despondently. "I do not know what to do."
"What can you have done," inquired the rabbi, with a tender look, "that
cannot be discussed at any other time than just now? Will you let me
advise you, Veile?"
"No, no," she cried again, violently, "I will not be advised. I see, I
know what oppresses me. Yes, I can grasp it by the hand, it lies so near
before me. Is that what you call to be advised?"
"Very well," returned the rabbi, seeing that this was the very way to
get the young woman to talk - "very well, I say, you are not imagining
anything. I believe that you have greatly sinned. Have you come here
then to confess this sin? Do your parents or your husband know anything
"Who is my husband?" she interrupted him, impetuously.
Thoughts welled up in the rabbi's heart like a tumultuous sea in which
opposing conjectures cross and recross each other's course. Should he
speak with her as with an ordinary sinner?
"Were you, perhaps, forced to be married?" he inquired, as quietly as
possible, after a pause.
A suppressed sob, a strong inward struggle, manifesting itself in the
whole trembling body, was the only answer to this question.
"Tell me, my child," said the rabbi, encouragingly.
In such tones as the rabbi had never before heard, so strange, so
surpassing any human sounds, the young woman began:
"Yes, rabbi, I will speak, even though I know that I shall never go from
this place alive, which would be the very best thing for me! No, rabbi,
I was not forced to be married. My parents have never once said to me
'you must,' but my own will, my own desire, rather, has always been
supreme. My husband is the son of a rich man in the community. To enter
his family was to be made the first lady in the _gasse_, to sit buried
in gold and silver. And that very thing, nothing else, was what
infatuated me with him. It was for that that I forced myself, my heart
and will, to be married to him, hard as it was for me. But in my
innermost heart I detested him. The more he loved me, the more I hated
him. But the gold and silver had an influence over me. More and more
they cried to me, 'You will be the first lady in the _gasse_!'"
"Continue," said the rabbi, when she ceased, almost exhausted by these
"What more shall I tell you, rabbi?" she began again. "I was never a
liar, when a child, or older, and yet during my whole engagement it has
seemed to me as if a big, gigantic lie had followed me step by step.
I have seen it on every side of me. But to-day, when I stood under the
_chuppe_, rabbi, and he took the ring from his finger and put it on
mine, and when I had to dance at my own wedding with him, whom I now
recognized, now for the first time, as the lie, and - when they led me
away - - "
This sincere confession escaping from the lips of the young woman, she
sobbed aloud and bowed her head still deeper over her breast. The rabbi
gazed upon her in silence. No insane woman ever spoke like that! Only a
soul conscious of its own sin, but captivated by a mysterious power,
could suffer like this!
It was not sympathy which he felt with her; it was much more a living
over the sufferings of the woman. In spite of the confused story, it was
all clear to the rabbi. The cause of the flight from the father's house
at this hour also required no explanation. "I know what you mean," he
longed to say, but he could only find words to say: "Speak further,
The young woman turned towards him. He had not yet seen her face. The
golden hood with the shading lace hung deeply over it.
"Have I not told you everything?" she said, with a flush of scorn.
"Everything?" repeated the rabbi, inquiringly. He only said this,
moreover, through embarrassment.
"Do you tell me now," she cried, at once passionately and mildly, "what
am I to do?"
"Veile!" exclaimed the rabbi, entertaining now, for the first time, a
feeling of repugnance for this confidential interview.
"Tell me now!" she pleaded; and before the rabbi could prevent it the
young woman threw herself down at his feet and clasped his knees in her
arms. This hasty act had loosened the golden wedding-hood from her head,
and thus exposed her face to view, a face of remarkable beauty.
So overcome was the young rabbi by the sight of it that he had to shade
his eyes with his hands, as if before a sudden flash of lightning.
"Tell me now, what shall I do?" she cried again. "Do you think that I
have come from my parents' home merely to return again without help? You
alone in the world must tell me. Look at me! I have kept all my hair
just as God gave it me. It has never been touched by the shears. Should
I, then, do anything to please my husband? I am no wife. I will not be a
wife! Tell me, tell me, what am I to do?"
"Arise, arise," bade the rabbi; but his voice quivered, sounded almost
"Tell me first," she gasped; "I will not rise till then!"
"How can I tell you?" he moaned, almost inaudibly.
"Naphtali!" shrieked the kneeling woman.
