Translated and edited by Joachim Neugroschel


The next morning, Hiene, the beadle's wife, came to tell Dvosse-Malke that the mother-in-law, the bridegroom, the bride, and all the in-laws were inviting them to the veiling lunch, the ceremonial meal at which the bride dons the sheytel, the marriage wig. Rachel had already put on her sheytel and she was all dressed up in the latest fashion (by Dovid Mekhanik, the ladies' tailor): a sky-blue frock with white lace trimming and very broad sleeves, which were being worn in Mazepevke, always a few years behind in the fashions. On her head, a blue silk openwork kerchief, revealing the entire wig and the braids .... But false braids. Rachel had put away her own blond hair long, long ago, concealed it forever, for all time! A few strings of pearls around her neck, on her white, lovely throat, a large golden necklace, a brooch, bracelets, rings, eardrops - all the Jewish jewelry, all the Jewish wealth.
Rachel, all decked out, in her room, where Moyshe-Mendel was still lying in the same position as last night, with his jutting adam's apple and his gaping mouth, and snoring endlessly.
"Oh, what a difference there is between the two Moyshe-Mendels, I mean, between Moyshe-Mendel, the man I was engaged to, and Moyshe-Mendel, the man I'm married to. That Moyshe-Mendel was so charming, his eyes glowed like candles, his voice was as sweet as honey, his gestures were all so pleasant, so dear! And this Moyshe-Mendel? He's so long and skinny and round-shouldered and he's got a red beard sprouting. Where did he get that goat's beard?"
And, willy-nilly, she kept picturing that scoundrel who hadn't let her sleep all night long - what an awful thing! "It's my own fault," thought Rachel, "it's all my own fault. Imagine running into a calamity like Stempeniu! What sort of woman stops and talks to a musician? It's disgraceful. And what would people say if they saw me talking to him? It's lucky there was such a commotion. And what would Moyshe-Mendel have said? . . ."
And with a smile, Rachel walked over to Moyshe-Mendel's bed and leaned over him and spoke his name. Moyshe-Mendel opened his gray eyes and stared for a long time and couldn't fathom what he saw before him.
"Moyshe-Mendel!" said Rachel, bending over him fully. "Moyshe-Mendel! Don't you recognize me?! Goodness, the way you're looking at me! Don't you care for me like this?"
"Lemme alone, I wanna sleep!" And with these words, Moyshe-Mendel turned to the wall and burst into a ferocious snore.
"The mother-in-law and the happy couple and all the kith and kin would like you to come to the veiling meal!"
It was Hiene, the beadle's wife, calling out as she stuck her head in the door. But when she saw Rachel standing over her husband's head, she swiftly withdrew.

Rachel met the bride before she even donned her wig. The two friends hugged and kissed, and instantly launched into an ardent conversation, the way two young wives always do.
The company was gathering little by little, and the waiters and waitresses were covering the tables with all sorts of goodies: with cakes and preserves, with gingerbread, and almond bagels, and every kind of strudel. Yesterday's beadles and yesterday's paupers were already here. The father-in-law, Haym ben-Tsion, had washed his hair and donned a velvet cap, and the mother-in-law had already shouted herself hoarse, but she still kept managing and ordering, sending one person here, another there, and screaming with her last ounce of strength:
"You're driving me to my grave, God help me! You put a platter of cake and preserves where you ought to put a bottle of vodka and glasses! Oh, veyz mir! Oh, my heart, my heart! What's the use of all my sacrifices! What's the use of having a wedding! You spend a fortune, and in the end - what's the use! Not even the musicians are here! There's no way out but suicide!"
"Quiet! Silence!" yelled Haym ben-Tsion, the father-in-law. "Why are you making such a racket? You're not helping matters any! She does nothing and she shrieks! What are you shrieking for anyway? Haven't you ever married off a child before? Is this the first time? Just look at her, she's rattling! The whole town's invited, and all the relatives, and she just runs around and screeches! What's wrong with you anyway!"
"Who's screeching, you lunatic! Who's screeching?"
"I should know who's screeching? Why don't you tell me?!"
"I'm not screeching! You're screeching."
"I'm screeching? Bullshit! It's the other way around!"
"You're screeching now, Haym ben-Tsion! What's come over you?"
"A grand good morning to the happy father-in-law and the mother-in-law, to the groom and the bride to all the kith and all the kin on both sides, and to all the dear friends. Now play a vivat
for all you're worth!" 
With this vociferous proclamation from Haykel the jester, the musicians took up their instruments, and the wedding became a wedding again! The guests wiped their hands on their coattails, pushed up their sleeves, and after washing, they sat down at the table for the veiling lunch. And now Stempeniu took his violin and repeated all of yesterday's tricks with a few extras thrown in, plus two or three new pieces, while the audience gaped awestruck, in sheer ecstasy. All eyes were glued on him, on Stempeniu, only Rachel wouldn't look toward that corner - but still she saw him, but still she felt him watching her. . .  It was only when Stempeniu put down his violin and the company was in an uproar - it was only then that Rachel raised her blue eyes and saw . . . Stempeniu.
"What do you think of him?" the bride asked her after not saying a word the whole time.
"Who?" said Rachel innocently.
"Stempeniu! Isn't he a miracle-worker?"
Rachel didn't answer. She felt the blood rushing to her face. The bride noticed and asked:
"Are you hot, Rachel? Tell me, are you hot?"
"Yes, hot. Awfully hot. I'm going to step out for a minute to cool off," Rachel answered.
She left the table and at every step she encountered a servant, who gave her the right of way with great respect - not for her, but for her silken attire. Still, she couldn't get to the door that quickly. First of all, she would have to walk past the musicians, who were feasting their eyes on her, telling one another in their jargon: "Dig the groovy chick! Yummy-scrumptious! . . ."
And when her eyes met Stempeniu's, her heart began pounding, such as she had never felt it pound before. She blushed more furiously and she felt a dreadful heat in her face, like a person next to a burning house. On top of all her troubles, whom should she run into but the father-in-law, Haym ben-Tsion, almost by the door, and now a new turmoil started. Haym ben-Tsion was a pious man and he was terrified of women. The encounter was sudden. Haym ben-Tsion ought really to have backed away as is customary. But, the devil take it, he stepped to the right, and since Rachel was moving to the right, they nearly collided, missing each other by a gnat's eyelash. Haym ben-Tsion had an idea: He jumped to the left. Unfortunately, Rachel had the same idea and also swerved to the left. Haym ben-Tsion realized he had to step to the right quickly, but by the time he shifted, Rachel was standing face to face with him, almost as if to spite him - and God knows how long they would have kept dancing like that, if, to their good fortune, the hoarse mother-in-law hadn't come lumbering over to argue with her husband in their normal way. Rachel used the opportunity to slip outside and cool off from the dreadful heat.

Back to library

Back to
Back to Shtetl