeed.'"
"What was the life and kindness that his father did for him," asked Finalia.
"He took twenty thousand from the state treasury where he worked and didn't have anything to repay it with. Then Asaf Maranya gave him the money. Had the matter become known to the leaders of the government, (which was then a Republic) he'd have paid with his head. This he told me, and he also promised that he would give me a higher office than I currently have. But how do you know this man, gentle one?"
A scarlet blush covered the maiden's face on seeing that Victor was watching her and counting her words. However, she quickly recovered and said, "I don't know him, nor have I seen him even once, but my father told me about him because he met him last week and praised him greatly."
Victor's joy mounted on hearing that she hadn't seen the minister, but despite this he was very unsettled by her words, because her father knew him, so maybe she would see him, and then? With her beauty and intelligence she could take the heart of a king. And he said, "Tell me, my dear. What is this love between your father and the minister?"
Finalia gazed with her beautiful and sparkling eyes on the face of her interrogator and was silent. Victor looked back at her, but with complaint that she should hide a secret from him. Albert observed at both of their faces and decided that it was a delicate matter between them so he rose and went into the second room.
"Tell me, my gentle Finalia, how you can conceal something from me."
Finalia's face paled and teardrops like pearls ran down her lily cheeks, because she didn't know what to do. Victor, when he saw that she was unwilling to tell him, was strengthened in his desire to know. He held her hand and said, "Don't be afraid my dear, for what could I do to you? But how could you hide anything from me?"
"Forgive me," she said when she saw she could no longer keep it from him. "My own life and also the lives of my parents depend on this matter. Napoleon has sent secret agents to hunt down my father and bring him back to France and present him before the throne of judgement. Now imagine if he should fall into their hands. But the Minister of Justice is protecting us, because my brother in Paris asked him to hide my father from the agents, and my brother and the minister learned together in the military school in Paris. This is the secret that I wanted to keep from you."
"You have a brother?"
"And he is in Paris?"
"In Paris, he is a Colonel."
"How is it that he isn't afraid to be in Paris and to serve in the army of Napoleon?"
"Napoleon says that he will act according to the law and not punish sons for the sins of their fathers."
"Will I see you again this week?" Victor asked when she finished speaking.
"I cannot promise."
"Because I am afraid."
"What are you afraid of? Are lions outside?' [This may just be a standard 19th century retort, but it may also be a reference to one of the important scenes in the first Hebrew novel, Mapu's "Ahavat Zion," set in ancient Palestine, in which the heroine is attacked by a lion and saved by the hero.]
"Don't you know that there are men of whom we must be more wary then of wild beasts?"
"But what have you to do with men like this? Are they not far removed from you? Where do you get this from? How can you know men who are thoroughly corrupt [Lev. 22:25]."
"How is this?" she asked. "Don't you know that men such as these seek to ruin and destroy only the innocent, and that they spread their nets [Pr. 1:17] at the feet of wholesome girls in order to catch them?"
"I don't understand what you are talking about, Finalia. Elucidate for me, please, that I may also know."
"You're right, because you must also be on guard against them. Do you know the matchmaker Zevchiel?"
"I don't know him."
"And the rich Galacian, Yechidiel ben Dalia, do you know him?"
"Him I know, and one time I spoke with him."
"Last year, when my master Max Ramaganius died. His daughter Celia inherited all of his mighty fortune because he had no other children. I had been working in the trading house for three years, and Celia was then a maiden of twenty years. She loved me very much, and one time she came to my work room and said, 'Excuse me Shonfeld, but I wish to have a few words with you.' 'Speak, and I will listen,' I told her, 'Because you are my mistress.' My answer strengthened her resolve and she said, 'Know that all the wealth and fortune I inherited from my father I would lay at your feet, if only...' 'I have great respect for you as befits your honor,' I said to her. 'Respect like this I don't seek from you.' 'I cannot,' I replied, "Because I took an oath that my home would be without women until I save my only sister from the clutches of evil and redeem her from the hands of the wicked [ Jer. 15:21].'"
"Do you have a sister, Victor?"
"I have just one sister."
"And where is she?"
Victor sighed and said, "I will tell you and make everything known when I relate to you my history." Then he continued his story. "'Shonfeld!' she said to me. 'How can you ransom her without any money? With my money, which I will put in your hands, you will be able to redeem her, because money will answer everything.' 'Fortune will not help with the worst of the heathen [Ez. 7:24], these Jesuits,' I replied to her. 'If my plan succeeds then I will redeem her without money and without price [Is. 55:1]. But in this matter, forgive me, and may the Lord will send you a man as your own heart, one much better than me.' This answer aroused all of her fury, but she left without saying a word. The next day when I arrived at work, the head bookkeeper summoned me to go over the accounts. Then behold, I was free from the trading house, and they gave me a letter of release [assumedly this means he was apprenticed]."
"Why didn't you desire rich Celia and her fortune?" asked Finalia.
"And why didn't you desire Yechidiel, the rich man?' asked Victor in complaint.
"Because I didn't want to profane my word."
"And I didn't lust after riches because I already knew you. Two years ago I saw you at the time all of the people of the city gathered to receive that honored and lofty guest, his majesty our king Victor Emanuel. I asked my friends about you, and they answered me that you were the daughter of the French baron, Meir Adelberg, who had fled from the wrath of Napoleon. Then I determined I would neither be still nor rest until I could say, 'You are the love of my soul [Jer. 12:7]. You will be mine forever. I have found what I am looking for.' So how could I give my hand to Celia of great fortune [Jer. 51:13] and little understanding? When I left the Max's trading house I didn't know what to do, and that's when Yechidiel approached me and said he wanted to do business with me. From his words I recognized that his heart was full of deception and lies, and I was frightened of him, and therefore kept my distance."
"Do you have employment now?"
"In the business of Raphia from Granavich (Granavich is a city in Hungry)."
"You work in Raphia's house? Do you know his daughter Emilia?"
"I know her."
"She is a beautiful and educated maiden beyond compare," said Finalia.
"So you know her?"
"I know her, because for three years we went to the same school."
"Did you know that she loves Albert, but her father won't agree to the match because her stepmother wants her for her stepbrother, who is a rotten scoundrel. Now I will tell you about my origins," said Victor as they finished their conversation, and he called Albert to hear the story.
Dumbfounded [Gen. 24:21] and astonished, Albert gazed at the beauty of the maiden to the point where he didn't hear their conversation.
"Victor," the maiden said, "Let me finish what I started saying about how we must be wary of men even more than of wild beasts. Today, as I walked to our meeting place, I encountered Yechidiel, and he asked me where I was going in such a rain. 'That's for me to know,' I answered him and walked on, but he stared after me, and I fear that he was sent by Yechidiel to oppose us."
"Don't be afraid, because I will protect you."
"And who will reassure me [Job. 17:3] that you can walk safely in your path?"
"Me? Why? Will they come against me with weapons? If it will be so, then my weapon will send them down to silence [Ps. 115:17]. I never go about without a gun."
"All the same, I ask that you be cautious of them."
"I hope that I won't meet them," said Victor. Then he began to tell his history.