Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Outskirts of the City

1

The cart is traveling between cliffs and rocks, hills and peaks. Some wear faces of wrath, some of menace, and all of them erupt like little volcanoes rolling down onto the crushed earth at their feet, and the crushed earth writhes like a snake twining around the cart and twisting its chains around it. Before the earth can swallow it up, the horses are pulling the cart out and the earth is dropping off in chunks and clods, limb after limb.

The carter looked back. He saw a group of people walking up the hills, groaning from the hardships of the road. He slowed his horses, held up a few fingers, and said, For so many pennies I'll take you to the city. But those misers were more fond of money than of their bodies, they passed up the ride and chose to go by foot. The carter growled at himself for wanting to help those ingrates who, for three or four cents fare, would linger on the road and would miss the evening prayers. He waved his whip and cracked it in the air. The horses picked up their feet and raised dust until they were covered with it and so was everyone walking on two legs with his belongings in his hands. The cart went on again, ascended mountains, descended to valleys.

A wind came and started blowing. It shook the dust and flapped at the rocks. The air began to change, and a still small voice was heard like the voice of wailing in the mountains. Suddenly a sad stillness enveloped Isaac's heart, as if they came to bring him tidings and he didn't know if those tidings were for good or for bad. And because the measure of goodness is greater than the measure of calamity, he looked forward to the good; and because his heart was

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