The Best Ghost Stories HTML version

The Silent Woman
By Leopold Kompert
The uproarious merriment of a wedding-feast burst forth into the night from a brilliantly
lighted house in the "gasse" (narrow street). It was one of those nights touched with the
warmth of spring, but dark and full of soft mist. Most fitting it was for a celebration of
the union of two yearning hearts to share the same lot, a lot that may possibly dawn in
sunny brightness, but also become clouded and sullen—for a long, long time! But how
merry and joyous they were over there, those people of the happy olden times! They, like
us, had their troubles and trials, and when misfortune visited them it came not to them
with soft cushions and tender pressures of the hand. Rough and hard, with clinched fist, it
laid hold upon them. But when they gave vent to their happy feelings and sought to enjoy
themselves, they were like swimmers in cooling waters. They struck out into the stream
with freshness and courage, suffered themselves to be borne along by the current
whithersoever it took its course. This was the cause of such a jubilee, such a
thoughtlessly noisy outburst of all kinds of soul-possessing gayety from this house of
"And if I had known," the bride's father, the rich Ruben Klattaner, had just said, "that it
would take the last gulden in my pocket, then out it would have come."
In fact, it did appear as if the last groschen had really taken flight, and was fluttering
about in the form of platters heaped up with geese and pastry-tarts. Since two o'clock—
that is, since the marriage ceremony had been performed out in the open street—until
nearly midnight, the wedding-feast had been progressing, and even yet the sarvers, or
waiters, were hurrying from room to room. It was as if a twofold blessing had descended
upon all this abundance of food and drink, for, in the first place, they did not seem to
diminish; secondly, they ever found a new place for disposal. To be sure, this appetite
was sharpened by the presence of a little dwarf-like, unimportant-looking man. He was
esteemed, however, none the less highly by every one. They had specially written to
engage the celebrated "Leb Narr," of Prague. And when was ever a mood so out of sorts,
a heart so imbittered as not to thaw out and laugh if Leb Narr played one of his pranks.
Ah, thou art now dead, good fool! Thy lips, once always ready with a witty reply, are
closed. Thy mouth, then never still, now speaks no more! But when the hearty peals of
laughter once rang forth at thy command, intercessors, as it were, in thy behalf before the
very throne of God, thou hadst nothing to fear. And the joy of that "other" world was
thine, that joy that has ever belonged to the most pious of country rabbis!
In the mean time the young people had assembled in one of the rooms to dance. It was
strange how the sound of violins and trumpets accorded with the drolleries of the wit
from Prague. In one part the outbursts of merriment were so boisterous that the very
candles on the little table seemed to flicker with terror; in another an ordinary
conversation was in progress, which now and then only ran over into a loud tittering,