But the rabbi staggered backward. The room seemed ablaze before him,
like a bright fire. A sharp cry rang from his breast, as if one
suffering from some painful wound had been seized by a rough hand. In
his hurried attempt to free himself from the embrace of the young
woman, who still clung to his knees, it chanced that her head struck
heavily against the floor.
"Naphtali!" she cried once again.
"Silence, silence," groaned the rabbi, pressing both hands against his
And still again she called out this name, but not with that agonizing
cry. It sounded rather like a commingling of exultation and lamentation.
And again he demanded, "Silence! silence!" but this time so imperiously,
so forcibly, that the young woman lay on the floor as if conjured, not
daring to utter a single word.
The rabbi paced almost wildly up and down the room. There must have been
a hard, terrible struggle in his breast. It seemed to the one lying on
the floor that she heard him sigh from the depths of his soul. Then his
pacing became calmer; but it did not last long. The fierce conflict
again assailed him. His step grew hurried; it echoed loudly through the
awful stillness of the room. Suddenly he neared the young woman, who
seemed to lie there scarcely breathing. He stopped in front of her. Had
any one seen the face of the rabbi at this moment the expression on it
would have filled him with terror. There was a marvelous tranquillity
overlying it, the tranquillity of a struggle for life or death.
"Listen to me now, Veile," he began, slowly. "I will talk with you."
"I listen, rabbi," she whispered.
"But do you hear me well?"
"Only speak," she returned.
"But will you do what I advise you? Will you not oppose it? For I am
going to say something that will terrify you."
"I will do anything that you say. Only tell me," she moaned.
"Will you swear?"
"I will," she groaned.
"No, do not swear yet, until you have heard me," he cried. "I will not
This time came no answer.
"Hear me, then, daughter of Ruben Klattaner," he began, after a pause.
"You have a twofold sin upon your soul, and each is so great, so
criminal, that it can only be forgiven by severe punishment. First you
permitted yourself to be infatuated by the gold and silver, and then you
forced your heart to lie. With the lie you sought to deceive the man,
even though he had intrusted you with his all when he made you his wife.
A lie is truly a great sin! Streams of water cannot drown them. They
make men false and hateful to themselves. The worst that has been
committed in the world was led in by a lie. That is the one sin."
"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?"
"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.
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
"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.
From this hour began the terrible penance of the young woman.
The 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 not become dumb. Old legends and tales were
revived, each more 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!
Even then Veile did not forget her penance. When they bore away the
corpse to the "good place," she did utter a cry of anguish which long
after echoed in the ears of the people; she did wring her hands in
despair, but no one heard a word of complaint. Her lips seemed dumb
forever. It was then, when she was seated on the low stool in the seven
days of mourning, that the rabbi came to her, to bring to her the usual
consolation for the dead. But he did not speak with her. He addressed
words only to her husband. She herself dared not look up. Only when he
turned to go did she lift her eyes. They, in turn, met the eyes of the
rabbi, but he departed without a farewell.
After her daughter's death Veile was completely broken down. Even that
which at her time of life is still called beauty had faded away within a
few days. Her cheeks had become hollow, her hair gray. Visitors wondered
how she could endure such a shock, how body and spirit could hold
together. They did not know that that silence was an iron fetter firmly
imprisoning the slumbering spirits. She had a son, moreover, to whom, as
to something last and dearest, her whole being still clung.
The boy was thirteen years old. His learning in the Holy Scriptures was
already celebrated for miles around. He was the pupil of the rabbi, who
had treated him with a love and tenderness becoming his own father. He
said that he was a remarkable child, endowed with rare talents. The boy
was to be sent to Hungary, to one of the most celebrated teachers of the
times, in order to lay the foundation for his sacred studies under this
instructor's guidance and wisdom. Years might perhaps pass before she
would see him again. But Veile let her boy go from her embrace. She did
not say a blessing over him when he went; only her lips twitched with
the pain of silence.
Long years expired before the boy returned from the strange land, a
full-grown, noble youth. When Veile had her son with her again a smile
played about her mouth, and for a moment it seemed as if her former
beauty had enjoyed a second spring. The extraordinary ability of her son
already made him famous. Wheresoever he went people were delighted with
his beauty, and admired the modesty of his manner, despite such great
The next Sabbath the young disciple of the Talmud, scarcely twenty years
of age, was to demonstrate the first marks of this great learning.
