THE VENUS OF BRANIZA
BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT
Some years ago there lived in Braniza, a celebrated
Talmudist, who was renowned no less on account
of his beautiful wife, than of his wisdom, his
learning, and his fear of God. The Venus of Braniza
deserved that name thoroughly; she deserved it
for herself on account of her singular beauty,
and even more as the wife of a man deeply versed
in the Talmud, for the wives of the Jewish
philosophers are, as a rule, ugly, or possess
some bodily defect.
The Talmud explains this, in the following manner:
It is well known that marriages are made in heaven,
and at the birth of a boy a divine voice calls
out the name of his future wife, and vice versa.
But just as a good father tries to get rid of his
good wares out of doors, and only uses the damaged
stuff at home for his children, so God bestows
on the Talmudists those women whom other men
would not care to have.
Well, God made an exception in the case of our
Talmudist, and had bestowed a Venus on him,
perhaps only in order to confirm the rule by
means of this exception, and to make it appear
less hard. This philosophers's wife was a
woman who would have done honor to any king's
throne, or to the pedestal in any sculpture
gallery. Tall, and with a wonderfully voluptuous
figure, she carried a strikingly beautiful
head, surrounded by thick, black plaits, on
her proud shoulders. Two large, dark eyes
languished and glowed beneath long lashes,
and her beautiful hands looked as if they
were carved out of ivory.
This glorious woman, who seemed to have been
designed by nature to rule, to see slaves at
her feet, to provide occupation for the painter's
brush, the sculptor's chisel and the poet's pen,
lived the life of a rare and beautiful flower
shut up in a hothouse. She would sit the whole
day long wrapped up in her costly furs, looking
down dreamily into the street.
She had no children; her husband, the philosopher,
studied, and prayed, and studied again from
early morning until late at night; his mistress
was the "Veiled Beauty," as the Talmudists call
the Kabbalah. She paid no attention to her house,
for she was rich, and everything went of its own
accord, like a clock, which has only to be wound
up once a week; nobody came to see her, and she
never went out of the house; she sat and dreamed
and brooded and--yawned.
* * * * * *
One day when a terrible storm of thunder and
lightning had spent its fury over the town, and
all windows had been opened in order to let the
Messias in, the Jewish Venus was sitting as
usual in her comfortable easy chair, shivering
in spite of her furs, and thinking. Suddenly
she fixed her glowing eyes on her husband who
was sitting before the Talmud, swaying his
body backward and forward, and said suddenly:
"Just tell me, when will Messias, the Son of
"He will come," the philosopher replied, "when
all the Jews have become either altogether virtuous
or altogether vicious, says the Talmud."
"Do you believe that all the Jews will ever become
virtuous," the Venus continued.
"How am I to believe that!"
"So Messias will come when all the Jews have
The philosopher shrugged his shoulders and lost
himself again in the labyrinth of the Talmud,
out of which, so it is said, only one man
returned in perfect sanity. The beautiful woman
at the window again looked dreamily out into
the heavy rain, while her white fingers played
unconsciously with the dark furs of her splendid
* * * * * *
One day the Jewish philosopher had gone to a
neighboring town, where an important question
of ritual was to be decided. Thanks to his
learning, the question was settled sooner than
he had expected, and instead of returning the
next morning, as he had intended, he came back
the same evening with a friend who was no less
learned than himself. He got out of his carriage
at his friend's house, and went home on foot.
He was not a little surprised when he saw his
windows brilliantly illuminated, and found an
officer's servant comfortably smoking his pipe
in front of his house.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in a friendly
manner, but with some curiosity, nevertheless.
"I am on guard, lest the husband of the beautiful
Jewess should come home unexpectedly."
"Indeed? Well, mind and keep a good lookout."
Saying this, the philosopher pretended to go
away, but went into the house through the garden
entrance at the back. When he got into the first
room, he found a table laid for two, which had
evidently only been left a short time previously.
His wife was sitting as usual at her bedroom
window wrapped in her furs, but her cheeks were
suspiciously red, and her dark eyes had not
their usual languishing look, but now rested
on her husband with a gaze which expressed at
the same time satisfaction and mockery. At that
moment his foot stuck against an object on the
floor, which gave out a strange sound. He picked
it up and examined it in the light. It was a pair
"Who has been here with you?" asked the Talmudist.
The Jewish Venus shrugged her shoulders contemptuously,
but did not reply.
"Shall I tell you? The Captain of Hussars has
been with you."
"And why should he not have been here with me?"
she said, smoothing the fur on her jacket with
her white hand.
"Woman! are you out of your mind?"
"I am in full possession of my senses," she
replied, and a knowing smile hovered round her
red voluptuous lips. "But must I not also do my
part, in order that Messias may come and redeem
us poor Jews?"
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~