From this hour began the terrible penance of the young woman.
ot become dumb. Old legends and tales were revived, each mThe impression which Veile’s woeful condition made upon the people of the _gasse_ was wonderful. Those who had danced with her that evening on the wedding now first recalled her excited state. Her wild actions were now first remembered by many. It must have been an “evil eye,” they concluded–a jealous, evil eye, to which her beauty was hateful. This alone could have possessed her with a demon of unrest. She was driven by this evil power into the dark night, a sport of these malicious potencies which pursue men step by step, especially on such occasions. The living God alone knows what she must have seen that night. Nothing good, else one would nore horrible than the other. Hundreds of instances were given to prove that this was nothing new in the _gasse_. Despite this explanation, it is remarkable that the people did not believe that the young woman was dumb. The most thought that her power of speech had been paralyzed by some awful fright, but that with time it would be restored. Under this supposition they called her “Veile the Silent.”
There is a kind of human eloquence more telling, more forcible than the loudest words, than the choicest diction–the silence of woman! Ofttimes they cannot endure the slightest vexation, but some great, heart-breaking sorrow, some pain from constant renunciation, self-sacrifice, they suffer with sealed lips–as if, in very truth, they were bound with bars of iron.
It would be difficult to fully describe that long “silent” life of the young woman. It is almost impossible to cite more than one incident. Veile accompanied her husband to his home, that house resplendent with that gold and silver which had infatuated her. She was, to be sure, the “first” woman in the _gasse_; she had everything in abundance. Indeed, the world supposed that she had but little cause for complaint. “Must one have everything?” was sometimes queried in the _gasse_. “One has one thing; another, another.” And, according to all appearances, the people were right. Veile continued to be the beautiful, blooming woman. Her penance of silence did not deprive her of a single charm. She was so very happy, indeed, that she did not seem to feel even the pain of her punishment. Veile could laugh and rejoice, but never did she forget to be silent. The seemingly happy days, however, were only qualified to bring about the proper time of trials and temptations. The beginning was easy enough for her, the middle and end were times of real pain. The first years of their wedded life were childless. “It is well,” the people in the _gasse_ said, “that she has no children, and God has rightly ordained it to be so. A mother who cannot talk to her child, that would be something awful!” Unexpectedly to all, she rejoiced one day in the birth of a daughter. And when that affectionate young creature, her own offspring, was laid upon her breast, and the first sounds were uttered by its lips–that nameless, eloquent utterance of an infant–she forgot herself not; she was silent!
She was silent also when from day to day that child blossomed before her eyes into fuller beauty. Nor had she any words for it when, in effusions of tenderness, it stretched forth its tiny arms, when in burning fever it sought for the mother’s hand. For days–yes, weeks–together she watched at its bedside. Sleep never visited her eyes. But she ever remembered her penance.
Years fled by. In her arms she carried another child. It was a boy. The father’s joy was great. The child inherited its mother’s beauty. Like its sister, it grew in health and strength. The noblest, richest mother, they said, might be proud of such children! And Veile was proud, no doubt, but this never passed her lips. She remained silent about things which mothers in their joy often cannot find words enough to express. And although her face many times lighted up with beaming smiles, yet she never renounced the habitual silence imposed upon her.
The idea that the slightest dereliction of her penance would be accompanied with a curse upon her children may have impressed itself upon her mind. Mothers will understand better than other persons what this mother suffered from her penalty of silence.
Thus a part of those years sped away which we are wont to call the best. She still flourished in her wonderful beauty. Her maiden daughter was beside her, like the bud beside the full-blown rose. Suitors were already present from far and near, who passed in review before the beautiful girl. The most of them were excellent young men, and any mother might have been proud in having her own daughter sought by such. Even then Veile did not undo her penance. Those busy times of intercourse which keep mothers engaged in presenting the superiorities of their daughters in the best light were not allowed her. The choice of one of the most favored suitors was made. Never before did any couple in the _gasse_ equal this in beauty and grace. A few weeks before the appointed time for the wedding a malignant disease stole on, spreading sorrow and anxiety over the greater part of the land. Young girls were principally its victims. It seemed to pass scornfully over the aged and infirm. Veile’s daughter was also laid hold upon by it. Before three days had passed there was a corpse in the house–the bride!….
by Leopold Kompert