A farvorfn vinkl

[A Forsaken Nook]


Act I. An early dawn in spring, in a corner of a cemetery near Notte’s house. Noah, son of Chaim Hersh the miller, returns from the mill covered in flour, and stops to talk to Todres, father of Notte the gravedigger. They talk about wind and the supernatural, and about Tsirl, Todres’ granddaughter. Enter Dobe, a middle-aged woman whose five children are buried in the cemetery. She talks about going walking with them when spring comes, and the men send her off. Notte comes in with pick and shovel, and tells Noah to tell his father that Notte’s going to burn down the mill. Noah is left alone with Tsirl, and they tease each other—she by dropping the name of her other suitor, Khatskl, and he by suggesting that her goat’s milk is possessed by spirits. They fight, and Noah leaves. Dobe raves to Tsirl about her children, and goes. Tsirl asks Krayne, her mother, when they will move away from the cemetery. Krayne takes her inside, saying, “We’ll say a prayer to chase off the evil one.”

Act II. Later that morning, in Chaim Hersh’s house, where we hear the intermittent clanging of the mill. Khaye, his 14-year-old daughter, asks a lot of embarrassing questions about the feud with Notte. Chaim Hersh forbids her to associate with Notte’s family. Notte appears in the doorway, spade in hand, to take his wife home. Chaim Hersh appears and the men almost come to blows, but Krayne drags her husband away.

Act III. An early summer evening in Notte’s house. Noah and Tsirl are quarreling again, but when Khatskl arrives, Noah leaves through the window. Khatskl has arranged for lumber, along with thugs to guard it, to be brought for the new mill. Tsirl, annoyed by his presence, unhitches his horse and buggy, but he gets them and returns. Krayzl brings Chaim Hersh, and Todres and Noah arrive as well. The women try to make peace, but soon Krayzl and Chaim Hersh leave with tensions higher than ever. A fight erupts offstage, and we learn that Noah has hit Hatskl with a block of wood. Hatskl comes running in and locks the door behind him. A stone crashes through the window. Notte picks up the stone and declares, “That settles it. We can forget about ever having peace between us.” A second stone crashes through the window.

Act IV. An evening in autumn, inside Chaim Hersh’s house. Krayzl is plucking down from feather, with Khaye trying to help her. Tsirl comes in, having run away from home because her father hit her. Chaim Hersh enters and insists that Noah will never marry her, and Dobbe appears one more time. Todres appears, and later serves as mediator when the other members of both families arrive. After much bickering, the families finally put aside their dispute and drink a toast as the curtain falls.