Back when there were horses, instead of cars, on the roads, there was a woman in Viznits, Austria, whom I shall simply call “The Gossip of Viznits.” (For one thing, I never knew her real name!)
All I know is what happened the day she gossiped about the wrong person, my Baba’s grandmother, Leah. And it is from Baba that I heard this story when I was about eleven years old.
Anyway, The Gossip of Viznits used to go around telling stories about everybody. Lies. Half-truths, the kind that leave people uncertain as to which part is true, and which part isn’t. Slander. Insinuations. Inuendos. And yes, there were reputations ruined because of her. She was feared. She was hated. But she was also listened to. So many people will listen to gossip, as long as it isn’t about them.
My great-great grandmother never listened to her.Perhaps that is why The Gossip of Viznits decided to start a particularly nasty rumor about her. I do not know what that rumor was; Baba didn’t tell me.
But as that woman was talking, great-great grandmother herself walked by and heard her. She took swift, decisive action. She scooped up a handful of dirt from the road, a road used, as I said, by horses, and shoved that dirt right into The Gossip of Viznits’ mouth! That woman stood there, coughing, gagging, spitting. Great-great-grandmother Leah walked away, head held up, dusting off her hands.
Several hours later, one of her friends came to warn her, “That woman’s husband is on his way over to see you. You’d better hide.”
Hide? Not my great-great grandmother.When the woman’s husband came and asked her, “Did you stuff dirt into my wife’s mouth?”Baba’s grandmother answered, “Yes. I did.”She expected a terrible argument.The man bowed to her, and kissed her hand.”Thank you,” he said. “Maybe now I’ll have some peace.” And, as far as I know, that woman never gossiped again. She didn’t dare!
And after that, my great-great grandmother was considered a heroine in Viznits.
When Baba told me this story, I remembered an incident from my nursery school days.I walked by the sandbox, and heard another little girl telling a lie about me. Without realizing it at the time, I emulated my great-great-grandmother. That girl ate sand that day!