The people crowded shoulder to shoulder in this great synagogue. Curious
glances were cast through the lattice-work of the women's gallery above
upon the dense throng. Veile occupied one of the foremost seats. She
could see everything that took place below. Her face was extremely pale.
All eyes were turned towards her - the mother, who was permitted to see
such a day for her son! But Veile did not appear to notice what was
happening before her. A weariness, such as she had never felt before,
even in her greatest suffering, crept over her limbs. It was as if she
must sleep during her son's address. He had hardly mounted the stairs
before the ark of the laws - hardly uttered his first words - when a
remarkable change crossed her face. Her cheeks burned. She arose. All
her vital energy seemed aroused. Her son meanwhile was speaking down
below. She could not have told what he was saying. She did not hear
him - she only heard the murmur of approbation, sometimes low, sometimes
loud, which came to her ears from the quarters of the men. The people
were astonished at the noble bearing of the speaker, his melodious
speech, and his powerful energy. When he stopped at certain times to
rest it seemed as if one were in a wood swept by a storm. She could now
and then hear a few voices declaring that such a one had never before
been listened to. The women at her side wept; she alone could not. A
choking pain pressed from her breast to her lips. Forces were astir in
her heart which struggled for expression. The whole synagogue echoed
with buzzing voices, but to her it seemed as if she must speak louder
than these. At the very moment her son had ended she cried out
unconsciously, violently throwing herself against the lattice-work:
"God! living God! shall I not now speak?" A dead silence followed this
outcry. Nearly all had recognized this voice as that of the "silent
woman." A miracle had taken place!
"Speak! speak!" resounded the answer of the rabbi from the men's seats
below. "You may now speak!"
But no reply came. Veile had fallen back into her seat, pressing both
hands against her breast. When the women sitting beside her looked at
her they were terrified to find that the "silent woman" had fainted.
She was dead! The unsealing of her lips was her last moment.
Long years afterwards the rabbi died. On his death-bed he told those
standing about him this wonderful penance of Veile.
Every girl in the _gasse_ knew the story of the "silent woman."
[D] Copyright, 1890, by Harper Bros.
Of all Irish ghosts, fairies, or bogles, the Banshee (sometimes called
locally the "Boh[=ee]ntha" or "Bank[=ee]ntha") is the best known to the
general public: indeed, cross-Channel visitors would class her with
pigs, potatoes, and other fauna and flora of Ireland, and would expect
her to make manifest her presence to them as being one of the sights of
the country. She is a spirit with a lengthy pedigree - how lengthy no man
can say, as its roots go back into the dim, mysterious past. The most
famous Banshee of ancient times was that attached to the kingly house of
O'Brien, Aibhill, who haunted the rock of Craglea above Killaloe, near
the old palace of Kincora. In A.D. 1014 was fought the battle of
Clontarf, from which the aged king, Brian Boru, knew that he would never
come away alive, for the previous night Aibhill had appeared to him to
tell him of his impending fate. The Banshee's method of foretelling
death in olden times differed from that adopted by her at the present
day: now she wails and wrings her hands, as a general rule, but in the
old Irish tales she is to be found washing human heads and limbs, or
blood-stained clothes, till the water is all dyed with human blood - this
would take place before a battle. So it would seem that in the course of
centuries her attributes and characteristics have changed somewhat.
Very different descriptions are given of her personal appearance.
Sometimes she is young and beautiful, sometimes old and of a fearsome
appearance. One writer describes her as "a tall, thin woman with
uncovered head, and long hair that floated round her shoulders, attired
in something which seemed either a loose white cloak, or a sheet thrown
hastily around her, uttering piercing cries." Another person, a
coachman, saw her one evening sitting on a stile in the yard; she seemed
to be a very small woman, with blue eyes, long light hair, and wearing
a red cloak. Other descriptions will be found in this chapter. By the
way, it does not seem to be true that the Banshee exclusively follows
families of Irish descent, for the last incident had reference to the
death of a member of a Co. Galway family English by name and origin.
One of the oldest and best-known Banshee stories is that related in the
_Memoirs_ of Lady Fanshaw.[F] In 1642 her husband, Sir Richard, and she
chanced to visit a friend, the head of an Irish sept, who resided in his