Only Yesterday

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

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
About the Spirits

1

Balak left the priests' house and set off for Meah Shearim. He saw that his body was heavy and his belly dragged him to the ground, and he was also tired from so much eating and drinking. He did what he did and postponed his walk to the next day, and sought a place to put himself until he digested the food in his guts. And why didn't he go back to the priests' house? Because of the tolling of the bells. In the past, when Ishmael was assertive, no bell struck in Jerusalem, and the Christians got around their obligation with a mortar, now that the Christians are powerful, they ring the bells in their churches and disturb sleep. And so Balak sought a place for his bones. He knew he couldn't sleep outside, in case a Jew saw him. And he didn't have the strength to dig himself a hole. He gazed up and saw that he was standing near Djurat El-Anab in the Valley of the Spirits below Yemin Moshe near the Abu Tor neighborhood. But he didn't go there for the same reason, in case a Jew saw him, for that poor neighborhood is populated by Jews, and in every single one of the forty-seven houses in the neighborhood, there are two score Jews. Some of them are porters, some of them are cobblers, some of them are shoemakers, some of them are peddlers, and if they saw him they would do to him what they do to Negroes. Once upon a time, some Negroes came to Djurat El-Anab to steal, the porters overpowered them and bound their hands and feet, and the peddlers came and beat them with their measuring rod, and the cobblers cobbled them with their awls. Balak looked at the four corners of the sky, where is a place for his bones. And wherever Balak turned his eyes, it locked itself before him. Here the sky lowered its head to the ground and here the hills rose up to

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