The Silent Woman VI

“I know, I know,” sobbed the young woman.

“Now hear me further,” began the rabbi again, with a wavering voice, after a short pause. “You have committed a still greater sin than the first. You have not only deceived your husband, but you have also destroyed the happiness of another person. You could have spoken, and you did not. For life you have robbed him of his happiness, his light, his joy, but you did not speak. What can he now do, when he knows what has been lost to him?”

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“Naphtali!” cried the young woman.

“Silence! silence! do not let that name pass your lips again,” he demanded, violently. “The more you repeat it the greater becomes your sin. Why did you not speak when you could have spoken? God can never easily forgive you that. To be silent, to keep secret in one’s breast what would have made another man happier than the mightiest monarch! Thereby you have made him more than unhappy. He will nevermore have the desire to be happy. Veile, God in heaven cannot forgive you for that.”

“Silence! silence!” groaned the wretched woman.

“No, Veile,” he continued, with a stronger voice, “let me talk now. You are certainly willing to hear me speak? Listen to me. You must do severe penance for this sin, the twofold sin which rests upon your head. God is long-suffering and merciful. He will perhaps look down upon your misery, and will blot out your guilt from the great book of transgressions. But you must become penitent. Hear, now, what it shall be.”

The rabbi paused. He was on the point of saying the severest thing that had ever passed his lips.

“You were silent, Veile,” then he cried, “when you should have spoken. Be silent now forever to all men and to yourself. From the moment you leave this house, until I grant it, you must be dumb; you dare not let a loud word pass from your mouth. Will you undergo this penance?”

“I will do all you say,” moaned the young woman.

“Will you have strength to do it?” he asked, gently.

“I shall be as silent as death,” she replied.

“And one thing more I have to say to you,” he continued. “You are the wife of your husband. Return home and be a Jewish wife.”

“I understand you,” she sobbed in reply.

“Go to your home now, and bring peace to your parents and husband. The time will come when you may speak, when your sin will be forgiven you. Till then bear what has been laid upon you.”

“May I say one thing more?” she cried, lifting up her head.

“Speak,” he said.

“Naphtali!”

The rabbi covered his eyes with one hand, with the other motioned her to be silent. But she grasped his hand, drew it to her lips. Hot tears fell upon it.

“Go now,” he sobbed, completely broken down.

She let go the hand. The rabbi had seized the candle, but she had already passed him, and glided through the dark hall. The door was left open. The rabbi locked it again.

* * * * *

Veile returned to her home, as she had escaped, unnoticed. The narrow street was deserted, as desolate as death. The searchers were to be found everywhere except there where they ought first to have sought for the missing one. Her mother, Selde, still sat on the same chair on which she had sunk down an hour ago. The fright had left her like one paralyzed, and she was unable to rise. What a wonderful contrast this wedding-room, with the mother sitting alone in it, presented to the hilarity reigning here shortly before! On Veile’s entrance her mother did not cry out. She had no strength to do so. She merely said: “So you have come at last, my daughter?” as if Veile had only returned from a walk somewhat too long. But the young woman did not answer to this and similar questions. Finally she signified by gesticulations that she could not speak. Fright seized the wretched mother a second time, and the entire house was filled with her lamentations.

Ruben Klattaner and Veile’s husband having now returned from their fruitless search, were horrified on perceiving the change which Veile had undergone. Being men, they did not weep. With staring eyes they gazed upon the silent young woman, and beheld in her an apparition which had been dealt with by God’s visitation in a mysterious manner.
by Leopold Kompert

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