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Scary Books: The Best Ghost Stories

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

g-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."