STEMPENIU: A JEWISH ROMANCE
- SHOLOM ALEICHEM
STEMPENIU STARTS FALLING IN LOVE
In his own world, Rachel began playing an important role for him, the
most important role in his life. We can believe him when he says that his
letter to her, which we saw earlier, was quite serious and truthful, for
he fell in love with Rachel the moment he set eyes on her at the wedding
in Haym ben-Tsion's house.
Stempeniu didn't write the letter immediately. It took a few days for
the fire that Rachel's blue eyes kindled in his heart to burn forth, blaze
up until he couldn't hold back anymore, he locked himself up in his room,
and there, where he wrote his music, and with the same pen and on the same
lined music paper, he wrote that letter.
Stempeniu sweated a bit over the letter. Writing was a chore for him,
lie had never learned how to write anywhere, just on his own. So it was
really no wonder that he had a hard time.
Stempeniu carried the letter around for a few days, he couldn't find
a way of giving it to Rachel. Mekhtshi the Drummer was a good messenger
for such letters when they were out of town, but here, with Freydel around,
Mekhtshi was a dangerous postman to use. Stempeniu could hardly wait for
the Sabbath, he got all dolled up like a young girl, he put on a high hat
in the latest fashion of the times, and went out to Berditchev Road, as
on every Sabbath, to take a walk, calculating that Rachel would probably
be there. But he was wrong: All the young wives, all the girls were strolling
about, sneaking glances at Stempeniu, smiling and turning crimson - they
were all there, only Rachel wasn't there! The letter he had written gave
him no peace. He felt drawn to her more and more strongly.
"I ought to try and go there, to the street where Isaak-Naphtali lives,
maybe I'll find her...." Those were Stempeniu's thoughts, and so he slowly
walked towards the window, where Rachel was sitting deep in her thoughts,
singing that little song:
At first, when she suddenly heard the "Good Shabbes" and saw Stempeniu
in front of her, she thought it was a dream (she had already seen Stempeniu
in several of her dreams....). But when she unfolded the small slip of
music paper and read Stempeniu's letter, she stood up, looked through the
window, and said to herself:
As lonesome as a stone,
No one to talk to,
Only myself alone,
As lonesome as a stone,
No one to talk to -
"He's lucky he went away. I would have played some music for him that
he'd never forget! Oh, that Stempeniu!..."
She clutched the letter and was about to hurl it out the window, but
then she faltered, read through it again, rolled it up the way you roll
up a scroll, and put it in her pocket.
Rachel's anger kept getting bigger and stronger, she just wanted to
see him alone and ask him privately: What was the meaning of this? What
was he up to? How dare he write her a note like that! Just who did he think
he was anyway? And who did he think she was?... She began pondering
ways of meeting
him in some place where no one could overhear them, and she finally
hit upon something.