Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Balak Gets Out of Line

1

A smell of meat fried in oil and onions started bubbling up. All the air was saturated and smelled good. Such a fine smell as that Balak hadn't sniffed in many a day, for in Richard Wagner's brewery they fried meat in butter as the Germans do. Balak raised his nose and the smell began to attract him. He subordinated himself to his nose and plodded along behind it, until he came to the priests' house where the smell was coming from. He looked at the entrance and saw that the gate was closed. He groaned and said, They're already sitting down to dinner, for when the priests come in to eat, they lock the gate. Balak stood at the locked door and that smell bubbled up much stronger. Balak pictured to himself all that they were eating and drinking. He longed to join the meal. He postponed his return to Meah Shearim, like fickle people, who, when a pleasurable thing comes their way, they immediately postpone their repentance.

He licked the gate as if it were meat. There was a little wicket there that wasn't locked. The wicket gave way and opened a bit. Balak stuck his head inside and his whole body was drawn after it. He leaped into the courtyard, and from the courtyard to the vestibule, and from the vestibule to the great hall, where the priests were having their meal. He saw one fat, fleshy bishop, his belly broad and rising to his double chin. Said Balak to himself, Everybody like that is dear to me, for if he is fat and has a round belly, his portion is double, and even a light creature lying underneath will draw comfort from a full stomach. Balak went up to him and got into the hem of his cloak, as he did during the sermons of Rabbi Grunam May-Salvation-Arise, quite to the contrary.

-599-

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